Pro wrestling is fake. It is as fake as Game of Thrones and The Godfather and Les Misérables and every other form of non-reality entertainment.
Every pro wrestling fan over the age of 10 understands this, and still you can’t bring up wrestling in mixed company without somebody asking, “You know it’s fake, right?” like they’re doing you a favor.
I don’t get it. As popular as reality shows and documentaries have become, I don’t think that’s due to people dismissing Mad Men because Jon Hamm isn’t really an advertising executive, or staying away from the Fast & Furious franchise because Vin Diesel doesn’t really drive cars chained to moving airplanes.
So why does pro wrestling get such a negative stigma for being “fake,” when other genres get the benefit of being labeled “fiction?”
Criticize pro wrestling for its bad acting. Make fun of it for its silly story lines. And please feel free to protest when companies roll out racist, sexist and culturally insensitive characters. But if your biggest beef with pro wrestling is that it’s “fake,” I’m wondering why you even bother with HBO and AMC and Broadway.
With that out of way … Since the NBA’s best time of year — the drive for the playoffs, the postseason itself, the draft and free agency — coincides with my favorite part of the WWE calendar (the period between WrestleMania and SummerSlam), a lot of my TV time between April and August is dominated by basketball and wrestling.
If you’re a fan of both, or if you could use a primer to get to know the characters in one summer drama after flipping the channel from another, here are some NBA stars matched to their WWE superstar counterparts:
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DWYANE WADE is The Rock
Once upon a time not long ago, he was arguably the best in the world at his craft and creeping into the discussion as one of history’s all-time greats. Now his best days are behind him, but he’s still good enough for another run or two at the top. Some don’t like the way he’s “gone Hollywood” in recent years, but the upside is that he’s a great ambassador for the sport who has mainstream appeal.
CARMELO ANTHONY is Alberto Del Rio
He has all the tools to be a main-event hero, and on the surface he’s doing and saying all the right things to make it happen. But something is missing that’s hard to pinpoint. Maybe his desire to be a smiley-faced good guy can’t overcome the reality that he thrives in a cocky villain role.
BLAKE GRIFFIN is Big E Langston
Announcers marvel at his comic-book muscles and video-game athleticism. He has all the talent in the world and looks the part of a dominant future champion, but might be better suited for a sidekick role.
TONY PARKER is Rey Mysterio
Someday after he retires, the people who underrated and overlooked him will review his accomplishments and realize what they missed. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest his international roots, unorthodox style and atypical superstar build have had a lot to do with his praise being so long overdue.
KEVIN GARNETT is “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Is he a bully in real life, or does he just play one on TV? A force of nature who emanates intensity and could just about do it all in his prime, the wear and tear on his body hasn’t robbed him of the charisma that still draws a crowd whenever he shows up to work.