With Dusty Rhodes’ recent and tragic passing, many wonderful tributes and match collages emerged across the television and Internet. This lovable, larger-than-life figure was clearly a fundamental cog in the past and present of professional wrestling. He was a brilliant athlete, trainer, mentor, and mic worker.
Dusty Rhodes was also – for all intents and purposes – a large man.
As WWE NXT fat shames Bull Dempsey as a key component of its current storyline, I’m left calling out a white elephant (pun intended, I suppose) in professional wrestling, one arguably long overdue. That, of course, is body type.
Before I’m declared a hypocrite, huricanrana and I are fitness junkies and arguably semi-professional athletes. We take care of our bodies…and are proud of it. Physique be damned: we aren’t anything resembling a pro wrestler, individuals capable of doing things we could only dream of and therefore celebrate (via this blog). Wrestling is an art form, and we’re lacking brushes and paint.
I offer the above, however, not to criticize the dedication and hard work many brilliantly sculpted athletes put into looking that way. Within indy circles, Timothy Thatcher and Tony Neese immediately come to mind. Still, what Kevin Owens is forcing down people’s throats is that skill and talent are correlated…but not by-products of a Muscle and Fitness cover spread. I’ll also openly admit a love fest for Mark Henry’s ring work, all 500 pounds of Sexual Chocolate.
To make this post even more uncomfortable, I’ll extend discussion into women’s wrestling. Shine and Shimmer are perhaps the best shows in the business, period…but devoid of anyone resembling Charlotte or Dana Brooke in body type. This is not to say they aren’t either attractive or fit. But these outstanding Shine/Shimmer athletes/good lookers are not what the WWE seemingly believes a ‘diva’ should be. Tough Enough auditions only confirmed this.
Moreover – and in noting crowd support (in-person, online, and/or merchandise sales) – model type looks and/or body type does not equate to likeability. Dean Ambrose is the poster child for female fan support, as was Daniel Bryan for their male counterparts. Standing ovations and thunderous applause universally emerge from solid wrestling, not ab routine. This is not to say that the eye candy Randy Orton or Sasha Banks provides isn’t appreciated. Wrestling supporters, however, overwhelmingly place a premium on function versus form.
The purpose of this piece is not to ignore body type’s importance within pro wrestling .It most certainly is a factor, when individuals are performing their craft in near-naked attire. Poor manscaping becomes obvious, in the worst of ways (eek). I’m not stating average body type trumps fit or vice-versa. Rather, it’s recognition that placing a premium on body type for camera purposes isn’t necessarily translating to fans on the receiving end.