Once upon a time, during the imaginatively fertile period known as the Monday Night Wars, my sister described pro wrestling to me as superheroes … except in real life! Truly, she knew where my passions lay.
Yet, I was skeptical. What was the appeal of a sport that everyone already knew was (SPOILER ALERT!) totally fake. I decided to take her up on her ostentatious claim and caught an episode of WCW Thunder. While I can’t say she was 100 percent correct, she got me hooked on wrestling for life. There was a lot of elements that did cross over: the colorful costumes, the larger-than-life gimmicks, and the bombastic hero and villain speeches. Comics may have gravitated away from the era in which every speech bubble ended in an exclamation point, but wrestling never grew up.
Historically, the backstage realities (called “shoots”) and the scripted stories (called “kayfabe”) have been kept separate, with the former only made known through sketchy publications nicknamed “dirtsheets.” You’d think that, with the rise of the Internet and the availability of information, wrestling would become a relic of the past. Instead, it remains popular. It may actually be a better fit in this decade, as almost all of reality television now treads the same blurry line between “fact” and fiction. When Lina approaches the Rana King on NBC’s The Quest, for example, is it a shoot or a kayfabe? Even more insidiously, wrestling has found a way to fake viewer participation, aka the kayfabe of the digital age.
Navigating this surreal world of shoot and kayfabe is James Hornsby’s Botched Spot. It began as a webcomic about grumpy veteran Olav Olav and young upstart Rad Bad deBone in an independent promotion. These stories were eventually phased out of the main comic, but reemerged in 2012 under a new title, Over Like Olav. Don’t get too attached to these guys, however; the update schedule is sparse and spotty.
The main title, on the other hand, had been given over to the weird world of undead zombie cowboys, rappin’ rappers who are also Marines, dirty hillbillies who wear cheap Halloween masks, and Dixie Carter. Some of the jokes are pretty easy, like the secret of Seamus’ unnatural whiteness and Randy Orton’s unnatural orangeness. Others take aim at some of wrestling’s more ridiculous conveniences. Why, for example, does nobody ever exit through the door of a cage match when that option is always available as a winning condition? Why was that option made available in the first place? It’s a mystery.
For the most part, Hornsby comments on the direction of storylines and gimmicks, which alone should provide him plenty of fodder to last a lifetime. Botch Spot is most memorable, however, when commenting on the equally strange things that never make it on Raw, Smackdown! or Impact wrestling. Things like the running gimmick of Sin Cara’s tendency to … you know … botch spots, and the eventual replacement of the original masked wrestler with another performer wrestling under the same name and gimmick. Or Linda McMahon’s run for the U.S. Senate, and how her “family values” image ran directly contrary to the WWE Attitude Era, which featured a storyline where Trish Stratus was humiliated by being forced to get on all fours and bark like a dog. Seriously, who needs kayfabe when the real-world stuff is way weirder?
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