Shirts vs. Skin

Pro wrestling tells its stories through contrasts — exploiting the differences in the wrestlers’ bodies, backgrounds, and beliefs to entertain the fans.  Lately, the WWE has been marketing the Miz and his pal Alex Riley as metro-sexual pretty-boys: clean cut, impossibly dapper, decked out in expensive clothes and finished off with a stylish haircut and some spray tan.  This is similar to Ric Flair and many other flamboyant heels of the past who flaunted their success by strutting around in fancy suits or robes.  It’s meant to convey arrogance and a sense of entitlement that anyone who attended high school and observed the cocky athletes and richy-rich kids who ruled the school can relate to and dread.

Most of the fans, who may not have the extra dough to afford Armani, or even Hilfiger, can’t relate to these well dressed, privileged play-boys (especially since they’re so arrogant), so the audience’s compassion and support automatically transfer to the victim, in this case Randy Orton, and now we have a story.  By the way, I like how Riley’s neck tie dangles down and sort of slaps Randy in the face…

We’re led to believe that Miz and Riley always happen to wear neck ties, dress pants, vests, etc.  Actually their fancy duds were carefully selected, meant to send the message that they are spoiled, cocky, richer than you.

Randy Orton, on the other hand, is blatantly shirtless, his body exposed so it appears vulnerable, easily injured against the cold, hard floor and the sharp edges of the broken debris at ringside.   He almost looks like the crucifixion, and that’s not coincidence.  His bare body, sprawled out and broken, is meant to be compared to the expensively draped, protected, and covered bodies of his two attackers.  How could you NOT feel sorry for poor naked Orton, even if you’ve been despising him for HIS arrogance for the last 8 years?!

Wrestling also likes to play on the current angst, controversies, and hang-ups raging in society.  If you follow the news, you’ll know that the working man is taking a beating these days — no jobs, a housing crisis, high gas prices.  The brother Tag Team of David and Charles Koch are trying to break the back of the Unions, leaving the working man exposed and unprotected. Meanwhile, we hear about bankers and CEOs enjoying bail-outs, big bonuses, and extended tax breaks.  There is class envy all over the news, and pro wrestling reflects and amplifies reality.  The Miz and Alex Riley, in their fancy expensive duds, are meant to represent the establishment — the rich and powerful — and poor shirtless Randy Orton, with his tattoos and black working boots, looks like the working man’s hero.

Good job by everyone in this dramatic episode — Orton, the Miz, Alex Riley, the camera-man, and especially the talented person in the wardrobe department who selected these outfits for the three performers.

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One Response to Shirts vs. Skin

  1. Paul says:

    Excellent observation on how these pics visualize the current American Class Struggle in popular wrestling terms. Didn’t see the match so don’t know if Orton was attacked while going into the ring (unfair!) or attacked sloppy-seconds after being in a match (YUM unfair!). And of course the whole Fully Clothed vs Trunks vulnerability. With both Orton and Cena these days – both former champion studs – getting trashed these days, it is exciting times for muscle punishment fans!