Tag Archives: Ultimate Fighting Championship

MMA, UFC, Sports Galore, But Why Are There No Professional Wrestling Heroes in Romance?

11 Jul

The official logo of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). At one point it was the WWF, but the World Wildlife Federation successfully sued and wrestling made a change.

It’s amazing how you change over twenty years of marriage. When I discovered that my intellectual, graduate student husband was a HUGE fan of professional wrestling, it was difficult to put those elements together.

Really? I mean, isn’t wrestling fake and not a sport? Numerous documentaries, books, and discussions later, as well as Mondays and Fridays given over to reading romance novels while in the same room as Monday Night RAW and Friday Night Smackdown and I’ve got a whole new outlook. Not only are these men and women phenomenal athletes who train for hours in the gym and in the ring, but – unlike so many athletes who are great on the field and monosyllabic at best in front of the camera – the wrestlers from WWE also embody charisma, acting ability, and an incredible teamwork ethic.

Don’t Be Snooty: Look at the Market Potential

But since I am reading those romance novels while keeping one eye on the TV screen, it’s hard not to be struck by an obvious fact. With the rise of fabulous books having MMA and UFC fighters (like Kele Moon’s Battered Hearts series), to say nothing of the many, many sports hero romance novels (Jaci Burton, for example) why has no author used the rich world of professional wrestling as a basis for a romance series?

Before you get too snooty and turn your nose up at professional wrestling, consider how many people do that same thing with romance novels. They aren’t right, just ignorant, and while the WWE may not be your cup of tea, the fact remains that there’s ample fodder for significant romance novels here. I bet you didn’t start watching MMA after reading a book with an MMA hero, right? You don’t have to be a weekly viewer (although you may end up one) but take a look at some of the key elements of WWE wrestling and tell me there isn’t serious romance potential here. Oh, and take a look at the pictures and really tell me there’s not potential!

John Cena, my favorite wrestler, who embodies his personal mission statement of “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect”.

Part of that potential are the fourteen million fans who tune in each week (36% of them women) who certainly can understand the appeal. Those fans who choose to be in the know – regarding the idea that each wrestler personifies a character and who also understand that the WWE writes the storylines and conflict between characters – are known as “smarks” (a combination of the words “smart” and “mark”). Wrestlers are considered “faces” – usually good looking good guys – or “heels” – bad guys you love to hate (who can also be good looking). Being one or the other doesn’t guarantee a role for life; major storylines often dictate a “heel turn” or someone thought of previously as a good guy allying themselves with someone horrible or making a move to the dark side him or herself.

This is an incredible billion dollar industry covering television, film (see the documentaries below for a few examples), music (each character has a signature piece of music), magazines, books (mostly biography and about the industry), and video gaming. Vince McMahon, along with his daughter Stephanie McMahon, built the WWE into an entertainment force to be reckoned with, and while his on camera persona is one of the often evil boss (who Americans of all ages and backgrounds love to hate), watching the many documentaries about various wrestlers reveal a strong businessman who deeply cares for the entertainers who make up the WWE family.

And Then There’s the Eye Candy Terrific Wrestlers

C. M. Punk, probably the strongest anti-hero currently wrestling, has talent and drive, overcoming difficult challenges in his childhood. Across his stomach is the logo “Straight Edge” embodying his lifelong commitment to avoiding drugs or alcohol.

The wrestlers themselves come from backgrounds that seem ideal for romance novel hero status. Whether it’s John Cena‘s unbelievable Make a Wish Foundation work, C. M. Punk‘s difficult family background and earned anti-hero persona, or Randy Orton‘s family legacy of wrestling and the stresses it placed on him, these are men with a depth of personal story that seem very suited to our genre. The fact they earn millions of dollars a year also fulfills a popular trope of the rich entertainer, jaded by women falling at his feet like ripe pears, who is ready to find the love of his life.

Yet, challenges for romantic entanglements are many. These wrestlers spend over 300 days on the road and divorce is understandably common. Even with strong teamwork, their bodies get incredibly battered with injuries sidelining them for months at a time. Wrestlers often start off at seedy hole-in-the-wall regional proving grounds, sometimes moving on to international wrestling venues in Mexico, Europe or Japan before the select few make their way to the national venues of the televised WWE programs. These programs take place in your local huge arena where the wrestlers perform to crowds of tens of thousands of people, sometimes upwards of 80,000 people. Rock stars, eat your heart out!

Randy Orton whose natural ability and hard work has risen him to superstardom, despite his being his own worst enemy.

The Divas (and please note that there is now a reality show about these women on the E! Network) are the female wrestlers who have been over sexualized in the past but are now attaining greater footing and equality. My husband used to fast forward through the Divas (and, no, not just because I was sitting there) since he felt that many of their story lines denigrated the women’s athleticism. As the WWE has become more family friendly (no more Stone Cold Steve Austin spraying beer on his opponents while giving them the double handed finger), I’m pleased to say the Diva story lines have risen in content accordingly. Sometimes male and female wrestlers are “involved” with each other or there is interpersonal conflict between Divas (and male wrestlers) to heighten tensions and allegiances. Not only are several of the Divas former athletes, but some come from dancing, professional cheerleading and modeling backgrounds. A wonderful plus of watching the divas is that a decent amount of them have strong, curvy and athletic figures – even the ones who are model thin seem to have that body naturally – promoting a healthier female body image for viewers.

Fandango, the hilarious heel who has begun a “dance” craze with his theme song and various antics. A perfect secondary character – just “let the ‘a’s breathe”.

Potential for secondary characters abound. Whether it’s the fans (so many adorable kids out in the audience next to rabid adult fans), caring support staff, or the wrestlers who provide villainous or comic relief (Google “WWE Wrestler Fandango video” and get ready to laugh), personalities are ripe for consideration when constructing additional characters who would support a hero and heroine and a strong story line.

So Watch Already!

Now that you have a sense of why the WWE is so interesting, your next step would be to actually watch. See if your local sports bar offers wrestling as an option or a particular WWE pay-per-view. It’s best when you’ve got a docent nearby to explain to you what’s happening (you can’t have my husband, after all) and any important backstory. It’s a lot like when your best friend in high school wanted you to get into her favorite soap opera. Remember how confusing it seemed and how over the top the story lines were? And then three weeks later you were totally into it. WWE wrestling is exactly like that.

The free shows are the easiest to access, either live or online, and introduce you to the characters and their current storyline. Please note that the WWE website is extensive and rich in information. You can look up any wrestler for biographical information, watch videos (usually “promos” where they outline their current grievance or conflict with another wrestler and promise a painful win in the ring during the next match), and look at each character’s customized merchandise. While there are many shows each week, the two most important ones are:

Each year, the pay-per-view event of Wrestlemania brings story lines to a head and sets the stage for new conflict in an epic event combining production and showmanship.

Pay-per-views are a big portion of the WWE business strategy and you get your money’s worth when the matches are so elaborately staged you find your jaw dropping. I’m definitely going to get my husband SummerSlam for his birthday in August, but it’s amazing the level of production that goes into some of these shows. Hell in a Cell actually puts a chain link kennel around the ring and wrestlers are locked inside to battle one another until one of them is pinned for the count of three or “taps out” indicating defeat. Wrestlemania is the big kahuna of the pay-per-views where several story lines come to a head, and you’ll notice if you ever watch any of the documentaries on the wrestlers that the big matches that happen during this event are the ones remembered with the greatest fondness and most emotion.

The Best Introduction: Documentaries

Speaking of documentaries, I think that watching them was actually key to getting me to be interested in the WWE as I could better identify with the hard work and background of each wrestler, as well as understand their many outside interests and talents. Sadly, while the attitude toward Divas has improved over the last years, I can’t find any documentaries that don’t look like a Girls Gone Wild video, so I’m afraid I can only recommend male wrestling superstar films. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • The Shawn Michaels Story: Heartbreak and Triumph – Shawn Michaels not only possessed a brilliant and troubled career in wrestling but is known as being someone who was able to successfully fight the evils of drugs and alcohol through his religious faith and the love of his wife and family. I confess to getting choked up during this documentary as Michaels is so unflinchingly honest about the obstacles he placed in the way of his success as well as the tough love he received from the many people in the WWE who cared about him.
  • Randy Orton: The Evolution of a Predator – While it’s not the most chronological approach to a biography, this gives a nice understanding of his dealing with the stress of his father’s legacy as a wrestler, as well as hints at his personal battle with his insecurities, which led to drug abuse. Sadly, the documentary focuses on the saving grace of his wife and daughter, but the news outlets just recently announced their divorce. After watching this you’ll appreciate why this happened.
  • C. M. Punk: The Best in the World – This is a well-produced documentary which mirrors Punk’s own unflinching acceptance of his hard childhood and adolescence in Chicago as well as the many friendships which supported him in adopting the “straight edge” lifestyle and anti-hero persona that is entirely his own. He’s a compelling, complex person who would make a wonderful foundation for a romance hero character.
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson not only set the WWE Universe on its ear but also regularly demonstrates his acting chops in Hollywood to strong acclaim.

    The Rock: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment – Many people who have never watched one minute of wrestling are still familiar with “The Rock” or Dwayne Johnson as he has gone on to have a successful acting career. Between his wrestling legacy in his family as well as his cultural heritage, this charismatic, intelligent man comes across as not only devilishly handsome and playful, but also as a multi-faceted businessman who set the bar for WWE Superstardom. WWE: The Epic Journey of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is also an excellent resource.

  • Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time – I became interested in the wrestling superstar Steve Austin when my husband wanted to watch the reality show Tough Enough, in which would-be wrestlers attempted to handle the many training sessions and challenges in order to earn a contract with the WWE. Austin reached superstardom during the height of the WWE’s more “adult” focus, but his anti-hero character embodied the hard working everyman with his tough Texas background and gritty determination in the ring. While this documentary makes no mention of his tumultuous divorce from his wife (domestic abuse and possible steroid use appeared to be factors), Austin does clearly state how he failed the most important people in his life while dealing with his own personal issues.
  • Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows – While the WWE appears to be a nurturing business, it’s still a business, and this documentary following the career of superstar Bret Hart demonstrates the tensions that can arise from a strong and talented entertainer and the business interests who may believe in a different direction for his character. What is fascinating (and this documentary intersects well with the Shawn Michaels documentary because of his involvement in the match that severed Hart from the WWE) is the ripple effect of the damage this incident caused within the wrestling world – it’s hard to find a wrestler unaffected by it.
  • The John Cena Experience – John Cena is actually my favorite wrestler, as I admire his work ethic, consistently great performance, and his many talents outside of the ring (he’s a songwriter/rapper as well as an extremely talented actor, watch the heartwarming family movie, Legendary, if you don’t believe me). This documentary not only hits on all his wrestling highlights and career but spends a decent amount of time on Cena’s amazing Make a Wish Foundation work and his commitment to entertaining members of the armed forces. Cena led the WWE in raising over $1 million for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation (which funds research to fight breast cancer) this past year. He’s really worth admiring!
  • Chris Jericho, whose good looks and wrestling ability formed a wonderful foundation for him to pursue his equal talents of music and writing.

    Breaking the Code: Behind the Walls of Chris Jericho – Chris Jericho has certainly played both sides of the face/heel fence, but one thing that cannot be denied is that this superstar has much more than just wrestling as his talent. An excellent musician and a successful author, Jericho’s business acumen has been proven time and again to lead him in a good direction. His cockiness appeals to his fans and even his WWE associates seem to be able to tolerate his attitude, probably due to the fact that it stems from genuine belief in his own abilities. While his showmanship highlights his light up clothing and bad boy persona, in actuality Jericho is probably one of the most well-rounded talents in the wrestling world.

If the WWE Were Smart, They’d Have Their Own Romance Imprint

I certainly have a few story lines bouncing around in my head inspired by this rich world of sports entertainment, but I would strongly encourage authors to consider professional wrestling as a fantastic option for a setting and/or profession for characters in romance novels. While you couldn’t call it the WWE, a composite organization could easily be invented that built upon a familiar foundation. Heck, if WWE was smart, they’d use their publishing branch and hire some good romance editors right now to launch the line themselves!

There is a lot to admire in the world of the WWE and I’d encourage anyone who enjoys drama, humor, and physical entertainment to consider taking a closer look. You just might fall in love.

Star Crossed by Kele Moon Sends You Into the Stratosphere

6 Aug

Star-Crossed (Book 2 Battered Hearts Series – Romeo and Jules story) by Kele Moon (Loose ID, July 3, 2012)

Kele Moon won my trust months ago after I read her first book in the Battered Hearts series, Defying the Odds. This is actually unusual for me since one book does not a trusted author make, but there was something about her deft characterization and perfect plot pacing that made me feel I was in the hands of a romance novel master.

It’s because I was.

This point has only been proven again, with Star Crossedthe fabulous follow-up to Defying the Odds, and when I tell you that I was waiting with bated breath for this romance, I’m not exaggerating.

I love being immersed in the small southern town of Garnet, which specializes in producing UFC fighters and people who are in each other’s business in a big way. In the first book, Defying the Odds, we met Clay, a UFC champion who was becoming less enamored of his sport and more interested in the lovely new waitress of the local diner, Melody. In the course of their incredibly hot relationship (“watch that plate or you’ll burn yourself” should be the warning on that book), Clay trains with the help of his two best friends, Wyatt and Jules Conner, for a championship match against contender Romeo Wellings. In the aftermath of the fight, Melody’s psycho abusive ex-husband finds her and attempts to kill her, with Romeo and Clay saving the day.

In gratitude, Clay offers to help Romeo train since he plans on retiring after a final promotional tour, and it is this construct which sets the foundation for our newest book in the series. Romeo Wellings is one of three illegitmate sons of a loving Italian mother. Growing up on the tough streets of New York and with ties to the mafia, he learned how to fight the practical way before training with a local martial arts school. He’s used his immense skill at fighting to support his two younger brothers but there is a lot missing from his life. One look at the tall blond drink of water which is Jules Conner, Clay and Melody’s grateful friend, and Romeo finds he has a powerful thirst only she can quench.

A view of the Las Vegas skyline with all the luxurious hotels. I pictured Romeo and Jules’ room having a view like this (not that they were looking out the window all that often!).

Jules realizes that while she’s thought of Romeo as the enemy forever, his designer clad form and good heart has her recognizing that her sex dry spell has lasted wayyyyyy too long. Taking him out to a thank you dinner has them both viewing each other through a shimmering heat wave and getting a hotel room. And let me tell you, it’s a wonder that the hotel fire alarm doesn’t go off, the chemistry is that combustible between them.

But Jules has to go home to Garnet to her legal practice and Romeo needs to head home and then go on the promotional tour with Clay. Saying that it was a one time thing is all well and good, but the reality is that their connection goes deeper than just a one-night stand, and they find themselves texting and calling each other all the time. While the sexual attraction is there in spades (phone sex and webcams are beautifully utilized here, something I didn’t think I’d write ever), without either Romeo or Jules paying attention, the two of them are in a relationship with each other, one built on common interests and actual friendship.

This is where Kele Moon continued her maestro-esque writing. While I am usually a content reader, happy to indulge a love at first sight trope (even outside of paranormal romance), it’s rare I like a book that has a normal timeframe for two people getting to know each other. This is probably because it either goes wayyyyy too slow for me, with little emotional intimacy taking place and I get the physical aspect of the relationship either delayed (which frustrates me) or an initial encounter is not given the emotional importance I think it deserves. Kele has managed to give me the sensual heat early on, and actually (miraculously) continues it in the exchanges between Romeo and Jules, showing their continued attraction while simultaneously demonstrating their mental and emotional closeness. Oh. My. God. It makes for one incredibly sweet, hot romance.

There is plenty of conflict here, much of it seeming insurmountable. Jules’ twin brother and best friend, Wyatt, hates Romeo with a passion and is not thrilled that Clay is training him. He becomes less enthusiastic when he discovers that Romeo has a record – as a sheriff, Wyatt doesn’t have a lot of patience for people operating outside the law. As a result, Jules’ feels she has to keep her relationship with Romeo under wraps, which makes Romeo feel like her dirty secret and allows them both to delude themselves that this is more about hooking up and less about an actual relationship. Romeo feels that his ties to the mafia and need to free his brothers from its influence has painted a target on his back and he doesn’t want Jules caught in the crossfire.

Defying the Odds (Book 1 in Battered Hearts series – Clay and Melody’s story) by Kele Moon (Loose Id, December 20, 2011)

Let’s talk about the male character’s for a minute. I really appreciate that the men are not man whores. I’m getting tired in this day and age of historical romances and contemporary ones featuring playboys who have cut through a chunk of the female population and the heroine must deal with ex-lovers right and left. While Romeo (and Clay before him) admit to occasionally having slept with the groupies who follow them on the circuit, you don’t get the impression that these two disciplined fighters have succumbed to utter debauchery and it’s confirmed that they haven’t had sex in a while when they meet up with their destined heroine. It’s downright refreshing.

Another feature of this series from Kele Moon is that, in her couples, one member of the pair comes from an extremely tough background and has risen above their circumstances. In Defying the Odds, Clay has a terrible childhood and was actually taken in by the Conner family and raised alongside them, and we discover in Star Crossed that Romeo not only has had a rough time when he was young, but things aren’t that great for him now either as he deals with mafia pressures. Both these heroes must use the love they’ve found as fuel for the final push to break from their past and find a new future.

Perhaps most impressive with Kele Moon’s writing is that every character feels fleshed out. This could backfire on her – I think I’m going to be heartbroken if she doesn’t devote books to Romeo’s brothers Nova and Tino and continue the storyline of the hot, young UFC fighter who lives above Jules’ law office. Obviously, Jules’ often frustrating but always loving brother, Wyatt, is next in line for his own book, with the arrival of Tabitha, the girlfriend he has never gotten over, back in town.

I’m chomping at the bit for Wyatt and Tabitha’s story, not only to explore them as characters, but to see further evidence of the couples I already love and admire. I’m going to have to content myself with the fact that I now I have two novels in the series to reread periodically while I patiently wait for her next masterpiece. Thanks, Kele!!!

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