Pro wrestling is fake. It is as fake as Game of Thrones and The Godfather and Les MisÃ©rables 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.
On the next page: Rajon Rondo, James Harden, Kevin Durant and more…
CHRIS BOSH is Ryback
Too strong for most small guys, too fast for most big guys, and yet it seems he should be more dominant than he has been in his career. He’s also smart, but in this game, perhaps he’s too cerebral for his own good.
THE MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES are The Shield
The team nobody wants to go against. They’ve developed a reputation for brutally cutting down flashy fan favorites with a style that isn’t pretty, but ruthlessly effective. No one man is bigger than the group.
PAUL PIERCE is Chris Jericho
New-age flash masks an old-school game. Like him or not, his confidence (or cockiness) is admirable and makes up for any physical shortcomings.
JAMES HARDEN is Dolph Ziggler
The younger version of the man mentioned above.
KEVIN LOVE is Curtis Axel
Entered the big leagues with an impressive pedigree, and put up impressive stats right away. But upon closer examination, some of his accomplishments ring hollow in the big picture.
JOSH SMITH is Antonio Cesaro
Somehow manages to be exciting and boring at the same time. The skills are there, but the charisma needs a defibrillator. A significant repackaging (maybe a new uniform?) wouldn’t hurt.
RAJON RONDO is CM Punk
Try and tell him he’s not the best in the world. A truly unique talent who isn’t afraid to “break the fourth wall” and rebel against the status quo. Sophisticated connoisseurs of the sport love what he brings to the table, even if he doesn’t look the part of a traditional star.
DIRK NOWITZKI is Sheamus
He’s been a world champion before, but it appears unlikely he’ll get there again. It’s not because he doesn’t have the talent, but more because his direction is so unclear. Announcers cannot talk about him without focusing on his nationality.
KEVIN DURANT is Randy Orton
If you wanted to create the ideal superstar out of raw material, your finished product might look a lot like this guy. He wants to be seen as mean, but people love him so much he’s basically forced to wear the white hat.
DWIGHT HOWARD is Kane
When he’s goofy and unfocused, he’s still perhaps the best big man in the sport. When he’s serious and motivated, you need a sledgehammer to stop him. Even though all the physical tools are there, it wouldn’t be surprising if he never quite establishes himself among the truly all-time great giants.
TIM DUNCAN is The Undertaker
PAUL GEORGE is Rob Van Dam
The small-market Indy darling delivered the goods when given his shot on the big stage against the big names. An innovative high-flyer who comes across as extremely laid-back, but on occasion allows the fire to emerge.
KOBE BRYANT is Triple H
Definitely the most polarizing superstar of his era, and probably the most polarizing of all time. Half of the fan base loves him, while the other half hates him with a passion. But his championship resume speaks for itself, and he is so obviously talented and committed to the business that he demands respect no matter how you feel about him personally.
STEPHEN CURRY is Daniel Bryan
During his most recent stint on the main-event level, he was the hottest thing going in the business. The allegedly undersized underdog who wasn’t supposed to be a star is peaking in popularity right now and seems destined for bigger and better things.
DAVID STERN is Vince McMahon
The boss is an easy target whenever something happens that people don’t like, and a lot of fans are simply waiting for him to go away in hopes that better days will emerge. But no matter how senile he seems now, the man still deserves credit for building the brand into the international powerhouse it is today.
ANDREW BYNUM is Batista
Where did he go? Just a year ago he was a dominant big man with the championship gold to match â€“ then all of a sudden injuries took him out of sight and out of mind.
KEMBA WALKER is Jack Swagger
Impeccable credentials in the amateur ranks, but in the pros he’s been saddled with a losing team that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Hopefully this phase of his career won’t poison his long-term potential.
DAVID WEST is William Regal
It’s not even fun to watch him sometimes because it looks like he’s legitimately beating people up. He’s not going to sell a lot of merchandise, but poll the locker rooms and a majority will admit they want this guy on their side in an alley fight.
DERON WILLIAMS is Wade Barrett
He has been the leader and marquee attraction of a team before, but that team was never really elite. His no-nonsense style can be intriguing to watch, but coupled with a somewhat icy demeanor, it hasn’t translated into global superstardom.
METTA WORLD PEACE is Jerry “The King” Lawler
For a long time he was one of the best bad guys in the business, but as he’s gotten older he’s surprisingly become embraced as a lovable and harmlessly zany character. Moves like an athletic 60-year-old.
J.R. SMITH is The Miz
Good enough to make his mark at the highest level, with occasional moments where he performs like a top-flight talent. But knowing his background — and sometimes just by looking at him — it can be hard to take him seriously.
AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE is Brock Lesnar
He’s a beast, no question, but has been in and out of the lineup so much recently that he can’t build enough momentum to be the type of guy trusted to carry a franchise. His acquisition was a huge moment when it happened, but has it really paid off?
AUSTIN RIVERS is Cody Rhodes
His dad was great, and even though Junior isn’t built the same and employs a totally different style, he’ll always have to live up to the lofty comparisons. So far it hasn’t gone too well, but he’s young and has time to make his own mark.
JEREMY LIN is Zack Ryder
Took the long road to the big leagues, and once he got the opportunity, made himself a viral sensation by unconventional means. But now the initial infatuation has worn off and he’s starting to get exposed as more role player than star.
JOHN WALL is Kofi Kingston
So much speed, so much elevation, so much potential. But what else does he bring to the table? How good will he be when his athleticism begins to fade?
JOE JOHNSON is Big Show
Consistently and almost quietly has put together a career most would envy, but because he is one of the highest-paid guys on the roster, has always left the masses wanting more.
KYRIE IRVING is Fandango
Doing his best to work with the comically bad situation he walked into.
TRACY McGRADY is Ricky Steamboat
In terms of pure skill and ability to electrify a crowd, few have ever been better. In his prime he was arguably the best in the business, but somehow was never able to reach that world-championship ceiling. And now it’s frustrating to see him around the game because, while he looks pretty much the same as he did back in the day, you know he’s too old and banged-up to recapture that old magic.
STEVE NASH is Mick Foley
The everyman’s icon. Came from humble beginnings and earned respect on the circuit with toughness and ingenuity until he found the perfect formula that allowed him to become a main-eventer. In that role he was on top of the world for a few years, and will always be a beloved figure in the sport.
LAMAR ODOM is David Otunga
On paper, he’s as close to the prototype as you could imagine: Big, skilled and smart with a good mind for business. And he really has had a good run in the pros, with even some jewelry to show for it. But unfortunately he’ll probably go down in history known more as the husband of somebody more famous.
CHRIS PAUL is Bret Hart
A human textbook of execution. He’s almost always been cast in the good-guy role despite a visible mean streak and some villain tendencies, simply because he’s so impressive at his craft. His reputation not only survived an ugly breakup with the franchise that made him famous, it endeared him to an even larger fan base.
RUSSELL WESTBROOK is Edge
An explosive performer with a unique style. Debuted as part of a highly successful duo, and while some questioned his ability to be a star on his own, he proved those doubters wrong when given the chance.
DERRICK ROSE is Goldberg
Hit the scene like a meteor upon his debut, and was soon generating more buzz than anybody else in the business. Injuries and questions about his commitment to the sport began to creep in, however, providing a stage for him to answer emphatically.
JOAKIM NOAH is The Ultimate Warrior
Pure, sometimes unhinged energy, to the point where it seems he should be out of breath before the opening bell. Some of his moves are downright ugly, some of his interviews are downright odd, but the results speak for themselves.
RAY ALLEN is Kurt Angle
As a technician, he is nearly flawless. A promoter’s dream in terms of a clean-living, intelligent corporate spokesman whose work ethic should be the envy of the rest of the company. Not the superstar he used to be, but he’s adjusted his game over the years as his body slowed down and remains dangerous in a lesser role.
VINCE CARTER is “Macho Man” Randy Savage
In his heyday, he was one of the most impressive athletes in the sport and a must-see attraction. But while many of his peers successfully transitioned from one phase of their careers to the next, he never seemed to have the same connection with the fans once his style began to change.
TYSON CHANDLER is Mark Henry
For years he was a solid, reliable performer who didn’t get much recognition or reward. By the time he finally became a star, he was already getting up there in age and the clock was ticking. He might have one more shot at being a main-eventer in the right circumstance, but he may also close out his career as a perennially underappreciated role player.
LeBRON JAMES is John Cena
The top dog in the yard. The MVP. The face of the franchise. The one people pay to see. No, he doesn’t win every time. But by now he has accomplished enough that he shouldn’t have any credible detractors left. Of course that doesn’t stop a loud minority of haters from continually digging for reasons to put him down. No matter. His reign at the top doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon.
What do you think of this list?
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