What exactly is pop culture, anyway? The collective ideas, attitudes, trends, and beliefs found within the mainstream of a particular culture? If you have a better understanding of what pop culture really means than stick with your ideology while reading forward but this is the way I have interpreted the phenomenon.
The world we live in today is more vain and vile than ever before; with a voracious appetite for ego and elation while ignoring real world problems. This is a time when the “selfie” has become more important than sense-of-self. Nobody knows who they are anymore. Our lives sit firmly in our pockets; trapped inside of cell phones and plastered all over the internet.
Popular culture is no longer about literature, great music, and self discovery. Popular culture is now about fashion trends, moronic moguls, social media, reality television, and terrible music. But that's how it all unfolds. Times change – everything changes. It's all a matter of how hard your push through; remaining hopeful that something or someone is waiting on the other side of the spectrum.
So, what am I rambling about here? This is a wrestling article, dammit! Well, not only wrestling but a blissful blend of professional wrestling and popular culture (for the most part). This is an article about the impact our beloved squared-circle acrobats have had on the mainstream landscape throughout the years – from Hulk Hogan to John Cena.
Often times figures from popular culture (musicians, actors, athletes) will invade the professional wrestling world for a segment, self-promotion, and sometimes an actual match. Mr. T did compete at the first two WrestleMania events. However, we are not here to take a look at popular culture coming into the wrestling world; we are here to look at how wrestling has made its way into popular culture.
These are the top 10 ways wrestling has infiltrated popular culture:
The sporting world is packed full of frantic chants and rally cries; from the biggest stadium to the smallest arena, sports fan are vocal when it comes to their team. Some of these very chants have been borrowed from the world of professional wrestling.
Last season, the Carolina Panthers of the NFL adopted one of the most iconic pro wrestling catchphrases of all time. The simple but effective, “WOOO!” Which was of course made famous by Ric Flair.
Also last fall, the “Yes Movement” made its way to San Francisco when right fielder Hunter Pence began using the chant to rally the Giants all the way to the World Series. This was not the only case of Daniel Bryan fever as the “Yes Chant” has been echoed by fans of Michigan State University as well as the New York Islanders.
Popularized slang changes with the times; what means something today may not mean the same thing tomorrow. It's the way it works. Especially in modern mainstream culture where everything seemingly passes in a flash – an unannounced instant.
Professional wrestling slang is vast and those who are not fans will not understand such terms as “jobbing” or “taking a bump.” However there are terms that non-wrestling fans may use and have no idea of their origins such as “body slam” or “tag team.”
The most popular wrestling term that has slid its way into mainstream culture is a term popularized by The Rock and now recognized in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. This word of course being, “smackdown.”
8 Crotch Chopping
All right, so somewhere along the line there must have been some perverse peasant or prehistoric man who pointed at his crotch with both hands. However, in 1997, Shawn Michaels made the now infamous gesture live on television for the very first time.
The D-Generation X crotch chop was meant to be a derogatory and distasteful gesture – and that it was – but that doesn't mean the gesture would not infiltrate the cultural landscape. The crotch chop is widely recognized and always directed back at WWE.
The chop can be seen taking place in movies, such as Slumdog Millionaire and Knocked Up as well as in the ever-popular generational cartoon comedy, Family Guy. DX have left an unflattering mark on popular culture.
7 Late Night Televsion
Lat night television has long been a staple of past generations and remains true in modern times. More and more young people are gathering information and obtaining their world news from late night comedians such as Jon Stewart.
Professional wrestlers are no strangers to these late night talk shows as numerous superstars have appeared as guests over the years on The Tonight Show, Late Night, Conan, etc. The Ultimate Warrior appearing on The Arsenio Hall Show back in 1990 remains a classic clip.
Aside form the talk show forum, professional wrestlers have been seen on sketch comedy and variety shows such as Saturday Night Live and MAD TV.
Let's be honest here: when you see an adult walking around in a wrestling t-shirt, you laugh. I certainly do! Look, it's all right to still watch and still be a fan but the merchandise should be worn on the back of your child.
However, there was that brief and belligerent period known as the 1990s when wearing wrestling gear was not as frowned upon as it is today. The coolest generation of professional wrestlers were at the forefront of the industry and people wore their gear with pride. The ECW t-shirt for the “alternative” fan. The nWo black and white for the “rebellious” fan. The Austin 3:16 t-shirt … just because Stone Cold Steve Austin was the coolest wrestler around.
These days, wrestling is not as cool as it was in years past. Besides the kids and adoring females, you really shouldn't be walking around with any John Cena swag.
5 "You Can't See Me"
While we're on the subject of John Cena … you may not wear his t-shirt but you may have adapted the tenancy to use his signature “You Can't See Me” hand gesture. What is so cool about this hand sign? Who the hell knows, but it can be seen everywhere.
On the field or court; a simple flash of the hand in front of ones face will allow ones opponent to know that they have been bested on a particular play. The taunt that originated from the Vanilla Ice of professional wrestling has became an international taunt.
However, the “You Can't See Me” gesture has not only been used during sport as celebrities have also latched on to the John Cena hand sign, including Justin Bieber. If that doesn't make this gesture cool than what will?
4 Reality Television
Reality television: it is here to stay! There is no escaping the uncontrollable virus that has spread so deeply through the airwaves that there is no foreseeable cure or antidote. Learn to live with the Kardashians before they control the world.
In recent years, a WWE-based reality television shown known as Total Divas – a depiction of life on the road and the hardships of love while working for the WWE – or something like that. Nevertheless, the show has been a success.
However, back in 2001, a kid by the name of Mike Mizanin starred on a season of the MTV hit reality show, The Real World. While not under contract with WWE at the time, Mizanin could often be seen transforming into The Miz.
On top of that, many also forget that Hulk Hogan, who features heavily on this list, had his own reality TV show around the start of the craze in 2005. Hogan Knows Best lasted four seasons and featured Hulk living with his family.
WWE Studios – a feature film production company – puts out a handful of horrendous movies each year which usually star one or more WWE superstars. The production company was created in 2002 but wrestlers and the movies go way back.
Who can forget Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips in Rocky III or the infamous No Holds Barred? Hulk Hogan really paved the way for professional wrestlers to try their hands at Hollywood with some of the biggest names of all time following suit: Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, John Cena, Andre the Giant, Roddy Piper, even Randy Orton made a movie.
Of course, the movie careers of these men are nothing when compared to the most successful wrestler-turned-actor of all time: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The 1980s wrestling boom was huge; a microcosm had suddenly expanded world wide and professional wrestling was presented in the mainstream more so than ever before. The “Golden Age” as it became known.
This brought forth the “Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection” which saw Lou Albano act as the father in the Cyndi Lauper music video, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” This would lead to Lauper's involvement in WWE storylines thanks to the WWE and MTV connection.
Over the years more and more professional wrestlers would find themselves involved with music in some capacity. In the year 2000, The Rock would appear on a Wyclef Jean song titled, “It Doesn't Matter” while also starring in the music video. Chris Jericho is the frontman of a rock band. Hell, John Cena once released a hip hop album.
Time to get down to brass tacks and discuss Hulk Hogan. The man who helped propel professional wrestling to the next level. The man who was the first real connection between professional wrestling and popular culture.
Hulk Hogan taught a generation of kids to say their prayers and eat their vitamins. Sure, many of those kids (myself included) grew up and gave up on praying and now find vitamin intake in a pint of Guinness but there is no denying the impact that Hulk Hogan had on popular culture.
Hulk Hogan was cast in movies, television shows, and cartoons. Hogan released an album, a workout tape, and anything else that would bring in the cash. The likeness of Hulk Hogan was everywhere; even in later years when Hogan jumped on the reality television bandwagon for Hogan Knows Best.
Hulkamania will forever run wild.
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