The Yes Movement came to a painful end last night.
Former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan finally ended months of speculation and announced his official retirement from professional wrestling last night live on Monday Night Raw.
The man who garnered global fame and success from his spontaneous chants of “Yes! Yes! Yes!” had to finally say “No” to his desires to go against doctors’ wishes and return to the ring after suffering a debilitating concussion last April.
Every time something tragic like this happens to one of my favorite wrestlers – like the deaths of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, or the similarly early retirement of Edge – I rethink if it’s really worth being a fan of a fake sport.
The longer you watch wrestling the more you realize that being a fan is an exercise in the endurance of painful tragedies of your favorite competitors.
Wrestling fans tend to become more closely connected with their favorite stars than fans of other sports. I think that’s because wrestler’s careers can last for 20 or more years. Plus wrestling has a season that never ends, so you engage with wrestlers at least once a week. You watch them grow. You experience the highs and lows of their career and life with them.
Unfortunately it seems the careers and lives of wrestlers end poorly more often than not. The high points like Daniel Bryan’s celebration at the end of Wrestlemania 30 become marred by tearful early retirement speeches.
Moments like Bryan’s retirement make me wonder why I keep saying “Yes” to pro wrestling.
Is my fandom really worth continuing to pursue if I’m only going to get hurt by the tragic ending of yet another wrestling career or, far worse, another wrestler’s life at a young age?
As I thought about this yesterday while watching the tributes to Daniel Bryan pour in on Twitter, I began to think about some other things I’ve said “Yes” to in life and the consequences that came with them:
- When I said “Yes” to marrying my wife a little over a year ago I made the biggest commitment of my life. By doing so I set myself up to take on a tremendous emotional commitment. When she suffers pain I now suffer it also. When she is hurt or sick I take that on as well. If it so happens that I outlive my wife I will have to endure the tremendous pain of that loss. But I would never experience the wonderful blessing of marriage if I had not said “Yes” to the emotional baggage that comes along with it. I may have gained the weight of the painful emotions but I also gained the joys that come from spending every moment of life with my closest friend and confidant.
- When my wife and I said “Yes” to taking on a new dog earlier this year I knew we’d be taking on the chore of looking after her health with expensive veterinary bills, chasing after her when she runs away, finding dog sitters and more. But those were worth the price to experience all the tremendous fun of having a new puppy. We get to have playtime and snuggles and cute pictures to flood our Instagrams with. And we got to save a puppy’s life.
- When I said “Yes” to becoming a youth pastor again I knew I was walking back into the world of pushy parents, church politics, budget issues, and the fickle, heartbreaking emotions of disrespectful teenagers. But alongside those I knew I would get to experience all the things I love about youth ministry. Super Bowl Parties, ridiculous skits and games, speaking and teaching God’s word, sharing in the foundational moments of a teenager’s life.
You can’t say “Yes” to the good things in life without also saying “Yes” to the baggage that comes along with them.
Sometimes the weight of that baggage is enough to keep us from saying “Yes” and that’s ok. We can’t say “Yes” to everything. And we shouldn’t.
But we really should not avoid saying “Yes” to things just because of the pain that comes alongside them.
Just this past weekend I was reminded of why I continue to say “Yes” to pro wrestling after 25 years. My wife and I got the chance to attend a WWE NXT show in Nashville with my best friend and his wife. The show was fun, fast-paced and full of the simple, athletic and highly-entertaining in-ring action the NXT brand has become known for.
More importantly it was the first time my friend and I had watched a show together in 5 years.
My best friend and I bonded in middle school over our pro wrestling fandom and we’ve been to 2 Wrestlemanias and about a dozen other shows together since then. We’ve also watched thousands of hours of wrestling together, dressed up and fought in backyards, traded tapes and action figures and built countless other memories.
In fact I can’t tell you how many of my friendships have been influenced by pro wrestling over the years. It’s been an incredible bonding tool between myself and friends, family, students, even business associates. There’s something about this silly thing called sports entertainment that, at it’s best, provides an outlet and an escape. I don’t just watch it for my personal entertainment. I watch it to connect with my closest friends.
And that’s why I keep saying “Yes” even though I know there’s pain that will come along with it.
It seems a little cheesy, but I can’t help thinking of the words to Garth Brooks’ classic song “The Dance”. In the song Brooks describes a broken relationship and wonders if the beautiful moments were really worth the pain that came at the end.
“And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance”
We don’t get to know in advance how each choice we make in life will work out. Some will have a perfect ending while many more will not. We can’t pick and choose what to say “Yes” to based on whether or not we will experience some pain in the pursuit of joy.
The only way to avoid painful experiences in life is to avoid the beautiful and joyful ones as well.
Saying “Yes” to my love for pro wrestling is not on the same level as saying “Yes” to my new job or to my wife. I realize that. But it is a reminder of why I want to keep saying “Yes” when life asks me to dance.