Wrestling - In Defense of Platinum Championship Wrestling

'PCW is art'

It's a simple, accurate statement. But judging by my negative experiences in the art community in and around Atlanta, however, it's obvious that a defense - or even counterattack - is necessary. Certainly under any dictionary definition of the term "art," PCW qualifies: Art is "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power." PCW is clearly the application of human creative skill; it is not painstakingly scripted, meticulously choreographed, or otherwise "planned out" as many think. On the contrary, the wrestlers are given a rough idea of what should happen and they make the decisions, usually on the fly, about what is done based on crowd reaction, telling a story with action and words, and numerous other factors. They are stunt people, actors, improvisers and physical artists of the highest order.

To me personally, the most important part of a definition of art is engaging the audience's senses in order to elicit an emotional response. That's what pro wrestling is (or should be) and PCW works very hard for that emotional response. We want you to feel a connection to our urban folk hero and PCW World Champion "The Natural" Shane Marx. We want the audience to hate Dwight Power. Women compete on equal footing with men in PCW, and our openly gay wrestlers are heroes. Our audience has been taught to accept and embrace these things - it's the stuff wrestling is made of. In wrestling business parlance, we create faces (inadequate synonym: "good guys") and heels ("bad guys") and pit them against one another. We create reasons for conflict and put the wrestlers in the ring to settle their differences. It's a simple premise, but how that plays out is where the art comes in.

Obviously, many in the art community disagree. From mocking portrayals by this very publication to grumbling from many on the board and others associated with both Academy Theatre (where we do Friday night shows) and Eyedrum (where we've previously performed monthly shows) who don't think they should have PCW at their respective venues. I've heard that PCW isn't seen as "art." Well, we are. I'm glad there's a discussion about it, because I think there aren't enough debates about art. I've seen all kinds of crazy shows and gallery presentations that weren't questioned as art, but I thought were a waste of time or insulting to their audiences. But I or anyone else didn't put their legitimacy as art into question.

Often I feel that art in and around Atlanta is simply preaching to the choir, where left-leaning artists get to nod in quiet approval at one another's work and live in clever-clever land. PCW is populist entertainment, and seen as beneath many in the art community. I'm glad that there is a question about whether PCW is art, because in the end that's the only way art changes, challenges, expands and grows — through things that truly push people's thoughts and tolerances of the subject. PCW has crashed the art party, and frankly, that art party was beginning to resemble a polite dinner party that needed crashing. Debate is healthy, and so is discourse. Strange how the people that should most encourage an open-minded exchange of ideas sometimes seem the most steadfast in shutting out anything that would make them question and challenge their own views.

A big part of PCW's mandate is to preserve and protect the culture of pro wrestling. Wrestling has an extensive history in Georgia, and the United States. Currently, things break down like this: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) doesn't even want to associate itself with pro wrestling - it makes a concerted effort to avoid the word "wrestling" by referring to its wrestlers as "superstars" and even branding their wrestling fans as "the WWE Universe." Total Nonstop Action (TNA) is putting on some of the worst shows in recent memory. And the indie scene has little influence on pro wrestling as a whole. PCW is my take on how I think pro wrestling should be. It's the best of a traditional pro wrestling feel combined with forward thinking to advance the art form. True artists learn their craft; think about how to improve their craft; and work to continue the traditions and culture of their art form while looking to advance it.

Platinum Championship Wrestling does all of those things. We are a part of the art scene. I dare say that if given the chance, we will be a vital part of the art scene. If after seeing a show you don't agree, that's one thing. If after attempting some level of understanding it you don't think PCW is art, that's fine as well. But pick an uninformed fight with me and PCW and you'll get an intellectual steel chair to the head. (It is a law that any article about pro wrestling mention one or more of the following: a headlock, a bodyslam, or a folding steel chair.)

State of the Arts offers passionate, informed and timely discussions about the Atlanta arts community by the Atlanta arts community. If you'd like to contribute, please e-mail A&E Editor Debbie Michaud at debbie.michaud@creativeloafing.com.

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