About seven and a half years ago, I got a DVD from a pro wrestling company called Ring of Honor. It was card from New York City, but it wasn’t being held in Madison Square Garden. It was being held in the smaller Manhattan Center. The guy in the main event was named Bryan Danielson. He was pasty, a little under average height and was in shape without having big muscles. He didn’t look anything like what the average member of the public imagines when they think of pro wrestler. But he was a master of crafting matches that told the story of an epic athletic struggle. At the end of the match, the crowd was chanting “best in the world” at him. The thing is, it was a small world. It was only a couple of thousand people chanting. Most wrestling fans had never heard of him.

Danielson was eventually signed by America’s largest wrestling company, the WWE. If you follow politics, you might know the company from co-owner Linda McMahon’s failed attempts to win a Senate seat in Connecticut  The WWE at first booked Danielson (whose ring name they changed to Daniel Bryan) to be a lower card comedy wrestler. The didn’t see him as a star, but Danielson made the most of his comedic interviews (even though his earlier wrestling persona was as a serious, even grim,competitor). Danielson’s specialty was in long complicated matches, but he made the most of the short matches he was given. He won the crowd over even though the company refused to push him to the level of his popularity. Eventually the company capitulated to Danielson’s enduring popularity. They took the reality of the company refusing to see Danielson’s talent, and turned it into a story of Danielson overcoming cultural prejudice and hostile authority to win the title. Last night, Danielson was in the main event at Wrestlemania, and, at the end, it was seventy thousand fans chanting for Danielson. 

What is my point? It is about making the best of small opportunities. It is about not giving up even though there is no certainty of success. It is about remembering that life is a repeating game and that making the best of today and tomorrow and tomorrow can pay off years later. It is about how social change doesn’t happen just by big events, but by the patient work that makes those big events possible and gives them meaning to the public. It is about how, when you are in the early stages, it can seem like you are going nowhere and how suddenly everything can seem to change with the right break. 

Articles by Pete Spiliakos

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