Many millions of people left Ireland in the 19th Century for the United States. Famine and economic turmoil made life difficult in Ireland, and Ireland experienced a different sort of population shift. Usually emigrants to the United States would come as entire families, with many generations all coming over together to make a new life for themselves. Instead, Ireland had great many emigrate alone or in much smaller groups of siblings.
Before leaving the emigrants would oftentimes have a wake done in their honor. This “American Wake” was done to celebrate and mourn the emigrant who was about to leave. While this person was not dead, they were leaving and likely never coming back. Mail and other forms of communication were either nonexistent or prohibitively expensive, and these wakes would be the last an emigrant would see many of their loved ones.
American wakes brought complex and conflicting emotions. Parents and friends would be devastated at the loss of their child, but knew that there were simply few opportunities in Ireland. Parents did not know what to feel as they were torn between sorrow from the loss and happiness at the prospect of their child having a better life. To make matters worse, those that would leave for America were often the best and brightest of their generation. They would leave their families and their communities diminished by their absence.
Sadly, despite Ireland having few opportunities many who left would find life to be much worse in America. Many immigrants would find abject terror and death in America. Whether being recruited into the army and dying on the battlefield, going West and dying of dysentery, or working in some terrible factory where they are crushed by some awful cog many immigrants would risk it all. Even still, staying in Ireland would prove to be unthinkable for many as the ceiling for achievement and security was rather low. Constant fear of starvation and economic insecurity made life a difficult grind where the only reward for survival was another grueling day.
Many independent wrestlers find a situation not too dissimilar. Surviving as an independent wrestler is difficult and perilous. Even the most famous, such as Colt Cabana, find themselves constantly needing to hustle and work every day just to make ends meet. Constant work and sacrifice only rewards enough to survive for another day of work and sacrifice. Long term survival on the independent scene is difficult and hard, and that is for those that are able to even do that much.
There is hope for those on the independents. Across the Atlantic are the bountiful shores of the WWE. Many an independent wrestler has great hope and aspiration to someday travel to this place and find great success and wealth. Few will manage it, and those that do run the risk of dying of dysentery or worse, losing matches to The Miz.
When one of our favorite wrestlers makes it to the WWE many of us face the same conflicted emotions that the friends and families of those emigrating to America felt. We feel sad that they are leaving and going somewhere that we simply can not have the same level of interaction. We feel guilty for having that selfish feeling of loss. We feel happy for them to get a paycheck. We are hopeful that they can create change in the WWE and make it into a better company for wrestling and wrestlers. We’re fearful that they will get stuck with a gimmick undeserving their skills and charisma.
Even still, we all know that for many of those we adore that they can only find long term happiness and security through a career in the WWE. I miss Sara Del Rey and miss seeing her wrestle, but if she can get paid in the WWE by not wrestling than I can’t be unhappy about her departure from the independent scene. She’s earned it.
Unfortunately, the WWE is having a major drag on the independent scene. Just like Ireland lost many of its best and brightest to America, the independents are losing some of its finest wrestlers. The list is getting too long to name, but things are simply not what they were even a few years ago. We were spoiled, and it is easy to feel as though we have lost far more to the WWE than we have gained in recent years.
Through it all we must focus on how we were lucky to have many of these fine wrestlers on the independents while we did. We were spoiled to get to see many up close wrestling half hour long matches for $10, and now can find ourselves spending hundreds of dollars just to watch them on large monitors for 18 seconds. No longer can we have the relationship with these wrestlers that we did while they wrestled in armories and gymnasiums, but we can be happy they are finally getting paid.
Casey Campbell writes for his website, The Hammer Dialectic, where he talks about Wrestling, Warhammer, and Marx. Follow him on Twitter and he’ll probably follow back if you chat with him about any of those things.