The Art of Wrestling
To Capture the Essence of Pro Wrestling
In March of 2012 a painter from Kansas had a vision. In a moment of clarity, artist Rob Schamberger accepted a self-imposed personal mission - to paint a series of portraits dedicated to each one of wrestling history's world champions. At more than 200 wrestlers by Rob's calculation, this is no small feat. As an artist myself who has painted a few wrestlers, I sit back in awe as Rob writes his own name into the annals of wrestling history with guts and determination. Even since the beginning, he has been getting mentioned in social media by the most famous of wrestlers, all the way up to getting featured on WWE.com in November.
Setting the Tone
The first images shown are of C.M. Punk and Samoa Joe for a reason. I chose them to set a mood of relevancy, as real wrestling fans will identify more with guys like them than the larger than life iconic characters of the past. Real fans relate more with wrestlers who are fans than musclemen and football players using the sport to bolster their egos and bank accounts.
C.M. Punk is the most talked about wrestler of the modern era because of an incident where he aired his grievances with the company on live television. He and Samoa Joe made their names wrestling in Ring of Honor, an underground promotion that sprung up in the demise of ECW and WCW. While Punk is known mainly for talking trash, Joe is known for plowing through competition.
The man most synonymous with the word wrestling is Hulk Hogan. The iconic image of a bleach-bald supertan muscleman in McDonald's colors was seared into pop culture back in the 80's with his pals Mr. T and Pee-Wee Herman. The Hulkster was an entertaining and compelling character that symbolizes a generation, who continues to hold a powerful role in wrestling today despite the fact that he lost touch decades ago. As a wrestling fan, I'll admit that I never really liked Hulk Hogan. He may have been the best thing going back in '89, but his cartoonish character was insulting to the fans' intelligence even then. It gets under my skin when I hear decent wrestlers heaping undeserved praise onto the myth of Hulkamania.
The Macho Man Randy Savage is as synonymous with the 80's as Hulk Hogan, actually a lot more so to wrestling fans. Big oafs like Hulk Hogan never could have looked so heroic if it wasn't for all the great workers that carried him through his matches. Nobody carried the Hulkster more than Randy Savage, and that fact was difficult to disguise with any storyline.
Macho Man was no sidekick though. He has been one of the biggest influences to wrestlers of this generation. Wrestlers like Jay Lethal, Austin Aries, Trent Acid, and C.M. Punk are only a few on the long list of wrestlers who have paid their respects to Savage by borrowing a little of his style, which you can see just by looking at him he's got plenty to go around.
The Ultimate Warrior
As an artist myself, I love the symbolic use of color over monochrome here. When the Warrior puts on his war paint, this scary shaman becomes a vessel carrying messages from the gods of Mars. This guy actually has his own comic book. A character that never really worked out for wrestling, he ended up leaving and doing his own thing. Actually the story is that he basically hijacked the WWF by refusing to go on with a pay per view match at the last moment unless he was paid a certain amount of money. It's hard to believe a guy like that would be given any second chances, which he got two of. These days the wrestling "universe" is fairly unanimous in its opinion of the Warrior. Still, I can't help but appreciate the real-life drama this character has provided. Nothing is more hilarious than a character who doesn't know he's not real.
Another guy who was a legend in his own mind is Brock Lesnar. He seemed to believe in his character, of course he played himself, but the point is he's one of those guys like the Ultimate Warrior who thinks the world revolves around him. He left wrestling in similar disgrace as the Ultimate Warrior, only to go into UFC and dominate the world of competitive martial arts.
Brock Lesnar transcended not only wrestling, but also MMA before making a short-lived return to WWE. He humiliated both members of DX, Shawn Michaels and Triple H by breaking their arms right before declaring that it was all he came back to do, and that he's never coming back. Strongest exit ever, period.
He'll be back.
One of the most beloved characters in wrestling is Triple H. For many his days of harassing the roster with his DX partner Shawn Michaels with juvenile tactics were the best moments ever. Later on he drugged, kidnapped, married, and raped the boss's daughter among many other deplorable actions, and yet those storylines are swept under the carpet and all forgotten when we sympathize with this poor guy who was annihilated by the rogue cannon Brock Lesnar.
In his marriage to the owner's daughter, Triple H assumed a role of power when he joined the family. He now serves in a corporate role.
In the old Super Nintendo game Royal Rumble, I hated Shawn Michaels. This was how I became familiarized with him, in the Royal Rumble match. I didn't care about him, preferring to go after the guys I really hated like Bret Hart, but in the process Michaels became one of my most hated opponents. His AI seemed to be based on using cheap tactics, because every time I had any contact with him was when he was hitting me or poking my eyes through a crowd before disappearing back into the crowd. The funny thing is that by the next game, RAW, Shawn Michaels had become one of my favorites. I must have made a virtual heel turn in video game land.
Anyway the real Shawn Michaels character has been widely regarded as the best entertainer that the business has ever seen. If you've seen some of the stuff he's done, it's tough to disagree.
Pro Wrestling Artist Rob Schamberger
All of the paintings above were done by fine artist Rob Schamberger, who resides in Kansas city. Catch him on his Facebook page to check his progress, check out his art store, and to order commissions. He has been praised by wrestlers from every promotion. His kickstarter project gathered $20,000 back in March of 2012 thanks to so much support from the wrestling community, including guys like C.M. Punk, Samoa Joe, the Big Show, JBL, good ol' JR, Rob Van Dam, Adam Pierce, Colt Cabana, and many many others. In fact there was a little incident involving Adam Pierce breaking one of Rob's paintings over his opponent's head.