As much as I bash the current WWE product, I’m still a fan. It’s an addiction. It’s an escape from reality. This editorial isn’t going to contain my thoughts on what should change, in the product, or how it can improve. Honestly, it may turn out to be a “thank you” to those who provide a break from reality.
As some of you know, the past few months have been difficult. A lot has gone on (personally and at work). While I’ve missed some of the shows, I can always count on WWE (and the great people on Wrestlecorp’s comment section) to take my mind off reality.
I started watching as a kid. WCW Nitro and the nWo got me hooked. I was a Sting mark from the beginning. All the kids imitated the Wolfpack and, in trying to fit in, I started watching. I watched Sting and Luger beat up Hogan and Steiner, the first night I watched. Though I saw a few wrestling episodes, previously, I never really paid attention. But the first Nitro I watched, I saw an underdog overcome a massive beatdown. Remember, I’m still a kid. If these guys can do it, why can’t I? I was the short kid who was often teased. But then I saw Rey Mysterio winning against guys who were a foot taller. These wrestlers gave me something to believe in. As they were getting beaten, I could see their emotion and energy drain. Suddenly, they’d power back and get the upperhand. Against the odds, they’d overcome their adversary.
As I got older, I noticed that less people were watching the show. I hadn’t gotten the memo that wrestling wasn’t “in” anymore. I was obsessed. I wore the t-shirts, I bought the books, and I tuned in every chance I got. I couldn’t get enough. My discman had WWF: The Music Volume 4 and 5 on repeat. For some reason, Triple H, The Rock, and Chris Jericho all had themes that just fired me up. The music would pulse through my veins and I would almost imagine myself walking through school as if I were walking backstage at an arena. I felt confident and the girls who turned me down didn’t seem to matter. The teasing didn’t seem to get to me. When I was on the junior-high wrestling team, I would always listen to Kurt Angle’s theme. It motivated me and, while my opponents were often bigger than me (I was 57lbs and the lowest weight class was 70 or 75), I felt like I could beat them. Even if I lost, I still held my head high because when superstars would lose, they’d (almost) always be back for another match
I grew out of the wrestling phase, a bit. I stopped buying the merch and dressing like the wrestlers. But I still watched every Monday and Thursday night. A small group of friends (Bryan and Jake) would join me and we’d critique the show (as if we were experts). It became a ritual that lasted through high school. During my senior year, I got in a near fatal car accident. As I laid in the hospital bed, on a ventilator, my buddy (Bryan) hung my Jeff Hardy necklace on the IV stand. It was a reminder that I had to get better. Being the jokester he was, I could imagine Bryan trying to re-enact the “bedpan McMahon” scenario. Thankfully, he didn’t.
As college began, most of us went our separate ways. I was in college and Bryan began wrestling for POG (Dan Severn’s wrestling school). Though life caught up to us and, while we knew the show was staged, we continued to watch RAW. It allowed Bryan a chance to study the art while it gave me a reason to procrastinate on my homework.
Wrestlemania 23 was the last wrestling show I went to. The theme was “all grown up”. How fitting that was. The show was decent but, personally, it meant so much more. That was the night Bryan and I both realized that we were no longer kids. We were in the beginnings of new chapters. Bryan had met his future wife, I was moving forward with my schooling, and our schedules had greatly changed. No longer were we able to meet up to watch and chat wrestling. Adult life had taken over.
I was the Best Man for Bryan’s wedding, a few years later. For the wedding music, he decided to use wrestling themes (including Jerry Lawler’s theme). His children (and my godchildren) are named after Bret and Owen Hart. While Bryan still goes to most of the wrestling shows that come to our area I don’t. The product has changed and my interest has dwindled.
I still watch the product, though. The realities of paying bills, watching family members get older (and even pass away), and future generations evolve faster than the last, are all daunting. But wrestling stays the same. Maybe that’s why I’m such a cynic. It’s cheesy and predictable. But that’s the way it should be. The product is designed for kids. John Cena and Roman Reigns getting their second-wind is just like Hulk Hogan “hulking up”. It’s the same as Goldberg fighting off 10 guys. When you’re a kid, you buy into it. It gives you that confidence and allows you to keep your innocence.
When a superstar gets injured, I can almost always tell if it’s a work or legit. I deal with injuries on a daily basis so watching the trainers and medics handle the situation lets me know the legitimacy. But the show still provides an escape. It is something I look forward to. Will I still bash the stupid stuff? Of course. But, in the back of my head, I have to remind myself that it’s just a show. It’s for kids. WWE is a man’s soap opera. It’s like a play.
I still get teased about watching WWE. There have been times I’ll have Monday Night RAW on, at the fire station, and the guys will walk in and just laugh. But, for some, they keep watching. It brings back memories of when they watched Hulk Hogan, Hacksaw, and Dusty. Sometimes they’ll bring up “Big Time Wrestling”, or the WWWF. For a few minutes, I can hear some of them get lost in the memories they had of watching the shows with their fathers. Wrestling is a happy reminder of their childhood and they even seem to forget whatever call we just ran.
So yes, I’ll keep watching the product. It’s an addiction and it’s an escape. Wrestling is a reminder of my childhood. There will always be small links to the past (whether it’s a move, a storyline, or even a character). This current era goes back to the “Federation years”. John Cena is the Hulk Hogan. Soon, we’ll be moving into the new “Attitude era”. Roman Reigns has already laid the path to be the next Rock (think about it…Rocky was HATED until he turned heel). The roster is stacked. Many have the chance to make their own name legendary. Many have the opportunity to have kids choose them as the one they identify with and believe in.
I keep watching because I want to see what happens next. WWE often lets us down but when they deliver…they deliver in a big way. I hope to chat with you all on Monday night.
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