My Wrasslin’ Story, pt. I

Without question, the shittiest blog in the history of our great sport.

Every fan has their own story, this is mine.

I was six in 1995 when In Your House 5: Season’s Beatings aired on pay-per-view.  I know that I watched the entire show at the time, but the first match I remember is the Undertaker/Mabel casket match.  History will recall that match as an inconsequential, six-minute bout.  Allot of smarks online reference it when discussing how bad Mabel was in the ring.  However, at six, I thought it was the coolest fucking shit I had ever seen.

That match hooked me, but any match that night could have.  From the bottom of that card to the top, a good chunk of both my early-on and all-time favorites made an appearance:

  • Ahmed Johnson
  • Bret Hart
  • Davey Boy Smith
  • Dean/Shane Douglas
  • Jim Cornette¹
  • Marty Jannetty²
  • Owen Hart³
  • Razor Ramon
  • Savio Vega
  • Sean Waltman
  • The Undertaker

It was all downhill for me the moment that pay-per-view ended.

My childhood friends’ parents had one of those big-bastard flat screens and a pay-per-view box in their basement, so I more or less forwent a life and watched EVERY single pay-per-view from that night in 1995 until somewhere around the time it became apparent to me that Sting wasn’t making the jump to the WWF/E.  A solid ten years, give or take⁴.

As a snot-nosed youth, my preferred wrestling product was *Schiavone voice* WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING.  Like a parent with multiple children, I also dearly loved the WWF/E, and my uber-late nights watching the often egregious violence of ECW – I just undeniably had a favorite child, and it wasn’t even close.

I watched every single Nitro, Raw, Smackdown & pay-per-view from a few months before Scott Hall debuted in WCW on May 27, 1996 until Shane McMahon showed up in Panama City, Florida on March 26, 2001.  After that night, I only watched Raw occasionally, but still watched every pay-per-view through Armageddon 2005.  I saw everything from that time period – the irrefutable Golden Age of wrestling – as it happened: Hogan’s heel turn, the Montreal Screwjob, the DX invasion, Raw is Owen, the Taker/Mankind HIAC.

All of it.

When I wasn’t watching wrestling, I was emulating Jeff Hardy on the trampoline, or playing any one of the many wrestling video games I came across, or using that newfangled internet to get as much information as I could about the sport.  I spent allot of time on the forums and Prodigy chats; I didn’t contribute much, but I took everything in.

Wrestling was a huge part of me, and closing that chapter of my life was tough and did not happen overnight. A few things contributed to that over a number of years:

  • That initial wrestling friend, with the big TV and the pay-per-view box… we were no longer friends.
  • I was nine when Exposed! Wrestling’s Secrets Revealed aired on NBC, and I was forced to watch it.  My family was not into the whole wrestling thing, and they thought that watching the sausage being made would turn me off.  Really, I think I knew at some point well before then that wrestling was choreographed/scripted, so it didn’t shock me. Learning how things worked didn’t turn me off, it kind of made me love the business more – albeit differently.  For reference, Dean Malenko & Lance Storm were among my favorites at the time. That’s not an accident; I liked work-rate even before I knew what work-rate was. In the months and years following the airing of that kayfabe-breaking mess, I’d come to realize that while I did enjoy being officially smartened up – having NBC lay out the how’s & why’s of it all at such a young age DID subtly change things for me.  It was like the difference between being told that Santa is really your parents at age 6, and figuring it out on your own at age 12. I was still in love with wrestling, but the luster had started to wear off.
  • The nonsense booking of both Sting/Hogan in ’97/’98 & Mysterio/Flair in ’99. I have notes on both feuds, and I’ll share them when it’s prudent. In summation, while I don’t think anyone expected Mysterio to win the title from Flair in ’99, but it would have been a nice David and Goliath angle. Mysterio was white-hot at the time and Flair is an all-time great.  Not to armchair-quarterback it, but even if Mysterio won the title and quickly dropped it to Flair on the next Nitro, I would have been happy with it – and WCW would have had an even bigger homegrown name than they already did in Mysterio. As for Sting/Hogan, I believe⁵ the booking of that feud single-handedly killed WCW.
  • I absolutely abhorred the way the WCW buyout was handled in storyline.  Even back then, I couldn’t be shocked by the angle for long, because the way it unfolded infuriated me.  Compounding that, I had already seen the WWF/E misuse some of my favorite ECW/WCW talent, and was not looking forward to more of the same⁶.  Also, a Sting-less wrestling promotion interested me as much as watching paint dry.
  • I just grew out of it.  I write this a cool 23+ years after my first pay-per-view and it sounds absurd to me, but I grew out of wrestling.  Between girls, “real” sports, work, & school – wrestling and I just grew apart.. though for a relatively short period of time.  

I’d been attached to everything wrestling – from the tv, to the pay-per-views, to the merch, to the forums online – from ’96 to ’05.  The love between myself and wrestling burned bright, but it eventually faded.

After that initial boom, I’d occasionally watch the WWF/E when bored, or nostalgic.  But I started regularly watching wrestling again in college, usually TNA⁷, and often drunk⁸.  The pattern was more or less the same: conversations with The Collaborator would lead to discussion on subjects like “Why did Sting never go to the WWF/E?” or “Why didn’t Vince McMahon just add the 3rd ‘W’ back to the WWWF?” or “Why didn’t Ted Turner do more to save WCW?” …I’d then do some googling or youtubing and find myself so far down the wrestling rabbit hole I’d have to skip class the next day.

I’d quickly forget all about wrestling a few days later, until it came back up in conversation – and it did pretty frequently.  But I didn’t fully re-immerse myself into my fandom until late-2009 when Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 came out. My roommate – who wasn’t a wrestling fan – played it allot, but I didn’t have the game because I didn’t have the money for a new video game.  Instead, I went out to buy a used copy of SvR 2007.  To this day, I haven’t enjoyed a wrestling game as much as I enjoyed that one.  The Collaborator also partook, so we’d both jump in and out of the wrestling fandom for months at a time, but not for good.  Never for good. It wasn’t the same anymore. I was an adult, and wrestling was for kids, as fun as the video games were.

…And then Bryan Danielson happened.

If wrestling-fandom was a sexual orientation, Danielson’s May 5, 2008 match against Tyler Black would have been my (second) awakening.  (Link here, courtesy of Ring of Honor.)  I first saw the match long after it aired, but I fell in love and haven’t looked back since.  Bryan later making the jump to the WWF/E was bittersweet, because by then I’d grown used to seeing my favorite indie guys misused & abused by WWF/E creative, so I was not at all excited.  Still, that move wound up being profound because Daniel Bryan beating Triple H at Wrestlemania XXX may very well go down as my favorite all-time moment. And that is saying something, because at this point, what I have seen and enjoyed as far as wrestling goes encompasses a time period from the mid-70s (thanks to the internet) through present-day, so there’s a long list of favorite moments.

In addition to wrestling, writing is also a hobby of mine.  I think that’s a good baseline for what this will be: writing & wrestling, all in one place – with occasional input from The Collaborator, who is also a degenerate and will forever ride my coattails through our joint mediocrity.

¹Corny’s a polarizing figure.  He’d hate my guts if we met in real life, and I’m not going to sugarcoat my general uneasiness about his brand of… criticism.  But as a performer, he was great and a huge influence on my fandom.
²Marty Jannetty was arguably a better worker than HBK in those early Rockers years.  That wound up not being true for the long haul. Further, the infamous facebook hacking incident left a bad taste in my mouth re: Jannetty.
³My all-time favorite. He, Sting, & Mysterio are 1A/1B/1C in no particular order.
When I got back into the game after a brief hiatus from about mid-2005 to late-2009, I quickly discovered that the Collaborator had started watching wrestling around the same time I stopped – so I had both a point of reference and his VHS tapes to make up my gaps.
⁵Everybody does at this point in time.
⁶The entire WCW roster, and Chris Kanyon in particular, deserved better. Reading Guy Evans’ Nitro book made all of this so much worse.  The gory details about misuse, disrespect, and overall dismissal of WCW by the higher-ups at Turner Broadcasting, and later AOL genuinely sickened me.
⁷Regrettably.  Which is an experience I will share some day.
⁸Because wouldn’t you have to be?

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