When I was little, I remember my Dad switching on the TV, flipping through the channels, and landing on a wrestling show. It was the WWF (now the WWE) back in the 80s and the Second Golden Age of Wrestling. My little brain exploded as I was exposed to the larger than life characters of the Ultimate Warrior, Ric Flair, Andre the Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage, and my childhood favorite, Hulk Hogan (his name may be marred now, but he was the biggest thing in the biz for most of my formative years). My imagination lit up like a Christmas tree watching the epic struggles of what appeared to be real life superheroes and villains. I didn’t know or care that the outcomes were predetermined, I was invested in the mystique and that was all that mattered.
As I grew older going into the early 90’s Pro Wrestling was put to the wayside in part to growing and differing tastes on my part (something that happens to every child) and that the product had not evolved with the times and had become stale and corny. And so things would remain until WCW Bash at the Beach back in 1996.
Almost every wrestling fan in existence knows the big reveal that closed out that show, but in case you are the 1% that doesn’t this was the historic event where Hulk Hogan turned heel. True, my Dad and I had caught the occasional episode of WCW Nitro so we were aware of The Outsiders coming over WCW and the momentum they were building off of that, but this was the the moment where everything kicked into overdrive. They replayed the turn on Nitro and my Dad and I just happened to catch it and my jaw hit the floor. Hulk Hogan was now a bad guy?! Before that day you would have had an easier time convincing me that you saw Jesus descended from the heavens to kick a bunch of puppies. This is when the New World Order (NWO), the most influential stable in all of modern wrestling, was born. Pro wrestling morphed from a light, poppy affair into a darker and more gritty realm fueled by an anti-authoritarian edge that was present in youth culture at the time. The Monday Night Wars were in full effect and pro wrestling/sports entertainment became must watch television.
An entire generation of young people flocked to the wrestling scene and had to pick a side. My home started as a WCW house probably due to the fact that it had the established stars my Dad and I remembered from my younger years while WWF was focusing on a new generation of talent. As the WCW/NWO thing got more bloated, convoluted, and out of control I started to find myself drawn more and more in by the WWF due in no small part to the legendary feud between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon.
Even after I graduated highschool in 2000 (look at how much I’m dating myself) I stayed a wrestling fan, enjoying the work of not only Stone Cold, but the Rock, Mick Foley (Makind/Dude Love/Catus Jack), Triple H, Kane, and Chris Jericho. However, as new pursuits took over, I had less and less time for wrestling. The magic that had made late wrestling so big during the Monday Night Wars was gone and as the Ruthless Aggression Era in what had now become the WWE started to gain steam, I decided to get off.
I spent the following years fairly distant from the pro wrestling scene. Sure, I’d catch a segment or two flipping through channels (remember when people actually did that?) and I did go to the free show they put on while I was stationed in Iraq, but other than that it was out of sight, out of mind.
What sucked me back wasn’t wrestling itself, not directly anyways, No, the person to blame is one Martin Billany, also known as his internet moniker, LittleKuriboh. I had been a fan of Martin’s work for years and early in 2015 he came out with The Mark Remark, a series in the style of Talk Soup and the Daily Show recapping the events of WWE Raw and Smackdown to comedic effect. I knew enough to get most of the jokes and I started to watch the episodes as soon as they dropped on YouTube. I thought I would be good there, but soon I found the old itch needed scratching and though Hulu I once again dived into the world of the WWE.
If the product had been trash I would have been able to just dip my toe in and then get back to my life, but as I tuned back in I was blown away by how much the in ring performances had improved and evolved. Being PG now meant that some things were a little too sanitized and safe for my liking and the WWE didn’t have that many people who could cut promos at the high level they used to, but the in ring work was excellent with a roster of leaner and more agile Superstars that could blend the ground based technical work, brawling, as well as the high flying spots on a level I had never seen before. I tried to pretend I wasn’t hooked, and I did a good job deluding myself for a time, but then the John Cena and Kevin Owens feud began. KO was so good in that feud and as he spectacularly beat Cena at Elimination Chamber I had to come clean with myself, I was a wrestling fan again. Soon I became a fan of people like Owens, Seth Rollins, Sami Zayn, AJ Styles, and Dean Ambrose and got to reconnect with the Superstars still around from the Attitiude Era such as Kane, Chris Jericho, and the Undertaker.
I came back at just the right time as the WWE was evolving into what has been so far dubbed “The New Era”. Not only was wrestling good again, but it was getting better. It was good for the guys, but it proved even better for the women. Women’s wrestling had devolved into mostly a joke in my years of absence, the roster being staffed with models paid to look good more than anything and that included the ability to wrestle. Women’s wrestling is hotter than it has ever been thanks in no small part to the Four Horsewomen, Becky Lynch, Bailey, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks. They along with a handful of others have resurrected the division with their charisma and athleticism and pushed things to new heights. Such is their draw that not only did Sasha and Charlotte compete in the first ever Women’s Hell in a Cell match ever, but they main evented the PPV it was on.
But it was more than just WWE, and joy that is the WWE Network, I also learned about Ring of Honor (ROH), New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), Lucha Underground, and WhatCulture Pro Wrestling (WCPW) and all the quality content that can now be found easily online from these promotions.
My point in all of this is that if you ever had some love for Pro Wrestling it is okay to come back. If you’ve never given wrestling a shot now might be the time especially if you have enjoy theater and/or improv. Sure it is still silly as hell, pro wrestling wouldn’t be pro wrestling if it wasn’t, but it is fun again and fun was always the most important thing. There is so much content both in the rings and behind the scenes across media that you would be hard pressed to find something that wouldn’t be fit you particular interests. And for people with kids be they boys or girls you can proudly turn on wrestling and know that your kids will have someone to cheer or boo no matter their gender. In short, it is good to be a wrestling fan again.
Oh, and Goldberg is back to take on Brock Lesner at Survivor Series! How cool is that?!