Evolution of a Sports Entertainment fan
by, 09-22-2010 at 05:56 PM (3124 Views)
I remember it like it was yesterday; I was visiting my grandparents for the summer and having the time of my life. As a kid spending time with the old folks was something I looked forward to; there was always the smell of something deliciously awesome coming from the kitchen, cousins would always stop by and visit and at nights my grandpa would always be parked in the living room with a beer and, to me, the comforting smell of cigarette smoke yelling at the television whenever the Montreal Canadians would miss an opportunity to score or would get scored on themselves.
That’s what it was like most visits, but on April 1st 1990 it was a little different. There was still the smell of something coming from the kitchen, and I was exhausted from spending the entire day outside exploring the little town where my grandparents lived with my cousins, but instead of hockey on the television, there were two large men dressed in yellow spandex staring each other down in what was at the time the most intense moment of my life.
I recognised these larger than life body shaven warriors from the lunch boxes and shirts of the older kids on the school bus and play ground and although I didn't know exactly who they were I knew what was about to happen was important. So I sat there in silence and watched what my seven year old mind perceived as a contest between two god like beings facing off until one was proven superior and the other fell from grace to become a mortal like the rest of us.
After what seemed like eternity, the being with the face paint and arm band ascended to the heavens only to come crashing back down on his opponent to earn him the clear cut victory and the bald mans gold belt which held all his power.
I was hooked in from that moment; I made my parents get me the lunch boxes and t-shirts. Every time I would go to a department store I would make a Beeline to the toy section and beg my mom to get me just one more WWF action figure and if she did I would clean my room and not fuss when it was bed time; don’t even ask what I would have done for one of those foam and plastic Championship belts.
All was good for awhile, I was an unapologetic wrestling fan and even though where I was living didn’t show wrestling on television I still dragged my parents to the video store where I would rent a different PPV each week and plant myself in front of the television for hours. But one day I noticed that the same kids who once so proudly adorned Jake the Snake and The Undertaker on their shirts were mocking my Bret Hart and Razor Ramon sunglasses and toothpick. “Hey kid, don’t you know wrestling is fake?” is something I would hear over and over again, or, “I bet he thinks Santa Clause is real.” I did, thanks a lot for ruining that for me jackass.
As the months passes I became a secret WWF fan and eventually stopped being one all together. I moved on, began seeing SpiderMan and Wolverine on a weekly basis until that became lame too. Wrestling became something I used to watch when I was a kid, not something I would entertain now that I was at the geriatric age of twelve.
Eventually I didn’t miss or think about it at all, until that fateful day. I went to a friend’s house to check out this crazy thing his computer could do that mine couldn’t, surf the internet. After I said hello to his parents and accepted the can of no name cola they offered me we ventured into his basement where this glorious machine lay in wait and just as it was finished its twenty minute process of connecting to the information super highway my friend jumped out of his chair in excitement after realising what time it was. “Hold on man” he said “We’ll get to looking at slow loading pics of nude screenshots from movies our parents won’t let us watch in a bit, but first I want to show you this Goldberg match.”
I looked at him puzzled, who was this Goldberg and why was he stopping me from looking at Sharon Stones boobs? He ran to the television and turned the channel until he found Monday Night Nitro. “Oh man this is so cool, he’s undefeated and it doesn’t look like anyone can beat him.” I looked over at my buddy like he was an idiot, “Don’t you know wrestling’s fake kid?”
But then I heard the music that sounded a lot like the theme from Terminator and saw this beast emerge from white flame to extinguish the life from his adversary and I was blown away. Everything that I liked about wrestling was there and it was alive and well. It was larger than life and exciting, so I watched the rest of the show and ... It disappointed me. The moment with Goldberg got me in but I found the rest of the show boring, and, just what the hell was WCW anyway? Why were Diesel and Razor Ramon calling themselves Nash and Hall?
Before that night I didn’t know there were any other promotions besides WWF, and all the NWO meant to me was what the crazy people on the religious channel said about the Apocalypse. But I wanted back in, so the next Monday I tuned into raw and my fandom would forever be changed.
There was Shawn Michaels dressed in green and black coming down to the ring to the coolest music ever. Glass would smash and everybody went nuts and why did it seem like Vince McMahon was something more than just a crappy announcer?
It was the attitude era and it was awesome, so awesome that I proudly wore my Rock shirts to school, talked openly with my friends about what happened the night before and you don’t want to know what I did for one of those crappy foam and plastic Championship belts.
The whole world took notice it was cool to feel like I was a part of it, I knew that it was “fake” but I didn’t care. I found everything else so much more exciting, like learning about kayfabe and Shoot interviews. I was drawn in by the Monday night Wars and wondered what either company would do to get one up on the other. My friends and I would sit around and discuss every aspect to death and decided that we should be in charge of the story lines because we had so many great ideas.
March 26 2001 the Monday night Wars were won and WWF was triumphant and I was elated, my team destroyed the competition and this could only mean great things now that McMahon owned both companies. Or so I thought, it was never the same after that and although I continued to watch for a little while and popped back in to see what was happening I knew that what drew me back in was gone.
A few months ago I heard that the impossible was happening, Bret the Hitman Heart was returning to raw to, after all these years, confront HBK and McMahon. This I had to see, so for the first time in years I tuned in on Monday night to see what was happening. It was surreal to see Bret back but more than surreal it was sad. I saw him as a shell of the performer he once was and it was kind of the same way I saw the whole business. I watched the show and wondered where JR was and why the King was playing face. Why was the program PG and why were the reusing the same DX gimmick again? But I decided to stick around for some reason, I thought “what the hell, there’s nothing else to do on Mondays.”
I had just about had enough watching the horrible A-team skit and the boring Raw’s that came before it and thought about changing the channel forever when I saw the Nexus angle play out. And that old feeling came back for a minute or two.
But this process of tuning in and out has taught me one thing, for better or worse, I’m a fan. I will always be drawn back in, and I realised something else, I need to stop wanting for the attitude era to return. It won’t and it shouldn't, it had its time and it was cooler than the other side of the pillow but it’s over.
The current WWE product has a lot of flaws but it’s trying a whole new direction and until it gets its legs it’s going to feel awkward. It’s returning to its 80’s style programming for a reason and that reason is to attract new young fans that will carry the brand into the future and that’s the way it has to be and trust me as these new fans grow so will the product.
So for all those people yearning for the type of programming they grew up with be patient, as soon as the older kids start teasing this new generation of fans with words like “Hey kid, don’t you know wrestling is fake.” They will demand a new type of programming that will hearken back to the days where a bald red neck drives a beer truck down to the ring to soak his boss in the sudsy goodness.
The Hogan Warrior match was epic to me; it felt like Godzilla vs. King Kong from the movie Godzilla vs King Kong. Looking back now it was not really a good match, in fact they moved about as gracefully as the stuntman wearing those monster suits did, but it still captured my imagination. Much like I imagine a John Cena match does for the current generation, so I’m okay with where the company is going. Besides they’re getting rid of Matt Hardy and that shows their willing to make at least one step in the right direction.