My interest in the business was initiated with WrestleMania; as a fan of the A-Team and all the prospect of Mr. T teaming up with Hulk Hogan was too much to turn down. Which of course prompted my Dad (who is the reason spoiler alerts were created) to tell me ‘it’s fake, they’re not really fighting each other’. But after that he explained some of the intricacies behind it, revealing himself to have been a fan once himself and ultimately giving his seal of approval. I didn’t start watching regularly until December of 85. I went to my first house show the following spring, when my Dad took me to see Hulk Hogan defend the WWF Title against Terry Funk. Like a lot of 11 year old kids I was an instant Hulkamaniac but I also took a liking to the Junkyard Dog, Jake the Snake Roberts, and Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, among others. It was around that time that I got into some of the other wrestling companies that were on TV, mainly the NWA show on TBS that featured the guys working for Jim Crockett Promotions. It was there I saw and because huge fans of Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA, The Rock n Roll Express, and the Road Warriors. And while Ric Flair was the villain you could not help but like the performance he and the Four Horsemen put on every week. I was a diehard fan right up until I took my first break in 1992. I got to see so much great stuff that will last with me for a lifetime.
The Ultimate Challenge between Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior (that I watched not on pay per view but on closed circuit TV), the MegaPower Explosion with Hogan and Randy Savage, the first Wargames, the Night of the Skywalkers scaffold match between the Road Warriors and the Midnight Express, all the great title matches that Flair and Hogan had against all comers, you name it – I got to see it all. I even was in the building at the Baltimore Arena to see Sting beat Flair for the NWA World Championship in 1990. But then a year later things started to change. Flair left the NWA (which had changed names to WCW) and jumped to the WWF, and from where I was sitting that seemed to all but end the ongoing battle between the last two companies left standing after Vince wiped out all the territories. With Flair having moved over to the enemy I figured WCW, which I’d come to prefer over the WWF over the years, would soon go under and take most of the fun with it. So I slowly began to watch less and less, and by the summer of 1992 I was out altogether. And I’d stay out until the NWO blew up and the Attitude Era started in the WWF.
I saw the ascension of the Rock and Steve Austin, Goldberg’s unbeaten streak, Hogan’s heel turn for the ages, and Sting repelling from the rafters to take on Hogan and his NWO cronies. And then in 2001 I started to drift away again. My beloved WCW finally did fold for good, and it hurt pretty bad. Even though they’d taken a turn for the worse thanks to some really awful booking decisions and storylines (thanks for nothing Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff and Time Warner) it was still sad to see them go. Within a year I’d be gone again until the Rock came back in 2012 and challenged John Cena at WrestleMania 28. And I’ve been back ever since.
But everything wasn’t all good. I also saw a tag team in the NWA called the Ding Dongs. WWF Women’s matches that were extreme sexism on steroids, Mae Young giving birth to a hand, Oz with Merlin the Wizard, and a whole lot of other downright terrible stuff. Weekly TV shows were 90 percent squash matches; what you would call a bathroom break match on RAW today was considered too good to have even as a TV main event 30 years ago.
I bring all that up to say, without a shadow of a doubt, that we are in a golden age of wrestling fandom. You can watch more good wrestling from more different places easier than at any time in history. There was a time when watching Japanese wrestling required some major tape trading between you and someone you knew that had somehow gotten their hands on some. Now you can watch the best stuff from there on cable every Friday or on the internet. You can find video of the best indie wrestling simply by fishing around on YouTube. And you can get everything the WWE has to offer for 10 bucks a month. Does that mean everything is great, all the time? Of course not! But it’s way better than it’s ever been in 30 years if you ask me.
I say all this because to be honest it really bothers me when I see some of the rampant complaining on social media, especially about the WWE. Some of you all have no idea just how good you have it now. Imagine getting told for several weeks that there was going to be a big surprise at the Survivor Series and it turning out to be…..the Goobledy Gooker. Imagine and entire angle revolving around the secret identity of The Black Scorpion and his connection to Sting only for it to be revealed to be Ric Flair, who had to try and wrestle an entirely different style so as not to give it away, because the company didn’t have any way to get anyone else worthwhile to fill the role. Now imagine seeing the Intercontinental Champion wrestle a bunch of jobbers ever week instead of defending the title against other good wrestlers like Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns did. Imagine rarely seeing the company’s top guys wrestle on TV instead of the frequency with which John Cena has showed up over the years (OK one guy is keeping that tradition alive. Thanks a lot, Brock.). Imagine the other wrestling companies having no hope for survival because Vince could just swoop in and undercut their local TV deals. And imagine your favorite guys from other companies having to ditch everything about them that made them cool in the first place and having to take on some Vince-created name and persona (which sometimes worked great and sometimes didn’t).
I’ve seen a lot in my thirty plus years as a fan. Some great, some ok, some terrible. But I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is as good as it could possibly get across the board. So enjoy it and drink it in maaannnnnn!!!! Don’t let dirtsheets and bunch of negativity from some podcasters and youtubers take your joy away from something you love. If you have to, cut those people out of your wrestling fan life and move on. It’s a lot nicer over here in the sun where you can just sit back and escape from all the more serious stuff in life. For me, that’s taking my son to see shows now the way my Dad used to take me. The last thing I’m going to do is let some yahoo with a three hour youtube video sour me on the show. And you shouldn’t either. Life’s too short for all of that so have your fun when you get the chance.