Andy takes a look back over the last 30+ years of his wrestling fandom and shares some stories of times that have reminded him why he is still a fan after all this time.
Before I speak about why I still love wrestling, let me tell you why I started loving wrestling. I am 45 and I first started watching wrestling roughly around the age of 13, WrestleMania 2 was the first big show that I remember watching. I was aware of the first WrestleMania but I didn’t know much about wrestling at the time. I was like “why are Thunderlips and Clubber Lang from Rocky III wrestling around people named Piper and Orndorff?” The first wrestlers that I was a fan of were the British Bulldogs. So I started watching the Saturday morning shows, like Superstars, and Saturday Night’s Main Event and I was hooked. Most of my neighborhood friends started getting into it around the same time and we would all get together and pitch in to order the pay-per-views. We knew it was not exactly real but we still bought in, it wasn’t “sports entertainment” yet. And then when I got to high school, there weren’t too many guys in my class year that were wrestling fans. Sophomore year I was in the school musical. I went to an all-boys school and the musical was the only co-ed activity with our sister school. I started talking with a classmate that I was in the show with, we didn’t know each other well, but we bonded over both of us being wrestling fans. He is still one of my two best friends to this day and is the godfather of my daughter.
One of my favorite memories from that time was when I watching “WWF Superstars” or some other Saturday morning show and I saw an advertisement for a live show the coming the following Friday night at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. I’m from Westchester County, NY so it wasn’t that far away. So, I asked my dad if we could go and he, without hesitation, said sure. It was my first live show and I don’t remember much of the card, but my dad was cracking up at how “fake” it looked live. It was eye-opening for me as it was quite a bit different from watching it on TV. But I just loved the live atmosphere and how “interesting” the crowd was. I do remember there was a bunkhouse brawl that night; Lanny Poffo wore a suit of armor in the ring. I think one of the Wild Samoans tried to head butt him and knocked himself out of the ring.
Fast forward about thirty years or so and I have kids of my own. Like most wrestling fans, I believe the current product is good but should be much better given today’s caliber of talent. However, it’s one of those things that I will always tune in to check out whether it’s for a few minutes or an entire show. Since the current product is more PG than it was during the “Attitude Era”, my kids started watching wrestling with me. I decided to take them to their first live show six years ago. We live in Connecticut; I actually drive past Titan Towers everyday on my way to work in Stamford. They were having a live show in Bridgeport in March on the Road to WrestleMania 29 tour. The seats I got were the first row off the floor. If it was a hockey game, we would’ve been in the first row up against the glass. Unless you have seats in one of the first three rows, floor seats are a pain to me. Everyone just stands up and with little kids, my son was five and my daughter was ten at the time, they wouldn’t be able to see. We were sitting there before the show starts. My son has a Dolph Ziggler shirt on, my daughter is wearing a Rock shirt and I’m in my DX football jersey. A man with a sign and a camera walks up to us. He asks us to hold the sign which says 64 miles to WrestleMania 29. We oblige and he takes a photo of us. Low and behold a few weeks later on Smackdown, our picture is part a montage of other people holding the same sign, just with the number of miles different depending where they were from. So for a brief second, my kids and I were on national television holding a sign. I was able to freeze it and take a photo of the screenshot.
The next year, again WWE holds a show in Bridgeport on the Road to WrestleMania XXX. I get tickets again but on the opposite side of the arena. The year before The Shield make their entrance on the side opposite to where we were sitting. So, I figured that if they’re on the card, I can try to get seats where they’ll walk past us on the way to the ring. I got the section right but we on the wrong aisle. We got a good look at them but they were almost the whole row away with everyone standing up. But that’s not the takeaway from this event. When we arrived that night and went to our seats, we sat down next an older woman, probably in her 60s. She was wearing a bright red John Cena t-shirt. I said to her, “You must be a John Cena fan.” She responded, “Oh yes, I just love him. This is my first time at a wrestling show, my kids brought me.” Her kids were around my age. Her son was there with his kid, they were both decked out in wrestling shirts. Her daughter was there as well, but she seemed to just be along for the ride, on her phone quite a bit for the early portion of the card. Since I was sitting next to the nice older lady, we chatted through most of the show. Her childlike excitement was infectious, she was having a ball. The main event of the card was John Cena vs. Randy Orton for the WWE title in a steel cage. Quick sidebar, my son was six at the time and actually fell asleep and he stayed asleep through a steel cage match happening only thirty or so feet away in a fairly crowded, small arena. Anyway, the lady kept saying how she hoped that John Cena would win the title back at her first show. She was just a wrestling fan, plain and simple. She had no knowledge of storylines and backstage scoops you read on the internet or hear on podcasts, so she believed he had a chance. I didn’t want to spoil the moment for her since it was highly unlikely that Randy Orton was dropping the belt at a house show in Bridgeport, Connecticut a few weeks before ‘Maina, so I kept my mouth shut and tried not to ruin her fun. The match was good one, a bunch of near falls and escapes. Even her daughter, who was extremely disinterested in the matches earlier in the night, was into the match, sitting at the edge of her seat. Of course, John Cena lost the match, but this woman still had the time of her life. I left the arena with a big smile on my face because I got to share the moment with her.
Three years ago, I was expecting them to announce another Bridgeport show leading up to WrestleMania 31, but they hadn’t. The closest they were coming was to Madison Square Garden. The tickets were about twice what they would be for Bridgeport but I figured my kids should experience a WWE show at MSG. I have been to many shows there myself over the years including a WrestleMania, Royal Rumble, a SummerSlam and two Survivor Series. Also, there was a house show where something very cool happened to me when I was in my early 20s. I’ve already shared that story in another article. The very next day after I bought the tickets, I got an email they were coming to Bridgeport the day after the MSG show. I tried to get a refund but to no avail. But then they announced that the show at MSG was going to be “Hulk Hogan Appreciation Night.” This was obviously before the whole scandal with the racial slurs, so he was still in their good graces at the time. For a house show, it was a pretty loaded card. There was triple threat with Ambrose, Barrett and Ziggler; Kidd & Cesaro vs. The New Day; Nikki vs. Paige; Chris Jericho made his return and then fought Luke Harper; Rusev vs. John Cena; Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton and the main event was Seth Rollins & Kane vs. Daniel Bryan & Roman Reigns. Before the main event was the Hulk Hogan stuff. Triple H came out and ran the ceremony. Being an nWo “mark” back in the day, I was pretty psyched when Hall & Nash came down to the ring. Shawn Michaels was there as well. They did the whole pomp and circumstance and then raised a banner to the rafters of MSG for Hulk Hogan. It ended up coming down a few days later, but the WWE said that was the plan all along. Our seats that night were the last row on the floor. But the most memorable thing that happened that night was a guy sitting in front of us had one of those expensive replica title belts. Out of nowhere, he turns to my son, Dylan and asked him if he wanted to hold it and take a picture of it. The look on his face was priceless. He nodded yes and the man draped the belt on his shoulder and I took the picture and it’s a memory that my son and I will always have.
The point of this article was to say that wrestling has been a big part of my life, whether I realized it or not. It has entertained me, given me some great experiences at live events and helped me make some friends because it was one thing that we had in common. So, as much as I get frustrated and annoyed with the company and the current product, (I long for the days before I was an “educated” wrestling fan in the 1980’s or the excitement of shows during The Monday Night Wars) something will happen from time to time and remind me why I still love wrestling