So many of you commented positively about yesterday’s post on my reminiscing through TLC II. It started quite a bit of dialogue, and I loved that. Don’t be afraid to comment on the posts themselves or tweet at me if you have thoughts on my words. They are always welcome. (Well, almost always.)
One of the wonderful people I became friendly with via twitter last year tweeted at me about yesterday’s post. They seemed to enjoy it and were willing to give this whole “let’s remember how to watch wrestling” thing a try. So they decided to give it a go during the 10/14/2015 episode of NXT, and reported back that it hadn’t worked – they had been unhappy with a lot of the program and had skipped most of it. After hearing that, I thought it would be a good idea to focus today on how we can all take a step back and give ourselves another chance to love this the way we did when we were younger.
First of all, a disclaimer: I know what I’m asking everyone to try isn’t easy. By our very nature as humans, we become jaded and disenchanted as we grow older and more things with negative connotations happen to us. Also, for those of us living in the U.S., there is a permeating culture of anger and hatred making it easy for us to nay-say pretty much anything or anyone we encounter. But I am asking you to try, just once. Give it a go and let me know what happens.
I think the first thing we do is go back to the beginning – not of wrestling, but of our fandoms. It’s impossible to recall a feeling without also recalling the surrounding circumstances. Be honest with yourself (if only with yourself) about how you came into this. As I mentioned in my last post, I became an avid watcher of the WWE product at the tail end of the Attitude era – sometime in late 2000. I started out as a big fan of The Hardy Boyz, and Triple H. I was, at the time, an awkward middle-schooler who still wore flannel and was in love with Jared Leto a la Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life. I wanted very badly to be a bad-ass and to stop being told “we don’t hit people!” Puberty does weird things to a girl.
Be honest with yourself about where your origins are. Maybe you only started watching five years ago. Maybe you’ve been a fan since before Wrestlemania was even a thing. Maybe you were a little kid yelling Bret Hart’s name. Regardless, start cutting yourself some slack because the world – the entire world – is a very different place now. When I first got into watching SmackDown, there was a WWE website, but all it had were a few match re-caps and pictures of the roster with short bios. Let yourself remember what your life was like at the time. Were you a kid who watched Shawn Michaels with your brother and Dad? Were you in college, watching Pay-Per-Views with your friends? Were you a girl with a strict feminista mother who would absolutely kill you if she knew you had subjected yourself to watching a bra-and-panties match? What year was it? What was your home like? What music were you into? How long was your hair? Who was your best friend?
Another important thing to be honest with yourself about is HOW you got into the product. I knew what wrestling was and what it meant when people said it was “fake” from the time I was much younger. As I’ve previously mentioned, growing up as a kid in the mid-nineties meant every little boy (and some of the girls) were wearing DX and Austin 3:16 t-shirts at every turn. Even before watching a single second of any WWE show, I was able to identify The Rock and The Undertaker. You would have to live in a box not to know these things. Were you introduced to WWE by someone else? Did someone you like watch it so you started watching to have a reason to talk to them (NOTE: this is still SO COMMON – possibly more common than you think.) Did you start watching because of another lead-in, like a commercial, or from seeing the magazine, or even seeing one of the wrestlers elsewhere on TV?
We’re halfway through re-creating our Love of Wrestling origin story. When you consider who you were when you first started watching wrestling, and how you got into it in the first place, you should be able to conjure up what it was you were watching. Maybe your introduction to pro-wrestling was not even WWE. If you ask my 67-year-old uncle about his farthest recollection involving wrestling, he’ll say the following name: “Nick Bockwinkel.” He was watching Nick’s matches when he came back from Vietnam. (See? I told you I didn’t know anyone in my family was watching it – at the time. Skeletons in the closet and all that!) Who was wrestling on the first show you ever watched? What was the music like? What was the audience like? I mentioned in my last post how different the audience at Wresltemania X-Seven was from current WWE audiences. They also influence the people at home. Were they loud? Try going back and re-watching matches from around that time, if you can’t find the match you’re actually thinking of.
Finally, the last piece of the puzzle: what made you keep watching? Why did you watch the whole Pay-Per-View? Why did you watch the next episode of RAW or Nitro? Why did you agree to go to a live event a few months later? What brought you back? How did you get here – to this moment, all these years later, still watching? Which wrestlers, which story lines, what finish, what maneuver pushed you over the edge from casual watcher to hardcore fan? What really and truly made you fall in love with wrestling?
When I mentioned in my last post that the first match I could recall was the TLC II match from Wrestlemania X-Seven, it wasn’t because that was my first introduction to WWE. That was simply the first whole match I could conjure up. My first wrestling memory is different. I couldn’t tell you how old I was, or what match it was, or even who his opponent was, but the thing that did it for me was a match involving Triple H. It had to have been on cable because I didn’t watch Pay-Per-Views back then. He was bleeding – and I was crying. And I don’t mean crying like I did when Bayley won the NXT Women’s Championship. I mean I was sobbing into my hands. It was a different time, and I was so young, but I could feel every second of that match in my guts. I thought I was going to be sick. And not even because it was too violent or too bloody. I was so invested that I was being absolutely devastated by every single second that went by. The way he moved, the way he’d turn his head so the camera could barely see his face through his sweaty, matted hair. I’m actually starting to sweat just writing about it now. The way his back would rise and fall as he took these deep breaths. I was dying with each one. I was so hooked – I guess you could say it was like a drug and they had me. It took a long time for me to be able to walk away after that – years, in fact. But thinking about that moment now (and honestly, I haven’t thought about it until sitting down to write this) I am having a much better understanding of my attachment to him, regardless of his status – if he wrestles, if he’s the COO, if he’s at NXT, if he’s a heel, it doesn’t matter. Somewhere in the back of my head is a middle-schooler crying into her hands because she doesn’t think he’ll get back up. But he does.
I’m not an idiot – or even an idealist. I don’t think it’s going to be easy trying to apply this feeling to every episode of RAW, or even tonight’s episode of SmackDown. But I’m going to try. Because somewhere along the line I forgot about that girl. She wasn’t jaded or angry or bitter. She just loved wrestling.
You all know what your homework is. Take some time and relive your youth. And if anyone can find me a bloody cable TV match of Triple H’s from, say, 2001, let me know. I know a girl who’d love to see it.