I expressed my frustration at this. I keep up with the goings-on around wrestling (mainly WWE). To a point, I enjoy knowing what happens behind the scenes. A bigger part of me just wants to be a fan. I love wrestling because it takes me away to a make-believe place – or at least it used to.
My earliest memories were back in about 1991 when I used to borrow video tapes from a friend. I didn’t have Sky TV back then so had to rely on others for my fix. The first matches I remember were The Hart Foundation’s Tag Team Championship loss to The Nasty Boys at Wrestlemania VII – a loss that had me DEVASTATED at the time as I was a huge Bret Hart fan. I believed 100% that they had been screwed out of the titles – I was a kid; I believed in Santa.
I went onto watch Summerslam 1991, where Bret Hart would go onto win the Intercontinental Championship from Mr Perfect – again, I was completely into this match and had no knowledge of any predetermining of it. He would then lose it to The Mountie (wrestling while having a high temperature), before reclaiming it from Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania VIII. Throughout this rollercoaster ride, I completely believed everything that I saw. I was a fan.
Even though I’m English, I was routing for him versus British Bulldog in their match at Summerslam 1992 in Wembley Stadium. Again, I was disappointed with the result; a similar feeling I would have when he lost the WWF Title at Wrestlemania IX to Yokozuna (before Hogan came and shit on the finish). This is the time when wrestling simply disappeared in my life. I’m not sure why but I didn’t watch again until 1999.
Wrestlemania XV was the first wrestling that I would watch after my hero had lost back in 1993. A lot had changed; I was now 15 and the main wrestlers were Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Throughout 1999 I familiarised myself with what had gone on before – Hogan had left in mid-1993; Bret Hart had had several feuds through the years before being screwed in 1997; Shawn Michaels had risen to main event level and had then been severely injured and had to retire; there was no Repo Man anymore?
Like many of a similar age, I loved the ‘Attitude Era’. There was a good level of violence, people turned on partners/allies unexpectedly – anything seemed possible. I found some of the so-called ‘worse’ angles really good – The ‘Higher Power’/Vince/Undertaker angle really surprised me; I was excited for the ‘Invasion’ angle – it was a dream to have WCW/ECW ‘invading’ – no, not all the ‘stars’ of WCW were there, but I think what was left worked well and I stick to my opinion of it – ultimately, it ENTERTAINED me and kept me hooked and wondering what was going to happen the following week – isn’t that the whole point?
Around this time, thanks to the internet, I started to get wise to what was going on. I started to know that it was a lot more of an act than I ever thought it could be. This probably started around the time of the Owen Hart tragedy.
I remember watching the Owen Hart Tribute Raw (which I still have on tape), and this brought to the surface of how ‘real’ wrestling was – heels such as newly turned Triple H were crying at the loss of Owen. I was devastated, too, as he was the brother of my hero and a hell of a performer in his own right. It was on this tribute show that I realised that these guys were human, just like me and you.
This would also be the case with the passing of Eddie Guerrero, Curt Hennig and even Chris Benoit. These guys were part of my childhood and teenage years – they had entertained me massively. In a strange way, you feel like you know these guys through watching them week after week – you go through what they go through. It’s a really weird feeling to cry when these guys pass away – I’d never met them but I’d been there through the good and the bad via my TV. I respected what a fantastic show they’d put on.
Video: Classic Eddie Guerrero (last match)
As the 2000’s went on, I got wiser and wiser to what goes on behind the scenes. This then led to watching a local wrestling organisation – this is where my friend (from the start of this article) became more and more involved. I was also lucky enough to speak with some of the guys involved with it which gave me more knowledge. My friend continues to work in this environment and enjoys it – massive respect to him. In a way I’m really glad that I only went training with them once… anymore than that and I think I would be in his position of not really being a ‘fan’ anymore.
Sometimes I worry that I know too much and it is starting to bother me that my enjoyment is being damaged as a result. Because I know of the money side of things – which was always going to become apparent to me as I got older – it really angers me that decisions are made just to make as much money as possible. I fully understand that a business’ main objective is to survive by making as much money as it can (I feel like I’ve said this and defended myself on this matter a million times now!), and the WWE/wrestling is no different. It just bothers me that money seems to be more important than things making sense.
I don’t see why wrestling can’t make sense AND make a tonne of money. I’ve said this before, and I’ve read it again today, that when The Rock, Triple H and Undertaker finally give it up and hang up their boots PERMANENTLY, who’s going to be trusted to run with the ball? Because the more these guys keep coming back and main eventing Wrestlemanias in the way that they do, the more the younger guys look weak and second-rate – untrusted would be a great way of putting it. Eventually these guys WILL BE the future, but they won’t be seen as a big deal. At all.
This is where the line’s blurred for me – I just want to be a fan. I just want to watch the hours and hours of programming they put on for us every week, and enjoy it. It really is as simple as that. I want to watch a match and have the same feeling that I did when I watched Bret Hart vs Mr Perfect in 1991. I want to be caught up in a Match of the Year contender and not worry at all that money is going to play a part in the outcome.
At the moment, wrestling results/outcomes don’t make sense, but when they do (if they ever do again) I will be a happy fan again. I will be a big kid again! I just worry that now I know the truth about Santa, things will never be the same again…