Written under duress by Critical Bill (@williamrenken83)
There are a great many of us that have grown up with professional wrestling in some regard. Simply put, it’s been generational for us; two fold. Not only has it been running parallel to our growth from boys (or girls) into rebellious teenage adolescence all the way into full fledged adulthood. No matter what changes in our lives, no matter what other elements of pop culture seem to fade away, wrestling doesn’t. And this doesn’t necessarily mean WWE. Wrestling is wrestling no matter the promoter, the territory, or even the TV production value (nudge, nudge Jim Ross). It’s something special at least for the ones who have stuck around all of these years. And dare I say every once in awhile, in our viewing pillage, we strike a little bit of gold.
Something very special happened on Sunday in St. Louis; a very special occurrence in a place where a day later, the circumstances surrounding the city would be anything but special. Damn near tragic actually. But in the closing moments of Sunday, November 23, as Triple H had killed Dolph Ziggler and Team Cena with a flattening and crowd killing Pedigree leaving Scott Armstrong to count three, we heard crows…crows…Over and over, crows. Then the lights went dim. The Titantron beamed an ominous spectrum of images. But there was little confusion as to who was about to make their presence.
“Oh my god, it’s Sting! Stinger is here!”
Michael Cole takes the Niagara Falls worth of avalanching shit from wrestling fans, but this was a signature call that couldn’t have been done better. My co-host of the Under Duress podcast, Jason Keisler (@thejasonkeisler) had texted me the day before and suggested we foreshadow the entrance on our Survivor Series episode with Carl Denham’s introductory speech of King Kong’s reveal in the 1933 film based on Sting’s arrival. Listening to that over and over in sound editing, it heightened what we would see on Sunday. Forget the fact that we knew it was coming. It was irrelevant at this point. This was history.
For the whole of professional wrestling, forget history, this was monumental and damn near mythical. The last anticipated debut since the 2001 acquisition of WCW had reached critical mass. A 13 year payoff was complete.
Now getting back to how we started this, wrestling has been with the majority of us throughout most of our conscious lives. It’s been filled with moments that we catalogue then splice together with callbacks in the modern incarnation of three hour RAWs and specials on the WWE Network.
I will not lie nor fib nor exaggerate for the sake of sounding more Hemingway than I wish I was.
I cried a little when Sting walked out on Sunday night. Not a complete deluge of tears, but there was moisture to be sure. It wasn’t the first occurrence of this for me. WrestleMania X8 in Toronto, Hollywood Hulk Hogan eats a Rock Bottom from The Rock, then kicks out into a complete Hulk-up, completely reminiscent of the 80’s era Federation years. My god, my childhood had come roaring back in one ferocious moment. It was incredible. The crowd was incredible. It was a true WrestleMania moment.
The other time was this year as well when the Ultimate Warrior passed away. All of the events leading up to it, all of the cinematic essence of the whole tragedy was one thing. But the Warrior was my father’s favorite wrestler, and in the 20th year of his death was interesting timing. The memories of watching wrestling with him, going to live events, painting our faces together was all tied up in that one man who he seemed to look up to. That was wrestling gold for me for a second time.
This past Sunday was certainly a third discovery of the elusive wrestling golden moment, but it seemed to hit me even more when Jason revealed something really special that I feel bad didn’t make it into our episode this week. Not to out Jason, nor steal his story. I just felt like in the sea of anger and frustration of watching wrestling and following it via Twitter, this seemed so beautifully pure, I can’t help but share:
Jason has a demanding work schedule that has him starting his shift at 6:00 a.m. every Monday through Friday. It doesn’t usually bode well for live viewings of Monday Night Raw or pay-per-views, and Sunday seemed no different. The mighty Keisler was fading going into the only piece of Survivor Series that meant something. And that’s when Jason took me back to his younger years of watching wrestling. Jason’s memories of WCW and NWA are connected to his grandfather, who he watched all of the shows with. When he started to fade as a kid, his grandfather was always there to nudge him and let him know that his favorite wrestler was about to come out. That man was Sting.
As Jason faded away again decades later in the chaos of Team Cena vs. Team Authority, he seemed to snap to attention suddenly right at the moment of truth. The sound of the crows, the roar of the crowd, and then there he was again. In one golden moment, young Jason collided with older Jason. And as he told it, it was like his grandfather was there again to nudge him.
That’s the stuff that makes all of this methed-out content generating worth while. These are the payoffs I hope to enjoy with my child one day. My wife often asks me why I watch wrestling when I tell her nothing special happens most of the time. Because it’s moments like Sunday that can make up for a backlog of lagging RAWs.
Maybe it wouldn’t be fitting to call it wrestling gold. After all, once you have gold, your journey is done. You have the wealth at that point. And in an industry like wrestling that is based upon the concept of the work and the slight of hand of circus-like entertainment, maybe it’s better suited to be fool’s gold. Maybe it’s not the real thing, but it keeps you searching and questing to find the real thing. Some of us have found it already. Maybe it was in the form of nearly 76,000 people shouting “Yes!” in New Orleans. Maybe it’s a 56 year old in face paint walking out in a trenchcoat. Maybe it’s something more to come.
That’s wrestling for ya.