Today, I spent 30 minutes watching old-school WWE clips from some of my favorite wrestlers: Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Kurt Angle, John Cena, and Chris Jericho (include the Undertaker, and you have the Mt. Rushmore of Vince McMahon’s Sports-Entertainment company). As I watched old promos, quoting every line, word for word, I couldn’t help but think about the influence that all of these men had on me while growing up. I vividly remember my first introduction to the WWF (the World Wildlife Fund wasn’t trying to change them yet) while turning channels and settled on a match between Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Undertaker. I was enamored by the vulgar language of the show, the physicality, and the in-your-face attitude that came across my screen at such a young age. From then on, I was invested in the characters and stories that played out on a weekly basis during what I consider the greatest era of WWF, the Attitude Era, as they battled rival company WCW. For 84 weeks, WCW beat WWF in Nielsen ratings (you can check out the WWE Network for more info) and it was the catalyst for the turnaround that WWF decided to take. In my opinion, it wasn’t a better time to be a wrestling fan. I remember taking 2-5 minute showers to catch Monday Night Raw exactly at 9p and using my little allowances to cop the latest WWF Magazine and toys every month.
As I grew older, I started taking different traits from some of my favorite wrestlers: uncensored language of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the catchphrases of The Rock, and the sarcasm of Jericho. It wasn’t out of the ordinary to hear me say: “Give me a hell yeah!” or telling someone to “Know their Role and Shut Your Mouth!” I looked forward to watching the weekly shows and catching up with friends the following day to talk about what happened. Hell, I did what other young kids did at that time, started our own wrestling promotion in the neighborhood with other kids in the area. I used to make belts out of cardboard boxes (you know, limited funds) and had ladder matches in a friend’s backyard. Imagination went along way at this time and I loved it!
Wrestling helped me come into my own, especially during high school. I believe that’s when I started truly feeling comfortable being myself and shared my love for wrestling with everyone else. I thought I’d be ostracized because any wrestling fan knows that there’s a stigma that comes with openly declaring your love for the WWE. It’s corny! You know it’s fake right? Yet, those same people love watching Love and Hip-Hop almost religiously nowadays. I went to wrestling shows and wore my John Cena shirts and merchandise ALL the time! I remember when John Cena (before he became THE man) jumped into the crowd and gave me a handshake that broke my chain. I still have the picture of him to this day. People used to look at me like I was crazy for wearing big chains and proudly saying: You Can’t See Me! while waving my hand in front of their faces.
I never knew how much wrestling impacted my life until I went to Wrestlemania 31 a few years ago. Finally, a childhood dream came true! I was able to see The Rock and almost knocked a kid out of his seat, Sting, and Triple H do their thing in front of thousands of people. I lost my voice that day and literally cried because I was so happy about everything that happened. Once in a lifetime experience. Although I don’t watch it religiously and allow it every now and then, I still appreciate wrestling for what it did for me growing up. It was a way to escape some tough situations, bring humor into my life, and even gave me the confidence to be myself. Looking back, wrestling helped me move through a troubling time in my life and for that, I’m grateful. #ThanksWWE!
A few videos to put a smile on your face: