WRESTLING IN MY LIFE
A long and personal account of what wrestling means to me._________________________
Before you start reading this article I have a confession to make. I'm not sure how well this article will do. I've even got my self prepared for it to be my lowest scored article that I've written to day. There are two reasons for this, first one is that its long and although I don't think a wrestling fan would have any trouble getting through it non fans might be disinterested. I hope that's not the case. However the main reason is because its changed so many times. At first I figured I like wrestling a lot and to write an article on the subject would not only be easy but would come naturally. Boy was I wrong.
Fact of the matter is what you have before you isn't so much one article as it is an amalgamation of four articles in fact the finished product here is actually the FIFTH version of this article and boy has it changed from the start.
The first go around I thought that I would write a small fact filled article about the history of wrestling since I've been a fan, but after getting it nearly completed I decided that it just wasn't good enough. I started over and on the second attempt I decided to just write about a bunch of wrestlers I enjoyed from different eras in wrestling but once again it just didn't feel right, it needed to be more personal. On the third attempt I decided it should be about my relationship with my grandfather and what wrestling meant to it, I was getting closer this time but it still didn't feel right so on the fourth try I took everything from the previous three attempts and threw it all at the wall to see what would stick. I liked it. But it still wasn't good enough so I decided to give it once last shot, once again I would try the article with everything above in it. So after a very long journey I have finished it and this is it. I love it and it has replaced my "Movie Poster Masters" article as my favorite article I have written. I can only hope that you will enjoy it as well.
Oh and one more thing. Its gonna be a long ride so sit back grab the WWE Ice cream bar with your favorite wrestler, a pack of slim jims, a can of WWE: Raw Attitude energy drink and crank up your favorite edition of WWE The Music. Hope you have a good time. _________________________
I couldn't tell you when I started watching wrestling. Truth is I can't remember a time when I didn't. My grandfather is to thank for that. He loved wrestling and every Saturday night when it came on I was sitting on his lap. Stories from my family suggest that this started before I could walk, talk or even crawl and that it became a Saturday night tradition for him to have little baby Theodore on his lap to watch the good old wrestling show. I always love hearing those stories, it was the earliest male bonding that I was ever a part of and it gave me my first and best wrestling buddy. I'm sure that was something that my Grandfather intended, he loved wrestling and his eyes glowed every time he got to talk about it epically with children.
As I started to grow older wrestling was right there with me as essential in my life as anything else walking, talking, food and a roof over my head and wrestling. Family legend goes that some of my first steps were walking to my Grandfather to sit on his lap during wrestling and that the word "wrestling" itself or something resembling that, maybe "reslin", was one of my first after the other essentials like Mom, Dad, Nan, Poppy, big bird and no were learned.
Like any fan as I grew up I had my favorites. Ricky The Dragon Steamboat
was fantastic, I didn't take note of the amazing technical wrestling abilities he had when I was a child that I love now but back then he was cool because he was a good guy, and one of the nicest good guys around to boot, PLUS his nickname was "The Dragon." That nickname caught my imagination when I was a kid how could you not like a guy who likened himself to the marvelous mythological beast that breaths fire! Granted at the same time I was a kid who loved monsters so he could of been Ricky "The Bigfoot" Steamboat or Ricky "The Nessie" Steamboat and it would of had the same effect.
The Dragon displayign his black belt for all to see.The Junkyard Dog
was another big favorite, I can't recall it myself but I know it to be fact that when I was a child I did a pretty mean imitation of JYD's trademark dance and sky biting, as every time I go home now there are bound to be a few old timers that were my Grandfather's friends without fail they tell me how much I loved The Junkyard Dog and how they loved watching me do his little dance. More often then not they will also try to talk me into doing it for old time sakes but since I haven't done it since I was about five or six years old I decline the offer of making my self look like a big bag of douche.
JYD with his trademark dog collar and chain. Jake The Snake Roberts
was another favorite. I don't have to spell out why I liked him but will anyways. Like Ricky Steamboat he had an awesome nickname "The Snake" but he did Steamboat one better by bringing an actual snake to the ring every single time! We all remember Damien right? Whenever I see the clips of the Ricky Steamboat/Jake Roberts feud I always get the same fuzzy feelings and remember just how I felt when I was a kid watching it. Sure Steamboat was cool but Roberts has a snake! There is no way that Steamboat could compete with that, that is of course until Steamboat did Jake one better and brought to the ring with him a dragon!
Roberts standing over his latest victim with Damien.
That night also has another special meaning to me as it was the very first time I was ever allowed to stay up late enough to watch Saturday Nights Main Event, it was a very big deal for me because it didn't come on until 1:30AM but my Grandfather went to bat for me. It was the first pay-per-view quality show I had ever seen, if you were lucky you would get ONE match on the usual Saturday evening show that had two popular wrestlers facing off. Sure I got to see clips from good matches from the bigger shows but it wasn't the same. So to see this show with all the big names wrestling one another with an incredible experience for me!
The logo for Saturday Nights Main Event. This IS my childhood.The British Bulldogs
were my favorite tag team, why? Two reasons, one, they were named after a type of dog and two, they brought said type of dog to the ring with them. Ahh good old Matilda, I have fond memories of her cashing Bobby The Brain Heenan and of course that one time she crapped right in the middle of the ring. It didn't take much to make me like a wrestler when I was a kid and a dog crapping in the ring would do the trick with ease. Of course Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite kid were no slouches either they were both great wrestlers, but lets face it when I was a kid I was there for the dog.
The Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith as tag team champions.Koko B. Ware
was another favorite. Guess why. That's right cause he was The Birdman and he carried Frankie, his pet parrot to the ring with him all the time! You see a trend here? If the wrestler had something to do with animals there was a good chance I liked him.
Koko with Frankie.
To get off of the animal theme though, The Ultimate Warrior
was also great, well ok let me correct that. As a child I THOUGHT that the Ultimate Warrior was awesome. He just had that aura about him that you couldn't explain that made him great, that "it factor" I believe its called. His interviews were always amazing not because of what he said because quite frankly that never made sense to me but I'll be damned if I didn't believe it! The intensity and conviction which he spoke with was enough to make any kid believe that "destrucity" was coming down on any villain that stood in his way. As I grew older though I got more and more tired of him, though oddly enough I still love his interviews but for entirely different reasons now, actually you know what? Scratch that I love them for the exact same reason, because they don't make any sense!!!
The Ultimate Warrior as the Intercontinental champion.George The Animal Steele
was another favorite. What a fascinating oddity this guy was. He has more body hair then should be humanly possible I mean it looks like the guy is always wearing a mesh shirt, has a green tongue AND eats turnbuckle pads for nourishment! PLUS even I was smarter then this guy! It wasn't hard to like this guy. He was very childlike in nature with his actions and reactions, as odd of a character as he was when your a child he may of been the easiest wrestler of them all to relate to.
George The Animal Steele in the middle of a meal.
Even though they were the bad guys under the always devious cane and salt wielding, Mr. Fugi I also liked Ax and Smash, The Demolition
and they quickly became one of my favorite tag teams. How could you not like these guys they wore leather outfits with spikes all over them and on top of that wore face paint. Face paint was always a big thing for me when I was a kid. They were also huge and incredibility strong. A lot of people passed them off as nothing more then a couple of Road Warrior knock offs but when I was a kid I only saw WWE programing and had never heard of The Road Warriors and when they eventually showed up in the WWE under the name The Legion of Doom, I thought they were just a couple of Demolition knock offs, funny how that works.
Ax and Smash were the most dominant tag team in WWE history.
Although I wasn't a big fan of The Macho Man Randy Savage
at first due to his evil tactics, when he turned the tide and saw the light at the end of the tunnel and joined Hulk Hogan as a good guy and stood up against the likes of the evil Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase it was impossible not to love him. Much like The Ultimate Warrior, Randy Savage's interviews were way out there but in a really good way. Unlike Hogan or The Ultimate Warrior however Randy Savage often had the best match on the night, and of course there was his ever lovely manager the beautiful Miss Elizabeth and although Savage could never pronounce her name (The closest I ever heard him get was "Liza-bett") you could tell that what they had was genuine.
Randy Savage as world champion with his beloved Elizabeth.
Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention Hulk Hogan
. He was my Grandfathers favorite and due to that and it being the 80s Hogan became my favorite as well. What can I say about The Hulkster that hasn't been said?
Its Hulk Hogan vs. EVERYONE, my moneys on Hogan!
One of my favorite childhood memories comes from my Grandfather coming home from work, he worked away from home and would be gone for months in a row, so as if his return wasn't good enough one time he had a gift for me when he came home. I opened it up to see the greatest thing I have ever seen in my young life. A Hulk Hogan t-shirt. There it sat in its box a thing of beauty. It was white with a picture of The Hulkster himself on the front doing his trademark shirt ripping. I instantly tried it on, it was a little bit to big for me but I didn't care. I instantly put it on and once I did my Grandfather called me over.
"You like your new shirt?" He asked.
"Yes its the bestest shirt ever!!!" I replied with all the genuine excitement a six year old could muster.
Before another word was said my Grandfather put his arms around me, I thought looking for a hug which I was happy to oblige with, how wrong I was as one of the most terrifying moments of my life was about to happen. Instead of going for the hug like I thought he was going for he opted instead to grab the back of my shirt and rip it of me destroying my new shirt.
"Just like Hulk Hogan does huh?" He said laughing.
I didn't understand. How could a person I loved so much do such a horrible thing to me!? He just gave me this shirt and I had it on for only two minutes before he ripped it up. Like any child I started to cry but it was not to last as I found out it was just a joke. My Grandfather quickly raveled to the relief of everything I held dear in life that the shirt had velcro on the back, it was MADE
for you to rip it off just like The Hulkster does! And you could do it again and again! Needless to say for the rest of the day every time I saw someone come into the house I was proclaim.
"See my new shirt is real nice huh?" Of course that person would agree, then to my absolute pleasure I would do my best Hulk Hogan impression and rip that sucker off to their shock and amusement before explaining how the gag worked.
Despite the fact that the velcro was in the back I spent many hours impersonating this very technical wrestling move.
The shirt quickly became the bain of my mothers existence as I continued to embarrass her non-stop by showing everyone I saw how the shirt worked. It didn't matter where I was, at the store, at a friends house or even at school. No place was to scared for my shirt ripping ways! Before to long my Mom took it upon herself to get rid of the shirt on one of the rare days I didn't wear it, she said that it had gotten lost and since I was always a pretty happy go lucky kid I bought it but didn't dwell on it for any more then a hour, all it took to forget about it was Mom taking me to the movie store to rent a few videos. One of which was Hulkamania 4.
As I got older my Grandfather and I continued to grow closer thanks to wrestling. I was to big to sit on his lap these days but we still watched it together. Around this time I was starting to hear the blasphemous rumblings that wrestling was fake. I had just the year before discovered the horrible secrets of Santa and The Easter Bunny but wrestling too?! This was way to much to bear, was anything I held scared in life real!?! To be honest wrestling was a much harder pill for me to swallow then the other two I never actually SAW them or anything but wrestling I have seen for more or less every week of my life how could something I'd seen so often be fake?
So it was with a heavy heart on one Saturday night that I finally worked up to courage to ask.
"Poppy... is wrestling fake?" I asked. He looked at me with sadness in his eyes, he knew this day was coming and much like myself this was harder for him then my learning the secrets of Santa and The Easter Bunny.
"Who told you that?" He asked.
"Some kids at school say that its fake. Is it true?" I asked again hoping against all hope that he would say that those kids were liars, but one thing about my Grandfather is that he never once lied to me he was always a straight shooter.
He explained to me that yes wrestling was indeed fake but at the same time he told me its a lot more real then everyone gives it credit for. He told me how the matches were predetermined and the wrestlers knew who was going to win ahead of schedule. That was a very bitter pill to swallow. All these years Hulk Hogan wasn't as invincible as I had thought, they let him win he was nothing but a big phony. He put it in perspective though, he told me that when I fall it hurts, so it had to hurt when the wrestlers fell from the top rope how could they fake that? It was still a rough night for me but my Grandfather made it a lot easier to take.
Could this be true!?!
With the discovery that wrestling is fake most kids started to lose interest in it. Why back these real life super heroes when the only reason they are so unbeatable is because the other guy is letting them win. The complete opposite was true for me. I found myself getting even more into it. Most of my friends who stopped being wrestling fans after the discovery was made just didn't understand it. My explanation was this, sure two guys can get in there and use their athletic ability to beat the crap out of each other until the better man wins, that's one thing and its great as well, but the way I was seeing things now is that there were two guys in the ring using there athletic abilities not to hurt each other but to make it look like they are hurting each other when they are doing a chorus of amazing moves and protecting the other person from getting hurt. To me that was just a truly amazing and beautiful thing. It still is.
It was also during this time that I started to favor the bad guys more. When I found out that they weren't indeed a bunch of jerks and just acting like them then why wouldn't I? If I liked a villain in a movie I would enjoy that villain why not enjoy the bad guys in wrestling. Also armed with this new found knowledge I grew to love other wrestlers that weren't based around any types of animals or have an animal related nickname.
Being a WWE fan of course I had known about Bret The Hitman Hart
for years as a part of The Hart Foundation which I always had a love/hate relationship with, which is to say that if The WWE told me to love The Hart Foundation I did and if I was told to hate them I would. Like all children I was a sheep. Of course around this time the whole good guy/bad guy thing wore off and since I was discovering the greatness that was technical wrestling Bret Hart quickly became one of my favorites. He was having great matches with everyone he wrestled and unlike Hogan, Bret always seemed like your average joe and not some over the top cartoon character.
The best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.
And with my love of Bret its only natural that I would hate his winey jerk of a little brother Owen Hart
. Well that wasn't the case though, Owen, much like his big brother, had tremendous matches with everyone and was much more entertaining then his more serious big brother, one of the best examples I can think of for this his their shared finishing move the Sharpshooter. When Bret locked it on he was deadly serious about it, this was the end, he wouldn't let his opponent escape from it no matter what, but with Owen his character was such a jerk that was so full of himself that as soon as he locked it on he pretty much started to celebrate his victory before the other guy gave in, Owen would often throw a arm in the air and scream "Woooooooooo!" or "I got em', hes done!". In addition to Bret's technical wizardry Owen could also be a high flyer if the situation called for it.
Looks like Owen has this one wrapped up.
Speaking of Wooooooooo's it was in the early '90s when he first debuted in the WWE where I got my first glimpse of Ric Flair
. He had shown up in the WWE with the WCW world title and proclaimed himself the REAL
worlds champion but since the REAL
worlds champion was the one and only Hulk Hogan I think it would be obvious to say that this Ric Flair fella wasn't impressing me a whole lot. That changed after 1992 Royal Rumble had finished. The one where the winner would win the recently vacated WWE Heavyweight title. Flair came out at number three and wowed me for 34 seconds shy of an hour coming into contact with nearly all 29 other men in the match at one point or another to put on the performance of a life time. After that I was hooked on Flair.
The Nature Boy!Mr. Perfect
was another incredible technical wrestler that was in the WWE at the time. Bad guy or not he was putting on show stopping matches every time he entered the squared circle epically when going up against the likes of Bret Hart and Kerry Von Erich. If not for some nagging injuries in the mid 90's I think that Mr. Perfect could very well of been the WWE World Champion.
Mr. Perfect as the intercontinental champion.
Despite rooting against him during his war with The Ultimate Warrior after I wised up to the wrestling act I could see that Ravishing Rick Rude
was the better man the entire time. Its seemed hard to like the guy who stood in the ring and called everyone "Fat, lazy, out of shape, sweat-hogs" but what could I say? I warmed up to the guy. Maybe it was the airbrushed tights that would often mock his opponents or the fact that he would celebrate each victory over a jobber by inviting one special lady into the ring with him to lay a great big smooch on them, one time in particular I remembered he invited an old woman who must of been at least 70 or more years old and made her life. Of course you can't discount that mustache either, it might of been the most magnificent mustache to ever exist.
The ravishing one celebrating after another hard fought victory.
I always loved The Rockers and right form the get go I could tell that Shawn Michaels
was much better then his tag team partner Marty Jannetty. My first WWE Magazine actually had The Rockers on the cover. My Dad bought it for me as a surprise and boy was I ever! I read that thing cover to cover so many times that it eventually fell apart. Eventually though Shawn grew tired of Marty and in one of the most memorable moments of my wrestling watching life kicked Marty Jannetty through The Barber Shop Window. After that the sky was the limits for the newly dubbed "Heartbreak Kid" and boy was it ever. When hes on his game which is almost always, Shawn is still one of the greatest wrestlers to of ever lace up a pair of boots.
The Heartbreak Kid.
While not as famous as most other people I have mentioned, at least in North America, Jinsei Shinzaki's
brief stay in the WWE under the name Hakushi
was incredible. His high flying style was revolutionary at the time and the pace of which he walked the top rope, while even praying, made The Undertaker look like he was just on a early morning stroll while Sinzaki was on a marathon run! He was a bad guy for most of his run and his most memorable matches were against The 1-2-3 Kid and Bret Hart, a series of matches that were easily the best on every show. Why Shinzaki left WWE I'm not sure. My best guess is that he was homesick for his native Japan. Still he resurfaced in America years later teaming with fellow Japanese sensation, Hayabusa, to take on reigning ECW tag team champions Rob Van Dam and Sabu. Not only was Shinzaki amazing to watch in the ring but the first time I saw him I was instantly wowed by his unique appearance. He wore all white and had Japanese characters tattooed all over his upper body and face. Any chance I get to see a match with him these days I jump on it.
I really wish Shinzaki stayed in WWE longer.
Of course this was also the era that The Undertaker
came into his own. I had always enjoyed The Undertaker, the gimmick of an undead zombie wrestler sounds awful on paper but 20 years later hes still doing it and he is better then ever. These were the days when he was still a slow moving guy however and my fondest memory of The Undertaker at the time was after Yokozuna defeated him in his trademark "Casket Match" which he could only accomplish with the help of every bad guy wrestler on the roster.
What followed was a several month long storyline about where The Undertaker had gone, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, who had originally brought The Dead Man to the WWE claimed that he had acquired The Undertaker's services once again, which was denied by The Undertaker's current manager Paul Bearer. In the meantime WWE had hired Lesley Nelson, yes THAT
Lesley Nelson, to play detective to find The Real Undertaker since it was suspected that DiBiase's Undertaker was a fake. The fact that he was a couple of inches shorter might be a clue. Eventually it lead to a Summerslam encounter between the two and me and every other kid wanted to see it. A local bar that ordered the wrestling pay-per-views decided to capitalize on this by setting up a room where we could all go to watch it away from the adults and booze. Sadly one of the idiots watching it caused a big ruckus and got EVERY kid kicked out including yours truly even after we paid our three bucks to get in and what was worse was it was right before the Undertaker vs. Undertaker main event! Needless to say we were all outside the bar boosting each other up to look into the windows to get a glimpse of the very unspectacular match.
Undertaker vs. Undertaker!!!
As I became a teenager I started to grow out of a lot of the things that I enjoyed quite a bit as a child. Action figures, cartoons, comic books you know all good stuff. Sure I still enjoyed those things but as I became a teenager playing with toys got old, sure I enjoyed the really cool looking ones posing them and just standing them up like cheap mini-statues. Cartoons were still fun sometimes but lets face it the majority of them are aimed at kids and as you get older although you still hold a torch for the cartoons you watched as a kid a lot of the newer ones were less enjoyable to you. As for comics, well this was during the time of the Spider-Man clone saga so yeah, that explains that.
Despite growing out of many of these things wrestling kept my interest in a big way, so much in fact that I became a even bigger fan of it during this time. A lot of my friends had grown out of it and had gotten to the point were they would make fun of me for it. So why did I continue to enjoy it so much? Well for one my grandfather and I still watched nearly every show every week when he was home from work. Another reason is that just as I was getting older and maturing so was WWE who were maturing with the attitude era.
WWE's new logo during the attitude years. It has pained me over the years that it is no longer called WWF, stupid Pandas!
It was also during this time that I was exposed to all kinds of new wrestling, I had always watched WWE for as long as I could remember and every now and then if I was lucky enough I could see WCW, which might of been once a month, the time slot it was in for the channel I saw it on constantly changed. After I would find out the day and what time it would come on I would make a note of it only to tune in again next week to see that it was replaced by something else. Now however since the nWo storyline had caught on in a big way WCW Monday Nitro was cemented at Tuesday at 5:00 PM for me, while WWE Monday Night Raw was in its regular time slot. I liked WCW and all but I wasn't going to pick that over WWE.
WCW had become a hit with the nWo storyline and much like everyone else at the time, I loved it. I had always loved Hulk Hogan and now that he had done a complete 180 and become a bad guy I was hooked by him again. The nWo was huge I was rooting for them over WCW at every point, how could you not? They were the epitome of cool and were with the times while the WCW group just seemed old and boring aside from Sting who had also gone over a huge character change, from a happy go lucky good looking surfer to a brooding crow looking character who you didn't know for a time if he was a good guy or bad guy. At the same time in WCW was capturing my attention with the high flying style of the crusierweights and technical mastery of some of the greatest wrestlers to ever live.
The WCW logo
It was also during this time that I discovered ECW. I would never see ECW on TV at first but it was now the age of the internet and I learned about it that way. I even got my dad to use his credit card for me to order two or three ECW tapes. I gave him the money straight up but he was very reluctant to use his card on the new unproven internet machine. I ended up having to E-Mail ECW and see if there was a phone number he could call instead. There was, he was still reluctant but did it for me anyways. When the tapes came I was blown away by every aspect of it. Not only was ECW wrestling hardcore like I had heard about it could also be fast paced, technical and just plain brilliant. The story lines were aimed at a much older sophisticated audience then WCW and WWE were at the time and as a sixteen year old it was just about everything I could ever want in a wrestling promotion.
The ECW logo.
To put it mildly this was a time in wrestling where I was introduced to some of favorite wrestlers of all time, including my absolute favorite.
When I started watching ECW a lot of hardcore, technical and high flying wrestlers stood out but Rob Van Dam
was all three rolled up into one awesome package. The variety of wrestlers that Van Dam faced during his TV Championship run was unprecedented. If he was facing Ball Mahoney he could be as hardcore as he needed. If he was facing Lance Storm he would break out some fine technical skill. If he was facing Sabu he could fly with the best of them. His matches with Jerry Lynn were simply jaw dropping since both had a similar style. His overall blend of the three styles made him ECW's perfect all around wrestler. All this and he had a cool, cocky attitude. During his matches it was nothing to see RVD lock up with his opponent have it out for a few minutes and after foiling every one of their moves he would roll out of the ring and celebrate with his fans letting them pat him on the back while he talked about how great he was and leaving his opponent even more frustrated. During his ECW days Rob Van Dam was simply impossible to dislike.
Rob Van Dam during his ECW years.Taz
was another ECW staple that you had to love. He was a just simply an angry monster who would go in the ring and take his opponents apart for a few minutes before locking on his finishing move, The Tazzmission, to defeat his opponents. It was rare to see Taz's matches last more then five minutes. The best part about it though, Taz was one of the shortest wrestlers on the roster, but he exuded such an aura of badassery that you would believe it. When his matches did go over five minutes you saw just how fantastic of a wrestler that he was. Its a shame that Taz was so watered down by the WWE when he joined the company and then injuries plagued him to the point of retiring from an active wrestling role.
"Taz: Survive if I let you!"
When one talks about ECW they have to realize Tommy Dreamer
was the heart and soul of the company. If something dangerous was required Dreamer was sure to be the man to do it. He was hardcore and after a long grueling battle to be accepted by the fans he became perhaps the most loved ECW star of them all. Tommy had some of the greatest feuds in ECW history including the one that stands out above all others against Raven in which he lost every single match that the two had until the very last one the night before Raven left to go to WCW. Dreamer also put on perhaps the best match of the last ECW pay per view, Guilty As Charged 2001, in which he had an "I quit match" against C.W. Anderson.
The innovator of violence.
I had first seen Raven
in WCW but he had just recently arrived there from ECW. His run in WCW was ok but aside from his always excellent promos it was nothing I cared to much about. However watching his matches and promos in ECW proved to me that he had one of the best minds the wrestling business had ever seen. His feuds with Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman, both of which he had alot of input in are classics and proof of his greatness.
Raven as the ECW world champion.
I know these days Chris Benoit
is rarely mentioned anymore and when he is even by his once biggest fans its usually is a bad or mocking light, something he has earned with his awful acts. I'm not here to defend what he did outside the ring. I never will. When I think of Chris Benoit however I think of what he did in the ring instead of outside of it. The first time saw Chris Benoit wrestle it was incredible. It was just an absolute amazing sight to behold, his skill in the ring was nearly unmatched so as a fan of technical wrestling I absolutely loved him. He had a counter move for everything and was just so damn good that everything he did looked real, he would make you question if wrestling was real when he wrestled. He was absolutely one of the greatest in-ring competitors of all time and when I watched him wrestle it was always a little slice of heaven. Like I said I'll never condone what he did outside of the ring but to ignore what he did inside of it is also something I'm not willing to do. I'm sure a lot of people might be angry I included him but he was to much of a favorite of mine and my grandfather so to not mention Benoit would be a disservice to us both, I try to only remember Chris Benoit the wrestler just like I know my grandfather would.
I prefer to remember Benoit for his wrestling accomplishments.
At the same time I discovered Eddie Guerrero
. Now here was a guy who I thought had all the skills. He was a great wrestler who could have a good match with anyone regardless of what their style was and just as importantly these days he could be damn entertaining when he talked. WCW just seemed to do with him what they did best though and kept him in limbo doing nothing with the back stage politics the main reason he was being held down was said that he was that ever popular wrestling excuse that he was "to small." Obviously it was because the higher ups feared for there spots with Eddie since every time he was doing something it caught on like fire and was quickly dropped. Of course when he got to the WWE there was no holding him back anymore and he became the star that he always deserved to be.
The great Eddie Guerrero.
The main thing I liked about WCW was the high flying crusierweights, I think that there would be no argument if I said the WCW's crusierweight division was light years ahead of WWE's lightweight division, you know when they decided they wanted to use it every now any then. Also I think there would be no argument if I were to say that of all the crusierweights Rey Mysterio Jr.
was their king. When I first saw Mysterio it caused my wrestling senses to tingle, how could this guy not only be doing things I have never seen before but doing them to perfection every time and how could he pull out more new moves I had never seen before every time he entered the ring. His name, which he got from his uncle the original Rey Mysterio, was fitting because the entire thing to be was indeed one big mystery.
The high flying Rey Mysterio during his WCW days.
I would be re-missed if I didn't mention another person who I discovered for the first time during this boom period of professional wrestling and that person is Chris Jericho
. The reason I would be re-missed is because after discovering Chris Jericho he did what seemed like the impossible and upended The Immortal Hulk Hogan as my favorite wrestler. Sure I was still a Hulkamaniac but I was now a bigger Jericholic and just like some junkie I had to tune into WCW every week to get my weekly dose of all things Jericho. In all fairness I had seen Jericho in one of the ECW tapes that I had bought, it was the match were he lost the ECW TV title. In that match I could see that he was a phenomenal wrestler but that was the only match I had seen of Jericho in ECW. He wasn't there long because WCW came knocking on his door right away and he answered. His matches were fantastic he almost always stole the show and his blend of wrestling styles from being trained in the infamous Hart Dungeon to the obvious influences of European, Mexican and Japanese wrestling was fantastic. Not only was he a superb wrestler but he was just as good on the mic as he was in the ring! His promo style was as distinct when he talked he more resembled a member of Spinal Tap then a wrestler but he was and is always entertaining. Jericho himself was more then enough reason for me to watch WCW and then when he finally showed up in the WWE well, words can't describe it. I had known for months he was going but his debut in WWE was and still is in my opinion the greatest debut of any wrestler in the companies history.
My favorite wrestler of all time, Chris Jericho.
Despite all of this though WWE was still my favorite of the three wrestling companies. It was hard for it not to be when you had such fresh new characters like Mankind, The Rock, Degeneration X, and a tag team division that had never been hotter with the likes of Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boys and The Dudley Boyz being the three team centerpeice while you had other great teams such as The APA, Too Cool and The New Age Outlaws helping to round out the rest of the division. Oh and of course there the Stone Cold Steve Austin/Vince McMahon feud that kept everyone tuning in week in and week out to see what these two could do to each other next and who would gain the upper hand. This was the stuff that helped WWE get back on a even playing field with WCW who had been dominating them in the ratings every week for well over a year. In fact not only did it help in them getting back into the ratings war it helped them turn the tables on WCW and start to dominate them in the ratings every week until WCW finally closed there doors for good as the biggest casualty of the Monday Night Wars when Vince McMahon bought his own competition.
The Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon feud had fans tuning in every week.
WCW wasn't the only competition of the WWE to go out of business however as the upstart rebellious ECW also closed its doors a month before. To me this one was much more surprising. It was well documented just how much money WCW had been losing but ECW, being the smaller promotion it was, kept it pretty hush hush, rumors were running rampant about it but nothing could really be confirmed, they basically kept running house shows while they tried to get a new TV deal in hopes of survival when it became apparent that the TV deal wasn't coming and with the continuing expenses mounting Paul Heyman
, the owner of ECW, had to finally close its doors. Even most of the employees of the company, wrestlers included, thought that it would be temporary and that ECW would just bounce back but soon some of the wrestlers started showing up on Raw and Smackdown. Soon enough Paul Heymen himself showed up on Raw to replace Jerry "The King" Lawler, as a color commentator. When it was seen that Heyman had moved on it finally sunk it that ECW was indeed done.
Paul Heyman, the mad scientist behind ECW.
So as far as wrestling now went The WWE was the only show in town. Other organizations tried to start up most notably The WWA, The World Wrestling All-Stars, based out of Australia but after only two years that too shut its doors. The landscape couldn't stay competition free forever though as two more small promotions started up these two with lasting power, both of them going about it in different ways.
WWA didn't last very long.
The first and much more well known of the two is TNA, which stands for Total Non-Stop Action, get your minds out of the gutter people! With Jeff Jarrett at the helm the company decided to have a weekly pay-per-view with each show costing $9.99 and hoped that people would buy it. Enough people did to warrant a second week, and again for a third. It was rocky going like that for a very long time for that company with it just going week to week not knowing if there would be a next week or if it could survive. It did. It continued to grow in popularity to the point where they were able to land a TV deal and changed the pay-per-views to a once a month thing like WWE had been doing for years. Soon enough they got another TV deal this one with a national TV deal with Spike TV, they continue to get better and make more money, most of the doubters now dont even question if it will survive but everyone TNA included say that they are still a long ways away from being serious competition to WWE.
The TNA logo.
The second company is ROH, or Ring Of Honor. ROH started as a true independent promotion that prided itself on taking the best independent wrestlers around America and for that matter the world. The wrestling has since been often times considered the best in the world from a pure technical standpoint. The story lines are mostly told during the matches themselves bringing it back to a time when that was the norm. Matches lasted more then just five minutes in fact the average match length is much closer to twenty minutes, near hour long matches are also not out of the norm. These days when I want to watch good wrestling match I watch ROH. ROH has developed a solid fan base and continues to grow but at a much slower pace then TNA, they wouldn't have it any other way.
The ROH logo. This is where the best wrestling in North America happens.
Most of my favorite wrestlers in this decade I have been introduced to not by WWE but by TNA and ROH, where good wrestling is still the thing to do. Samoa Joe
is a former TNA world champion now but when I first discovered him he was the ROH world champion during a title reign that is not only still the longest in ROH history but perhaps since the 1980's clocking in at 645 days as champion. It was during this time where he showed the world he was a wrestling machine. He had the technical skills that could match up to anyone but at the same time he could also hold his own in a all out brawl or in a high flying encounter. Joe is the first out of four final guys that I will talk about that have restored my faith that good wrestling matches in North America can still happen on a regular basis.
Samoa Joe, The Samoan Submission Machine.
If anyone were to ask me who the best high flyer to arrive on the scene since Rey Mysterio did in the 90's without a seconds hesitation I would say A.J. Styles
. Very few wrestlers can live up to there nickname but Styles can and when you take into account that his nickname is Phenomenal you know you have a great wrestler. I saw him for the first time in TNA during one of their first $9.99 pay-per-views and on his own he made me fork out the $9.99 whenever I could afford it. I think he has easily been and still is the most exciting part of TNA and I fear what could happen to him if he were to ever consider an offer from the WWE.
AJ Styles as NWA world champion.
When you look for the great technical wrestlers around the world names like Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Mr. Perfect, Shawn Micahels and Bret Hart are who you are very likely to hear but there is usually one name that is left off the list, forgotten or more likely and sadly so just unknown. That name is The American Dragon, Brian Danielson
. Danielson is one of the few wrestlers who was personally trained by Shawn Michaels during the brief time that he had a wrestling school. Other graduates include Lance Cade and Paul London but its Brian Danielson who is without a doubt the top of the class. Danielson didn't stop learning after he left Michaels wrestling school. He toured the independents all around the world from America to Mexico to Europe to Japan and back and it shows in his amazing technical abilities in the ring. I personally think that Danielson is the greatest technical wrestler alive today and if you haven't seen one of his matches and your a wrestling fan then I truly think that you are missing out.
The American Dragon Brian Danielson, is perhaps the greatest pure wrestler in the business today.CM Punk
is another wrestler who I love these days, sure hes been WWE World champion now but he also came from humble beginnings in the independent wrestling scene until he caught fire in ROH and together along with Samoa Joe and a few others really became a name to be reckoned with. When I first saw him I saw something very interesting and very different. Here was a guy who much like myself lived a drug, tobacco and alcohol free life. It was something I could really cling to and have done so ever since. In addition to this you would think that such a clean cut character would of been one of the top good guys. Not so much though. Punk was one of the best bad guys around using his straight edge lifestyle and throwing it in everyone's face. His I'm straight edge so therefor better then you attitude made him one of the most hated guys around and made fans want to jump the guardrails to land one punch on this jerk. Hes not all talk though as he can back it up with the best of them being a master story teller in the ring. His "trilogy" of matches with Samoa Joe over the ROH world title are some of the best matches this decade. To me CM Punk was what I would of wanted to be if I was a wrestler.
Straight edge and better than you!
Soon enough like all kids do I left the nest, sure a little later then most admittedly, though not for lack of trying and it was the end of an era. Whenever he was home my grandfather and I would still watch every show of wrestling together but now with me moving away, this time for good it would very rarely happen again. Only when I was home which wouldn't be often. Whenever we talked on the phone though the topic of wrestling would eventually come up there was no way around the fact that one of us was bound to bring it up. I told him about my discovery of ROH and that when I came home I was going to bring some of the DVDs I had bought home with me so that he could see what I was talking about and see these new wrestlers I was mentioning that he had never heard of before. He was just as excited as I was for it.
It had been well over two full years since the last time I was home, I missed a two Christmas but was intent on not making it three in a row and making it home the Christmas after. I missed my family, I needed to get home I hadn't seen my grandparents since I had left and my father I had seen only once and that was very brief. Unfortunately on one September morning I was awoken from sleep early in the morning. It was my mother who had to give me the terrible news that my grandfather had passed away in his sleep. I didn't know what to think of it. The thought of it being a joke crossed my mind but I knew it was something that would never be joked about. It just seemed so surreal, I didn't know how to deal with all of my emotions so I decided to bottle them up inside until I could get home. It was to late to catch the daily bus ride home so I had a full day to think about it. I still went to work that day, I did a horrible nights work but who could blame me. I just wanted to keep busy until I could get the bus home the next day. I didn't sleep that night or on the bus the next day and when I finally saw my grandfather the reality of it finally hit me. It was only a few days ago I was talking to him and joking about everything and how we would watch wrestling again when I was home for Christmas. Unfortunately that was something that would never happen again.
While home I saw family members who I hadn't seen in years and that was great just sad that it was for such an occasion. Still I tried to remain happy and the night of his funeral I was with everyone was at my grandmothers house talking about the good times, but eventually got tired I had gotten very little sleep the whole week and headed home. When I got home I saw that Smackdown was about to come on so decided to rough it out another two hours and watch it. During a commercial while I sat in the chair I had seen a small wallet sized picture of my grandfather I walked over looked at it, sat down with it and smiled as the show came back on, I looked at the picture then at the TV. Memories flooded in about the many hours we had both tuned in to watch over the course of 24 years and in some odd sort of way it seemed like all was right with the world.
When I left home again I took the picture with me. Its in my wallet at all times now and is there whenever I watch wrestling. I know its not quite the same but it seems like every time I watch it I'm not alone and hes there with me. Its one of the greatest feelings in the world._________________________
I figured for a bonus at the end this article I would show some of my favorite wrestling pictures just for the heck of it. Obviously I never took them.
CM Punk being thanked by the fans with traditional Japanese streamers during his final night in ROH. You won't see this anywhere else in America but in ROH.
I don't care what has happened, this is still my favorite Wrestlemania moment, I cried when it happened live.
Ric Flair's grand entrance before his final match at Wrestlemania XXIV.
The Mega Powers might of been the most mega powerful tag team of all time.
A very young Andre The Giant. Classic.
Most likely the closest that we will ever get to Austin vs. Hogan. The Ultimate dream match.