Tuesday 28 June 2011

Wrestling Matters By Trey Dent

Over the last few months, we wrestling fans have been bombarded with talk of why wrestling matters. From Impact using it as their moniker to Ring Of Honor showing the best pure wrestling in the US, we have all been thinking about it. So I figured that I would sit here and tell you all a little tale of why wrestling matters to me and take you into the mind of a nearly middle aged wrestling junkie.
I am 34 years old. I am married and have a beautiful 3 year old daughter. I have worked full time since I was 16. I went to college. I don't think of myself as brain dead or inbred. All my trucks run fine. I don't live in a trailer. I am not an alcoholic. These are a lot of the labels you hear the mainstream media put out about wrestling fans. They try and come up with excuses as to why an industry such as wrestling can still be so popular after all these years. They try to rationalize it that only the less intelligent can be fans of something that is mislabeled as a sport when the results are predetermined. They try to show it as mind junk food and that only people who still believe it's real must be following it.
I have come here not to bury wrestling but to sing its praise.
My grandmother got me into wrestling when I was 6 years old. I would go to her house on Saturday mornings and we would watch WWF together. I would marvel at the size of Andre The Giant. I would watch in awe of the high flying Jimmy Snuka. I would boo the Macho Man Randy Savage. We would even watch Hulk Hogans Rock n Wrestling cartoon and laugh at the antics of Rowdy Roddy Piper, the quintessential cartoon villain. On Saturday nights, we would watch World Class Championship Wrestling and watch the Von Erichs defend their home area against the likes of the Fabulous Freebirds and the maniacal Gary Hart. I started to crave watching it. I started watching Mid-South Championship wrestling with Kamala and Ted DiBiase, listening to Jim Ross call play by play.
When I was 9 my dad came home early from work one day and told me to get in his truck, we were going for a drive. I thought I was in trouble because that's what he said when I was about to get my ass chewed out for something. I climbed into his truck and braced for the tongue lashing that was about to commence. Instead, he sat there silently, driving and driving. I ran through a list of things in my head that I had done recently to make sure I had all my stories straight. I wasn't a bad kid mind you, I just tended to try and do things my way. Some things never change. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, which was only about ten minutes, we pulled into a NAPA Auto Parts store. My dad and I got out and walked inside. There, sitting at a table signing autographs, was my hero, Steve "Dr. Death" Williams. It was like looking at a human brick wall. His head and neck seemed to look like a bowling ball on top of a tree trunk. His shoulders were as broad as the Rocky Mountains. Now my dad is no small man. He looks like the love child of Popeye and Bluto. He stood about 6' and weighed about 210 pounds with forearms like cannons. We walked up to the front and listened to Doc chastise a woman about asking dumb questions. My dad and I approached and as my father reached out for a handshake, I saw Doc's hand engulf his. It was like watching a catchers mitt grab a puppy's paw. Doc scribbled an autograph out for me on an 8x10 black and white photo and tousled my hair as my Dad told him thank you. Just like that we were done and I met my hero, only to not utter a word. My Dad and I got home and I ran over to everyone's house in the neighborhood showing off my new prize. I was hooked.
Over the next few years, wrestling was my main joy. I started watching everything I could get my hands on. I never was a huge Hulk Hogan fan or WWE fan for that matter. I kind of felt the got too hokey after a while with their cartoon like gimmicks. NWA and then later WCW became my main interest. I watched and waited for guys like Sting, Lex Luger and Dusty Rhodes tried to take down Ric Flair. I still love watching the tag team wrestling from them as The Midnight Express and Rock n Roll Express had one of the greatest rivalries of all time. I wished I could someday grow up to be just as bad ass as The Road Warriors. WCW taught me how to appreciate the art of wrestling and story telling during a match. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard would just find a body part of their opponent and just work it over the entire 15 minutes until you truly believed they were going to just sever it from the rest of the body. Even Tony Schiavone couldn't dissuade me from watching.
As I became a teenager, wrestling was still a huge part of my life. Even though girls and work took over as my main focus, wrestling still relaxed me. The beginning of the Attitude Era drew me back to WWE. I became a huge fan of Shawn Michaels after he threw Marty Jannetty through the window of The Barber Shop. Wrestling became my outlet for any anger or frustration with life I had. When Hulk Hogan left WWE for WCW in 1994, I was in shock. Although I knew about free agency from watching baseball and football, you never really saw it in wrestling as a major thing until then. Sure guys would jump back and forth, but you always thought of them as strictly a WWE or WCW guy. Even Ric Flair, who won the WWF Championship I couldn't buy as a WWE guy. Hogan jumping to WCW made me realize how much wrestling had become a business and was turning more into the other sporting events I followed. Over the next few years, I rarely tuned into WCW. It became more like the WWE of old with bad gimmicks, unbelievable stories, and predictable in its finishes. I got hooked watching the character of Stone Cold Steve Austin grow and blossom into the iconic figure he is now. I even started thinking about how beautiful the women in WWE were with the likes of Sable and Sunny.
In 1996, wrestling changed again for me. The birth of the nWo made it really cool to be a bad guy. I watched as the virtuous icon Hulk Hogan turned heel and along with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall began running rough shot over WCW. The nWo almost made me completely stop watching WWE. It became exciting to see who would turn on who and join the nWo. Wrestling crossed over into more reality based wrestling and the line between reality and fiction was completely blurred forever. The Internet brought even more wrestling into my life as I was able to learn about ECW. Seeing some of my old favorites like Don Muraco and Jimmy Sunka square off against an entirely new style of wrestling drew me in more. Guys like Raven,Sabu, and Sandman made me want more out of the other companies. Seeing Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero for the first times made me know that wrestling had a bright future. Then in WWE, D-Generation X was born and now I was completely torn. My family thought I was going crazy from trying to watch as much as I could. I would blow off dates and work sometimes to try and watch more wrestling. I was addicted and I could not get enough.
The early 2000's really brought me down when it came to wrestling. I learned that not only was this a business, but wrestling was an addiction to it's performers as well. I sat back and watched my heroes fall one by one to various addictions. From pain killers to depression, the men who had changed my life began losing there's. It started with Owen Harts tragic passing in 1999. Owens passing began a slow tragic run that wrestling is still on now. Guys like Yokozuna, Davey Boy Smith, Eddie Guerrero, and many many others have led me to be more pragmatic about wrestling. I still love it as much as I ever have, but now I really feel for the guys who do this for a living. The Chris Benoit tragedy shook me to my core. Dr. Death's passing in 2009 broke my heart. Macho Mans death recently all but killed any nostalgia for my childhood I once had.
Now as I sit here in my early 30's I have become more occupied with it. Wrestling doesn't consume me like it once did, but I have a new found respect and admiration for it. Monday nights, sitting with my daughter, we watch WWE and cheer for our favorites. My daughter loves diva and knockout wrestling more than anyone else. She loves Natalya because of her pink wardrobe. She gets scared when Kharma comes out and lays waste to the women. She puts her hand in front of her face and proudly proclaims you can't see her. She will tell anyone who listens that she is the Iz and she is AWEEEEEESSSSOOOOOOOMMMMEEEEEE. Wrestling matters for me for different reasons than it once did. Once, I was consumed with the rebelliousness and the energy wrestling brought me. Now, I love wrestling for it's purity in form and the fact that wrestling bridges generations. Ask around and people will tell you that they once liked wrestling. Everyone knows the big names like Hulk Hogan, The Rock and Steve Austin. Wrestling matters because it allows us to follow someone we know has vulnerabilities and yet somehow triumph in the end. Wrestling matters because it is good vs. evil, man vs. man, David vs. Goliath. Wrestling matters because it allows us to suspend our disbelief and put aside our real life drama and sit back with our loved ones and get lost in the story. Wrestling matters because, as fans, we matter.

Trey Dent
aka Captain Obvious

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