By Brett Monro
There was a time that I lived and breathed wrestling. Every Saturday I would excitedly watch what little wrestling that was available to me, despite the fact that most of the matches featured ‘enhancement talent’; I didn’t care, it was a fix. I would gladly stay up late to watch Saturday Night’s Main Event, and on those occasional moments where I was able to watch NWA/WCW, I was in heaven. I used to call wrestling ‘my soap opera’.
I started watching wrestling right around the time that Wrestlemania 2 occurred. Video stores didn’t have many wrestling titles other than the Titan Coliseum Video WWF releases, which often were poorly edited joke-fests, but when you were as starved for the product as I was, it didn’t matter. Living in Western Canada, I didn’t have much access to anything other than Stampede and WWF; so much of the exposure to the other territories was through magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated. I must have tried all of the different magazines of the time, but I could always trust PWI for the best overall quality.
Amongst the first wrestlers I remember watching were the Machines. I loved the concept that you could take anyone, put a mask on them, and they could become a Machine (Hulk Machine, Giant Machine, etc.). It wasn’t until I saw Rowdy Roddy Piper wrestle that I became truly hooked. I remember hating him so much when he attacked Superfly Jimmy Snuka, I would have gladly stepped into the ring with him, and I would have been around eleven years old. After the amazing Hulk Hogan/ Paul Orndorff match on Saturday Night’s Main Event, I figured that I was a fan for life.
As time passed, it seemed really awesome that there were more Pay Per View events. Having four per year really allowed for more opportunity to see bigger, more hyped matches, with more resolutions to the feuds. It also helped to free up time on the weekly shows to doing vignettes on new characters/wrestlers coming into the territories. I had long been going back and forth on who I thought offered the best product, was it Stampede with its down home feel, or was it the WWF, with its larger than life characters, and huge production values. It always seemed like it should be NWA/WCW, but since I never really got a chance to watch any of those programs, I couldn’t tell. It eventually was events like War Games that gave me a glimpse into the quality of that promotion.
The first chink in my wrestling armor began when the WWF started the In Your House shows. By that point, watching weekly wrestling programs almost seemed pointless because there were so many larger shows cropping up, that unless it had a big name wrestling a big name, I wasn’t interested. Even then, you pretty much knew that the only way a title was going to change hands was on a PPV card. It was also getting increasingly hard to get through a match without interference of some kind, whether from a manager, or another wrestler. It got to the point where a clean finish was hardly the norm.
Between the constant interference, and the volume of PPV events which was draining my pocketbook, I started doing the previously unthinkable; I stopped watching most of the events. I would still watch the major PPVs, and I was enjoying watching the NWO take over WCW, but the end was near. Eventually, like WCW, my interest imploded, and I didn’t have the desire to carry on. With the WWE having the ‘Attitude Era’, I just couldn’t bring myself to watch, despite them enjoying renewed popularity. I also found disturbing the trend toward shorter title reigns, and more titles. It seems to me that the value of a belt is lessened if there are several ‘world champions’, and all of them have held the title ten times.
Some years later, the nostalgia kick of wrestling kicked in, and I started to watch some of the old events that I used to enjoy. I loved a lot of the matches, but I could see the cheesy elements to them. But despite the fact that the matches weren’t necessarily all that good, it brought up some of the emotions I used to have, and I enjoyed the experience once again. Every now and then, I would turn on some of the newer wrestling programs and try and watch to see if it would hook me again. Pretty much every time, I would see something stupid, and it would remind me of why I quit watching in the first place.
In my years of watching wrestling, I was lucky enough to be able to experience some very neat things. I was able to meet Bret Hart when he was a big star, and also get a chance to see him wrestle in Stampede. I was able to give the four finger salute to Brian Pillman (which was kind of scary, as he was so intense). I got to experience what it was like to see Hulk Hogan live, as well as Hacksaw Jim Duggan, a fine gentleman that I was able to talk to about that experience just recently.
Wrestling will always have its detractors, and it will always have passionate fans. There is a part of me that thinks it is a shame that so much of the curtain has been opened on the backstage elements of pro wrestling, because I know that there is very little chance that newer fans will get the opportunity to experience ‘kayfabe’ the way I did when I was young. My favorite memory of wrestling will always be of the young boy jumping off the chair and landing a big elbow drop on the pillow on the floor, then giving it the three count, all during the commercial break of Saturday Night’s Main Event. Wrestling will always be a part of me, despite the fact that I don’t watch it anymore. I occasionally read the news on the older wrestlers I used to follow, and laugh out loud at the crazy stuff the Iron Sheik spits out. And for the record, Rowdy Roddy Piper eventually became my favorite wrestler. Now that’s wrestling…