While I was thinking about what to write for my latest piece, it struck me that I have been watching wrestling on and off now for over 21 years. In that time I have always been faced with the same question time and time again, a question many fans will probably have been asked – “Why do you watch wrestling? It’s all fake after all”. Normally my response would be fired back questioning what it is they watch, as after all the majority of drama’s, and programming, on TV is all based on fiction. However, I felt this was an appropriate platform for me to maybe explain myself somewhat, and explain my passion for watching WWE.
Over the last 21 plus years I would say I have probably been in and out of watching wrestling a couple of times. The first time was around when Bret Hart left after the Iron Man match with Shawn Michaels. Bret was my favourite growing up, and to not have him on TV gave me little purpose for watching, especially as things seemed to be getting stale for me. I dipped in and out of the product until 1999 when I got back into watching again. I held the stint for 2 years but again lost interest in watching weekly, however something kept drawing me back and I would keep up with following. It was around 2004 I really got back into the product, and have not looked back since, despite sometimes finding the viewing somewhat frustrating.
When I look at the product overall, one of the things I have always loved about wrestling is the athletic ability on display from the superstars and Divas. The put their bodies through a lot of punishment for the entertainment of others, all the while trying to find the time to train, eat, sleep and have their own lives outside the ring. The career of a professional wrestler can either be very short, or can go on for years. What they do night after night is an art form that is difficult to create anywhere else. I’ve seen wrestlers get injured like Triple H, who literally tore not 1, but both of his quadriceps muscles, which is generally a career ending injury. But somehow he came back, and I admire the determination of the man for not just giving up on his dream, and coming back for the love of the product and the fans.
I also love the fact that these men and women can literally take you on an emotional journey in the ring. Look at the recent Rhodes Family Vs. The Shield match at Battleground – The crowd ate that up, and you could literally feel the raw emotion as Cody hit Seth Rollins with a Cross Rhodes to get the victory. Look back at when Daniel Bryan won the WWE Championship at Summerslam before dropping to Randy Orton – The crowd were drawn into the moment. They were even more emotionally involved the moment Triple H turned on Daniel Bryan. It’s about suspending our disbelief and allowing yourself to become immersed in a unique product. Without suspending your disbelief it is very difficult to fully appreciate, and enjoy a wrestling match.
By far the character I enjoyed watching the most during the Attitude Era was Triple H. He really stepped up to the mark and proved that he is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Not only that, but for his work during the Attitude Era I feel he goes down as one of the greatest heels of all time. The character was a bad ass who did not care about who he had to hurt and what he had to do, he knew he just wanted to be WWE Champion. While many bash Triple H for being married to Stephanie McMahon, there is no doubt that the man worked harder than most to get to the top of the business. Just watch the new Triple H, Thy Kingdom Come DVD, and you will see a side to Triple H that will make you respect him even more. The way at Armageddon 1999 Triple H and Stephanie worked the crowd in his match against Vince was a master piece. I can still remember thinking at the time they were pure evil, but I loved watching what they were doing. Both knew how to push the crowd’s buttons and are still doing this today.
Things have of course moved on since the Attitude Era. The face of WWE has become John Cena, a man that while half the audience loves and the other despises him, cannot be questioned for his work ethic and his commitment to WWE. The guy is the perfect role model for kids, and he gets a hard time from a lot of fans, myself included, but there is no denying what an impact he has had on WWE. The latest name to shake up the product is CM Punk, who in 2010 delivered a scathing promo attacking WWE and literally changed the landscape of the product. The storyline involving Punk going into Money in the Bank and walking out WWE Champion was one of the best things I have seen in years of watching. Punk has help revolutionise WWE, and the fact that a lot of his storylines blur fiction and reality really draws a viewer in. I love those kinds of storylines, and that is something I hope WWE continues to do more of going forward.
My greatest memory by far of being a WWE fan is attending Wrestlemania 23 in Detroit. The spectacle of it all, the atmosphere, and the show itself were all an experience I will never forget. And that is one of the things I love about wrestling, it’s the showmanship and the spectacle. By far the greatest thing I have experienced at a WWE live event is the entrance of The Undertaker. Words cannot describe how amazing it is to witness in the flesh. If you do anything as a fan I recommend going to Wrestlemania to experience the show, and to experience how awesome and awe inspiring the entrance of Undertaker truly is.
The best match I have ever seen live was Shawn Michaels Vs. John Cena at a Raw taping in London in 2007 after Wrestlemania. The match topped their bout at Wrestlemania by a mile and both men literally had the crowd drawn in the whole match. Near fall after near fall, finisher after finisher, these men gave it their all for close to an hour before Shawn Michaels defeated Cena. That night made me proud to be a wrestling fan, and is a match I would be proud to show anyone and ask them to tell me they did not enjoy it.
As for what the future holds for me watching WWE, no one knows. I am enjoying the product more these last few years than I have since the Attitude Era. I now have 2 children to share my love of the product with, and hope at least my son will continue to watch the product over the course of his life. It’s hard to truly put into words what exactly it is about WWE that draws me in, but I do know that the reasons above, and those that I have not even touched on, should be enough for people to respect what it is I enjoy. The release watching WWE gives me is exactly the same as someone who watches something like Friends, CSI, or Harry Potter. It’s my escape from reality, and whether it’s pre-determined or not, why in the end should that take away from what is simply a truly amazing spectacle to behold.