When I was a young girl growing up in Wisconsin (this is Megan by the way), I LOVED watching WWF Wrestling. I looked forward to it, I thought about it an unhealthy amount, I bought the little picture books from Scholastic that had pictures of the wrestlers and their bios (Side note: I was kind of a dumb kid and didn’t realize that when wrestlers came from “Parts Unknown,” that they were using that to be mysterious. I kept asking people what state “Unknown” was in and no one told me what a dummy I was. Thanks, family. End Side Note); I truly believed that every single thing about wrestling was real. I looked forward to Wrestlemanias and Summer Slams and would record them on VHS to watch over and over again (I even captured the cinematic gem, “No Holds Barred,” starring Hulk Hogan and some other people that were NOT as important as Hogan). I made my older brother dig through an entire cube of Wrestling Buddies at KB Toys until he found a Hulk Hogan one somewhere in the middle, I would not be placated by the Ultimate Warrior, I was a Hulkamaniac! This was serious business.
As the years passed I fell out of touch with my old friend; adolescence is tough enough and it’s even harder when wrestling isn’t cool to anyone but you and some dweeby boys that you pretended you weren’t friends with. Finding out that the results are predetermined and that everyone is in on everything that happens is incredibly disillusioning (you mean Miss Elizabeth wasn’t in love with Macho Man AND Hulk Hogan?!), so I took other interests and grew up watching too many movies and reality television instead.
As an adult, my husband and I bonded over our childhood love of wrestling and, when Netflix became a thing, found all these wrestling documentaries about all the dudes that we loved and watched. Some personal favorites are Beyond the Mat (super depressing in some spots but a great documentary) and the Bret Hart documentary. We’ll put these on just as background noise but inevitably get sucked in to watching every moment.
This brings us to modern day. Yes, I still have my Hulk Hogan Wrestling Buddy (Jonas has had it since he was a baby, it was one of his first two dozen words, “Hulk-a,” like he was a French Hulk) and, as Jonas has gotten older, he’s been mildly interested in watching wrestling with his Pop Pop. This past year TJ and I started to watch the newest WWE shows that are on and, as an adult, I know that all the matches and stories are predetermined and soap opera predictable; however, I can really appreciate the calculating athleticism involved in every move. It is incredible and I have a lot of respect for that.
We sat down to watch Wrestlemania this past Sunday, our first one in 20 years, and I still really enjoyed the spectacle and pageantry, it never gets old. One major difference that I noticed was what happened after the main event: *SPOILERS* John Cena beat the Rock, everyone is cheering, Cena is clearly moved and excited…and then the Rock comes and hugs it out, talking to him quietly about whatever sweaty dudes that have just fought for 20 minutes talk about. I don’t know how to feel about this; on one hand, I think it’s cool that the Rock was able to pass the torch, a new legendary superstar takes over, etc. On the other hand, I remember when Hulk Hogan beat Sgt. Slaughter and Hogan is in the ring, bloody-faced and alone, waving the American flag while “Real American” played throughout the arena. There were no “good game” pats on the back, it was just the Hulk and all his little brothers and sisters relishing in his hard won victory. This is probably why I took wrestling so seriously as a child: the level of commitment that these men had to their story lines meant that they didn’t break character to hug it out: victory was victorious, defeat was humiliating and you left the ring to fight another day.
So I may never be a “Cena-crat” or a “Rock-publican”, I’ll still follow along for the time being, and enjoy the wrestling entertainment of a new age.