Growing up as a kid, wrestling was all I cared about really. Some of my earliest memories are of me watching wrestling. I can remember watching the TV whenever Kurt Angle came down the ramp driving his milk truck. I can remember watching Ric Flair return to Monday Night RAW in 2001. I can’t really seem to remember this, other than a few vague images, but my parents tell me my mom had to take me out of the room whenever they ordered No Way Out 2000 because I was crying at all of the blood in the Hell in a Cell match. So, wrestling was a very big part of my childhood. I fell in love with it early and it was all I wanted to watch. I only had a few DVDs but I watched the ones that I had over and over and over again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Survivor Series 2002-2004, Wrestlemania XIX, Backlash 2005, Judgement Day 2005, Taboo Tuesday 2005, and ECW One Night Stand 2005. Wow, looking back at it I watched a lot of 2005 in my childhood. Oh well. Anyways, I had upwards of 50+ action figures. Every time we went to the store I just HAD to get one. I even made my parents spend almost $100 on a WrestleMania 2 replica ring for my figures because it came with the blue steel cage and I needed it. Luckily, my parents were supportive of my interest and they bought me all these DVDs and toys. Whenever Armageddon 2007 was announced to be in Pittsburgh, PA my dad immediately bought me floor tickets and it was the coolest experience ever for little 10 year old me. I will always be grateful for that.
Somewhere along the line, I started to slowly fall out of it. I’m not exactly sure when. My parents weren’t down with dropping $60 on a Pay-Per-View every month, but they were willing enough to purchase WrestleMania every year. Oh, they did buy us No Way Out 2005 too. I was SO pissed off whenever JBL climbed out from under the ring to win the barbed wire steel cage match against Big Show. Anyways, that’s the besides the point. We ordered WrestleMania every year and the last one that we ordered was WrestleMania 24. So, I must have fell out of it sometime in 2008. I’m not even sure why, I didn’t hate wrestling. I just wasn’t watching it. Over the next few years I would hear stuff now and there about it, like I was aware that The Rock had come back and was gonna wrestle John Cena. Stuff that made the mainstream media I heard about but I wasn’t really trying to keep up with it at all.
On Monday, March 10, 2014 I was sitting on my couch and watching television. I can’t remember what I was watching, but I remember I got a text from my Uncle Rusty. He asked me if I wanted to come over to his house in a couple of weeks because he was having a little party for WrestleMania. I thought, “Sure, why not?” I still liked wrestling, occasionally I would watch some old matches on YouTube to relive the days when I was into it. So I was very willing. Once I sent my text back I realized that it was Monday night. I flipped the channel over to USA Network to see what was going on in the world of wrestling. I had no idea what any of the storylines or matches were going into WrestleMania. The moment I turned on RAW, all I saw was Daniel Bryan, someone who I was aware existed but I didn’t know anything about him, and a whole lot of other people wearing the same shirt in the ring. I knew something special was happening but I didn’t know what. Now I know, this is the famous segment where the YES! Movement occupied Monday Night RAW.
Before WrestleMania started at my Uncle’s house, he was pretty much trying to sell me on the WWE Network. He showed me all that it was capable of and we spent a couple hours watching random matches to warm up for WrestleMania. The Network blew my mind. Once I was aware of what the Network was, I was starting to think that this might not just be a one night only kind of thing. I needed to get a Network subscription.
The first match from 2014 that I watched that night was the typical multi-team tag team match on the WrestleMania Kickoff Show. I was immediately captivated by the Real Americans. I mean they were phenomenal. I enjoyed the Usos and Los Matadores too, but the Real Americans were my team, I knew Cesaro was a star when I watched that match, and I didn’t even know what was to come later that night for him. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed whenever the Real Americans broke up right after the match ended. They won my heart over in an instant and crushed it just as quickly.
But then the show actually started. There was probably no better way to start out my first professional wrestling show in 6 years than by bringing out Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold and The Rock. Three legends that I was extremely familiar with obviously. I didn’t care as much about Hogan as I cared for Stone Cold and Rock but Hogan calling the Superdome the Silverdome will never get old. I was howling. This moment was pretty surreal to see all these guys sharing a WrestleMania ring together and I knew that the night was gonna be great from there on.
I kind of figured Bryan and HHH would go on first, considering the winner was going on to be in the main event. Everything about this match blew me away. How over Bryan was, the Game’s entrance, and then the match itself. My god what a match. It was as soon as this match ended that I was pretty sure I was hooked on wrestling again. This would become a reoccurring thought throughout the night. I had missed the entire story of Bryan overcoming the Authority and just caught the tail end of it, but I was still immensely invested in it. I wanted Bryan to stick it to the Authority, and then he did.
Next, the Shield came out. My Uncle explained to me that these guys were total badasses and were one of his favorite acts of the show. I knew that there was something special about these guys. They pretty much squashed the New Age Outlaws & Kane and they did it while looking damn good. I didn’t quite realize that these three were the future, but I would come to realize that in the coming weeks. After this my thoughts about Cesaro being a star were cemented whenever he won the first Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. We all picked winners before it started and I picked Cesaro because he impressed me earlier on the kickoff show but I didn’t think that he would actually win. The image of him throwing the Big Show over the top rope is one I’ll never forget.
It might begin to sound redundant for me to keep talking about all these wrestlers that captivated me but it happened on almost every match on this card. Next up to do this was the Wyatt Family. These guys were so different and unique. They were so cool to me. I’ve always been into the darker sides of art and wrestling is a form of performance art and the Wyatts were definitely dark and creepy. I was immediately hooked by Bray’s charisma and I rooted hard for him to beat Cena. That didn’t happen of course, but Bray was my favorite wrestler that night. My Uncle took me to a SmackDown taping in Pittsburgh 2 or 3 months after this and bought me a lamb mask. I loved it.
Since I had been out of wrestling for a while, I didn’t really know that much about it. One thing I did know however, was that the Undertaker doesn’t lose at WreslteMania. He just doesn’t. This was the first match on the card where I was familiar with both competitors and I was excited about that aspect. But I knew the Undertaker was going to win. As usual we all made our predictions before the match, and we all said Undertaker. My one friend likes to joke around and take the side no one else will so he kept saying Lesnar would win but he said several times that he knew Taker would actually win. Whenever Lesnar delievered his 3rd F5, and the referees hand hit the mat for the 3rd time, I immediately gasped so loud it sounded like a scream and I covered my face with my hands. The whole room was quiet. The whole arena was quiet on TV. We all just looked at each other, no one knew what to do. I didn’t expect this at all. I couldn’t even process what I just witnessed. It was incredible.
The divas match didn’t do a whole lot for me. In fact, we thought they had just scrapped it from the card. I don’t even remember that much about it. AJ Lee won. I know that. But it was finally time for the main event. Orton and Batista were guys that I knew well from my childhood and Bryan had already won me over so I was excited. This match delivered big time and I marked out for the Batista Bomb into the RKO on the table. My god. What a spot. As we all know, Daniel Bryan finally achieved his goal and was on top of the world. It was a magical scene. I had only been involved in the storylines for 2 or 3 weeks but I felt so happy for him. My feelings would only escalate in the coming weeks whenever I purchased my Network subscription and went back and watched through the storyline.
Once the show was over, I knew it was definite. I was definitely in love with professional wrestling again. That night I laid in bed and I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had watched that night. The next day I convinced my mom to buy a subscription for WWE Network and haven’t looked back since. Now, my interests have stretched far beyond just the WWE and into any kind of wrestling I get my hands on. There’s so much wrestling available from all over the world right now and it’s a beautiful thing. If you would have asked me in February of 2014 that in April of 2016 I would stay up until 5 a.m. to watch a guy I fell in love with from the British wrestling scene challenge for a title in the biggest wrestling promotion in Japan I would say you’re crazy. But here we are.
Professional wrestling isn’t going through a boom in popularity like it did during the Attitude Era. But for those of us who are in the niche community, we are experiencing a boom in content. This truly is a magical time for professional wrestling. There is so much good wrestling that’s happening all over the world and it is all more available than it ever has been. If you’re thinking about getting into professional wrestling for either the first time, or getting back into it after falling out, now is the time.