I like wrestling.
As I sit here thinking of what to write about for the opening post of what is little more than a personal blog of thoughts and consciousness ‘wrestling’ seemed to be the natural choice. My first memories of wrestling are of World of Sport on ITV in the late 80s, and of Pat Sharp introducing highlight clips of World Championship Wrestling on the long-forgotten ‘kids’ TV show ‘What’s up Doc?’ in the early 90s.
Over the road from my Nanas lived Alan, who I can probably say made me aware of World Wrestling Federation as he was collecting stickers for the sticker album at the time, and I remember being amazed at the jigsaw like multisticker portraits on the page. He also had Survivor Series 1989 on VHS, which we must have watched nearly everyday.
I never really had a direct source to wrestling as a child, it was always something I would catch here and there, and be utterly fascinated by. The clips on ‘What’s up Doc?’ where often fleeting and little more than a few minutes long showing mainly focused on Sting and Ric Flair. There’s only so many times you can watch the same VHS tape over and over again before wanting more. Of all the places I was able to get to see more wrestling was at my step-dad’s parents house – they had Sky. I feel like it was by accident I found it the first time, and I have this vague images of 1-2-3 Kid and Doink the Clown, Man on a Mission and Diesel, more than anyone else.
My step-dad’s parents were very religious, if you were to ask me to describe what I remember of them it would be two evil as hell Siamese cats, a small version of Lassie the dog, foul gooseberry bushes in the back garden, a piano in the dining room, a whole host of Esop’s Fables Books for Children, and WWF. They were the people that would look after me on occasional Sundays, take me to Sunday School, and then I’d sit around waiting until it was time to go home. It wasn’t a terrible thing, I discovered early about religion, and that I didn’t really understand the faith element of it, and the ability to swiftly cruise through endless channels hoping to find some wrestling to watch.
Looking back it’s funny to think what my grandparents must have been thinking as I watched The Undertaker try to bury Yokozona, and this evil clown Doink causing havoc. Yet, they never said I couldn’t watch it.
It wasn’t until my Nana, who I spent most of my time with growing up, agreed to get Telewest (which would later become NTL and then Virgin Media) cable installed that I finally had access to constant source of wrestling. We didn’t have Sky Sports, but we had Sky 1 and more importantly… TNT. It must have been the summer of 1996 when it was installed, I remember Euro ’96 and crying on the couch when England were knocked out on penalties (and my Nana laughing at me) and I remember discovering that Monday Night Nitro was shown at 9pm on a FRIDAY when Cartoon Network became TNT. The lead-in was Space Ghost Coast-2-Coast and then from 9pm there was 5 hours of WCW with Nitro turning into Thunder.
I didn’t know then that this would be the start of the Monday Night Wars (or in our case the Friday Night Wars), and what might just be the ‘GREATEST EVENT IN THE HISTORY OF OUR SPORT!’. Once Friday was over it was time to watch WWF on Sky 1 with ‘WWF Livewire’, a hyper condensed recap show lasting an hour of everything that had happened across the WWF and RAW that week. What I remember the most was my Nana loving Vince McMahon’s facial expressions. She’d laugh until she coughed at Vince McMahon’s ‘fish out of water’ face.
For reasons I had to move back and live with my Mam again, so no more cable and once again the access to wrestling gone. Kinda. I made friends in college and they also liked wrestling, I’d often stay over at Marc’s house on a Friday to try and stay awake as long as possible to watch WCW (and play a ton of Sega Saturn and N64 too). Michael’s family would tape the WWF PPVs, so it was over to his to watch them and DX’s antics. It’s odd thinking back to how we just bounced between each other’s homes to watch wrestling together. We all had our favourites; Marc was a huge Sting fan, and had a bucket full of the old wrestling figures (Sting more than anyone else); Michael liked Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was at the height of his 3:16 popularity; and I liked Diesel/Kevin Nash, he had that cocky confidence and his role as bodyguard with HBK was amazing. Later on I’d start to really like Owen Hart (Marc started to gravitate towards Bret Hart), he teamed with the British Bulldog, and was Slammy Award Winning afterall!
If we weren’t watching wrestling we were playing WWF Attitude or WCW/NWO Revenge on the N64. The hours invested in creating a host of wrestlers and friends were immense. One of the lasting memories I have of playing those games were the time we broke Mankind on Attitude. We had punched and powerbombed him so much he was knocked out standing on his feet. He stood there looping through his stunned animation until we kicked him again. For some reason this was hilarious.
As the years progressed even Channel 4, a FREE channel, gained WWF coverage with WWF Heat and a handful of PPVs to show. Amazing.
Then for some reason around 2003 I sort of stopped watching wrestling completely. I still played the games, but I had little more than a passing interesting in watching the shows. Maybe it was the loss of WCW, maybe it was growing up at hitting my 20s and moving around the country, but for whatever reason I stopped watching.
In 2004 The Wrestling Channel appeared suddenly on freeview boxes, introducing NWA Total Nonstop Action.
But it wasn’t until 2005 or 6 that I really started to watch again, and that was due to my friend Jamie – he never gave up watching wrestling and (if anything) had stepped up and become a full blown tape trader. He had tapes of wrestling from Japan, of these upstart ‘indie promotions’ Ring of Honor, CHIKARA and Combat Zone Wrestling. I was hooked again.
These new wrestlers, styles and the mayhem were fresh. Dangerous. For some reason this felt REAL — woah, hold on, look… we all know wrestling is predetermined, but some of those moves looked like they’d legit kill someone, some of those kicks looked like they were going to legit knock someone out. Perhaps it was the dark gym halls, the lack of mats and padding around the ring.
I even attended my first live WWE show, taking my girlfriend (now wife) with me.
Fast forward to 2019 and I’m sort of stuck in that passive limbo. I haven’t watched any ‘new’ wrestling for four years or so other than Wrestlemania. Yet… I have been watching wrestling. For whatever reason I thought it’d be a good idea to watch the first Monday Night Nitro from September 1995 and watch EVERYTHING from there in chronological order: Raws, Smackdowns, PPVs, Nitros, Thunders, ECW shows, and even indie shows too.
I’m currently up to April 2003, it has only taken 4 years to get there and I feel like that’d be a good subject for another post (or even series of posts).
Basically, I like wrestling.