Every year during WrestleMania, Twitter is split completely down the middle. On one side, you have people tweeting passionately about a fake sport; I’m typically in that group. On the other side, you have people complaining about that first group clogging up their timeline by tweeting about a fake sport.
My general stance is that you can’t really help what you’re into, and so long as it somewhat conforms to society’s norms, you should embrace it. There are blogs out there dedicated to Garfield comics without Garfield in them, or inserting images of Drake into scenes from Breaking Bad. And I think that’s totally fine. Who am I to judge? I collect ski caps with high school basketball logos on them.
This isn’t to say I believe it screams normalcy for a 34-year-old guy to enjoy watching men in Speedos pretend to fight with each other. But I cling to the belief that there’s a difference between me and the infamous “IT’S STILL REAL TO ME, DAMMIT” guy. I have a relatively legitimate job with a livable salary, I’m married to a lawyer and I appreciate a cup of tea and a good novel.
It’s just, I happen to think wrestling — for all its at-times egregious flaws, the steroids and misogyny and whatnot — is a tremendously entertaining form of television. When you watch a really well orchestrated match — to me at least — it’s an adrenaline rush on par with a great NBA Finals game. And somehow, wrestling is one of the only things I liked as a kid that I still really enjoy now, along with Spider-man, Batman and blue cars.
Don’t get it twisted, though: I’m fully aware that wrestling is totally ridiculous. Though it has its share of self-reverential nonsense — Triple-H, in particular, takes himself way too seriously for a guy who literally slept his way to the top — it often can’t help but make an unabashed mockery of itself, usually by design.
The first WrestleMania I remember watching was the sixth one, when Hulk Hogan defended his title against the Ultimate Warrior. I was a bit late to the party; my friends had all been fans for several years at that point, but I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take to any sport Ã¢â‚¬â€œ including ostensibly fake ones Ã¢â‚¬â€œ until about fifth grade.
I never even considered asking my parents if I could order WrestleMania VI. The way pay-per-view used to be, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d scramble the visual, but you could still hear everything. (The Playboy Channel and such were the same way, but for at least a couple more years, I was far more interested in peering at scrambled wrestling matches.) So I sat there for four hours, trying to make out glimpses of the action while I re-enacted it with my action figures.
Miraculously, something went wrong with their scrambling software or whatever, and the picture flickered on right before Hulk Hogan fought the Ultimate Warrior. It was like seeing a glimpse of heaven. I very gingerly walked around the den lest I trip or something and jolt the television back to its previous scrambled state.
The Hulk Hogan-Ultimate Warrior match was incredible. It was 22 minutes but seemed like an hour, since it was twice as long as any other match on the card. I was a huge Hulk Hogan fan, and I howled to the moon that life wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fair when Hogan pinned the Warrior with the referee inconveniently unconscious and unable to make the count. When the Warrior defeated the previously indomitable Hogan, I actually cried. My friends had begun to speculate at that point that wrestling was scripted, and I guess I kind of knew that, but it just seemed so real to me, dammit!
The following year, my parents Ã¢â‚¬â€œ having come to grips that my wrestling fandom was more than just a flight of fancy Ã¢â‚¬â€œ allowed me to order WrestleMania VII and invite a whole bunch of my sixth grade buddies over. That was a social event we reprised for four years until one of my friends got one of those cable descramblers, and we looked forward to it for months. That first WrestleMania party, in particular, is still a thing of legend.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d say nothing calls your attention to the fact that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re vulnerable to the passage of time like waking up to the news that Macho Man Randy Savage has passed away.
I know itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fake. I know IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m 30.
But standing with my friends in section 110 at Phillips Arena in Atlanta last Sunday, when his music hit and Edge made his surprise return at the Royal Rumble, I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help myself; I cheered my head off, flossed in my Edge shirt and gave high-fives to little kids.
And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the thing I still marvel at. It makes no sense that after all these years, through all the changes in my life, professional wrestling is still something I enjoy. And yet there I was.