Real recognize real


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 didn’t take to any sport – including ostensibly fake ones – 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, they’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.

The G.O.A.T. WrestleMania match

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 wasn’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 – having come to grips that my wrestling fandom was more than just a flight of fancy – 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.

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Link to the past: WrestleMania trip a form of time travel

Paul Bearer looms As I get older, I feel it’s important to do things once in a while that make me feel like a kid again, that evoke the things I enjoyed back when my main responsibility was to have as much fun as possible while still learning my multiplication tables.

That’s why you’ll find me eagerly anticipating every new Spider-Man and Batman movie, why I remain a Big Bird apologist, and why you’ll never hear me say a bad word about brooding Mets flameout Gregg Jefferies, whom the fifth-grade version of me adored.

And that’s why I found myself — albeit in a slight state of disbelief — among 71,000 screaming enthusiasts at the Georgia Dome for WrestleMania 27 on Sunday night.

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