This is the fourth and final chapter of this wrestling fan’s saga…I swear. In Chapter 1, I developed a mild interest in rasslin, in Chapter 2, I became slightly obsessed, and in Chapter 3, I became fully obsessed and one hell of an internet wrestling nerd. But more time spent in high school playing football and discovering the wonders of drinking (and what drinking does to high school girls) and then the shit show of moving away to college where curfews are whenever you pass out or the beer runs out, I gradually lost touch with my former love.
CHAPTER 4: SABBATICAL AND REBIRTH
2003 - 2009
I can’t remember the exact date, but I imagine it was some time during my sophomore year of college, that I broke my streak of watching every single Monday Night RAW since some time in 1997. (Okay, so realistically there HAD to be a time I missed RAW in there, but it was a very rare, earth-shattering, and week-destroying event if I did.) Soon, I was stringing weeks of missing RAW together. I became the absent father who misses one arranged visitation…then another, and another, and pretty soon mom is telling you that daddy was lost at sea. Yeah…a sea of GIN! Am I right?! Fuck you, dad! (Actually, my father is a loving and hairy-chested man.) Actually, I would say that the binge drinking of college probably was pulling me away from the tube, not to mention that RAW was on TNN at this point…which was just weird.
My new love. It was…Natural.
But I’m not going to put all the blame for our break-up on myself. Quite frankly, wrestling was really starting to suck. Bad.
After years of an exciting rivalry, Vince McMahon finally defeated WCW and bought them out midway through 2001. Besides the extremely cool Monday night when Shane McMahon appeared on Nitro and a couple months of interesting “never before seen!” matches between the two formerly separated shows’ stars (who didn‘t tune in for Hogan VS. The Rock?), it all turned into just a shitty jumbled mess. Right after buying WCW, they also swallowed up ECW (which honestly had become a watered down product once ECW inked the deal for a show on TNN).
At that point, the newly-labeled World Wrestling Entertainment was the only show in town. And, to me, it wasn’t a show worth watching. So for 6 years (the same amount of time that I had been a dedicated disciple), I didn’t.
This is one litigious panda
As a result, there is a black hole in my mental professional wrestling timeline.
I’d check in from time to time to see what was going on. I remember flipping around and seeing some white guy in wigger clothes rapping homophobic lyrics and thought, “Well this guy won’t be around long,” before changing the channel. I’d see that the undercard guys from WCW were getting a moderate push and thought, “Well, that’s cute.” And I noticed that the bonerability of the Divas employed by the company was still alive and well.
But looking back, I feel truly blessed that I missed the majority of Batista, Mr. Kennedy, and Brock Lesnar’s WWE careers. Jesus, I hate those guys. I also feel blessed that I missed JBL as a consistent main eventer. Jesus, I may hate him the most. Why couldn’t they have decided to drop him from the rafters instead of Owen Hart? And did “The Boogeyman” REALLY happen? Jesus…just, wow…Jesus.
Like Darth Maul, Flavor Flav, and Gandalf all raped Grace Jones and tri-impregnated her
I’ve pieced together a lot of what happened during that 6 year hiatus by employing the wonder of the internet, and from my (obvious by the fact that I’m writing this) return to professional wrestling. I’ve come to the conclusion that I really didn’t miss much. Tell me if I’m wrong, but in a nutshell it seems like this is what happened in the WWE during that time:
- Triple H put an anchor baby in Stephanie McMahon to solidify his future wealth and status.
- They put some tribal garbage on a Headshrinker’s face and sold him as an actual threat.
- John Cena went from a wigger to the face of the company and was rammed down everyone’s collective throat. Which is probably why I have love for the man, but everyone else seems to hate him.
- ECW got its own show, but it was basically WWE Superstars.
- Edge started fucking Matt Hardy’s real-life girlfriend, and then they forced the two to play it out on TV and in the ring. Matt responded by becoming addicted to drugs. Edge, on the other hand, is now in the Hall of Fame.
- Booker T found a crown, but maintained a minimal grasp on the English language.
- Chris Benoit murdered his family and himself, Eddie Guerrero murdered his body and died, and Test, well he died and no one cared.
Vince McMahon: “Chris Benoit? I have no idea what you’re talking about. What’s a Chris Benoit?”
Sound about right?
Sure it would have been cool to see the development of Randy Orton. From reading Mic Foley’s most recent book, it sounds like they had one hell of a bad ass match at Backlash in 2004. It also would have been cool to see the John Cena transformation, but as I mentioned before, I might have a different opinion of the guy had I been plugged in for those six years.
But all in all, it was like breaking up with a girlfriend who then gains a ton of weight, has a string of failed relationships with terrible guys, and then you see on Facebook that she’s married someone that you just know will end in divorce. You feel a little bit guilty, but you’re also thrilled that you hopped that train before it wrecked.
But then another technical marvel brought me back, much like the internet had lured me into outright obsession 6 years before.
In 2009, I got a job at a TV news station in Tampa Bay that is owned by a cable company. One of the benefits was a free subscription to their highest level HD cable package, 40% off Pay Per View, and most importantly, a DVR.
Like most people who first gain access to the absolute beauty that is DVR, I treated it like a toy, adding any show I might possibly watch because, hey, I can always just NOT watch it. Monday Night RAW was one of the shows I shrugged and started recording. So, I slowly started becoming a regular Monday Night RAW viewer again. Not only that, but at 40% off, why not buy a couple of the bigger Pay Per Views?
Not only that, but wrestling was getting good again. I made my return right around the time that the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak started to mean something and got to watch the two epic battles with Shawn Michaels. They started pushing a crop of young stars who were actually entertaining to watch like The Miz, Santino, and CM Punk. The NXT guys took over, and for a brief period that was an awesome angle before they ran out of ways to keep it fresh and interesting. Pretty soon, I wouldn’t miss an episode of RAW. (Smackdown is an entirely different beast. I recorded it, but usually ended up fast-forwarding through it, or just deleting it outright. I‘m pretty sure I’ll never become a “two show a week“ guy.)
I also discovered that there were a couple of fellow wrestling fans at my TV station, and we went to a FCW event where we got to see a bunch of young talent (including Brodus Clay, Alex Riley, Michael McGillicutty, and Justin Gabriel) wrestle in front of us and the 30 or so other rednecks and derelicts who were there. I even convinced my non-wrestling fan girlfriend at the time to go to that show, and she actually got us tickets for Smackdown when it came in to town as a birthday present. (She still didn’t get it, but admirably joined me in cheering for Jack Swagger and CM Punk even though our entire section was booing them. It was adorable.)
“Darren Young looks even MORE like a black John Cena in person.”
But I wasn’t truly back to my obsessed wrestling fan form until last March when, like most of the Podswoggle crew, I made the trip to Miami for Wrestlemania. I even attended the Wrestle Reunion’s 5 Dollar Wrestling Show the night before Wrestlemania which, and the Podswogglers will HATE me for this, really sucked…then again I was severely intoxicated BUT I did get to buy New Jack a beer and chat with him for a few minutes about Jacksonville (where he currently lives, and where I’m from). Another note to piss off the ’Swogglers: I laughed hysterically when they squashed Daniel Bryan in eighteen seconds. Sorry.
My view for Wrestlemania XXVIII
I got to watch Wrestlemania XXVIII from box seats (my rich friend’s even richer friend had a hookup) and when the lights dimmed and the Undertaker’s gong hit, I knew I was back home. I was, once again, a diehard and proud professional wrestling fan. In that moment, and while watching the epic Hell In A Cell match between the Undertaker and HHH with HBK refereeing and then later when The Rock‘s music hit and he strode down the entrance ramp to the ring, the boy who had started watching WWF on the weekends in Cleveland back in the early 90s met the man who had come back to the thing he fell in love with those nearly two decades before.
The love story had come full circle.