I have a very vivid memory, from a middle school sleepover, of my first WWE (WWF at the time) match. It was Hulk Hogan versus somebody. I’ve forgotten the other guy’s name. I do know he had crazy black hair and black pants. His name isn’t really that important. What is important is the excitement which I expressed when recounting the entire match for my father the next day. I could almost feel the condescension as his eyes rolled and glassed over at the same time, while I explained just how, when everyone thought The Hulkster was finished he managed to suddenly turn superhuman, winning effortlessly.
In high school, I would get together with a few friends for some of the pay-per-view events. Hosted, generously, by our parents of course. While Wrestlemania is the premier event of the year, our favorite was always The Royal Rumble. The Royal Rumble is a match featuring thirty wrestlers, one entering the match every minute for thirty minutes, and the match continues until they have all been eliminated, save the winner. Both the participating wrestlers and on what minute they would enter was unknown prior to the match. So what we would do is throw scraps of paper, numbered one through thirty, into a hat and “sell” chances for $1. Everyone would toss in five bucks for five numbers, and if the wrestler who came out on one of your numbers won, you won the pot. So much fun. We laughed at each other when a nobody (“jobber”) would show up and we envied each other when a potential winner would arrive. More importantly, we didn’t sit alone, mindlessly watching the tv, we were engaged with each other.
In my twenties, I continued watching with my friends. Some guys get together for Monday Night Football (and we did that too), but most often we got together for Monday Night Raw. We grabbed some snacks, had a few beers, and watched Stone Cold and The Rock, go back and forth.
The people who like to criticize wrestling fans exclaiming, “Don’t you know wrestling is fake?!” are the same people, I think, who watch shows like NCIS believing it’s real or could happen or did happen, and was just covered up. Look, I know wrestling is “fake”. The performances and speeches are scripted, just like any other TV show. But who cares? These wrestlers are amazing athletes, performing incredible stunts, with fun, silly, and outlandish story lines. It’s entertainment. Just like NCIS. And professional sports.
So, why do I watch professional wrestling? Because I like it. I’ve spent too much time in my life denying things I liked because I thought I wasn’t “supposed to” or it wasn’t cool. If my kids like wrestling when they get a little older, great! I can’t wait to watch it with them. And if they like something else, instead? You can be damn well sure I’m going to support that too.