Wrestling for me was a getaway. It was a vacation that I loved to take every week. It wasn't that my parents couldn't take me on a vacation, but this was a place that we couldn't actually go to. We couldn't go there because it wasn't in reality. This place was priceless. When I watched Raw, I used to zone out.
"What are you doing?" My brother would ask.
"SHHH I'm on vacation" I buzzed back.
He was perplexed, but I didn't really care. Fans cheering, commentating, and the thumps and bumps I would see and hear. This was the ticket to my salvation, Paradise in the comfort of my own home. The brief tenures would give me "satisfaction", something my parents and I didn't see eye to eye on.
They were more concerned with my school work...and more importantly, my well being. My parents were influenced by television from time to time, especially my mother.
She would always be on my case about wrestling. It had been a year or two after my first oscillating experience. My mother still opposed wrestling, even though she sort of knew I watched it. I would tell her that I don't watch wrestling (first lie) when she asked. Our conversations were as if we were rehearsing for a play.
"You don't wrestle do you?"
"No mom, I don't." (second lie)
How could you resist? Those plastic belts were everywhere and they looked so cool around you waist. Those knock-off belts had to be defended though. The school had it's own Royal Rumble and it's own WrestleMania. That wouldn't go unnoticed, of course. Many students including myself were ratted out by Ms. Valentine, a teaching assistant.
For someone with a sweet name she sure was uptight. She always had this rancorous look on her face and had a vendetta for us "wrestling kids". Every time she tried to make an announcement, she was greeted with the words "Suck it!", she reminded me of Vickie Guerrero trying to get attention.
Flashbacks of last year's incident came into my head when I was hauled off to the prinicpal's office for using rude language. It was familiar territory to me. I wasn't a bad kid, but my rapid heartbeat mitigated when I was busted for wrestling because I knew where I was heading instead of fearing the unknown.
My father was disappointed in me and shook his head in disapproval. My mother was livid. She had just finished watching New Jack City, a film starring Wesley Snipes and Ice-T that focused on a man's ambition leading to his brother's death and his demise, and was completely non-related to wrestling. She used that movie in her lecture. She would yell at me with her Caribbean accent as she was from Guyana.
"Blahh blahh blahh "YA BOMBOCLOTH!"...blahh blahh blahh "YA BOMBOCLOTH!"
My goodness I hated when she yelled a me. "Bombocloth" was at the end of every sentence.
"I'm not going to kill my brother mom, besides that movie is irrelevant to wrestling".
Her eyes glared at me, and then she barked at me.
"The streets are dangerous! You can die out there and wrestling puts you one step closer to death!"
I assumed that she found out about Owen's Hart death. I wanted to say something back, but I knew a slap would be coming my way if I opened my mouth. My father stood there still shaking his head and said he was going to punish me. I went to my room that night and just sat there. The vault of memories opened up again...this time, without my control.
It seemed that wrestling was really growing on me. I really was trying to be angry, but I all I could do was think about wrestling. I held the HBK action figure that I brought from a pharmacy. "I won't be stopped", I thought to myself. There was no stopping me as wrestling had found a place in my heart, in my mind.
My mother wasn't going to stop her goal of separating me and wrestling and she continued to use local tragedies to discourage me. Hot summer nights I would go on my fire escape and stare at the Yankee Stadium lights whenever they had a game. I lived 15 minutes away, so I was pretty close. The lights shined from afar, and I began to think of WrestleMania.
I really had to put a lock on that vault because it kept opening. I sat there and rearranged and categorized everything I knew about wrestling at that point. Those nights would come to an end when the neighborhood changed.
I lived and still live in New York City. The city is divided into five areas called boroughs.
Queens was home to famous rappers Nas and LL Cool J and had both of the cities airports.There was also Shea Staduim, home to the New York Mets and had one bad area called Jamaica that was extremely dangerous.
Brooklyn was home to rapper Notorious B.I.G. and had neighborhoods such as Flatbush and Bedford- Stuyvesant that you would be luckily to return from.
Staten Island was the most peaceful of out of the five. The lsland was also isolated from the rest and was only accessible via ferry or bridge.
Manhattan had Madison Square Garden, home to the New York Knicks and host to WWE shows including the spectacular Wrestlemania XX. Every tourist went there, but the eye catcher was Times Square. It is truly a marvel and once was home to WWF New York: a store where they sold merchandise and where wrestlers would visit. There was also a bar where fans watched pay-per-views. I would go there once before it closed down.
Then there was the Bronx, my borough. All we really had was Yankee Stadium and a bunch of bad neighborhoods. I lived in the middle of the Bronx and my neighborhood took a bad turn.
I could no longer go out on my fire escape as gunshots would be fired off occasionally. There was an increase in conflict, violence, and murder. Mother dearest used these as she continuously attempted to discourage me from wrestling.
Shelton Albert Benjamin was born in Orangeburg, SC. Benjamin has stated on a couple of times that he hadn't came from the best of neighborhoods. In fact, it was borderline as there was violence to some extent. Gangs and weapon violence were common around his parts. Shelton knew the dangers in his environment and was well aware what would become of him if he were to give in to the pressure.
"See what happened Albert? This can be you! Many adults you see just hanging around on the block were little just like you, and they gave in, they gave up".
She was like an incessant buzzing in my ear like those of a fly. Every tragedy went from getting a remorseful head shake to a life lecture. I understood where she came from and I knew I had to be the best I can be, but I couldn't let wrestling go. I was great student. I loved wrestling. I had an acumen for history and science and English later grew on me. I had no personal experience but I knew how fatal the world was. We could die at anytime.
"Death is around the corner", she continued on.
I went weeks without seeing an episode of Raw and I looked as if I was malnourished or dehydrated. After weeks without seeing an episode, I finally saw one. I believe it was the Stone Cold/Mike Tyson Wrestlemania XV build up. I positioned myself and my mind began to work like an assembly line. Instead of building a car, my mind was building an index, a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a library.
The line was compacting these memories so I could pull them out if needed. They had to be preserved. The line was hard at work until I lost focus and returned from vacation. My father was right behind me. I was caught watching wrestling and I had a sinking feeling in my gut. Instead of imagining what could happen to me, I was thinking of Austin stomping out Vince McMahon.
I tried to stay calm and focus, but the vault wouldn't close. I was stuck between wrestling and the then-current situation. My mind was in limbo. He looked at me. "YOUR FIRED!", an angry Vince had flashed in my head.He started to move his lips and it was like I was hearing the teacher from Charlie Brown.
"Wa Whomp whomp wa whomp whomp".
All I heard was wrestling phrases. It was like The Rock and Austin were talking to me before I finally shut the vault. I could hear my father...I feared for the worse. He told me to take a seat and he sat next to me on the couch. I waited for him to either criticize Raw, or change the channel.
"Fill me in, it's been years. WrestleMania XV already? I've got to catch up".
My eyes lit up like the Manhattan skyline.
"REALLY?!" I was elated.
"SHHH! You want your mother to come out here", he smiled.
One of the greatest verbal and mental exchanges I ever had with my father and in my life took place that night. While we talked, our minds went into overtime. My father's knowledge doubled, probably tripled, my mental library. It was no longer a library, but a multi-gig hard drive. We exchanged good times, moments, history, and generations.
He passed on Ric Flair, Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, old school Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Gorilla Monsoon, Bruno Sammartino, Paul Orndorff, The Rockers, Lou Thesz, Randy Savage, and many more. I gave him the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars. He got up to date, and I filled in some blurry spots.
It was our weekly study night. He would help me study in Math as I begun to move into trigonometry and algebra. We didn't care as we bonded and went back and forth one upping each other.
He gave me Jimmy Superfly Snuka's leap from the top of the steel cage at the first WrestleMania. I deposited it and withdrew HBK's Hell in a Cell plunge into the announce table at the 1997 Bad Blood and shared the memory with my father. That night became a tradition for years to come as we helped on another learn more about wrestling.
By time middle school, my mother had finally came around. She didn't admit it, but I caught her. The Attitude Era was gone, so the Invasion Era came. I was late for an episode of SmackDown doing my homework at a friend's house. I had originally told my mother that I would sleep over, but he got sick and vomited every where.
You would think that when your spaghetti and meatballs are pinkish that it's probably not good. I was glad I didn't have any. I hopped on the bus and got home. When I entered I saw my mother in action.
"Come on Kurt mon' buss that damn Dub yah C Dub yah ass! ya BOMBOCLOTH!"
Of course she couldn't leave out that.
She was surprised to see me and I was surprised to see her...watching wrestling. In Middle school kids barely wrestled so my mom didn't have much to complain about. She agreed that it is alright, as long as my grades are good.
In school some friends and imitated the Evolution stable. I was Randy Orton. Kids were mad at me because I loved a heel. Many students loved the face. They said Orton would be no one and go no where......look where is today. In 2002, Orton was the only wrestler who caught my eye.
Shelton Benjamin was a huge fan of wrestling. While in school, he always took time to keep up with wrestling. He was a fan of many years. Shelton even reminisces about the first match he ever saw. In 1985, Shelton witnessed Magnum T.A. vs Wahoo McDaniel for the United States Championship, the very same belt that he holds today. Even as Benjamin entered High School, he didn't stop watching wrestling he continued watching what he loved.
Shelton Benjamin would enter the WWE with Charlie Hass. I had loved him. He did great work in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), a promotion where WWE takes up and coming wrestlers. He had be there after he graduated high school and college.
Benjamin was active in high school. Not only did he achieve good grades, but he took part on recreational activities. He was on the track team and the wrestling team. Wrestling was a niche of his. During his high school tenure he went 122-10 and was a two-time state champion. His skills didn't go unoticed as he excelled in college which he attending in California. He would be a nation track champion in the 100 meter dash and would continue to wrestler. The all-American would land a gig as an assistant wrestling coach in Minnesota before going to OVW. Benjamin had a shot to possibly enter the 2000 olympics, but knew what he wanted to do. He wound up up being three-time tag champions with Brock Lensar in OVW before coming to the WWE.
Team Angle and Evolution were my two favorites stables. I started to become cognizant on backstage happenings. I knew wrestling was fake, but I never bothered to find out what really happens when the cameras aren't rolling.
WWE was only getting better as I watched the longest streak of great WrestleManias in WWE history...at least in my opinion. Wrestlemania XVII, XVIII, and XIX were great shows. Triple H vs Jericho, Undertaker vs Triple H, TLC, Rock vs Hogan, Austin vs Rock (twice), HBK vs Jericho, Lesnar vs Angle, and the list goes on.
My knowledge on wrestling grew. The Invasion Era allowed my mind to salvage what was left of ECW and WCW. I became a great debater and I was able to defend my favorite wrestlers with passion, facts, logic, reasoning, and most importantly understanding.
I like Shelton Benjamin, was on my school's track team and I hold my middle school's record for the 100 meter dash. I knew that I was going to run track in high school when I graduated from middle school. I knew that I didn't want to be a wrestler, but a psychologist.
I rethought what I wanted to become and agreed in my head which was oscillating those memories in the vault of course. I was ready to move on to high school and continue watching wrestling. I knew that there was a journey ahead of me, but like Benjamin I thought "Ain't no stopping me" and continued on.