Every Memory That Oscillates, Pt. 3: Dissonance & World's Greatest Tag Team
For those who haven't read the first two parts in my series, they are available below:
Without further ado, Oscillating Pt. III: Dissonance & World's Greatest Tag Team.
Gone were the uniforms and gone was another chapter of my life. Middle School graduation had past months ago and August was coming to an end and the inevitable had already transpired. I had little to no contact with my middle school friends already.
Though I predicted this, I didn't really care. Not that I didn't have good times with my friends, but times were changing. I can remember middle school with blurs, but I'll forget never the moniker I was dubbed there. After going in as snot[nosed brat, I emerged as the young man known as AkD.
Wrestlemania XIX still was imprinted in my mind. Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho had a marvelous showdown, Stone Cold Steve Austin faced off against The Rock for the final time. Though the match had me equally emotional as the two actually competing, it wasn't my favorite part of the night.
Seeing Shelton Benjamin retain the tag titles with Charlie Haas made my day, nothing could have ruined it after that. Other than that, I saw the effort and emotion that these stars put into their characters, into themselves. It was about diversity, standing out and coming together.
No longer confined by slacks and tie, It was time to get an identity. I felt like I was apart of the Right to Censor faction.
I had a growing interest in psychology and juggled it around with wrestling from time to time. Erik Erikson's life development had me pondering. I was cognizant of identity crisis. Knowing it was more of a mental issue, I chose to deal with that when the time came.
My physical image/identity would have to do in the meanwhile. Wrestling and I could finally be one. I went shopping in the late summer before school started. While shopping, my mind started to wander off, as it does every once in a while.
Did I want to dress like a wrestler? Most of them wore tights, so what am I thinking? Before I lost myself, I shut the memory vault and purchased clothing to my liking. I began to purchase fitted caps, which I wear like there's no tomorrow. The world had changed.
Sept. 11 still echoed and troops were sent to Iraq to wage war against terrorism. I remembered how I always said there was no stopping me, but I had a feeling more changes were on the horizon.
The first day of high school seemed amazing. The atmosphere was intense and there were thousands of students, all with thousands of stories.
I was ready. I had prepared for high school like runners did for the NYC Marathon. I was there physically, I was there mentally, most importantly I was there.
It was time to transition wrestling into this new environment. I didn't know anyone yet, so I took a seat by a vending machine in the crowded lunchroom.
I wasn't a shy kid, so making friends wasn't difficult for me. l decided to get a bag of Doritos from the machine and I munched on them.
Closing my eyes, and attempting a monk-like form, I was able to reach my vault quickly than ever. I was high on Prince Buddha and was high on " Enlightenment".
I found these terms and theories to be beneficial for myself. My neurons had more connections and the neurotransmitters sent out messages faster than ever in my brain. My corpus callous was improved and I zoomed through my wrestling memories like a flip book.
I returned to the lunchroom and went to work making friends and getting acquainted with people. It was clear that nobody was fond of wrestling anymore. As partying, sex, drugs, graffiti and clothing came to power, wrestling was deemed uncool.
Being half way matured and growing up, I was prepared for the worst and the worst had indeed happened. I was amazed on how calmly I approached the situation. There was more logic in my thinking now.
This was a case of cognitive dissonance. My thoughts, emotions, and behavior were all being put to the test. Dissonance is conflict within ourselves that occurs whenever one or two of the three aforementioned contradicts the others. My behavior was that I watched, discussed, and interact with wrestling.
The emotion is obviously the passion I have for it, and the thought was effected. Wrestling's "un-coolness" was implemented as the thought and thus the dissonance seed was planted. I could have dealed with it, or downplayed it. I took the easy road, denial.
During Freshman year, I met by best friend Jesse. He was a quiet kid and I approached him during a food fight. By this time, I had already had friends who were into wrestling and I was lucky to have found friends who enjoyed wrestling as much as I do. I assumed Jesse liked it too.
He never watched wrestling before in his life and was a Star Wars fan. We were good friends, but the debates were unavoidable. We went head-to-head battling for supremacy.
The memories in my mind went into a fierce orbit trying to put forth memories that I could use in my battle, but it was no use. Jesse had not watched wrestling, and anything I said to him was like a foreign language.
Jesse was an interesting person, I knew we would be great friends, despite him not knowing a damn thing about wrestling.
I closed the vault of memories before it crashed like a computer. I knew it was going to take some time, but he would come around. Eventually, he asked me for the air times of RAW and SmackDown.
I gave them to him and hoped for the best. I spent the rest of my Freshmen year as a "geek," "nerd," or whatever seemed to be the teasing term.
I was quite the gamer back then. Teachers in school were pushovers and young students didn't fully fathom how vital high school was.
The only thing that mattered was getting into a clique. I had mine, I guess. We were passionate about wrestling and played the games as well.
A tournament was held for the first SmackDown vs. RAW game to ever come out. Coca Cola, Doritos and sweat...we had a fierce tournament.
I made it to the finals with my favorite wrestler Randy Orton. I faced my friend Steven, who was a Kurt Angle fanatic. After a grueling 27 minutes, I defeated him and claimed the first SmackDown tourney title.
By Wrestlemania XX, Jesse was a huge fan, but he still had a way to go to and wanted to learn as much as much as he could about wrestling. His favorite wrestler was Chris Benoit.
Later, his favorites would be Chris Jericho, Mr. Kennedy, and John Morrison following Benoit's death. He loved him so much he used him in the video games and made everyone tap out with the crossface, he was quite the button masher.
I missed the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Wrestlemania XX at Madison Square Garden; I didn't appreciate wrestling as much as I thought I did. The dissonance was hovering over me, but I kept pushing it away.Within my mind I knew the next time it came to MSG, I would appreciate it much more.
Wrestlemania XX was fantastic as my favorite wrestler Randy Orton, went over Rock and Foley with Evolution. Jesse was also excited as Benoit captured the WHC in a stunning triple threat match against HBK and Triple H.
Jesse and I were all over the place, we were often called Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, the World's Greatest Tag Team.
Sophomore year took me in a different direction. I was quite the joker and I was becoming popular. Wrestling was slipping within me as the dissonance kicked in and I down played it again. Joking was taken to the next level in school.
Students would have "cut ass" battles, a no holds barred competition between two or more people whose sole objective is to put down their opponent by any means necessary...even it if meant crossing the line.
People used to make fun of me because I watched wrestling, but I emerged as an elite in "cutting ass."
I became a heartless monster and one of the best at it. I became popular and I was surrounded with new crowds of people. Like a chameleon or any other animal in an ecosystem, I had to adapt.
Was this Natural Selection?
Slowly I began to "sell out," in my own terms as continued to shy way from wrestling. My AkD moniker had transitioned well into high school as I became the main event, the showstopper himself, HBJ?? No, it was HBK?
I was hungry and I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich one day for lunch. Later I found out that no one eats New York City school lunch for a reason.
Deep down I knew that everything was slowly decaying as I used my lunch as an excuse. To prove myself wrong, I journeyed into the vault in my mind. Everything appeared fine as usual.
I had to think a while sometimes to get the right memory or response, but everything was still fine. I squinted around as the celestial-like light wasn't as bright as before. I took my exit. That would be the last time I entered to vault for over a year.
Junior year came and I was all over the place. Joking, school work, gaming, social activities, sports, I was doing it all. I had an XBOX 360 by this time and was burning Gears of War, one of Microsoft's most popular video games. Eddie Guerrero's death was a distant memory and Wrestlemania 22 was a blur.
Jesse kept on watching, but I never asked him for any recaps. He was gaining more knowledge and tested my knowledge from time to time. He corrected me from time to time and it was clear I wasn't as sharp as I used to be.
The last Wrestlemania I remember was Wrestlemania XXI, which I only recalled Kurt Angle vs. HBK. That was the best match by far, and I only remembered it so well because it was a strong memory which I loved.
Wrestlemania 23 passed me by, as the only thing I knew about the show was that Donald Trump was going to be there.
I didn't really care. The only thing I kept was "Dynasty."
I was so delusional I thought I was leading a dynasty.
I remembered when Randy Orton used to say he was a one-man dynasty. I picked up the ball and ran with it, so to speak. I used the term and as if it were my own, forgetting that it was Orton who once said it.
As popular as I was, there were enemies. Me and my Dynasty, "friends" who played football with me, were determined to take out this one rival of mine. He was a big mouth who swore he was better than me yet he never stepped foot on the field.
He was one of those guys who did all the talking, but never any walking. I anticipated his downfall. At home, music countdowns and reality shows replaced RAW and SmackDown. I finally got to face him one day. It was like my Wrestlemania.
We were two clashing arrogant egos who wanted nothing more than to gloat in their rival's defeat. The day came on a summer-like spring day. We had a field day on the school campus. Both squads took off to the football field and it was set.
We were supervised by teachers, who left to go do raffles and other activities. It became no holds barred at this point on. The two teams went blow for blow, hit for hit. The Dynasty stood tall as we won the game. It was first to seven touchdowns and I scored the last one. I landed on my thumb on the winning drive.
The annoying kid never got up as he was screaming in agony. He was hit by one of my teammates. It looked like Brock Lesnar running over Rey Mysterio. There was a huge dogpile on him afterward.
I had a swollen thumb that turned bluish-purple. I dropped to my knees holding my thumb as teachers rushed to the scene. The kid had two bruised ribs and I had broken my thumb near the joint.
It was if two wrestlers were carried out of the ring on stretchers. The once-hyped audience was now silent as night. We both were suspended from school for one month after the staff got the scoop on the entire story.
I really didn't mind because the fractured thumb was on my right hand, my writing hand, so I couldn't write anything in school anyway. One month was quite a while, so I sat home and was training like a wrestler.
It was like Cena, Batista, Triple H or any injured wrestler cutting an injury promo training to make a comeback. My doctor had told me if I refuse to put screws and bolts in my thumb, I might not be able to ever bend it again.
I was scared of nuts, bolts, screws, and surgery so I took the harder road and trained my thumb. I had to stop when the pain became too excruciating and I had to take painkillers. It was just a broken thumb, but I thought of the wrestlers.
"Is this the pain they go through?"
They had to take drugs to enhance their performance or to overcome the pain in their body. The WWE wellness policy was up by this time. I slowly came to my senses.
One day I took a seat and decided it was time for reflection after working on my thumb. I had the house all to myself, so I could really review the paths I've taken over the past two and a half years.
Sharp pains went through my thumb and I dropped the bottle of pills on the floor. I scrambled to pick them up at a very slow pace. I was alone in my room, my house. Is this how Eddie spent his last night? I couldn't even think of that or Chris Benoit's tragedy.
I stumbled as I tried to get to my feet and hit my thumb on my dresser. It should have been in the splinter, but I took it out.
My eyes watered up a bit as I let out a huge scream. I took my pill and remained on the floor protecting my thumb like someone just nailed it with a hammer. There was no where to go, so I sat.
The dissonance was face to face with me. Why did I do this? My ego was so big, I adapted.... sold out. I had went against everything I stood for. I was supposed to stay true to myself. Instead, I became a hypocrite.
If Jericho was doing his current angle back then, It would have been flowing through my head. As the pain mitigated, I closed my eyes, desperate to get away I returned to the vault.
There was no orbit, no neurotransmitters sending memories swiftly, no tables of content, no index, no oscillation. There was barely any light; it was almost pitch black. The vault resembled the way it was when I was first got into wrestling; it was spacious.
I looked for my memories as I used the vault walls for guidance. The walls were as cold as ice. There was barely any pulse, I feared for a flat line. The very same vault I built with wrestling memories with myself, with my father over the years...was diminishing.
I slowly walked as the lights now flickered. I saw Rock, Austin, Orton, Flair, HBK, Hart, Steamboat and many more as pieces of the vault made noises like it needed oil. I saw myself, seven years old watching RAW with my father.
I saw the WWE/F, AWA, NWA, ICW, ECW, and WCW my father passed on to me as we exchanged knowledge. I saw Shelton Benjamin, what ever happened to "ain't no stopping me?" The faded slide show stopped as my mother brought broke my concentration.
"ALBERT! Get off the floor, Are you okay? I told you to keep that splinter on your finger! If your thumb doesn't get better...your getting surgery."
Speaking of reality, I had an epiphany. This wasn't a movie or some inspirational story on one based on a true story, it was my life and the connection I had to wrestling...which I was losing by the day.
After I nodded and got to my feet my mother blasted me and told me to keep up with my school work. Surgery was the last thing I wanted, so I became more diligent with my thumb. The tolerance I once had was returning bit by bit.
Simultaneously, I studied intensely as I became increasingly interested in Psychology. I wanted to take the class when I returned to school. When I did return, it was like an anticipated return.
My thumb was almost healed and I could bend it, but not all the way. I thought of Triple H returning at MSG after his surgery. I had learned some lessons, but was I ready to make everything better. Jesse was by my side to help me along the way.
When I returned, everyone was greeting me. Something wasn't quite right. When I saw the school paper, I knew that my Dynasty...my "friends" had twisted the story so much no one really knew the truth anymore. They gained the props, popularity, and whatever else they were seeking every time they "told" the story.
They saved this cover story for when I returned. I grabbed the paper and there was a story on the second page, it was entitled: "Dynasty Manifesto", a title that became imprinted in my mind forever.
I was a great history student. One semester I wrote a paper on the Communist Manifesto and earned an A, so I knew where this title had its roots.
The general assumption was that I was ready to gloat and bask in the glory. A month had passed and I had gotten over it. All people wanted was to hear me talk about what happened, it was pure shallowness.
It took nearly three years and a broken thumb for me to face my inner conflicts. The injury had me thinking of wrestling again and I just wanted nothing more than to catch up with all that I missed.
The vault was still inactive, but I knew one day I would make it work again; it's just memories, right?
People have thousands of memories, even millions within their minds. Some memories are deep within our minds and are very difficult to reach. My once prominent wrestling knowledge was almost as thin as one-ply toilet paper. All I needed was a trigger, a spark, an ignition. Randy Orton was that trigger...or was he?
By Senior year, I was back to wrestling full-time. I had filled in the blurry spots and watched everything that I missed. Everyone knew that I had watched wrestling, I didn't care. Eventually, everyone finally grew up and didn't care as well.
It was about time that everyone including myself, grew up. Psychology was my favorite class and I knew I wanted to major in it in college. Identity crisis wasn't a problem for me, I knew who I was, what I wanted.
My Psychology class changed the way I viewed wrestling. Stone Cold Steve Austin was my all-time favorite ever since I watched wrestling, but I finally questioned myself...why?
He was the beer-drinking rebel who raised hell and gave stunners to just about everyone. He was very exciting, but he wasn't the best. There isn't such a thing as the perfect wrestler, but Shawn Michaels would be the closest.
Austin put 110 percent in his career, but Michaels just had it all. He was a storyteller, in-ring performer...he was the complete package.
I also questioned my loyalty to Randy Orton. He's one of my favorites, but after that psychology class, I never looked at him the same. I always tried to break everything down and look from different aspects. Orton would remain one of my favorites, but he was second to Shelton Benjamin.
There was no doubt I was a fan of Benjamin, but there was much more to to explore. On that day I fully converted to the Gold Standard. I had to make sure I wasn't out of my mind here, I've stated some idiotic things before (Maryse vs. McCool > Trish vs. Lita).
Comparing the two wasn't difficult as I knew their stories, their move sets, their accomplishments...I just needed to watch them more diligently than I ever have before.
Benjamin was my favorite by a landslide. I wasn't bothered by Orton's superior popularity or world championship runs. Benjamin was more enjoyable to watch for me.
As the last year of school wound down, students were frantically trying to get ready for college while others dropped out or just straight failed. Wrestling was my primary focus; I was still searching for the trigger.
I watched Wrestlemania XXIV and I felt the excitement that I used to have, it was all coming back. Things were different, as Jesse was a die hard fan by now. CM Punk won the MITB, Shawn Michaels delivered a classic with Ric Flair, and Randy Orton retained the WWE title.
Me and Jesse raised our cans of Coca Cola in the air as we enjoyed the great show. It was a long four years filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, but we came a long way.
It felt great being able to share my memories with Jesse in the never-ending cycle of passing on wrestling knowledge. It was my grandfather who first mentioned wrestling to my father when they lived in Ghana.
After my grandfather's death, my father left for the United States and earned a masters degree in graphic design and artictecture. My father took my grandfather's advice and got into wrestling.
He settled down when he met my mother when she came to the U.S. from Guyana. He put wrestling on the backburner when he begun building a family.
I look back to that night when he found me watching Monday Night RAW. That night he passed on his memories on to me as his father, my grandfather did to him.
There I was all those years later continuing the cycle passing on everything I knew to Jesse. He was the first wrestling fan I ever met who didn't know a thing about the Attitude era.
He learned about the past the same way I did about the 80's, 70's and even the 60's. He continues to learn more by the day and I pass on any memories and knowledge that I can. It's amazing how much he's learned about wrestling, considering he became a fan in late 2004.
We're not perfect experts, I learn and appreciate just like he does everyday. I had taken up debate during senior year in high school class, as I'm a very confident speaker. My teacher never really got any memorable debates going in debate class.
She noticed how Jesse and I frequently talk about wrestling. My teacher knew some guys who knew about wrestling and brought them in to discuss wrestling with us.
They questioned the knowledge and memories that Jess and I possessed. We went head to head with many old timers who assumed that we didn't know a thing about wrestling. One cannot conclude the amount of wrestling knowledge another person may have solely on their age.
The entire class did something that they rarely did for that hour class period..stood silent. From Paul Orndorff, Mr. Perfect, The Hart Foundation, The Rockers, Legion of Doom, Junkyard Dog, Hogan, Flair, Steiner, George Steele, Bam Bam Bigelow, all the way to the new generation past the Attitude era.
There Jesse and I were, the World's Greatest Tag Team standing our ground. I was blown away when students stood up to the men and gave their two cents about wrestling. These were the very same students who deemed people who watched wrestling as losers.
These were the very same students who said they never watched wrestling. The men who once questioned us...embraced us. They applauded how the class came together for once, instead of bickering with one another.
One of the guest speakers attended the very first Wrestlemania and shared his love for Hulkamania. He proceeded to pass around his ticket stub, which was an amazing sight. I respected those men and the feeling was mutual.
They were like many old timers who didn't believe younger people knew anything about wrestling, but they now thought otherwise. That was a day I think I'll remember for forever.
It was after that day that students stopped downtalking wrestling. Even the stuck up "it's all about me" girls were interested in the long lineage of divas. My peers had embraced me more than they ever did. Deep down they were probably fans as well, like me; they just needed a trigger.
I was respected the way I wanted to be. That year, I made the honor roll for the first time since mid-Sophomore year.
The school used my turnaround as an example that people can reach the light from the darkness. I never thought it was that serious, but they proceeded to make me a "spokesman" for students who needed motivation and encouargement.
I never bothered to complain, because I got free passes from some really boring classes.
I was an artist as well and slated to win the school's art award. Never drank, never smoked, some people called me CM Punk. When I growled, they changed it to Shelton Benjamin.
Everyone would laugh and Jesse would come around, prompting people to call him Charlie Haas, then the World's Greatest Tag Team.
Graduation was finally here. That morning I was nervous, but ready. As I fixed my tie in the mirror, I looked. I was a man. I was going to college. The chance to reflect on my turnaround was crashed by none other than my mother.
"Are you Keeping this crap!" She threw a heavy bag at me.
I carried...dragged it to my room and opened it. My entire WWE/WCW action figure collection was in my bag. Every wrestling figure I every brought since my HBK figure in the 1998. A decade later and I held the figures in my hand.
I pulled out two figures that I never properly said goodbye to... Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. I ignored the possibility of myself looking like a weirdo with action figures in my hand. The two figures were what I was looking for, the trigger I seeked, the vault's generator.
Suddenly, I went into the vault. Still dark and with a weak pulse, I said goodbye to Eddie and Chris as I walked off. After everything that transpired, I would have to rebuild years of memories and start all over.
In that instant, Chris Beniot and Eddie Guerrero memories came rushing back as if I recovered from amnesia.
"VIVA LA RAZA!" Echoed in the vault.
I turned back and then saw a clip of Wrestlemania XX. I heard J.R's voice..."
"BENOIT HAS THE CROSSFACE ON TRIPLE H!"
The entire clip played through until Benoit won the match and became WHC. He and Eddie hugged in the ring a celebrated as the confetti rained on them. The clip then disappeared and I began to walk off.
A huge gust hit me and then there was a huge bang that knocked me to the vault ground. I got to my feet and everything was luminous. The orbit had returned and so did the table of contents and the index.
A smile went across my face the memories oscillated above my head once more and clips of everything I ever knew was zooming past me as the neurotransmitters were better than ever. I exited the vault.
I'm a visual learner. I must picture just about everything that I read or hear. I could sit and picture everything as well as run clips in my head. The vault was a perfect place to store my wrestling memories and my visual learning only made it that much better.
It was truly amazing how everything came back to me, I did a fist pump and fixed my tie, put on a heel Jericho smirk and walked out the house and headed to graduation. I had back my memories back and I vowed to not lose my grip on them ever again.
My name was called to that stage for my diploma. "Ain't no stopping me," I thought as I grabbed my diploma and held it next to my art medal for a picture with Jesse and some with my family.
I was Kurt Angle....nope I was the Gold Standard, minus the blond hair of course. This time was different, I didn't have to say bye forever like in elementary and middle school, I could continue on with my friends, life and family.
A high school graduate and a man, I was ready for college, for life. Every memory that oscillated...and I had a whole lot more to deposit into the vault.
I was very proud of myself that day, within stumbled upon an empty slot, I couldn't fill it with any of my memories. I knew it wasn't something from before, but something that has yet to occur.
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