What’s the earliest memory you have about wrestling?
You may or may not like wrestling, but it seems to me that everybody would have at least one instance in their life when they wrapped their arms around somebody’s neck and put someone in a tight if not playful headlock. Or maybe you were running towards someone and you put your arm out and cloths lined someone to the ground. Be it with a sibling, a friend, or an enemy.
I guess I would have to say one of my earliest memories pertaining to wrestling occurred when I was around 10 or 11 years old. I was in Sunday school, of all places, learning about the Bible. I remember that daily lesson being about brothers Cain and Able. Being that we were so young, they had illustrations of pictures to go along with the lesson. I remember seeing a picture of Able, holding up his finest animals as a gesture of a sacrifice to GOD.
Meanwhile in the background, his brother Cain angrily stood, holding a big stick and ready to whoop his brothers butt.
Now I know that what happened between the brothers could actually be considered murder, that thought simply just didn’t enter my mind at the time.
Instead I remember thinking “man, that looks like me and my brothers”.
Not that I’ve ever had any homicidal thoughts about snuffing out my brothers, but when your growing up with 3 other brothers around the same age, you can almost always count on a fight breaking out on a daily basis.
Not long after that, we were exposed to our first wrestling match courtesy of the NWA.
I remember seeing a young brute who went by the name of Lex Luger taking on a much smaller flamboyant Ric Flair.
Being that it was so long ago, I’m a little hazy on who actually won the fight. However, I do remember an instance when Luger lifted Flair up high over his head. He walked around the ring holding Flair up, bench pressing him up and down before finally slamming him hard onto the mat.
“Wow, this is awesome” I remember saying. We were instantly hooked.
It didn’t take us long to convert our basement into a miniature wrestling ring.
There we started learning and practicing every move we could think of. Body slams, back breakers, neck breakers, choke slams, cloths lines, drop kicks, leg drops, figure four leg locks, boston crab, moonsaults, suplexs, full nelsons, flying elbows, bear hugs, sleeper holds, etc, etc…
Pile drivers and DDTs were off limits, as we deemed them too risky to maneuver. The power bomb wasn’t a known move to us at the time, as that would probably have been prohibited as well.
It didn’t take long for the neighborhood kids to get in on the act.
Before long, we were staging all out wrestling matches.
At this particular time of our lives, we were being raised by our then 50 some year old grandmother. She would often work daytime double shifts to support us, leaving us unsupervised and free to do whatever we damn well wanted to.
And boy did we ever take advantage.
It wasn’t uncommon that we would have 10 to 15 people crammed into our basement to get in on the action.
We really went all out with it too.
We had our own referees, our own ring announcers, our own fans. How ridiculous is that?
The ring consisted of thick foam rubber mats put together to give us just the right amount of space to maneuver in, surrounded by walls on 2 sides, and 3 sets of strong sturdy rope to enclose the other 2 sides.
We even had our own championship belts. My older brother had just entered the 7th grade at the time, and was taking a woods class. There he was able to cut and carve up some pretty solid belts for us to use in our little federation.
We converted our basement stairway into an entry way for each wrestler to enter upon getting to the ring. Each wrestler would wait upstairs until his name was called.
I went by the name of “ Tiny Tom Sawyer”, and of course whenever the song “TOM SAWYER” by the rock band RUSH was cued, I knew it was my turn to go to the ring.
I never did win the world championship. I did manage to win the United States championship belt. I never really could compete with those big apes.
We never really had any serious injuries happen. Just your basic bumps and bruises. A few nose bleeds here and there. We did have one kid get a slight concussion. I say slight because he never did go to a doctor. There’s no question about it though, he was completely out of it for a few minutes. I remember him having bouts of vomiting for a week straight after that little incident. I’m no doctor, but I’ve heard that vomiting is a side effect of a concussion. We did have a few instances where kids would literally go home crying. They found reentry into the basement next to impossible.
My last official fight was a steel cage match. Considering the magnitude of such a fight, we were unable to let that take place in the basement. We instead moved it to an old abandoned baseball diamond. Surrounded by 15 to 20 feet high fence near the batters box and home plate would prove to be one of the most difficult matches I ever took part in.
The object of the fight; beat the snot out of your opponent and proceed to climb over the fence. First one up and over to the other side wins. I know some of you are probably thinking, “why not just run to the fence as fast as you can and start hauling ass up and over”?
Well, we liked wrestling, and we liked to look good while doing it. How selfish is that? Like I said, it wasn’t unusual to have groups of up to 10 people around to watch us in action. Having girls there made the fighting even more intense. Nobody wanted to walk out of there a loser. I guess pride runs deep even when you’re a youngster.
Eventually the wrestling craze died down until finally reaching a point of non existence. For some of us, the fighting became too personal to handle.
Although I'm not as obsessed with the industry as much as I once was, I still hold a soft spot in my heart for it. It’s a shame that so many people disregard it as a fake circus side show.
That is one thing I can say I’m proud of. Our brand of wrestling wasn’t of how I thought it used to be when I was a young kid. We didn’t predetermine what the outcome of the fight would be. As corny as it sounds, it was literally a chance to show everybody who the baddest kid in neighborhood was.
I was actually disappointed when I first learned that wrestling was scripted. It took awhile to get around the idea of it not being real, but I eventually accepted it for what it was.
I guess I’ve always looked at wrestling as a different form of art. Kind of like the way a dancer choreographs a performance, or the way an actor performs on a stage in front of hundreds of people, or the way a magician puts on a show specializing in wowing and tricking a crowd, or the way a circus performs in front of an audience.
Wrestling is definitely an acquired taste, but if given the chance, it can make non believers into true believers. That’s not to say that wrestling fans don’t know that what they are watching isn’t real. Of course most of them know it isn’t real. Its when you reach a level of acceptance that actually allows you to take it in and really enjoy it. After that, the idea of it being scripted doesn’t even exist.
I’ll never forget my first live show. Watching those giant men in person was quite a thrill. I remember sticking my hand out in the aisle as the “Legion of Doom” made there way down to ringside. Or watching the “Nature Boy Rick Flair” upset the crowd favorite “Sting”. I remember my brothers jumping up and down when the “Steiner Brothers” were introduced down to ringside.
I’ll always cherish my wrestling memories. Not just because I’m a fan of wrestling, but probably for the most selfish reason of all. Because we were so damn young….We all were.
This is my first article on this sight, so I'd very much appreciate any feedback that anyone may have. You can call me Wiz for short. Thank you for reading and God bless.