I have seen a lot of changes take place in the wrestling world over the years. I’ve sat in front of my television and witnessed greats come and go; promotions thrive and then die all doing their best to contribute to the wrestling business.
The wrestling industry today is over-analyzed and over-criticized by the same people who grew up in awe of wrestlers such as Andre The Giant, The Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan and countless others.
Rather than offer up another modified copy of an article that has probably been posted and read enough times to make us all want to pull out our eyes and claim that it is original, I instead hope to take you on a walk through the world of professional wrestling as seen through the eyes of a fan who grew up watching the ever-changing business.
I have spent my entire life as a wrestling fan, but it wasn’t until I was about five years old that I started to really become hooked.
I was completely captivated by wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, Demolition, and Sting, who all seemed like cartoon characters brought to life.
I didn’t care back then that my grandmother could do a better leg drop than Hogan, or that the only moves the Ultimate Warrior knew were punch, kick, clothesline, and jumping on people.
They were heroes, taking on and defeating all of the villains that stood in their way.
It wasn’t long before I witnessed what would be one of the biggest steps forward to ever happen in the wrestling industry. Monday Night Raw debuted and the wrestling world changed forever.
Previously, I only got to see wrestling here and there. My family preferred WCW over WWF(at that time) and, as much as I liked Sting, WCW didn’t compare to WWF for me.
It wasn’t long before I found myself in shock when Ric Flair was forced out of WWF after losing to Mr. Perfect. That match’s long-term impact on wrestling would play a big part in my love of wrestling in later years.
Wrestling had some slight ups and downs for the next few years, but nothing that really caught my attention until 1995, when I saw commercials advertising WCW Monday Nitro.
I had gained a lot of interest in WCW through the company’s acquisition of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, and when I saw that there was to be a new show where I could see some of my favorite wrestlers, I was all for the idea.
The first show had me hooked. I jumped when I saw Lex Luger on WCW, having remembered him being on WWE television not too long beforehand.
Having been roughly nine years old, I was still a believer in kayfabe. I remember cheering for Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage during their “Doomsday Match” against the Horsemen and the Dungeon of Doom.
When they did the angle at Halloween Havoc where Hulk Hogan “pushed The Giant off the top of the building,” I remember being completely scared for Hogan. I thought I had just witnessed the death of The Giant.
In hindsight, I realize that WCW wasn’t giving us the highest quality product, but they were reaching kids, and the kids were getting their parents to cough up money, and that is what WCW needed at that time.
Around this time, I started going back and renting wrestling videos from a local video store. I remember going back and watching Cactus Jack vs. Vader from an old Halloween Havoc PPV, The Undertaker’s WWF debut, and even HBK’s first Royal Rumble win (still in my mind the greatest Royal Rumble match).
WWF was not without it’s moments that stuck out to me during this time. Before jumping over to WCW, I was devastated to see Yokozuna defeat Randy Savage on RAW. I was less than thrilled about the Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow.
The Undertaker had me completely marking out for him any time the lights went out during RAW.
Mankind’s appearance had me really excited; largely in part to hearing stories from my dad about Cactus Jack and all the crazy things he did and would do to win a match. Mankind’s wars with Undertaker were nothing short of classic.
One incident that I remember very well was the first appearance of Scott Hall on Monday Nitro. I was really bored with the match that was taking place and had picked up the remote to change over to RAW, when I noticed someone large moving through the fans.
I dropped the remote when I realized who was at ringside. His appearance didn’t really strike me as a huge deal at the time, but over the next few weeks, I started to realize that something big was happening.
When Hall and Nash finally had their challenge accepted and a match made for Bash at the Beach, I figured that somebody else from WWF was going to show up and be their mystery partner, but I had no idea who it would be.
When Hogan came out and revealed himself as the third man, I officially became a wrestling fanatic. The angle had me completely hooked.
I honestly cannot tell you much about what happened on Monday Night Raw around that stretch of time because I was much more interested in WCW, but Raw did have a few reasons for me to keep watching. The biggest reason for me was Mick Foley.
I was so excited about the promo he did when he claimed he was going to do something he never thought he would do again.
I watched the entire episode of Raw the next week in hopes of spotting Cactus Jack, just knowing in my heart that Cactus is what Foley was referring to.
I just stared blankly at the screen when I saw a white boot tapping off-beat from some funky music and Dude Love make his way down to the ring.
I still find it funny that people cheer The Rock so much and make him out to be a wrestling hero. Most of my memories of the Rock are of him running down the fans and fighting with Stone Cold as a part of the Corporation.
Stone Cold never caught on with me, as I cared more about seeing Foley, in whatever form he chose to come to the ring. His feuds with The New Age Outlaws and HHH created some of my favorite Attitude Era moments.
My personal favorite storyline from the Monday night war was the angle between Sting and the nWo. When the nWo introduced their Sting and the wrestlers in WCW said Sting turned on them, I refused to accept it. Something about the whole thing just didn’t seem right.
I wasn’t totally shocked by Hogan turning heel, but Sting was the hero of WCW. When he came out and cleaned house on the nWo and then left Flair, Luger, and Arn Anderson in the ring, I felt they deserved it for doubting him.
One visit to my grandmother’s house lead to a new chapter in my life as a wrestling fan. I stepped into the living room and hopped down, seeing that wrestling was on.
It took no time at all to realize something was different. I didn’t recognize any of the wrestlers in the ring. There was a man carrying a Singapore cane in one hand and a beer can in the other. Another wrestler was pointing his thumbs to himself and calling himself “The whole F’n show.”
There was even a group of guys running around the ring carrying Italy’s flag and wearing thirts that had “FBI” printed on them.
At first I was annoyed because I was hoping to see Sting or Cactus Jack, but after watching a few matches, I wanted to see more. This was my first taste of ECW.
I would watch ECW sparsely over the next few years, not having access to it at home, but it would stay with me always.
Back to WCW now; I was starting to gain more interest in a wrestler who claimed to be a regular guy. He went from wearing flashy wrestling tights, to faded jeans and for whatever reason, always seemed to have his ribs taped up.
DDP was quickly rising as one of WCW’s top stars. I loved watching him; mainly because I wanted to see the Diamond Cutter. He started losing my interest after a short time though, mostly due to bringing in celebrities to wrestle.
In late 1997, I witnessed what has become one of the most well-remembered moments in wrestling history, The Montreal screwjob.
I, like a lot of people who hadn’t been exposed to wrestling news websites, didn’t know if it was a TV angle or real. It didn’t take long to figure it out though, as Bret Hart was announced to debut for WCW at Starrcade.
I was excited about Bret Hart moving to WCW, however, the biggest moment for me was when WCW announced that Hollywood Hogan would defend the WCW title against Sting.
They hyped this match like crazy. I went to my aunt’s house to watch the ppv, knowing that this would be one of the biggest moments in wrestling history and I couldn’t miss it.
I enjoyed the matches on the card, but I cared mostly about seeing Sting finally defeat Hogan, and, I sorta did. Sting won the match in a very controversial fashion.
The ‘fast count’ that happened seemed to be the same speed as any regular count. I was disappointed by the match, but I was still happy to see sting with the belt.
From that point on, WCW seemed to decline slowly but steadily. Week after week, I yawned my way through Monday Nitro, flipping over to Raw here and there and finding myself enjoying it more. I was growing out of wrestling.
Right when I was about to give up on wrestling completely, I witnessed something that managed to re-hook me. The now was breaking apart and now there were two versions: nWo Hollywood and nWo Wolf Pack.
Each week, I was tuning in only to see the Wolf Pack in action. When Sting joined the stable, I jumped out of my seat cheering. One big thing that happened during this time was Goldberg’s rise from the mid card, straight to the top of the WCW ladder.
His title win against Hogan was a less than stellar match, but the atmosphere that night was hard to top. It wasn’t long though before Kevin Nash finally broke Goldberg’s streak (Thanks to Scott Hall and a taser).
When the nWo factions reunited, it lead to the end of my interest in the faction as a whole. Hogan was injured shortly after, and from there the group fell completely apart.
ECW was quickly starting to become my favorite wrestling promotion around this time. Everybody else had storylines that were just over the top and stale. I was finally able to get a bit more access to ECW and was really happy with what I was seeing.
Some of the faces were new to me now, but the violence was the same as always. Guys like Steve Corino and Justin Credible only added to my interest of ECW.
I remember being completely surprised when I saw Mike Awesome defeat Taz and Masato Tanaka to win the ECW title. Everyone watching that night could just tell that it was an important moment in wrestling.
Wrestling matches were losing the feeling of importance on WCW and WWF, but ECW still seemed to mean something. Maybe it was because they just seemed to be more real, but I couldn’t get enough ECW.
The feud between RVD and Jerry Lynn is still my favorite feud of all time, from the perspective of producing good matches. I was able to see some of Sabu’s matches and was completely mesmerized by what the psycho could and would do in the ring.
One of the saddest days in wrestling for me was the day of the final Monday Nitro. I remember hearing the announcers talking about Vince McMahon buying the company and I was shocked. The matches that night were some of the best WCW had put on in a long time.
Ric Flair cut what I feel may have been the best promo of his career on that night. The final WCW match between Sting and Ric Flair was the best way WCW could go out. That was the climax of my experience as a wrestling fan.
I could go into the Invasion angle and how it bombed…I could go into how Vince has told several lies about WCW and ECW to make himself and his company look like the best. I could cover a lot more content about what happened post WCW and ECW, but it’s all been covered to death.
Just about everybody knows the story of what has happened since. My goal with this was not to tell you move for move what has happened in wrestling or to get every fact correct, but to simply tell the story through the eyes of a fan who grew up loving the sport known as professional wrestling.
I hope you have enjoyed this column and maybe reading how I perceived things brought back some old memories of wrestling for you as well. Thank you.