WWE: The Sport That Has Always Kept America Strong

Robert Aitken@@RobertAitkenBRAnalyst ISeptember 10, 2011

A lot of people are emotional about this weekend, being that it is the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks this coming Sunday. In the buildup to the bittersweet milestone, I find that many people are attempting to find their own links to the tragedy and trying to find a reason to grieve the anniversary.

While I don't personally have any direct links to the tragedies of a decade ago, it did hit close to home in a literal sense.

I reside in northern New Jersey, just 10 miles from the site now known as Ground Zero. I can recall seeing the World Trade Center from my home, as well as seeing the thick smoke nearly 10 years ago.

I never knew anyone who was killed on that day, but I did stand shocked as a 12-year-old kid in junior high school as my class watched the second plane hit live on television. I wasn't a true New Yorker, but rather, one by association. Even still, I grieved.

I am also a volunteer firefighter in my town. The company I belong to now never actually went to Ground Zero to help, but was actually used to cover the George Washington Bridge. There was fear in that moment that bridges or tunnels could be the next targets, an idea that has resurfaced with recent threats around the upcoming anniversary.

I never knew any of the 343 firefighters that perished that day and wouldn't become a firefighter myself for another six years. Even still, I grieved.

This logo for RAW was last used on September 10, 2001 as WWE steered away from the word "WAR" being attached to the name.
This logo for RAW was last used on September 10, 2001 as WWE steered away from the word "WAR" being attached to the name.

Earlier that morning, I can recall being angry that my New York Giants couldn't defeat the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football the night before. That all seemed silly later on.

There was no place to escape coverage of the World Trade Center. No television station, radio station, website or window in my room could help me step away from reality and gasp for air. By Sept. 12, 2001, I officially needed something else to think about.

All of the sports in the area came to a screeching halt. Shea Stadium didn't house my favorite baseball team, the Mets, but rather, supplies for those battling the rubble at Ground Zero. Sports were never very important, but always served a purpose for a time like this. A tragedy only truly becomes tragic when there is no way to be able to rise above the ashes.

Some people walked around after the attack as if there was no way that they would ever return to a normal life. This country needed a distraction now more than ever.

Enter the WWE.

I had always been a wrestling fan. Being a child of the Attitude Era, it was a part of my DNA that could never truly be shaken. Even nowadays, I find myself wondering what it would be like to have made it to WWE and become a WWE superstar.

I suppose that I settle that urge by writing about it instead. Whatever the reason, WWE was always a part of my life. Monday Night Football might have been on, but it was also time for Monday Night RAW.

On that Sept. 10, 2001 edition of RAW, the then-WWF was still fighting with the Alliance in the middle of the Invasion saga. On that night, Tajiri became United States Champion and Kurt Angle won the Hardcore Championship from Rob Van Dam, only to lose it back minutes later.

It was yet another solid episode that would build toward the climax of WWF vs. The Alliance. After the following day's events, nobody could care less about which promotion would survive.

Even at that point, it was known that Smackdown was taped on Tuesday nights and aired on Thursdays. This was before Smackdown went to Friday nights a few years later.

In the whirlwind of the events in New York City, Washington D.C. and the plane crash of Flight 93, the last thought was what they would do about Smackdown. WWE was in Houston at the time, thousands of miles away from the tragic events on the East Coast.

Smackdown did not tape on Sept. 11, 2001, but would air on television on September 13, 2001. The show was broadcast live in one of the rare instances of a live Smackdown in the show's existence. In fact, the first-ever live Smackdown, titled Smackdown Xtreme, aired just seven months earlier.

It was a somber episode and one that was a little bit uneasy to watch. I remember watching that episode and thinking about if it was right to watch it. This was professional wrestling, a fantasy world with men in tights.

Reality surrounded me and was silent, but my television was not. When everyone else continued to watch in horror 48 hours later, I had two hours to escape from the harsh reality.

President George W. Bush urged Americans to go back to work and move on with life in general. WWE and their employees never batted an eyelash and aired an episode like business as usual.

It wasn't your average episode, though. Many stars broke kayfabe and were talking as real people about their actual emotions from Sept. 11.

The Rock stuck out with his lack of charisma and abundance of honesty. Chris Jericho, the New York native, stuck out for his desire to go home and try to help. Jericho could recognize that what they were doing could help. And it did help.

In the decade that has happened since, WWE continues to help. The company has brought up All-American talent, such as John Cena, and turned them into household heroes.

Speaking of which, the links between Cena and emergency personnel are eerily similar. Both work hard at their job, are always there when they need to be and will still be there even if you don't appreciate them.

Not every firefighter or policeman gets a "thank you" from people or gets a donation, just like Cena often gets booed and doesn't sell merchandise to everyone. No matter your feelings, or lack thereof, for either of them, both will always be there to serve you and do whatever you ask of them.

As the 10-year anniversary of the Sept, 11 attacks comes closer, there will be a lot of ceremonies and remembrance, as well as countless tributes.

There will also be wrestling. RAW will air live on the following night, while Smackdown tapes on Sept. 13, exactly 10 years after bringing normalcy back to some Americans. Even a decade later, I will grieve. But as I grieve, the WWE will still be there.


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