1990 was a special year for me. It was the year I witnessed for the first time professional wrestling in all of its glory. I still remember it; a brand new wrestler by the name of The Undertaker had viciously attacked the Ultimate Warrior and placed in him a casket and locked it. WWF officials and other wrestlers worked against time to save the Ultimate Warrior from this dastardly deed. My love affair with pro-wrestling had begun.
Over time that love affair grew. I bought all of the action figures I could get my hands on, I watched WWF Superstars and WWF Challenge as if my life depended on it, and my family took me to live wrestling events. Growing up most kids were either a football, basketball, or baseball fan. I was neither. I was a pro-wrestling fan and damn proud of it. They were superheroes come to life.
Much to my mother’s dismay, I remained a wrestling fan throughout my teens and into my early twenties. One of the best parts was most of my friends were all pro-wrestling fans too! Ever time we would get together, the conversation would inevitable turn to wrestling, and we would talk about it for hours. I think I lost out on a lot of possible girlfriends because of this.
In 2006 while we were sitting around talking wrestling, an idea was discussed. We all worked at the same radio station, why not create a pro-wrestling talk show. That was the day Rumble Radio was born. Every Tuesday night from 7pm-9pm, the five of us would talk pro-wrestling on the radio in the 3rd largest market in the country. And the show was awesome. Lots of people listened, we worked well together, and we began interviewing some of our wrestling heroes. Names such as Mick Foley, Ted DiBiase, Chris Jericho, and Bret Hart all made their Rumble Radio débuts. It was “the good life”. Unfortunately for me, it was right around this time that my love affair began to sour.
I think back to this time period often, and wonder: “What caused my interest in pro-wresting to wane?” I think there are two reasons. 1) Rumble Radio itself. Yes for me, the Rumble Radio program was one of the causes for me to stop watching pro-wrestling. Our goal with Rumble Radio was to create the most professional and unique sounding pro-wrestling talk show ever. In order to accomplish this goal, we had to do a lot of show prep. Between the five hosts of Rumble Radio, each week each of us had to watch 5 hours of WWE programming (Monday Night Raw, Friday Night Smackdown, and ECW), 2 hours of TNA, 1 hour of Ring of Honors’ show, and since we covered local independent Chicago wrestling federations, attend a live Indy show each weekend, 3-4 hours. In addition we would stay current on the business/rumor side of the wrestling industry with Internet wrestling websites, and finally we would frantically try booking interviews with wrestlers for the program. On average I would guess I watched about 11-14 hours of wrestling per week. This lasted for about 3 years. You could almost say watching wrestling became my job.
Instead of watching wrestling purely for its entertainment factor, I was now a wrestling critic. The slightest mistake would ruin the show for me. If a story line did not unfold the way I thought it should, the show would be ruined for me. I would become upset over the littlest thing. The fun of the wrestling was gone. Instead of losing myself in the story line, I thought I was above the story line. You cannot have an attitude like that, and expect to be a fan for long. I had become my own worst enemy.
2) In 2008 the critically acclaimed film The Wrestler was released. The film stared Mickey Rourke as twenty years past his prime Randy “The Ram” Robinson who is hanging onto his past wrestling glories, because ultimately that is all he has. Early on in the film, Randy suffers a heart attack due to his drug abuse and other pro-wrestling injuries. Additionally he has an estranged daughter, and tries to kindle a love affair with an aging stripper played by the beautiful Marissa Tomei. Without giving the entire plot away it is safe for me to say that it is one of the best movies I have ever seen.
However the film does not showcase the wrestling industry in the most positive light. It brings all of the dangers and pitfalls of the pro-wrestling industry and shoves it right in your face. With the Benoit tragedy fresh in my mind, I found myself questioning the industry I had blindly loved since I was seven. The larger than live superheroes, who had filled my imagination as a child were now very human. In fact they were tragic figures. I found myself asking the question: “Is everyone in the industry doomed to the fate of Randy The Ram?”
Of course not, the movie is a work of fiction. But it did hit close to home. One of the benefits of hosting Rumble Radio was meeting so many wrestlers. Majority were some of the nicest individuals you could ever meet and had their heads screwed on right. But there were a few of them, who I interviewed, who had gone through some rough times, partly due to drugs, much like Randy The Ram. The Wrestler made me realize that even in my twenties, I was still naïve to certain aspects of the real world. Every industry has its own dark side, but somehow it seemed that pro-wrestling’s was a little bit darker. (Maybe it was because I idolized it so growing up.)
So because of this, I decided to take a break from watching pro-wrestling. I thought the time away would repair the relationship. So far, the jury is still out. I do not think I will completely stop watching it. I do catch it from time to time, and I do gather with friends once a year to watch the grand daddy of them all, Wrestlemania. But that childlike love of wrestling I had is gone. I am not sure if it will ever come back, but I am eternally grateful for the countless memories I have because of pro-wrestling.
There are still moments, when I watch wrestling in passing, that I remember the excitement that seven year old me had on that eventful Saturday morning. But maybe John Lennon was right when he said: “The Dream is Over”.