Yeah, that’s right. This is an article about professional wrestling. What do you think about that? “Well, Nuv I really don’t think I care for…”
I used to love (watching) wrestling. I grew up a Hulkamaniac, in the era of Macho Men and Warriors, both Road and Ultimate. The heroes were huge (Giant in one case), the villains were despicable (of the throw-salt-in-your-eye and rake-your-back variety), and both always had a gimmick. Hillbillies. Sheiks. Animals. Psychos. Clowns. Barbers. Mr. T. Men that were both mythical creatures and water vessels. Dudes with attack snakes. Ian’s mom. You know, the whole menagerie.
I fell out of following the WWF (I’ll always call it that, World Wildlife Foundation be damned) around the time I fell into boning chicks and smoking, and wrestling happened to begin falling into steroid scandals and shit, and we (the public in general) now knew it was *“fake.”*
*What’s with the air quotes, Nuv? Well, while it is scripted, meaning the outcome is pre-determined, they are still doing those flips and clotheslines and taking those chair shots to the head; watch Beyond The Mat, watch Mick Foley take like 400 of ‘em to the dome, then tell me it’s “fake”… Or watch this shit, where Mick falls through the roof of the cage and wrestles the rest of the match essentially unconscious, only to get thrown off the top again! Huhthefuh?! Basically wrestling is an incredibly-choreographed, improvised live comic book/soap opera, and Mick Foley is the shit, capicé? Ahem. Where was I? Oh yeah…*
I fell back into wrestling just before I crossed the gulf between my teens and twenties (That gulf was filled with blondes, both beer and broads), during the larval stages of “The Attitude Era.” In addition to the roster being different, so was everything else.
Sure, it was still a battle between good and evil, but there were a lot more shades of grey and everything was turned up to 11 in intensity and violence. Sex, sacrilege, swearing. Depraved midgets. Fat samoans wiping their asses on people’s faces. Old ladies giving birth to mannequin-hands. (Seriously. Don’t ask.) And the roster? Well, the big names had all changed. (*Well, all but one, but I’ll come back to him shortly*)
Trading in Hulk’s big foam “#1” finger for a big foam middle finger, you had the bald-headed, beer-swilling, take-no-shit Tim Stone Cold Steve Austin, whose “bottom line” was basically “fuck management.” In the other corner was said management, the reality-blurring self-lampooning boss/villain Vince McMahon, capitalizing on the real-life perceptions of him after the infamous “Montreal Screwjob” on Bret “The Hitman” Hart by playing an even bigger asshole in the ring than everyone thought he was.
In between these two ends of the spectrum were all manner of anti-heroes, heels and hoes. There was D-Generation X, pranksters and ne’er-do-wells lead by the owner of the most awesome/awful 80s-ass theme song of all times, HBK (The Heartbreak Kid) and HHH. (They also had a dude named Mr. Ass in the crew. The less said about him the better.)
There were vampires and black militants, porn stars and pimps. Vince’s (rich) son Shane McMahon was even (unnecessarily) leaping with abandon from insane heights. Sometimes through a table on top of a table into a dumpster full of thumbtacks or some shit. Or sometimes onto nothing at all. I guess he had his huuuge, rich nuts to brace his fall…
Love or stupidity, it’s hard to say, but it was fun as shit to watch, and made every Monday Night Raw must-see-TV. The live, who-the-fuck-knows-what’s-gonna-happen atmosphere. The aforementioned acrobatics. And most of all, the much improved, improvisational microphone work by funny dudes like Jericho and, the cream of the crop, grandson of legendary High Chief Peter Maivia and son of Tag Team titan Rocky Johnson (one half of the first black team to hold the Tag titles!) The People’s Champ, The Rock. I could try and tell you why The Rock is The Shit but I’d rather show you…
*That one big name I alluded to earlier, that was still around and bridged the gap between the two eras I watched, was The Undertaker, the coolest and most long-lived of the “gimmicked” wrestlers. Seriously, his entrance is goosebumps-epic, and the level at which he still performs at his age is awe-inspiring. Plus he’s got a throat-tattoo! That’s fuckin’ baaaad, jack! His reward for being a locker-room leader and a legend? His undefeated Wrestlemania streak. 19-0, more coveted than any of the title belts at this point. (I’m gonna predict 20-0 and then finally the Dead Man will rest in peace…) Bonnngggggg… Bonnngggggg…*
Wrestlemania is like the Super Bowl of wrestling’s season, where all storylines and rivalries culminate on “the grandest stage of them all.” (Yeah, they’ve been known to rock a little hyperbole here and there.) It’s also where my time as a fan culminated.
In 2003, I braved the post-9/11 American border and went to one in Seattle where both eras collided for me. Yeah, I got to see Undertaker, Jericho vs HBK, HHH, the “farewell” (in wrestling, farewells are usually Favre-style) match between Stone Cold and The Rock, the Wrestlemania debut of battle-rappin’ wrestler John Cena (more on him later) and even Brock Lesnar (botching a back flip and knocking himself out mid-match) before he was in the UFC. Sweet, eh?
IT DOESN’T MATTER IF IT WAS SWEET!
It was all about the ushers of the two eras facing off, the ultimate say-your-prayers-take your-vitamins hero and the ultimate corporate-suit-capitalist-evil-mastermind-devil-himself villain: Hulk Hogan vs Vince McMahon. 5-year-old Nuv put down his rubber Hogan figurine, took his vitamins and fixed his headband. 24-year-old Nuv put down his highball, slapped your bitch and rolled up the sleeves on his velvet turtleneck. The two high-fived, and proved Ghostbusters wrong. The streams crossed. The universe exploded.
I don’t watch wrestling anymore. The legends have long since moved on for the most part, some to obscurity or reality TV (boo!). Some to successful ventures, like Mick Foley to the NY Times Best-Sellers List and The Rock to the silver screen. (Well, maybe success is too strong a word. It’s been hit – The Rundown, The Other Guys, Faster and Fast Five – and miss – The Game Plan and Fuckin’ Tooth Fairy!? Eaaattt Shit – at best.) Some, like one of the best to ever do it, childhood hero Macho Man Randy Savage, are dead.
Sometimes I’ll catch it on while flipping channels, stop for a second and be bored by the “larger-than-life” personalities they have in the squared circle these days. “John-John Morris vs Steve Dave” and shit like that. The types of generic dudes that were no-name one-and-done opponents for Hulk to show off on and mow through back in the day, in between real matches.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I flipped past Raw and stopped just in time to hear The Rock’s entrance music kick in! Out he comes. One-time thing, probably to promote a movie. Nope. He’s hosting Wrestlemania? Whaaaa?!! And suddenly it’s trending on Twitter. And suddenly, I’m gonna be watching Wrestlemania.
‘Mania has since come and gone. For the record, it was entertaining. Undertaker and HHH put on an epic (for me) grueling (for them) match and The Rock “hosting” entailed pretty much what I wanted to see. Him talkin’ shit and performing his finishing move (think ridiculous MK fatalities, minus the gore) on John Cena – who has become the closest thing this generation has to The Rock and the other icons of yesterday – while calling him a “homeless Power Ranger” and “Yabba Dabba Bitch,” and leading the crowd in a “Frui-Ty Peb-Bles” chant. And the next night, on Monday Night Raw, The Rock came back out to challenge Cena to a match… in one year… in his hometown of Miami, at…
(The ref counts. 1… 2… shoulder up!)
And just like that, they got me again…
Wrestlemania XXVIII airs TODAY! Want to see more Nuv/WWF madness? Check out his ode to the late, great Macho Man Randy Savage here. Ooooooohh Yeeeahh!! And before you go, feast your eyes on this amazing mock poster for WM28 by the NEW “Mr. Wonderful,” Paul Griffin!