I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a huge wrestling fan. Ever since my grandmother introduced me to Saturday Night Main Event when I was a child, I have been hooked on professional wrestling and, more importantly, World Wrestling Entertainment. That said, I have had an on again/off again relationship with sports entertainment. I watched most of Hulkamania from 1984 to 1990 then stopped watching when I was in high school because I wanted to be cool and missed the wretched early ’90s period.
I picked it up again in 1996 to watch my childhood hero, Shawn Michaels, become a legend and stayed a fan for the entire Attitude era. For the next 10 years, I experienced the Monday Night Wars, went to ECW matches in high school gyms and waited in line for hours outside of Continental Airlines Arena with my saint of a wife to get ticket to Monday Night RAW.
In 2008, around the time WWE moved to a PG rating and started spinning its wheels, I slowly stopped watching. It wasn’t that I didn’t love wrestling, it’s just that the roster at the time wasn’t doing anything for me, none of my friends watched it any more, the storylines where meandering and life caught up with me.
I missed the whole Daniel Bryan era, CM Punk’s pipe bomb, Edge’s retirement, Shawn Michael’s second coming, Jeff Hardy’s championship run, the birth of NXT and the rise of the Authority. I continued to watch Wrestlemania, but I didn’t have a connection to the new wrestlers.
Rematch of the Century
Then last year, around the time of Wrestlemania, I realized that my friends were quietly watching wrestling again. I tuned into Wrestlemania and was blown away by the pacing of the matches, the new roster of characters and the return of Brock Lesnar. I liked what I saw and started hosting monthly PPV parties like I did in college. That turned into me watching RAW weekly, which turned into me watching NXT, which turned into me watching Lucha Underground and whatever else the WWE Network threw at me.
Last night, was the one year anniversary since I started watching wrestling again. Like everyone else, I am sick of seeing Roman Reigns being shoved down our throats, but I also realize that it’s just one sour plot line amongst a largely flawless show. Sure, I can reminisce about the Attitude era, but if you actually go back and watch those shows, there were maybe one or two good matches on a pay-per-view.
Today, there might be one or two bad matches on a live special. The wrestlers are more competitive and athletic than ever (no Great Khali or Sid Vicious plodding around the ring), and a good chunk of them are forged in indie leagues and allowed to bring their style with them to WWE. The storylines are still a little clunky, but the product is definitely entertaining and keeps my attention week after week. Most importantly, it’s introduced me to NXT and promotions like Lucha Underground that allow me to feed my addiction for pro-wrestling while reserving WWE for my sports entertainment fix. This is the best of all worlds.
WWE: Worth Another Shot
If you’ve taken a break from pro-wrestling, consider stepping back in. Subscribe to the WWE Network (it’s worth it just for NXT) and start watching the recent product. If you are a stick-in-the-mud curmudgeon or are on the fence, try watching WWE with a group of fans and invite friends that might have never been exposed to wrestling before. It’s a breath of fresh air to see noobs watching wrestling for the first time, overcome the wrestling is fake stigma and get sucked into the storylines and action. Also, go see a live show. NXT is not going to be performing in small venues for long and it’s amazing to sit in the front few rows of a WWE product, surrounded by a much smaller group of obsessed fans and seeing quality wrestling up close.
This is a great time to be a wrestling fan and the last 12 months have re-opened my eyes to a world that I missed for far too long. The best part is that I’m 38 and don’t have to care what others think. I can just love wrestling and hopefully pass it down to the next generation.
BTW, I realize that this article reads like an advertorial for the WWE Network, but I swear it’s just me marking out for a product that I’ve loved since I was five.