It’s Still Real to Me, Dammit!

For years the world of professional wrestling has been a “guilty pleasure.” Admitting that I partake in watching WWE felt like admitting that my imaginary friend still exists. At the age of 34. (I wonder, though, if the imaginary friend would’ve aged with me…? Do they also grow old? Or do they stay the same age waiting for the next child to befriend them? Whoa, I just creeped myself out a little bit…)

Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who didn’t like wrestling (amongst the boys, that is). My friends and I would make championship belts out of poster boards and defend our titles. Belt vs. belt. Title vs. title. Champion vs. champion. The winner would walk away with BOTH belts, leaving the loser to come up with another championship title and a belt that accompanied said title. I remember around 9 or 10, writing a letter to Hulk Hogan after Earthquake left Hogan for dead. I was legitimately concerned for Hulk’s well-being. Who else was going to tell me to say my prayers and eat my vitamins? (This was before I realized that wrestling wasn’t real and this storyline was so that Hogan could take vacation)

I eventually grew out of WWE until my junior year in high school. That’s right. 17 years old. Part of it was that I was lonely. I just moved out of Santa Barbara, leaving all of my friends behind. It was summer, so I had no school and therefore no way of making new friends in Hawaii. Turning on wrestling on Monday nights felt familiar.

But what really reeled me back to wrestling was the storyline in WCW with nWo (New World Order — you may have to google some things if you’re really interested….) and Sting. Though I was a huge WWF fan, Sting always had a special place in my wrestling heart. The blonde surfer with the face paint. He was cool and more understandable (speech wise) than the Ultimate Warrior. Sting declared himself a free-agent and traded in his colorful garb for the Brandon Lee’s Crow-like persona. And. It. Was. Awesome.

I was intrigued by the storyline and couldn’t wait for Monday nights. Then WCW ran itself into the ground by not pushing its younger stars and recycling the same old stories and the same old (both in age and character) wrestlers (a note our local churches can learn from). WWF once again dominanted wrestling with the Attitude Era, led by Stone Cold Steve Austin and his FU antics towards Vince McMahon. Then came the Rock. Edge and Christian. Hardy Boyz. The Dudleys. DX. I mean, in college, we’d gather in the dorm lounge and watch wrestling and guys would flock to the lounge. Some would be passing by and would be glued to the screen. We all saw one another every Monday night with at least one new guy joining us. Girlfriends were obligated to stare at half naked men throwing themselves all over the ring. There were strange male bro bonding going on over the sports entertainment industry.

From then, I’d casually watch wrestling. I think mainly, because I was in seminary and we didn’t have cable in the seminary dorms. Well, the TV in the lounge did — but I had a sneaking suspicion that people wouldn’t bond over wrestling. Especially since the average age of seminarians when I was there was like 50.

It wasn’t until recently (like a year or two ago) where my interest in WWE suddenly spiked again. I don’t know what caused it but it led to DVRing Monday Night Raw so that I could keep up. I’m your typical Internet fan that throws face, babyface, heel, shoot, work, kayfabe without thinking twice; understands why Cena is booed by everyone over 12, and so forth. I know that wrestling is real as Ted Cruz’s chance of becoming POTUS in 2016. But I enjoy it. Hell, I love it.

And how surprised was I to hear that Sting signed on to WWE. 14 years after WCW was absorbed by WWE, Sting was finally going to be on WWE. On top of that, he was going to wrestle HHH at Wrestlemania. I. Was. Sold. Sure, he’s like 55 now — and I was a bit disheartened to see that he was balding — but hey, Sting is in the WWE! So for the first time in my life, I was going to watch a pay-per-view. I mean, I had to watch Sting wrestle at Wrestlemania. If Michael Jordan was making a comeback, I’d have to watch that game — so there was no question, I was watching Wrestlemania. But there was absolutely no way I was going to pay the $50 for a pay-per-view. Thank goodness for WWE Network. For 9.99 a month. Which includes the pay-per-views. And you can cancel any time. Sold. I subscribed to the network a few days before Wrestlemania 31 and caught up on a lot of the pay-per-view matches I never saw. Most of my time was spent watching Money in the Bank and TLC (Table, Ladders, Chairs) matches. Some crazy stuff.

And I watched Wrestlemania 31. All of it. And it was awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed every card. Sting lost to HHH, but we finally got to see DX vs. nWo! Who cares it was 14 years later and they were all in their 50’s? Who cares that Scott Hall is so damaged that he probably couldn’t pull off the Razor’s Edge even if he wanted to? Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Then we had the Rock and Ronda Rousey! And the crowd chanting, “Ronda’s gonna kill you!” to Stephanie McMahon. The main event (Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns) was far more interesting and captivating than anyone would’ve thought with Rollins winning the title. And the following Monday Night, when Lesnar destroyed the set, announcers, and camera man followed by the crowd’s reaction — there was absolutely no way that he was ever going to be the heel that WWE wants us to believe him to be. Wrestlemania 31 is hailed as being one of the best Wrestlemanias ever instantly affirming spending 9.99 (I just have to remember to cancel my subscription).

So there you have it. I wasted space and your time professing my admiration for WWE. And now, I got the little one sort of interested in wrestling — although I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. He wants to wrestle, so I pick him up and power slam him on to the bed. I look at WWE and all I can say is, “I can’t quit you.” (Although, I have no qualms canceling WWE Network. Maybe until Summerslam in August…) People will go out of their way to let me know that wrestling isn’t real. “You know it’s all fake, right?”

To which I reply, “It’s still real to me, dammit!”:

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