I wanted to give a quick introduction to myself as I won't be at the class more than once or twice, but hope to be a regular contributer to this blog. My name is Joshua Shea and I've had an interesting journey down the road of professional wrestling and hope to be able to share some stories and knowledge about the medium.
I think there are four categories that my pro wrestling life fall into: Fan, Crazy Fan/Scholar, Participant, and once again, Fan.
Like most people who can remember independent TV stations, I discovered wrestling one Saturday morning in 1982 or 1983, when I was six or seven. I enjoyed it enough, but when it really started playing to me with the Hulkamania era was when I completely got on board and bought the T-shirts and the action figures and those horrible ice cream bars simply because they featured the WWF. I was this way until 1994.
After I graduated from high school, it occured to me that I could go see live shows wherever I wanted. I took a year off before college and I decided I wanted to see a lot of wrestling. I attended some indy shows, but really loved following the WWF. I would travel to Pay-Per-Views and then travel to Raw on Monday night and their syndicated TV taping on Tuesday night. Since this was a down cycle, getting to wrestlers was very easy and I got to know some of the crew as well. They'd fill me in on things like what hotels everyone was staying at (so I could claim to be crew and get a discount.)
When I finally went off to school, I realized that I could exploit the "scholarly" world and convince two of my teachers to give me independent study, which just allowed me even more access to the wrestling world. I was invited into indy locker rooms and was able to get backstage at WWF shows easier than ever. It reached the point that I had an 8" x 10" photograph of me and just about every person on the roster autographed. Most of the wrestlers and crew knew me by name and thought I was insane. However, at the end of the semester, I created "The Pro Wrestling Thesis". Now, it's a horribly outdated, mostly useless research piece. For it's time though, it was actually one of the few scholarly works on wrestling that existed.
Through a series of circumstances that are too long to explain, I left college and went to work at a newspaper in my hometown. One day, a press release about a new independent group came across the fax. I grabbed it and called to see if there was a story there. We got to talking and I told him about my past and he asked me to check out one of his shows. I did, and it was horrible and about 20 years behind its time. We talked and I came on board as the assistant booker to Mr. USA Tony Atlas and as the heel color commentator on the TV show. Atlas and I clashed and the whole thing came to a head on an episode of MTV's "True Life". I won't get into what happened, but Atlas was gone and I was allowed to book a fairly well-funded indy. I also continued to play a heel commentator and after we stopped producing TV, became a heel manager. It was a great time being involved and doing some creative writing, but then the owner decided to pack up his tent after three years of not making money. He sold the company to myself and two wrestlers. We agreed that they would handle booking and I handle promoting. It was a miserable year as we constantly butted heads, they turned me into a babyface with no creative control, and I knew I was putting in the most hours advertising and promoting everything. Two weeks before 9/11, I quit.
I took a year off from everything wrestling, and was planning on completely staying away. However, when you get married and have kids, you stay at home a lot more, and you watch TV a lot more. I slowly started watching Raw again and haven't stopped. I miss having real alternatives, but if I didn't like WWE programming that much, I could change the channel.
I'm probably never going to be more than a fan again, but after seeing how the then-WWF ran from the inside at shows, and being part of a fairly successful independent organization makes me feel lucky. I think I was too early to be a real scholar examining wrestling, and since I wasn't a TV writer, was never going to get a job with WWE. I'm not bitter though. It was a manic, unpredictable, fun ride...and isn't that what wrestling is supposed to be?