Monday, February 12, 2007

In The Beginning

My earliest memory of the WWF was a match that took place 17 years ago between The Rockers and the Orient Express in Wrestlemania VI. I remember watching the tape, since we waited until it came out on video, with my dad who was a big fan of wrestling. I soon grew to love watching wrestling short after this encounter. Eventually my older sister and two younger brothers would gain interest as well. Even though my mom did not care for wrestling, she still allowed us to watch at such a young age.

The primary reason for my interest in wrestling, in my opinion, was my father. I looked up to him and enjoyed spending time with him, so it was only natural that I would take interest in the same pastimes as him. Every week we would watch WWF Superstars together and follow the storylines closely. We would also watch the pay-per-view events whenever we could at my grandpa's house since he would always order them. I can remember watching Royal Rumble early in the year, Wrestlemania in the spring, King of the Ring in the summer, Summerslam in the summer, Survivor Series around Thanksgiving, and every once in a while an In Your House event. Some of the best memories I have were watching these events with my dad and brothers.

Every character in the WWF was very unique and colorful. My favorite wrestler was perhaps the most colorful, literally. My dad and I were huge Ultimate Warrior fans. Everything about him was bad ass: his name, his theme music, the way he would run into the ring, his colorful outfits with streamers attached to his elbows and boots, his face paint, and his finishing move, the gorilla press slam. The two significant events that made him one of the greatest wrestlers, in my opinion, was becoming the second person to bodyslam Andre the Giant and beating Hulk Hogan in the main event of Wrestlemania VI to become the first wrestler to hold the Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships at the same time. Whenever Ultimate Warrior came back to wrestling after a long break my dad and I would get so excited. I remember in 1996 when it was announced that the Ultimate Warrior was coming back to the WWF and would be wrestling at Wrestlemania XII, which my mom and dad had tickets for, my dad yelled out from the living room, "He's Back, He's Back!!". My mom had just got out of the shower and immediately ran to the living room screaming "Who's Burned??", thinking that my dad was saying "He's Burned, He's Burned!!", referring to one of us kids being on fire. Everyone other than my mom had a good laugh about this.

There are many more memories of wrestling that come to mind but I only discussed the earliest and most significant ones that I could remember. I'm hoping that this class will help bring back more great memories I have of wrestling.

What made my dad yell "He's Back"


Sam Ford said...

We hope to draw on some of your experience with pro wrestling as the semester goes along as well. I think, in your introduction, you have hit on another key aspect of pro wrestling viewing for many: family ties. With a TV industry that's hung up in target demographics, wrestling is another form of entertainment that often develops along family links. My cousins and neighbors started my love for wrestling. I was another one of those guys like Brian without cable TV, so my neighbors let me come over and watch wrestling every Monday night, and my cousins would mail me copies of PPVs. Hey, it may have been piracy, but WWE made a lot more money than they lost on my getting hooked on pro wrestling.

Alex Maki said...

I, too, started watching wrestling through my dad. My dad used to go to events in the Detroit area where he watched some of his favorite wrestlers to this day; i.e. Pampero Firpo, Bobo Brazil, and The Sheik. (Side note: I found a tape online this past year and gave it to him for Christmas, he was shocked).

As the Ultimate Warrior fan that you were, I'd say to stay away from the WWE produced DVD "Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior", but then again, it was a pretty entertaining DVD and I watch it again and again occasionally.

Mike W. said...

Having been snowed in the past few days, I tend to play an old wrestling video in the corner of my desktop while working on papers. This time it was (without reading this blog yet) Wrestlemania VI.

I have to say that something really clicked in the Koko B Ware/Rick "The Model" Martel match. I never cared for either guy, but the actual wrestling in the match was amazing. It made me wonder if both wrestling promotions are changing their styles so far from what this match shows that we end up with a high freuqency of matches where guys get hurt. Perhaps this is why active wrestlers like Finlay and Chris Benoit are so enjoyable to watch, and come off as having a unique "style" - they're really just aping good old-school grappling.

The Ultimate Warrior is a classic case of the merging of realworld identity and wrestling gimmick. The man's legal name is "Warrior" (could be one or two, I don't know). He promotes his character and gimmick, which hasn't been in wrestling in a decade. He has a podcast on his website (, where he talks about current events, but seems to "stay in character" the whole time. He even growls and snorts the same way he did when promoting a match for the WWF. It's fascinating, to say the least.

I'd also disagree with Alex's suggestion to stay away from the WWE DVD. If you're a fan of him, it won't matter. Contrast the biography on this video with the biography on the Bret Hart DVD; it's a clear indication that a message is being sent about each person, and that since the WWE owns almost every bit of memorable wrestling footage, they can put out a video about you without your involvement. Your involvement, however, will determine how they write history with regard to you.

I can't tell you not to see it; it's like telling a liberal to not listen to Sean Hannity, or a conservative to not listen to...well, whoever's on the radio anymore who's a liberal. Ultimately, whether you think the guy is a legend or a goofball (and I fall in the latter category), it's hard to deny, in either case, that the WWE had an agenda and point to make when producing this video.

Sam Ford said...

I have thought about this several times, Mike, especially in regard to high spots. The high spots which people risk their health for mean much more when they are used sparingly, and I think WWE seems to be consciously returning to that sort of style after so many people end up having to have surgery on their necks and backs.

For me, while I enjoy a really physical match, I think a more logically booked wrestling match is better than what is often called a "spot fest."

Haven't seen that Ware/Martel match for a long time, but I think Rick Martel is somewhat underrated as both an in-ring performer and a character. He was on top of the AWA toward the end and had a decent run in WWE and even a small run in WCW before getting injured, but he always had a good look and was pretty good in the ring.