While perusing the world wide internets, it seems we have collectively stumbled upon the “Um…actually” guy, sort of made famous by Oscar from “The Office”. You know that guy, attempting to fact check people when no one asked, or possibly but not certainly “mansplaining” to a woman. Apparently, this person has discovered the internet to construct their own narrative, and you get to know about it, free of charge!
I wasn’t quite that guy in the late 90’s, because dial up internet and ghetto websites didn’t allow one to “know everything”, well unless you are a Facebook doctor or lawyer in 2020, then of course proceed. Nonetheless, there were enough barely formed websites out there, that had all the secret scoops and tips for Pro Wrestling. It was literally a bunch of message boards about where the story lines were going, who was really hurt and who wasn’t, what happened at recent shows. It was true enough, that one could follow it and “be in the know”. This was fun, because those people that ate up all the story lines and whatnot were called “marks”. They would say silly inane things like “The Undertaker is really evil!” Shut up, you dumb mark we would all say. And so it went.
Gotta start somewhere
I watched primarily WWF from 1997 after my friend introduced me, so basically sophomore to junior year of high school, because that’s what the popular kids did. The best thing about catching on in 1997 was that WWF was entering the “Attitude Era”, and I caught it about a year ahead of time. Stone Cold had just become insanely popular, The Rock was a few months from blowing up, Shawn Michaels who I would argue is the most talented in ring worker in history was about to get hurt, which allowed Triple H to eventually rise up the ranks.
I taped all the Monday Night Raw’s, and all the Pay-Per-Views. Like a stack of VHS tapes a mile high all succinctly labeled, that unfortunately got thrown out after college. I stopped watching in 1999, probably because I lost interest and I started working at Walgreen’s like a straight up boss, and it definitely wasn’t because I had 7 girlfriends at once. In that time span though my best friend and I would come up with a “scheme”, which basically meant I would stand outside the Rosemont Horizon during a House show (an untelevised event) and literally wait in line for tickets to the next live Monday Night Raw or PPV. This worked, because we got kickass seats near the aisle. Meanwhile, my friend stayed in and watched the show. Hey…wait a minute….
Side Note: If you didn’t try making your own version of wrestling in your basement with couch cushions with your friends…then good for you.
Monday Night Wars
As mentioned, WWF at the time had some good talent on the roster, but from about 1996 to 1998, they were at the mercy of the now defunct WCW. These were also called the “Monday Night Wars”, where the two promotions would try to one up each other for ratings. (Apparently, that’s what people did before smart phones twenty plus years ago.) The WWF kind of straggled along in the mid 90’s as it looked to transition from goofy characters like I remember as a kid like hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior, to actual story lines, some good, some not so good.
WCW was actually a byproduct of numerous southern wrestling territories, collectively named under the umbrella as the National Wrestling Alliance from the 1960’s to 1980’s. Therefore, WCW had a real southern flair, and was considered “real” wrestling, using wrestlers real names, and no silly gimmicks. WCW was also owned by deep pockets Ted Turner. Turner would pay former WWF wrestlers twice as much to wrestle half as much.
Meanwhile, WCW got their ratings boom by conjuring up the angle of the N.W.O. They were like the “bad guys” trying to ruin the company, but behind the scenes they were just in the ear of the head writers. WCW stole the idea of the N.W.O. from a wrestling outfit in Japan, and this would never fly in 2020, people would catch in like a week on twitter. In 1996 however, it was almost full proof, who in the hell would know any different? Unfortunately, WCW was poorly ran, didn’t have the creative story lines, and eventually kind of ran itself into the ground amazingly, and the WWF scooped it up in 2000.
“Tiiiiiime…is a flat circle….”
So here we are twenty years later, and I find out there is an app for the WWE, and it’s free during the “nationwide quarantine”. After taking 15 minutes to peruse the menu, and if you wanna talk about a nostalgia time warp from just over twenty years ago, then here it is at your feet. History documentaries, podcast interviews, info on everything you ever wanted to know behind the scenes, not to mention every PPV and Monday Night Raw. I have watched a few matches I remember, but really, I’m here for the history of it. I watched about 8 hours of the Monday Night Wars during one week, and the “Broken Skull Sessions” where Steve Austin interviews guys that he worked with in the late 90s and 2000’s is pretty dope and fresh as well.
We get it wrestling is “fake” but if someone has heard of you as a pro wrestler, it means you have tremendous talent, are athletic and or outside the box strong, you can “work a match”, garner crowd reactions, develop a personality, and probably most importantly “work the mic”. There are some not very good wrestlers who had charisma out their ass. I think of Hulk Hogan, who was actually awful inside the ring. The opposite would be Bret Hart, who was a masterful in ring technician with the personality of a doorknob. And sometimes, you just wrestled until you were 58, doing the same match over and over again. See Below.
If you one has top shelf athleticism and a personality, their apex of that is probably Shawn Michaels, or The Rock. You wonder why the latter is a million-dollar actor today, there ya go. Hell, some guys blow up from a saying they gave in an interview, and the rest is history. Stone Cold in 1996 and Triple H in 1999 respectively, were just giving off the cuff interviews and, next thing ya know, “Austin 3:16″ vaults the company into the stratosphere, and Triple H/”The Game”, pretty much carried it in the 2000’s.
Fun fact: Triple H is married to WWE owner Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie. If you were in high school and didn’t think Stephanie McMahon was a little cutie patooty, then you simply weren’t American. Way to go, you communist.
I haven’t watched any wrestling since maybe early 2000, but the WWE app has been great for putting those fringe pieces back together, and solidifying the ones that I saw. I’ve come to appreciate even more so how these performers work a match and their strategy behind it. (I try to catch when the whisper the next set of moves in the match to each other, and it’s still tough to see). The best ones really treated it like a craft.
I’ve also gotten caught up in all these documentaries how they openly talk about their experiences in the business, who was actually friends with who, who worked the best matches, and the lengths they would go physically to put on insane Pay Per View matches. I know smart phones are ruining society and damn that technology, but bro, WWE network! It’s great!