By: Slade Mercer
I first fell in love with professional wrestling at 9 years old.
I grew up in New Plymouth, New Zealand. The population at the time was 69,700. It wasn’t a small town, but it wasn’t a big city. A lot of my childhood was spent riding my bike with friends, going to the cinema or going to the local swimming pool.
I also watched wrestling. For the kids whose families could afford pay television, they could watch the (then) WWF. However on free to air television, from around 11pm onwards, WCW graced New Zealand television screens. Now, any self respecting parent would never let their child stay up until 11pm on a Friday night to watch pro wrestling – especially not the type of content that WCW and WWF began to move towards in the late 90s – and so, my parents sent me to bed at 8pm.
I would wait until my parents would go to bed, give it another 15 or 20 minutes to let them fall asleep, and then creep into the lounge, turn on the television with the volume set to 1, and sat cross legged inches from the screen enthralled at what I saw.
Professional wrestling appeals to a certain audience, and subsects within that audience appreciate it for different reasons. Most kids absolutely adore professional wrestling television. Its all bright lights, fireworks, cool music, larger than life men and women and people beating each other up – what’s not to love?
The first match I ever saw featured a wrestler called Super Calo. The commentator explained he was a luchador, and the cultural importance of the wrestling mask in lucha libre and to Mexican culture on the whole. Super Calo was a rapper, his mask was made to look like he was wearing a pair of sunglasses. The things he did in that ring hooked me immediately, and I crept out of bed every night after.
From 9 to about 13 I was a WCW fan through and through. I watched Rey Mysterio battle Eddie Guerrro at Halloween Havoc 97. I watched the NWO split into the NWO Wolfpac and NWO Black and White. I Saw Sting descend from the rafters. I saw a 20 man cruiserweight battle royal won by Ciclope, only to reveal himself as Dean Malenko to then beat Chris Jericho for the championship.I watched the rise of Goldberg. I saw the fingerpoke of doom. I saw Rey Mysterio remove his mask. I saw the Wall.
And then seemingly all of a sudden, it wasn’t cool. Not because of The Wall, though maybe a little, as he was a part of the new look 2000s WCW that was beginning to be on its last legs.
My family still couldn’t afford pay television, so I hadn’t experienced the rise of the WWF Attitude era. I had no idea about TV ratings and didn’t understand anything about Mick Foley or bums in seats. What I knew was WCW wasn’t exciting anymore. I knew that Chris Jericho, Eddie Guererro, Dean Malenko and others had jumped ship to the WWF. Maybe if I’d had a means to watch it I would have tuned in, but I didn’t.
WCWs dying days coincided with me becoming a teenager. I think most kids who enjoy pro wrestling go through this – evidenced by the large number of fans at shows and people in the real world who will say something to me like ‘Oh like WWF? I used to watch that when I was a kid!’ I grew out of it. The years of hearing ‘That stuff is fake’, or ‘I can’t believe you still watch that ‘ or ‘The Rock is my cousin’ (I grew up in New Zealand, remember) had eventually become too much to push back against, coupled with the WCW product not being much fun or giving any ammo to fight back against these jabs, you relent and you conform.
And for a few years, I’d forgotten all about wrestling. I had moved on. I moved onto video games, skateboarding, and skateboarding video games (shout out Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2).
That was until a few years later, when a couple friends at high school were telling me about this new guy on Smackdown called Brock Lesnar…
Part 2 coming soon..