|The Rock and some unfortunate fellow|
Photo © 1999 WWF, Inc.
Look, before anyone pipes up to make fun of wrestling, I'm telling you to shut your mouth or I'll lay the smacketh down on all your candy asses. And don't think I can't, Jabroni.
I'm proud to say I love wrestling. Well, maybe not proud, but I'm not embarrassed. I grew up on Vince McMahon's empire known as the World Wrestling Federation. My extensive knowledge on the subject would astound any 12 year old. I am that damn good. Suffice it to say, the WWF is a spectacle that has grown to mammoth proportions in American culture. Contrary to popular belief, the average New York City wrestling fan doesn't sport a mullet, three teeth and a flannel shirt. The average wrestling fan is just that average.
Saturday, January 27, 2001, I trek to Madison Square Garden in the company of a person who shares my love and its history, the younger brother, the incorrigible Pablo Fury. It's our first-ever live wrestling event. We are the oldest non-parents visible. This is beginning to get weird.
We find our seats. Not bad, although the ring looks much smaller than it does on TV. Where are all the signs that people hold up? How come there's no fancy entrance ramp or giant screens showing the action? How come there's no one doing commentary at ringside? What the heck is that smell?
Apart from the smell's source, the answers to the above questions slowly dawned on us. We're not here for Monday night "RAW Is WAR," which is live, because it's Saturday, not Monday. We're not here for "Smackdown!," because that's taped on a Tuesday night and aired on a Thursday. We're not here for Sunday night's "Heat" because there's no banner around the ring that says "HEAT" in flaming letters. What the hell are we here for?
"Um, Jeanne, how come I don't see any TV cameras?" Pablo said slightly annoyed.
"Oh, Pablo, they must be here somewhere. It's just that we can't see.... Where the hell are those damn TV cameras?"
Lights go down. Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" is pumped in at ear-busting volume.
Music plays an enormous part in psyching up the crowd. Example: The Undertaker came out on his Harley to the tune of Limp Bizkit's "Rollin'." All the kiddies and their parents started shouting the whole "Rollin' rollin' rollin'" part, grabbing a pretend steering wheel and doing the Fred Durst-dance. In between matches, there was a music video that paired Triple H, the WWF's favorite and most incredibly ripped villain, with Eminem's "What I Am." And once again, the kids knew the chorus and rapped as bad-ass as their parents allowed. Note to manic Kiss fans: Heed to the children born under the sign of the WWF, for they shall kick your painted asses.
Hey, look! There's the ring announcer, Howard Finkle! Wow, he's really balding. But that voice, that quintessential ring-announcer voice brought me right back to the days of Saturday morning wrestling and Apple Jacks. Howard just wanted to tell us the rules of crowd behavior, and to tell us that the evening was sponsored by a certain peanut-butter-filled candy bar. Obviously bursting with excitement, Pablo Fury screamed "Peanut butter rules!" at the top of his mighty lungs. Now everyone in our section knew who the obligatory annoying people were. And they also knew we were too old to be the annoying people. Our reign was cut short, however, not because we were replaced by more annoying people, but because two little girls and their parents made their way into the seats right next to Pablo, who was forced to "be nice."
Howard introduced the WWF "commissioner," Debra a woman with fake breasts that could've saved the Titanic from sinking. Debra made allusions to her "puppies" (the floaters, folks), and the crowd hooted and cheered. Yup, this is wrestling. As she introduced the first match of the evening, I'll admit, I got damn excited. Something about the way all the kids around me started flipping out and loving life made my brain very happy. Weird.
Debra (Photo © WWF, Inc.)|
Here's what I learned from my first live WWF event: the wrestlers are clowns. Not in the sense that you may think I mean. Since we can't see their facial expressions or hear any trash talking, their body language has to speak for them. Wild arm gestures, head shaking and taunting play a huge roll. As a result, the live action can get a bit too dramatic, especially when you don't have the distraction of commentators putting their two cents in.
Here's another thing I learned: these guys get the shit kicked out of them for real. Whether you want to believe wrestling's injuries are real, I can tell you that I heard the crack of a size 13-boot to a human face. It ain't pretty. I watched with a knot in my stomach as huge, beefy men lifted their opponents over their heads and forcibly slammed them down like rag dolls. And for those nonbelievers that think the ring is padded, it sure as hell doesn't look so cushy in person. When a guy got dropped, it sounded like he landed on planks of wood. I'll stick to my desk job, thank you very much.
I won't bore you with the list of matches that we saw, but I'll toss out some names for those in the know: Right to Censor, 2 Cool, Dudley Boys, Acolytes, Hardy Boys and Lita (note to Jeff Hardy: Do me), Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Test and Billy Gun. But the big stars came at the end with an eight-man tag team: Rikishi, Haku, Chris Benoit and Triple H versus Kane, the Undertaker, the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. When those last four men came out, I thought some of the kids were going to pass out from shock. All the sugar in Wonka-world couldn't fuel their rockets like the Rock or Stone Cold. These men are deities; they don't have to do anything. They just have to be. Yikes, I'm getting weird again.
During the madness, I decided that if we want our children to experience basic tolerance, we should take them to a WWF event. Paradox extrodinaire, I know. But right in front of my eyes, boys and girls of every race and class formed bonds over their wrestling heroes. Families were united. I mean, there's something incredibly special about a mother and her two daughters barking "Angle Sucks!" in unison.
Send this page to a friend Join our mailing list Current Stories Classifieds