Childhood memories are the sweetest as the innocence that you possessed makes it a pure joy to remember those events that made your life happy at one time.
Whether it be revisiting those silly old Swat Kats cartoons after a decade or reliving the songs and the awful dance steps that greeted your TV screens that time. For me, as a kid growing up in the late nineties and early 21st century, TV was always about the WWF (Get the E out!!!).
Those were the days of cable television and WWF Raw used to be telecasted in India a week post to the actual live event. Me, with just the Doordarshan connection at the time, used to listen to my schoolmates raving about guys like the Hitman and Hulk Hogan.
They used to say that Hitman was the best – I believed so too, not even knowing that his real name was Bret Hart.
Finally, a few years later, cable television found its way to my home and I started watching WWF shows on TV. It was quite easy for a nine-year-old kid to hook on to as it had the best part of every movie that I had loved: The fight scenes – and in such colossal quantity too.
That was enough for a shy kid from a single child family who was neither athletically nor artistically gifted – hours of watching Raw was supplemented with having wrestling matches with pillows and among tiny action figures. It was such a great time!!!
I still remember the first match I watched – two good looking wrestlers with long blond hair wrestling two average sized guys and another team comprising of two fat guys – each team were supposed to consist of brothers.
They had something called as the tag team titles suspended above the ring and used tables, ladders and chairs in their matches.
Finally, one of the average sized guys was left hanging on to the belts fifteen feet above the ring as the table was removed from under his feet. Soon, my favourites – the blondes, launched a ladder on to the gut of the ‘Hangman’, throwing him to the ground and climbed up the ladder to successfully collect the golds.
Edge and Christian had just retained their tag team titles at TLC I aginst the Hardys and the Dudleys. Years later, I would realise that the show was Summerslam 2000 and the match had laid the cornerstone for a new breed of tag team wrestling.
I would also become a great fan of another long haired wrestler known as Y2J.
I would spend time trying to master his finishing manoeuvre during school breaks with a few of my equally obsessed classmates and realised that the Walls of Jericho was an easy hold to trap your opponent into and that leaning back would cause genuine pain to my unfortunate ‘training partner’.
I was never a great fan of the so-called main eventers of the time – The Rock seemed cocky and won a hell of a lot of matches – which as a regular supporter of the underdog, I resented; Stone Cold was injured at the time; Kurt Angle was obnoxious and was trying to woo noble Triple H’s wife (yuck!! – I thought then); The Undertaker and Kane were cool, though.
However, almost as soon as the fun began, it was taken away from me – the cable we were subscribing to no longer aired the channel broadcasting WWF. I found an alternative, though.
Cartoon Network would mysteriously disappear every night at around 9 and something called TNT would take its place. I found that wrestling was on that channel too – However, the action did not seem that interesting, people didn’t seem to be trying hard enough and the promos were lazy.
I stopped watching WCW Nitro almost immediately after the chance encounter.
After three years of being in the dark about my favourite sport – the only exceptions being some large size posters of Stone Cold and Kurt Angle I found at a local shop and the Superstar cards given out by some chewing gum company – I saw the news of a new channel called Ten Sports coming to cable and with great elation, I realised that WWF was one of its featured products.
The happy days were back.
Two hours of Raw on Mondays would be followed by two hours of SmackDown on Tuesdays (both a week or two after it got aired in the US), not to mention one hour shows every other day of the week with the likes of Bottomline, Afterburn, Experience and their poorer cousins – Velocity and Heat.
I had realised a long time ago that the action was scripted, but I didn’t care. Hey, as far as I was concerned, so were the movies.
The internet revolution had slowly crept into my area by then and I found that there was an official website for the WWF – which had become WWE by now – called us.wwe.com.
Results of matches would be available as soon as it took place – thus, I finally had the inside knowledge of what would take place on TV before it actually did. It was the first time that I felt the power of the IWC – Internet Wrestling Community.
Many websites were available, I realised, which gave in-depth analysis and strongly worded opinions of the product. I came to the startling conclusion that many wrestlers who were actually losing almost all their matches were in that condition because some force known as the ‘WWE Creative’ had considered them to be not good enough.
I also realised that Vince McMahon now effectively owned wrestling in the United States and that people he deemed unfit for his organisation would struggle to earn a comfortable living, reduced to wrestling in small stadia and filthy gymnasiums.
Also, it seemed that my first hero – Bret Hart – had retired from in-ring action and that McMahon had played tic tac toe with his career during something called ‘The Montreal Screwjob’.
Vince McMahon, it also seemed, had been dragged into a court case for allegedly providing steroids to wrestlers – people like that were banned from athletics and cycling, I realised with a shudder.
In short, I learned that the three letter company that I had grown to love during my formative years was nothing more than a cold-hearted, egocentric machine whose only focus was money.
Even though hurt, I could still accept that too. However, what I could not comprehend was the fact that my heroes were mere mortals and many of them were villains in real life or at least, weren’t whom I expected them to be.
It seemed that Hulk Hogan didn’t want anyone else occupying the main event and that had led to the downfall of the company whose show I had rejected as too boring – WCW.
Edge would betray the trust of one of his opponents in TLC I – (and real life close friend) – by having an affair with Matt Hardy’s partner Lita behind his back. Not only would Edge be unpunished, he would go on to win the World Championship while Hardy would be initially fired from the company.
It seemed ‘Noble’ Triple H had cheated on his then girlfriend Chyna with the daughter of the boss and was now married to Stephanie McMahon, owning a share of the company.
Christian and Chris Jericho would leave the company soon – the former would take his unappreciated talent to TNA Wrestling and become a World Champion there where as Y2J would turn his back on wrestling fans ( I thought, as a disgruntled Jerichoholic) and go on touring with his talentless band Fozzy.
Chris Benoit would murder his wife and kid and commit suicide. His friend, Eddie Guerrero would pass away earlier that year as well.
Test, another one of my favourites – mainly due to that long blond hair – would be found dead in his home.
In addition to all these, the once entertaining storylines would be replaced with boring and convoluted ones. Slowly but surely, I was getting tired of watching the WWE.
There would be some incidents that would reignite my interest – like the returns of Jericho and Christian as well as CM Punk’s highly entertaining promos. However, as they all faded into the horizon – some pursuing other options, some pushed out by backstage problems, I stopped enjoying the show as a fan.
The current extended three-hour episodes of Raw didn’t help matters either.
Many a time, I would promise myself that I wouldn’t watch the show again; but every time I would renege on the promise a few weeks/months later. I started viewing the show with the eyes of a critic – as a man who boasts that he could do a better job than the clueless WWE Creative, even though that would not be the truth.
However, as I watch another episode of Raw – fast forwarding to the end of every match, not having the patience to see each match unfold in its entirety – I sit on my couch with the realisation that I have lost my innocence – only because I have understood that the WWE was never meant to have any.
A top star explained the significance of her facepaint right here