I first start consciously watching when I'm about eleven years
old (my memory from that time is shot, but
to be honest, my memory from even yesterday ain't so hot,
so please bear with the wacky timelines). Every saturday
at about 1:00, the family gathers around the tv to watch
WWF Superstars. Its a great bonding experience: my
older brother telling me who's who and my dad filling-in
on the history and who those "old" guys are. At that time
my favourites are Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka and Koko B. Ware,
and its pretty cool to see them team up, but I don't go
crazy over them. There's also Dino Bravo (with the fleur-de-lis
on his butt), Rowdy Roddy Piper, the Bolshevieks, Sgt. Slaughter,
the Honky Tonk Man, two British Bulldogs, and Jimmy Hart's
whole passel o' wrastlers. There are only eight wonders of
the world (the eighth being Andre the Giant), Hulk Hogan's
making all of his hulkamaniacs eat their vitamins and say
their prayers so they can be just like him, and on occation my
older brother and I watch the WWF cartoon, but only if we
want a good laugh and if we want to see suck-*ss animation.
Its a good time for wrestling, in my eleven year-old opinion, and I'm having a ball seeing the political frustrations of a country played out in the ring (though for a while I'm actually confused as to why Sgt. Slaughter is a face on G.I. Joe, but has allied himself with the Iron Shiek on Superstars. The Camel Clutch? My brother attempts to show me how its done. I say "NO"). I ain't in love with wrestling, and I think its a bit of a zoo with all the birds, snakes, and dogs, but its like a live cartoon for me, so I'm satisfied. If I never watched it again, though, it wouldn't have killed me.
Then Bret "The Hitman" Hart goes solo.
I consider him old because he's been around for maybe three years with Jim "The Anvil" Niedhart as the Hart Foundation. They're part of Jimmy Hart's stable and the last I'd heard, they were heels. They'd been tag team champs at least twice, but I'd never seen them in action. I wasn't about to be impressed by a heel, but when Mean Gene interviewed the Hitman before his first solo match on Superstars, I thought I saw something I'd never seen before on wrestling: something real.
Of course I knew professional wrestling was scripted: everyone knew that! But even so, this interview felt emotionally genuine. Bret said something about wanting to prove himself and about going for the Intercontinental Belt and for the first time I heard him say he was the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be. All in all, pretty standard stuff, but something about how he said it clicked with me and to this day I still can't say what it was. Maybe it was the combination of determination, confidence, charisma, and bravado, but the Hitman had piqued my interest. When he won that first match, I was pretty psyched. When he came back every week after that until he won the IC Belt, I was impressed. When he entered the Royal Rumble at number three and had the crap kicked out of him by every single wrestler who came in after him (and he took it!), I knew I was hooked for life.
Wrestling now meant something to me. It meant the little guy could win. It meant there were people in the world who could take all the shit that was thrown at them and win! It meant I could see the best there is/was/ever will be excecute excellently every saturday at 1:00.
And for the next couple of years, I did just that.
I saw Bret lose the IC Belt. I say Bret win the World Championship. I saw Shawn Michaels split the Rockers by dishing out what would become Sweet Chin Music to Marty Jannety on Brother Love's talk show. I saw IRS getting yanked by his tie. I noticed Hulk Hogan dissappear and didn't actually care. I was amused by Jesse "The Body" Ventura's witty repartee. I tried to spit out my gum and catch it like Mr. Perfect.
Wrestlers came and went. The Honky Tonk Man was replaced by J-E-Double F J-A-Double R-E-Double T, Sgt. Slaughter by the Big Bossman, and Mr. Perfect's gum by Razor Ramon's toothpick.
The Hitman remained.