After my gradual departure from wrestling, time began to pass very quickly. 1999 soon ended and the world ushered into the new millennium with scares of Y2K while wrestling ushered in champions like Big Show and Bret Hart. Sad thing is, I didn’t know. Wrestling continued, but not in my mind. As I slowly eased myself off from wrestling, it just got pushed back to the edge of my mind and time just moved on. Occasionally, I would hear a comment in the hall at school or see a commercial on the TV about the thing that drove my mind only a little while ago, but I didn’t give it a second thought.
For some reason, I just didn’t care, and what scares me to this day is the fact that I just don’t know why.
Well, like I said, time began to pass quickly. Soon it was the end of 2000 and I hadn’t watched a full Raw, Nitro, Smackdown, or Thunder in over a year. Wrestling was out of my mind until the 25th of December came knocking. It was a normal holiday to be honest. I can’t remember what I got, although I do know that every year I got something big. If my life depended on it though, I couldn’t tell you what that present was. However, I can tell you what the strangest present I got that year was.
I opened what was a small rectangular present. At this time in my life, I got into the annoying habit of predicting my presents before I opened, or at least, predicting what kind of present it was. CDs came in obvious shapes as did books and some of my other presents, and my parents could care less about hiding the shape of smaller presents. So when I was handed this medium sized rectangular box, of course I knew what it was. I had just gotten a Nintendo 64 a couple of months earlier. Yes, I realize Nintendo 64 was “old” by then, but excuse me for not having money! Anyway, I knew it was a Nintendo 64 box, however, I didn’t really recall asking for any games as I had blew all my money on the classics like Super Mario 64 and Goldeneye. I opened the box, and I found The Rock staring back at me.
There was a face I hadn’t seen for a while. The box was the case for the classic Nintendo 64 game, WWF No Mercy. I looked it up and down and shot my mom a half-ass look. I didn’t really communicate with my parents that much, so I assumed they still thought I was into wrestling. I went into my room that night looking at the cover of the game. The Rock, Triple H, and Edge were all on it. However, Triple H & Edge seemed like strangers to me as they really weren’t that big when I was watching. How was I supposed to know that a year later they were huge superstars? I took one last look and then threw it into my locker of forgotten junk. I didn’t know wrestling anymore, and I didn’t care.
However the next day, I sat there playing my video games that I had and realized that it was boring playing the same game that I already beat. In my closet sat a perfectly new game and here I am playing the same game I have beaten at least a dozen times. What the hell was wrong with me?
I got out of my seat, got the game, unwrapped it, put it in, and hit enter. I don’t think that Nintendo 64 went off for the next week.
There was just something about the game. I loved it. I didn’t recognize half of the wrestlers, had no idea why Undertaker was normal looking, or why the Brood wasn’t together; but I didn’t care! This game was solid. This game was unique. And there it was. A tiny spark happened deep inside me, and the wrestling flame began to grow once again.
I must say in retrospect, it seems like a completely idiotic thing. Here I was, a year and a half without watching wrestling, and a stupid Nintendo game suddenly gets my interested again? Makes no sense. But it happened. I’m an odd boy. I won’t deny it and I will agree with all the jokes.
To be honest, it’s not like I played the game and then watched Raw the next day. No, I just got interested in wrestling again. I soon went on to WWF.com and other sites to try and find out who the champions were so I could have the real champions on my game. Again, seems stupid, but leave me alone.
A couple of months passed with me playing that game. For those wondering, I never did beat the game fully. If you remember back to 2000, there was all this controversy because a lot of the No Mercy games were defective and would suddenly erase all of your data at a given notice.
Guess who got one of those games?
In retrospect, I guess that kept me involved in wrestling. If I had beaten the game, I would have shoved it with Mario and never played it again unless a friend came over and I wanted to show him how sweet I was at video games. My god, what a nerd I was, but fate seemed to have it in for me. Had I beaten it, wrestling would have gotten pushed back again. But it didn’t. Still though, I was a nerd.
So time passed again as I played the game just like I had watched wrestling a year and a half ago: religiously. I use that word a lot, don’t I? Anyway, about 2 months later, I sat down on a Monday night. After 2 months of playing the game, I figured it might be time to finally start watching again. Yippy-skippy!
I turn on the TV, switch it to USA, and what do I find?
Not Raw. Not even wrestling. Some crappy re-run show that I had never heard of.
Man, I was pissed. First time in over a year and a half I wanted to watch wrestling, and it wasn’t there.
But wait! I remembered Nitro came on at the same time. So I flipped the channel over and what do I see? The most confusing thing in my short life, that’s what.
There was the WCW logo, ring, and Nitro set, but who was in the ring?
What the hell was going on? Shane was Vince’s son. Why the hell would he be on WCW programming? I was more confused than Goldberg in a wrestling ring. I kept watching and found out Vince McMahon purchased WCW, but Shane stole it under his nose by signing the contract. Seems good in retrospect, but for someone who hadn’t watched wrestling in over a year and a half, I was so lost. I was so confused. My brain hurt like it would continue to when I get confused (a feat that happens less than you would think). I turned off the TV, plugged No Mercy up again, and played that.
At least I could understand that.
Those storylines never changed drastically. I wouldn’t see Goldberg pop up and make me jump out of my seat! That was safe. Yes, I will repeat my earlier statement:
“My god, what a nerd I was.” Eh, maybe insert idiot instead of nerd.
So there it was. The game got me hooked on wrestling and as soon as I started to get interest in the real thing: boom! Confusion reared its ugly head and made me turn on that game like a crack head lights the pipe.
By that time, it seemed like the game would be all for me in terms of wrestling, but you should know that it wasn’t over. Not by a long shot.
Couple of more months passed and the end of May steadily approached. By then, eighth grade was almost over and high school seemed to be coming up faster than a Clothesline from Hell. But as the end of the school year came, the homework dwindled so I found myself with less and less to do on Monday nights.
So one Monday night, I plug in the game and realize that The Rock has been my champion for a while, and he has probably lost the belt by now. Looked like another time to visit good ol’ WWF.com and see who the champ is!
So I scroll onto WWF.com and look for the new champion. As I read the website, thoughts began to flutter through my mind:
“Ah, there’s the new WWF Champ. Stone Cold Steve Austin. Fine choice, I bet they put on a good sequel to 1999’s classic. Wait, what is this? Raw…live…tonight…on TNN? Well, I ain’t got anything better to do!”
So I sat down in my chair, and I turned in to see the first full Raw in almost two years. Man, I was really excited.
And even more, I was praying for some safe things.
Big Show and Rhyno started the show with a hardcore title match. Rhyno was a guy I had never heard of, so naturally, I was jumping up and down in my seat when the guy I used to call Paul Wight won the title! Man that was a good way to get my blood pumping. Who was this Rhyno guy to think he could ever tackle a giant? The Acolytes came in next to beat Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn. Pretty fun and it was nice to see these guys and their personas in real life other than the video game where I was constantly kicking their asses! Matt Hardy then defeated X-Pac, and I really enjoyed seeing Matt with some gold around his waist that wasn’t tag. Overall, I was really excited with what was going on. Then the Hollys defeated the Dudley Boyz. I was sad because I didn’t get to see the 3D. It was a move I always loved using in the game, yet hadn’t gotten to see in real life. I really enjoyed the Dudleyz. They were my favorite tag team in the game, but at least they lost to the Hollys. Win-win situation, I guess! Eddie Guerrero & Jeff Hardy then defeated Edge & Christian. Funny, Eddie looks much uglier in the game than on the TV. Then came out the monster Kane as he defeated Kurt Angle, who really could wrestle that well!
Finally, we came down to the main event. Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit vs. Triple H & Steve Austin. At first, I was shocked. Appalled. Steve Austin! A bad guy? What in the hell was going on? As soon as I saw this, I began to boo him incredibly. How could he turn his back on us? How? He deserved to lose horribly in my mind that night.
Luckily that night, I got my wish. Austin lost his belt and Triple H was out the door as he had to be carried out of the arena. Yep, that was a night I loved. In retrospect, it seems very odd. So many faces won that night. It was like someone from WWE was making it for me. Wow, I have an ego. Seriously though, had it been a show like nowadays where most heels win, I might have thrown my remote at the TV and sworn off wrestling. But no, it just seemed like a funny word I use a lot now:
After that, wrestling just seemed to edge its way into my life slower again. I wasn’t that interested. Wrestling wasn’t on my TV with me smack dab in front of it, but I was occasionally watching.
At least, until after King of the Ring 2001.
See, I believe every wrestling fan has that one storyline. That one feud. That one thing that happened, that solidifies their love, their spark, their passion in wrestling. For some 80s fans, it might have been Hogan slamming Andre. For some newer fans, it could have been Rock beating Hogan one on one.
Me? Well, I was (and still am) an odd person so naturally, I would get an odd storyline.
It seems funny that in retrospect so many people hate this storyline with a passion probably bigger than my hatred of TNA, but the storyline that made my passion incurable was…
…the Invasion storyline of late 2001.
Yes, yes, yes. Everyone hates it to this day, but it was so perfect for me.
Here I was. Brand new to wrestling after being gone for 2 years and here is a big storyline coming.
WCW vs. WWF at first. Sure, ECW joined, but who was I to know what that was? Here was the chance that I could see a lot of dream matches. Sure, WWF never delivered on the matches, but they still got me. See, WWF enticed me into the storyline with the dreams and hopes of maybe Goldberg-Austin, and I stayed there long enough to absorb and get connected with everything that happened and not care about the dream matches never happening.
All the defections that caused hatred in my stomach to rise like a baking bread loaf. Rob Van Dam & Chris Jericho’s meteoric rise to the main event. The epic confrontations. The unity. The emotion.
It was all amazing to me, and I could not stop watching or thinking wrestling. I just couldn’t. Who knows who could defect the next day? Who knows which base could have taken home a title? It was just amazing.
In retrospect, I really don’t see the criticism on this angle. Sure, a lot of the big names never showed up, but it made big names and the angles were great. I can safely say I will never forget Angle tying up Austin and interrogating him on that bridge till he got a title shot. Nor will I ever forget the Jericho-Stephanie interactions.
I just love the Invasion/Alliance of 2001. It got me back into wrestling, and I honestly have not stopped watching since then. And it’s a good thing too.
The Alliance soon ended with a big bang at Survivor Series 2001. Of course, I was still broke so I didn’t get to see it, but by reading it, wow! It was solid, and had a great ending. Raw the next night was jam-packed as well, and soon we had an Undisputed Champion in Chris Jericho, who I dreamt about punching in the face.
Yep, wrestling was the main focus of my life, and a great milestone happened in March.
Wrestlemania was being hyped up and with the matches they had, there was no way I could miss it. My mom agreed that she would pay half of it, and with me thanking her for the next month, I got to watch my first-ever WWF PPV!
Man that was a night I will never forget. Kurt Angle taking on Kane. Booker T going toe to toe with Edge. Rob Van Dam capturing his first major singles title. Jericho versus Triple H. Finally, Rock being a real legend killer and taking down Hulk Hogan.
But what was odd was that the match of the night wasn’t any title bout or main event, it was just a simple brawling match. Undertaker taking on the man, Ric Flair. I think this is when my love for Taker really started to develop, but this match just had me on the edge of my seat and my jaw wide open.
How could Flair bleed so much?
All these whirled through my heads and were definitely the things I remembered when I woke up.
It was an incredible night, and probably the night I realized how much I loved wrestling. The Alliance storyline was the thing that got me hooked. The thing that got me my passion. But Wrestlemania X8?
It was the test of my passion. Sitting there for that long. Forking over that much money. Going so long without a bathroom break!
It was surely the night I realized how much I loved wrestling, and I will never forget it just like I will never forget how the Alliance storyline solidified my passion. Everyone in my mind has both these moments. I have had people come up to me online and just realize how addicted they are to wrestling. That is their moment. This was mine.
I didn’t need any video game to keep me into wrestling anymore. No, I just needed a fix every three to four days on the TV. Whoops, I might be confusing a crack addict with a wrestling fan. Well, they don’t seem that far off in my mind.
Anyway, I went to bed that night with visions of the immortals being showcased. As I feel asleep, I wondered what would happen next. Would Jericho challenge for the title? Would Flair want more? Would Hogan?
But as I fell asleep that night, I never imagined what would happen next in the life of this young wrestling fan, and it wasn’t the brand extension.
No, it was something way bigger.
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