One of the hardest things for me to admit is no longer being a wrestling fan. So much of my childhood was spent watching the then WWF, now WWE. From me and my uncle gathering at my grandmother’s to watch the Pay-Per-Views to tuning every week back when it was Monday Night Raw, I was hooked.
I grew up in the 80’s, one of the best eras for wrestling. Hulk Hogan was an icon to so many. Every kid wished they sat at ringside when Brett the Hitman Hart came down the isle. Macho Man Randy Savage or Hot Rod Rowdy Roddy Piper were cutting some of the best promos of all time. Those are just a few of the great wrestlers from that time. So much more contributed to that passion. When they finally came to Syracuse I begged, pleaded and negotiated with my mom to take me.
Even in the Attitude Era, I was always a fan. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Vince McMahon will always be a classic. Degeneration-X mockery of the wrestling scene never got old. The Rock and his one-liners that broke the crowd into hysterics. Then Smackdown aired and finally, another night of WWF/WWE. Two nights of wrestling meant two nights of watching the one program I never missed a minute of viewing.
But the WWE changed. Not just the name or their rating to a PG. Not even that some of their best superstars had moved on to better things. No, I remember exactly when the WWE lost me as a fan.
One of the best things about wrestling was its unpredictability. Unfortunately for fans, somewhere along the way, it became so unpredictable it was predictable. So many good matches were ruined by a heel run in, or an automatic disqualification, or just a random all out brawl that good matches were ruined by crappy endings.
One of my favorite matches of all-time was Wrestlemania XII’s Iron Man match between Shawn Michaels and Brett Hart. Originally a 60-minute match, where whichever wrestler had the most pitfalls would win. The match went back and forth on multiple occasions. By the end, you could tell that both men had given every ounce of energy to their performance. Imagine when Gorilla Monsoon walked to the ring and he and the ref declare it a draw. If not a draw, that some random superstar came out from the back and interfered with the match. Such an amazing display of entertainment would be ruined just to set up the next PPV event.
That’s what the WWE turned into. It would be the Rock vs HHH, one of the better matches you’d seen in a while. Then a random D-X member would run out save HHH, and Mick Foley would trot out for the save. Oh, guess what happened by the next PPV, a tag match between D-X and Rock/Foley. Yep, you guessed it. Guess who would interfere and ruin the match? HHH! Just to set up a match with him and Foley at the following PPV after that!
For the longest time, it was a vicious cycle. Too many good promos, lead-up matches, and events were ruined by them trying to set up their next PPV. I can deal with the lower level of talent the WWE currently has. I can deal with the occasional disqualification or run in. What I couldn’t deal with was it never ending. The WWE may have transitioned away from that now, but that’s when they lost me. I’ve held a grudge ever since.