Wrestling Through the Ages: An Introduction (Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Attitude Era)

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I share a birthday with Wrestlemania. On March 31, 1985, arguably the day that started the modern era of professional wrestling, I celebrated my 7th birthday as Hulk Hogan and Mr. T defeated “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndoff, in the main event of the first annual installment of the event that would come to be known as “The Showcase of the Immortals.” It’s fitting because in a way, pro wrestling, or sports entertainment as it were, and I have come of age together.

Childhood: The training, the vitamins, the prayers, brother. Hulk Hogan was real to me, dammit. When the animated series, HULK HOGAN’S ROCK N’ WRESTLING, hit the airwaves, I was smack dab in the middle of the Saturday morning cartoon target demographic. Wrestling, or at least the brand of wrestling the World Wrestling Federation was presenting was for kids like me. I loved Hulk Hogan— he fought in the name of America, his Hulkamaniacs and all that was right. His virtue was uncomplicated in a way that only a child could believe in, which worked for me, because I was nine when the Hulkster’s first title reign ended.

Awkward Adolescence: The New Generation. As wrestling moved into the 90s, I continued to love wrestling but the innocence of my fandom took sobering hits in the wake of Vince McMahon’s indictment and allegations of sexual misconduct running rampant through the World Wrestling Federation. Those events compounded with the prevalence of wrestlers with “day jobs;” wrestling plumbers, racecar drivers and garbage men made the first half of the 90s a confusing, often frustrating and awkward time to be a wrestling fan. As sports entertainment stumbled stumbled through the awkward, sobering first half of the 1990s, I fumbled through the confusing, awkward experience that is high school.

College: The Attitude Era. Wrestling entered its question authority, crotch chop, unprotected chairshot to the head era in a time when I was studying existentialism, chasing girls and enjoying the freedom of college life. The in-ring product may not have been the best but, man, much like college, those were the most fun, carefree years to be a wrestling fan and, yes, much like the lifestyle I lived in college, it couldn’t last forever.

Adulthood: The modern era. As wrestling’s popularity began to wane, reality that the party was over set in like the harsh reality of adulthood. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still has the capacity to thrill, captivate and enthrall but Raw is too long, the WWE has gone corporate and I’ve seen so much wrestling after so many years of watching that I’ve become jaded and am not easily impressed. In other words, my relationship to wrestling has matured.

So now that I’ve placed it in context, here’s how this column will work moving forward: I’ll take an event in wrestling history. I’ll give the background leading up to that event, explain how I felt about that event at the time and give my take on that event as I see it now. I want this to be a chance for readers my age and beyond to wax nostalgic and possibly a wrestling history lesson to younger readers but more than that, I want to entertain so I can justify devoting a solid portion of my week to binge watching classic wrestling on the Network.

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