My first exposure to pro wrestling was in the early 80’s when I came across the AWA. I was turning the dial to find something to watch on one of the five channels and there it was, the American Wrestling Association. If my memory serves Jerry Blackwell was wrestling one of Sheik Adnan Al Cassie’s guys. With Blackwell the match was far from fast and furious, but entertaining enough to continue watching. As I said we had five channels, so the content in those days was a bit light.
I had never watched a sport like this before, but I was enamored. The discovery remained a secret for a few weeks until I broke the news to my mother who is also a sports fan.
Our conversation went as follows,
Me: I found a new sport on TV.
Mom: What’s that?
Me: Professional wrestling (smiling).
Mom: You know it’s fake right?
Me: (no longer smiling) what do you mean it’s fake.
Mom: It’s fake. They know who’s gonna win.
Long time wrestling fans have heard the words, “you know it’s fake” more times than we care to count. It was a moment in my childhood I’d like to have different. Mom could’ve waited before telling me right. Did she have to smash me immediately? I don’t think so. She had no trouble stretching out the Santa Claus charade. I digress. After watching it sparingly upon the “fake” news, I was invited to attend live matches with a family friend. They were at the Showboat Sports Pavilion where the AWA filmed their TV.
Four weeks of shows were shot that week. Similar to the way some indies shoot their TV today. I was enjoying the wrestling and I walked over to the heel locker room where Doug Sommers was standing outside. He was watching the proceedings sipping from a cup that we’ll assume was water. Still not convinced wrestling was fake I said hello to him and his exact words were, “get out of here”.
I remember going that night, but the only memory that stuck about my first wrestling show was the interaction with Summers. He did his job because after that I hated him. How could he say that to me? I was just an innocent kid who wanted to say hi. I wanted that Mean Joe Green moment. Maybe he would’ve thrown me a towel.
Nope, he said, “get out of here”. Message sent. When the Midnight Rockers chased him and Buddy Rose for the AWA tag belts I was invested because I wanted Sommers to lose. I was sitting two feet from the television when the Midnight Rockers got the belts, and I jumped for joy all over the living room. It was a euphoric feeling, and one I’ve experienced on several occasions when my favorites have won.
I am not always happy with pro wrestling, but that is what a sport does. There are times you really enjoy it and times when you threaten to boycott. I think pro wrestling fans are the ones who have it right. We invest our time, energy, and emotions just like any other fan.
Mom was wrong,
Pro wrestling is real.