Memoirs Of A Late-Starting Wrestling Fan
July 12, 2007 by Andrew Rudd
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Wrestling fans, who witnessed the 80's and 90's, say you had to be there to witness true emotion. I don't believe this as, despite being born in the early 90's and not becoming a fan till 2004, I've witnessed enough emotion to pay up for the years I missed. The odd moment and five wrestlers have helped me pay this debt, so as I present to you 'memoirs of a late-starting wrestling fan' I dedicate this column to the true entertainers.
I'll start with my memories of "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels. You see, I consider it amazing that I'm a fan of his, as I didn't discover him till Wrestlemania 21. At this PPV, everyone was boasting about his match with Kurt Angle, when I watched it myself, I saw the true HBK. Having noticed Michaels I became fascinated with this guy, who appeared to be able to do anything. This fascination continued when Michaels got Hulk Hogan as a tag team partner for his battles with Muhammad Hussain and Daivari. To me, Michaels and Hogan were a dream team, so when they won at Backlash, I didn't care that Hogan got the pin cover. I was too fascinated with witnessing another Angle vs. HBK encounter, so when Angle moved to Raw, I waited for the opportunity. This opportunity came at Vengeance 2005. Wasn't that match amazing? I still think that that match was better than their Wrestlemania meeting with more pace to it. The dream team teamed up again, and this time they were taking on Kurt Angle and Carlito. They won too, but HBK was about to shock me for the first time by laying out Hogan with a Sweet Chin Music. This set up the very first match that, for me, had classic written all over it, with my body wanting Hogan to win, but my brain saying HBK deserved to. Michaels and Hogan fought at Summerslam, and the video package on Raw made me feel stupid about missing the match.
Shawn was getting to my head by the time Taboo Tuesday 2004 came along, and I just had to vote for him when he became an option for the World Title match. In this match, you could see Michaels was struggling but, to this day, I believe that was the greatest performance by anyone in a World Championship match. Michaels, of course, was injured and needed surgery. I missed him when he was out. I Michaels and I 'lost communication' for a while. It took the comeback of D-X, one of the most awaited ones ever, to get my attention span back, I'd never seen Michaels like that. Suddenly the inspirational one, who had wowed me against the odds at Taboo Tuesday, was rude, didn't care about others and didn't appeal to me. Michaels, since then, has inspired me with a one hour match in London, making me realise that Michaels never backs down. Now I find myself missing him through injury and
feeling strange every time I think about how long it took for me to notice him.
Triple H has also made me realise that wrestling has its ups and downs. I first realised that Triple H was a good heel before Summerslam 2004, when he beat down Eugene on a Raw broadcast. I, like many fans, had fell for the charm of Eugene, so watching Eugene with a crimson mask and on a stretcher made me hate The Game. Next month, at Unforgiven 2004, he ended new champion, Randy Orton's first title reign and I was speechless. He'd just sent Orton crashing down to Earth, a month after Orton had been on Cloud Nine. Triple H then entered a rivalry that still means a lot to me. This rivalry, with Batista, was my first experience of titans clashing. During this rivalry, Triple H appeared a greedy man, who couldn't live without the World Championship - he just seemed obsessed! The final month of this rivalry saw Triple H announce a Hell in a Cell with Batista. From that moment I cared about so-called gimmick matches and watching their brutal cell match still makes me realise how much I miss that titan rivalry. At least he still had Ric Flair on his side, at least until November, when he unexpectedly smashed Flair with a sledgehammer. Now The Game was a loner with no friends. I even sort of compromised with him as I don't make friends easily either. From that moment, Triple H was my most hated superstar and Flair was the guy I felt sorry for, resulting in Nature Boy's victory at Taboo Tuesday 2005 being the sweetest of an unexpected 8-0 victory for the good guys. The moment Triple H got injured, still 'injures' me, just watching it makes me feel like I'm taking it.
For the inspirational side, Eddie Guerrero is my man. In fact, the first PPV I watched featured Eddie's WWE Championship win. A win that still affects me to this day, but for me the most treasured memory of Eddie is an underrated gem. This moment is the moment JBL was about to receive The Great American Trophy. I hated JBL because John Cena had clearly received the most votes. As Angle lifted the trophy cover, I became more anxious and then the trophy, somehow, was a signed picture of Eddie! That was Eddie for you, a thieving hero to many. This, of course, saw JBL and Eddie collide for the championship, with their match at Judgement Day 2004 a highlight of my life. I never watched that match, I just heard about it, but hearing descriptions of blood flying everywhere and weapons being smashed is something I will never forget. Then Angle screwed Eddie at the Bash, and I felt sorry for him. This saw another victory for Latino Heat against the odds. This victory had seen Eddie be screwed twice, the second time a Steel Cage match. That Smackdown broadcast, Angle was in a 'firing mood', having fired Tony Chimel, four divas and Funaki. I feared for Eddie's job, until Vinnie Mac stepped out of the shadow and fired Angle instead! He also announced that, at Summerslam 2004, Eddie would face Angle - a victory for Eddie again! Eddie and Rey Mysterio would next get a Tag Team Championship victory, that would have me treasuring friends at No Way Out 2005. His death upset me, as I'll never forget reading about it. He ended Ken Kennedy's undefeated streak in his final match - a deserved honour. R.I.P Eddie Guerrero (1967 - 2005).
Another superstar, who inspired me was Chris Benoit. His World Title win at Wrestlemania 20, to this day, remains the moment that reminded me that not everyone gets a pot of gold straight away. Chris Benoit was also unpredictable, as seen at Summerslam 2005, when he ended a five-month reign in 25.5 seconds. A time that I will never forget. Benoit would continue to have great matches that inspired me, with Eddie, Booker T and Triple H, however his match with Finlay, at Judgment Day 2006, interested me in an area I'd never been interested in - technical wrestling. Benoit's last shocking moment for me, is his draft to ECW, even though I predicted it. His death was unexpected to me, as I was expecting a Vinnie Mac memorial - aka: another turned-off Raw. Instead, I was treated to a trip down memory lane with my interest in technical wrestling at an all time high. R.I.P Chris Benoit (1967-2007).
But if I want awe and shock, I look no further than The Undertaker. My first memory of 'Taker is Summerslam 2004, when I heard about his undefeated streak. That same PPV saw Undertaker take extreme to a new meaning, when he choke-slammed JBL though his limousine. I had never seen anything like it in my life, I was shocked! Shocked beyond belief. The Last Ride match at No Mercy 2004, was a scary match for me. In the video package I first saw Orlando Jordan on a cross and was horrified. In the match itself, Undertaker didn't seem to care about winning - he was just destroying Leyfield! The moment Heidenreich cost him was predictable, I'd previously been told, but shocking. Then Hussain came and challenged him at the Bash, what awaited him I didn't know. What did await him was sickening, frightening and yet entertaining. I'll never forget that speeded-up replay that was showed afterwards - I couldn't keep up with it. At the same time, Undertaker has showed me he can entertain and be old-school. His matches with Kurt Angle from 2006 are gems. At Wrestlemania 23, he became champion and I applauded him for entertaining me, the fans and being loyal -he deserved it.
Among all this, I do realise that wrestling is fake - you never forget it, in fact the words, "Blood is fake, isn't it?" will always stay with me. Watching ECW One Night Stand 2005 was a moment to treasure, as I'd never even heard of ECW and I liked what I saw. In fact, burning tables, a cheese grater weapon and Super Crazy's jump from the top all seemed so exciting, I forgot it was a WWE production. I even learned a lesson, at Backlash 2005, when watching it. I knew the results, but I still found myself cheering on Hulk Hogan, Shelton Benjamin and others. Two moments to end this paragraph, that awed and shocked me stand out too. One moment that was at Unforgiven 2004, when, in a well-done stunt, Randy Orton reversed the Pedigree and RKO'd quest referee Coach. The other moment that shocked me and portrayed Heidenreich as a lunatic, when he attacked a fan. I will never get rid of that image.
So there are my memories, full of emotion, shock and pride. I've witnessed firings, the comeback of ECW and even made sure that kayfabe doesn't ruin my entertainment.
By Andrew Rudd (View/Submit your feedback here)
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