I have no childhood memories of professional wrestling.
What I have is an unbridled passion for the artistry and athleticism that comprises the world of sports entertainment.
My love of the squared circle and its pageantry has blossomed from its infancy to a living, breathing entity. It began, as most things do, with one moment.
One moment that captivated my attention, ensnared my imagination, and fueled the fires of the rich creativity that pulses through my body and mind with each heartbeat.
Yet, that moment was not the true beginning.
Encouraged by the excitement of new friends, Eddy and Michelle, my then significant other tried to convince me to sit down and watch Monday Night RAW. She began with a casual suggestion that became a sweet entreaty, lightly dusted with promises of entertainment and a shared interest.
Time and time again, however, I refused the bounty offered.
“Triple H won the Rumble and is going on to face Chris Jericho at WrestleMania for the Undisputed Championship.”
“The Rock is going to be in a match with Hulk Hogan.”
“The Undertaker is up against Stone Cold.”
“Shawn Michaels is coming back for a match against his best friend, Triple H. He hasn’t wrestled in over four years. If you watch this match, you’ll understand.”
Time and time again, I refused.
I had no basis for my unrelenting repudiation. No one in my youth had sat me down in front of a television to watch wrestling. There were no men or women in my childhood that took me to a live event.
As far as my cognizance was concerned, wrestling was not real.
By that statement, I do not mean the typical association of its status as a sport. Professional wrestling was an abstract concept that had no tangibility for me.
Eddy, Michelle, and Spider continued to occasionally bring up the subject.
I continued to stand my ground.
After awhile, I forgot what my original objection was and simply said no for the sake of saying no.
Years later, after enduring an onslaught of invitations and pleading to watch wrestling from my ex-girlfriend and my best friends, Eddy and Michelle, I found myself in a situation where I was not asked. Instead, my close friend Christopher merely turned on Monday Night RAW.
The first five minutes saw the full replay of the triumphant return of Chris Jericho. What I was doing at the time ceased to be important. I was enthralled by every word spoken, entranced by every display of athletic prowess, and I was thoroughly, completely, and shamelessly hooked.
Professional wrestling became real. It became more than an intangible. I found myself awed, inspired, and mesmerized.
Christopher, I think, was amused. On that night, he had no idea how deeply I would submerge myself in the world of professional wrestling. He was simply sharing something he enjoyed with a dear friend.
After the show was over, I hit the Internet.
I read the history and genesis of professional wrestling as it is known today. I absorbed the tradition of the territories and the dominance of the NWA. I followed the journey of an enterprising businessman in Vince McMahon, the rise of the World Wrestling Federation, and its ensuing wars with World Championship Wrestling.
I read everything I could get my hands on, from Internet accounts to books of autobiographies and biographies and historical lessons. I watched countless videos online and devoured DVDs on every promotion I could find.
From the high flying spectacle of lucha libre, to the technical acumen of puroresu, and the perfect blend of dramatics and athletics of the North American style, there was nothing about professional wrestling that I did not want to learn.
There was nothing about professional wrestling that I did not love.
Eventually, I watched Triple H defeat Chris Jericho for the Undisputed Championship. I watched the epic encounter of The Rock and Hulk Hogan, and The Undertaker versus Stone Cold Steve Austin.
I saw the emotionally charged return of Shawn Michaels as he defeated Triple H in a brutal Unsanctioned Street Fight.
I watched Lou Thesz defeat Buddy Rogers in 1963, and Randy Savage take on Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III.
The matches with Ric Flair that catapulted Sting into the upper tier of wrestlers were some of my favorites. Watching the American Dream and Rowdy Roddy Piper and the Million Dollar Man consumed hours of my life.
It wasn’t simply the current performers that drew my attention; it was the men and women that paved the way for today’s stars.
Some say that I have truly become a professional wrestling historian. I appreciate that accolade, as I have made it my mission to understand everything about the form of entertainment that has so captured my interest.
I fed on the emotions of the crowds to understand the climate of the times. The study of professional wrestling was not merely academic. I dove head first into this world, with both eyes and my heart wide open.
The night that I stayed up until 3 AM watching the RAW and Smackdown tribute shows to Eddie Guerrero will be forever etched in my mind.
A few people had made the argument to me that day that I had no basis for understanding the emotional responses of fans to certain events because I was not watching during those times. I disagreed, based partially on my special ability to tap into, and read, emotions.
Watching the heartfelt tributes, back to back, I knew that I would never again question whether or not my assessments were accurate in the face of not having watched something at the time it occurred.
By 3 AM that morning, the tracks of my tears on my flushed cheeks paid homage to the life and career of a man I heard about posthumously.
A few weeks later, I would shed tears over the emotional retirement of Ric Flair.
My ex-girlfriend is now one of my best friends. She is thrilled that I watch wrestling and takes every opportunity to say “I told you so.”
Several of my friends who have watched for years say that I am the first person they call when they have a question about the business.
Professional wrestling is a dynamic, integral organism in my life, in large part due to Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels. Both men have the charisma and the ability to connect with, and engage, an audience.
I have no childhood memories of professional wrestling.
I do have an impassioned love for the spectacle and for the business known as sports entertainment. I have a love that will transcend time and continue to grow, change, and evolve.
The squared circle has claimed another, willing and eager to be entertained and enthralled.