Recently I posed a question on Twitter to all my wrestling fan followers and the response was both overwhelming and also brought up a lot of good and/or tragic memories. The question I posed was;
What are your most emotional moments as a wrestling fan?
Now this question can be construed in a few different ways and the responses I received really rang home to me how people experience wrestling in different ways. From the euphoric highs of watching an Edge Spear of a 15ft ladder to a prone Jeff Hardy, to the devastating loss of an all-time hero passing away far too early.
I’ll start with what brought me to ask this question in the first place. You may have noticed that myself and Andrew have started a series of Ring The Bell Commentary podcasts where we relive some classic (?) matches from years gone by. Inevitably, this will lead to us at some point doing commentary on a Macho Man Randy Savage match or even one featuring ‘he who shall not be named’.
Even though WWE is really nothing more than a baby-oiled, muscle-bound version of a daily TV soap opera, it can provoke often extreme reactions in people. Take for example WrestleMania 30 and the ending of the famed Streak.
The Streak had been built into this almost-mythical thing that could, and some would argue should, never have been finished. People had grown up with this one constant when it came to wrestling; The Undertaker’s undefeated Streak at ‘Mania. This was a major thing in wrestling fans’ lives, becoming one of the major selling points for the Biggest Show of the Year™. Indeed, seemingly far more important than championships these days. The look of shock on the faces in the crowd was something to behold and even the people booking the match couldn’t have hoped for something quite so perfect. The main emotion was shock, followed by dismay. People didn’t know what had just happened.
Later on that night, Daniel Bryan would go on to overcome the insurmountable odds to firstly main event WrestleMania and then to win the company’s main title on their biggest show. Within the space of 90 mins people all around the world had gone from downright depression to elation at the underdog reigning supreme.
To claim sadness as your main emotion following a wrestling angle would seem odd to the outsider, but there have been a few occasions in recent memory when this is exactly how we have been left. In wrestling circles, retirement is a word that is often used as a way to sell tickets or improve pay-per-view buy rates, but a retirement out of the blue for a well-loved superstar leaves you feeling incredibly sad. I’m not ashamed to admit that I teared up when, on the Raw the night after WrestleMania 27, Edge announced out of nowhere that he had to retire due to a serious neck injury. To be left in such a state as a fan is a very odd experience and one I hope not to feel again anytime soon.
Wrestler deaths are something that in recent years has become an unfortunately all-too-often occurrence. It sadly comes in many forms, ranging from suicide to steroid-related deaths, and even downright horrific tragedies in one or two cases.
Over The Edge in 1999 was an event that 15-year-old me had given over my month’s pocket money to my parents for. That night tragedy struck, when the planned entrance of wrestler Owen Hart went badly wrong. Hart was scheduled to face The Godfather for the WWF Intercontinental Championship during the event and was wrestling as the Blue Blazer character. As part of the gimmick, Hart was to make a superhero-like ring entrance, which would have seen him descend from the arena rafters into the ring. He was, however, released prematurely when the harness line malfunctioned, and he fell more than 70 feet into the ring, dying upon impact.
I can vividly remember watching the show and thinking something had gone wrong as they were taking their time to get to the next match. The camera then cuts to the announce team of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, with Ross has to explain what had happened. Later in the show, Ross was left with the unfortunate responsibility to announce to the world that Owen had sadly passed away. To this day, I am amazed how Ross had the strength to go on with the rest of the show after this tragedy, as he and Lawler would have witnessed it all in very close quarters. Whether or not it was the right decision for the show to go on is a conversation for another day, nor is it really a decision any of us would have been able to make on that spot.
The death of Jim ‘Ultimate Warrior’ Hellwig is perhaps the saddest of all, if you omit Owen’s. After years of fighting with WWE owner Vince McMahon, they finally buried the hatchet and Warrior was inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame, up on that stage he appeared in peak condition, talking in such loving terms about his family, especially his two young daughters. 48 hours later, on his first Raw appearance in 18 years, his segment – viewed in hindsight – is so, for lack of a better word, spooky.
I can still picture the moment I found out that he had passed. It was roughly 5:30am and I was checking my phone at work when I saw the tweet from Triple H announcing the death of the Warrior. The emotions I felt had to be held back until I got home from work, and when I did get in I broke down. He was my childhood hero, this colourful superhero who seemed, to a young me (and, to be honest, the older men) to be larger-than-life.
I could not believe that he was now gone.
There are so many more emotional moments in the history of wrestling and ultimately it is different for every person who watches the sport (or sports entertainment). Please feel free to share yours with us and next time I’ll go into some of the happy emotions that I have encountered in my years of watching wrestling.