Monday, August 24, 1998
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
The glory days are back
Flashback. It's the '80's. Neon is" in", Prince rules the charts, and kids everywhere are "doing their chores, saying their prayers and taking their vitamins." Wrestling is all the rage. No matter how old you were back then, at some point, you were glued to your TV screen watching wrestling. "Hulk Rules" red and yellow t-shirts, fingers, and bandanas were a part of every kid's wardrobe, and everyone got together to watch "Saturday Night's Main Event." Wrestling is everywhere from the Grammys to Saturday morning cartoons. Everyone tuned in to watch the "A-Team" just to see the Hulk Hogan episode.
Fast Forward. 1998, Present Day. Titanic is the number one movie of all time, the internet has united millions, and wrestling is making a comeback. I recently read that Stone Cold Steve Austin sells 20,000 t-shirts a month, more than Hulk Hogan or the Ultimate Warrior ever did.
I, like millions of other people around the world, have been watching wrestling since I was a kid. Fortunately for me, when I was a kid, it was the eighties and I was introduced to wrestling right in the middle of its glory. I remember being twelve years old and going to Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens to watch Hulk Hogan wrestle. The Gardens was packed, sold out. When Hulk Hogan came out, the crowd was electric. Everyone went crazy. In the end, he won, everyone went home happy, and I was hooked.
Over the years, I followed the World Wrestling Federation through good times and bad. It wasn't easy. As the ratings and popularity diminished, so did the TV time wrestling got. There were live events, but even they became few and far between. It was at that time that people began to have a negative reaction to the words "professional wrestling." For those who did watch, the reaction from others tended to be "you're watching what?", followed by hysterical laughter. That's when a lot of wrestling fans went "in the closet."
The nineties brought an increase in pay-per-view events, and the Monday Night Raw. It also brought with it the uprising of WCW as a legitimate top wrestling organization, and a war was born. During the nineties it seemed like Vince McMahon spent more time in a court room than near a wrestling ring, but, as they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
Over the past few years, I have sat back and watched as the wrestling wars increased in intensity. The shows have become grander and more lavish, and the plots more twisted then imaginable.
The wrestling industry has been through many dramatic changes.
The internet alone has revolutionized the industry. It's no longer a question of "I wonder what happened at that show in New York last night?", because with the internet you'll always know. This alone has forced the promoters and bookers to come up with something new and different for every show.
All of these things, along with Steve Austin, have finally snowballed into a huge fan frenzy. A new following has been born.
A few months ago on vacation in St. Lucia, I spotted a kid wearing an HBK t-shirt. Everywhere you go these days you seen people in 3:16 t-shirts, you can even buy them in your local mall. [EDITOR: Of course, many of those are knock-offs, not liscenced merchandise, so you take your chances.]
The crowds at wrestling shows keep getting bigger and bigger, and getting good seats is now a challenge. People wait in line for hours for ringside seats. The WWF and WCW are always in the top ten rated weekly TV shows, and the big networks are thinking about bring pro wrestling back to prime time.
Wrestling is once again on the upswing, and the popularity seems to be enormous. For those who have been around since the last wrestling craze and stuck with it and enjoyed it through the rough times it almost feels like an invasion. You feel like asking everyone where they were five years ago, but so goes society. Now is the time for real wrestling fans to hang on and enjoy the wild ride. All this popularity can only make things better for everyone.
So sit back, relax and oh, in case you didn't know, it's okay to "come out of the closet."
Heather Easton is from Thornhill, Ontario. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org