How It All Began And Where It Goes From Here

I’m not sure you ever really love something like you do when you’re 12.

I may have pinched that line from a movie somewhere along the line, but It is something that has always stuck with me.

You don’t have the restrictions you do when you’re a bit older. No social anxiety, no pressure… you’re still a kid. Finishing primary school… or elementary school if you’re from the US, starting at high school (or Junior High again, if you’re from the US) and really, what is expected of you? You can dedicate as much of yourself to what you love as you see fit. It’s yours, and you can embrace it fully.

That was how old I was when I was introduced to professional wrestling.

It was no formal introduction – I didn’t mean to become entranced. I was supposed to be helping someone set up for a birthday party – the family of one of my friends… only I wasn’t really friends with them. I was just kind of… there. I had yet to find my “thing”. I’d found stuff I liked – I was taught to love football and cricket. I had a passing interest in basketball, and I enjoyed reading. Girls were still as scary as anything I’d ever encountered, and I was about to get a harsh lesson that school needed to be more important to me than it was at that stage, but I had never encountered wrestling.

The golden age of Aussie wrestling was long gone – names like Mario Milano, though well known, were no longer on TV screens. Amazingly, years later, I lived a few streets from Mario and we conversed often at the local shops about what was on TV at the time – The WWF Attitude Era.

He wasn’t particularly a fan.

My first interaction with wrestling was in the wild, staring up at a small television in the corner of a pretty dodgy hire venue, where this family was busy setting up for some girl’s 14th birthday and me, hanging out with kids two years older than me, had been roped in to help out with decorations and so on.

On the screen that fateful day was Sgt Slaughter, covered in blood. Opposite him was the Iron Sheik. The match was clipped, but the violence was incredible. Car-crash-like – I couldn’t have looked away even if I’d wanted to.

I didn’t want to.

The Sarge was taking his boot off and beating the hell out of the Sheik with it and the crowd was going completely nuts. Who were these guys? What was the issue that led to such unadulterated hatred?

And how could I see more?

I don’t know how that party ended. I don’t even know how it started. I ran home after the end of that match, the hosts of the show taken aback, yet joking about what they’d just seen. It was aired on network TV as part of a five-hour weekly sports show on Saturday afternoons – Nine’s Wide World of Sports. These were the days before cable TV in Australia – this was about as good as it got for wrestling fans at this time. One match per week, maybe, and you had to sit through four and a half hours of other crap to see it.

In the weeks that followed, I saw Paul Orndorff pin Salvatore Bellomo, a heavily-clipped six-man tag team match featuring Tony Atlas, Rocky Johnson and SD Jones against Afa, Sika, and Samula, which became my instant favourite match, mainly due to the sell job of Tony Atlas after he copped a low blow. And then there was the infamous title switch where the Iron Sheik won the belt from Bob Backlund.

I spent entire days waiting for those matches to air, and though by today’s standards, they’re plodding affairs, likely to be termed boring, I was sold. I’d found my thing. That was who I was – the weird kid who liked wrestling.

The purchase of the family VCR changed everything, and the airing of the first Wrestlemania was soon followed by a weekly TV show – WWF Superstars of Wrestling. Sometimes, we’d get a double helping, with All-American Wrestling airing straight after it – they were good times. Sure, both shows featured mostly squash matches, but occasionally, you found a gem on those shows.

Don Muraco hung Ricky Steamboat by the neck with his martial arts belt at one stage. They showed a clip of Jake Roberts DDTíng Steamboat on the floor, the Hart Foundation and British Bulldogs battled to a 20-minute draw – I must have watched that last one fifty times to see Bret Hart selling Dynamite Kid grabbing him by the hair off the canvas and then slamming him straight back down by the hair. It looked brutal – I am not sure Bret needed to sell that too much. It looked like it bloody hurt! It was my new favourite match.

And from there came the Saturday Night Main Event shows. They remain my favourite wrestling memories.

What I did miss out on for a long while was the NWA and what was happening there.

My first glimpse of Ric Flair came via the Apter Mags. I remember the cover of one of them – it had Flair pointing at Kerry Von Erich after losing the title to him. The headline read “Flair to Kerry – You’re just borrowing my belt.”

I wanted desperately to see what went on, and what was going to happen next. Little did I know, the title was already back on Flair two months or so before that magazine hit the newsagents here. The owner of that newspaper shop got pissed that I would thumb through the magazines so often.

“Buy one or leave,” he told me.

So, I got a job cleaning up the hair at the barber across the road, walked in the next week and bought that damn magazine. And I bought plenty more. He didn’t mind me thumbing through them that much, now.

I got to see that Flair v Kerry match years later. Only after reading how fucked up Kerry was did I understand how good Flair was in his prime.

My attention bounced around – I liked Greg Valentine for some reason – maybe because he cheated at the first Wrestlemania. Paul Orndorff became my favourite, then Randy Savage, and then onto Rick Rude. NWA tapes started being circulated amongst local traders and soon I was able to see the “other” guys.

Flair, Dusty… the Road Warriors – wow. I would watch weekly shows two or three times, and not just to try to look down Elizabeth’s top when she held the ring ropes open for Randy Savage. I never could see…

When I started this site, I had a few people on board with varying interests in different eras. It seemed like something I could dedicate a little of myself to, but I was already stretched thin with the footy site and I found that my interest in the current product waxed and waned far too often for me to invest. When the growth reflected my effort, stepping away seemed right.

And now the site is what it is – a vehicle for me to take a trip down memory lane when time permits, and a place for the moments in wrestling that meant so much to me to be preserved. Maybe something will come of it, but it is unlikely.

It is what it is, and that’s good enough for me.

And if it is also good enough for you, then that’s a win, as well.