-- I'm a pro wrestling fan.
This confession has often been a crossroads moment in many relationships over the years.
I get it. It's not exactly ideal to cater plans around "Raw" and "Smackdown" every week and monthly pay-per-views, especially if you have no interest in the WWE.
As much as I try to compare it to being an avid viewer of other scripted television shows, such as "Game of Thrones," I understand how that comparison doesn't equate in the time-commitment department. GOT, for example, has been on the air for six seasons, with each season producing 10 episodes running about one hour each and airing on Sundays between April and June. It has a season finale every year, a nine-month break in between seasons and will eventually stop producing new shows. (I'm sorry, it's true.)
The WWE has no offseason, no breaks and doesn't figure to stop anytime soon. It produces five hours of live televised programming every week between "Raw" and "Smackdown," a live monthly, three-hour pay-per-view show, as well as NXT events and WWE Network specials.
It's entirely too much, and I can't get enough.
I guess it's like football in that way. No one ever steps away from the TV after watching college football games all day Saturday and NFL games on Sunday and says, "That was great but 'Sunday Night Football,' 'Monday Night Football' and 'Thursday Night Football,' too? Sorry, but that's overkill."
There's something cathartic for me about watching pro wrestling. It's perhaps the only real passion I had as a child that has stuck with me today. I no longer watch "Thundercats," "He-Man" and "G.I. Joe" while playing with toys from said cartoons in front of the television, but I still love watching pro wrestling. I used to watch "Soul Train" on KTTV in Los Angeles while I waited for " WWF Superstars of Wrestling" to start on Saturdays and "Murder She Wrote" re-runs on the USA Network while I waited for " WWF Prime Time Wrestling" to come on every Monday. I pleaded with my dad to take me to the Los Angeles Sports Arena for house shows and to Toys "R" Us to buy ridiculous Wrestling Buddies and to the Wherehouse to rent the latest WWF Coliseum home video.
My dad drove me from Los Angeles to Las Vegas when I was a kid so I could see WrestleMania IX at Caesars Palace after I begged him for weeks. I think a part of him felt bad that I had just endured the chickenpox and a larger part of him probably just got tired of me explaining the significance of Hulk Hogan's return and the substantial challenge Yokozuna posed then-WWF champion Bret "The Hitman" Hart. When Hogan came out and beat Yokozuna for the title moments after he had just won the title from Hart, I raced to the ring and yelled as loud as I could. It's a moment that WWF cameras captured and has made what is generally considered the worst WrestleMania ever my personal favorite.
Getting my driver's license was a big deal, not so much because I was able to drive to school and to work, but because I was finally able to drive myself to wrestling shows. The first trip I made outside of Los Angeles County was to San Diego to watch Bash at the Beach 1998 at the Cox Arena on the San Diego State University campus. The main event was "Hollywood" Hogan teaming up with Dennis Rodman to face Diamond Dallas Page and Karl Malone, but my highlight came earlier in the night when Juventud Guerrera faced Billy?Kidman. While Guerrera walked to the ring, the cameraman zoomed in on me as Tony Schiavone said, "Tijuana is just bordering San Diego and there are Mexican fans here in droves to cheer their luchadores."
The next year I drove to Anaheim to watch the Royal Rumble in which The Rock would face Mankind in an "I Quit" match for the WWF title. At one point, Mankind and The Rock tumbled over the barricade and into the crowd, within walking distance of my seat. So, of course, I tried to wedge myself into the action and hugged Mankind. Yes, I wrapped my arms around Mick Foley and gave him a bear hug. Don't ask me why. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I returned to Anaheim last week to watch Monday Night Raw. I didn't hug any wrestlers this time, although Foley was there, now as the general manager of Raw. All of the characters and storylines have changed over the 30 years since I've been a fan, but there I was, sitting in a similar seat with a similar feeling I had going to a live event as a kid. Maybe that's what attracts me to it.
There's this scene in the film "Quiz Show" in which Ralph Fiennes, playing Charles Van Doren, is sitting at the kitchen table with his father, and as the stress of his life wears on him, he suddenly thinks of a happier time. "I just had the strongest memory, coming home from school, and going to the fridge -- nice, cold bottle of milk and a big piece of chocolate cake, just the simplicity of it," he said. "I can't think of anything that will make me that happy again."
That's the way I feel every time I'm watching "Raw" or "Smackdown" or sitting at a live event. It's like my cold bottle of milk and big piece of chocolate cake. For a moment, I'm once again that kid running to the ring after watching Hulk Hogan beat Yokozuna. It's an escape from reality I hope I never grow up and lose.