I have a dirty secret.
They say its helpful to open yourself up, let the light shine on the dark corners. So, in that spirit, I’m twisting the metaphysical Venetians open.
I love professional wrestling
Good. That felt good to get that out there…
Hey, What’s with the snickers? I come clean on my shameful secret and this is how you do?
Listen, I’m going to justify this.
Look, we all indulge in entertainment junk food. Access Hollywood, The Price is Right, MTV’s The Gauntlet, Jerry Springer, VH1 Sunday nights, Iron Chef America, Deadliest Catches, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Biggest Loser, the Bachelor and Bachelorette. This is the media’s self-indulgent assortment of bon bons, all dipped in a digital high-fructose corn syrup and sprinkled with the special back primal brain lobe liquid cream. And like the Whitman’s Sampler, you don’t have to like every chocolate in the box. You take the show with the D-list celebrities dancing the mamba or the five queer guys shining up a middle-aged schlep. My taste just happens to be for the squared circle, where two steroid freaks in black speedos and lycra boots faking punching each other while thousands in the arena and millions at home (literally) cheer in anticipation for the predetermined outcome.
My passion has waned as the product has fallen off, but there’s still a passion. There are those out there who understand. And for the rest, I’ll go back to the starting point.
Pro wrestling found me at a right age; about 14, self-conscious to the point of inactivity, daydreaming badass anti-hero day drama. It came to me in the year 1996, which is a historic turning point for pro wrestling’s Second Golden Age (Wrestling’s first Golden Age took place in the mid-late 1980s, with the Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant/Rock n’ Wrestling/Ric Flair/Four Horsemen salad days).
Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall and Kevin “Diesel” Nash were ‘invading’ WCW, the Atlanta-based promotion owned by Ted Turner, as messengers from the North (the plot hinted WWF sent them, but the pair actually signed with WCW months before). Their plans were to take over the promotion in a terrorist campaign.
I had a concept of who these guys were, but no grasp of the details. John Fischer, a buddy of mine from Cathedral School of Mary our Queen, did know the gist. He would go off about the awesome spectacle of this situation and how I had to get on board. It sounded cool, and the next Monday I tuned in.
The first night I watched Monday Night Nitro, they showed this spectacular clip of Kevin Nash powerbombing head announcer Eric Bishoff through a wood table.
That image penetrated my psyche. I want to know more. I continued to watch.
Hall and Nash continued their campaign of terror over various Nitros. They attacked other wrestlers in the back areas and from ringside through the crowds. They used baseball bats and spray paint. They ganged up on individual wrestlers 2-on-1. Here’s a clip to one famous attack, when Kevin Nash shot Mexican Luchadore Rey Mysterio into a double-wide trailer like a lawn dart.
It would seem easy, as at the time WCW was a weirdly sad mix of top former NWA talent (Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Sting, Lex Lugar) and ready-to-go-over-the-hill former WWF talent (Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage). It was limp, tired and out of date. The only highlight was WCW Monday Nitro on TNT, WCW’s two-hour Monday night wrestling show that they used to compete against WWF Monday Night RAW. A hostile takeover was fresh, and needed, and would get newbies like myself who barely watched wrestling interested in the product.
During their assault on the promotion, Hall and Nash mentioned they had a third member who was going to help them with their terrorist takeover. WCW, in their defense, formed an alliance of Sting, Lex Luger and Macho Man Savage to take on the new Outsiders at Bash at the Beach 1996.
During the main event, Hall and Nash came out by themselves, without the third member. To even the numbers, they took out Luger early, making it an even match, Outsiders vs. Savage/Sting. As the fight progressed, Hall and Nash earned the upperhand and started to lay waste to WCW’s stars. That’s when the immortal Hulk Hogan made his way to the ring, and turned a page in sports entertainment history by introducing a ‘new world order’ of wrestling:
As WCW announcer Tony Schiavone aptly put it: “Hulk Hogan, you can go to hell.” But the death of the Hulkster was the birth of my new medium.
Part 2: The Gang Grows