No matter how you feel about professional wrestling, a pretty significant pop culture milestone will occur this evening. Monday Night Raw, the most well-known television program within the WWE brand, will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Tonight’s show is receiving attention from all the major media outlets in the country.
I would be remiss if I said the WWE did not play a major part in my childhood and early adolescence. How couldn’t it? One of the first live events my dad ever took me to was a WWF match in the old Spokane Coliseum. In the final bout of the evening, the Ultimate Warrior defeated the Undertaker by stuffing him in his own body bag!
From that moment on, I was captivated by professional wrestling. I had a WWF bedspread, countless wrestling figures, wrestling buddies, a miniature wrestling ring, and much more. Because Raw came on way past my bedtime, I would watch the Saturday morning WWF highlights show, my personal alternative to the cartoon programming everyone else my age watched.
My love for professional wrestling rubbed off on my brother. As he got old enough to understand the magic of WWF, the two of us consumed it together. On summer days, my mom would take us to Blockbuster and we would rent VHS tapes of past WWF Pay-Per-View events such as Wrestlemania, Royal Rumble, and Summer Slam. We would hurry home, run down to the basement, and push the tape into the VCR. From there we would excitedly watch the matches while simultaneously wrestling each other. We would develop our own wrestling characters, choose our own entrance music, and conduct our own interviews. It was wild.
Probably around the age of 11, my interest in professional wrestling started to wane a bit. I had sold a lot of my WWF toys in the yard sale and I was not as captivated by the matches I could now tell were fake. But it didn’t take long for professional wrestling to win me back.
The golden age of professional wrestling – the WWF vs. WCW wars, the Attitude Era, the introduction of adult themes – had quite the impression on a 12-year-old boy like myself. Pretty soon, Monday night went from my least favorite evening of the week to my favorite. Switching back and forth between Monday Night Raw and Monday Night Nitro, I could not get enough of the salacious storylines, the out of control ringside interviews, the escalating violence, the bad language, and…well…the divas.
The envelope was pushed on a weekly basis. It was the era of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, The Rock, Sable, Kane, and Vince McMahon – and that was just from the WWF side. Although I did enjoy the WCW and proudly sported an NWO shirt during those influential years, because of my early roots, I always favored what would become the WWE.
I eventually grew out of my professional wrestling obsession. It became too much of a gimmick for me. I don’t think anyone was happier than my parents. During those raunchy WWF years, they tried to censor my time watching wrestling as much as they could. For the past 15 years, besides the reality show “Tough Enough,” I don’t think I have watched more than an hour of WWE programming. I have read autobiographies on my favorite childhood wrestlers and I keep up with the business ventures of Vince McMahon, but I have no interest watching professional wrestling matches or keeping up with the insane “soap opera” storylines. Watching Monday Night Raw has not been on my schedule for a very long time.
Tonight might be different. I recognize the major influence professional wrestling had on me during my early years, especially Raw. As the WWE marks tonight’s anniversary, I might have to check in just to pay homage to a phenomenon that once gripped me. At the same time, I will also say a prayer of thanks for my fandom not extending past middle school. Don’t Blink.