What WrestleMania Means To Me – By Duckman

So here we are.  The anticipation is at fever pitch.  There’s an excitement in the air that only comes around once a year.  The road to Wrestlemania is rapidly running out of tarmac and the biggest WWE event of the year is only a few days away.  You people excited yet?  Have you purchased your giant John Cena ‘You Can’t See Me’ foam hand to wave in front of the TV during the main event of Rock vs. Cena 2?  You haven’t?  You cynical bastards, what’s wrong with you?  It’s WRESTLEMANIA, baby!  

Granted the build to this year’s show hasn’t exactly set the world on fire.  WWE were fighting an uphill battle with the IWC the second the decided to book Rock vs. Cena 2 (which was about thirty seconds after the Wrestlemania 28 buy rate came in).  The feud between CM Punk and The Undertaker has revolved around a gimmick even ‘Taker himself had forgotten about, namely that big gold urn he used to carry about fifteen years ago.  They’ve walked a tightrope of good taste which hasn’t actually added heat to the match but rather left some fans annoyed, some disgusted and many frankly bored of the whole thing. Oh and HHH vs. Brock Lesnar feels like a feud that should be exciting and interesting, but isn’t, because we all saw it last Summer.  

That said, while the only word that seems to fit the build up to Wrestlemania 29 is ‘underwhelming,’ I’m still looking forward to the show.  I know, I’m weird.  I should be protesting it or making up funny memes about Fandango or whatever.  But I’m not.  I’m still excited by the prospect of Wrestlemania, maybe not THIS Wrestlemania specifically, but rather Wrestlemania as a concept.

I’m going to try to explain (in a cack handed and mildly entertaining fashion) what Wrestlemania means to me and why, even after over twenty plus years of watching Wrestlemania, I still get excited about the show and end up as giddy as a schoolgirl over what kind of awesome spectacle WWE are going to put on for their biggest show of the year.  And that’s even after the shitty build to this year’s show.   I’m a glutton for punishment but there are some things in life that I just can’t give up and Wrestlemania is one of them.  The other is crack but that’s a different story for a different day.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember when I first heard the word ‘Wrestlemania.’  Given the passing of time (and my misspent late teens/early 20s ‘rock and roll lifestyle’ phase) it’s almost impossible to remember.  Believe me kids, drugs and alcohol (while fun at the time) are bad, m’kay?  I shudder to think how many brain cells I’ve killed over the years.  These days my memory is a little muddled when it comes to remembering exactly when certain things happened to me.  I remember them happening clear as day, just not the order they all happened in.  It makes life a bit more unpredictable and fun but can also be a major problem.  Just like crack.

Anyway, here’s a weird story for you: my first memory of Wrestlemania comes from a movie starring Fred Savage that I used to watch as a youngster.  It was about a kid who was really good at video games and they played in a competition with controllers that were futuristic gloves…or something.  Looking back it was basically a giant commercial for Nintendo starring Fred Savage.  Anyway, somewhere in the film there’s a reference to Wrestlemania (I think Wrestlemania 3) and how it’s been one of the character’s biggest dreams to go Wrestlemania.  

Now, I could be getting this film confused with all the other crappy 80’s movies I watched, but I definitely heard of Wrestlemania in a movie before I ever actually saw the event itself.  As a kid Wrestlemania was this mystical event that was a bit like girl’s boobs.  It enticed and excited me but was so far out of my reach it might as well have not existed.  

I do remember the first Wrestlemania I saw.  I remember because I’ve watched the show about 500 times.  Every day after primary school (and I would guess I was about 7 or 8 years old at this point) I would go to my friend Adam’s house.  We used to go to his to play with his awesome collection of toy cars, try to get a shot on his big brother’s scrambler motorbike (he always chased us away), listen to Def Leppard and Guns and Roses (we were such rebels) and watch his awe inspiring collection of Wrestling videos (I think he had five, which was five more than me at the time).

His collection was awesome.  It contained classics like Summerslam 88 and 89, a best of Hulk Hogan collection, the best of Saturday Night’s Main Event, Survivor Series 89 and the video we would watch every day after school – Wrestlemania 3.  

We used to put the video on as soon as we got in after school on a Monday afternoon, grab some snacks and juice and then watch the show from the beginning until his Mum said he had to get his dinner and I had to go home.  Then we’d stop it and come back to watch on from that point the next day.  It usually took us about a week to watch the whole show.  We repeated that routine for months, sometimes changing it up for one of the other videos (or maybe a Incredible Hulk movie), but Wrestlemania 3 was always option number one and it always had to be from start to finish, no fast forwarding past King Kong Bundy and the midgets.

Looking back now it’s obvious we were addicted to watching that show.  I’m talking Charlie Sheen levels of addiction – we physically couldn’t go a week without watching some part of it.  We loved that show so much that when our school organised a trip to Holland (on which I crushed my fingers in a ferry cabin door and crashed a go kart in spectacular fashion – but that’s another story for another day) we somehow convinced the teachers to put Wrestlemania 3 on the TV on the bus for the long journey from Scotland to Dover.  All the girls bitched and moaned about it and wanted to put on the video of Scott and Charlene’s wedding from the TV show Neighbours.  Thankfully our debating skills were far superior and our trip down the M6 was accompanied by watching Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat in an all time classic.

That match really sticks out in my memory because it was the first time I watched a match and wasn’t just watching a spectacle (in a Hogan/Warrior style) but an actual serious, athletic, well worked, technical wrestling match.  I remember watching that match and suddenly understanding what good wrestling actually was.  I remember the pop from the crowd drowning out Howard Finkle’s call of, “and NEW Intercontinental Champion.”  I remember it because neither Adam or I could believe how loudly the crowd reacted to Steamboat’s win.  We would rewind the tape over and over again just to hear that crowd pop.  I remember that match being a much bigger deal to us than Hogan vs. Andre – although we did mark the hell out every time we watched Hogan do the impossible and slam Andre.  How could we not?

So that was my first Wrestlemania experience and it’s stuck with me in the 20 plus years since.  When I was about 10 my Dad got Sky TV and that meant I could watch wrestling every week, as opposed to watching shows from 2-3 years previously on video.  That said I did pester my parents for years to buy me wrestling videos and by the time the 1990s rolled around, I was lending videos from my collection to Adam for him to watch.

What some of you younger readers may not appreciate is just how incredible the feeling was when you would go to John Menzies or Woolworths and find they had a new WWF video in stock.  These days all it takes is a couple of clicks and you can find and watch pretty much anything you want.  When I was a kid you had to have patience and lots of it because sometimes 4 or even 6 months could go past before a new WWF video would appear in the shops.  

Plus I had to travel over an hour by car just to find a shop that stocked something as futuristic as a video.  I always remember when a new Wrestlemania appeared and I’d beg and plead with my Mum to buy it for me.  The excitement of even just looking at the cover of the video is a feeling I don’t think I’ve ever recaptured in my adult life…and believe me, I’ve tried…a lot.  

As a kid growing up in the remote west of Scotland I always dreamed about moving to New York and becoming an American.  I know that sounds fucking stupid but it’s true.  America was always a place of such wonder and opportunity to the young Duckman.  It was where rock bands came from, it was where movies like Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Star Wars and Indiana Jones came from and most importantly of all, it was where wrestling and Wrestlemania came from.  Even as I’ve got older and slightly wiser, I still have that thought in the back of my head that one day I’ll move to America and get to go to Wrestlemania in person.

Wrestlemania has always been a big part of my life.  Even during the barren spells of the mid 90s (I remember Wrestlemania 11, 12,13 and 14 being particularly shitty) I kept watching, kept remembering those days as a younger kid at my friend’s house, being captivated by the spectacle and the wonder that was Wrestlemania.  As I got older and gave up on watching WWE as intently as I had done before (2004-2009), I would still always watch Wrestlemania, not out of an obligation or a duty, but more in the hope that I’d get that Wrestlemania feeling back.  I’ve been chasing it for years.

One of the more recent traditions I’ve started is making a concerted effort to visit my brother and watch Wrestlemania with him.  I’m heading there this weekend.  He lives on the other side of the country now with his missus and his son and I don’t get to see them nearly as much as I’d like.  

My wrestling addiction, much like my love of music and playing the guitar, has been passed down to my brother (he’s three years younger than me).  He won’t admit it but I can see my influence on him and it’s there clear as day when it comes to wrestling.  Although I do remember in the late 90s when I went to college and I wasn’t as into wrestling as him, he got me back into it just in time to see Austin, Rock, Foley and the rest at the height of the Attitude Era.  So I’ve got to give him some credit!

For the last three or four years I’ve travelled across the country to watch Wrestlemania with him.  I’m not sure how this new tradition got started but it’s one we both make an effort to maintain.  Even if he’s working and we have to watch the show the following day, that’s just what we’ll do.  We grab a ton of beers and loads of food and sit down to watch Wrestlemania together.  

There’s an anticipation and a buzz between us that we don’t have for any other big sporting event or entertainment spectacle.  We’ll spend the hours before the show talking about what might happen.  We’ll laugh and joke about the kind of crappy booking WWE will produce.  We still have that child-like wonder when the show kicks off and we get the first glimpse of that massive crowd.  It might sound soppy or stupid but it’s one of the real highlight of the year for me.  

Add in to the equation my two year old nephew and there’s another generation who is growing up with Wrestlemania as one of the focal points of their year.  Last year, watching my nephew dance to Shawn Michael’s music, while trying to work out how to dip a Dorito into a pot of nacho cheese, was truly one of those awesome, “damn wrestling can be great moments,” and it had nothing to do with the show, just the fact we were all together, watching the show and adding another Wrestlemania memory to the collection.

That said, it’s not all picture book moments and great, warm memories when I watch Wrestlemania with my brother.  Those of you who know me or have listened to me on the MFX podcast will know the infamous, “not like this” moment.  For those you who don’t, it goes a little something like this:

Duckman and his brother are watching Wrestlemania two years ago.  There’s really only one match on the show that they honestly care deeply about and that’s HHH vs. The Undertaker.  The match is living up to our high expectations and is the perfect example of the dramatic WWE main event style that we’ve grown up on.  As the match ebbs and flows back and forth both Duckman and his brother are deeply emotionally invested in the battle between two WWE legends that is unfolding before them.  Although it’s safe to say Duckman and slightly more emotionally invested than his brother.

As the match builds to the finish Duckman sheds his snarky feathers and is now in full on mark out mode.  HHH hoists Undertaker up for the tombstone piledriver.  The crowd gasps.  Duckman stands up out of his chair and as HHH brings Taker crashing down onto his head he utters the sentence that will now haunt him for the rest of his life, in a feeble, almost pleading voice he squeals,

“not like this.”  

HHH makes the cover, 1…..2….Taker kicks out and Duckman jumps around in celebration and turns to his brother for the big high five moment, only to find his brother staring back at him in disbelief.  

“Did you just say, ‘not like this?’” asks Duckman’s brother almost disbelievingly.

Duckman smirks and tries to joke his way out of it,

“Hey, if anyone is going to end the streak using Taker’s own finish on him, it’s HHH.  Right?”

Duckman’s brother shakes his head and begins to laugh uproariously,

“You are such a mark.  You sounded like someone who was about to get raped in prison.”

And so began the legend of Duckman’s infamous Wrestlemania ‘not like this’ moment.  Granted, it’s not as cool as some of the great Wrestlemania moments I’ve witnessed down the years, but in a strange way I’m kind of proud of it.

You see that’s the power of Wrestlemania – a thirty year old smart arse who thinks he knows it all about wrestling, can be so caught up in a moment that he’s back to being that 7 year old kid at his friends house watching Wrestlemania 3 for the first time.  I’m not ashamed of that mark out moment because it was natural, it was spontaneous and it came about because I was emotionally invested in the match I was watching.  That life long connection to wrestling and Wrestlemania was as strong as ever.  

Will I have a ‘not like this’ moment this year?  It’s doubtful.  With the Wrestlemania card shaping up the way it is, there aren’t many matches where the outcome is up in the air.  Plus I’m not as emotionally invested in the WWE product as a whole as I was a few years ago.  Then again, I’ll be back at my brothers, sitting with him and his son, ready for another year of our favourite event of the year.  Those memories of childhood could come rushing back and before you know it, I’ll be marking out like a little bitch all over again.  Or Cena wins and we all go home to cry.

Hopefully the one thing you take away from these 3000 or so words is that no matter the card, the venue, the build up or the outcome, Wrestlemania will always have a special place in my heart.  It’s a link back to a long forgotten childhood.  It’s a reminder of memories of spending time with my best friend and being utterly captivated by the spectacle of Wrestlemania.  

It’s the one time of year when I can turn in my smark card and just sit back as a fan of the wonderful world of professional wrestling and immerse myself in a show.  I’ll no doubt bitch and moan about it on Monday like the rest of you, but for those four precious hours, I’ll be a kid again, lost in the wonder of Wrestlemania and sharing those moments with those closest to me.

That’s what Wrestlemania means to me. What does it mean to you?  Ask yourself that question in the run up to the show and you might just unlock a treasure chest of long forgotten memories.  Hell, you might even find the real reason why you every year you come back to watch the show and in turn you might just enjoy this year’s Wrestlemania a little bit more than you thought you would.

As always thanks for reading folks.  I hope you guys enjoy Wrestlemania this year and enjoy this series of articles here on Wrestling Rambles.

If you’d like to talk Wrestlemania or anything else you can always follow me on Twitter which is @MFXDuckman.  Or, if you’d prefer to listen to me prattle on about wrestling in general, then check out the MFX Podcast every week over at www.mfxpodcast.com.  Join myself and Sir Ian Trumps as we take a gratuitously NSFW and mildly entertaining look at the week in WWE in TNA.

Until next time…