My Childhood Obsession With Wrestling was Short-Lived

Sometime in late 1987 I became obsessed with professional wrestling. I can’t remember the exact date, but I know that by early 1988 I was all-in. I was a chubby nine-year-old kid who believed wrestling was real, and that Hulk Hogan got those muscles by training, saying his prayers, and taking his vitamins.

I was a hardcore Hulkamaniac.

Back then the WWF had a show on the USA Network on Monday nights, a Thursday night show, and then Saturday and Sunday morning shows. I never missed an episode.

The WWF’s counterpart, the NWA, was based out of Atlanta, and it had a show that aired every Saturday night at 5:05 on TBS, and a Sunday morning show that got me out of bed before everyone else in the house. I recall like it was yesterday Tommy Rich dominating Ric Flair in a championship match before Flair pulled a victory out of nowhere. I was so frustrated I punched the floor and started crying.

I hated Ric Flair.

My dad helped feed my wrestling addiction. Of course he knew it was fake, but he tolerated it because I liked it so much. I think he enjoyed the pure entertainment of it, but I’m sure he never watched a second of wrestling when I wasn’t around.

Soon after I became obsessed with wrestling, my dad suggested that we try to get tickets to the Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant match at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. The match was only days away and I’d been talking about it for weeks. He called Ticketmaster and they only had single seats remaining, so he bought a ticket for me, and a ticket for himself, ten seats away in the row behind me.

He picked up me early from school the afternoon of Friday, February 5, 1988 and I could not have been more excited. We drove down I-65 and talked about the scheduled matches, and who we thought we would win. We listened as a radio DJ fielded calls from listeners who speculated about the tribal lyrics at the end of Pump up the Volume by M.A.R.R.S.

We found our seats and settled in for a night of wrestling fun. Since he sat in the row behind me, and I was just nine-years-old, I didn’t say a word the entire night. Hulk Hogan lost his championship in a match that ended in equal parts confusion and controversy.

And I was hooked.

My VCR got a workout for the next few years as I put tape after tape into it to record weekly shows and pay-per-view events. I became obsessed with calling the wrestling hotline to find out the results of matches from the night before. That’s how I found out that Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat beat Ric Flair for the NWA world championship on February 20, 1989. To this day when I hear about the UIC Pavilion, I think of that match, which took place there.

I memorized speeches, such as this Ric Flair post-match classic from 1989–which, I just watched, and recited word-for-word (some things stay with us).

The match in Indianapolis was just the beginning of my dad’s willingness to take me to see wrestling. We went to events at Valparaiso University, where I saw a wrestler close-up for the first time. He was a cartoonish guy called RepoMan, but he was so creepy he really freaked me out. And I touched the biceps of a wrestler name Warlord and thought it felt like steel.

We went to the International Ampitheatre in Chicago and watched Wrestlemania IV on closed-circuit television. It took place from Trump Plaza in New Jersey. I didn’t find out until earlier this year that Trump Plaza didn’t exist. It was actually just the Atlantic City Convention Hall, which they called Trump Plaza because the story line involved Donald Trump as the host of the event.

(Shocking that Trump would be involved in something fake that is portrayed as real, isn’t it?)

I continued watching wrestling every week, attending events at Rosemont Horizon and the Hammond Civic Center. I jumped off of furniture in the living room and perfected Macho Man’s flying elbow, and Flair’s figure four leg lock, and Leg Luger’s human torture rack.

I even attended Wrestlemania VIII at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, and then listened to a wrestling talk show on the drive back that aired on WSB radio in Atlanta. That was April 1992.

And then, just as suddenly as it came, my wrestling obsession disappeared. I don’t remember when it disappeared, but it had to be 1992, because looking at the card for Wrestlemania IX the next year none if it seems familiar. Even SummerSlam, the August pay-per-view seems unfamiliar in 1992, so it seems as if Wrestlemania VIII was the beginning of the end for me.

That was twenty-seven years ago, and I haven’t watched more than a few minutes of wrestling that has taken place since then. Every once in a while I’ll watch old YouTube videos of matches I’ve already seen. The morbid part of me researches which wrestlers from my childhood have died. There are a lot of them.

Even though I gave up on, or out grew, or lost interest in wrestling, I still look back at those years of my obsession with great joy. The characters and matches and spectacle were fantastic. And the time spent with my dad was even better.

But I’m still left with one nagging question that has never been answered: Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you?

This post was written as part of ChicagoNow’s monthly writing exercise in which we are challenged to write and publish a blog post in one hour. This month’s topic was “Write about something in your life you once obsessed about but now rarely, if ever, think about”

Wasn’t that well-written and fun to read? You should subscribe to my blog and we’ll send you an e-mail every time I write a new one. Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

PREVIOUS POST: America Has Fought Wars for Those Who Kneel, Not for the Flag

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST I BET YOU’LL ALSO LIKE: The 939 Saturdays of Childhood

Filed under: Uncategorized

Leave a comment