Laugh if you want — that I care, that I even know — but wrestling was something I enjoyed for a long, long time — thirty-three years or so. I haven’t watched it in about three years, since I gave up cable TV, but I’ve checked in on the sites across the Net and tangentially followed a storyline here and there.
It all started with my grandfather, who I barely remember. He started showing signs of Alzheimer’s when I was about 5 or 6, if I recall (I don’t remember much of my childhood, so my bout with Alzheimer’s must be born in), and he was never a very pleasant person to be around (my mom tells me he was never very fond of children). What I do remember about him was sitting in the living room at my grandparents’ house in Nashville, watching wrestling on some local channel on Saturday afternoons. I remember the same thing later about my other grandmother’s house in Atlanta — I hated visiting there, found it boring and claustrophobic — but Atlanta was a big area for wrestling on non-cable TV.
As another side note, I’m not sure how many people out there remember the day before cable was ever-present. But there was that time, and man, was it awefulsome. Only four channels — five if you were in a big city, six counting public television — but cartoons and Kung-Fu Theater on the weekend bled into wrestling, and then if you were lucky, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Ah, those were the days.
But I digress. After my grandfather introduced me to the spectacle that happens when you slam testosterone and soap operas together with a serious trailer park twang, I kept watching. And, at least as I look back today, because of Ric Flair, who was probably the biggest star in the Southeast (discounting regional sensations like Jerry Lawler). There was something about him that was impossible *not* to like, even when he played the bad guy (and in the old days, he often did, working a crowd to hate him better than almost anyone since).
There are some brilliant singers in the world, but very few of them have the presence and personality to be front-men like David Lee Roth, Robert Plant, or even (dare I say) or Freddie Mercury. In fact, there are probably better singers than them, but as total packages go at the head of a rock band, those three are kings. And that’s how I see Flair; there were and are plenty more athletic, and some who could stand next to him on the mic, but only two that ever inspired so many kids (and I hesitate to mention Hulk Hogan, because that’s such a character, and you get the feeling that Flair and Steve Austin, while amped up for television cameras and the cartoony world of wrestling, were just showing caricatured versions of themselves).
Enjoy your rest, Ric. You’ve earned it, along with your place in (admittedly dubious) history, and the memories of at least one overgrown kid.