For the most part, I tend to be a loner (a loner, Dottie, a rebel). As such, I like to do things by myself. I like to watch wrestling alone. Despite the fact that I love to write about it, I don’t really enjoy talking about it with other people.
While I don’t like talking to people so much, I do enjoy observing and learning. I was watching two kids who grew up on PG-era WWE and had accepted that John Cena was their top guy. These kids have no clue what Ring of Honor is and don’t know Bryan Danielson or Claudio Castagnoli. These are straight up, the core WWE audience that the company goes for these days. These kids actually call the wrestlers “sports entertainers.”
Hulk Hogan made his second or third Raw appearance on one of these shows I watched with them. The music hit and I got one of those nice, nostalgic smiles on my face that you can’t hide. I leaned forward in my chair a little bit and listened to one of the masters do his thing. Classic Hogan promo and it sold. The crowd loved it.
I looked over at the 11-year-old. He seemed bored. He didn’t seem to care. Disinterested in the return of “Hulkamania.” [sidenote: it makes me happy that my computer says that’s a real word]. I thought to myself, “Maybe he’s just not into wrestling tonight. We all have an off night.”
A few moments later, a pasty-faced Irish ginger came on the screen. The kid sat up and exclaimed “Sheamus!” And then a little part of me died on the inside. Maybe that last bit was an exaggeration. But, I wasn’t happy.
I thought about it a little more. I put myself in his shoes. What did I like when I was 11? Three letters. You’re going to say them with that trademark deep voice: N. W. O. Yes, I was all about the New World Order back then. Do you know who I didn’t like? That old guy with the flabby pecs, Ric Flair.
The first time I became a legit fan of wrestling, Ric Flair was in his mid 40s. I didn’t discover how amazing he was until WWE started monetizing his video library in the early 2000s. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I liked Kevin Nash more than Ric Flair in 1998. Maybe one day this kid will say to himself, “Wow, I really liked Sheamus more than Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins?”
One good thing, I guess, that I noticed is that WWE is doing a good job of erasing what they don’t want the kids to know. The 14-year-old was talking wrestling during dinner and I was trying to ignore him. He then asked about Chris Benoit. Specifically, he asked me if I knew about Chris Benoit. Because, as I found out, he really didn’t know anything about him.
That day in 2007 is absolutely the worst day of my life as a wrestling fan. I could safely say that it was probably in the top 15 worst days of my life in general. That era was just a bad time for all wrestling fans. WWE erased Benoit from their history and these kids don’t know who he is.
“Didn’t he…” and “Then, didn’t he…” and “But how did he…” and all these Benoit questions were flung at me. I played dumb. “I don’t really know what happened” I said. They bought it.
It really shows the age of who is watching the Network. These kids were told that John Cena beating The Rock was one of the biggest moments in history, so they’re watching it. My hope is that the WWE Network allows the PG-era fans to expand their minds and learn what else is out there. There’s a great big world out there, you just have to get through John Cena and Sheamus to see it.
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