“I am a real American, Fight for the right of Everyman. I am a real American, Fight for what’s right, Fight for your life!”
The words blasted throughout the arena with a thunderous ovation. Adults and children stood on their feet screaming and yelling. Then, towering above the crowd, a large red and yellow vision with flowing blond hair walked into the arena. One hand waved an American flag, as the other pointed at the ring. My 11-year-old body jumped up and down with excitement. My hero, Hulk Hogan, climbed into the ring and stared at his opponent Macho Man Randy Savage. They yelled at one another for a moment, then Hogan played to the crowd some more while Savage stomped his disproval. 30 minutes later, the match was over and the crowd’s voices were deafening as Hogan’s weary hand was raised in victory. Summoning the strength from all his Hulkamaniacs, he cupped his hand to his ear, signaling that he was about to flex his large pythons to the crowd beyond the four sides of the ring.
Shortly after the match, my mother and I ran around the building to the exit where the wrestlers would walk out, in hopes of snapping pictures and asking for autographs. And when they came out, my mom guided me through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, right up to the wrestlers. Some of them were kind, while others quickly ran into their cars with barely a wave. Afterward, my mom and I found our car and grinned the whole way home, as our hearing slowly recovered from the loud night.
It’s not surprising that this night is seared into my memory; wrestling was a huge part of my childhood. When I look back at my younger years, it consisted primarily of 3 things – Sports, Star Wars, and Wrestling. My friends and I would stretch out a blanket across the floor and pretend to be our favorite wrestlers. When my mom found out the Hulkster was coming to town, she pinched and saved her pennies to take me to the show. We didn’t have much money, so tickets to a live event was a financial stretch. But my mom made sure I was going to see my childhood hero and so we made the hour drive to the show. It was one of my favorite memories of my childhood.
Fast forward 28 years. I stood and watched my kids interact with Stephanie McMahon, Sheamus, Natalya, Darren Young, and Titus O’Neil from the WWE before a recent RAW. Bloggers were invited to hear about the family friendly programming and view some of the new WWE toys. In the past, I would have asked all kinds of questions and tried to squeeze in as many pictures of me with the superstars as I could. This time though, I just sat back and watched my kids create wonderful memories with these new superstars. Sheamus, who was already one of my son’s favorites, was very kind to my son and I could see in my son’s eyes that Sheamus had pushed his way to the top of my son’s list of favorites. Watching this interaction was pure joy and a new memory for me.
After the event, we made our way to our seats to watch RAW. I spoke the praises of the newer heroes Daniel Bryan and John Cena. Then my son leaned into me and said, “You know dad, sometimes it’s fun to root for the bad guys.” And then I knew he got it. He was ready. (My daughter however cheered the heroes and booed the villains all night. There’s no gray area with her.)
We saw the great stars of today and the future stars of tomorrow. We also got to witness the great showmen, The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar, complete with druids, a casket, and ominous lighting, as they promoted their upcoming WrestleMania match. John Cena rallied the kids in the crowd to get behind him, while many of the loud adult males in the crowd expressed their anti-Cena sentiments. I would’ve liked my daughter to have been able to see a longer Divas’ match, but she did enjoy watching the guys tangle it up. She was bummed that her favorite, Daniel Bryan, would not be on RAW that night due to an injury.
Then, the music played again. That music that used to fill me with such excitement. Hogan appeared and made his way to the ring. And once again I was an 11-year -old boy grinning ear to ear with excitement. My kids and I sat with each other, not as a father with his children, but as children all, enjoying a special memory. “Let me tell you something brother,” rang out through the speakers and I couldn’t help but say the words with him. After speaking and tossing out an interrupting villain, Hogan cupped his hand to his ear and began flexing the pythons, to a thunderous roar that he’s heard thousands of times.
I didn’t have to pinch pennies and save up to see the show the way my mom did, but I hope my kids have memories just as long lasting as those I have from so many years ago.
Because of the family friendly direction the WWE has taken over the years, I am now letting my kids watch wrestling. They are engaged in the stories and rally behind the characters they love. This is an exciting time for me. I not only get to relive my childhood in these moments, but I get to live my children’s childhood along with them.
All photos courtesy of Joshua Brandenburg from www.DrinkAndSmile.com
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