Like others from my era, I grew up watching pro wrestling. It was a time when Jim Crockett Promotions was king of the hill, Vince McMahon Sr. was working hard to draw attention to his World Wide Wrestling Federation, and Fritz Von Erich was pushing his sons to the limit in World Class Championship Wrestling. Top stars included the likes of George Becker and Johnny Weaver, Brute Bernard and Skull Murphy, Broncho Lubich and Aldo Bogny, Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant, “Superstar” Billy Graham, The Great Bolos, Bruno Sammartino, Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Tony Atlas, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Jimmy “Super Fly” Snuka, and the famed Von Erichs.
Times have changed, and so have the players. Flair is in his 60s (and still wrestling), and Hogan is not far behind. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has been replaced by John Cena, and the spotlight is ever shining on the likes of C.M. Punk, Dolph Zigler, Ryback, The Shield, Randy Orton, and Fandango (can you believe people are actually dancing to his theme music?). What was then viewed as sport, has now become “sports entertainment.” And what used to be a group of hard-working, do-or-die, never-say-quit athletes, has now turned into a bunch of not-so-very-talented showmen.
One constant, however, still remains. The fans still love wrestling. They love to be entertained, and wrestling continues to do just that. Perhaps not in as much a big way as it did when shows were drawing crowds upwards towards the 50, 60 and 70,000 mark. Today, promoters are lucky if the gate sales reach 20,000. But the fans still come out. And they still have their favorites.
Professional wrestling will never die. I’m convinced of that. I’m also convinced that there will always be people who, like myself, will turn on the TV on a Monday night hoping to see just a semblance of how things used to be. Hoping that the Hollywood theatrics will be replaced with some real, genuine, down-to-earth wrestling.
I don’t expect that to ever be the case again. Those days are long gone and so, for the most part, are the legends who made pro wrestling so much fun to watch. Where does that leave us? We take what we can get. And, to paraphrase the immortal words of perhaps the greatest pro wrestler of all times, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair: “Whether we like it, or we don’t like it, we learn to live with it, because it’s the best thing going, today!”