Taking a break from football talk, I was channel surfing late Monday night. I stopped clicking when I saw one of my all time favorite wrestlers, the Rock, with a microphone in his hand. It’s been quite a while since I’ve watched “wrasslin'”, so I decided to see what the Rock had to say. I must say, he was very entertaining, and I was glad to hear that the “People’s Champion” would be hosting Wrestlemania.
After his speech, I reminished how I took my dad to see a wrestling match, in what would be one the waning months of his life. He had been battling advanced heart disease, and his quality of life had been quickly diminishing. When we came to the US in 1973, as a family we quickly became wrestling fans. I couldn’t wait until 3 or 4 on a Saturday afternoon, where we would tune into UHF channel 45, on our little black and white TV set. Wrestling appeals to a lot of immigrants, because it is very easy to follow. Good guy vs. bad guy – it’s that simple. Football and baseball take a while to understand, but everyone understands the good guy vs. the heel!
From memory, I can recall Bruno Sammartino, Haystacks Calhoon, the Valiant Brothers, Chief Jay Strong Bow, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, The Heart Foundation, The Wolf Man, George “The Animal” Steel, Bob Backlund, Gorilla Monsoon, Captain “Lou” Albano, “C’lassy” Freddy Blassie, Andre The Giant, Killer Kowalksi, Bobo Brazil, Special Delivery SD Jones, Rocky Johnson, The Nature Boy Ric Flair, Jimmy “Super Fly” Snuka, The Ultimate Warrior, and countless others. These are the ones that stick out in my mind.
So back to dad. He always believed wrestling was real, and there was an upcoming match between his favorite wrestler, Hulk Hogan, who would be going up against Vader. I called a friend and he got me ringside tickets, right on the corner isle, seats 1 & 2. When we got to the Civic Center, my dad asked me if we had good seats. I told him they were all right. When we got halfway down, he grabbed my arm, and asked if we were going to be sitting closer. I told him that we would. As we got within 3 or 4 rows from ringside, he grabbed my arm again, and with eyes wide like a little kid, he didn’t say anything this time.
I put my arm around him, and led him to his seat, seat #1. He turned to me with tears in his eyes. He was so happy, that he couldn’t talk. He leaned over the rail the whole night, as a host of wrestlers paraded in and out of the ring. And when Hogan came out, he almost went over the rail while trying to high five him.
To my dad’s delight, Hogan pinned Vader that night for the title, and all was right with the world. We had never sat so close to a match before, and it was painfully obvious to my dad that the wrestlers didn’t hit each other that hard. As we were leaving the arena, he turned to me and said, “Son, you’ve been right all of these years – it is fake!” And before I could say anything, with a great big smile he said, “But I still like it!”
If the Rock laces them up again, I think I’ll take my son to see a match. Ringside. Wouldn’t have it any other way. I know my dad will be watching:)