I really thought I had outgrown pro wrestling thirty years ago. I remember how slowly the clock would move on Saturday mornings. “All Star Wrestling” aired at noon every Saturday, and it nearly killed me to wait each week. Bulldog Bob Brown and Rufus R. Jones were my heroes. As I look back on old YouTube videos of those wrestlers now, I realize they were a far cry from the body-builder types that would eventually take over the world of professional wrestling. They looked like a couple of guys who took their work boots off and threw them in the back of their pick-ups, next to their tool boxes, before heading into the arena. As an adult, I’m probably as big as Bulldog Bob Brown was in his prime, but as a child, he seemed larger than life to me.
As I grew up, the whole idea of “fake wrestling” started to seem stupid to me. I began thinking it was all a little beneath me. I would even mock other adults who watched wrestling, though only silently in my head.
Then I had sons. And, even though our TV is tuned to PBS Kids most of the time, they still somehow discovered wrestling. Their eyes light up at the mention of John Cena the same way mine did for Bulldog Bob Brown.
I now realize it has little to do with “fake wrestling.” It is a world of good vs. evil. Justice vs. injustice. Underdogs, heroes, and villains. Alliances, friendships, feats of strength and courage. Somehow, it is training for being a man.
Last night, we watched something called “The Royal Rumble.” There were a series of key matches and a big finale in which thirty wrestlers battled to be the last man standing. Until last night, I still believed I had outgrown this silliness. Then, out of nowhere, I found myself leaping from my seat when John Cena pinned A.J. Styles to regain the W.W.E. championship belt.
I may just be more foolish than I thought. Or, perhaps, even grown men need to be reminded that nothing is impossible. That good always triumphs in the end. Even grown men need heroes.