I remember how it began very clearly. As all great loves start in life, it began when I had to go somewhere I had no desire to be. Little brothers know the joy of having to go to your older siblings’ events, and this second grade kid had to go to one of the worst of them all, the middle school band concert. All boys love hearing their sister and about 30 of her pimple faced classmates squeak and squawk through “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, right?
In order to make it through, I brought along one my favorite things in my late 80’s world, the latest issue of Nintendo Power. These magazines were amazing. They were not the giant advertisements video game magazines are today. They were full of tips, level maps and codes for the coolest games.
When I got to the concert I discovered that I was not the only one being dragged to this concert; my good friend Brian Border found himself in the same boat. Thankfully, our parents let us sit next to each other. Though, I have no idea how that lasted because I am sure we were not super quiet.
As the wonderful butchering of music ensued, we thumbed through the magazine talking about the latest games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. We came to a game that Brian was very excited about. It featured these guys named The Honky Tonk Man, The Macho Man and Andre the Giant. The game wasWrestleMania, and the main featured star was of course Hulk Hogan. I listened to Brian go on and on about them. I had gone through my He-man and Star Wars phases, but these guys were real.
Not long after, I found myself at our family video rental place of choice, no not Blockbuster, our grocery store of choice, United Super. While looking for a video to rent, I found a case that had Hulk Hogan starring a hole in the eyes of Andre the Giant on the cover. It was WrestleMania 3. I took it to my dad and asked, “Brian was talking about these guys, could I get this?” He agreed, but he wanted to watch it with me. That evening, we sat in my living room for the three hour event of professional wrestling matches. I was introduced not only to the guys in the game, but Junkyard Dog, King Kong Bundy, and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. I loved all of it. But nothing compared to when the Hulkster made his huge come back in the main event by body slamming the 500lbs. Andre the Giant to defeat him. Hulk had just become hero number one, and he stayed there for many years.
My dad did give me the professional wrestling talk afterwards. “These guys are not really fighting. They know who will win.” I did not care that strong man just really picked up that gigantic man, and that made it real enough for me.
I went on to get all the figures, watched it every Saturday and rented every video I could find. Brian shortly became one of my best friends of my childhood. We watched many matches and had even more against each other. Our couch arms turned into top turnbuckle pads, and we took each other on without holding much back. We attended three events together. He was the Ultimate Warrior for Halloween my third grade year, and I of course was Hulk Hogan. My mom made these fantastic plush muscle costumes. When we went to the second live event, we wore the costumes before the event started and walked around. After a while, I got the nerve in one of the big aisles on the floor of Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium to point a famous Hulk Hogan ear cusp to the fans on one side. They erupted in cheers, so I gave them the traditional Hogan pose down. I did the same to every side of the arena. I was in ten year old heaven.
I phased out of wrestling in middle school. Then my cross country friends got me back into it when they started talking over and over about the N.W.O. in high school. I watched the night Goldberg defeated Hogan onWCW’s Monday Nitro, and I’ve been watching ever since to some degree.
Shortly after high school, Brian’s life was taken tragically. It was like losing a family member. I don’t continue to watch as some type of tribute to him though. I watch it because I like it too much; however, a lot of my enjoyment does stem from how much fun we had with it as kids.
I have been to nearly 20 live events now. I have seen every major star in the last 28 years from Andre the Giant to John Cena. I have no thought that it might be displeasing to the Lord at all. In fact, He has used it dozens of time to connect to kids who were not much different from Brian and myself both at school and at church. Someday higher priorities will wane it out. But, until then I will be sitting most Monday’s watching RAW and every year around this time geared up for WrestleMania which has it’s 32nd annual event this Sunday.
If you have an interest that might be goofy to others, do not let it keep you from enjoying it. Life is colored by these things, and you never know how the Lord may use it. On the flip side be wary of looking down on anyone because of the same thing. You never know what is behind it until you take the time to find out.