I listen to a lot of podcasts, my favourite of which being the Nerdist podcast. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an interview-format podcast in which the host Chris Hardwick and his mates Jonah and Matt talk to nerdy comedians and celebrities. It’s basically just feels like you’re eavesdropping on some awesome conversations 2-3 times a week. Anyway, I go to update my podcast feed and see that the latest episode of Nerdist is with the wrestler Mick Foley (no relation!). When I saw his name I had one of those moments where a sudden rush of memories seem to hit you all at once. I realised I hadn’t even so much as thought about wrestling in a good few years now, and I remembered how much it meant to me as a kid growing up.
I loved wrestling so much, it was what I spent most of my time thinking about. But it wasn’t easy to be a young wrestling fan when I was growing up. The internet was only just starting to be massive and niche-content wasn’t as readily available yet, the actual TV shows were always shown really late at night (or very early in the morning) and the live shows only came around maybe once every couple of years and were pretty pricey. I don’t remember exactly what my first experience of wrestling was, but I know it involved my friend Mike.
Mike and I spent so much time on wrestling. We – along with my brother Jonny – were pretty much the only ones of our friends who loved it, and that was kinda cool – to have this exclusive interest that other people didn’t know about or understand. We would set the video recorder to record the late TV shows when they were on and if it was a special event, we would take turns asking our parents to buy the pay-per-view show, record it onto video tape and swap the tapes with each other. We watched some of those special event tapes so much that the quality of the recording became really sketchy!
We’d pretend to be some of the characters and have our own matches at Mike’s house, complete with story-lines I wasn’t as athletic as Mike, so he’d be the one doing flips off his parents’ chest of drawers and pretending to knock me out on their bed, which was our make-shift wrestling ring. With help from my mum (who was all too happy to get involved with some arts and crafts) I even made a replica Championship Belt using some fabric, a dinner place-mat and a marker pen, that we would then use in our dramatic-yet-harmless matches!
I think my favourite wrestler was always The Rock. He was just great. He was cool, he was really funny, he had great catchphrases and great wrestling moves, and was just an all-round likeable character. I remember also thinking Chris Jericho was pretty cool, and The Undertaker when he was in his ‘American Badass’ phase (complete with Kid Rock intro music ..haha). Me and my brother also tended to like The Hardy Boyz, who were two of the more speedy, high-flying types who didn’t really have very interesting characters, but had some awesome moves.
We’d buy all the merchandise and toys we could get our hands and pocket money on. Particularly the wrestling action figures (that my mum insisted on referring to as ‘dolls’). I had so many of those figures, and all of the equipment that went with them.
I remember one afternoon, I had received the wrestling ring toy for Christmas and Mike got ‘Titan Tron’ (The stage through which Wrestlers walk when making their entrance, which played the entrance music of a character when you place that character’s figure on
the stage). We were at my house in my bedroom, planning every detail of how the story of our wrestlers was going to pan out. Who hated who and why? What were they going to do about it? and, most importantly, who was going to be named champion by the
end of the night? Mike had also brought his wrestling soundtrack CD round that day, so we had that in my little CD-player, and the soundtrack from my wrestling video game in my PlayStation, and synced them up so that each wrestler had the correct entrance music for his character. Thinking back, we put a lot of effort into all of that!
I loved the Wrestling video games too. The first one I played was one of Mike’s, it was ‘Wresltemania 2000‘ on the N64. That was such a great game. There were all different types of matches in it and I loved that you could create your own wrestler to play as. Needless to say, me and Mike played that game to death. When I got a PlayStation (which was much later than everyone else, because I had an N64 instead), one of the first games I got for it was ‘WWF Smackdown 2 : Know Your Role‘ and later, when I got a PS2, I got ‘Smackdown: Just Bring It‘.
One of the main reasons I loved those games was because you could be creative in making a character, and use and develop the character as much as you wanted. I used to draw cartoon sketches of the characters I came up with before as well as making
them in the game. One of the characters I remember making in the game and using a lot was this funny- looking guy that I called ‘Freddy 1’. Freddy 1 wore red boots, knee-pads, elbow-pads and red trunks with a yellow number ‘1’ on them. He had shoulder-length
black hair with a ginger fringe. Mike thought Freddy 1 was ridiculous. And he was! He was very silly, but he became World Champ because he was top. Another of my characters was a significantly more serious guy called ‘Doctor Death’. Doctor Death was an undertaker-type character who just didn’t take no shit from nobody. He wore this long black trench coat and sunglasses and had some great wrestling moves. I liked him a lot.
One evening, me and my brother were sat in my bedroom and decided that we were going to start a website focussed around wrestling and other interests of ours. We had no idea what was involved with making a website or how to go about making one, so we drew a picture of it. Our hand-drawn website was called ‘Holy Foley’ and was split down the centre, with the left-hand side of the page being updates from Jonny and the right-hand side of the page being updates from me, with the idea being that visitors to the site would choose to be either Team Nic or Team Jonny, depending on their interests and opinions! The idea was that we would just post updates on what’s going on in the world of wrestling, what we thought about it, speculations etc. We basically invented blogging. You’re welcome.
I think I only actually saw a live wrestling show once. It was at the MEN Arena in Manchester, with my brother and my Dad. I don’t remember much of the story at the time or who was fighting, but I remember it being a lot of fun. I remember Rob Van Damme being
there, who was one of the high-flying characters me and my brother liked at the time. I would have loved to have gone to more of these shows, but they were pretty infrequent, and often expensive.
So, despite the obstacles a young English boy faced, I was an avid fan of wrestling. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan any more. I don’t hate it or anything, I just grew out of it. (Also there are a few things that don’t appeal to me that I didn’t notice as a kid – namely it’s association with misogyny and rednecks). However I will always look back fondly on the times I had with wrestling. I might even buy the latest video game and re-create the glory of Freddy 1!