Thursday, 22 January 2015

Reflections on a Year as a WWE Fan


And the boos reigned down from the heavens, and I became a wrestling fan. My coming out moment with professional wrestling was born in chaos, and complete disillusionment over Daniel Bryan's absence in the Royal Rumble.  I knew that he was a fan favourite and others were passionate about him, because I recall my boyfriend and my best friend having intense reactions over the ending of SummerSlam. I remember remarking back to my boyfriend that I thought the SummerSlam ending was "stupid:. It was because of those two people that I took an interest in the art as I wanted to get closer to each of them. I never expected it to take over my life, and become one of my favourite avenues of artistic appreciation, but that's exactly what happened.

The 2014 Royal Rumble, as frustrating as it was, may go down as one of the more important events in the history of the WWE as it showcased the power of the fan in a way that completely shifted the gameplan of the company heading into Wrestlemania. It was my first ever pay per view, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way, because I feel like it was the absolute perfect time for a newcomer to come on board. I was watching matches here and there leading up to the Rumble, but I was almost wholly unfamilair with the roster. Most of my education came in going back and viewing matches from Mick Foley, Undertaker, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, but I was ready to love Daniel Bryan, because he was loved by the people I cared about most. His match against Bray Wyatt turned me into a disciple of his work, and now I consider him possibly the greatest North American Wrestler of all time. It still stands as one of best WWE matches of 2014, and it also made me a Bray Wyatt fan. Funnily enough I hate him more than any other wrestler now, but Daniel Bryan has a way of making others look like superstars, and he did there. I understood why we loved Daniel Bryan with that match, and I was ready for him to win the Royal Rumble. I was told he was coming. He had to be win it. There is no way he wouldn't be in the Rumble.

And then he wasn't, and the Titanic happened. The entire match dissolved before our eyes. Everyone became a heel, because these men were not Daniel Bryan, and for that one night he was the only man that mattered. It would only rub salt in the wound further when Batista won the Rumble, after we had collectively settled for Roman Reigns taking out the Animal. After the event was over I was hooked by the drama of it all, and the beauty within the ring recalled another art of movement that I was in love with; dance, and that settled it. I was a fan, and I wasn't going to miss anything from this point forward.

In hindsight I was spoiled rotten with the run from the Royal Rumble up through Payback as the company was extremely hot, had consistent booking, and a wealth of bubbling talent. It's too bad they would squander almost everything that turned me into a wrestling fan in the back half of the year. The Shield imploded with a chair shot, The Wyatt Family crumbled with a whimper, Daniel Bryan gave us all true happiness at Mania only to become injured and miss out on the fruits of his labour, and Cesaro....well, let's not talk about that.  Everything that I fell in love with at the beginning of the year was gone, but then WWE surprised me again, and I became more invested than I have in my entire life even though the good year they had built up was crashing down to earth.

On June 2nd, the new Kings of my Wrestling world, The Shield, were no more. Seth Rollins sold out, and destroyed his family. He broke Dean Ambrose's heart, and mine too. I still shudder at watching the video where he turned on his bretheren as I'm too invested in these characters to relive moments that actually brought me physical pain. Nevertheless, in that moment of tragedy saw a new level of my fandom in a man I now call my favourite wrestler, Dean Ambrose. He was the catalyst for the revenge that was needed on Seth Rollins, and in his attacks on Seth Rollins he started to become a top guy for not only me, but for many others. The Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose feud was something intricately layered and built upon years of ring chemistry, and story that dated all the way back to FCW, through the Shield, and to the present. They became combustible, and now they can't exist near one another without violence occurring. Ambrose was hurt too much from the attack, as we'd later find out he never had a family. So this was it for him, and that hurt that came from losing his only real blood was too much to bear. He'd destroy Seth Rollins, and I wanted to see him do it. I lived for those moments when he'd charge across the ring and brawl with Seth, turning his trademark sloppy fists into something of pure rage. Suddenly, it all came together for me with Ambrose and I was so deeply in love with professional wrestling, and more specifically him that I'd spend hours watching his matches, reading interviews, and unraveling my hero. When he uttered "We're All Going to Die Tonight" before their match at Hell in a Cell I practically swooned. My fandom was at it's peak. This was the most I had ever loved wrestling, and I needed to see him win. That pinfall was important and as the match progressed I was so ready, and I was loving every second of a PG era Hell in a Cell, something I didn't think possible, and then it cut to black. I didn't understand what was happening, and then I heard Bray Wyatt's voice, and the feud was over, unfinished, cut off, missed, and my heart was torn out.

I'm still chasing that feeling, and I've been disillusioned with WWE ever since. This hasn't been the end of my wrestling fandom though, not by a longshot, because I've grown attached to the indies, and NJPW. I found more to love in SHIMMER, ROH circa the mid 00s, the hopeful future in NXT, and even the women's action in TNA. I'm evolving as a fan, but I wonder if I'll ever feel that rush that I felt with Ambrose and Rollins again, and as the Royal Rumble approaches this weekend I'm doubtful. It seems like Roman Reigns is well on his way to headlining Wrestlemania and it might be with Seth Rollins, and I wouldn't really care, and that bums me out. But as I come into the Royal Rumble one year later I like the symmetry of rooting for Daniel Bryan once more, and this time he's certain to be in the event. It may even end with a parade of boos and taking an eraser to Vince McMahon's Wrestlemania dry erase board like last year. Ironically Roman Reigns would become the man we hated last year, and he'd get the exact opposite reaction he experienced alongside Batista. I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen in WWE in 2015, but I'll be watching even if it stays as wretched as it has been the last few months, because I've seen the highs, and it's unlike anything else in the world of art. I am grateful that those two people I mentioned in the first paragraph as they gave me reason to check out wrestling, because I love it more than almost anything. I don't know how many times I cried watching wrestling this year, but I hope I will be on Sunday, as Daniel Bryan moves on to headline Wrestlemania 31.

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