There may not ever be a better time to be alive and be wrestling fan that the time we’re living in right now. Blessed are we to have unprecedented access to promotions all over the world, to superstars loving life and enjoying freedoms unheard of, and to perhaps more regular surprise returns and debuts than we have ever been afforded before. Near perfectly united relationships reign in perfect harmony with a “war” we’ve been craving since the late nineties. Doors are opening and buzz is building. An eagerness for professional wrestling covers fans like a blanket not felt in a generation. Under that blanket – hands in the air and voices hoarse from overuse – we exist as one.
A pandemic we are still collectively navigating ravaged every inch of the world and with it, our beloved landscape of nerd-dom. While minuscule compared to very real and very serious repercussions of Covid-19, what happened in the wrestling world for the better part of 18 months cannot be overstated. Personally, I took crowds for granted. Without the chants, the screams, and the energy, shows began to feel like as close to a chore as I’d ever like to have them feel like again.
God bless these companies for fighting back and implementing various fail-safes to keep fans interested and engaged. For many like me, wrestling was a constant that could be depended on during uncertain circumstances, just like it had been for a lifetime. Those in positions of power kept the lights on and gave us something new to look forward to every week. An almost unbelievable fact in and of itself. I’ll be completely honest, some of those episodes were much-needed breaths of fresh air amidst storms of uncertainty and anxious energy. I won’t forget them.
I won’t forget what we missed either.
It’s difficult to explain the feeling around the wrestling world today. Excitement is at a high I haven’t felt in my lifetime as a fan. We’re lucky enough to hear rumors of names returning and stories on the horizon that we only ever dreamed of witnessing. Matches between companies. Face offs between rivals never seen before. Moments as big as we could ever imagine. It’s all happening. Right. Fucking. Now.
But I’m not thankful for a single one of these massive earth-shaking returns or working relationships as much as I am for just one of them. It’s perhaps the most understated one of them all. No, it’s not Bryan Danielson in all his hypnotizing glory. No, it’s not John Cena and his jort-wearing, pop-making, GOAT-worthy mystique. No, it’s not Chavo Guerrero Jr, despite his emotional presence and well-deserved pop on Dynamite. Perhaps if he had Pepe along, but I digress. Finally – NO – it’s not even CM Punk, though I’ve been blissfully and anxiously counting down the days until I might ever see his face on my screen again with that trademark look of intensity in his eyes ready to utter, “It’s clobbering time…”
No. It’s none of those men.
It’s us. It’s the fans.
Because without the fans, these moments aren’t really moments at all. Don’t get me wrong, CM Punk returning to active competition would move mountains and be as news-worthy a wrestling story in a decade with or without fans in attendance, but the moment – the pop of pops – would be absent without them. Bryan Danielson wearing another company’s colors after waving the WWE banner for years would crash Twitter and drive fans into a frenzy of infighting and comatose drooling brought on by sheer childlike glee. But with fans – legendary. Goldberg walking down the aisle to stand nose to nose with the All-Mighty WWE Champion himself, Bobby Lashley…
Well, ok, you got me there. Moving on.
In all seriousness, the moments that live forever aren’t made by just those in the ring. They’re birthed by them, sure. All the hard work and storytelling don’t go unappreciated, ever, but without the fans, cool matches and incredible payoffs remain as just that. Fans take these bubbles of wonder and morph them into memories. Pops live forever, and my goodness have I missed them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? I sure know that to be the case now.
I hope I’m not the only one who during the pandemic took the occasional walk down memory lane to experience some of those moments that our favorite legends made together with great crowds of days gone by. Whether it was Edge returning at the Royal Rumble to a mass of eagerness and emotion, Dolph Ziggler cashing in the money in the bank briefcase to become a world champion, or Eddie Guerrero lifting World Championship gold above his head after years of dedicated struggle, these moments and those like them are the ones that give us life as fans. These are the moments that are remembered because they’re the ones that were so carefully and explosively created to be memories with the capability to live forever within us.
Now that fans are consistently filling the stands once again, I have giddy hope that this is just the beginning of what I expect to be some of the most exciting months in my wrestling fan life. I’ve long believed that the wrestling world is a family. Talent and fans together, along with so many others unseen and unheard. Together we can make magic and change lives. It seems excessive, but I know in my heart it isn’t.
So next time you have a chance to go to a show near you, please consider doing so. Do it for those you watch, those who have helped you navigate times uncertain, risking themselves so that you may smile for an hour or two. Do it for those you love, your family inside wrestling and out, so that this thing we adore so dearly may continue to flourish at levels unexpected or feasible. Do it for yourself, so that you may feel the energy and make memories that will last a lifetime. Lastly, do it for the moments. Live them. Feel them. Help to make them bigger than they have any right to be. Send them into the stratosphere so that the next generation of fans look back and wonder what it was like to be us.
I’m grateful for the moments we’ve had. I’m anxiously awaiting those that are to come. Most of all though, I’m just glad we’re in a position to have an ability to still help make them at all.
What a time to be alive and be a wrestling fan indeed.