One Punk’s Guide to Professional Wrestling
I’ve been watching and following professional wrestling for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching WWF (World Wrestling Federation) Saturday mornings in my hometown of Moorhead, Minn. I loved—and hated—all the late ’80s stars like Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Andre The Giant, Mr. Perfect, Ted DiBiase, Bobby Heenan, Roddy Piper, and of course, Hulk Hogan. I had no idea then, at age nine or so, that I was living in a state steeped in wrestling history. I wasn’t even aware that there were other wrestling companies out there fighting for my viewership, and that it was a cutthroat business with a mafia-like history of backstabbing, double-crosses, and betrayals. While I was watching Hulk Hogan beat up every bad guy who came his way, I had no clue that just a few years before, he had been lured away from the AWA (American Wrestling Association)—a longstanding and successful wrestling promotion based in my home state—to the WWF, their New York rivals. Hogan’s jump from Minnesota to New York was devastating. It ultimately put the AWA out of business. These kinds of stories were absolutely fascinating to me. As I got older and started to read books on the subject, I was so excited to learn of the history that happened right in my backyard and beyond. Once the internet became available and the information started to flow, I had a field day.
From that point on, it was my goal to know more about the history of pro wrestling than anyone else in the room. I may not know who the current WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) champion is, but I can tell you all about which belt was used for “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers’ month-long, 1963 WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation) championship run and why.
As the years passed, I noticed more and more punks getting into wrestling. I started to wonder why. Lars Frederickson, of Rancid fame and lifelong wrestling fan, said, “Maybe because it’s like an outcast thing.” It’s true wrestling fans, like punks, suffer from a certain stigma. Often, true fans of both are encyclopedic in their knowledge, making them an outsider surrounded by casual fans.
Even when punk became a hell of a lot more tolerated by the mainstream in the mid-1990s (even lucrative), its true base remained marginalized. Wrestling has always carried a similar mark. Even at its most popular, much of wrestling’s fan base is the object of criticism, insults, and stereotypes. The wrestling arena, just like the basement or DIY venue, is somewhere you can go to be among fellow freaks and weirdos.