I’m still a couple of weeks away from the operation but it’s quickly approaching, almost as fast as my anxiety for it is rising. In the past, I’ve written posts on the subject of writing or the Storyslingers blog, and the first couple of posts to this blog have been in a roundabout way on that same topic. Writing about writing is all well and good but as I was going to be using blogging as a way to help me through my recovery after my operation I set up my own because there was likely to be a few posts that wouldn’t be about writing at all. So this week I’m going to write a little about one of my true passions: professional wrestling.
Still with me? Good, because this is a tale of a formative childhood memory featuring a betrayal (of sorts), anger, bitterness, remorse, redemption and forgiveness.
On the 3rd October 1991 my parents took my brother and I to our first World Wrestling Federation live event. The Battle Royal at the Royal Albert Hall. Tickets for the event were sold out completely, but in those days my dad knew a guy who knew a guy who got us passes to get in and watch the event from the sound booth. To this day I am convinced some of the horrendous timing of the wrestler’s entrance music was because of our presence in that booth, although I am not entirely sure of the two engineers working in there were even responsible for that. The other thing I am not entirely sure of from that evening happened earlier on before the event had started and even before the doors had opened to allow the fans waiting outside into the building.
The four of us were inside and being shown around by the sound engineer (whose name I forget but was the guy that knew the guy that my dad knew) and there we were, stood at the top of the steps looking down at the ring and witnessing four wrestlers warming up and rehearsing their tag team match for later on that evening. The curtain had been lifted. Two young brothers were realising that the sport they loved watching on television, and would soon enjoy live many times, wasn’t entirely on the up and up.
The wrestlers in question were Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags, who were known as The Nasty Boys, and fan favourites The Rockers, Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels. Knobs had just performed his trademark stagger after receiving a heavy blow and then he and Jannetty began walking back down the aisle towards the backstage area. Jerry Saggs and Shawn Michaels were walking up the stairs towards us.
“Excuse me,” I heard my dad call to them as they walked past. “Would you mind giving my boys your autographs?”
“Sure,” said Sags. But Shawn Michaels, with what I remember a turn of his head away and up, didn’t break his stride and carried on walking. To this day I truly don’t know if he had intentionally blanked a couple of fairly shy kids and their parents or if he honestly thought my Dad was just addressing the villainous Nasty Boy, but the former seemed the most likely especially when you hear the stories of the sort of person he was behind the scenes back then. In any case, after that moment I was no longer fan of the man who would go on to become The Heartbreak Kid.
That was until 2002.
In 1998, Shawn Michaels was forced to retire due to injury and stepped away from wrestling. In that time he went through significant personal changes and his time away from the squared circle had healed his body allowing for a spectacular return to the ring 4 years after he quit. He really was better than ever. Being older and a little bit wiser to how things work in the world of professional wrestling, it was hard for me now not to appreciate what he had gone through to come back and with every subsequent show-stopping performance I was being won over. I was also able to go back and be entertained by matches and promos I had previously refused myself to enjoy.
In 2007 my brother and I attended our first (of 8) Wrestlemania, the WWE’s biggest event of the year which was headlined by Shawn Michaels. The following year we were in person to witness his emotional match with the retiring Ric Flair, and the year after that he and the Undertaker gave us the greatest professional wrestling match I had ever seen. Then in 2010 at Wrestlemania 26 Michaels had his final match, again against the Undertaker, where the loss would result in his retirement. I was the biggest Shawn Michaels fan that night.
At some point, inevitably, someone you look up to will let you down. Be it a public figure, a peer, a loved one or a parent. If you place someone on a pedestal high enough, by your own estimations they will topple. It will also most likely be something unintentional but that won’t make it hurt you any less. It’s also never too late for them to redeem themselves and it’s human nature to forgive.
Everyone gets another chance.