I imagine it went well. I have no idea. Evidently there wasn't a sufficiently compelling episode of Unsolved Mysteries on that night to keep the entirety of Kerrville's residents from cramming into the sMall to watch this epic brawl. And, being a boy, I had no way of seeing anything that was happening in the hastily-constructed boxing ring in the middle of the sMall, even when my dad grabbed me by the armpits and lifted me above his head to try to see above the crowd. I've never seen the sMall that filled with people, and I doubt the business owners therein have either. I'm pretty sure there was a man, and a bear. I feel safe in assuming that the bear was heavily sedated in order to make this fight possible without any genuine danger.
|I wanted to put a comically juxtaposed picture of Yogi Bear here, but for some reason all Google gave me were old pictures of some baseball dude (who then later invented Yogi Bear, I guess?).|
|There's a chance someone just wheeled in a TV instead.|
I'm not proud.
Frankly, I blame peer pressure. I hung out with several other kids who were eyeballs-deep in wrestling culture and who swore to me that it was awesome, and that I should check it out. And as I was a child, with all of the principles, discernment and convictions that that label implies, I dove in with both feet.
A kid named James, from the next street over, was endlessly excited about some wrestler I'd never heard of. Hardly a conversation went by without James excitedly mentioning him, and yet I had no idea what this wrestler's name was for weeks and weeks of hearing James talk about him. This wrestler's name was Hulk Hogan. Now, surely you've heard of the man, but believe it or not, there was actually a time before Hulkamania ruled the nation and left the keys with its incompetent younger brother, Pastamania.
And since I'd never seen the man and only had James' bizarrely adrenaline-rich, run-together account of him, I was convinced that there was an awesome wrestler out there named Kokogan. Like "cocoa-gun." That's how James said it, every time. I had no idea what to expect when and if I finally laid eyes on Kokogan. Was he Samoan? Would he be wearing some sort of tribal headdress? Was he a wizard? There was no guess that could be tossed out as unrealistic.
|Kokogan, I presume...?|
|Pictured: some Von Erichs, in all statistic likelihood.|
Speaking of the WWF, it wasn't long afterward that another childhood friend showed me the first three Wrestlemanias, on handy VHS tapes he'd obtained from his permissive parents when they weren't letting him watch all the 80s slasher flicks he could handle. And I witnessed the theatrics of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant and was instantly seduced by the wacky personalities and ridiculous live-action cartoon antics on display. Within days of discovering Wrestlemania, my friend let me in on the fact that the WWF broadcast wrestling matches every weekend. On TV. For free.
And we gorged. I almost immediately developed a favorite wrestler, and for as cool as The Artist Formerly Known as Kokogan was, and for as awesomely giant as Andre the Giant was, no one was as cool to me as Junkyard Dog. I somehow came across a poster with his likeness, and promptly plastered it on my bedroom wall in public adoration.
|No, he isn't nude here, though I thought so, too.|
|"I still want to keep 'Cocoa Gun' hip-pocketed for my adult film career, so..."|
Plus, in at least half of the photos I can find of the man, I'm reasonably sure he's the guy who played Isaac on The Love Boat, plus several years' worth of anabolic steroids.
|He used that very chain to mix most of Gavin McLeod's drinks.|
Me: "Yeah, but you've gotta respect how-"
Dad: "No, I don't. I don't have to respect anything those clowns do."
Me: "Okay, but you've at least gotta respect how much-"
Dad: "No, I don't."
Me: "OKAY, but you at least have to respect the amount-"
Dad: "NO, I don't have to respect them. I have no respect for any of them."
[REST OF TRANSCRIPT GARBLED; EXTENDED SCREAMING, POSSIBLY MALE]
I've completely come around to his side now, and had done so by the time I could be described as a pre-teen. But in 1985 I could not be deterred. Men were flying through the air dressed like parade floats, knocking each other over and shrieking crazy-eyed taunts into the nearest camera, every Saturday morning. There is no way that computes to an eight-year-old boy as anything other than the most awesome thing ever to ever exist ever, ever.
|Also, tear-away rubber shirts. Forgot to mention that.|
|"And cool kids attach a chain to their... um, their wallets! Yeah, that's it."|
|Anything to bring this asshole into police custody.|
The gild began to flake free from the sweaty homoerotic lily, though, when I came to the crucial realization that some of my peers evidently never did, not quite a year into my infatuation.
Wait, he didn't even hit that guy, but the dude flew backward anyway! ...Oh...
And the ember began to die, just like that. I tried to continue in some sort of bubble of willful disbelief, but the whole enterprise was beginning to unravel for me.
For one thing, that much-ballyhooed free Saturday morning wrestling show was quite obviously shit. The producers would march out some big name, like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper or Bret "The Hitman" Hart or "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan or Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake or Jake "The Snake" Roberts or Ted "Million Dollar Man" DiBiase...
|No, it isn't just Mad Libs. And how do you even know what that is?|
|"And in this corner, wearing a polo shirt and what appear to be recently ironed khakis, the challenger... Gary!"|
Oftentimes there wasn't even a shitty match. The Saturday morning show would literally parade big-name wrestlers out before the cameras solely to brag about how mercilessly they were going to pummel each other at Wrestlemania Call Your Cable Provider For More Information, then walk away and treat us to future ESPN Classics match-ups like Barry Horowitz vs. Tom "The Meek Accountant" Anderson, with a surprise appearance by Nathan "Doesn't Quite Have the Choreography Down Yet" Jones!
It was becoming awfully threadbare, as I began to develop taste and recognize that not everything put before me was automatically the greatest thing I'd ever seen.
|You thought I was kidding about Pastamania earlier, didn't you.|
|Turn to any page in the script and all you'll see is "HULK HOGAN DOES SOMETHING FUCKING AWESOME" with no punctuation to be found.|
And, just like that, the last bridge collapsed between me and any want to keep watching professional wrestling. I couldn't even think about it without fresh ridicule bubbling up.
|"So, wait, this is a thing that people like, and root for in contests? And his name is Beefcake, but that's NOT his nickname? How is that not Lars from Metallica, and why does he have Charo's dress on?"|
And amazingly enough, I had made it out of childhood without having to wear a cast or hobble around on crutches for weeks on end after some sort of ridiculous attempt to emulate pro wrestling moves. Nah, I removed yet one more degree of realism by saving all of my best injuries for my attempts to emulate things I'd seen Optimus Prime do.
And best of all, my dad got to see me take down my Junkyard Dog poster and turn my back on professional wrestling, and henceforth forever recognize that anyone making a reference to wrestling should be referring to the Greco-Roman variety if they're to be taken seriously and treated with basic dignity.
|Y'know, to avoid embarrassment.|