“Would you like to watch WrestleMania?”
My cousin Kerry was about seven years old, I was just over ten. We were at her house, and the charm of playing with her tiny turtle and fish had worn off. The question left me wondering; I knew vaguely what pro wrestling was, having seen well-oiled men yelling from the screen during the business’ boom period during my childhood, but I never sat down to watch it myself.
Kerry had been a fan for much longer. “Why don’t we watch WrestleMania 6?” That sounded fine. She turned the TV on and The Ultimate Warrior was ranting about the skies and the heavens, and suddenly I was hooked.
My childhood bedroom was dotted with posters of my idols; the Muppets, Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, and The Ultimate Warrior. It was a strange combination. By the time I turned ten I began shifting away from plastic horses. Mister Perfect and Bret Hart joined the Warrior on my wall, and Shirley Manson and Tori Amos replaced Kermit the frog.
When I was ten, I asked for my first pay per view; Survivor Series ’90, which makes me realize that I’ve loved this business for as many years as the Undertaker’s been a thing. I was hooked from that point on, but my feelings didn’t get super intense until the following year, and Bret Hart’s first Intercontinental Title Reign.
Hart was something special. A technician who became a star in the post-steroid trial years, his handsomeness and his prowess in the ring turned heads. When I was a teenager you were either a Bret Hart girl or a Shawn Michaels girl, and I started out as one but ended up as both. But in those early years everyone loved Bret, and my mother was no exception.
Fun fact: Bret Hart was the only man who could make my mother blush. She could confidently stroll up to Fabio and have him autograph a picture of himself nearly naked without batting an eye (well, she said, when he seemed a trifle bit embarrassed, you posed for it!). Put her in a room with Bret and she couldn’t even look him in the face!
I started going to live events around this time – from the age of thirteen to sixteen, I attended roughly forty events. Whenever they came to town I’d be there, with my signs and my cheers. By the time I was sixteen I’d seen matches in thumbprint-sized armories and gigantic arenas. I’d made friends as far away as Scotland and as close as the next town over. Wrestling was a uniting experience, a bonding one for me and my mother..
It was a boom period. But it wouldn’t always be that way.