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Posted in: CPR Productions
AFK... Nothing Like WWE Live (CPR Productions)
By Mazza
Nov 13, 2013 - 3:29:58 PM

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been a smark.

Growing up in Britain in the 1980s, it was inevitable that you would come across the wacky world of pro-wrestling. World of Sport was a staple of Saturday television and it was something that my parents would watch if it was on. I’d be more interested in my He-Man or Thundercats figures but I’d have half an ear on what was going on in the background. That included my parents discussing the fact that it was all staged. It wasn’t long until playground trends had me interested in men in tights grappling, but it wouldn’t be Big Daddy & Co providing the glitz and glamour that would lock me into this crazy world for the rest of my life. It was the take the Americans took on it, and more specifically, the take Vince McMahon had taken on it. The WWF. Believe me, in British schools in the late 80s and early 90s, there was no stigma attached to wrestling. All the boys loved it and wanted to get their fix of Hulk Hogan et al as much as possible. As soon as I was exposed to it, I just wanted more and more. As a kid at that time however, you were pretty much limited to borrowing off mates, buying any mags you could find and hoping your parents would rent or buy you a cassette.

Luckily for me, I managed to get a few but the first and favourite was the one with Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant staring each other down on the cover. I knew it wasn’t real (unlike many of the kids at school) but I didn’t care. I knew it was all about showmanship and spectacle, just like that pantos my parents would take me to. The image of Hogan and Andre was probably the reason I bought the video, but it wasn’t the last 20 minutes of the tape that got worn down through constant rewinding. Nope. That was because of Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat. The glitz and glamour was great, but the storytelling and athleticism on show in that Intercontinental Championship match stood out much more in my young mind. My smarkish behaviour would continue overtime as I fell in love with a second IC title match, Bret Hart vs Mr Perfect from SummerSlam 1991. A year after that, a 12 year old Mazza would have the pleasure of attending SummerSlam in person. By that time I was that kid you’d just hate. I’m sure you knew one just like me. The one who thought they knew absolutely everything about the subject and even though you knew that wasn’t the case, they knew more than you did. I’d tell people that Macho Man and Elizabeth were actually divorcing. I’d tell people that Randy was actually the best during all the Hogan vs Warrior playground debates, and that Mr Perfect was actually second. I’d tell people that The Undertaker was called Mark something and was in WCW. I’m surprised I didn’t take a few slaps for my behaviour.

As I grew older with the product, the trends continued. Liking the heels became even cooler as I went through those awkward teenage years and I continued my quest to know wrestlers’ real names, former gimmicks and all those other stats. The rise of the internet during the Attitude Era facilitated my thirst for knowledge but bizarrely I didn’t become a regular IWC member until the mid-to-late 00s. I did pop by every now and again though. I would often find myself reading a Tito column here on Lords of Pain and by the time I discovered Davey Boy, he became a must-read during the week after a PPV. I made my move to the LoP Forums in 2008 and then begun trying my hand at column writing, and I was soon fully immersed in my smarkdom. Whilst I was always a bit of a know it all when it came to wrestling, I’d always managed to enjoy it as a fan. All those nights trying to keep awake with my mates until 4 on a Monday morning during the Attitude Era were great fun. I had things I liked and things that I didn’t but I didn’t have that ubercritical mind for the business until I joined the forums.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love being part of the IWC. It has been such a huge part of my life for the last five years and it has given me people I would call friends from all over the world. That’s an amazing thing. Having people to talk to about this thing that you love, being able to write columns for people to read your thoughts, debating stuff with people of a different mindset are all things that have become part of my everyday life. I wouldn’t give that up for anything. But sometimes, you just have breakaway from all the rumours, stories, conspiracy theories and go back to what made you a fan in the first place. In my mind there is no better place to do that than going to watch the WWE live.

I mentioned my trip to SummerSlam 1992 as a kid, but that was the last time I would go to televised WWF event… Until this Monday. After going to a houseshow in April, I knew WWE would be back for another tour in November and that Raw would be in Manchester. Along with fellow LoP forum columnists, Plan and Iron Fist, we decided we would go. Obviously six months in advance we didn’t have a clue what the WWE landscape would be but it was worth a shot. Over the years I’ve been to some huge football matches, been to concerts and excellent West End musical productions but Monday’s Raw ranked right up there with the very best events I have attended. And a lot of that is down to being able to let go of my online persona. Sometimes you just need to step away from behind the keyboard and become a fan.

Sometimes wrestling feels like a dirty little secret. We all get the comments from family members, friends and colleagues. I don’t need to list any examples as I am sure you have plenty of first hand experience. The fact is we often can’t wait to get home to our little corner where we can watch, read, and talk wrestling. It’s almost a bizarre feeling to arrive outside an arena three hours before a show starts and already see so many people in the same boat as you. You see them wearing the t-shirts you are hesitant to put on to go to work. You hear them having the conversations you haven’t outside the confines of your own house for years. You feel comfortable in your fandom and as you get closer to showtime, more and more of these people just like you show up. Sure, some might be wearing John Cena t-shirts, others might be wearing Santino sock puppets, they like different people, different things but at the base, they are exactly the same as you. Wrestling fans.

That is the moment you begin to let down your smark shield. It is no longer the time to critique every little thing that is in front of you, it is time to let loose and have a good time. And boy did I have a good time. The WWE really seemed to cater to their audience on Monday. The night started out with William Regal introducing Wade Barrett for a dark match against Damien Sandow. The hometown heroes really helped set the tone for the evening and had an already excited crowd in the zone. During the night I had a lot of fun doing things that wouldn’t be something my IWC persona would think was cool. There was a whole lot of good things that went on during Raw but I probably had the most fun booing Vickie out of the building. Just seeing her feed off the heat she was getting was amazing and it felt great being part of that heat. You know what is also awesome? Fandangoing! It’s not the type of thing I’d like to defend. I mean I think Curtis has embraced the gimmick well and grown into a decent lower midcard heel but I definitely don’t want to see the guy pushed to the moon or anything. But being part of a huge crowd humming the guy’s theme tune whilst pointing your fingers in the air is something I think every wrestling fan should experience.

Of course, there is a much cooler thing to do whilst pointing your fingers in the air and that is screaming YES YES YES at the top of your voice. It’s was magic to be part of that Daniel Bryan phenomenon which seems to have even transcended just Bryan and is becoming a part of wrestling culture and WWE history. And what WWE event would be complete without those dueling chants. Twenty one years ago I was on the “Bulldog” side of things but this week I picked the “Cena Sucks”. Not because I think he sucks of course, but just because that seemed the more fun side of the fence to throw my hat on. All the chants all night long were just great to be a part of and even though my throat is still hurting now, I just don’t care.

Then of course there is actually watching these guys do what they do best live and in the flesh. Being there in person you see things you don’t when you are on TV. I am not sure what it is but you can almost see their work rate more. You can see the fact that they all seem to love what they do that much more. And it really was a stacked roster there. I got to see future hall of famers, guys on the very top of their games, guys that will be the future of the company for many years to come. It was so good that I barely had time to dwell on the fact that my favourite living wrestler, Triple H, wouldn’t be there despite being a huge part of the storyline. Seeing Punk, seeing Bryan, and seeing them together made up for that. Seeing the Shield and my newest fave, Roman Reigns look an absolute beast made up for that. Seeing guys who have been entertaining me all year like Ziggler and Del Rio made up for that. Seeing microphone masters like Zeb and Paul E do their utmost to get hated to no avail made up for that. Seeing the biggest names in the industry like Cena and Orton made up for that.

Sometimes, as part of the IWC we can get jaded with the product. The constant analysis of every aspect of several weekly shows can take its toll on you. As I have said, I wouldn’t want to give that up for anything but I would say this, wherever you are, if you WWE are coming to town, try you best to get that ticket. Step away from your keyboard for a night and just let yourself get lost in this amazing thing we love called professional wrestling.

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