This article has been written by Tony Mirabella, co-host of SNS UnPlugged. You can reach him on Twitter at @SNS_BronxZilla.
I haven’t written one of these in a long time. I’m a night person, and as I sit here in the wee hours of the night, I can collect my thoughts. I’ve often found that these late hours are wonderful to reflect, to think, to simply be peaceful in silence and express my feelings. Today I read about the death of Rowdy Roddy Piper, one of the true greats in the wrestling business. Piper’s death has caused me to think back to a simpler time.
When I was a kid, I became a wrestling fan at a very young age. My uncles, mom and grandmother told me stories about Bruno and Madison Square Garden. My Uncle Duane is a huge wrestling fan, and even wrestled a bit in his youth. So, I guess you could say we were a wrestling family. I had wrestling figures, huge rubber monstrosities that were forever stuck in one pose, forcing you to use your imagination. I sat in front of the TV loyally on Saturday mornings, and watched my favorite wrestlers do their thing. My uncle Richard, who sadly is no longer with us, used to sneak me out of bed on Saturday nights to watch Saturday Night Main Event. Just thinking about that brings a smile to my face.
Wrestling was larger than life. Human cartoon characters on my television engaging in battles with their enemies. Macho Man Randy Savage in his colorful outfits, seeming to set the television on fire with his personality. The Ultimate Warrior, crazy, shaking, sputtering, talking about parts unknown. Hulk Hogan being my hero, a guy who a child could feel good looking up to. All the complaining IWC members, all the adults, need to remember what it was like watching wrestling through a child’s eyes.
Was wrestling simply better back then, or does it just seem that way because we always tend to look upon good childhood memories with joy? I would say it is the former. Why? Because of guys like Savage, Warrior, Piper and Dusty. Their passion, their charisma, their charm, their strength. They OWNED your TV set. They stared at you through the camera while they talked about their upcoming battles. Who hasn’t raised their hand to the TV screen when Dusty Rhodes cut his famous promo, and told us to take his hand? Who didn’t get psyched when Warrior cut one of his insane, illegible promos? We had no idea what the Warrior was talking about, but damnit, it got me excited! Macho Man could NOT be ignored. No way. A human nuclear bomb in bright colors just radiating passion! And Piper. A crazy, shaking Scotsman in a damn kilt abusing people on his show, or selling his ass off in the ring.
Why don’t I feel this way about wrestling anymore? Have I outgrown it, or has it outgrown me? I’m not sure. When I became a teenager, I longed for characters that were “cool.” Prayers and vitamins weren’t my thing anymore. My beloved wrestling delivered. I got the NWO, the Hogan heel turn, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, the Attitude Era, and the Monday Night Wars. I had NO problem sitting in front of my TV for 4 or 5 hours on a Monday night. NO PROBLEM AT ALL. The stories were so captivating and the characters were so real! Granted, there was some stupidity, like Katie Vick and the finger poke of doom. But still. There was something about it that kept me coming back.
Even up until a few years ago, I could sit and enjoy wrestling. TNA even held my interest for several years. Say what you want about them, but in their early years TNA was pretty good. Now, I find that I can miss Raw for several weeks and not care. There are alternatives out there, like NXT, Lucha Underground and ROH, but it’s still not the same. I don’t feel that passion anymore. I’m no longer excited.
This brings me to my main point. We’ve lost so many people that once made wrestling great. In the last few years, the deaths of Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Dusty Rhodes and now Piper, have really driven home to me the sad fact that I’m just not the same wrestling fan I used to be. It seems like now it’s all about social media, merchandise, publicity and stock prices. It’s ridiculous, nonsensical writing that is quite frankly boring. It’s characters fumbling through scripted promos with no passion, no feeling. I feel like I’m an old man when I watch wrestling nowadays. I guess I’m just not good at adapting. I want to feel the way I used to feel, but I just can’t anymore. It’s just….it’s just not the same.
Thank you to all those who are no longer with us for making my childhood fun. Thank you Randy, Warrior, Dusty and Piper for all you did. Rest in peace. The business will never be the same without you. I can’t think of too many people in wrestling today who deserve to lace your boots. All of us must feel the brutal effects of time. I’m feeling them right now. RIP to all those gone. You are, truly, irreplaceable.