I love this business, you might also
It’s 2014 and I’m finally sick of people knocking professional wrestling/sports entertainment, wrestlers and most of all, the fans. I just read another story as I have over the years that bashed all of the above.
I strongly believe that everybody is entitled to their own opinion, so I encourage you to feel however you choose to feel about the industry. I just want to offer my personal thoughts before you continue on with your hatred for something you probably don’t fully or even partially understand.
I did not ask for permission from my company to write this as Vince McMahon once responded with, “why couldn’t you, it’s freedom of speech” when asking permission to write someone a letter years ago. These are my own personal thoughts, experiences, opinions and are in no way, the views or words of World Wrestling Entertainment, its employees, talent, etc.
Who am I to fill you in? I am and have been a wrestling fan since I was a child. I was a nerd. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I got bullied. But I didn’t care, I had an escape. Every Saturday, Sunday and Monday I escaped the real and often cruel world I lived in by watching World Wrestling Entertainment. The larger-than-life wrestlers, the dramatic emotional roller coaster story lines and everything about these TV shows captured my attention and imagination. I never questioned the reality or even cared, I just knew that I was hooked and I loved every minute of it. I lived for watching on TV and going to local shows in Chicago at the Rosemont Horizon and even more so, waiting in the back parking lot to meet my heroes.
I loved professional wrestling so much that I wanted to make a career out of being a part of the industry. I chased my dream to work as a ring announcer in the WWE and after years of hard work, dedication, shooting for the stars and never giving up, the chase was over.
As a ring announcer for WWE, I will never forget the incredible sights that my eyes have seen. It’s amazing looking out from the ring at 80,000 WrestleMania fans, working with the heroes I grew up idolizing and seeing the world, but the absolute best part is seeing what the wrestlers, real life superheroes do for other people’s lives.
Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, etc are superheroes. There’s something about them that capture kids to believe in them as they fight evil. John Cena, Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, The Rock, HHH, and so many others are wrestlers who have portrayed the hero role of WWE set out to destroy the villains. Just like other heroes on TV and in the movies, they are working to overcome evil and prevail against the despised bad guys. Nobody questions how “realistic” cartoon superheroes are because it’s entertainment. I am personally insulted when that’s mentioned while discussing pro wrestling. You can’t bump into Batman at the airport. If you bump into an actor who portrayed Batman in a film, you will probably be extremely disappointed as that actor dropped his character once he left the set.
You can however meet John Cena, Chris Jericho, Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, The Miz and every other WWE superstar at an airport, restaurant or even movie theater. When you meet them, you meet that superhero you see on TV. The John Cena you meet is the same John Cena you see on TV. These are extremely hard working, highly-educated athletes that make what they do on TV look easy, but by no means is any part of what they do, easy. They go hard in the ring, hard in the gym and travel the world for shows so all of their fans get the chance to see them live.
Kids and adults idolize their wrestling heroes for what they do at live events and on television. Fans live for the entertainment of wrestling and idolize their heroes of the game.
There are hundreds, thousands, probably even millions of stories that demonstrate the impact that pro wrestling makes on people’s lives. WWE’s public relations work overtime organizing ways for sick, injured, healthy, young, old, and EVERY fan to meet their heroes and believe me, it means the world to them.
I have witnessed first hand the impact that the wrestlers have on their fans. I’d like to share a few stories off the top of my head.
My Father. He wasn’t a fan. He brought me to the live shows as a kid to make me happy, but he just wasn’t a wrestling fan. He watched on TV in 2002 when I began announcing on WWE TV and got hooked, like a kid. Now he was the one who had to be home to catch every WWE program on TV. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. There was only so much we could say or do to lift his spirits, but the Batista’s and Jericho’s that called him to see how he was feeling put him on top of the world.
There was a little boy that caught my attention in the crowd at the Royal Rumble this year. After talking to him for 2 minutes, he captured my heart. I brought him backstage so he could meet a few of his heroes and couldn’t leave it at him having just one good night. We became friends and through that, 8-year-old Connor became friends with all of his wrestling heroes. Connor was battling brain and spinal cancer. His Father told me that he didn’t have much time on the night we met and I wanted to change that by using the power of WWE to extend his time and make his time extra special. Through FaceTime on Monday afternoons he would chat with various wrestling personalities. He would ask Vickie Guerrero not to say her trademark “Excuse Me” and of course she would and he would put her in her place. He would perform the New Age Outlaws promo for the New Age Outlaws duo. He would talk to the “monster” Kane and threaten to break his finger if he harmed his favorite performer Daniel Bryan in the ring.
Weeks later, Connor came backstage again in DC so he could meet everyone that he idolized and now personally knew. At one point in the afternoon, the entire WWE roster surrounded the ring as Connor was about to walk from the aisle into the ring so he could feel what it was like to make a WWE arena entrance. The entire roster that he idolized chanted his name as he came to the ring. He was also given the opportunity to stand face to face with HHH who at the time was his hero’s biggest rival. He playfully punched HHH who fell on his back as the referee counted to 3 while Connor pinned him.
Looking forward to going to the arena, not having any idea what was in store for him helped to keep him going. He looked forward to that night and after that he was on top of the world and looking out to the next event to keep him going and to keep his spirits up. His doctors looked at his scans and couldn’t understand how he was still going and on top of it, able to fight the pain. WWE. Professional wrestling did that for him. Do yourself a favor and search the video piece that WWE put together telling Connor’s story and what WWE meant to him. I saw first hand what professional wrestling did for Connor and his family saw it as well and we will never forget that. Additionally, I would like to add that Stephanie McMahon and her husband HHH set up a fund for pediatric brain and spinal cancer in Connor’s name at the Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. Please visit: (https://www.givetochildrens.org/CONNORSCURE)
Meet Scott. He has spastic cerebral palsy in all four limbs. He LOVES professional wrestling. He has since he was a child. He told me that “people with disabilities look at their heroes get beat down and love to see them come back up” and how motivating that is. He loves to see the wrestlers fight through their personal issues as well. He didn’t have a social life in high school, but found happiness in professional wrestling. These days, he turns to professional wrestling for an escape. Scott had wanted to be a wrestling announcer. Through a counselor in high school and then the Starlight Foundation, Scott received the opportunity from Eric Bischoff and the now defunct World Championship Wrestling to be an announcer on two shows interviewing Davey Boy Smith and Ric Flair. Scott was thrilled when that happened and just as thrilled recently when they reunited a couple of weeks ago in Dallas.
I’d like to tell you about Desaray. She has alopecia, which means she has lost her hair at the age of 9. Guess what she loves. Guess what she uses to escape getting picked on at school. You guessed it. While kids at school give her a hard time about her hair, the females or Divas of WWE wanted to meet her in the middle of meeting her favorite tag-team the Uso’s. They LOVED her look and they loved meeting her. Can you imagine how she felt that night? Can you imagine when the kids who picked on her saw this photo, being held by the divas from WWE television and E!’s “Total Divas”?
Ryan and Kaden are 5 and 6 and come to lots of WWE shows. They have to be home on Mondays to watch “RAW” and they dress up as John Cena to watch, while they introduce him and mock all of his mannerisms. Ryan wrote about John being his hero and presented it to his kindergarten class. They constantly ask their parents to check the schedule for nearby shows and beg to go to every event possible. It doesn’t take much twisting as their Dad is a lifelong fan and their mom got hooked from watching with the 3 of them.
Cena has given them his armband, his t-shirt, etc as he has to many others in the crowd. I see it all the time, every week. People who have all sorts of problems that they have to deal with, 99% of the time that come to WWE to forget about their problems and escape to a world of fun. They see their favorite wrestlers, sometimes they meet them, sometimes they are given a t-shirt, program, autograph, whatever it is it brings happiness.
I love professional wrestling and the heroes that the business and the fans create out of them and the people they become from the role that they play. There are so many incredible stories out there and I’m sure many have been and will be told. Dreams come true and many are born through professional wrestling. My dream is just one of those and I’ve witnessed numerous others from co-workers to fans.
Who comes to watch? Everybody. EVERYBODY from all walks of life. While lots of celebrities have used professional wrestling to promote their project or in many cases they’re fans so they use their project as an excuse to be part of the show. I have consistently noticed lots of celebrities simply sitting in the crowd enjoying the show with their families and friends. From Jon Stewart who recently brought his son (guess what they do together on Monday nights? Yep. They watch professional wrestling together as many families do for bonding time). TLC’s Chilli, Rick Rubin, Adam Sandler, Rob Schenider, Anthony Kiedis, Charles Barkley, Emma Stone, Shaq, Phil Collins, Ben Stiller, Rob Reiner, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Dennis Haskins, Ludacris, Wiz Khalifa, David Arquette, George Wallace, Billy Corgan, Adam Jones, Freddie Prinze jr, Donald Trump, numerous bands, athletes, actors, singers, businessmen, rich, poor, young and old. All walks of life come to watch professional wrestling and tune in every week on television. There’s something for everyone.
The next time you u want to knock it think of me: a fan that lived for this, dreamed of this and now makes a career out of this. It means a lot to me and it means a lot to everyone mentioned. Think of them. The fans who were touched by their heroes. The Make-A-Wish kids who use their one wish to come to a show or meet one wrestler. The athletes who train hard in the gym daily to keep up their appearance, then travel to your city all over the world every week and do amazing things in the ring to be the hero and then to do so much after that as a hero to make people happy.
Whether it’s the professional wrestlers on the main stage of WWE or the wrestling heroes of independent wrestling performing in front of 20 people, doing what they love and inspiring those 20 people and everybody else who is a part of this industry in any way and acting as a hero to their fans.
I LOVE this form of entertainment and I’m not alone. Did you grow up idolizing Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, John Cena, The Rock, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Mick Foley? If you did and you feel this way too, go ahead and share my story with someone who just might not get it. Help a friend and fill them in, maybe they need someone to look up to.
Follow your dreams.
T: @Justin Roberts