Around twenty years ago—TWENTY!!!—my brother lifted off our giant kulambo and climbed over our giant bed and woke me up to inform me that Bret The Hitman Hart is now the World Wrestling Federation champion. He has, apparently, seen this in the latest Superstars episode in Channel 13 which, for all we know, could already be months or even years delayed. This has elated me to no end, as finally, the rule of Ric Flair has finally ended. Bret Hart was the good guy sort, because that was the time when the wrestling characters were either good or bad and we were rooting for the good characters—they weren’t really real people, they were characters, which made all the buying for WWF action figures so much fun. To this day my favorite WWF action figures would still be my two-pack tag-team action figure set of Hawk and Animal, The Legion of Doom, which my mom got me in Harrison’s Plaza. Bret Hart’s reign sort of became WWF’s Silver Age for us.
The turning point to this good guy-bad guy dichotomy was when Shawn Michaels gave his Rockers partner Marty Jennety the kick and revealed to everyone that he is, indeed, evil. This was a big deal, okay, as The Rockers was the young, hip, high-flying tag team everyone wished would someday win the tag team title. They never did, and Shawn Michaels even turned evil. From then on wrestlers were turning over to the dark side left and right—Crush, Tatanka, Earthquake, Owen Hart, Bob Something (the one with the Chicken-something final maneuver), Men on a Mission’s Mabel, and even Hulk Hogan. Conversely, some converted to the good side—Doink the Clown, Bambam Bigelow, The Headshrinkers, The Narcissist Lex Luger, The Undertaker, etc. I can’t recall how good and evil were delineated back then, except when they do something obviously nefariously nasty such as Shawn Michaels betraying Marty Jennety, or Mabel putting on lots of eyeliner and a pair of fangs so he looked like a black vampire with metabolic syndrome.
The fight that still rules them all would be the casket match between The Undertaker and Yokozuna in the 1993 Royal Rumble wherein The Undertaker almost won the title until ten other guys (including The Million Dollar Man and Adam Bomb) helped Yokozuna place The Undertaker in the casket. Warburger bought the latest WWE magazine a few months after the incident which featured sightings of The Undertaker in the Taj Mahal, in a group pictorial, in The Great Wall of China, and such. I swallowed every bit of it. “My parents told me WWF is scripted and fake,” Bart (his real name) told me as we were typing in our computer class. “It could be fake,” I replied. “I know, but I refuse to believe it’s fake,” Bart insisted.
Eventually in 1997 ripped new wrestlers such as Steve Austin exploded into the scene (I think he used to be some body guard of The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase), and other wrestlers who weren’t quite popular were re-packaged such as the supposed blue-blood European royalty Hunter Hearst Helmsley now stripped down to warrior type Triple H, and the vampire Edge now becoming just a plain long-haired wrestler—really, I don’t know what it is with wrestling and vampires. They were no longer good or evil or crap, and they were cheered or booed depending on the audience’s mood. I’ve stopped watching, I just outgrew watching wrestling altogether in 1998 and instead focused my attention on the more important things—feeding street children, writing subversive political commentaries, organizing community leaders to come up with empowerment programs—or not, but wrestling just became boring.
Recently seen an episode wherein Bret Hart went back to the squared circle and confronted Vince McMahon on his decades long grudge (about that Shawn Michaels-Bret Hart 1-hour Most Pinfalls match the outcome of which was apparently not scripted). He is now old and wrinkly, and if this were an entry in an essay competition I would say that he is… a shadow of his former self. Well at least this is some sort of a resolution. I am still waiting for Marty Jannety to re-appear and kick the crap out of HBK.