My stepdad and I have consistently loved each other, but that consistency hasn’t always been there for liking each other. The issue here is the stark contrasts and differences between the two of us.
He always preferred activities such as fishing, hunting, construction, while I preferred reading, video games, writing.
He has always been a man of business and numbers while I always preferred the arts and words.
He is a staunch conservative who is just a few steps away from the alt-right, while I’m just a few nudges to the left more needed to start singing The Internationale.
He doesn’t believe that being Transgender is a thing. I am MtF Transgender.
We just in almost every way, some far more serious than others, clash in our personalities, worldviews, and interests. This has come close to physical blows at certain points in our lives. Never the less, that thin, hanging by a thread attachment to each other has endured. I can’t say he treated me badly—to his credit he made sure my childhood was as good as it could be under the circumstances we endured. He made a lot of mistakes, a lot of errors, and I don’t agree with a lot of what he did or believes, but I think he did the best he could in helping my Mom raise me.
All that said we really don’t bond on much.
We don’t have many shared interests, and when we have tried to dive into each other’s interests it has never worked out for the positive benefit. There are exceptions though, and one notable exception stretched on for a nearly two year period.
That exception was the WCW Cruiserweight Division.
My stepdad has never understood wrestling, but he has always stepped aside and allowed my love and passion for it to grow. He saw that it kept my attention, kept me behaved, and wrestling tapes and PPVs were an awesome award for chores, good behavior, and in general, just being a reasonable and responsible child. My stepdad never got in the way of things that interested me, as long as he perceived there was no harm, and in his eyes, there was no harm in the surreal, batshit crazy world that was pro wrestling. Oh, sure there were rough spots, such as trying to break the news to me wrestling was fake by explaining how a Hogan/Undertaker match was going to end in a Hogan victory. Then Hogan lost. There was the time in a mental hospital I freaked out over a wrestling angle (detailed in a recent article) and once when he told me WrestleMania XI was too pricey to purchase I kicked him in the shins. In retrospect, him not buying WrestleMania XI was a wise decision as that PPV sucks.
Wrestling was destined to be just another interest of mine we wouldn’t click on. That changed one summer day in 1996 when during Monday Nitro I was sitting down for another session of wrestling when my stepdad sat down in his favorite “you better not think about sitting here” chair. This was unusual as he never usually joined in during the wrestling shows. As fate would have it he came in for Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Dean Malenko.
When the match was over I heard from behind me “Damn that was fun and I looked over to see him for the first time ever giving his full attention. I saw for the first time ever he was leaning forward as I did on many a wrestling match taking it all in. Most importantly I saw he liked what he saw. He started asking questions like “who was that masked man?” “Is this how they always wrestle?” but the most telling question was “when do they wrestle again?” Being fourteen years old and barely with any online awareness, I had zero knowledge of his questions. I simply told him “when they wrestle again I’ll call you in.”
I kept my promise.
It grew from calling him in on Dean Malenko and Rey Mysterio Jr. matches to calling him in whenever any of the cruiserweights came on. He loved them all, but he especially loved the masked wrestlers: Rey Mysterio Jr, Psychosis and Juventud Gurrera were among his favorites. He was really into the high-flying and fast-paced action. It didn’t matter if it was a ten-plus minute match that was legitimately good or a five-six minute sloppy botch fest. It did not concern him. He just liked what he liked, and what he liked was the cruiserweight division. Monday Nitros became a must-watch show (RAW was mostly ignored) and when I would call him into the living room I wouldn’t even have to explain why. It was because the cruiserweights were on and he would sit in that chair of his and watch. It was truly magical, he would ask me questions, sometimes I would be able to answer them. He would constantly wonder “how did they do that?” and I would pretend not to know. He would curse out loud when something really bonkers happens. He then wagged his finger at me for doing the same. Such fun.
The peak of this bonding over the cruiserweight division was no doubt Halloween Havoc 1997. The top match for me and the only match he cared about was Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddy Guerrero, Mask vs. Title.
I remember almost vividly him expressing himself with statements as “holy shit”, “did you see that!”, “GOOD LORD!” with an enthusiasm that borderline on being a genuine fan. Probably the closest he ever got. He almost got a childhood enjoyment out of this wrestling match I rarely saw from anything else. He knows nothing of star ratings, but that is probably the one match that in his eyes was the complete five stars. His reaction and enjoyment of that match are what usually leads to it being one of the few matches I show non-fans to explain the magic of pro-wrestling. If it could cast a spell on my stepdad, it can cast a spell on anyone.
All good things come to an end, and as we entered 1998, fifteen-sixteen year old me started to gravitate toward the raunchier, edgier, attitude era of the WWE. To his credit, he tried to continue watching and enjoy it all with me. It eventually got to the point he came in less and less, then to the point not at all. It was gone, but not forgotten. For nearly two years the cruiserweight division had succeeded where a lot of things have failed, it brought my father together. But by then, it was all over.
I’m glad it happened, but I wish it hadn’t ended. Two years (roughly) is nothing more than a blink of the eye in the long run. It was lightning in a bottle that once released could not be recaptured. Sometimes I briefly look at the wrestling landscape these days and see wrestlers in that same vein, clearly influenced by the Cruiserweight division my stepdad would no doubt go crazy over. I would never get him to pay attention now. He has moved on, and so must I.
With it all said and done though, it was a wonderful time. A period of time where a child and stepdad often at odds found common ground in the most unusual of places. It always gave me the confidence to never give up the faith and to never lose hope when it comes to my relationship, which again while does get rough still hangs on. I’ll never know what might bring us together, and even if it ends up being ultimately fleeting to enjoy and keep it going as long as I can. Thanks to all the Cruiserweights, you’ll never know what you did for my father and me. You made our relationship better.