Ten years ago this week, VoicesofWrestling.com was born.

Originally designed to be a website and podcast series where people would discuss how they became wrestling fans and why they are fans today, the website eventually evolved into what you see today. This week, to celebrate our 10th anniversary, we invited VOW contributors past and present to re-create that original concept with a twist: why did you become a wrestling fan and how has your wrestling fandom changed in the last ten years.

We hope you enjoy the #VOW10 series and encourage you to share your memories of VoicesofWrestling.com, our columns, our reviews, our previews, our writers and our podcasts by using #VOW10 on Twitter or jumping into our special #VOW10 Discord channel.

Thank you for a great ten years. Enjoy.

-Rich Kraetsch

Voices of Wrestling 10th Anniversary

I became a wrestling fan at 10 years old. It was thanks to an episode of Raw that I randomly tuned into one night. Shawn Michaels was wrestling Chris Jericho in a WrestleMania XIX rematch. At first I was cheering for Jericho because he was wearing blue tights and blue is my favorite color, but as the match went on, I gradually realized that Michaels was the one I was supposed to be rooting for, so I switched allegiances (insert Judas joke here). The dramatic action in the ring had me getting more and more invested in the match, until Y2J finally made Michaels tap out to the Walls of Jericho. From then on, I was hooked. I simply had to watch more pro wrestling. Luckily, Raw was on every Monday night, while another show called SmackDown was on every Thursday night. Jackpot!

The wild action and colorful characters that permeated my TV screen took over my life at a time when puberty, middle school, and my Bar Mitzvah were right around the corner. Change was speeding towards me like a freight train, but my love for pro wrestling has been a constant to this very day.

When you become a wrestling fan, especially one so keen on consuming as much of it as possible, you learn some things pretty quickly. The good guys are called babyfaces and the bad guys are called heels. There are multiple companies around the world with different rosters. The storylines may not be real, but much of the physicality is.

You also learn that being a wrestling fan can be a rather solitary existence.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I was a lonely kid growing up. I had plenty of friends in school and summer camp; just not any who were into wrestling like me. Sure, me and my close friends Max, Michael, and Rana would quote inside jokes to each other, or complain about all the homework at school, or talk about the hot girls in our class who had big boobs. But we never bonded over pro wrestling. Maybe they played a few wrestling videogames with me when they came over to my house for a sleepover, or watched crazy highlight videos that I showed them on YouTube, but that would be as far as their interest in wrestling would go.

Pro wrestling was a love—an obsession—that I carried by myself, continuing well into high school and college. I preferred to keep it hidden as much as I could too.

Part of it had to do with embarrassment. I started watching a few years after the Attitude Era ended, which means that for as long as I’ve been a fan, wrestling has been on the outskirts of what is considered cool and popular, particularly with my generation and younger (there are quite a few TV ratings charts that can back me up on that). My friends knew I liked wrestling, but as I got older, I made sure not to bring it up in conversation with them or, heaven forbid, members of the opposite sex. The term “pro wrestling fan” has a connotation that screams MASSIVE DORK, so best leave that subject off the table.

I suppose at the time I could’ve posted on wrestling forums to connect and forge relationships with other wrestling fans; I’ve been internet savvy since I first logged onto AOL in the late 90s, so it would’ve been quite easy for me. Truth be told, though, I was never really a forum guy. I did join Wrestling Forum as a youngster (with the super cool username Takerkid12), but that was only to download matches and read the various Be the Booker threads. I never posted there with any regularity, nor did I ever join the Wrestling Observer board or DVDVR or PWO or similar forums. When others bring up this famous poster or that famous thread, I can only smile and nod politely.

The fact that I’m more of an introvert and a homebody than an outgoing adventurer also played a part. I didn’t attend my first concert (Paul McCartney at Fenway Park) until I was 23, and there was a ten-year gap between going to wrestling shows. I’m also not the most talkative fellow in person (ironic for someone who hosts a podcast, I know), so whether I’m at a concert or a wrestling show or wherever, I’m not apt to start chatting with people that I don’t know. My mom, rest her soul, never had that problem. She could talk to anyone. We would be leaving a restaurant and it would take an extra 15 minutes because she would just start talking to someone. But I didn’t inherit that gene. I tend to keep schtum, and I don’t need to tell you that it’s harder to make friends when you’re on the quiet side. Again, I see the irony: There I am among hundreds, if not thousands of people who share a common interest with me, and yet I still feel like a solitary man.

So where am I going with all of this?

The purpose of VOW10 is to showcase how your wrestling fandom has changed in the last 10 years. I could rattle off a few examples—a growing interest in New Japan and All Elite Wrestling, a wilting interest in WWE, discovering new favorite wrestlers, etc.–but to me, the most significant change that has occurred over the past decade is thanks to Voices of Wrestling itself.

I discovered VOW in 2014 and started listening to the Flagship podcast regularly. In 2015, I worked up the nerve to email Rich a piece I had written (an article about Bad Luck Fale’s finisher, of all things) and he published it. He also thankfully edited it because my draft wasn’t that great. Regardless, Rich gave me a platform to openly express my wrestling fandom under my own name, which I hadn’t done before. It was a notable step up from keeping my interest hidden in the shadows or under a username. More of my articles were published, my confidence as a writer grew, and soon I became a full-fledged contributor to the site with access to the newly-created VOW contributors Slack chat.

That was a watershed moment for me as a wrestling fan. All of a sudden I was introduced to a group of people that loved wrestling as much as I did. We lived in different parts of the world, had different upbringings, and our specific interests varied from person to person (Garrett Kidney knew more about TNA than anyone, John Carroll was the DG/Toryumon expert, Sean Flynn reviewed Monday Night Raw… for some reason), but I could talk with all of them openly about wrestling and not stick out like a sore thumb. Even though they were only on my computer screen, I finally knew what it was like to have friends who I could bond with over pro wrestling. I was no longer alone.

Joining VOW also led to me opening up more on Twitter. Yes, Twitter is a nightmarish hellscape designed by demons to torment our poor souls, but it’s another way to connect with people. I first signed up in 2009 and rarely used it for a long time, but when I started writing for VOW, I began to tweet about wrestling with a lot more regularity. It introduced me to a whole new group of VOW-adjacent folks that I could talk/joke/rant with about wrestling. One such person was Chris Maffei, who once tweeted about his idea to start a podcast about wrestling music. With a healthy dose of gumption, I messaged Chris about my interest in doing such a show, one thing led to another, and Music of the Mat was born in January 2017. Rich and Joe once again gave us the support and platform to do it, and I’m happy to say that the show is still going strong today with over 100 episodes and counting. That doesn’t happen without Voices of Wrestling.

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A few years ago, I traveled to my first WrestleMania Weekend in New York City. I went to a bunch of shows and saw a lot of great matches, but meeting so many people from VOW and the surrounding community for the first time was what put it over the top. Getting to talk face-to-face with Rich Kraetsch, Joe Lanza, John Carroll, Sean Sedor, Taylor Maimbourg, Sean Flynn, Joe Gagne, Damon McDonald, Joel Abraham, Michael Spears, Aaron Bentley, Aaron Taube, Ricardo Gallegos, and others really put into perspective how many friends I had made since becoming part of VOW. It also made going to and discussing the shows a lot more enjoyable; you can’t beat live pro wrestling with friends. I hope to do it again sometime soon.

For a long time, I felt like my experience of being a wrestling fan was like being a nomad wandering the wilderness without a tribe. When I joined Voices of Wrestling in 2015, I found my tribe. I’ve been here for about 6-and-a-half years and it has honestly changed my life—and my wrestling fandom—for the better.

Congratulations to VOW for going 10 years strong.

And thank you.

Andrew, Joel, John, and Damon