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

There is a photograph of me as a 10 month-old, splayed out on my stomach on my parents’ bed in the summer of 1980. In the background is a boxy, tube television, complete with antennae displaying some grimy, grainy early 1980s pro wrestling. This is an illustration of how I was, essentially, born a pro wrestling fan.

I grew up hearing stories of my dad and grandfather going to see pro wrestling on Miami Beach, regaled constantly with stories of Dusty Rhodes and Abdullah the Butcher and Harley Race and Terry Funk and many others. It was ingrained in me for as long as I can remember. Throughout the 80s and 90s, I was drawn to the cartoony, over the top nature of the WWF with names like Hulk Hogan, Brutus the Barber Beefcake, Hillbilly Jim, the Iron Sheik, the Macho Man Randy Savage, and the Ultimate Warrior inspiring my imagination and more than a few bedroom dust ups with my younger brother. WWF programming was a Monday Night tradition in our house. No matter what else was going on, my dad, my brother, and I would gather around the living room television to watch Prime Time Wrestling and, later, Monday Night Raw.

Then, as I grew older, my focus shifted to baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and other “shoot” sports. My interest in pro wrestling waned and it became something of a fringe interest. Still, Monday Nights would always be highlighted by WWF TV, even during football season when it was up against Monday Night Football. In fact, those nights when the Westminster Dog Show would pre-empt the wrestling on USA, I was furious.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, I threw my focus into music and touring with my band, so this was the first period where my wrestling fandom almost completely stopped. I was so into the idea of writing songs and playing shows and trying to get laid that wrestling fell off my radar nearly entirely. I would still tune in to Monday Night Raw here and there, but mostly out of habit and I was largely distracted.

Then, after the band fell apart (I’ll spare you the VH1 “Behind the Music”), I went back to college, finished school, and moved began my career I found myself with a little bit more time to revisit my old friends in the squared circle on occasion. It was still a fringe interest, but there was a comfort in going back to the same tropes and storylines that I had loved so much as a kid.

One big difference, however, was that now the internet was a thing. And I got sucked in. Big time. Before long, I was watching Raw and Smackdown religiously. When WWE began producing ECW, I was watching that too. I was buying (or *gasp* pirating) PPVs. I was on message boards, though passively. I was all in.

Before long, I was following Japanese wrestling and creating a Twitter account with an avatar of Andre the Giant in Ultimate Warrior face paint. Specifically, there was something about the Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki match from Wrestle Kingdom VI that took me from a WWE fan with a passing interest in Japanese wrestling to a complete New Japan junkie. I won’t get into the whole “wrestling presented as sport” vs. “wrestling presented as entertainment” debate, but there was something about how New Japan booked its wrestlers and invested in long-term storytelling that made me invest in its product at another level. Soon I was podcasting and writing the odd wrestling column. That continued on for the next several years, even as I met the woman who would eventually become my wife.

Then, as it so often does, life threw me a curveball — I had a kid.

Now, you need to understand that wrestling could not possibly have been a smaller part of my wife’s life. Like, it didn’t exist to her. It was the subject of much derision in our life together. She hated it, thought it was silly, and called me ridiculous for watching it. If you’re reading this, you can likely relate in some way.

Anyway, when our son was born my wife was adamant that wrestling not be a part of his life in the way it was part of mine. This was the subject of much debate. I mean, I had been raised on pro wrestling and I was (mostly) a well-adjusted adult. Ultimately, I agreed. I would still watch regularly, but on my laptop or ipad rather than the living room television, which had been co-opted by the evil geniuses running Cocomelon and Little Baby Bum.

With the time I could invest in wrestling naturally reduced by being a dad, I began watching less. I couldn’t keep waking up at 4:00 AM to watch New Japan because I was already regularly waking up at 5:00 with the kid. My NJPW World subscription lapsed. And soon, as the television product got worse and worse, I made the biggest, most monumental decision of my life as a wrestling fan—I stopped watching Raw. In fact, I stopped watching WWE entirely. I was still watching the big NJPW shows and following the product on Twitter and via this website, but I completely abandoned WWE.

And I haven’t come back to it. To be completely honest, I can’t say I’ve missed it. My son is now four years old and he has a one-year-old sister. The vacuum that wrestling left in my life has been filled by dirty diapers and building block towers and throwing the football and teaching guitar and getting lots of sloppy, wet, hugs and kisses.

So why am I writing this column? Because, quite frankly, my love of pro wrestling has made me who I am today. You learn a lot about keeping kids’ attention when you’ve spent your life watching and following the storylines or larger-than-life characters. You learn a lot about storytelling. As somebody who makes his living in the entertainment field, pro wrestling has been invaluable to me as a professional and as a person. It has made me keenly aware of aesthetics and the difference production values can make.

But there’s another reason I’m writing this. I know that wrestling will always be there for me. Eventually, just like it did after my days as a musician, I know that it’ll be there with its tropes and angles and larger-than-life characters with their larger-than-life antics. And it will always be accessible to me, because it’s in me. It’s been in me since that photograph was taken of me crawling around my parents’ bed while grimy early 80s pro wrestling aired on the TV in the background. And no matter where my life takes me and whatever other curveballs life throws my way, it always will be.