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

Professional wrestling is one of my earliest memories.

So, I’m six years old, right? It couldn’t have been much later than 9 or 10 o’clock, but at that age, it may as well have been 3 A.M. I remember walking to the stairs and looking up at what seemed like endless dark. I’d never seen what that looked like from the living room; I’d never been the last one to bed before. It was the night of the 1993 King of the Ring. I guess my brain had finally developed enough to think and express, “Hulk Hogan wrestles on this night. The TV told me so. I must watch it.” 

My mom, in true mom fashion, didn’t give a shit about any of this. I don’t recall if she ordered the PPV for me or if we were still living large with my dad’s cable scrambler. Either way, she bailed to her room as soon as it began.

No one told me Hulk was WCW-bound, and I was completely blindsided when Cornette shot a goddamned fireball at him, costing him the WWF title to Yokozuna. That unthinkably deep darkness began making its way down the stairs toward me. Yokozuna seemed so scary. Who was possibly going to ever beat this dude if he was able to smush Hulk Hogan? And yeah, it’s wonderful that pro wrestling could make you feel that sort of hopelessness back then, but it sure is a lot to take on when you’re six years old and all by yourself.

Ordinarily, my dad would have been watching with me, but he had to work late and sleep at the shop. That happened a lot back then. 

My dad came to the United States from Colombia as a young teenager who spoke hardly a lick of English. He started working the same day he arrived and he never stopped. Growing up in New Rochelle, NY, he was close to the ol’ New York territory. When I was a kid he’d relentlessly regale me with stories about Bruno Sammartino and “Superstar” Billy Graham. He’d keep doing that even until I was an angsty teen trying to hear what Road Dogg was saying. His favorite though was Pedro Morales. 

My dad would try sometimes to convey his experience as an immigrant to me. How could I possibly understand, though? My mother’s side of the family was a relatively well-off clan of Connecticut Jews (at my Bar Mitzvah there were TVs set up for guests to play Smackdown! on Playstations, I shit you not) and I was living comfortably off of his relentless work ethic. He’d tell me all the time about how people thought he was stupid because he didn’t speak English. (His English never got that great; he never stopped saying things like “all of a suddenly.”) That’s why I’m the first generation of our family that doesn’t speak Spanish. He thought it would make my life harder. Now, in my 30s, I try to learn it from lucha libre commentary and little green bird in my phone instead. 

Pro wrestling was a great comfort for him. A language barrier doesn’t prevent you from understanding giant cartoon-ish musclemen who batter each other for a living. And then there was Pedro Morales. Morales was from Puerto Rico and would break into Spanish mid-promo. When he did speak English, he did it with the same stilted hesitation my father likely had while learning the language. And when he got in the ring, he was a total fucking star. Three decades later, my father was still making sure I knew so. 

When, as a toddler, my eyes would fixate on pro wrestling on the TV, he was probably relieved. He’d found fast common ground with his spoiled, indoorsy kid. He started bringing home action figures of guys like Demolition or Jake the Snake, long before I could differentiate who they were. He held off as long as he could on telling me it wasn’t real. I found out during a squash match on RAW when my cousin pointed out that if Razor Ramon really stomped on someone’s head repeatedly they’d probably die. I didn’t understand why my father didn’t feel that same Latin connection with Scott Hall until I was older.

Once the cat was out of the bag, my dad loved to talk shit on any wrestling I liked. It was his privilege as the wrestling elder. Still, he would always pay attention during those Attitude Era RAWs, or when I could talk him into some ECW. If he had so much as a single beer in his system, he’d start running through his greatest hits:

  • Anytime someone giving a promo would say, “Let me tell you something,” my dad would lose it. He’d yell, “He’s stalling because he doesn’t know what to say! JUST TELL ME SOMETHING!”
  • He had a story about a tag team (possibly the Wild Samoans?) messing with a janitor in a backstage segment. Apparently, it ended with them dragging the man away, kicking and screaming, by his broom. My dad would tell the story, pause for a second, and ask, “Why wouldn’t he just let go of the god damn broom?!”
  • My personal favorite: “Flair’s still wrestling? Jesus Christ, he’s older than I AM!”

Like many, my fandom would waver through much of my 20s. I was remained prone to an internet deep dive or surprising new friends by sweeping the wrestling category at bar trivia. Eventually, a co-worker sprung up a conversation with me about the stuff, got excited that I knew about NOAH, and started sending me recent matches from Japan to watch. He talks me into watching a G1, I end up tracking down Dragongate shows. Eventually, I’m watching CMLL Puebla Mondays and I’m in way too deep to get back out. I had the bug again and brother, I had it bad. With renewed enthusiasm I tried, and still try, to watch it all the way he would: loudly, (mostly) joyfully, and whenever possible, with the eyes of a dumb and excitable kid.

My dad passed away five years ago. At his funeral, a parade of charmingly goon-ish men and women he grew up with threw their arms around me with stories about him. Several were about watching wrestling with him at Madison Square Garden or having a few too many at a closed-circuit broadcast at the movie theater. 

Sometimes I think about what my dad would say over a PPV and a beer today. He’d probably keep saying, “You still watch this crap?” but stop me when I offer to change the channel. He’d be at least a little excited about rumors of The Rock coming back. He’d laugh that I’m picking up some Spanish from Hugo Savinovich. 

Then I wonder what he’d say if I told him about how I secretly made a fake blog with the sole intention of sending it to Rich so he’d let me write for this lovely little website called Voices of Wrestling.

If I told him that I got really into this podcast network of funny and talented folks with the same sardonic-but-loving eye for professional wrestling that I’d developed from being raised by him, and that I wanted to be part of it. 

He’d probably blink a few times, eyes still fixed on the TV. Eventually, he would sit back and, apropos of nothing, go into his awful Billy Graham impersonation, cackling at himself when he finished.