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 love wrestling.

I know that’s probably obvious.  I’ve been writing for Voices of Wrestling for three years. I bounce around a few promotions yet I’ve always been anchored in RevPro, my favorite British promotion.  I’ve been lucky enough to review G1 finals, Wrestle Kingdoms and NXT UK PPVs.  I feel privileged to be a small part of an amazing wrestling community, surrounded by talented writers, critics and podcasters.  I have a very small voice, but I’m very proud to have any voice at all.

But, that love will always be tinged with regret.  When asked to write about how my love for wrestling has evolved since 2011, I feel like I’m exposing myself.  I feel like I’m writing about a dirty secret that will get me sacked, unfollowed and humiliated.

Going back to the beginning, I remember Summerslam 1992 in a very abstract way.  I was very young, but I remember the older boys on my street talking about something I didn’t understand but wanted to experience.  I have a memory of seeing wrestlers as colors and sound, but not necessarily something cognizant or formed.  I have that strange fugue-like memory of watching wrestling in a friend’s house, but I’m not quite sure if it actually happened.

From then, wrestling was a part of my life.  I devoured as much as I could.  As I grew older I would ride my bike around Manchester’s many libraries, desperately seeking any wrestling videotapes they might have.  I became laser focussed, spotting magazines about wrestling from a mile away.  I built up a bizarre network, getting Nitro tapes from my next-door neighbor’s mum’s brother and asking my friend from school to pester his dad to lend me his WWF PPVs taped from Sky.  I have no idea how, but I found out about a stall on Middleton market that sold merchandise, and I saved up all my pocket money for a Rock t-shirt. As someone who avoids that kind of socializing now, I look back on it with a strange self-respect.  I suppose it was a passion, but I don’t think children are burdened with that outward-looking label.  They just do what they enjoy.  

I begged to see Mayhem In Manchester, and my dad killed himself to get me the cheapest tickets.  I didn’t care how far back I was.  It was one of the best nights of my life.

So where’s the regret?  The regret is where it all stopped.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it was guitars, or grades or literature.  I just stopped.  It became something I used to do. 

I think it’s because I became a prick. I grew my hair, wore a brown corduroy suit and convinced myself I understood philosophy.  My run, ever the cliche, ended around WrestleMania 17.  

Working beats that nonsense out of someone.  Navigating real-life diminishes concerns of what other people think and, around 2011, I went back.  Of all the confessions in the piece, this is perhaps the starkest.  The buoy wasn’t CM Punk winning the title at Money In The Bank or Okada’s first epic battles with Tanahashi.

It was WWE Legends of WrestleMania on the PS3.  

The game was terrible, but it served as the archetype for the next few WWE games.  It asked me to recreate classic matches, asking you to hit the right beats at the right time to win the crowd over.  It triggered weird memories, like smelling the perfume of a long-forgotten acquaintance.  

And, like the child I was, I just started watching.  I watched every WWE and WCW PPV in the space of a year or two, I watched Raw, I watched SmackDown.  I became bored, so I traced paths from my favorite wrestlers, discovering independent wrestlers and international wrestling.  I went to live shows and read newsletters.  It became a comfortable obsession.  A comfort for when work and life became too much.

The regret still haunts me.  I’ve seen all of ECW, a feat unimaginable to the young, British child reading a magazine.  I’ve seen ROH’s heyday, classic All Japan, caught up on the Okada/Tanahashi feud that I so barely missed.  But, I can’t help but think I should have experienced them in the moment.  I shouldn’t have to imagine and contextualize.  I should have that comfort of just knowing.

If there’s one thing that’s shaped my fandom over the last ten years, it is that regret.  I hope I’ve turned it into something positive.  I want to experience professional wrestling and everything it has to offer.  When I write, I try to treat wrestling like any critic would treat any art form and I make no apologies for that. If we can analyze a movie of a novel through a theoretical lens, whether it’s postmodernism, Marxism, feminism… whatever… why can’t we do the same for wrestling? I’ve been mocked for this approach before, but I don’t really write for other people, as thankful as I am that VOW gave me a platform.  I want to understand what I see, and have it live in my brain.  I prefer it was it’s good, naturally, but it’s more important that I chew on it. 

I don’t want Naito’s story to pass me by.  I don’t want to miss the discussion about why cinematic wrestling stinks.  I don’t want the formation and success of AEW to happen in the background of my life.

Yes, when I hear others on the website talk about wrestling as it happened on the ground when I saw “out of the moment” , I have some regret.  But without that regret, I wouldn’t have the drive I have now.

So, yeah.  I love wrestling and it’s all thanks to fucking WWE Legends of WrestleMania on the PS3.