I attended my local yearly hometown festival this past weekend with my wife and son. It is a festival that I’ve been to, supported, and created amazing memories of my entire life. It started well enough, lots of great food, ran a 5k, watched my son pet a baby goat, and fun stuff like that. As the weekend went on, some realizations began to creep in. I wasn’t getting the same feeling I used to get about this weekend. It was less about looking forward to the next event, next person I’d run into, next meal, or next memory, and more about being around fewer people, less familiarity, and more time alone with my wife and son. I had the feeling that maybe this festival just isn’t for me anymore, and I’d rather enjoy and make new memories with my new family in new places and situations.
I’ve thought about that last line a lot, A LOT, over the last year. I look back, and it’s probably been the greatest year of growth and evolution in my life. There has been lots of deep, and at times difficult self-reflection amidst the highest of highs (marrying the love of my life) and lowest of lows (losing my stepfather). I’ve realized that I would hold on to a lot of things that felt comfortable and safe from my past, not knowing that it was actually part of what was holding me back. Kind of like holding on to a life preserver not far offshore. I can probably let go and swim to safety, but it’d be a lot easier if I just sat and waited for someone to help. Luckily, with the gentle, loving push of the Good Doctor (love ya baby, BUY HER CHILDREN’S BOOKS: The Sleeper Hold: Pro-Wrestling for Babies & Milk Money: Budgets for Babies), I’ve done less waiting and let go of that safety jacket lately.
Throughout all the work I’ve done on myself, and with the help and support of others, there has been one constant force. That undeniable force, but not so immovable object, is pro wrestling.
I’ve written about it many times for this site about how many key moments in my life revolve around the world of pro wrestling. It dragged me out of some personal depths, kept me sane through the chaos of life, and propelled me forward toward several personal and professional goals. Everyone who has ever known me from my hometown, college, coaching, and higher education, past and present, knows me and remembers me as “the wrestling guy.” The Halloween costumes, watch parties, live events, and catchphrases used to pop those around me, I’m proud of that.
This brings me back to that line. I have struggled with my fandom in a lot of ways recently. Time is life’s most precious commodity, and being in my mid-thirties with a wife, family, and full-time job doesn’t lend itself to very much of it. In years past, I would be up to date on all the accessible wrestling available weekly. For years, Monday Night RAW was appointment television for me. For a couple years, it shifted to Monday Nitro, but it didn’t take me 83 weeks to jump back onto the sturdier ship. TNA Impact got my attention in high school, as did Lucha Underground and NXT when I was growing my professional career. In recent years, I had been all in on AEW Dynamite, as the old standard became more and more of a shell of its former self. Any of that precious time I would get beyond those shows, I would catch up on NJPW, PWG, ROH, CMLL, AAA, and any other wrestling acronym or cute brand name that created buzz.
The thing now is there is only one brand I care about, family (eaaaasy Vin Diesel). I try my best to keep up on AEW, and to a lesser extent NJPW nowadays because they are the companies whose presentations appeal to me the most, but only after the wife and kid are in bed, or when I can have it on in the background as I work and the like. Rarely do I watch anything live, and I’m pretty consistently a week to two weeks behind on everything. As I’m questioning whether it is worth the time and effort to keep up with all this stuff, I see MORE shows, MORE hours, and MORE companies get added to the calendar. The water around me seems to get greater and greater, and that life preserver is smaller and smaller.
Could this thing that I’ve loved and gotten me through so much also be the thing that is holding me back from truly jumping into the next chapter of my life?
I stop a little short of that conclusion for a few reasons. One of which is one person, or his family and life rather, who though I’ve rarely said this to many, I’ve noticed a lot of parallels in our lives that softens this thinking. That person is Jon Moxley. This is a guy who made it from humble beginnings in a small town, to chasing a dream he had to make it to the top of the largest company in the world. The man was a world champion in WWE. Although many of us watching in real time know he was never THEIR top choice, and the title run showed us that, he still won the top title in that company. I, too, grew up in a small town with dreams of coaching, and though I never made it to the highest level, I was able to be a coach and win at Crisler Arena and FEEL like I was on top of the world.
Though at the same time, it also felt like this dream was slipping away. There is a large price that comes with “making it” in that world, and the older I got, the less I was willing to pay that price. Quite simply, I wanted more out of my life. So I made a career change and left the coaching world, not too long before Mox made the same change, going from the top of the mountain to being part of the foundation of a brand-new company. He quickly rose to the top there, just as I found what I always wanted, a family of my own. Yet, old habits can often die hard. And just as he seemed to be poised for another run towards the top, his demons of the past caught up to him. Having a wife, a new daughter, and an incredibly promising career moving forward, he pulled himself away to conquer those demons and is now flourishing again. I had a similar experience leading up to my wedding, and continue to work on those to this day, much in the way I’m sure he is. Though our demons were different, both of them seemed to, in one way, shape, or form, be tied to pro wrestling. He was able to get rid of the bad parts of that connection, and is now accentuating the positives of it in ways not imagined. He seems to be a great dad, and great husband (despite his propensity for self-mutilation), and has a seemingly great woman who supports him. Save the self-mutilation, I share a lot of the same. In terms of my fandom, though, I’m still struggling with it. That said, I do believe that if Mox can do it, maybe I can too.
I have taken steps already. Wrestling discourse can be a lot of fun. It really is a great community with a lot of knowledgeable and interesting people part of it. It can also drum up the dregs of society. Too often, these types are the loudest voices and can poison the well. Because of that, among other reasons, I deleted Twitter (or X, though Elon ain’t ever givin it to anyone). Getting rid of that platform eliminated nearly all of that for me. Once you have all that negativity out of the way, things feel so much lighter, and the pressure lessens.
Another part of the discourse is the lightning speed it moves from one topic to the next. If you are as wrapped into it as I once was, the feeling of the need to keep up with everything that happens can feel overwhelming. It can truly suck you into your phone, laptop, or whatever device you use for hours at a time if you let it. I willingly did let it for years. The dopamine hit I’d get from reading about the latest news, stories, takes, etc., would lead me through the day. There’s nothing wrong with this. Once the Good Doctor, and later my son, came into the picture, it became harder and harder to keep up. I’d read about something in the morning and maybe have a take I might have wanted to contribute to the conversation. I’d set my phone down for a few hours, and pick it up to a completely different topic light years past the point I wanted to make.
For a long time, that was hard to feel myself fall so far behind on things. These friends I had made through our unique common interest seemed so far ahead of me, like riders fading away into the horizon while I was sinking in quicksand. That need to keep pace and on top of all the wrestling at this point in my life was impossible, and maybe the hardest thing to deal with. I continue to deal with that. It has gotten much easier to separate myself, but I still feel that tinge from time to time that I could or should be carving out more time for the soap opera in spandex and contributing more to the community.
Maybe I’m being overdramatic. I am sure a lot of fans in the UGH “key demo” are going through the same thing. There are also a lot of fans out there my age and older that are able to balance everything that are even more involved than I am. That gives me hope that, again, if they can do it, maybe so can I.
I don’t think I will ever not be a wrestling fan. I think I will likely always do my best to find ways to watch and keep up with things. Check into the discourse to read the latest. Maybe catch a show with the Good Doctor now and then, especially if there’s a good museum in the general vicinity. Maybe my son will become as passionate a fan as I was when I was as a kid since he already loves playing with my old toys (Sting and Vader are his faves). Maybe life will continue to get busier, and we will pack it full with more trips and happy, loving memories in another assortment of areas. My biggest realization in the evolution of my fandom of this artform is something I never thought possible; I think I would be just fine with that as well.