“Blame the seams of a practiced persona
into which we’ve all
neatly wrapped our arms.
Blame the seamstress
who sewed this mask
and cut all the loose threads.
This arena is a site for unveiling, my locale for loosening the strings.”

Nandi Comer, On Becoming A Fan

When I told people I was attending SummerSlam this year, it brought the same response many wrestling fans always have to answer in some form: Isn’t it fake? Why do you still watch that?

It’s easier to answer the genuinely curious people—the athleticism, the psychology, the violence, the drama… and the fun.

I can still picture the old pay-per-view channel on our 27-inch TV. Those first few chords of “Highway To Hell,” fire blazing in the background, and Stone Cold looking like the coolest motherfucker walking right through it. I wasn’t watching wrestling when SummerSlam 1998 took place, but something in me was tickled by that commercial.

By August of 1999, I am fully wrapped up in the Countdown to the Millenium, a Higher Power, Ben Stiller popping for puppies… oh, and some actual wrestling. It’s almost time to return to school and my mom finally orders my first PPV, SummerSlam. In retrospect, the card kinda sucks? But to a kid, the car crash that was Shane McMahon vs. Test is something to behold.

Between those two summers, I turned ten years old. They call those our formative years for a reason. Fast forward a quarter century, and I’m attending four different wrestling shows in 72 hours.

I’ve seen some great events over the years. An awesome triple threat at Vengeance 2002, Edge’s surprise cameo at the 2004 Draft, WrestleMania 23, Blood and Guts. Hell, I even slapped Shane McMahon’s hand and asked Kevin Owen’s mom to take my wife and I’s picture. I was excited to take as much action as possible when this year’s summer circus rolled through Detroit. Who knows when we’ll have this again?

Night One: Olde Wrestling

A novelty concept. Industrial setting. Old friends.

Effy mimes riding a motorcycle to the ring. It even comes into play while the action is playing out. And the crowd loves it!

Night two (a): Flophouse Wrestling

About as polished as it sounds. Outdoors under a clear, warm evening sky. Who doesn’t experience backyard wrestling at least once in their life?

The high-flying Paul London now resembles a paunchy, aging lounge singer, but knows how to put over the up-and-comer with the local crowd.

Night two (b): GCW

The intensity in the ring matches the heat of the building (literally and figuratively). The blood is plentiful. I like to imagine this was a small taste of the ECW experience.

To close, a modern-day folk hero gives flowers to an enigmatic legend.

Night three: WWE

The stripped-down stages WWE has leaned into in recent years is a welcome sight. It brings me back to renting old VHS tapes – the arenas just look so big with tens of thousands surrounding a ring.

Larger than life.

These shows presented wrestling in all different ways. There were some slow matches and sloppy performers, as well as some reckless violence and polished showmanship.

SummerSlam, the way many people feel about WrestleMania, takes me back to being a kid—a time where you have no school, no bedtime, no responsibilities. A time when you stayed up late watching Raw Is War and caught a rerun of Nitro the next day.

I can’t say I witnessed any legendary moments this weekend. But taking in all these shows in one weekend brought me back to recreating those epic moments with my Jakks figures, constructing my own entrance stages, and commenting on my own PPV cards.

We all didn’t get here the exact same way, but we know that special feeling of what it felt like to get here. Wrestling is fun.

“This arena is a site for unveiling, my locale for loosening the strings.”