I can still remember the first time I had ever seen wrestling. My father was home on leave, after having been deployed overseas for over a year. I only had a couple of weeks with him before he'd be gone again, deployed elsewhere in the world for up to another year.
My father was never an easy man to get to know. He was gone more often than he was home, and was almost like a mythical figure to me. When he was home, his time was spent in a near-endless blur of action movies, war documentaries, football, and numerous home construction projects.
But this night was different. My dad seemed particularly excited for some reason. He called to me in my room, an event that usually meant I was in some kind of trouble. Unsure of what I had done, I slunk into the living room.
"You wanna watch some wrestling with your old man?"
I had no clue what wrestling was. I was just excited to have my dad want to involve me in one of his activities. I settled in on the floor in front of the couch, prepared to be as bored as I was when my dad watched football. I had no idea what was about to hit me.
Brawlers from Brooklyn. A hairdresser turned wrestler. The most famous giant to ever grace the squared circle. Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty flying around the ring. By this point, I was hooked. I moved up onto the couch beside my dad. We talked about every detail. Who was our favorite guy, and why? He gladly regaled me with the tales of everybody in the ring. Then Hogan's music hit.
I'd never seen or heard anything quite like the reaction he got that night. "I am a real American..." I enjoyed the entrance, by I couldn't understand why this guy was getting more cheers than my new favorite group had, the Rockers. I figured the guy he was about to fight had to be real bad.
"Dun dun-dun dun DUN DUN DUN..." The crowd went wild. This hulking (heh) brute of a man with a painted face came charging down the aisle like he was being chased by the devil himself. He lapped the ring, and shook the ropes so hard I thought he would move the ring. I was floored. Then my dad spoke. "Hogan's going to kick his ass".
"No way, Dad. Warrior is winning."
And then we were off. We both rooted for our guy to win, cheering like crazy when our chosen wrestler would get the upper hand. When Warrior ultimately won, I let out a loud and enthusiastic "YES!". My dad smiled, before doing the world's worst Hogan impression, and challenging me to a match.
And that was life after Wrestlemania VI. When my dad was away, my mom would let me stay up late and watch wrestling, so I could write to him about all the results he missed. He'd send me wrestling-related item he'd find overseas, mostly postcards, many of which were based around the Ultimate Warrior. When home, he was never too busy to get into a wrestling match with me, and would always act like it was the biggest defeat in the world when my mom would count the pin. Even today, he'll still talk with me at length about all the going-ons in the wrestling world.
Thank you, Ultimate Warrior, for giving a 9 year old kid something to bond with his father over. Thank you for the countless hours of entertainment you provided. Thank you so much for all your contributions to the wrestling world, even if many didn't want to give you your due.
May the rocket ship always have fuel. May the spirit of the warrior run forever through the clouds. May the clouds themselves shake under your grasp.
Okay, gotta go wipe some dust from my eyes.
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