Most pro wrestling fans have been marks (wrestling slang for “fans”) since they were kids. Especially if they are kids. But my wife and I took a different path to fandom.
Three years ago, on the day of WrestleMania 31, my wife and I were driving home from an award ceremony at her grad school when we noticed all the LA comedy podcasts we listen to were talking about WrestleMania. It was held in San Diego that year, and a lot of podcasters were going for a laugh. We couldn’t escape it on social media. My wife suddenly asked the immortal question: “how do we watch WrestleMania?”
We signed up for a free trial of the WWE Network and promised each other that we’d cancel after WrestleMania…unless we ended up watching every month. And wow, do we watch every month.
The moment we became fans for life.
That first WrestleMania created an obsession that hasn’t faded. It wasn’t long before we watched Monday Night Raw each week and went to live shows. As we found a community of other fans online, we learned about independent wrestling and discovered New England has an awesome local wrestling scene.
I only watched a little wrestling when I was a kid, and my wife never watched. Because of this, everything we learned watching wrestling, we learned together. It became a collaborative obsession and an unique bond in our relationship. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon became #relationshipgoals.
It helped that we got into wrestling just in time to see the “women’s revolution” unfold. A new generation of talented female wrestlers were hitting the ring, and neither they nor the fans would stand for two minute “bathroom break” matches. We watched women like Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and the Bella Twins break the glass ceiling on TV every week. At indie shows with companies like Beyond Wrestling and Chikara, we watched wrestlers like Kimber Lee and Heidi Lovelace go even further as they took the fight to the men in mixed gender matches.
Aside: I really want to watch GLOW, Netflix’s new show about female wrestling that released today, but it would be a real heel move (wrestling slang for being a bad guy) if I watched it before she got home from work.
We also learned that wrestling had a little something for each of us. I got into wrestling video games, digging through bargain bins to find the legendary N64 game WWF No Mercy. She binged the Total Divas reality show. But it’s the live events that became our favorite part of pro wrestling because we enjoy that together.
I always tell people that going to a wrestling show is like a cross between a sporting event, a rock concert, and live theater. A wrestling show has unbelievable athletic feats, pyrotechnic spectacle, and compelling characters and drama. Every time my wife and I go to a show, we see something that we’ve never seen before. We’ve seen things we never thought possible. The way a match blends reality and fiction evoke emotions unlike any other forms of storytelling.
Every show is a different experience. Sometimes it feels like an arena concert and sometimes it has the air of a punk rock show. We’ve watched wrestling in the legendary Boston Garden, baseball fields, bars, and elementary school gymnasiums. We’ve sat in the nosebleed section, we’ve watched matches with our hands on the ring apron, and we’ve had to abandon our ringside seats as a 300 pound man dove towards his opponent cowering in the crowd.
My wife and I have been together since high school, and I love that even after 15 years we can find new hobbies and fandoms to share. Discovering wrestling in our 30s is even more fun because it was unexpected.
But there is nothing as unexpected than watching an undead bride bite the ref, escape the ring, and pour drinks at the bar while the heroine tries to protect the crowd. That’s a thing that happened. We saw that live. And we saw it together.