At five foot seven inches - almost, I now know that perhaps my childhood belief that "you could be anything if you put your mind to it" mindset was, perhaps naive. For me it was the dream of flying high and falling hard on my nemesis in the exaggerated role of a "professional" wrestler. I would stay up late, and for a child that could have easily contributed to my erratic sleep patterns now. But I lived to watch my favourite wrestlers compete, see them go through the motions of being hurt to the bloody point of complete incapacitation. Then seemingly from the heavens they received a second wind; rushes of blood to their tired muscles allowed them to devastate their opponent with their tried and true trademark move. Ah the Shakespearean drama of it all, the artful beauty of a strangely hairless man leaping from heights that no sane person would jump from - whilst demonstrating all of the yoga poses as they fell. And how they would land!
To me they were invincible, their oily and toned physiques worked the stage like gladiators of a long past era. Such godly figures - mostly - could work the crowd with immense ease; a single action could be the difference between utter silence and thunderous applause. How could I not be attracted to such power. It was like a half-naked vocation to my youthful self, I could even see myself strutting around in a pair of those chafing trunks - maybe not so much now though!
Such is the way of youth, we ignore the reality of such daring dreams. Everything was possible, nothing was dangerous and performing the elbow drop multiple times from the highest, strongest shelf was of utmost importance. Coming down perfectly upon the cushion - saving the furniture mostly - gave great satisfaction, I didn't always have perfect aim and found myself hunched over, winded. But it was all a game and the pain wouldn't last, almost like I was channelling that same indomitable spirit.
But is it the wide-eyed perspective of youth that I now recall? Their injuries always seemed minor, the blood somehow fake, the absurdly large falls somehow cushioned, where the moves were safe and performed with ease, or was I forced to overlook the actual dangers of the events. Was the grandeur of the matches key to the illusion of it being a harmless performance? Surely such dangerous actions couldn't be televised, let alone made to sell action figures.
It's often strange to go back in time, like visiting your home town after years away; yet the same - but something about it feels different, like trying to bring those coloured spots flittering around in your peripheral vision to focus and losing sight of them. So when I revisit my old video tapes of wrestling, the nostalgia hits me hard, harder as you watch those awkward moments where the staged actions encounter problems. I followed as far as I could go with my old copies and went further, took in the comings and goings of the audience favourites. Watching my maturity affect the way I enjoyed those special moments of elation and the orchestrated falls. I admired the acting of the greats - the entertainers, the speechmakers, the true charismatic men and women; but like watching an awkward comedy I sheepishly observed the chaotic course of the not so eloquent.
But my age is beginning to show and has ruined many of the things I remember with child-like wonder: now I can see the obvious pitfalls of terrible speakers, the uncharacteristic actions of the wrestler's persona and the predictable eventualities of matches. Finally I can empathise with my poor, impatient father. Perhaps though my new found maturity also has its benefits; only now being able to discern the extensive background details that go into producing a wrestling spectacle: the cultivation of the relationship between wrestler and audience, the co-ordination of background team members that comprise the dramatics of the show, the expert relay of information between players and the perfection achieved from rehearsal of such hazardous moves.
The greatest thing I heed most is the statement: "Don't try this at home." Such a warning often played throughout the televised show, though to my naive eyes it was simply a light offering to add authenticity to the well known knowledge that this form of wrestling was "fake". But now these many seasons have made me more realistic, I can see the incredible dangers posed to each athlete with every move. Anything could go wrong, and there are many examples when they have: I speak of repetitive concussions, internal injuries, broken bones, damaged spines and very real crippling of bodies as well as their lifespan. These days I watch with even more bated breath, shock and awe at the actions where you can hear a boot slapping against a man's head violently, see the impending possibility of a skull being driven into the canvas - their own weight as the driving force. I watch these truly death-defying acts and i'm truly thankful that I was never stupid enough to attempt those dangerous moves. At least with this "growing old" lark I can see myself changing my perspective. I might lose the nostalgia of my memories but I may develop a greater appreciation, and if I ever do feel like performing any elbow drops I will check out my local trampoline club.Suggest a correction