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COLUMN: It's WrestleMania week, so embrace the corniness and enjoy the spectacle

From Hulk Hogan to the newest crop of WWE stars, BarrieToday reporter says it feels like being a kid all over again every time

How does a 44-year-old family man such as myself watch a show that many scoff at?

It's fun. It's my soap opera. My TV show. My Marvel Universe.

I was seven years old when I first saw Hulk Hogan walking through a crowd, pointing to his opponent. I didn’t know what it was and thought nothing of it. That was until a few weekends later when I flipped the channel and saw Randy Savage in mid-air just before he dropped an elbow on some jobber, an industry term for someone who always loses, kind of like the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.

I was hooked instantly on wrestling. 

I watched every Saturday and Sunday after that. That was back when wrestling was two shows, from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, and Sundays from 7-8 p.m., unless it was a weekend when Saturday Night’s Main Event was pre-empting Saturday Night Live. Man, I loved those nights.

But then there's WrestleMania, a once-a-year event that is the Superbowl for wrestling fans. It was the biggest matches possible taking place in the biggest stadiums. Celebrities making appearances. News outlets covering it.

I specifically remember WrestleMania 4 in Atlantic City, N.J. It wasn’t even in Toronto, but the next day on the front page of the Toronto Sun was 'Macho Man' Randy Savage on the top rope, arms outstretched in victory having won the heavyweight title in a tournament. 

Wrestling was covered all the time and it was hugely popular.

Toronto has also had its massive Mania moments, mind you.

April 1, 1990 was the night the Ultimate Warrior cleanly pinned Hulk Hogan at the SkyDome. I couldn't get tickets, but my older cousin called me when he got home and told me who won.

I’m thankful my grandmother’s phone receiver didn't break when I threw it out of anger.

WrestleMania 18 in 2002 at the same building. Hogan wasn't in the main event, but he and The Rock should have been. Ask anyone who was there, that building shook and all they did was lock up. 

You scoff? You laugh? I’ve heard it all from people. 

“You know it's fake, right?”

So are your superhero movies.

“It's so corny, they way they act.”

Right, but you keep enjoying your Big Brother and Bachelor shows.

It's no different than any other form of entertainment, except it's interactive.

Nothing beats wrestling as a kid. I used to go to Maple Leaf Gardens and yell at the bad guys (also known as heels) just to have them respond. That was so much fun. Having the good guys (called faces) high-five you as they went by the guardrails was equally as amazing. 

Cheering the heroes and booing the villains with an arena/stadium of like-minded fans was thrilling. 

When I was a kid, there were two things I wanted to be: A writer and a professional wrestler.

Well, I am writing this and am also currently the promoter of the local independent promotion, Barrie Wrestling, so mission accomplished?

I think being an adult and being expected to not watch pro wrestling is perhaps the driving force for why myself and others my age keep going.

We’ve invested our lives in this the same way someone would a sports team. We’ve followed the story lines, the wrestlers and, in many cases, wrestlers' kids who are now in the ring. 

This week is a chance to really turn our minds off and just enjoy the spectacle. The pyrotechnics, the music, the high-flying moves, dramatic finishes and, as is the case of this year, the fans cheering.

Last year was the first WrestleMania without fans, due to COVID.

I watched, of course, but it wasn’t the same.

Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., won’t be filled with fans because of COVID restrictions, but there will be some in attendance.

There are WWE events planned all week leading up to the two-day WrestleMania (Saturday and Sunday) and even many indie promotions are putting on shows in the Tampa area.

Indie promotions are smaller than major televised promotions and typically serve a specific area rather than a national audience. 

There are plenty of options nowadays with televised wrestling on every single day of the week, but when it's WrestleMania season, you’ve got to watch WWE.

Turn your mind off and be a kid again.

Embrace the corniness.

Hate the villain. Love the hero.

See just how athletic these performers have become over the years.

Enjoy the spectacle.

I usually get together with my buddy and do a huge nacho night at his place, but again, no dice due to COVID.

My house will be celebrating and getting loud.

After the year we have had, an escape from the world is needed. 

If this 44-year-old “responsible” adult can go back to being a kid who has no idea what the outcomes could be, what's being said about the wrestlers on the internet and just forget there is a pandemic for two nights, then sign me up.

Happy WrestleMania week!

Shawn Gibson is a general assignment reporter at BarrieToday.