Last night was the 25th anniversary of Wrestlemania, essentially the Super Bowl of sports entertainment. I met up with some friends at Bailey’s and had a grand old time watching it, save for the occasional Kid Rock interjection.
Recapping the event for you wonderful people is not the purpose of this entry, however. No, this entry has a far more personal reason behind it. It’s a secret that I have rarely shared with anyone. That is, until now.
I was a backyard wrestler.
Yes, indeed. The laid back, fun-loving, gorgeous hunk of a man that you all hve come to know and love was part of that insane fad from the late 90s-early 2000s. It’s forunate that I was only part of it for approximately 4 hours.
It was a Saturday in the September of 1998. I was 13 at the time. Still young and oh so naive about the world. My cousin and I were in the basement, playing the hottest new wrestling game on the market, WWF WarZone. We knew it was the hottest because it had none other than Stone Cold Steve Austin on the cover, arms raised in victory.
As we were playing, my cousin began talking about how back home in Kentucky, he and his friends would get together and perform wrestling matches for no other reason other than there was nothing else to do in Kentucky. As he regaled me with stories, my pubescent eyes lit up, and I asked him if we could possibly do the same thing here. After a slight debate, he coalesced, and I ran upstairs to work on a logo for what was surely to be the hottest backyard wrestling league that side of Fairfax County.
Grinning from ear to ear, I marched out to the backyard in my wrestling attire, the scrap of paper with the logo for the new Xtreme Wrestling League (XWL for short) clutched in my tiny hand. My cousin looked the logo over and nodded in approval. Then he asked what experience I had in wrestling. I told him none, aside from the sweet video game we were playing previously. Assuring me that my lack of experience would not be a problem, he proceeded to give a quick demonstration of some of the basics, such as how to throw a punch, how to take a punch, etc. Then, he said it was time to learn some holds. The first one he wanted to show me was a front face headlock. In this hold, he explained, I would be facing him, and he would grab my shoulders, bend me forward, and wrap his arm around my neck while I would make it look like he was truly hurting me. Still giddy about my lumberjack character, I quickly agreed.
My cousin took a deep breath, grabbed my shoulders and bent me forward, towards him. Next, his arm wrapped around my neck as my arms flailed, pleased with myself at how accurately I was portraying pain. But then the strangest thing happened. My cousin applied pressure around my neck and fell backward onto the grass, the ground already hardening as we headed deeper into autumn.
As the vision came back to my eyes, albeit with colors swirling in a mish-mash pattern, I saw my cousin doing a little dance, his arms in the air, curling his fingers as if he was taunting the audience. The audience that was not there.
Needless to say, the XWL ceased to continue after that day, with Lumberjack Bill retiring, an 0-1 record.
Out of embarrassment, I decided to never discuss that afternoon with my parents or friends. And as for my cousin…well, I realized that a 19 year old essentially DDTing a 13 year old is up there on the pH scale of pathetic, so I chose to let it slide.
Besides, I never really liked that flannel shirt anyway.