Blank Canvas III: A Wrestling Fan's Salvation
Let me tell you of the days of high adventure...
I don't know for sure where I'll be going with this. And to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way. A long time ago, I came to a realization that these columns were my blank canvas, a chance for me to create something entirely me, which as much significance and meaning as I liked. Tonight is the night for me to embrace that. I cannot guarantee that all of you reading this will understand. Some of you may indeed feel the way I feel and embrace this. Others may not. And in the end, that's okay. Because the truth is, I'm not writing this for you. I'm writing this for me, to remember where I am and how I got here. Because this time last year, I never expected I'd arrive in this destination, that what I thought I loved about professional wrestling would lead me down a road away from it all.
I do love professional wrestling, with everything in me. I've loved it since I first saw a WCW show at my grandmother's house in Maryland back in 1994, and I've loved it since, in good times and shitty ones. Except, maybe I didn't. Maybe I was wrong. Have you ever had the sense of doing something, thinking that it should make sense and yet there's something missing. I had felt that way for most of my adult life in regards to wrestling, ever since WCW died in 2001 and I started watching WWE in its place. For fourteen years I watched RAW almost every week, regardless of whether the show ruled or sucked. I paid to watch PPV's. I invested my time so much that I started writing columns for a wrestling site, one of the best decisions I've ever made. I occasionally even got myself invested in a wrestler or two as opposed to the brand. And for a long time I thought I loved it. Except I never did. I never felt right. I never let it in.
It starts slow when you realize things don't match up. You may notice it right away, but you bury it, convince yourself that things aren't how they seem, that they'll change. Until one day you wake up and realize that you were wrong; that there's a fundamental difference at the core of what you want and what the other wants. As the years went on, I began to realize what I wanted out of wrestling. I wanted the best effort from the company I watched, week after week, a company that did its damndest to put on the best show for its fans because it cared about its fans. I wanted to see the best, regardless of their size, their skin color, their weight, their look, they're everything. And in the face of not getting that, I wanted to show the belief that, as a fan, my duty is to do whatever small part I can to let my voice be heard, to make things better. Some believe it's best to blindly support and hope it gets better. In my opinion, to do so means you may end up waiting forever.
And as it turns out, I won't be. I realized, sometime in the past few years, that the WWE's version of wrestling didn't match my own. Instead of giving a great effort every single show, WWE only gave an effort every once in awhile. Instead of caring for the fans, WWE blatantly seemed to go out of its way to stick it to the fans. Instead of letting the best rise to the top, WWE at times made it seem like they were doing everything to throw roadblocks in their way. Maybe that's not entirely how everyone sees it, but it's how I saw it. And in that moment, wrestling was no longer something I loved; wrestling was a chore.
I became angry at almost everything. I hated WWE for their lack of caring at putting out quality worthy of the top wrestling promotion in the world. I became annoyed by those who complained all the time, but continued watching out of some weird, masochistic need. And I especially came to be angry at those who defended WWE; I'm certain their hearts were in the right place, but all I heard was countless apologizing, rationalizing, and tone that suggested that their positivity meant they were better than all of us who dare be critical. In the end, watching WWE became the equivalent of eating McDonalds every day; an unhealthy, unpleasant practice that was eroding my love for something I'd held so dear. So I did what I thought I'd never do; I left. After watching WWE potentially sacrifice Roman Reigns' future just because he looked good in a calendar spread, I turned my TV off on Monday night. I canceled my WWE Network subscription (and I still feel good about it, for those who are wondering). I did what I thought I needed to do to make a statement, however small it was. I was off the reservation, and while I figured I would go back, there were no plans. Perhaps in the end it was the time to finally divorce myself from wrestling, make a clean break once and for all. And I guess that every easily could've happened.
Instead, I found the Temple. And I found wrestling salvation.
If WWE had become the first twelve tracks of American Idiot (in terms of descending from promise to despair), Lucha Underground was Whatsername, the glimmer of hope beaming through the abyss. I didn't know what to expect when I watched the first LU episode back in January, maybe a few days or so after the Royal Rumble. I just know that I soon couldn't stop watching, and haven't been able to since. I was intrigued by episodes one and two. And by the time Chavo Guerrero Jr. found himself standing alone in a hallway, realizing now that there was no one in the world to stop him from the onslaught that was coming from him, I began to feel the same way I did when I first saw Ric Flair return to reform the Four Horsemen. You see, there's a million reasons I could give you for why I love Lucha Underground so much. Hell, I probably already have given them. But in the end, it really comes down to that feeling I got when Chavo stood alone in that hallway. You can have all the great matches you want, you can have the biggest stars in the world, but there's nothing, and I mean nothing that fills a wrestling fan with a greater joy than watching a promotion, a wrestler trying their best all the time to be special. I've watched 38 weeks of Lucha Underground. There have been great weeks, there have been good weeks, and on a rare occasion there's been an okay week. But never has a shown gone by where the LU isn't reaching for the stars, isn't doing everything they can to put a smile on my face and the thousands of other believers watching either from the Temple or at home. And it's from that feeling, that idea, that I began to realize that what I wanted from wrestling really existed all along.
Now, it may be over. It's early morning here in Rhode Island, so later on tonight, Lucha Underground will hold their season finale, part two of the already unforgettable Ultima Lucha. I'm as scared as I am excited. Not for fear of the show's quality, but fear that this may be the end. There's still no confirmation of a season two of Lucha Underground, and as positive as I've tried to be, that cynical bastard that was born out of the anger towards wrestling the past few years sometimes pops his head in. But even if it will be over before it should, I am slowly beginning to take solace in these past 38 weeks, 38 weeks that saved the wrestling fan in me and reminded me what professional wrestling is capable of. That cannot be taken away, from me or from anyone else that Lucha Underground has touched along the way. And so, if Lucha Underground is to come to a close tomorrow, I look forward to seeing it go out with a bang. And believe you me, it will go out with a bang.
For tomorrow night, Ultima Lucha isn't just a wrestling show, it's a series of short stories that aren't ashamed to show you who they are. Ultima Lucha will be about many things; a young former champion looking to show his worth against a legend gone wrong. A hero vs. a jealous never quite. Seven different souls dueling for a chance to climb a mountain. A champion looking to face death right in the face and not blink. And maybe most compellingly, a young warrior looking to prove his worth to his master by taking out a legend who just has to know whether or not there's enough fuel in the tank, enough of a thirst for blood for one last moment in the night. Some of these stories work better than others. None of these would ever be considered in the same league as Shakespeare. But there's an epicness, a beauty to them that I haven't felt watching wrestling in a long time. It fills me with a feeling of wanting to jump up and scream, to feel the energy of that building run through me as if I were there myself. A feeling that I thought was long dead. A feeling...a fucking feeling.
Like I said, I don't expect everyone to understand. I don't expect these words to hit you the way I potentially want them to. But if there is someone out there, even just one person, who feels the same way I felt earlier this year about wrestling, who seeks the same thing I sought out for wrestling, then I hope these words have inspired you to watch Ultima Lucha tonight. I can't promise you an all time event, but I can promise you an all time effort. And that's good enough for me right now, good enough for me to throw out that old canvas and replace it with a new one. I don't know what will happen if Lucha Underground goes no further than tonight. I don't know where I, you and the rest of the believers will go from there. But for the first time in fourteen years, I feel better about the possibilities if it comes to that. And I'm forever thankful to the LU for that. They saved my wrestling fandom. And if you seek what I seek, then tomorrow night, let them save yours.