Nostalgia is a powerful force.
My grandfather on my dad’s side died when I was pretty young, so I don’t have many memories of him. In fact, probably the only clear memory of him I do have is watching an episode of the WWF together on TV. This was back in the days when the most popular wrestlers were brightly-colored, over-the-top, human action figures who not only tossed each other around and babbled into microphones nonsensically but also regularly appeared in their own cartoons, did TV commercials, and even made guest appearances on kids’ shows. There were plenty of great characters to choose from- and I had most of them in actual action figure form- but by far my favorites were The Ultimate Warrior and “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
Macho Man had a persona that was so ridiculously overblown that it was impossible for me not to like him; with his garish clothes, the way he’d growl out his catch phrases, and the impossible way he seemed to fly off the top rope with his signature elbow drop- he embodied everything I love about that era of professional wrestling.
The Ultimate Warrior didn’t have the charm that Savage did, but he made up for it with an intensity and ferocity that simultaneously frightened and fascinated me. In a time when a leg drop and a sleeper hold were considered “devastating” signature moves, seeing the Warrior’s gorilla press (coupled with his face paint and ripped physique) convinced me that he was some kind of superhero.
I haven’t watched the WWE (the current iteration of the WWF) in years, mainly because we don’t have cable. However, when I heard the news earlier this week that The Ultimate Warrior had died suddenly- only a few days after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame- I was overcome by a bittersweet flood of nostalgia that temporarily transported me back to my childhood. The same thing happened a few years ago when I heard that Macho Man had died in a car crash. I know that the “sport” is fake and that these men I idolized as a child were only actors portraying characters, but I am truly grateful to them for the parts they played in enriching my childhood.
Rest In Peace Macho Man and Warrior. I almost feel bad for the angels on the receiving end of your elbow drops, gorilla presses and Warrior splashes.
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