When The Giant Fell
Now that we have reached 2013, we are about twenty seven days till the anniversary of Andre ‘The Giant’ Roussimoff passing away. At the time that Andre died, I was 18 years old and I was a senior in high school I had been a fan of wrestling since a young age and particularly the WWF brand of Superstars of Wrestling. I was a fan of the early Wrestlemanias as well as the greatest show of all time Saturday Night’s Main Event. It was about that same time in which WWF Primetime Wrestling started to become WWF Raw which is now known as WWE RAW. To some of us, it was all a seismic as well as palatable shift which was simply marked by Andre’s passing. At the time, I had subscriptions to Pro Wrestling Illustrated. The Wrestler, and Inside Wrestling. I remember seeing the pictures of Andre’s funeral in which 300 plus pound men were struggling to be pall bearers and lift his casket. The wrestling era I was watching was larger than life primarily because He was larger than life. Wrestling was a lot of good fun family entertainment. Even in 1993, it was starting to get more violent and more sexual in content. I found myself being increasingly turned off by the entertainment of my youth. I could not bring myself to watch beyond one episode of RAW. I was brought up with Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby The Brain Heenan bickering back and forth whether or not there was a Santa Claus. I watched Wrestlemania 2 when it debuted on HBO. Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant in Wrestlemania III in the Pontiac Silverdome was a seismic event of my youth.
I had gone to a Wrestlemania for my 17th birthday. By 18, Hulk Hogan had becomed embroiled in a steroid scandal and Andre was dead. There started to be new stars on the horizon. They were stars in which I did not identify with and had no affinity before. In time, the WWF and wrestling stars of the 1980s would start to have more in common with a 1980s comic book phenomenon which I also loved. In the mid-1980s , Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore released the groundbreaking mini-series The Watchmen. The basic plot (which eventually was translated into the 2009 movie of the same name) was that older superheroes who had seen hero activity criminalized were now being bumped off by a mysterious villain. Increasingly, after that any discussion of the WWF Superstars started to be accompanied by the question in my mind of ‘quis custiodiet ipsos cusdodies?” Loosely translated, it means “Who watches the watchmen?” Literally translated, it means “Who guards the guardsmen?”
After the lights faded, no one watched the WWF superstars. They seemed to disappear. Many many of them did not live to be 50 years old. I was personally never big enough to become a wrestler, however I had always dreamed of going in the middle of the squared circle myself. I had all of the figures. But when Andre the Giant died, it just seemed to be the time in order to get off the train. In a lot of ways, professional wrestling had left me before I left it. I read an interview with Vince McMahon after what became an explosion of popularity for the brand in the 1990s. McMahon was asked speciifically about criticisms of the increasingly non-family nature of the sport. McMahon responded that if you did not like it, essentially don’ty watch it. For me, that tended to cut a lot of ties and a lot of guilt about missing my regular weekly watching of the programs, buying of the pay per views, and general daily participation in the culture. Vince McMahon had granted me my release from fandom in his brand. It was not his any more and it was not mine. The magazine subscriptions were eventually dropped and I went off to college. About May of 1993, I watched a match that absolutely impressed me and reignited some of my old love for wrestling and the matches and storylines I had seen in the past. I was so inspired that I wrote a letter to Pro Wrestling Illustrated. The letter, to my knowledge, was never published. The letter was in praise of a young wrestler whom I believed might one day save the sport and entertainment I loved. That did not end well either. That young man’s name was Chris Benoit.