I have this friend that doesn’t have cable anymore and totally lacks the funds and ability to get Pay Per Views. And he’s a mark – the kind WWE markets to. This is a passing conversation we had Wednesday night:
Him – “So who won the big match? Triple H or Goldberg?” Me – “Goldberg.”
Him – “Goldberg! Really?”
Me – “Yeah.”
The smile on his face said it all. And it kinda rubbed off enough for me to give him more:
Me – “Triple H hit him with a sledgehammer, but Goldberg still speared and jackhammered him.”
Him – “NO WAY!!! He hit him with a sledgehammer?”
Me – “Yep.”
Him – “That’s so cool!”
His giddiness about the whole thing made me smile. I didn’t even really think about all my preconceived notions towards Bill Goldberg and Triple H. The only thing I really wanted to do was mark out with him.
January 7, 2002. I remember the date clearly because it also happened to be my birthday. It was a big night for me. RAW was on and my favorite wrestler was coming back after being out with an injury for over a year. My wife made it special for me. She had a cake made like a wrestling ring and bought an action figure of my favorite wrestler and put him in the middle. We laughed and had a good time with it and got ready for the evenings festivities.
After two hours of waiting, finally the lights went down, the strobes went up and the music blasted. It had only been a short time since I had become a “smart” or “smark” or whatever you want to call it. I had only started reading columns on the internet by people not named Hyatte and was really getting into the whole “community” of the IWC. At that time, the Invasion angle had just ended and Chris Jericho’s Undisputed Title reign had just begun. The IWC had plenty to complain and moan about. There was barely a critical word about my favorite wrestler; as a matter of fact, it seemed a lot of people were excited about his return.
He came out from the back, wearing his blue jean jacket while the arena erupted to ear shattering decibels. He walked to the ring and I marked out like crazy. There was the best wrestler in business, in my opinion. He was tough, he was mean, he was huge, and he loved the business. I didn’t care who he was dating. I didn’t care who he could influence. I didn’t care who his friends were backstage. All I cared about was marking for a guy I loved seeing.
Then it all went downhill.
He wrestled. I thought he looked pretty good for a guy that just got back from an injury, but that’s not what they said online. They said he was being lazy. They said he wasn’t the ring general he had once been. I thought they were being a little harsh – but oh well. Not everyone has to like the guy I do, right?
Then he won the title from Jericho at Wrestlemania. I thought it was predictable – I mean, Jericho just didn’t seem ready to carry the company yet. He was close, but it didn’t seem like the fans were ready for him right then. That’s not what they said online, though. They said he squashed Jericho in that match and was sending a message to the other wrestlers. He was the only game in town. He was using his influence with his fiancÈ to position himself above everyone else. I thought they were being hyper-critical – I mean, there was little doubt from the time he came back to now that he wouldn’t win the title.
He fought Hulk Hogan for the title and lost. I was bummed. But I understood. I mean, with Hulkamania running wild again, it was bound to happen. And it was probably pretty cool for him to lose to an icon like Hulk. That’s not what they said online, though. They said he only lost to Hogan because he wouldn’t lose any heat that way. Hogan was no threat to him in the long run, so this was a “safe” loss. I thought maybe they knew something I didn’t. They said anyone who liked him was a mark. I thought maybe they were right.
The brands had split and just as it looked like he was going to get another shot at the belt, Brock Lesner (the Champ at the time) signed an exclusive deal and would not be back on RAW. So, they gave my (secret) favorite wrestler another title. Well, he did wrestle Ric Flair for it that night, but they gave it to him. I thought, hey, he is the number one contender and the top heel – I understand it. That’s not what they said online, though. They said this was just another example of how he pushes everyone down while using politics to keep himself up. They said it was a travesty and a gross misuse of power. I thought maybe they had a point.
He kept the title for a very long time, only losing once to his very good friend. Challengers would come and challengers would go – but he always remained on top. At first I thought it would be a good thing to give credibility to the belt for someone to keep it a long while. Of course, that’s not what they said online. And the more I read, the more I came around to how they felt.
I got tired of seeing him. Not because I didn’t think he was good; I got tired of him because of what I was reading. I got tired of him because of the columns and the “inside” news. I just got too informed.
He’s no longer my favorite wrestler. I don’t really have a favorite wrestler anymore. And that’s a shame. And it makes me wish I was still a mark. Sure, we look down on them because they like whomever McMahon pushes – they don’t know what’s really going on – and they certainly wouldn’t know a good match if they saw one. But, man, they enjoy watching the wrestling and the WWE way more than we do. Because they don’t sit there looking to critique whatever happens. They don’t sit there whining about who’s doing what backstage. They don’t sit there with their arms folded, daring a television show to impress them.
And, most of all, they just take a match like Goldberg vs. Triple H for what it’s worth.
Him – “That’s so cool!”
Me – “Actually, it wasn’t that great. I mean, the only reason Triple H lost was so he could go on his honeymoon. He’s just going to come and win it back again. And anyway, Goldberg isn’t going to be around for very long. He doesn’t love the business. He’s only in it for the money. And neither one of them were that great in the ring. They only went for fifteen minutes because if they went any longer, Goldberg would have been exposed. Oh, and Triple H is still kind of injured. What they should have done was elevate some of the young guys like Jericho or RVD or even brought Benoit over. He deserves to be champ!”
Him – “Oh.”
No, I didn’t say anything like that. I just smiled to myself and thought, “Yeah, you know, it was pretty cool. Goldberg vs. Triple H. I never thought I would see the day.”
Don’t get me wrong, being a smart is not all bad. Otherwise, why would I be one? I just think that sometimes our love and appreciation of the sport loses some of the magic once we get too focused on what we think should happen. It’s okay not to like the product right now – but it’s also okay if you do.
But most of all, like who you want to like. And if some guy like me comes along and starts talking bad about him, don’t be influenced. Don’t listen to me. Be a mark.
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