Only One: Candy Bars and Pro Wrestling
The greatest candy is Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.
I’m not saying this is my favorite (Three Musketeers) but making a statement that the majority of candy enthusiasts would agree upon. If we polled everyone in America, Reece’s would be in the majority of everyone’s top five. It would likely have the best overall score if we created some NPS.
Marketing aside, Reece Cups profit from the magical combination of peanut butter and chocolate. Although scoops of peanut butter are pleasant and a Hershey bar is nice, mixed together makes some magic.
Imagine if you only allowed yourself one of those items: chocolate or peanut butter? We would miss out on the greatest candy ever.
Unfortunately, I put myself in this situation and am forced to only have one great thing – to a fault.
Hobbies – There Can Only Be One
I have many hobbies. I’m also rather obsessive. When I like something – I really like something. To the extreme that I try and indulge myself in everything about that topic. In my mind, I want to be an expert – the top subject matter expert. This sounds great but also sucks.
Wrestling in the ‘90s – WWF
The art of pro wrestling became one of my earliest hobbies. In late 1993 I stumbled across a Superstars episode on a Saturday afternoon. I saw a ripped up dude knock out a Canadian Mountie with his foreman (just so happened the forearm had a metal plate in it). I was ready to be a fan.
Over the next few weeks, I searched out to find wrestling on every channel. I grabbed some notebook paper and started making a list of wrestlers. I found WCW Saturday Night on TBS, Monday Night Raw on USA, and All American Wrestling on Sunday’s. Little Eric Hersey begged his parents to rent old VHS pay per views from Sun Video (our local Martins Ferry video rental store). By the start of 1994, I had wrestling action figures, magazines, posters, and would attend a live event in Wheeling at the Civic Center (now WesBanco Arena).
Over the next few years, I attended several live events and wouldn’t miss a show. I would watch (listen) to a scrambled TV during the pay per views so I knew what happened. I would emulate my favorites Tatanka and Bret Hart in my living room, beating up my neighbors or random pillow pals.
The Great Divide. Eric Hersey’s Brand Loyalty.
Up until 1997, I would watch WWF and WCW. My preference was the World Wrestling Federation, but I never found myself picking sides. World Championship Wrestling was always the second choice for most of America and in 1996 they made a major move to change this. Monday Nitro was a prime time show that would go head to head against WWF. Not only did they counter program and make the customer choose, but they were also bashing the WWF and essentially asking for fans to pick sides. My loyalty was to WWF and I turned off WCW for good.
My fandom only grew. Stone Cold, The Rock, and Degeneration X elevated my rebellious teenage attitude. In fact, the WWF Attitude Era kicked off Eric Hersey’s Attitude Era. Even though I cut out one of the major brands, I replaced that with a complete obsession with WWF. I found several like-minded friends that felt the same.
In 1998 I teamed with my good friend Matt and created a talk show about the WWF, aptly named WWF Chat. We would write jokes about WCW, have other friends come in dressed like wrestlers and insult them, and overall promote the current WWF product. These stints only lead to my involvement in backyard wrestling.
Not Just a Fan, but the
Ultimate Brand Advocate
I gathered together over twenty friends and created the DTWF – Down Town Wrestling Federation. We all had varying levels of fandom, but all were good enough to flip around on some mattresses. We created characters and made up storylines. During the process, many would reference WCW and I would lecture them on how they shouldn’t support and should only watch WWF. Little did I know, WCW was doing some great things and I was oblivious.
Skip forward a few years, we were still wrestling. In 2001, I was on the winning side of the war and WCW went out of business. The WWF – who would be renamed WWE – bought out the competition and was the only game in town. I felt I helped the company win the war.
Leaving Wrestling and New Hobbies
Over the last twenty years, I have come and gone with wrestling. I had stints where I jumped back in for a few months and also missed complete years. Many would argue that WWE lost the competitive edge because WCW was gone. I am not necessarily a believer that they don’t have competition, more so that they have way more competition.
More Entertainment Options
In 1998 we didn’t have Netflix. Our house had cable with 60 channels. We didn’t have YouTube, podcasts, and access to millions of website blogs. We found out what we could watch by going to the TV Guide Channel and watched a scroll. Life and times are different.
The Perfect Age
I think a fourteen-year-old might be the perfect age for fandom. A 14-year-old is advanced enough to communicate with his parents (for money, items, etc….). They can find information on their own if necessary. Most importantly, they have tons of free time. If you can capture a 14-year-old, you can build a pretty strong brand advocate.
When I was 14, I asked for money for WWF t-shirts and VHS tapes. I used the internet, magazines, and TV to find out what was going on in wrestling. I also came home from school at 3:00 pm and could spend the next 8 hours watching, talking, and creating WRESTLING.
If you can get an hour out of me today, you would be lucky.
A Never-Ending List
I’ve touched base on this dilemma before, but there is too much content being created on a weekly basis for me to keep up to date. My OCD brain makes me feel less than if I am a fan of a product and can’t consume it all. This holds true for television shows, podcasts, music, etc…. If I can’t have it all, I would rather not have any.
This, of course, is not the way – but creatures like myself find it daunting to be a fan of modern wrestling. WWE alone produces over 10 hours of original content each week. Back when I loved wrestling in the ‘90s, we might have had 2-3 hours.
My Modern Dilemma with Wrestling
Over the last few years, I find most of my joy from listening to wrestling podcasts. I drive a lot, so I can easily consume this content. I’ve kept up with some of the modern product through these podcasts. I can hold ‘water cooler talks’ with nearly anyone even though I haven’t watched a single WWE match in years.
In October 2019, I turned on the TV and actually devoted 2-hours to wrestling again. A new company called All Elite Wrestling started airing on TNT. This colorful roster is a collaboration of independent wrestling darlings, underused former WWE talent, and underground stars. One of their key demographics is the lapsed fan – All of us ‘90 attitude kids that stopped watching. I felt it was time to go back all-in on wrestling.
Of course, the juggernaut WWE was not going to let an upstart company go unopposed. They put their NXT, a very popular training brand, head to head against AEW on Wednesday. This heated up many fans and was taken as a new War. Many of us felt we needed to pick sides.
Peanut Butter or Chocolate
We are back to the beginning. I know that I am being loyal to a fault. I refused to watch NXT or any WWE show on principle. But shouldn’t I know better.
83 Weeks is a podcast with Eric Bischoff. He was the leader of WCW during the war in the ‘90s. Teenage Eric Hersey hated Eric Bischoff. Twenty years later, I am the biggest fan and listen to him talk about his shows for several hours a week. I listen and kick myself in the butt when I realized that I missed out on the opportunity to really benefit from the Monday Night Wars. The wrestling fans had two uber-competitive brands putting out their best work, yet I only watched one.
I think I would pick chocolate over peanut butter, but I never really thought of it as a contest. I like Wendy’s and McDonald’s. It’s no big deal if I drive a Ford or a Chevy. These rivalries don’t resonate with me, so maybe it’s time that I stop the wrestling war and enjoy all things.
My goal is to sample it all. It’s okay to like something more than the other. It’s also okay to not like something at all if it’s bad. I probably won’t watch Raw or Smackdown, but let it be because I have something better to do with that time, not because I refuse to give them a try. NXT has been touted for years and many of my closest friends rave about the product. I should at least give them a shot.
I should also consider going to Universal, even though I love Disney.
Maybe consider an Android instead of just defaulting to an iPhone (who am I kidding?!).
There’s a chance that I start watching college sports, even though I’m more of a pro guy.
Wrestling might not be the greatest tool for life lessons, but I know it has helped me discover one of my faults.
You can be loyal to a fault.
You can support the things you like while also liking their competition. Create your own opinion and don’t be afraid to try alternatives. Don’t deprive yourself of something you might like.
I will still watch AEW on Wednesday nights, but I’ll give NXT Thursday’s on DVR.