For Queen and Country #10
April 12, 2008
By: Daniel Browne of WrestleView.com
Greetings (as always) to all. You will all have to excuse me succumbing to clich?, but seeing as this is article number ten, I felt the need to tread a more personal path in its execution. I?m certain all fans of any particular sporting endeavor have specific moments etched in their memories; the type you catch yourself recalling at random, and smiling at when they appear in flashback form in various highlight reels. As an Englishman, I will not patronize my audience by attempting to guess what lies closest to your respective hearts, but you get the point. In England (where 'soccer-ball? is, like the rest of the world, a big deal) most sporting memories are inspired by ?The Beautiful Game?. There are many who recall with a collective yearning the sight and sound of the England Captain, the late, great Bobby Moore, lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy (World Cup) in 1966. I was but a mere twinkle in my father's roving eye in ?66, but those who lived it shall always recall the sight of Bobby Charlton crying; the Russian linesman and his flag; Bobby Moore in all his statuesque splendor and Kenneth Wolstenholme's immortal line: ?Some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over. It is now, it's four.? It was the greatest moment in English sporting history. Once again, you?ll have to pardon my indulgence. This is a wrestling column, and in keeping with this wanton jaunt down memory lane, I?d like to share with you three very memorable, very personal memories from my tenure as a fan of ?The Sport of Kings?. Undertaker vs. Mankind (King of the Ring, Pittsburgh, PA. June 1998)
Not exactly original, I grant thee, but to anyone who knows perfectly understandable. I was 13 at the time, hating school and cherub-chubby, like all good marks. A significant portion of my adolescent life centred around Friday nights and the dual airing of Nitro and Raw is War (Note: Monday's installments of both shows aired in England the subsequent Friday.) I remember with fondness having the option of switching back and forth between the two shows, seeing which one held my attention. I?d been bantering with friends about the upcoming Kane/Austin ?First Blood? match and teasing my Austin-loving comrades (I always did prefer heels) by predicting Austin's demise (Which of course, came to pass. At least for 24 hours, anyway?) In order to take in the live shows we all had to stay up until 3 A.M GMT, which took its bleary, sleep deprived toll a few hours later when it came time to get up. To be fair, it always seemed to be worth it. Especially that night?
After an uninspiring under-card, the gongs and darkness of the ?Phenom (signaling the beginning of the ?Taker vs. Mankind Hell in a Cell match) was music to my exhausted ears. The previous Hell in a Cell had been a fabulous, blood-drenched extravaganza, and as ?Taker and Mankind ascended the Cell I desired more of the same. What I got remains ingrained in my memory like a shooting pain made entirely of crystal.
Those who witnessed the match, especially as it happened, will never forget the sight of Mankind flying through the air and smacking that table, whilst Jim Ross provided the greatest commentary call in wrestling history (?Good God Almighty! That killed him!?) The rest of the match (which, from a conventional standpoint, was actually quite poor) was akin to a surreal dream, as a human being had seemingly decided to expend his life in the name of a most gory legacy. Another fall, thumbtacks, and my concept of attrition redefined. When Mick looked into the camera, tooth through his nose, blood drenching his gob and smiled, it was a near transcendental summation of a mind-blowing occurrence. I loved it like nothing else of this Earth. And I will never, for as long as I have stars for marbles, forget it.Seeing the ?Nature Boy? (Insurrextion, Newcastle, UK. June 2003)
With the noted exception of Summerslam 1992 in the old Wembley (Which enjoyed a larger arena attendance than Wrestlemania 3, just to stoke those fires) The WWF/E tended to run UK-exclusive Pay-per-views up to 2005. They were invariably glorified House Shows, ranging from ?fair? to ?despicably awful? on the quality-scale. One noted exception was ?One Night Only? in late 1997, which played host to ?The British Bulldog? losing to Shawn Michaels in a result that prompted a near riot. This was a lonely island in an otherwise turgid sea of discontent, however?
Me and my fellow traveler had braved our friends from the North in order to see one of the two brand-exclusive shows aired for the British public. As we?d seen the Smackdown crew the previous September, we decided to check-out Raw this time around. The card was, all things considered, decent by dismal standards, and me and my friend got to witness performers such as Triple H, Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels and, of course, ?Stone Cold? Steve Austin (Who's entrance blew the roof of the Metro Radio Arena) As much as I was delighted to see such faces in the flesh, there was only one man I would have queued forever and a day to see: ?The Nature Boy? Ric Flair.
Everyone in the arena was on their feet in unison and when Flair came out, the air filled with an endless chorus of ?Wooooo!? He hadn?t come to wrestle, sadly, but he styled and profiled and bumped and bled (what the hell) as his adoring public looked on in awe. As President John F. Kennedy once put it: ?We all breathe the same air.? That night, we shared an arena with Ric Flair, live and in living color. Bloody marvelous.Eddie Guerrero, Champion (House Show, Newcastle, UK. April 2004)
Well, I guess a little Northern exposure didn?t dissuade me entirely, as I was back again less than a year later (and alone this time) to take in another show. This was a ?by the numbers?, no-frills show featuring very little in the way of memorable action. However, this card occurred during Eddie Guerrero's run as WWE Champion, and thus he was headlining the card against ?The Big Show? (who really is the size of a mid-range family home. Literally) Despite the ?phone it in? inclinations of the rest of the crew, and Show being truly gargantuan at this point, with Eddie's effort and ability the little and large dynamic clicked and the men assembled a worthy little contest. After it ended (Eddie obviously won) Eddie grabbed the microphone and addressed the audience. It had taken me over nine hours to get to Newcastle, and it would take another eleven to get home (by coach). After Eddie had spoken, thanking the crowd and describing his pride at being champion and the pleasure he took in performing, for the first and only time those twenty hours seemed like something other than a waste of my time. That night Eddie, in the old school tradition, had sold the show, wrestled the main event and had the best match, and conducted himself in a manner commensurate with the stylish, elite World Champions of days gone by. It was a lovely thing, and in the wake of Eddie's passing a year and a bit subsequently, my most personal and favorite memory of Eddie Guerrero. It summed up a man of great passion and pride, possessed of professionalism and a humble appreciation of his responsibility. For me, that is the very definition of ?Champion?.
Of course, there have been many other memories. I could have chosen any number of Undertaker stories, and the return of Shawn Michaels at Summerslam 2002 came very close to making this list. Still, the chosen three reflect some very personal journeys, literally and philosophically, and I am happy to have lived them. I guess that makes us 10-0. It's a very nice start, and I thank all those who have, in their own unique and varied ways, said hello. Onwards and upwards, boys and girls.
Daniel R. Browne.