I was four years old when I started watching wrestling. My brothers and I would pretend to be the guys on TV, mimicking their moves and jumping off the couch. Since there were four of us, we would have tag matches and build up to hot tags. Every Saturday morning we would watch our idols in action. Jake the Snake Roberts, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, and Hulk Hogan were my heroes just like Optimus Prime and Superman. Things were simpler then. Times have changed. So have I.
Maybe it’s just a part of growing up. Slowly you begin to realize more and more about the world around you and that not everything is at it seems. Dents begin to reveal themselves in the armor of things you want thought flawless. The same thing happens with professional wrestling.
The steroid scandal back in the early part of the 1990s was a big hit. For a lot of people who grew up during the 1980s it may have changed their view of wrestling forever. I remember watching the news and hearing all these negative things being said about Hulk Hogan and other superstars. Then wrestling hit one of its biggest tragedies in 2007 during the month of June. It was then that Chris Benoit, one of the greatest and most well-respected wresters of the last twenty years, murdered his family and committed suicide. It was an awful event that has affected the lives of many people in different ways. The impact on wrestling fans is not as significant as the personal tragedy that friends and family suffered. However, wrestling fans were still affected. How were they supposed to reconcile our admiration for the man in the ring and the things he did in his own home? There has not since been as big of a tragedy, but wrestling still has its fair share of lows.
The last year has been a turbulent one for Matt Hardy. Here is a guy who came up in the latter part of the Attitude Era as part of a great tag team. He and his brother Jeff brought fans to their feet every night as an alliance. After a few years they split off and Matt went through a personal situation that got him released from the company. With all the negative things that can happen to damper a person’s reputation, Matt actually took a situation between him and his girlfriend, Lita, and managed to turn it into a positive for his career. As a real life sympathetic baby face, Hardy returned to WWE and waged war on Edge and Lita.
Matt would stay with the company for the next few years and be one of the most reliable and best performers. His brother Jeff would come and go, but Matt stayed consistent. Then things began to go downhill. He rebelled against the company and grew reckless. He was later released. It was thought that when he joined TNA at the beginning of 2011, perhaps he would get things together and become a main event player in the company.
His brother Jeff had some personal issues throughout his career, but things came to a head in March at Victory Road when he showed up for the main event of the pay per view in no condition to perform. That night, his main event match with Sting had to be cut to a matter of seconds when it shouldn’t have happened at all. Just a few months prior, TNA had taken their biggest storyline of the year and utilized it to morph Jeff Hardy into their top star. The full weight of the company was now behind him, and he flushed it down the toilet at Victory Road.
Jeff is at fault for his actions, but the ramifications for the company lies squarely on those running TNA. They took somebody known for personal demons, and even had an ongoing case against him in his home state, and made him the top guy in their company.
Months have now passed and Jeff Hardy is back in TNA, but in a limited capacity. About a month ago Matt was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Shortly after, he posted a video online in which he insinuated he was about to commit suicide. If that wasn’t bad enough, Matt got into trouble once again when the police arrested him after finding drugs in his home. Who would have thought that Matt would outdo his brother’s actions at Victory Road?
For those who criticize the world of wrestling, they point to people who have these problems, as if the wrestling business has some connection to people with problems. But really it’s that some people with problems happen to be involved on wrestling. Yes it is a shady business at times, but at some point people will need to take responsibility for their actions, regardless of their name or occupation. The world we live in now has people on television under a microscope more than ever before.
Things like the Matt Hardy situation will continue to happen. It’s confusing and hard for wrestling fans to take this all in. Some will just scoff or laugh because it just keeps on happening. Others, like me, find it troubling. I have tried to separate wrestlers as people and performers. Most people cannot do this even with actors in a movie. As much as you try to separate character from person, there’s no helping you feel some sort of connection to the men and women behind the people on television.
I was only four years old when I started watching professional wrestling. The difference between wrestling world I knew then, and the world I know now, is just like the difference between a kid and an adult. It’s different looking back on wrestling now and seeing how all my heroes growing up are flawed. Everybody is I guess. But that’s part of the love we have for wrestling. Regardless of what these people do, we will always be there at the next house show or TV taping. And we will be cheering.