Welcome to the first ever El Gringo Loco column on the main page. For those that don’t go onto the message board, I am LWO4Life, your local wrestling historian and lover of lucha libre. In the past on the LoP Message Board I’ve written about many things, from the history of the World title from Gotch/Hackenschmidt to the formation of the NWA, to why Vince McMahon doesn’t get his Millennial audience, and why Fox was smart to give WWE 1 billion dollars.
Honestly, I don’t like to write about what you see on TV, because you the fan can come to your own conclusion with your own eyes. I would much rather dig into something, learn about why decision makers went in a certain direction. With that said, originally for my first column I wanted to continue in that pattern and focus on failed WWE pushes, or tackle the greatest segment of the 2010’s, the Lana/Lashley Wedding. While those topics do interest me, for my first column I would much rather focus on a very simple question, why do you love wrestling?
It seems with social media, we see the worst of our fan base. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m part of the problem. I watch each week, and each week I feel as though I cannot connect anymore. More and more recently, I have felt the need to express this. What’s funny is I have been watching Vince McMahon produced television for 34 years now. You’d think that with Vince McMahon practicality raising me, he and I would have a great connection. For 34-years I have been groomed by Vince to accept his form of entertainment. Recently though, I feel as though my love for wrestling has been taken for granted. This is why I think it is important to remember what it was that made me fall in love with wrestling in the first place.
On my fifth birthday, my great-grandma gave me a very special gift, a Hulk Hogan action figure. I had no idea who that was, but boy I was about to find out. WWF Rock N Wrestling cartoon was starting to air that fall, and I would start to watch it on Saturday mornings. It would quickly become my favorite cartoon as it featured live action wrestlers. Having the actual Hulk Hogan on the show would be like watching Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and seeing the actual Spider-Man. It was so cool to see, as the wrestlers looked like actual real-life super heroes and villains. (Maybe steroids had something to do with their unnatural muscles, but I was in awe at 5-years old.)
The Hogan figure my great-grandma bought was from a Second Hard Store. It wasn’t new and it didn’t have the package or the belt, but it would soon become my favorite toy. Soon I’d get a ring, and 15 other wrestlers so Hogan can bury everyone in my personal bedroom territory brother. I can tell you poor Roddy Piper took many pin falls in that ring. But like all things with kids, this all could have easily been a phase, like GI Joe, or ThunderCats. There had to be an actual moment that you find out you love wrestling; the moment when someone tells you later, “it’s fake,” and you don’t care.
The Big Bully Busick
We are now fast forwarding to the fall of 1989, and I am now in third grade. It is here that my love of wrestling becomes solidified. Knowing what we all know, it will be ironic, but life is never neat or pretty. In the new school year, I was placed in a class with many of my friends, and a few new kids. I thought my friends from second grade would still be my friends in third. Sadly that would not be the case. By December of 1989, I gained a bully. Our elementary school was in a very White neighborhood. I was the only Latino in my class, along with one Black student. All it took was one boy, and the other kids in our class turned against us.
You know, anyone could get bullied, so why bring up race? Well, the words used by this kid were racist words. Using the N-word in the form of a motorcycle sound, then calling me a beaner and wetback, this boy would harass us daily. I remember coming home crying to my mom it got so bad. Of course she told my dad. I had never seen my father become so angry in my life, and that is saying something. My mom told him that it was time, and my dad took me to my room to teach me to fight. I was a boy who was afraid of fighting, so this was not in my nature. I would need to find inspiration to confront my bully.
How Wrestling Got Me Through Bullying
In case you are wondering, no I never fought my bully. I did confront him, and he wanted to fight, but I honestly didn’t. Confronting him though did force him to leave me and my friend alone. Through it all there was something that got me through it. During this ordeal I felt helpless. I was 9 years old and didn’t understand why this was happening to me. At the same time, my friends also didn’t understand what was happening and ended up siding with the kid who looked stronger.
I tried to hold on to anything normal. One Saturday morning, I did what every 80’s kid did, I sat in-front of the TV and watched cartoons. My favorite at the time was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but that really was just the pre-show before noon. At noon WWF Superstars would come on, and for one hour I could escape my school life. Each week I got to watch Hulk Hogan go against every bully in the WWF, and I cheered him on. One Saturday morning it hit me, Hulk Hogan is fighting the fight of what I was going through. I had to be like Hulk Hogan, I had to fight for what’s right. I was fully invested in Hulk Hogan from this point forward. He was always my favorite, but now this meant so much more.
By fall of 1989, Hogan’s rogue gallery had approached Batman levels. He was in a feud with Randy Savage and at the same time Zeus, and he was leading a Survivor Series team against the Million Dollar Man, and he was still fighting the Big Bossman on house shows. More importantly for me, Hogan was fighting bad people. In my eyes, if I could one day eat enough vitamins, train a little harder, and pray a little more, I could finally beat up my bully. From this point on, wrestling was more than just another thing I watched before my mom forces me to go outside on Saturdays. I was starting to live through these characters, and especially Hulk Hogan.
I Used to Love HER
My love of wrestling would continue. Beyond just being a Hulk Hogan fan, I would start to watch the NWA on TBS, where I’d grow a fondness for the Midnight Express and Ric Flair. I wanted to learn more about wrestling, get to know everything about it. I would even try to catch AWA on ESPN, which was harder because of their inconsistency with airings. For the rest of my life, wrestling would serve as a place to escape reality. (Judging by wrestlers’ action in protecting kayfab, looking at you Sgt. Slaughter, wrestlers themselves would also use wrestling to escape reality.)
This would be much needed, as the early-90’s would bring my parent’s divorce and moving to a new school were no one knew me. This would also be a time period which many kids my age “grow out of” wrestling. I’m not sure if it was the rubber cobra that bit the Ultimate Warrior, the Papa Shango curses, a zombie walking on the robes, Stormtroopers in glitter helmets, exploding boats, or any number of things, but sometime during all of that, wrestling had lost its cool factor. I still watched each week, and I would try to talk to my friends about what I saw. They weren’t trying to hear me.
Eventually, wrestling would be something that would be mine, something that I enjoyed and loved. When everyone else stopped watching Ninja Turtles, I stopped too, when everyone started to listen to Rap music, I started too; but when everyone stopped watching wrestling, it would then be mine. Everyone else was missing out on the greatest form of entertainment on the planet.
Keep It Kayfab
Can I see now in retrospect the problems of building my wrestling fandom on Hulk Hogan? Of course, I can. But over the years there were even more wrestlers who I could relate to. From Eddie Guerrero, Scott Hall, Undertaker, John Cena, Velveteen Dream, I found many onscreen characters to be who I wanted to emulate. By the time the Hulk Hogan sex tape came out, I had already grown to love so much more of the business. Hearing those words come out of Hogan’s mouth didn’t affect me with my wrestling fandom. It did taint my view of Hogan himself though, but that tape would never erase the feeling I had watching Eddie Guerrero beat Brock Lesnar in San Francisco, or watching John Cena’s surprise entrance in the 2008 Royal Rumble.
I ask you, the reader, when did you fall in love with wrestling? What was it about wrestling that made you want to dig deeper? I really want to know, because we are in a time of negativity. During these times, we start to believe what others are saying and we question why we like such trash. Some will tell you WWE is the worst product in the history of wrestling, not true. Others will have you convinced that AEW is garbage and you shouldn’t like that flippy stuff. I love Lucha Libre, WWE style sports entertainment, and I love some NJPW as well. You will love what you love, embrace it. Also know that others will love what they love. I am happy that online, we can have a community to come together and share our love of wrestling together.
RIP La Parka II
I would like to close this week by offering my condolences to Jesus Alfonso Huerta Escoboza, better known as La Parka. I don’t usually make promises on what I’ll write about next but I am making an exception this time as I what to give La Parka his proper respect. One thing I will say is that I feel bad because I have to say La Parka II, as many will get confused thinking this is the La Parka from WCW (now known as L.A. Park). For many Lucha Libre fans, we are aware of the two La Parkas but many fans in the United States and Europe are not. I say this because the man, Jesus Alfonso Huerta Escoboza deserves his own memorial and it shouldn’t be, “oh, he’s the other La Parka.” He died entertaining the fans, and I want to honor that. RIP AAA’s La Parka