When it came to pro wrestling, Jeff Hartwick was one of the last holdouts.
When we were in fourth or fifth grade when just about all of the boys at the Kennedy School finally came to terms with the fact that the WWF was scripted. Jeff, though, argued vehemently that there was no way professional wrestling was anything other than 100 percent authentic.
“Yeah, Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage is in a hospital room right now,” Jeff insisted. “He has 136 stitches in his back. You go to his hotel room and you tell Macho Man to his face that wrestling is fake.”
Jeff says that is a belief he held until he approached his college years.
I didn’t buy it, though. So after Wrestlemania I or II, I gave up watching pro wrestling.
A couple months ago, I got back into it what is now called the WWE. I’ve been watching with my 5-year-old boy, Grady, who has no reason to believe the action we watch every Monday night is anything but authentic.
For the last couple of months, we’ve watched every Monday Night Raw — all three hours each week — and we’ve had a ball.
There’s nothing like seeing the reaction of a 5 year old when he sees an obvious injustice — like when the three men of The Shield attacked Ryback to stop him from beating CM Punk in a ladder match.
“The cops should put those guys in jail,” Grady insisted. “How can they get away with that?”
Grady now has a dozen or so WWE action figures to go along with his toy ring. He plays with them all the time, and he’s constantly looking for a quick job to earn him money to buy another guy.
He also recreates some of the wrestling moves he sees on TV on his little sister and the dog. Well, at least he tries to when his mom isn’t watching.
You should have seen how excited Grady was when I asked him if he wanted to go with me to a Butte High wrestling dual a few weeks ago. You should have seen how disappointed he was when he saw that there was no jumping off the ropes at the Richardson Gym.
When I asked him to go the next time, he asked ‘Is it high school wrestling?” I told him it was, and he calmly responded, ‘No thanks. I don’t like that fake wrestling.”
Yes, in the mind of my 5-year-old boy, Levi Renz, Tommy Challeen and Bryce Armstrong are fake, while the Big Show is real.
Best of all, he bonds with his dad while watching the wrestling. It’s the same bond I hoped I’d share with my son since we found out we were having a boy in the doctor’s office.
Of course, I hoped this bond would be shared over the Chicago Bears or Boston Red Sox. Since the boy has yet to take any interest in either of my teams — probably because he sees what I’m like when I watch them — I’ll take the wrestling connection.
The WWE has been on fire recently. The Rock beat CM Punk to win the WWE championship in the Royal Rumble, and Punk contends the Rock stole his belt. The rematch is in two weeks.
John Cena and The Rock will duke it out at Wrestlemania 29, and we’ll probably pony up the money to watch the pay-per-view event.
Grady watches the WWE with excitement , anger and absolute terror every week. He loves Cena, Sheamus, Ryback and The Rock. He hates Punk, and he’s intrigued by the Undertaker, Big Show and Cain.
He took it hard last night when Punk beat Chris Jericho in a great battle. He bounced back when Cena, Sheamus and Ryback gave The Shield a taste of its own medicine. Finally.
Last week, Brock Lesnar made a dramatic return to the ring, too. The 266-pound former UFC heavyweight champion picked up Vince McMahon and slammed the 67-year-old Chariman to the mat, shattering his hip. McMahon underwent hip-replacement surgery just yesterday, or so they say.
It is great theatre, and I’m so back I finally returned to pro wrestling after nearly three decades. It’s like I’m in third grade again. For a third time.
Monday nights — and sometimes Fridays — are wrestling nights in our house, and we’ll have none of that “wrestling is fake” talk either.
If you want to insist that the WWE is fake, I’d like to see you go to Mr. McMahon’s hotel room and tell him to his face.
— Sportswriter Bill Foley, whose favorite wrestler is still Hulk Hogan, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. twitter.com/Foles74