So I had a chance to sit down with pro wrestler Dolph Ziggler for an interview the other day while the WWE was in town. But before we get to that, some back story is necessary.
When I was a kid in the 1980s, I loved wrestling. Saturday mornings were the best – I’d wake up, pour a bowl of cereal and watch the Macho Man Randy Savage and Mr. Perfect beat the crap out of the likes of Hulk Hogan and Ricky Steamboat, or vice-versa. But eventually, us kids grew up and moved on while the business itself became mired in steroid scandals, which led to the near bankruptcy of the World Wrestling Federation in the mid-nineties. By the end of the decade, however, wrestling as a whole bounced back thanks to newfound competition from Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. The company hired away many of the WWF’s biggest stars and began airing more contemporary and risque programming. The all-American Hulk Hogan – who used to preach to kids to train, say their prayers and take their vitamins – ditched his good-guy yellow-and-red ring gear in favour of black and went bad.
The WWF, which was forced to abandon the “federation” in its name for “entertainment” after losing a court battle to the World Wildlife Fund, raised its game and went full-bore into edgy content to compete. The violence and profanity were cranked up, the women wrestlers routinely posed nude in Playboy and a host of new anti-hero stars from Stone Cold Steve Austin to The Rock arose. For a few years heading into the 2000s, wrestling rode a massive wave of popularity during this “Attitude” era – it was a new golden age, bigger than even Hogan’s hey-day. Those of us who had watched as kids were amazed at the changes – it was like the PG cartoon we grew up with had morphed, much to our delight, into an R-rated movie.