Look at that! One week later and I'm BACK! I did it!!!
The week has been a busy one. Where there should have been a lot of writing there were instead a lot of distractions. The end of the week was an emotional one but it capped off with a highlight. We'll start with the lowlight and end with the highlight.
As the "Everything Comes Back To Wrestling" t-shirt (available at DwanLHearn.com/shop) might suggest, I'm a huge wrestling fan. This week was was reminded as to why (and no, I'm not talking about Raw, Smackdown, or AEW's ALL IN PPV in London).
This past Wednesday, WWE Hall or Famer and wrestling legend Terry Funk passed away at the age of 79. While I've never considered myself a "Terry Funk Fan" I was also never NOT a fan. In fact, he passing inspired me to recall my introduction to wrestling.
I was in the 8th Grade and my friends would come to school talking about "China" as if it was a person and not a country. I, a nerd who also loved geography, was confused by all this so I asked my friend (and 8th grade crush (it's been long enough. It's fine to admitted. It's not like she didn't know. She knew.) ) Jaqui (pronounced Jackie) about it and she told me to watch this channel at 9pm.
It was a Monday Night and I sat in front of my TV and at 9pm I turned to the station I was instructed to watch. At 9pm, Jaqui called me to make sure that I was watching. I assured her and started watching this show "Monday Night Raw". At 9:05, Jaqui called again (much to my mother's dismay) to ensure I was STILL watching and I assured her I was.
I saw two old guys beating each other up with all kinds of weapons. This is exactly what I thought wrestling was - just a bunch of old dudes beating each other up with stupid fake weapons and fake bleeding all over the place. This was going to be my first and last episode of RAW and I still didn't understand what this had to do with China.
The match was Cactus Jack vs Chainsaw Charlie, better known as Mick Foley vs Terry Funk. As these two would beat each other up the ramp to the stage area, two younger dudes came out, beat the hell out of the old dudes, put them in a dumpster and pushed the dumpster off the stage.
Now, that was cool.
I was hooked. The "Road Dogg" Jesse James and "The Bad Ass" Billy Gunn were a tag team called The New Age Outlaws. The Outlaws were my favorite Tag Team and still are my favorite tag team of all time and with Billy Gunn aligned with AEW's The Acclaimed, I rock with them now. All of this - my love for professional wrestling as a whole - is thanks to Road Dogg, Billy Gunn, Mick Foley, and Terry Funk. Rest In Peace, Mr. Funk.
Thursday hurt more as we learned of the sudden death of Windham Rotunda, better known to wrestling fans as Bray Wyatt. Bray was only 36 years old. We were all awaiting his return to the ring. Bray had been dealing with an undisclosed illness and after his "Mountain Dew Pitch Black Match" (Don't ask) he just kinda wasn't there. He had returned last October and was VERY SLOW BURNING a storyline. A story he's no longer around to finish.
In the many iterations of Windham, and more specifically as Bray Wyatt (because really, do we really need to talk about Husky Harris?) he was a cult leader, a dark "Mister Rogers-esque character, and The Fiend, this evil embodiment of all of Bray Wyatt's pain.
And THE FIEND WAS AWESOME!!!!! A masked character that could rival any horror movie villain. The only thing negative about the Fiend was the booking behind him. "Booking" is the matches and stories a wrestler is booked in and that I put on WWE and not Bray (See the Fiend vs Seth Rollins Hell in a Cell Match - or don't....it's okay. We don't rewatch it either).
But despite how you felt about Wyatt or his characters or his matches, there was never any denying that Windham was a creative genius. Reflecting on Bray's death allowed me to finally and more accurately articulate why wrestling is so important to me:
Professional Wrestling is the ultimate creative platform. There's story and drama that's told both in storylines with promos and videos and wins and losses and championships, but also stories told in the ring between bells. Recently, Belair vs Flair vs Asuka would be a great example of in-ring storytelling as Belair would hurt her leg and this would play into how the rest of the match would go all the way through the end and impact what happened immediately following the match. That's in-ring storytelling.
Beyond the storytelling and the high creative ceiling wrestling writing gives you, there are Athlete Actors (the wrestlers, of course) who have to carry out the vision all while safely performing moves that, if you don't know exactly what you're doing, could kill you (and people have died in the ring or become paralyzed in the ring (sometimes mid-match - see Steve Austin vs Owen Hart)
Beyond all this, it's live theater! This is all playing out in front of hundreds, if not thousands of people live in person and millions AROUND THE WORLD! There's (typically) no second takes or do-overs.
There is just SO much space for creativity and this isn't even touching on the impact of music to the show. And to do it as a weekly, on-going story spanning decades - it's incredible and I want IN! Bray embodied ALL OF THESE THINGS and that's why the death of Rotunda is so impactful, besides being so young to die of a heart attack from a heart condition that was worsened by COVID.
The highlight, that I really needed, was the Jazz In The Park featuring one of my local favorites Carly Johnson (you need to find her and check her out). It was a cool night outside and I got to just sit and listen to great Jazz with my mom. The event was entirely FREE. We brought drinks and chairs and sat and watched. It was great! These type of events need to be either done more often OR advertised more.
But here's what I learned - I've not reached the top level of "outside event" preparedness. I've done many outside events, mostly music festivals, and we've been prepared, but we've never been PRO-pared. Mom and I saw people with cushioned folding chairs and pull out fans with portable power boxes. There were full-one table spreads and huge, camping level, tents -- this was a 3 hour event. Only three hours.
I have a list of things I'm going to have to invent in for future outdoor events. It's also important to note that there are many vendors and although you could go to Central Park for this event and no spend a single penny, you should bring money and check out all the vendors and support those wonderful local peoples!
That's a lot but if you're here, I appreciate you taking time to read this! Thank you so much!
- The Moon