Rich Cicci

WILDLY FRUSTRATED: As professional wrestling takes its lumps, so does my childhood

WILDLY FRUSTRATED: As professional wrestling takes its lumps, so does my childhood
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There were three absolute truths about me as a child: I loved superheroes, video games, and professional wrestling. If you know me at all, that has not changed one iota over the years. Sure, more interests have been integrated into my life, but that has only made me more lovable… or insufferable, depending on one’s point of view and the time of day. In recent months, one of those building blocks to my foundation has been rattled, and it honestly feels like a part of my childhood is beginning to decay.

Professional wrestling has been an art form and sport since the 19th century. It has evolved from sideshows to vaudeville to small regional affairs to massive worldwide corporations. Its popularity is known the world over and has been constant in entertainment history. I personally remember watching wrestling every Saturday morning as a child. I would cheer and boo the colorful, larger-than-life personas seen each week with my dad and nono. My dad took me to countless wrestling events at the old CYC in Scranton. We would watch old tapes of matches from the ‘60s and ‘70s, and even earlier, together. Hell, in 1995 (and yes, I do remember it clearly) he woke me up at 2 a.m. on a weeknight so we could watch the birth of ECW on the MSG network. Needless to say, I’m a fan.

Just a few weeks apart, the wrestling world lost two icons: “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. My appreciation for Dusty Rhodes came later than it did for Roddy Piper. Rhodes’ best work came before his time in the WWF (World Wrestling Federation, before it was renamed World Wrestling Entertainment), but through VHS, I fell in love with the soft-spoken man who could talk to the crowd like no other and who could move and work like a man half his size. Piper, on the other hand, had his heyday on WWF on TV. His personality was that of a giant! His ability to enrage a crowd with his words, only to enthrall them to cheers from one moment to the next was exceptional. His wrestling skills may only have been slightly above average, but his personality leapt off the screen! While these two may be gone, their contributions to the sport and business will never be forgotten. I truly wish that was all the wrestling world, and my childhood, had to deal with recently but, unfortunately, that is not the case.

Hulk Hogan was a pivotal figure in boys’ lives growing up in the ‘80s. This fact makes the Hulkster’s inflammatory and racist remarks that have surfaced all the more painful. Hogan has been in the news for the past few months due to his lawsuit against Gawker for leaking a private sex tape. That sentence alone should have your inner child sobbing and/or vomiting, so I won’t go into details on the topic. (If you’re interested, it’s out there for you to find.) After this, however, a transcript of a taped conversation surfaced where Hogan dropped massive N-bombs when commenting on an individual who is connected to his daughter and her singing career.

Regardless, this was a candid conversation that was never intended for anyone else to hear and taped without Hogan’s knowledge. The question that arose was, “Is Hulk Hogan a racist?” Before that could even be answered, WWE immediately cancelled his contract all together, pulled his merch everywhere, booted him from their Hall of Fame, and essentially erased him from their history books.

Hogan released statements apologizing for his remarks and “resigned” from the company at the same time that WWE hit the “delete button” on him. What is remarkable is that while WWE is vilifying him, fellow wrestlers and WWE employees have come to his defense. Booker T, former WWE champion, has gone on record stating that there isn’t a racist bone in Hogan’s entire body.

While what he said should not be condoned, it should not destroy his history, right? Yeah, I can understand why he was fired, but those words shouldn’t have a retroactive resonance upon him, though now it has caused doubt in my mind regarding Hogan’s character back then. Could he have been a racist this entire time? You just cannot say for certain. The fact remains that you don’t want to come to the realization that a childhood hero is not as pure as you used to perceive him to be, but if this was a “black eye” to my childhood, a more recent incident has gutted my inner child.

Earlier this month, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, one of my childhood heroes, a hero to countless people, was arrested for murder. Want to hear the part that’ll make you fucking sick? This happened over 30 years ago. Yeah, that’s right. Someone who so many children looked up to did this and thought he had gotten away with it. Within the last few months, the cold case was reopened, and Mr. Snuka was arrested at his home in New Jersey and transported back to Allentown, where he was formally charged with the 1983 murder of his girlfriend.

I wish I could write out the details of this case in this article, but I think if I did so, I’d freakin’ puke. The part that churns my stomach the most is that I idolized a goddamn murderer as a child! Hundreds, if not thousands, of people did. Oh, sure, no one knew at the time, but that doesn’t change the fact now. How absolutely fucked up is that!? I’m torn between being entirely disgusted with my childhood self, retroactively, and feeling utterly violated on a cellular level – I’m talking “The Crying Game” shower scene violated!

Now this is someone who WWE needs to erase from their shitting history! Well, they did do that, but they did so very quietly and with virtually no fanfare or attention. Why? Wouldn’t you want to let the public know that you aren’t going to support a fucking murderer? Makes sense to me. Shit, if it was me, I’d throw his history onto a pyre and watch it turn to smoke. Then again, with how vocal they were with Hogan, mere weeks earlier, I guess they didn’t want to take another shot publically. Well, screw that noise! Tar and feather his legacy as well – it’s only right after Snuka Superfly Splashed my ribcage into my heart!

Clearly, my childhood has taken a few hits as of late, and I never would have never guessed that it could withstand blows of this magnitude. It’s screwed up, but ugly shit happens that can pervert one’s memories. Maybe it’s best to see heroes and legends like Dusty Rhodes and Roddy Piper pass away abruptly, with their integrity and honor intact, than to see them live long enough for them to say something they’ll regret – tarnishing their legacies, like Hulk Hogan – or for them to become the monsters they have always been in private, like Jimmy Snuka.

Wildly Frustrated is a recurring column that takes a lighthearted look at rage-inducing and blood-boiling topics focusing on, or surrounding, various forms of entertainment, media, and possibly the world around us. It’s unleashed on Thursdays on NEPA Scene.