I, a former reality TV junkie, was attempting to wean myself off reality television. I was a fresh college graduate and I figured it was time. The Duggars were infuriating and Real Housewives were making me feel such shame and secondhand embarrassment for these women. It wasn't fun anymore.
But I saw a preview for a new show on E called Total Divas. I had long since given up on the E network. But I was intrigued by a peek into the mysterious WWE so I tuned in.
I hadn't watched wrestling growing up. Neither did my dad or brother. I knew of Stone Cold and The Rock and that was it. I remember a boy in fifth grade teasing another boy who liked wrestling, repeatedly talking about how it was fake. My mind was blown. But those moves! How were those fake? They didn't really hate each other? They were actors? But those moves!
Total Divas was not what I thought it would be. I was initially intrigued because I thought I'd be getting a behind the scenes look of plot line development and how the wrestlers did those moves. I wanted to know how ANY of this was safe. I always liked magic being done right in front of me, and that's kind of what wrestling appeared to be. The moves appeared to be destructive but were somehow safe.
I didn't want to watch yet another reality show where the relationships and friendships were constantly in turmoil. But it's what I got. A few of my friends watched also. They were not as disappointed in the show I was, so I kept watching. We liked Naomi and Brie best, tolerated Nikki, were indifferent on the others. Ten months later, in April 2014, I dragged two of them to Monday Night Raw in Baltimore. We wore black and red for Nikki & newlywed Brie (sorry smarks, haha, don't give up on me yet).
I still wasn't a wrestling fan. I was a Total Divas fan. I was strictly there to see Nikki & Brie and to do the Yes! Chant. The only active wrestlers I knew were Total Divas cast members. The only things I knew about wrestling were what I had learned on Total Divas. When people expressed bewilderment that I was going to Raw, I stubbornly repeated, "I'm not a wrestling fan, I'm a Total Divas fan. I don't know anything about wrestling beyond what's on the show. I want to see the girls from the show."
I got to do the Yes! Chant with Daniel and Brie in the opening segment (when Kane destroyed D.Bry and Stephanie called Kane a bastard). Since I hadn't ever seen Raw, I was not expecting how long it was. I didn't know who the good guys or bad guys were. I cheered when the crowd did. I remember being wowed over the Cesaro swing. I thought Wyatt's "Baltimore...we're here...." Was cool.
Midway through the show is when it happened. I heard "Sierra" and a bunch of other words I couldn't make out. I heard music. There were already wrestlers on stage (this was Evolution) under the screen though. Were people going to enter behind them? That was kind of weird. Really though, what was going on? The spotlight shone on three huge guys hulking down a set of stairs across the arena. What? Why the hell are they entering over there? What are they wearing?
The Shield made their way to the ring to stare down the three guys standing up front. At some point they said the names "Triple H" and "cream puff Orton" which I realized sounded familiar. One of them with a blonde streak in his hair said, "You say we don't know what we're getting into? WE STARTED THIS." I was captivated and could not take my eyes off them. They had such swagger. They were different then anything I had seen yet.
Before you think it, my smark friends, no. I was not mesmerized by Roman Reign's eyes or how strong he looked (sorry Vince!). It wasn't their looks or their wet hair. Those three, in their dark tactical gear, and their swagger were so freaking compelling.
I remember two things from my first WWE experience. 1) Finding The Shield and 2) how freaking long it was. On my lunch break the next day I read about The Shield and watched clips. I was enthralled.
My friend and I started incorporating "WE STARTED THIS" into our daily conversations. I tuned in to Raw on the following Monday and started learning who everyone was. I followed Seth, Dean and Roman on Twitter. I liked WWE on Facebook. I started live-Tweeting Raw. I filled my i-pod with WWE entrance music. I quickly saw the audience footage shown on Total Divas was definitely not taken from actual diva matches. I started spending hours on forums, comment sections, blogs, like Cageside Seats. I loved settling into my desk at work on Tuesday morning and diving into Geno's recap and the comments. I started reading about and watching NXT highlights. Yet, I was still captivated by The Shield. You knew, when you saw them descend those stairs, that a statement was about to be made and you were about to be wildly entertained.
I was starting to pay attention beyond The Shield. I figured out who I was rooting for and starting to join fans in the frustration of how much better the product could be. Before a big presentation at work, I calmed myself down by imagining "Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima. Delta" and then the thunderous chords of The Shield's music hitting and me entering the conference room by stomping down the stairs in tactical gear and whipping my wet hair around. "Cause a girl gonna push em all out the way", a line from Sasha Banks' entrance music, soon became my mantra. (I'm really fun to know, I promise).
On June 2, 2014, I was so saddened with the chairshot heard round the world. I went to the bar the next night for a weekly happy hour and got uncharacteristically (for a Tuesday) hammered, rambling to my bartender friend about my favorite wrestling group who had split up. "Caitlyn," I remember him saying, as he probably slid a cup of water across the bar, "I had no idea you were so into wrestling." I sent Dean's promo from the following Raw to my friend. Even she was impressed by Dean's mic magic. "Seth! Mah brothaaaaaa!" We'd shriek at each other.
I started embracing that okay, yep, I was officially a full-blown wrestling fan. And a solo one at that. None of my friends still watched, although they occasionally asked me about it. "What's Dean doing?" they'd ask, to which I'd glumly reply "Nothing good." When a wrestler came out that apparently was a legend (Chris Jericho) that I didn't know, I'd read up and watch highlights. I barely paid attention to Total Divas. I got into an argument at a bar with a guy who scoffed when I told him I was a wrestling fan. "Just because you think John Cena's hot," he said, "does not make you a wrestling fan." I was all too eager to show him up, especially since I don't think Cena's hot. Turns out, guy didn't even know about CM Punk's abrupt departure and thought he was still wrestling in WWE. Girl, bye.
I started enjoying people's amusement and shock when I professed I was a wrestling fan. They usually ask the same questions because a mid-20's female isn't the demographic everyone conjures up when they think of wrestling fans.
"Did you grow up watching it with your dad or brother?"
"Does your boyfriend watch it?"
"No boyfriend so....nope."
"You just one day decided to become a WWE fan?"
"I did not see that coming," they told me over and over. I was reapplying my lipstick in the work bathroom and a colleague came in. "You know, that might be one of the unexpectedly coolest things ever. It's so random. Good for you for not hiding it."
So, my story of how I found the WWE is definitely not a conventional one. But I'm here and I'm a fan and I'm kind of smarky and I'll probably stick around. Believe that. ;)