On Wrestling And Boxing
The game is location, situation and memory and a need to win. The psychology is in the player, not the game. He must enjoy the company of danger. He must have a killer instinct. He must be prideful , arrogant, aggressive, contemptuous, and dominating, willful in the extreme. All the sins of the non carnal type. - Don DeLillo
A couple of weeks ago I sat in my living room and watched Oscar De La Hoya vs. Shane Mosley. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen a really good toe to toe knock down drag out boxing match.
I’ve always been deeply fascinated with boxing, especially the build up to a show down between two adversaries with varying styles. Classic matches that come to mind - Louis/ Marciano, Ali/ Frasier, Dempsey/ Tunney ... the list goes on.
Vince McMahon told me recently that I was without a doubt his all time favorite storyteller in the wrestling business. Since then I’ve been thinking about how it is that I came to have the ability to tell great stories in the ring. I think it goes back to how I saw my favorite boxers, the story behind the fight and the analysis of what it was going to take to win.
A hundred years ago pro wrestling and pro boxing were promoted much the same. Wrestling evolved into more of a spectacle when the tough shooters of the 1920’s, who were much like the Ultimate Fighters you see today, realized that spectacle was safer, easier and more profitable when they didn't purposely hurt each other. Instead of one big match they could work across the country.
So, on Thursday I had an enjoyable phone conversation with Kurt Angle. We had a lot of good things to say about each other’s wrestling styles. If I was going to have one more great match it would likely be with Angle, but he was disappointed to hear me say that it’s impossible for me to ever wrestle again.
Angle told me that he’s made a point of watching as many of my matches as possible and that his favorite pro wrestling match ever is the Wrestlemania XII sixty minute iron man match between me and Shawn Michaels. It’s one of my favorites too.
It was while Kurt and I were talking about that match that I realized that one of the things I don’t see in wrestling any more is believable drama such as what me and Shawn had going into that match.
Shawn was being groomed for the world championship but I was carrying the largest portion of the serious fans. Shawn, despite the fact that he had talent, appealed mostly to the younger audience, at that time, because of his boy toy looks and persona. Looking back on it, I believe that most fans expected Shawn to take the title - it was, after all, his turn. But the way my character approached the fight it was clear that I would never let that happen, which, in turn, made for great drama.