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WRESTLING IN SEVENS: Interview with Victor "Victator" Rodgers


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This is the first Wrestling In Sevens, a new feature at Pro Wrestling Only where I'll talk to some of the most fascinating fans that I know. The first is with Victor Rodgers, who posts at Victator on the PWO forums and is the author of Chairshot: A Savage Sports Story, available on Amazon.

When did you become a wrestling fan?
It's difficult to remember a time pro wrestling was not in my life. I can't remember much before I was six. A lot of it feels like a camcorder on low battery. Things come in and out. 

What are your earliest memories of pro wrestling?
My earliest wrestling memory is drawing a picture of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. My first live show was a Continental Wrestling Federation card in Hartselle, Alabama, in 1988.  The main event was Lord Humongous vs Detroit Demolition. In hindsight, this was an Eddie Gilbert-booked card, as I can also remember a Nightmare vs Nightmare match. [Editor's note: Continental results from 1988 are scarce, so we could not locate a date or results for this card.] In my kid logic, I thought Danny Davis was connected to Sting.

I am way off course. My first real memory is seeing Hogan lose the WWF title to Andre on The Main Event. I really wanted to see WrestleMania IV, but that did not happen. I doubt we even had pay-per-view capability. Pay-per-view was the scourge of my young life. 

But I did get to see Clash of the Champions. Ric Flair versus Sting is what really made me fall in love with wrestling -- this epic match between two larger than life gladiators.

What did you like most about pro wrestling?
Hulk Hogan represented to me all that was good in the world. As bad as my young life was, I slept easy knowing Hulk Hogan would vanquish the monsters.  When a good guy (or "clean" wrestler as I called them) would punch the dirty manager, all was right with the world. Wrestling was a world where a big fat kid fit in. Where the things that made me an outcast, was an asset. I was a full true believer as a kid. Even when I started seeing the cracks, I still played along. It was important for me to defend wrestling. Or what I later learned was protecting the business.

You've mentioned seeing a Continental show live, but you've also mentioned your affinity for Hulk Hogan and Sting. Did you see any WWF or NWA shows during this time?
My first WWF show was a TV taping in January 1989. I was watching the WWF Superstars of Wrestling where Bad News Brown accused Elizabeth of doing "favors" for Jack Tunney. As a naive eight year old, I wasn't sure what favors he meant. Maybe she was doing his laundry, I just know it made the "Macho Man" mad. Suddenly [WWF ring announcer] Howard Finkel piped in announcing they were taping Superstars of Wrestling in Huntsville at the Von Braun Civic Center. They announced two matches: Hulk Hogan vs Big Bossman and Randy Savage vs Bad News Brown. 

I remember the NWA running a house show in my hometown and really wanting to go, but not being allowed to go because I broke something and tried to lie to cover it up. I was about the same age as you at the time. Did you face any parental resistance?
I told my mother how bad I wanted to go and she said she would try to get tickets. But as kid life goes, I forgot and months passed by. Christmas 1988 comes along and we were visited by Santa. Despite being very poor, Mama always found a way. That morning, I am very happy with my Tiger Force GI Joe toys when Mama says she hears it and we should see what it is. We all go to the back and on the dresser I see two ringside tickets to the WWF TV taping. I have probably never been happier. I was so excited about the show. We get there and Mama buys me a program. She felt bad she could not buy me a shirt, but I understood. 

Was there anything that surprised you about seeing wrestling live?
Now one thing I did not is these tapings are long. So we left after three hours and I did not get to see Hogan vs Bossman and they did not even do Savage vs Bad News. But I did get to see Hulk Hogan. It was the Savage vs Akeem match and Bossman attacked Savage. Hulk runs out to save Macho Man and this was the first religious experience I ever had. There was an incredible energy running thru everyone watching. My mother was screaming "Its The Hulk!!! Its The Hulk!!!" Right after this my uncle tapped me on the shoulder. He and my aunt bought me a Hulk Rules shirt. It meant the world to me. 

How did wrestling fit into your own routine as a kid?
Saturday morning cartoons was what I lived for as a kid. I would get up at six and binge on various cartoons from Captain N to Muppet Babies to Real Ghostbusters to Saved By The Bell. WWF Superstars was the main event of the day. The longest five hours of the week was the time between Superstars and WCW at 5:05 [Central Time].

You're speaking my language! I would get so angry when Atlanta Braves games pre-empted wrestling, and killing time meant that I saw far to many episodes of Andy Griffith. Now being in the Southeastern United States, we always hear about how this area was more of a WCW stronghold. How much WCW did you watch?
As I said earlier, Sting vs Ric Flair made me fall in love with wrestling. But it was hard to watch it as regularly as the WWF because I would need to wrangle the TV from adults, even though my parents did like wrestling. But not as much as I did. The most terrifying memory of my wrestling childhood was the Road Warriors turning heel. I treated wrestling as a holy war. Under no circumstances did I cheer a bad guy. At most I could hope a bad guy would turn good. 

I remember the Road Warriors turn well. What was terrifying about it from your perspective?
Who could stop them? I was watching TV when they stabbed Dusty in the eye with a spike. I can't express how upset this made me. When I later learned Dusty got fired for booking it, while I disagree, I get it. 

Are there any other turns during this time that stand out, either to the light or the darkness?
The main comfort I got was Demolition became good guys. It was like the wrestling gods evened things out. 

Was there any other wrestling you'd watch at this time?
I would get to watch Prime Time Wrestling as a treat. My mother would let me stay up until 10:00 [when it ended in the Central time zone], since I would wake up for school with no issues. 

Let's jump ahead seven years to your teens. When you were 14 years old, were you still a fan?
I still loved wrestling, but some of the magic was gone. The real world problems that made it an escape started leaking in. When I was a little kid in third grade all the kids loved wrestling. Even in fifth grade there were other kids who enjoyed it. But in sixth grade things changed. A lot of them became social climbing little shits and suddenly I was also picked on for liking wrestling. Of course a lot of these shitheads would be wearing Austin 3:16 shirts, just as I was growing disenchanted with wrestling. 

In 1992, wrestling became really important to me. My grandmother died in March 1992. It was the worst thing that ever happened to me. She ended up being buried on my birthday. I remember a lady walked up to me as I was sobbing. She asked what was wrong and I told her. She gave me five dollars and I knew one thing I wanted. The Galoob Barry Windham wrestling figure. It was at a discount store called "Bill's". The figure was five dollars and I had been eyeing it for weeks. 

Did you have any other wrestling figures?

I loved wrestling figures as long as I can remember. The first one I ever got was an LJN Terry Funk for my birthday in 1988. Actually I had the Hulk Hogan one, but I the memory is vague. I can remember a really happy feeling, that only a toy aisle could provide.  I collected any I could find. I got a Marty Jannetty Remco figure, but those had the He-Man builds so I had no idea. I thought Buddy Roberts was Sid for years.  The Hasbro figures were my favorites and Mama kept me in them. Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior were my favorites. 

Any thoughts on the Ultimate Challenge at Wrestlemania VI?
I hated when Warrior challenged Hogan. I thought he would be too weak to fight off the bad guys who wanted the belt. But I still supported him because he was a good guy. 

We talked about action figures? Did you read wrestling magazines?
So figures were the biggest part of my fandom and the magazines. I discovered Pro Wrestling Illustrated and they were far different from the WWF magazines. Which even as a kid I knew were propaganda. So every month I would hunt down the magazines. Pro Wrestling Illustrated was my favorite, if I was lucky I could get The Wrestler and Inside Wrestling. They showed me wrestling beyond the WWF and WCW. It was as much an escape as the comics I read. But the real world was leaking in. Fracturing my escape, backing me into a corner and shoving a hot poker into my side. 

Wrestling was changing a lot during your teen years. What do you remember about those changes?
I discovered ECW in February 1996 after reading about it in the magazines. There was an anger and atmosphere that really resonated with 15-year-old Victor. But I was still loyal to the WWF and to a lesser extent WCW. My WCW had really died in 1994 when Hulk Hogan arrived. My favorites were slowly disappearing or being downgraded. Dustin Rhodes, Cactus Jack, and Ric Flair were neutered and Sting was Hogan's sidekick. The last to go was Vader. So I ended up cheering the bad guys. Big Van Vader had been a figure of terror for me in 1993, to the degree I did not even want the good guys to go after him. When he defeated Sting, I struggled to rationalize how he cheated. But I was growing to admire him. I think the way Bossman cheated him out of the title [at SuperBrawl IV] and the magazines praise pushed me toward being a fan.  So Vader was my favorite and I was psyched to see him kill Hogan. Then Hulk Hogan no sold the Power Bomb [at Clash of the Champions XXX] and I mentally checked out of WCW in 1995. With the WWF I had favorites, but no one spoke to me like Vader. 

What were your thoughts on Vader leaving WCW?
I was excited when Vader joined the WWF [in 1996]. The [Royal] Rumble debut was awesome, watching him crush the Headhunters alone then fighting Yokozuna. The next night he attacked Gorilla Monsoon. I did find it off he had to sneak attack Gorilla. 

Vader's WWF run wasn't really everything it should have been, was it?
The run was all frustration. Him stooging for people like he was any other heel. Losing to Shawn Michaels, Ultimate Warrior and Ahmed Johnson all over the country. But Summerslam 1996 was going to be our night. Now I did not read newsletters or anything. My only inside news was this free phone service the [Pro Wrestling] Torch had through my local paper. But I had been a fan long enough I could make educated guesses on how things would go. It made sense for Vader to win the belt and build to someone getting the belt from him. 

So the match starts with Michaels dominating which really did not work. HBK was not Sting when it came to offense. So the count out win happens and I am happy enough. Would like the title, but a W is a W. Then [Jim] Cornette started yelling for a restart. So this one is a DQ and Vader got a visual pin fall. Then Cornette starts again and I am wishing he would shut up. Vader kicks out of the Superkick and takes a questionable moonsault. When I heard the story behind that night, I get it. It does make me wonder why they screwed Bret over when he was way more reasonable. But as a 15 year old kid with no friends and a bad life. This was all I had and I was pissed. I spent my allowance for August and September on this.

It was all downhill from there for Vader in the WWF, in my opinion.
Well as a Vader fan, this was the peak. Beating Undertaker and Bret Hart on TV, I had hope he would be champion. You have to understand, if Vader was doing well, I was doing well. In hindsight, a lot of his work was good. But I watch wrestling for more than matches. By the time of the "fat piece of shit" promo, I was pretty numb to it and invested in little, but I was getting to watch ECW again. But in '99, he kept losing and losing and losing. Then he disappeared in 2000 and my interest in ECW slowly waned.

Actually, I was invested in two wrestlers, Vader and Sabu. 

What drew you to Sabu?
Sabu was amazing. It went beyond the flying. He was like this savage animal, truly larger than life. Any match he was in felt like an event. Of course the magazines had hyped him for years. I got to see him in WCW first and he lived up to the hype. Even if he felt out of place in WCW. I can't explain why. He seemed like he was from another world. In ECW, he was like an elder God. But by '98, my ECW came and went as my cable package dropped America One. They also stopped carrying pay-per-view as wrestling became hot. You can afford to be stupid if you are a cable monopoly. 

Let's shift gears to the wrestling boom. Did you have a "team" you rooted for during the Monday night ratings war? 
WCW I watched for the great undercard, but I was sick of the nWo even in 1997. I figured out they were not going anywhere, as guys would get ganged up on and none of the WCW guys would help. So I was really invested in the WWF up until Montreal. Vince [McMahon] made that stupid speech and I felt betrayed. As a fan I always played along. Now he was fracturing the last layer of the fantasy. 

As positively as it's remembered, rightfully so in many cases, there were some awful moments during those years for sure.
The WWF did things thru out 1998 and '99 that I could not explain. In particular times when they would say things on the show were real. Or Kane chokeslamming Undertaker into his mom's corpse. 

Ugh.
I would watch every Monday and enjoyed the undercard and the main event matches. By mid-'99 I grew to suspect Vince was never going away. But I had my comics and games.

Were you still as dedicated a fan of pro wrestling during this time?
I would order ECW tapes, but that was it. I do not want to go too deep into 2000 WCW. Vince Russo made me hate wrestling. Just an utter piece of garbage who did not understand the escape wrestling was suppose to represent. So WCW rightfully died and the WWF bought the scraps. Which was a pretty exciting time as a fan. 

What are your memories of this time period? For me, there was so much uncertainty.
There is a weird energy in the wake of a death. I don't know, maybe its change. 

So the night of the ECW Invasion on Raw[, July 9, 2001], I was so excited. Then at the end of the night, Stephanie McMahon was added as the ECW owner. Now on a logical level I can tell you why this was stupid. But as a fan it felt like I was spit on. I did not watch for two months and when I returned, I had no enthusiasm. 

What were you into when you returned?
I did really get into Rob Van Dam as I had been a fan since he was in WCW in 1993 [as Robbie V]. But as the year closed, I figured out RVD had his spot and that was it. In hindsight, he should have kept the Hardcore belt as a special attraction. 

Did you ever leave again?
I might have went away completely for a few years after the first Kiss My Ass segment. Outside of finding NWA Wildside on a weak signal station, I felt like I was done as a fan. But I ended up getting access to the Internet and a new aspect of fandom was opened up, seeing the inner workings of wrestling and finding people to discuss old wrestling with. I also started tape trading. So I got to see old wrestling I never got to see. My Vader fandom gave me my first taste of Japanese wrestling. I got to see All Japan [Pro Wrestling] and New Japan [Pro Wrestling], which was Vader unfiltered and it was awesome. Vader could be Vader and even got to win titles. So I would buy tapes and more or less enjoyed it, but in ways it felt hollow. The magic was gone and it was no escape. My real life was getting worse, I lost my father and my mother's mind was deteriorating. Wrestling was not an escape, it was a distraction. There is a significant difference. But I met some of my best friends thanks to forums. Which did make life easier. 

Did you explore lots of old footage?
I got WWE 24/7 and started watching Prime Time Wrestling again and I remembered those old feelings. So I started watching wrestling like it was real. Like I did as a kid, thinking of how I would act in these situations. Wrestling became way more fun and older TV became available. What was old was new to me. 

What else do you remember about wrestling fandom in your 20s?
I had stopped collecting figures in 2003 in a misguided attempt at being an adult. I sat in a room with bare walls on a computer. The only thing I allowed myself was editing videos and I became pretty good. I would go down the wrestling toy aisle and loved all the options, but I could not buy them. 

Let's talk about being a wrestling fan in your 30s.
Mama is dead and I went thru an awful experience. But one bright spot was my nephews, who were very young enjoyed wrestling and watched it like I did. Getting angry at cheating and euphoric when heroes win. They found my wrestling figures and just loved them. I ended up giving them to the kids. The only ones I would not part with were my WCW Galoob figures. I still have that Barry Windham figure near by. It comforted me. 

During the [Super Outbreak] Tornado of 2011, I dug out my figures to find the kids. But like a recovering alcoholic, I was hooked. I started buying the WWE Mattel figures and looking for the old Jakks figures. Its probably the biggest connection I have to the mainstream. I watch TV and mess around with the figures, thinking of angles and matches. At times I feel like a creep doing it. But my therapist said its not different than fantasy football. 

In 2010 I wrote a wrestling novel. I wrote it from the perspective of wrestling being real. I used a combination of my old magazines and [Dave] Meltzer's [Wrestling Observer] Newsletters as sources. 

Have you ever wanted to be a wrestler or work in pro wrestling?
My biggest regret in life and this is hard to admit, but it is I was never in the wrestling business. I think if I had gave it my all, I would have made it. I am a big guy and was really agile as a 19 year old. I was also pretty good at talking. But you know things don't happen like you dream. The wrestling world I grew up in was gone by 2001. Fat guys were going extinct. I felt responsible for my parents, who had issues. Or in the harsh light of day, I did not have the guts to try. I'm 37 now and have a lot of health issues. I go to live shows but it is fun and heart breaking at the same time. Seeing people younger than I am, doing better than my dream than me hurts. 

What do you enjoy about being a wrestling fan now?
The best thing about being a wrestling fan in 2018 is the choices. Almost everything is available and requires very little effort to watch. Even compared to ten years ago, things are so much easier. What before required a computer, Internet connection, account on a torrent tracker, a torrent client, and a DVD player. Now I need an Internet connection and a PS3 or Roku and I have a huge selection of wrestling at my finger tips. You can find scans of newsletters or magazines easily. Or if you want a physical media, you can find most things you want fairly easy if you are willing to pay. Downside with current wrestling is that the stories suck with a few exceptions and you don't see enough character work.

If you think your own wrestling fan journey is interesting and would like to share it, we'd love to hear from you! Please contact us and explain your background.

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