|I guess I should have seen it coming.|
Hunter has grown up around the wrestling business even though I haven't been a part of it for a couple of years. He calls Harley Race "Pap" and Trevor Murdoch's son is his best friend. When Hunter was a baby, Ted DiBiase Jr. came over to the house occasionally. Later, Joe Hennig (a.k.a. Michael McGillicutty) was a frequent guest. Most of my friends are or have been involved in wrestling. Hunter has Harley and Trevor's action figures and seems to think that every kid knows some of the people they see on TV. He also knows that I was once a wrestler.
He just never showed a whole lot of interest in wrestling and I was fine with that. Instead, he loved superheroes. First, it was Buzz Lightyear. Then it was Batman, then Anakin Skywalker. What I liked about it was that all these characters had one thing in common: they weren't real. They never let him down. None of them battle addictions or burn out. I'll never have to explain to him that something terrible has happened to Buzz Lightyear in real-life. Right now, Hunter has about ten wrestling action figures. Two years ago, all the people portraying those characters were still alive. Since then, two of them have died very young.
When you hear a familiar word, memories associated with that word flash through your mind. When I hear "wrestling" I see a mixture of images. Some of them are pleasant and some of them are not. I see the fans standing on their feet after I hit a frog splash and pinned my opponent and I see a former star stumbling into the locker room, half-drunk and hitting everyone up for pain pills. I've seen and experienced what a wonderful business it can be, but I've also seen its dark side. It's hard for me to forget my personal experiences and see it from a young fan's point-of-view. To Hunter, it's simply a battle of good guys versus bad guys. I don't think it would be right for me to let my personal experiences influence his newfound love. It's not like he's telling me he's dropping out of his Pre-K class to enroll in wrestling school.
Hunter's interest in wrestling had been limited to the rare occasion that he'd ask, "Can we watch some old-school wrestling?"
That all changed on Christmas Eve. We let Hunter open a present early, a Star Wars video game. He thought I should also open one early. My early present was Smackdown vs. Raw 2008, a game I'd put on my Amazon wish list because I thought it would be fun to play against him. Since then, he has become a wrestling fanatic.
He plays with the action figures, slamming them around the ring or making them leap off the steel (actually cardboard) cage I made for him. He constantly wants to play the wrestling game on Xbox 360. He has gone through five favorite wrestlers during the last three weeks: Shawn Michaels, then Triple-H, C.M. Punk, Rey Misterio, and now Edge.
Hunter has a stuffed Batman toy that's as tall as him; the poor thing has taken a beating recently. He slams it, puts it in figure-four leglocks, and some sort of monkey-flip/powerbomb hybrid I've never seen. Sometimes (not often), he lets his stuffed opponent get in a little offense. I'm not crazy it, but I've warned him about wrestling against other kids at school and daycare, so if wrestling against a toy keeps him from hurting other kids or getting in trouble then so be it.
I've seen Hunter go through dozens of phases and most of them pass quickly. If the wrestling phase passes, that's okay. If not, I guess he has a dad who understands his love for the business.