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At three years old, I remember my initial dance with wrestling tapes.

It was one of those nights I was platooned over to my aunts house, the same house that is no more than walking distance away from where my parents live now. Then my uncle had taken me to a creaky video store and asked me to pick out whatever I wanted to see. I had zero thought about cartoons or movies then, my entire world revolved around wrestling. So almost immediately, I ran to the placeholder for wrestling, labeled under a giant block of black lettering — the SPORTS section and grabbed the biggest, shiniest thing I could paw my tiny hands on.

WrestleMania 2.

Now a smarter, older and more mature me could have picked out a lot better Pay-Per-View but this was the early ’90s. I had zero clue that months later, my childhood idol Hulk Hogan would wind up yo-yoing inside of company purgatory with feuds against Papa Shango and Sid Justice. My childhood revolved around being afraid of the Undertaker, saying my prayers and screaming along with my grandfather, “Don’t hurt Hulk Hogan.”

Getting your hands on the Coliseum Video cut of any WWF Pay-Per-View took a load of work in itself. Mainly because getting PPV tapes back then to me at least was as rare as running down Bo Jackson. But it started a funny obsession, one that crystalized Wednesday night with the announcement of the WWE Network, a $9.99 service starting February 24th much like Netflix that offers any and every PPV from WCW, ECW and the vault of the WWE at the palm of my fingertips, including upcoming PPVs such as WrestleMania 30 from New Orleans.

Childhood me might have fainted, adult me finally understands and realizes this — this is the lasting legacy of Vincent K. McMahon.

wwe-network

For all of his various stances as the smart version of PT Barnum, McMahon should be credited as being the architect for bringing wrestling not only to the mainstream but to a position where it was damn near legitimized as a national pastime in this country. His business in regards to creative control within the company, pushing talent and continually changing how we view heroes, villains and the rise of antiheroes in the near three plus decades that I’ve been watching wrestling has been mixed and skewered. His direction for the most part has given birth to two versions of a yellow T-Shirt Superman (Hulk Hogan the Alpha, John Cena its current) and also a cast of characters who became deeply rooted in their own beliefs and motifs that you had to root for them (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Shawn Michaels).

When McMahon bought WCW in 2001, the feel from wrestling fans across the country only be described as the worst. There was no other territory for Vince to go and conquer, he had essentially beat his greatest foe that didn’t exist in a courtroom and gobbled it up into his vast empire. Sure, a less than worthy competitor decided to surface in 2003 but all Vince McMahon thought about was expansion, all of it leading to legitimizing wrestling to the point where it could be placed right alongside football and basketball in terms of television junkiehood.

Having all of these moments from my childhood, pay-per-views and experiences I clearly remember at the touch of my fingertips almost seems like Christmas in January. The broad aspect of McMahon’s plan of course came right along with the technological advancements that created a new sense of television viewing — binge watching courtesy of Netflix — and cranked it up to a level that may possibly be unheard of. The WWE library which has been expanding by collection of other promotions such as the AWA, WCCW and other niche territories with their own stars will be part of this network, easily one of the largest collections of history ever placed upon digital media.

To think, this was originally set to be a cable network back in 2012.

The pay-per-view wasn’t specifically Vince’s idea but to promote it as such took guts. To continually roll out event after event then moving into weekly syndication with Monday Night Raw, and Smackdown will be touted as genius brain strokes. The XFL, his most ambitious project will ultimately be deemed a failure but concepts of it such as the nicknames on the back of player jerseys will be adopted by the NBA starting Friday.

But this shall be his lasting legacy, to give the fans what they’ve been dreaming about since they were kids — access to what put wrestling into their collective minds in the first place.

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