The Main Event: WWF's 'Monday Night Raw' at the Joe Louis Arena
Hernan E. Cortez III

I had been driving for a long time; it had been a while since the car had stopped, two hours to be exact. My girlfriend and I were close now, almost to Detroit, our destination. The parking ramp was full to the brim, so overstuffed we couldn't even get in. It reminded me of a slot machine spewing coins from the bottom, with lights flickering from the top to the mid section. Only now the coins were cars and the flickering lights were headlights. My companion and I had to find somewhere else to park, so we found a smaller parking garage about a quarter mile away from the arena. The night was cold and bitter. The long walk made me tired and the drive had put me on edge, but it was all worth it as I saw the tall buildings that surround my destination. I could hear the loud speaker from a block away:"Welcome to the World Wrestling Federation's `Monday Night Raw' at the Joe Louis Arena." It got louder as I moved faster toward the chaos, like a dog to its whistling master.

I turned the corner and the arena came into focus. The building was large and looked worn by time. Although it was old, its loud presence and blaring lights were still a sight to behold. The crowd was out the door, and the steps leading into the arena reminded me of a great temple. Lights shined down on the street and the announcers' voices welcoming us to the show were at full volume. I made my way up the steps and saw an intoxicated fan fall down the path. He tumbled by me and I could smell his state of mind in a burst of wind as he plunged past me. I walked to the guard at the door; he was a big guy, not in a uniform, but not without authority. As I handed him my ticket, I saw another man like him pat someone else down. The guard took my ticket; smiled, and said, "Have fun."

As I entered the arena I was overcome by a burst of warm air, which was very different from the cold air outside. The frantic fans crowded in the door like ants into their hill. Once inside I could smell different odors: hot dogs and popcorn, perfume and sweat. The walls looked old, as if they had housed many great battles in the past. Banners, posters and other decorations of hockey events and different festivities hung from the arena walls, reminding me of the wrestling and sports apparel decorating the people in the crowd. The floor was gray and bland; stains from gum and pop spilled and never mopped up covered the ground. That was just the outer section of the arena, the place where fans could walk and buy refreshments and souvenirs.

In the center of the arena was the show floor--where the action was. This was enclosed, showing open entrance spots that were covered by large red curtains. I walked toward the huge curtain that covered the entrance to our section and heard the sounds of cheers and screams coming from inside the arena. We walked up the yellow narrow steps to our seats, and I could see the arena, the ring, and the two giants wrestling inside. As I moved up the steps I could hear the crowd scream, as if to form one voice, one shout. The rumbling of feet and movement vibrated under me. I could barely hear, and it was so hot I had to take my coat off. I proudly did this to reveal my favorite wrestler, Hollywood Hulk Hogan, who was emblazoned on my t-shirt. After all, he was the main reason I was here that night. It was dark in the audience, but brightly colored lights beamed from the ring and rafters, shining on chunks of the crowd, making them red, blue and many other colors. I sat in the cushioned chair-- I was finally at the Joe Louis Arena.

The arena was crowded like a prison bunker, yet we were all willingly there for the same purpose: to see people battle and bleed, just to quench our thirst for RAW violence. It didn't matter what color you were for, as long as you are screaming and shouting for someone you could feel a sense of belonging. Sweat beaded down my head and my mouth was cotton dry, so I raised my hand and motioned to the vender.

"What do you want?" he shouted

"A water!" I screamed, thinking it would be cheaper.

"Three bucks!"

I hesitated, but my thirst got the best of me and I paid him. The water was refreshing and I was ready and able to join the crowd. I cheered when the crowd cheered, and jumped and screamed like a lunatic right along with them.

A match started with loud heavy metal music playing as a wrestler named Edge, dressed in green tights with bright yellow hair, rushed from the back. His opponent was a proper-looking English man dressed in red tights, named Regal. Edge did a flying drop kick and then a mean DDT, implanting the English man's head onto the mat, then pinning him for the win. I sat through about four more matches for about three hours, and finally I was treated to the main event.

Tonight's match was a classic bout to whet the appetites of wrestling fans, a battle to build up the story until it climaxed into the biggest match in wrestling history at Wrestlemania. Tonight, the main event was a handicap match between Hogan and the Outsiders, the flamboyant bad guys, versus Rock the "Great One" of the wrestling business, and Stone Cold, the meanest "S.O.B." in the WWF.

The crowd generated enough noise to make my ears ring for a week. The music exploded in to the crowd, who produced an equal sound of their own as the Rock came out from the locker room. He walked into the brightness of the lights from the darkness of backstage. My girlfriend, as well as the other females in the crowd, blushed and shuddered at the sight of his 6'5 and 275 pound tanned frame strutting down the walkway in black shorts with a red bull outlined on the back. He vibrantly gestured to the crowd, jumping on the ring ropes, raising one massive arm and staring into the masses of screaming women. He then took off his glasses, raised his flirtatious eyebrow and tossed his shades into the fans for some lucky fanatic to take home.

The crowd grew louder as Stone Cold entered in his all-back tights with his middle fingers in the air and shaking his bald head. Yet, I was not cheering and shouting the names of these gladiators or applauding these athletes, for I was waiting for the living legend--Hulk Hogan. Since I was a small child I had idolized this man, wanting to be as tough as him, as brave as him, and--since I first saw him--to capture a fragment of the greatness he has achieved. This match was important, because scheduled one week after this would be the match of the season, a one-on-one "greatest ever match" between Hogan and the Rock at Wrestlemania.

Finally, Hogan's essence materialized. He emerged. I screamed and cheered so loud it hurt. Old Jimmy Hendrix jammed over the loud speaker. Fireworks went off and out came the immortal Hulk playing air guitar to the music, dressed in all black pants with lighting patterns down the legs. To his knees were white boots that were branded Hogan up the side; dark sunglasses covered his eyes as a bandana with his name on the front lay over his balding head. From under the bandana long blond hair flowed to his wide large shoulders. Around his neck a white feathery boa dangled to the floor. Black gloves covered his hands as he waved to the crowed that embraced him like a long-absent father. Two henchmen, one with black greasy hair and tan skin in red and black tights, athletic and strong, followed him; the other stood seven feet tall, shadowing all in the ring. They made their way to the ring as his counterparts opened the ropes for the God of the ring, Hulk Hogan. He entered, pointed at the Rock and the bell sounded, starting the match.

The match began: a body slam here and a pile driver there, flamboyant gestures and dazzling moves filled the crowd with adrenaline. At one point in the crowd two men began a match of their own; they were pealed from each other, bloody and bruised. Their argument and brawl, though fierce, was quickly forgotten when the gigantic Hogan flung the much younger and youthful Rock across the ring. He shot from one set of ropes, charging like a freight train toward Hogan. Finally, with one huge foot to the Rock's face, kicking the sweat off him, Hogan sent the Rock crashing into the ground. Then came a leg drop descending from the heavens down onto the head of The Great One. Hogan then pinned the Rock as the crowd exploded and leaped into the air with congratulations worthy of such a great athlete.

I was on top of the world, shaking my girlfriend and gloating, when all of a sudden Stone Cold crushed the head of Hogan and his Outsiders. They hit the mat faster than my jaw hit the floor. The Rock slammed Hogan onto the mat and a strand of spit flew from Hogan's mouth into the air. Then with their music blaring as if they had won, Stone Cold and The Rock exited, followed by the rest of the performers who were cheered into the backstage. As I stood silent and in shock at the attack I had just seen, I wondered with the rest of the Hulkamaniacs when Hogan's vengeance would erupt again, when his fury would consume the Rock. Next time, I hoped.

The match left me plotting and wondering what would happen at Smack Down, the Thursday night show. And, in a week, I wondered who would prevail at the greatest ever match between Hogan and Rock at Wrestlemania. In my head, visions of wrestlers jumping and performing and choreographed lights streamed through my brain. It left me waiting for the time when I could come back and be a part of wrestling history once again at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.


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