by Courtney Deal
Connor and I had the house to ourselves. The rest of the family had gone car shopping and wanted to be spared my bored, sarcastic comments and Connor’s incessant questioning. We spent the whole night on the couch. Connor was watching TV, but I was more interested in learning the newest developments in his life; our parents made sure Connor was always busy with whatever seasonal sport he wanted to try. Every now and then I would slip in a question about how kindergarten was going or how he liked his soccer coach and teammates. Apparently, school was good; soccer was better. Connor’s classmate and teammate Zach was terrible at it, for one, being more interested in giving his team hugs instead of defending the goal; Connor’s friend Patrick’s dad always called him “Hat Trick” even though he never scored one goal let alone three; and Connor himself was one of the few who actually watched soccer at home. Connor said that he was thinking about playing tee-ball next fall, but he didn’t know yet. He would have to think about it some more before he came to a final decision.
Every once in a while, Connor would ask me to pull up the guide so that he could see what time it was. I didn’t bother to ask him why. Five-year-olds are inquisitive, and Connor was no exception. As the night went on, the guide was on the screen more often than whatever television show we were watching.
Almost as soon as the analog clock he had been watching for the past half hour ticked to eight, Connor asked me to pull up the guide again. He was still learning to tell time, and he wanted to be sure the clock sitting on the fireplace was right. The large guide on the screen proved him right, and instantly he was up and scooting out of his seat next to me on the couch. He scurried into the darkness of the house just as fast as he did when he was shooting down the soccer field at his most recent game.
“Where are you going?” I asked him. I knew he wasn’t headed off to use the bathroom because he usually announced that.
Connor’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. I should have already known where he was going. It was eight o’clock after all. “I’m going upstairs to watch Monday Night Raw.”
Apparently, as I found out from my parents later that night, it had become his weekly routine to go upstairs, watch the wrestling program, imitate the moves, learn new catchphrases, and then fall asleep in the middle of my parents’ bedroom floor. The program was usually still on when my parents would finally go upstairs to bed—and Connor would still be lying directly in front of the TV, watching through his eyelids.
Before he could make his way up the stairs, I furrowed my eyebrows in the same way he did and asked, “Why are you going upstairs though? You can watch it down here.”
His eyes lit up like I had never seen before. He scrambled back onto the couch, reaching for the remote his entire way up. When I handed it to him, his grin was contagious. He really couldn’t believe that I wanted to watch wrestling with him. No one else had ever wanted to.
Monday Night Raw started with previews of all the matches that would be played that night, introducing their stats and their rivalries. The announcers talked about all the drama that had supposedly happened during the week, cutting to clips of arguments that had been all-too-conveniently captured by “hidden cameras.” I couldn’t believe anyone would buy these clearly staged arguments, but when I turned to laugh with Connor about how ridiculous they were, I saw that he was enthralled. Connor was hanging on every word, his eyes darting between each wrestler as they shouted to each other.
Despite the television announcer having already introduced the wrestlers, Connor took the time to point out all of his favorites—like John Cena, Rey Mysterio, and the Big Show. John Cena was the one in the “cool outfit”—no shirt, orange sweatband, jean shorts and white tennis shoes. Rey Mysterio never took off his mask, and Big Show was “really big,” Connor told me while giggling to himself. He made sure I knew that he was not a fan of The Miz—who was not “awesome” in spite of what his catchphrase claimed.
As each one of his favorite wrestlers came down the runway and into the ring, Connor got up from the couch and did all of their choreographed moves and sang along to their theme songs.
“You want some? Come get some!” Connor repeated as John Cena came out of the tunnel. I instantly remembered how every time I talked to Connor on the phone, he would repeat that phrase incessantly, regardless of what we were talking about. And now here Connor was in our living room, flexing his muscles like John Cena and singing along to his theme song.
Connor got really excited when CM Punk was announced as John Cena’s opponent. The two had been rivals for quite some time, and apparently, all of their fights were usually crowd-pleasers. The two men stood on opposite sides of the ring yelling abuses at each other about the events that had transpired over the past few weeks. None of it made sense to me, but for Connor, who had been following the feud, it was crystal clear what they were talking about. When I asked him, Connor said that he would tell me later and to pay attention. From what I gathered, the carefully designed drama between the two wrestlers was about members of John Cena’s wrestling group being taken by Generation X, CM Punk’s team. Connor was completely invested in the ongoing war of words, but I could only think about how ridiculous CM Punk looked in his black t-shirt and tiny wrestling shorts. Well, Connor called them shorts; to me they looked like man-panties.
When the two men actually began to fight, Connor’s eyes were glued to the television. The only time I could get him to talk to me was when he told me the names of each move the wrestlers did. As the two men grabbed at each other and took turns pinning each other down to the mat, I noticed how great their acting skills were. John Cena’s face was twisted in pain and his grunts of torture were perfectly timed until the very second he was supposed to get out of CM Punk’s hold—much to Connor’s relief.
“Whoa! Did you see that?” Connor asked me after CM Punk took one particularly hard hit to the mat. I just nodded in amusement at how easily Connor ignored the signs of the hit being faked.
Every time one of the wrestlers hit the mat, Connor gasped at how hard he hit it and made sure I saw it. I nodded to him and then laughed to myself at how obviously the man on top’s hand hit the mat while he was holding onto the man on the bottom to make sure his body didn’t actually hit it. Every once in a while, the bottom wrestler made sure the heels of his feet hit in addition to the hand, increasing the noise level and the intensity of the move.
True to form, John Cena won the match against CM Punk with one swift completion of the “attitude adjustment”—Cena’s signature move. Connor never noticed, but the “good guy” always won. Cena walked his victory lap around the ring, and CM Punk was left to sulk in the corner. The rest of the matches continued this way throughout the night. The women’s matches lasted for a significantly shorter time than the men’s, but Connor didn’t care. The women weren’t nearly as interesting to him—girls still had cooties.
Before I watched with Connor, it was difficult to understand how the bad acting and fake wrestling on television could possibly entertain anyone, but after I saw how excited he got about every little thing that occurred, I found myself getting excited as well. I sang along with all of the catchy songs and imitated the wrestlers with Connor in front of the TV. It made me smile to see that Connor was enjoying himself even more with me copying the moves with him. He taught me how to hold my arms and the words to the songs when I got them wrong. Even through this, Connor paid careful attention to the wrestling and the winners so that he wouldn’t miss anything that may become important next week.
After what felt like the hundredth match, Connor began to get sluggish and sat down on the couch for the final time that night. Not even the yelling coming from the TV screen could keep him awake. I continued to watch the rest of the program. Connor would want to know what happened when he woke up the next morning.