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Why Do We Study Wrestling History – Inspiration

Why Do We Study Wrestling History?

Part 3 – Historical Events and People Inspire Us

November 1, 2022

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Wrestling History Can Inspire Us

Have you ever wondered why people love to hear origin stories? 

I looked to Peter Stearns’ 1998 Essay “Why Study History” for answers. 

Stearns argues, “People who have weathered adversity not just in some work of fiction, but in real, historical circumstances can provide inspiration.” 


Perhaps that’s the answer, and perhaps it’s also one of the reasons why we should study wrestling history. 

Whenever I hear people talk about their journeys, their story always includes a phrase like “that’s when I realized” or “from that day forward” pointing toward the cause of some important transformation. 

The cause of that transformation can range from simple observation to personal crisis to serious tragedy, and the effect can range from rags to riches, talentless to talented, or even just overweight to in shape.

Whatever the cause and whatever the effect, the story (the history) of the journey inspires us to hopefully take some meaningful action in our own lives. 

The story doesn’t always come from ancient history either. We can gain just as much inspiration from the stories of ordinary people (perhaps more) as we can from the studies of the great men and women of history. 

Mick Foley’s Interview with Jim Ross – 1997

Mick Foley says "I realized, Jimmy, that I wanted to do the same thing."

In the case of Mick Foley, his “I realized” moment came when witnessing Jimmy Snuka leap off the top of a steel cage in Madison Square Garden. One move on one wrestling show inspired him down a path to becoming a professional wrestler.

In his 1997 interview with Jim Ross, Foley remembers,  

“I saw people stand up, and I saw people cheer, and I knew that I wasn’t the only person who’s life was changed in that arena. I realized, Jimmy, that I wanted to do the same thing.”

After seeing the Superfly Splash, Foley continues “I wanted to hear people cheer for me for some act of bravery that I committed. I wanted to hear, see people’s emotions. I wanted to see children cry out of love for me and the things I could do inside of the ring.” 

The Superfly Splash inspired Mickey Foley to start his journey to becoming a professional wrestler. 

Mick Transforms

Through Mick talking about traveling to Madison Square Garden, spending every dollar he had for a front row ticket, and witnessing an inspirational move from the Superfly; he effectively becomes the inspiration. 

Stearns argued that ordinary people could, “provide lessons in courage, diligence, or constructive protest.”

Perhaps more than anyone else we’ve ever seen in the WWE system, Mick Foley looks like one of us. The 1997 interview series with Jim Ross exposed him as a wrestling fan. We saw actual footage of Foley on our side of the barricade.

We also witnessed home video of Mick attempting to tell wrestling stories and hold wrestling matches in his backyard. A lot of young wrestling fans did that stuff too. 

Foley transforms from “larger than life wrestling superstar” to “one of us” before our eyes. 

The difference between Mick Foley and anyone else who hasn’t achieved their dream is Mick’s unwavering commitment to his craft.

Mick’s Trauma

As inspirational as ordinary Mick Foley achieving his dream might be, Mick’s story is all the more inspirational when taking into account the trauma Mick overcame as a young boy whose differences caused him to miss out on first dates and have worms tossed at him.

He used his tolerance for pain as a way to stand out and garner attention for himself. 

Who hasn’t done something stupid to seek an acknowledgement from their peers? 

Maybe most people don’t go as far as eating worms and removing a protective cup for lacrosse games, but chances are good that most people did something stupid just for the adulation of others. 

Mick’s ordinariness and relatability makes him an extraordinary inspiration to anyone that feels like an outcast who is willing to put in hard work and diligence to achieve their dreams. 

Mick shows us it can be done. He’s an inspiration. 

Why Study Wrestling History – The Equation

In the quest to understand why we should study wrestling history, inspiration is far from the full answer. It’s part of the overall equation (see below). 

Our journey continues next week as we unpack more of what we gain from a study of wrestling history. 

The Wrestling History Equation

Why Study Wrestling History =

+ Nostalgia: We miss aspects of our past.

+ Nostalgia: Reminds us of who we have been in contrast to who we feel we are today and who we hope to be in the future.

+ Inspiration: Stories of real people that went through difficult times inspire us. 

Why Study Wrestling History Archives

Why Study Wrestling History Part 1

Part 1 of this series illuminated the fact that wrestling fans spend countless hours consuming content focused on wrestling’s history (podcasts, documentaries, books). 

That observation alongside the following questions in itself represent the crux of the series:

  • Why does the average wrestling fan care so much about the past? 
  • Why do people care enough to produce content reliving the past? 
  • Most importantly – Why Should we care about the history of professional wrestling? 

Examples From Part 1 Include: Quantity of shoulder programming that has grown up around the wrestling industry.  

Why Study Wrestling History Part 2

In Part 2, we saw that nostalgia plays a large role in why wrestling fans like to spend their time reliving memories from their fandom in wrestling. 

Examples From Part 2 Include: Montreal Screwjob, Monday Night Wars, The Rock returning to WWE.

Ryan Joy hosts the Daily Wrestling New Show podcast along with John D’Aconti. They’re focused on Teaching, Learning, and Remembering the history of Professional Wrestling with everyone that wants to join them. 

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