The first wrestling show I ever saw was at the Aud in November 1983, when I was 12.
On March 5, I added another chapter to my long personal history with wrestling at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) rolled through town on its "Road to WrestleMania Tour" Sunday, and it was my first time back to see wrestling at the Aud after a 20-year hiatus.
All the stars of present-day WWE were there; Drew McIntyre, Rhea Ripley, Braun Strowman, Raquel Rodriguez, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn.
Sunday's card at the Aud was something known in the wrestling business as a "house show." It wasn't televised -- it was only for the Kitchener crowd -- which means nothing significant to the televised storylines unfolded.
It was old-fashioned wrestling, performed for a live audience, the way I grew up watching it.
As much as I enjoyed watching today's wrestling stars, the experience also made me nostalgic for the wrestling shows I saw at the Aud throughout my life.
The first wrestling show I ever saw was at the Aud in November 1983, when I was 12, and the main event was “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant vs. The Great Kabuki. It was a formative experience.
I was also at the Aud to watch wrestling on a big screen for a closed-circuit live screening of the first WrestleMania in March 1985.
I was blown away by the larger-than-life characters doing battle in some distant ring. The following year I went back to see the sequel, WrestleMania 2, on closed-circuit at the Aud. I did the same the following year for the third WrestleMania, which was beamed to the Aud from the Pontiac Silverdome, where a record-breaking crowd watched Hulk Hogan beat Andre the Giant.
Over the years, I saw many WWE shows at the Aud featuring the likes of The Junkyard Dog, Adrian Adonis, Bret “Hitman” Hart, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, John Cena, Kurt Angle, and Brock Lesnar. Of course, I also saw Rangers games, Ice Capades, and lots more at Kitchener's venerable auditorium.
In 1986 I attended a show featuring The Sheik vs. Angelo “King Kong” Mosca in a steel cage, and in 1992 I camped out overnight in freezing temperatures to get front-row tickets to see Jake “The Snake” Roberts face The Undertaker at the Aud.
Being back at the Aud last week after many years was a thrill, particularly because I was there with a newcomer to the weird world of wrestling, Sara Geidlinger, my Bonn Park podcast co-host.
Sara is also my co-host on the podcast An Unscripted Spectacle: Wrestling with Wrestling, on which we chat with a variety of people from that world: wrestlers, referees, promoters, journalists, and many more.
Sara said she was surprised by how quickly she became a wrestling fan, and she loves how welcoming and interactive the community is at live shows.
This year's WrestleMania -- number 39! -- is just weeks away, and last week’s event in Kitchener was a kind of warm-up for that.
It had been so long since I'd seen wrestling at the Aud, the show both made me excited for WrestleMania, and nostalgic for the many evenings of entertainment I've enjoyed at the Aud since childhood.