When you're a 24-year-old single man living in your mom's house, you have a lot of time on your hands.
In January I subscribed to WWE Network, a $9.99-a-month streaming service that's loaded with wrestling content. I was on a mission to relive my glory days of 1998, aka arguably the greatest year in wrestling history.
Back then, wrestling was cool. WWF (as it was called) averaged nearly 5 million viewers each week. Before it became the more family-friendly fare it is now, shows were more violent, ruder and nuder than you're likely to see in a ring on mainstream TV ever again.
It took me five months to watch a year's worth of WWF Raw and pay-per-view shows from '98 – that's 120 hours (did I mention I'm single?). It was a titanic task, but I did it all in the name of research ...
I know what you're thinking – that was 20 years ago, why should I care? Well, after wiping the Cheetos crumbs from my sweater and stretching out my collapsing spine after five months on the couch, I picked out some highlights that remain very relevant today.
1. The Rock was a virtual nobody
A lot of people know the Rock (or Dwayne Johnson) as the highest-grossing actor on the planet. But before he was making epic flops like Baywatch or kicking the crap out of Vin Diesel in Fast & Furious, he was getting humiliated in the WWF – at least in '98.
He held the Intercontinental Championship for most of the year but he was never a main-event wrestler. He got his butt kicked at WrestleMania and lost marquee matches at Summerslam and King of the Ring.
His run as a face (a good guy) went over terribly with fans who booed him – that's right, The Rock got booed quite liberally.
It was only at the end of the year when he turned heel (bad) and won the World Championship with the help of the ultimate villain Vince McMahon that he started his rise to stardom as a member of McMahon's "Corporation."
Even then, he made his name as a total douche, which is unthinkable considering we now know him as basically one of the nicest guys in America.
Loyal wrestling fans chanted "Rocky sucks" throughout the majority of the year and I couldn't agree more. He was a complete chump.
2. It was NSFW before NSFW existed
Midway through the year, WWF brought in a character by the name of Val Venis, who was billed as a former porn star turned wrestler.
His entrance video was an innuendo-filled work of art, accompanied by the kind of brass-heavy music associated with the adult genre (from what I've heard). He'd enter the ring with a, "Hellooooo ladies" before delivering a monologue that climaxed with a ribald pun.
His finishing move was called the "money shot." I mean, come on.
Venis pushed the envelope more than any other wrestler that year and it wasn't close. He appealed to the testosterone-heavy, millennial-equivalent audience the company loved to target. He was #NSFW well before NSFW became a thing.
Check out the promo he did with former porn star/Playboy Bunny Jenna Jamison (above). The clip, which wouldn't get anywhere close to passing the censors on modern day WWE, ends with him claiming his "silencer" would leave everyone speechless.
3. Years before stunning the president, Stone Cold made another billionaire's life hell
The Rattlesnake, Stone Cold Steve Austin, was without a doubt the most popular wrestler that year and possibly of all time. It was his mission to make owner – and billionaire – Vince McMahon's life a living hell.
He won the Royal Rumble in January and eventually won his first World Championship at WrestleMania against Shawn Michaels in March. Boxing legend Mike Tyson played a part in the match as a special referee.
His feud with McMahon was one of the most electric in wrestling history, as the owner (and his Corporation underlings) did everything in his power to make Austin's reign as champ a short one, with Austin hitting back by filling his car with concrete, attacking him by jumping off a zamboni, and beating him up while "admitted" in a hospital.
Years after his amazing run in '98, Austin found a way to stick it to another billionaire when he cracked a beer with Donald J. Trump at WrestleMania, before giving him the Stone Cold Stunner.
Wanna try it?
With 120 hours of wrestling to get through, there are bound to be some duds – and given all the subscription services out there, adding another $9.99-a-month to your budget to watch wrestling might be a step too far. That said, you can subscribe free to WWE Network for the first 30 days.
Each episode of Raw is about 90 minutes, while pay-per views run around 2.5 hours.
I set a ferocious pace, consuming around seven episodes a week. I wouldn't urge you to follow my path – not least because you probably have more of a life than me – but I'd say three episodes a week is doable.