I’m sitting on my couch with my wife, watching the beginning of Raw. My 6-year-old son is playing with his massive army of WWE action figures on the floor. It’s a typical Monday night, and then…
Out of nowhere, here comes Shane McMahon, roaring back onto WWE television. My wife and I are just as shocked as you are. The crowd is going wild. Crazy. Insane. They are so happy. The energy and excitement is palpable, even on television. Then, my son speaks.
“Daddy, who is that?”
It’s a cold, hard slap of reality. A generation of fans who were watching last Monday night had no idea who that man is with the gray hair sporting a pair of Air Jordans.
Has it really been that long since Shane McMahon graced us with his presence? Yes. It’s been 6 long years since he left WWE, and nearly 7 years since his last match.
My son can’t be alone. There must be countless other young fans, perhaps as old as 10 or 11 years old, just like him. They will never know Shane McMahon like I do. I lived Shane McMahon.
There are a lot of fans just like me. Wrestling arrived in our consciousness during the WWF’s glory days of the 1980’s and those first few WrestleManias. We came of age during The Monday Night War, but some of us moved on after it ended. Last Monday night, I was getting messages from friends who haven’t said a word to me about WWE in years. They still remember Shane McMahon.
In the days since Shane McMahon’s return, a number of former WWE employees and professional wrestling “insiders” seemed to be struggling to understand why so many fans are so happy to see him again.
To me, it’s simple. Shane McMahon always represented us. Sure, he was the bratty, entitled son of the owner of the company, but there was something more at play. It may sound crazy, but it always felt to me like he represented what would happen to one of us if we were plucked from obscurity and inserted into a very prominent place in the WWE Universe.
If you watch closely, you can spot a very young Shane McMahon in the role of a referee or a backstage official years before anyone knew his name. He made his formal television debut in 1998 as part of the storyline involving Mike Tyson heading into WrestleMania XIV. Later, he took on the role of a highly-caffeinated play-by-play announcer on Sunday Night Heat. Shane was an explosion of nervous energy, but was also strangely endearing in a Don West sort of way with his “Yeah Yeah Yeah!” and “Go Go Go Go!” style.
When it was time for him to step into a more meaningful role, he knocked it out of the park. He betrayed his father when he re-signed the formerly fired “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. After revealing his involvement, he delivered a heart-wrenching promo about how nothing he did as a child was ever good enough for his famous father. I’d imagine that was a feeling shared by many young fans who were watching at the time. Whether it was by design or not, Shane drew us in by making us believe we weren’t all that different from him.
Since this is professional wrestling, Shane soon turned on Austin and realigned with his father. No one much cared, because it led to a new dynamic and fun father-son moments. Does it seem so far-fetched to imagine that there were a lot of young men and teenagers watching around this time who would’ve cherished the chance to spend this kind of quality time with their own dads? Shane was living the dream, and we were along for the ride.
Like most us, Shane wasn’t trained to be a wrestler, but he tried. Did he ever try! In just his second match, he won the European Title in a tag team match. He held the championship for nearly four months before discarding it for whatever reason. The point is, Shane’s earliest matches weren’t much to write home about. That is, until he ran into Test at SummerSlam 1999.
In a “Love Her Or Leave Her Greenwich Street Fight”, Shane and Test literally fought over the fate of a young, innocent Stephanie McMahon. The results were spectacular, and the bar for Shane’s matches was forever raised. He seemed more than willing to continue trying to outdo himself.
Shane McMahon’s most significant contribution to professional wrestling history probably came on the final night of the Monday Night War. Everyone knows this one. Vince McMahon, already scheduled to face his son at WrestleMania for prior indiscretions, reveals he has purchased WCW. His gloating backfires, however, as Shane shows up on the site of the final episode of Nitro and announces it is actually he who is the new owner of WCW.
Less than a week later, Shane and Vince McMahon shared another special father-son moment, beating the hell out of one another at WrestleMania X-7. The match exceeded almost everyone’s expectations.
It’s also a rare beacon of light in the history of long-term storytelling in WWE. Multiple storylines reached their climax in that match, with heroic moments for Shane, Trish Stratus, Mick Foley and even Linda McMahon.
A few months later, Shane McMahon was back to face Kurt Angle at King Of The Ring 2001. It was brutal. It was ugly. It was messy. Both men walked away in pretty bad shape, but they had earned a ton of respect from every fan who was watching. This match is a testament to the toughness of both of them.
The less said about The Invasion the better, though it is worth pointing out that it resulted in Shane being written off WWE television at the end of 2001. This was the peak. Shane returned several times over the years that followed, (in 2003, 2006-07 and 2009) and delivered some fun and entertaining moments, but never anything quite as wild and reckless as what he’d previously been known for. Perhaps it’s better that way.
So, now Shane McMahon is back. Fans gave him a hero’s welcome, and he’s training for an impossible match – against the Undertaker inside Hell In A Cell at WrestleMania. Shane is probably training as you read this, and he looks to be getting into pretty good shape.
— Shane McMahon (@shanemcmahon) February 25, 2016
Just try not to do anything too crazy at WrestleMania. OK, Shane?
Aw, who am I kidding?
How about one more time off the top of the Titantron, just for old times’ sake?