In 2001 I had been a big wwe fan for years, but I’d never been to a show live in person. For my 14th birthday that year, my present was tickets to WWF Smackdown! on December 18th, a few weeks after my birthday and 16 years ago today.

My excitement could not be contained. It was surreal. Earlier that year New Orleans had hosted the Royal Rumble, which I desperately pleaded to go to but my parents denied. They felt it was a fad I’d grow out of (boy were they wrong) and didn’t want to drop that much cash on something they didn’t really understand or respect. As an adolescent, i made a point to express my lack of appreciation for this sentiment (teenagers really know how to be terrible), so the next time the McMahons came through I got to go.

If you’ve never been to a wrestling show, in person, you won’t really understand how different the experience is from watching it on TV. It really is something you have to experience for yourself. I remember vividly the immense crowd of fans and the enthusiasm in the air. When we entered the building and I saw the set, with all the blue lights and a stage piece with giant screens and an enormous silver fist in the center, I could feel my heart beating outside my chest.

I remember asking to get a T-shirt, which my dad wasn’t keen on. He’d already gotten tickets for me, my brother Max, my mom and himself, plus concessions. There was also that  looming Christmas morning a week later. But my mom convinced him to cut me a break. I could get one thing, he stressed. Based on the available choices, I had eyed the New “what?” Shirt for stone cold Steve Austin. The catchphrase which had just started (man, did that chant not last…). However my favorite wrestler had always been the Undertaker. My dad knew that, so he encouraged me to get his “it’s my yard” shirt. I guess he also thought the “what?” Shirt was dumb. It was weird, we then sort of argued about it. Because I was a kid with no money, he won. so I got the undertaker shirt. I was an awkward teenager in junior high with hormones going wild, so I guess it makes sense to be irrationally upset that I didn’t get the shirt I REALLY wanted but just the one I sorta wanted. Man I was such a little ass. …but I mean, why not just get me the shirt I asked for!

Anyway, the show was amazing. I remember my dad freaking out that the Big Show was even there. My mom freaked out when Lance Storm interfered in the Rock’s match against Test. She turned to me and asked “is he allowed to do that?” I told her no but that the referee didn’t see it, and she immediately started yelling at the referee. It was incredible. My parents are both big fans now and I guess it started there, so, thanks Lance storm.

There were lots of great matches that night. None were matches of the year, but the card reads like a who’s who. The show went as follows: Kurt Angle versus Edge for the IC title; the rock sings the 12 days of Christmas promo; rikishi vs lance storm; Matt Hardy versus the Undertaker for the hardcore title; The Rock versus Test; A Chris Jericho promo about how he’s better than everyone followed by Jericho defending the undisputed title against the Big Show; The main event: First Blood Match Booker T versus Stone Cold Steve Austin. The whole show sounds insane when I write it all down, but honestly at the time it felt underwhelming compared to the norm of what the company was doing every week. It was just another show. Of course, not to me; it was an experience I’ll never forget, and a feeling that comes back to me every time I watch a match live. I feel like the kid I was then, just without all that teenage angst.

Today’s match was my favorite from that show, featuring my favorite wrestler, and I have the T-shirt to prove it (thanks Dad) The Undertaker here was doing his American Badass Biker gimmick and had turned heel a few weeks before. Matt Hardy is avenging his brother Jeff and gf Lita after Taker threw them off the stage on the previous night’s RAW. The best part of this is actually after the match where undertaker rides away on his motorcycle, stops, then goes back to best him up more. Just great. One of my all time favorite heel moments, though I’m a tad biased. I guess you could say after this match, Matt Hardy was… …Broken (*groan)

The Undertaker Vs Matt Hardy for the Hardcore title from the December 20th edition of Smackdown! (Recorded on the 18 guys, don’t hound me on this! They would record SD! on Tuesday then air it on Thursday) Check it out and enjoy.

-Sam Jericho