This week, whilst swiping through my Twitter feed, I came across a WWE Formerly Known As video that had been promoted by one half of the reigning Smackdown Live Tag Team Champions, Luke Harper, who just goes by the name of Harper now. I’ll admit that at first I thought I’d misread his Twitter post as it didn’t advise me of the day of the week, nor that I knew what that meant. Intrigued, I tapped the screen and was straight into a video with the man himself. It showed us his early beginnings as a wrestler and some wonderful videos of his younger days inside the squared circle.
Harper, or Johnathan Huber, to give him his proper title, is shown to us as a clean-shaven young man dominating small wrestling rings in his hometown of Rochester, NY and the surrounding areas. His size, strength and presence are there in spades and he walks and talks us through his beginnings in the wrestling business. It’s moments like this that we remember that not all early wrestling footage is grainy and dark; this was early 2000’s and many people had video cameras. It’s not so much the footage that I found fun to watch, it was the man himself and how he spoke. I’m not someone who likes to hear every secret and story from behind the curtain. I don’t subscribe to scurrilous gossip, rumors or tall tales. I like real stories, especially those told with such passion and honesty.
Harper told us of how much he loved wrestling. The small, cramped spaces and his friends who he faced off with in the ring. His simple costumes and hard-hitting matches. The fondness and love of the art in his eyes and voice shone through to me. We rarely see his character smile or speak on regular WWE television, so not only was it refreshing to hear his voice for more than one or two sentences, but also to see him smile through that massive beard and tell us about his early years.
The best part, for me, was the way he spoke about his son and the joy he got from sharing these early memories and his current WWE run with his family. As the father of young children myself, I know how important it is to share even small moments with your children, those moments may not mean much right now, but they’ll always be with you for a lifetime. Harper shares this emotional and meaningful moment with us, and it’s lovely to see.
Moments and videos like these are great for the fans, but while I don’t think such things are the death of kayfabe and shouldn’t be allowed, they are important and offer stars who may not be able to share all of their time with fans to at least spend a few minutes in their world and share some of their thoughts and experiences. Time is precious and one of the few commodities we can ill afford to waste. To be generous enough to share it with someone who will treasure that moment or learn something from it, perhaps even be motivated by it, is something that should be celebrated. Some fans clamor to know everything and anything about people, especially those in the limelight. For me, I’m happy to enjoy what they’re prepared to share with us. From Harper’s heartfelt words about his early days to The Miz sharing photographs of his beautiful daughter, to the stories these stars tell in their autobiographies – most of which I’ve read. The point being that we don’t need to know it all, just be grateful for what people are willing to share.
Just wanted to thank @wwe for producing such a wonderful piece about my journey.
My son Brodie, after watching the piece, called me in tears yesterday and said, "Dada, you just make me so happy."
I've never felt so accomplished as a human. https://t.co/jkNQdERcVz
— Brodie Lee (@ThisBrodieLee) June 5, 2018
The spectrum on the willingness to share with fans is quite broad and we should be respectful as to where WWE stars chose to lie. The Undertaker is notoriously private and though there are glimpses of him in his natural surroundings on the internet, he otherwise chooses to lead a quiet life. That’s not to say there’s no interest in him from fans. If he were to write an autobiography or hold meet and greets with a Q&A session, you could guarantee both would be sell-outs within moments. Across the spectrum, we may find those willing to participate in ‘Reality’ shows such as Total Divas and Total Bellas. Both give us more of a glimpse into the private lives of WWE superstars, but we see what they want us to see. The semi-scripted scenarios let us peek behind the curtain but not fully. For what it’s worth, I have no idea what to make of the recent John Cena / Nikki Bella story. Personally, I hope they do whatever’s best for them, but I try not to take their (so-called) intimate and personal conversations in the full view of a camera crew too seriously.
Then we have the more honest and open moments where WWE stars will bare their souls and emotions to the outside world. The tell-all books from legends like Bret Hart, Mick Foley and Chris Jericho. The open mic sessions with Jim Ross, Goldberg and more where they open up the floor to questions and engage fans in conversation. I’ve been lucky enough to attend these with Nick Aldis, Mickie James, Carlito, Bull Dempsey and Tommy Dreamer among others. They’re rare opportunities to hear first-hand their stories and tales on the road and their dedication to reach the top of their profession. These are the best for me. The willingness to engage with the fans and speak openly about what they want to hear. There’s no coercion or unwanted prying into their lives, they allow us to spend time with them and listen to what they have to say. They allow us to share in their lives, if but for a couple of hours.
This is what Luke Harper did when he allowed us to meet Johnathan Huber and hear his tale. It’s a nice moment for us to share with him and I hope one day we can hear and learn more. To the man himself, I want to thank him for allowing us to peek behind the curtain and understand him more. I hope he knows that it was an honor to share in those moments with him. Thank you.
Note: You can see other WWE stars like Matt Hardy, Seth Rollins and Bayley featured in WWE’s Youtube series “Formerly Known As” right here.