Professional wrestling has been a part of my life since the age of 3, when I first saw Hulk Hogan inside the squared circle.
But it wasn't just "Hulkamania" that got me hooked on wrestling; I couldn't learn enough about every single superstar that graced the ring. For me, pro wrestling was always the complete package of athleticism, drama, pageantry and larger-than-life characters that leaped through my television screen.
In 2005 I started to get involved with pro wrestling at the independent level, promoting local events in the Toronto area and in northern Ontario. Some of my fondest memories include trying raw whale for the first time with Christian in the Canadian Arctic city of Iqaluit, Nunavut, and Traci Brooks and Gail Kim constantly telling lovely ladies at bars across Ontario that I'm not dating material (thanks for the "help" ladies!).
And then there were the challenges that came in 2008 with organizing a Cross-Canada wrestling tour, which hit 14 towns in 17 days. Among the highlights on that trip were two flat tires, hilarious ribs from the actors of the "Trailer Park Boys" TV show, McNugget eating contests that I proudly won, and a horrible rendition of "YMCA" at a karaoke bar in Kapuskasing with Joe Legend and the boys. These days I leave the promoting to the "youngsters" and do my part with ring announcing and play-by-play on DVDs.
One day, we received a company-wide email from our vice president of television, Greg Sansone, who urged us to fill out a one-page form if we had any show ideas. Thirty minutes later, I was in his office talking about what I had written -- a "post-game show" for WWE Raw, which would air after our Raw replay on Tuesday afternoons. That show, now known as "Aftermath", began in December 2009 and is still going strong today, with two episodes a week on TV (Tuesday and Friday nights) and an audio podcast on Monday nights after Raw, which I co-host with one of my closest friends, Jimmy Korderas, a former longtime WWE referee who I like to call "The Greek Bald Badass."
Even though my life is dominated by pro wrestling, I have a daunting task ahead of me at The Baltimore Sun. The man in this role before me, Kevin Eck, set the bar extremely high, and was the most respected pro wrestling writer for many years before making the leap to WWE. He was nice enough to give me some kind advice in advance of my accepting this post, and I couldn't be more grateful to him.
I've had some interesting interviews with legends and superstars over the years. In my pursuit for knowledge and insight from my subjects, Bushwhacker Luke has licked my face, Chris Jericho gave me the nickname of "Arda Orca The Killer Whale," Edge agreed to DJ my wedding (if I were ever to get married), and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper propositioned me (I declined). The point is that it's a privilege to be covering this great genre of sports entertainment because the cast of characters is so rich and diverse. It's not only a laugh a minute, but it also never gets old.
I look forward to giving you my thoughts and musings, and I look forward to hearing from you as well. You can follow me on Twitter @arda_ocal or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I always read my responses.