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Editorials, Sports

WWE: The Nigerian Nostalgia – A Journey Back to When It Was Real

WWE sparked wild imaginations, and many young Nigerians thought that it was real, blurring the barrier between fact and fantasy.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 21st October 2023

 In the early 2000s, WWE‘s entertainment captivated the hearts and minds of Nigerian kids and teenagers, leaving them awestruck with the belief that it was real. Undertaker and Kane became legendary figures, and a conspiracy theory about Undertaker’s resurrection intrigued the kids. Characters like Randy Orton, John Cena, Big Show, and Rey Mysterio found devoted fans across Nigeria. 


WWE dominated the lives of kids and teenagers in Nigeria in the early 2000s, making it a special period. The colorful wrestling matches sparked wild imaginations, and many people thought that WWE was real, blurring the barrier between fact and fantasy. The nostalgia of Nigerian Gen Zs, who distinctly recall WWE as a key component of their upbringing, is examined in this narrative.


Osato Joseph, a 27-year-old from Benin City, wistfully reminisces about his formative years, when the enchanting world of WWE was more than just a televised spectacle; it was a realm of genuine belief. In the early 2000s, he, like countless other Nigerian youngsters, fell under the spell of professional wrestling.



WWE was more than simply a staged spectacle to Osato; it was a doorway to a world where daring stunts, gripping stories, and gigantic characters perfectly collided. He considered the eccentric characters that adorned the squared circle to be more than just performers; they were real superhumans, each with a fascinating tale to share and impressive physical prowess to display. They were nothing short of an inspiration just for being there.


“In my younger days, I was an unwavering believer; I held steadfast to the notion that it was all real. The gravity-defying stunts, the unbridled drama, and the larger-than-life characters mesmerized me in ways words can hardly capture. It was more than just a mere show; it was, in every sense, an unending source of inspiration.” He told BOUNCE.


Similarly, Muna, a 24-year-old student, cherishes the boundless enthusiasm of her childhood days, deeply entrenched in the WWE universe. “We were completely absorbed by these captivating characters,” she reminisces, a wistful smile playing on her lips. “Their intricate storylines and intense rivalries, even though scripted, felt incredibly real to us. Watching WWE wasn’t just a pastime; it was our passport to escape the confines of reality and dare to dream on an epic scale.”


The reign of WWE saw legendary characters emerge. Undertaker and Kane, purported to be biological brothers, captured the imagination of the youth. Undertaker, in particular, made a memorable entrance by emerging from a coffin, sparking widespread speculation that he had a miraculous ability to resurrect.



In the hearts of Nigerian fans, certain wrestlers stood out. John Cena, known for his relentless determination and his catchphrase, “You can’t see me,” became an inspiration for many. Others like Randy Orton, Big Show, and Rey Mysterio were equally celebrated for their unique styles and performances. The Nigerian youth followed their journeys with unwavering passion.


According to former WWE Divas Champion Paige Johnson, it is taboo to call a wrestler fake. A more preferred term that appropriately defines the sport is kayfabe. A perfect example of kayfabe is the decades-long portrayal of the Undertaker as a dead man who resurrected in the ring.


During his formative years, Ayobami, now a young adult, held one wrestling superstar above all others as his idol – John Cena. Recalling those days with a nostalgic smile, he paints a vivid picture of the passionate debates that used to erupt in school.



In those lively discussions, Ayobami and his friends would fervently argue about the authenticity of WWE. Each gathering became an arena of intellectual combat, with each participant taking sides in the ongoing battle of belief. While the prevailing wisdom suggested that WWE was scripted entertainment, their hearts yearned for a different reality. Deep down, they wanted to believe that the larger-than-life characters and their dramatic narratives were genuine. Ayobami’s eyes would light up with enthusiasm as he delved into the animated discussions. It was in these moments that the boundary between reality and fantasy seemed to blur, and the magic of WWE drew them in completely.


The 23-year-old Ayobami said to BOUNCE: “I can vividly recall my school days when my friends and I engaged in fervent debates about the authenticity of it all. Deep down, we harbored a silent desire for it to be real, to witness the astounding resurrection of Undertaker and be inspired by John Cena’s unyielding resilience. Those were truly remarkable times.”



Often, the match outcomes are predetermined. The shows accompany scripted storylines, outlandish characters, music, graphics, lights and clothing.The World Wrestling Entertainment organisation hires writers to ensure a compelling storyline accompanies every bout. Although all wrestlers are accomplished athletes with years of training and experience, the fighting moves seen by fans are also choreographed into the story.


Jude, a 30-year-old engineer, holds dear the vivid memories of watching WWE alongside his closest friends. As he reflects on those cherished moments, a sense of nostalgia envelops him, and his eyes gleam with the unmistakable glint of fond recollection.


“We used to firmly believe that every bit of it was unscripted,” Jude begins, his voice tinged with a blend of wistfulness and delight. “The spirited discussions we’d engage in about our favorite wrestlers became a defining feature of those times. It was more than mere entertainment; it was like a mystical force that brought us together, fostering bonds that extended beyond our living rooms. WWE was the spark that ignited our friendships, making those moments unforgettable.”


As these young fans grew older, they gradually realized that WWE was scripted and choreographed. While the magic remained, the belief that every feud and fight was real slowly faded.


Nonetheless, WWE left an indelible mark on Nigerian hearts during the early 2000s. These childhood memories of wrestling’s golden era are etched in the minds of those who believed in the spectacle and glory of WWE, when wrestling was as real as it could be in the eyes of a child.


In the tale of Nigeria’s love affair with WWE, the fervor and devotion for these “real-life superheroes” will forever be a cherished memory, a slice of childhood wonder that lives on, even when the masks come off and the characters return to their everyday lives.


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