I’m about to drive 16,000 miles to find the Iron Sheik and Hulk Hogan. You’re riding shotgun.
Day -5 (Oakland, CA)/Miles Driven: 0/Price of Gas: I don’t want to look yet
It’s not quite déja vu.
In June of 2015, I boarded my green 2002 Honda Accord to set off on a cross-country quest to track down all the players in a single pack of 1986 Topps baseball cards and write a book about it.
People liked it. Strangers liked it. Many of these same strangers have asked me repeatedly if I would write another Wax Pack. I always said no. Karate Kid II could never match the original. But Cobra Kai, on the other hand…not exactly a sequel.
In five days, I will board a Duke-blue 2012 Ford Fusion (readers of The Wax Pack will understand my choice in make and model) in search of another muse of my childhood — 1980s WWF wrestlers.
Snake men, macho men, giants, and little people — the professional wrestlers of Generation X formed a gallery of the exaggerated and the obscene, a place where kids like me escaped to via TV every Saturday morning as we slurped our Lucky Charms and terrorized our younger siblings. Throw pillows suddenly became steel chairs as we pummeled each other in play fights, ignoring the PSAs of “don’t try this at home.” I slathered my emaciated frame in baby oil and doused my hair in water to channel the presentation of a ranting Hulk Hogan, brother, or a greasy Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
But whatever happened to these cartoon characters? What becomes of Dragon-men when the fire in their belly burns out? And who are the real people behind these neon facades, the men who never could step out of costume (remember, in the ’80s wrestling was still promoted as sport) even after the play was long done?
Myth vs. reality. It’s the central theme of The Six Pack, my not-quite-sequel to The Wax Pack that will have you reaching for your VCR (or at least an hour of procrastination on YouTube). While the book won’t come out until April, 2024 (from Hachette Books, on the 40th anniversary of Wrestlemania), I am going to take you on the ride with me, right here. I want you to feel every bruise as I get bodyslammed going through a wrestler’s workout, pinch yourself as I sit down with the same men whose action figures we once clutched, and roll your eyes over my taste in music (you may be riding shotgun, but you don’t have DJ power). I pledge to do all of this with the same formula of radical candor and self-deprecation that typified The Wax Pack, but this time with a lot more multimedia (I discovered this little tool called Instagram!). You are all fellow members of The Brad Pack, and our collective mission is to find those untold stories from the unsung heroes of our youth.
So strap in. And tell a friend. It’s going to be one hell of a summer.