This is the endAnd in the end, not even Mister T was powerful enough to keep a good thing going forever.
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...
Maybe this is the way it should be: "That is the way of things," the wise Yoda told us. I mean, life is good. But a life without end is meaningless. And having all the time in the universe won't make it any more rich. No, a measure of mortality is required, lest we be condemned to an eternity of pointless debate.
But still... man, this takes all the hot air out of a balloon that took a lot of us to situations we never thought possible, and even across the horizon for a glimpse of things yet to come. Coming to the end of the road like this is going to cause no end of emotional turmoil for some people. Including me.
After very nearly ten years of fighting the good fight on the World Wide Web - longer than most people have even been able to use the Internet at all - the WWWF Grudge Match is being retired. It started as a rumble in the 'hood between Gary Coleman and Emmanuel Lewis in the halcyon days of 1995, when Jar Jar Binks existed nowhere outside the mind of George Lucas and the Blair Witch was not yet an original idea to be ripped off by a jillion camcorder-armed amateurs . It ended with a "Hail to the king, baby!" for Ash Williams. It covered just about every conceivable genre and corner of pop-culture in the history of anything along the way.
And it's gotta be said that plenty of its matchups became not just classics to the site, but to the entire web. The infamous English Soccer Hooligans vs. the French Army battle from 1998, I've probably seen linked to from other sites at least a dozen times over the years. The same goes for the "wheelchair demolition derby" between Stephen Hawking, Larry Flynt and Doctor Strangelove. The proto-"Iron Chef" bake-off between Hannibal Lecter and Jeffrey Dahmer prompted some rallying on Usenet for Dahmer's dish, but even that paled in contrast to the threatening e-mail sent by terrorists at Georgia Tech calling themselves "The Braveheart Jihad (There Is No Jihad)" in response to William Wallace vs. Groundskeeper Willy. "The Moppet Show" of Harry Potter against Anakin Skywalker got more votes than any other fight in Grudge Match history, while John McLane's running amok inside the Death Star is considered by some to be the site's all-time funniest contest.
That Grudge Match lasted THIS long is testament enough to the hilarity of its premise, but it managed to make a few marks of its own on the cultural landscape during its run. For one thing, it's widely considered to have been the principle inspiration for MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch. The spring of '98 saw the publication of Grudge Match in bookstores everywhere. At one point there was discussion of even turning Grudge Match into a TV show of its very own: I can only imagine how hilarious THAT might have turned out to be!
But I'm going to remember Grudge Match because during its long run, I made a lot of good friends in one way or another because of it and though they might not know it, a lot of them offered some much-needed encouragement during a particularly rough period of my life: initially I was going to be a guest commentator for Darth Maul vs. ConnorMcLeod but when my grandmother died a week before my part was due... well, that tends to take the humor out of a guy. Steve(tm) and Brian(tm) bared with me though and let me do The Godfather vs. The Equalizer a few months later. There's also the lil' matter of "The Night the Lights Went Out", the idea for which was literally conceived and put online (including graphics) within a span of fifteen minutes, and it's always been a thrill knowing that one moment of madness will forever be part of Grudge Match lore. I wrote the accompanying spoof of "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" in about a half-hour... what the heck kind of cold medicine was I on that night?!
There's no telling how many websites I've visited over the years. The number that readily come to mind that were on my "must-see" list is probably less than ten. Grudge Match was one of them, but not just for the humor: it was a really unique place for camaraderie and friendship. It was a family. It was like Cheers where "everybody knows your name" and now it's closing time.
It's not going to be the same web for me anymore. Not without one of the very first websites I discovered no longer churning out new material (though the site and its archives will apparently be up and operating indefinitely). But to go on and on and on and on without end would keep Grudge Match from its destiny as a classic. It broke new ground as a web pioneer, and now it gets to enjoy a glorious ride into the sunset.
Thanks for all the hard work and good laughs over the years, fellas. It's been an honor to have been both a fan and have had a small role in this site. Come back in another ten years or so when the ground is fertile again: there should be plenty of crap-tacular culture to knock by then :-)