The greatest soap opera of them all

As a television fan I've watched my fair share of soap operas over the years.

I grew up binging on Neighbours, Home and Away, Dynasty, The Colbys, Eastenders and Coronation Street, amongst others.

But over all this time only one remains regularly on my playlist - and, without doubt, it's the greatest soap opera of all.

Of course I'm speaking about professional wrestling, and the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, formerly WWF (World Wrestling Federation)) in particular.

I can hear most of you scoffing at me already, so let me provide some evidence for my bald assertion.

Wikipedia defines a soap opera as "a serial drama, on television or radio, that features related story lines dealing with the lives of multiple characters."

I'll debate anyone who doesn't think that applies perfectly to professional wrestling.

The biggest difference between the melodramatic trash that Coro serves up on a weekly basis and wrestling, of course, is that wrestling has a degree of reality about it.

Yes, the storylines are plotted. Yes, the winners and losers are predetermined. But it's not, by any stretch, fake.

Injuries are commonplace and early death is an occupational hazard. A quick read of Mick Foley's autobiography will leave you stunned.

I've seen Stone Cold Steve Austin's neck being broken. I've seen a chair accidentally land on Mick Foley's mouth forcing one of his teeth out of his nostril.

And I witnessed through tears the immediate aftermath of the tragic death of Owen Hart when he fell from the rafters onto a ringpost when his entrance went wrong.

The storylines have also provided some of the most astonishing moments in television history, in my opinion.

I can never forget when Shawn Michaels laid sweet chin music on tag-team partner Marty Jannetty to end The Rockers forever and set himself up one of the greatest singles wrestlers of all time.

Or what about when Sergeant Slaughter came out flying the Iraqi flag and condemned America during the first Gulf War? Slaughter received numerous death threats and was rumoured to be wearing a bulletproof vest while not wrestling.

Or perhaps the greatest of them all, the Montreal Screwjob?

Bret 'The Hitman' Hart was the WWE champion and on a multi-year deal which ensured he wasn't going to be poached by the WCW (World Championship Wrestling), their greatest rival.

Unfortunately Hart's contract was a millstone around the WWE's neck and they virtually begged him to leave in order to prevent financial meltdown.

Hart was the WWE champion just a few days before he was due to start with the WCW and this was a major problem for boss Vince McMahon.

He couldn't risk a repeat of the scenario when women's champion Alundra Blayze defected to their rivals and dumped their title belt in the bin on live television.

Hart agreed that his match against Michaels at Survivor Series would end in a disqualification, allowing him to retain his title and then give it up the following night on Raw. He didn't want to lose his title in Canada, his home country, to Michaels one of his more hated rivals.

But McMahon couldn't take the risk - so during the match Michaels put Bret into the Hitman's finishing move, the sharpshooter.

Bret knew this was going to happen - he was going to reverse the move. But instead referee Earl Hebner called the match over, saying Hart had submitted. The bell rung and those responsible were hurried from the ring.

Michaels feigned innocence, despite being in on the whole thing, while a livid Hart spat at McMahon and made a WCW sign with his finger.

The crowd were livid and for weeks pro-Hart signs showed up on television. Even now, 16 years on, relationships haven't been properly healed.

I can still recall the rumours of Hart's impending departure. I still remember the betrayal I felt when Hart lost to his own move. I still don't like Shawn Michaels for his part in it.

When real life and wrestling intersects there truly is no drama like it.

Now I'm off home shortly to catch up on last night's Raw. I hear Daniel Bryan was due to face Batista and that's far more interesting than the goings on in Summer Bay.