Monday, January 29, 2007

What ya gonna do brutha

An interesting thing about pro wrestling is that many watch but fewer admit to it. My guess is that it's always been that way.

As a kid, I used to listen to Pete Franklin on the radio at night, as most young men in the Cleveland area did. For those who are unfamiliar with "Sweet Pete", he had a sports talk show on WWWE. One of the quickest ways to get "cut off" from his program was to ask a question about pro wrestling or roller derby, as they weren't accepted sports. Wrestling and roller derby is what is considered "sports entertainment".

There are two types of people I find disturbing. the first who thinks that all of wrestling is real. the second is the type who thinks he's done something the equivalent of finding the cure for cancer, by proclaiming to the world that wrestling is fake.

For the record, wrestling is not fake. The outcome of matches is predetermined, but the moves, for the most part, are real. the referees are out there to control the action, and nowadays they are wired to hear directions from the back.

Anyway, when we last left you, we were discussing pro wrestling in the seventies. I graduated high school in 1974, and sort of pursued other interests, such as broadcasting school, working, dating, and other things I will not admit to since my kids read this blog.

Fast forward to about the mid eighties. Vincent Kennedy McMahon has taken over his father's wrestling promotion, the World Wide Wrestling Federation or WWWF, later to be shortened to the World Wrestling Federation or WWF(not to be confused to the World Wildlife Fund).

I started watching again when Hulk Hogan was world champion of theWWF, Ric Flair was champion of the National Wrestling Alliance, or NWA. I was more a WWF viewer than NWA. Anyway it was basically good versus evil. The "faces" were the good guys, the "heels" bad guys.
Funny story: Ric Flair was recently interviewed. He was asked what he enjoyed more, being a heel or being a face. He replied by saying that those were insider terms and that the reporter had no right to use them.

I started watching in about 1986 on Saturday mornings. The show was called "Superstars of Wrestling" with Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura as announcers. Wrestlemania that year featured Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant as the main event. Andre had turned on the Hulkster during an episode of "Piper's Pit" an interview segment hosted by "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, "Hot Rod" had just turned face a short time earlier himself.(At the time, Andre was nearing the end of his career and was definitely on the downside.)
Hulk had attempted to body slam the giant during the early part of the match and the unplanned happened. Andre fell on the Hulkster and the referee, Joey Marella(BTW the son of Gorilla Monsoon) had to give it a long count for Hogan to get up out of it.

The Hulkster won that match, only to lose the strap to Andre the following winter in a "controversal" match, where Ted Dibiase-The Million Dollar Man evidently paid the referee off. Andre immediately surrendered the title to DiBiase, only to have it stripped by WWF president Jack Tunney. That set up a tournament at Wrestlemania, won by "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Back in those days, the title was usually lost during a major event, most usually a pay per view.

Other superstars back then were people such as Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake-His gimmick was to cut his opponent's hair after he won his match, always by sleeper hold. "Ravishing" Rick Rude-his finishing move was called the "rude awakening", also his move on a lady in the audience. The Honky Tonk Man was an Elvis rip off, managed by "the mouth of the south" Jimmy Hart. His finishing move was called the "shake, rattle, and roll".

More to come...


Mike Dane said...

I too am a wrestling fan.
As a matter of fact I am
dubbing Royal Rumble as I
type. I remember going to
the old Akron Armory on
Saturday nights to watch
Did you know that Jimmy Hart
was a member of the Gentrys
(keep on Dancin' fame)?
And do you remember the
Fabulous Kangaroos?

Mike Dane

BizDecision said...

Great post. Nice picture of the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time...the Honky Tonk Man. He cracked me up how he would grab the mic and say, "I know you all came out to see me sing and dance." That dude generated some serious heat.

Great pic of Virgil. How about referee turned wrestler Danny Davis? What a joke. But I think he won more matches than the Brooklyn Brawler.