Comparing Rusev’s rise to the Iron Sheik’s famous run in 1984

I’ve been thinking a lot about current WWE foreign menace Rusev and what his future may bring.

For eons, pro wrestling has exploited either current world situations or long-standing xenophobia to create hugely effective heel characters. But it’s been a while since the WWE has put its force behind a foreign threat like Rusev, who is alleged to hail from Russia.

When I think of bad guys from other countries, my mind immediately goes to the Iron Sheik and his successful run in the WWF in 1983 and 1984. It’s possible in ’84 that the Sheik was the most hated guy in wrestling (the irony being he is a nice guy outside the ring, having met him before briefly).

 

Can the WWE replicate the Sheik’s atmosphere with Rusev all these years later? Longtime mid-carder Jack Swagger seems prepped to take the role of the All-American hero who will fight Rusev.

I read a piece by one of my favorite blogs, Ring the Damn Bell, which Continue reading

Summer has me thinking of the old small-arena shows on the WWF circuit

Summer is upon us, and I find my mind wandering back to the days when the hot temperatures would bring the WWF around to some of the smaller buildings for live action here in New England.

I hit most of the big arenas back in the day for house shows and TV tapings, such as the old Boston Garden, the Worcester Centrum (the DCU Center)today, the Providence Civic Center (now called — ugh — the Dunkin’ Donuts Center), the Springfield Civic Center (MassMutual Center currently), and the Hartford Civic Center (XL Center).

But I also fondly recall squeezing into sub-par stadiums to get a more close-up experience with pro wrestling, including these spots: Continue reading

Happy birthday to the Unpredictable Johnny Rodz

I was certainly surprised to read in the Wrestling Observer’s daily update that the Unpredictable Johnny Rodz turned 76 today.

Wow. Anyone who grew up watching WWF wrestling in the 1980s and earlier will no doubt remember Rodz, who was a career-long jobber in the federation, but one who was taken seriously.

That may be a hard concept to grasp these days, but there was an upper echelon of enhancement talent that got respect from the fans. People like Rodz, Jose Luis Rivera, Baron Mikel Scicluna, Jose Estrada, S.D. Jones, and others gave the stars real fights during bouts.

My friend Tom likes to remind me that Rodz actually was a star in Continue reading

Austin comments on Steamboat vs. Hart: “That is what professional wrestling is supposed to be”

This post is a long time coming, but luckily nostalgia knows no boundaries, ha, ha.

A while back, I heard a Stone Cold Steve Austin podcast during which he interviewed Bret “Hitman” Hart. It was a great discussion between two of the biggest WWE stars ever. A surprise came, however, when Austin brought up a match Hart fought against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat in the old Boston Garden.

 

The match took place on March 8, 1986, just a few weeks before WrestleMania 2. A huge crowd of 16,000-plus fans was in attendance in Boston that night.

Hart had been in the WWF for about a year and was hitting his stride with Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart as the Hart Foundation tag team. Steamboat was already one of the top performers in wrestling in the midst of his first WWF run after making his mark in the NWA.

Austin told Hart Continue reading

Remembering Warrior’s bouts with Savage, Andre, and Slaughter in Boston

Like many of you, I’m still getting my head wrapped around the highs and lows of the last week and thinking a lot about the death of the Ultimate Warrior just one day after returning to the address his fans on Monday Night Raw.

I saw Warrior fight at the old Boston Garden plenty of times, and he was certainly an exciting guy to see run to the ring. The quality of his matches depended on whom he was in with. Personally, I think Warrior’s bouts with Ravishing Rick Rude were among his best.

 

Warrior never had a spectacular or particularly historic match at the Garden, but here are three Warrior appearances in Boston that I remember well: Continue reading

Ultimate Warrior dies: “Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat”

I’m not even sure what to say about the sudden death of the Ultimate Warrior at 54 and how creepy it is that this guy had just been on Monday Night Raw the day before and had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame after years of estrangement from Vince McMahon.

Warrior, whose real name was Jim Hellwig, was among the most memorable stars of the 1980s and 1990s. Longtime fans will remember he started out with a young Sting as the Blade Runners before he became Dingo Warrior in World Class Championship Wrestling. He switched his name to Ultimate Warrior upon arriving in the WWF in 1988.

He portrayed an animated, out-of-control character who ran through opponents with punches, kicks, and force.

“Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat,” Warrior said this week on Raw. Ultimate Warrior’s final promo is haunting me.

In fact, more than his matches, most fans probably remember Warrior’s promos, which were spaced-out, often incomprehensible rants that seem to pull from fantasy and science fiction. The interviews remain Continue reading

25 years ago this week, one of the WWE’s greatest long builds culminated at WrestleMania V

When the Rock returned to pro wrestling a few years back and challenged John Cena a year ahead of schedule for the WrestleMania XXVII, it was the first time in years that you saw long-term planning on the part of the WWE.

One of the greatest examples of the long, slow build came in 1988 and 1989, when the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Hulk Hogan planted the seeds for their main event confrontation at WrestleMania V at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, NJ.

One year prior, Savage won the WWF Heavyweight Title in a one-night tournament at WrestleMania IV. At the time, Savage was a babyface, but there was still tension between him and Hogan due to their prior battles when Hulk wore the belt. These guys spent a year walking on a knife edge, and you knew where the story was going.

That’s the thing a lot of non-fans don’t get about wrestling. Sure, we know it’s entertainment and we often can correctly guess who will win in the end. But it’s how you get there that is the most intriguing part.

The WrestleMania V match had hints dropped Continue reading