George “The Animal” Steele and “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff die within two days of each other

What a sad weekend for fans of 1980s WWF wrestling, as we mourn both the “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff and George “The Animal” Steele, both of whom died after lengthy illnesses.

These guys played strong heel characters in the WWF in the early ’80s. Koloff went on to feud with the Road Warriors in the NWA in the mid-1980s, while Steele turned babyface and had a long TV feud with Randy “Macho Man” Savage over the affections of Miss Elizabeth.

George "The Animal" Steele

 

Steele, whose real name was Jim Myers, was 79 when he died on Feb. 16, 2017, while Koloff’s birth monicker was Oreal Perras and he was 74 at his death on Feb. 18, 2017.

Both wrestlers were outright mean during the 1970s for the WWWF. Steele actually did menacing Continue reading

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka — dead at 73 — took us to emotional highs in the ’80s

So, WWF fans from the 1980s, how did the late Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka leave his mark on you? Was it the Superfly off the steel cage or the coconut?

For me, it was that moment in 1984 when Rowdy Roddy Piper smashed the coconut into Snuka’s head, and then mushed a banana in his face and whipped him. It may be the greatest angle in ’80s.

But there is not a more iconic 1980s moment in the WWE’s history than Snuka’s leap from the top of the cage onto the Magnificent Muraco at Madison Square Garden in 1983, a moment that several wrestlers a generation later — including Mick Foley — pegged as an inspiration.

That’s the reason Snuka still resonates with us all these years later: He brought a fiery emotion to his angles and matches. The heels didn’t just attack Snuka. Instead, they humiliated him — remember Muraco spitting on Snuka? — and we as fans felt it. And when Snuka was out for revenge, he was a madman.

Video: Snuka vs. Piper and the famous Piper's Pit angle

You don’t see that type of anger any more, when feuds come and go quickly. You don’t get mad for wrestlers the way we got mad for Snuka.

He will forever be burned into the brains of ’80s fans who remember his feuds with Bob Backlund, Muraco, Captain Lou Albano, Ray “The Crippler” Stevens, Piper and others.

The Superfly died on January 15 after a battle with stomach cancer. Despite his golden years in the WWF — when he was arguably the hottest wrestler in the country — it is bittersweet these days to look back at Snuka’s career because Continue reading

Demolition poised to lose reign as longest WWE tag team champions

Way back in 1989, I was at a Saturday Night’s Main Event taping in Worcester, MA, when Demolition lost the WWF Tag Team Championship to Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson (the Brain Busters). It was the first time I had seen a title change hands live.

That loss marked the end of one of the WWF’s all-time greatest records, as the face-painted Ax and Smash had held the tag titles for 478 days and cemented themselves as a classic tag team, albeit one with unlikely origins.

Now, current WWE Raw Tag Team Champions New Day are in line to break Demolition’s record if they retain they titles through Dec. 14, 2016. Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Big E have held the tag straps since Aug. 24, 2015.  By the way, Kingston grew up in the Boston suburb of Winchester, MA, which at one point was also the home of Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake.

The New Day: Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods

 

Even back in the ’80s, it was rare to see tag champs go so long holding the belts, but Vince McMahon had made it his mission to put Demolition in the same league as Continue reading

Mr. Fuji, perennial tag champ and star of ‘Fuji Vice,’ dies at 82

Many of us growing up in the Boston area during the 1970s and ’80s will best remember Mr. Fuji as a tag team champion wrestler who held the WWWF and WWF Tag Team Title five times with Professor Toru Tanaka and Mr. Saito.

For me, however, Fuji will stay forever in my mind for his slapstick comedy in skits with Magnificent Muraco, such as “Fuji Vice,” a parody of a hot TV show at the time called Miami Vice. If you’ve never seen “Fuji Vice,” then you must watch it right now below as an homage. I just did.

 

Fuji, whose real name was Harry Fujiwara, died on August 28 at the age of 82.

He had lengthy runs in the WWF as an active wrestler and then became the manager of stars such as Continue reading

It says it in print: I may have been my hometown’s biggest wrestling fan

I took a trip back in time thanks to an old buddy of mine who is a sports editor for some of the weekly newspapers here in Eastern Massachusetts, including for my hometown of Billerica.

fan

From the Billerica Minuteman

My mother, of all people, tore out a story by my friend, Doug Hastings, that appeared in the Billerica Minuteman. She hand delivered it to me last week and said, “Read this.”

The column was about a local wrestler named Flex Armstrong, and Doug wrote it from the perspective of a long-time fan still finding excitement in wrestling after watching Armstrong compete in a match recently in Rhode Island.

I know a lot of WWE fans who still keep tabs on the independent pro wrestling scene, which is pretty active these days in the Boston area. Lowell, Mass., which is just north of Billerica, has hosted Chaotic Wrestling shows for years.

My favorite line in Doug’s story was this gem:

As a kid, there weren’t many bigger wrestling fans than me, although Billerica’s very own Scott Wallask might have me beat, but not by much.

Well, Wallask is me, and I got a good laugh out such high praise.

I met Doug in 1984 at a summer camp just as the WWF was beginning its national expansion. We were both still in middle school, and he was the first kid I ever met who was a unabashed fan of the heels, with his favorite Continue reading

On Smackdown, crowd chants for old-time favorite Bob Backlund

On July 19, I sat at ringside at the DCU Center in Worcester — we locals still call it the Centrum — to watch the draft between WWE Raw and Smackdown. And one of the biggest surprises for me of the night was the crowd’s reaction to former three-time WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund.

If you don’t keep up with wrestling these days, 66-year-old Backlund is back on TV, playing the role of a coach to current WWE wrestler Darren Young. Backlund has even gone as far as to “allow” Young to use his old finisher, the cross-face chicken wing.

In Worcester, at one point during Young’s match, the crowd erupted into a chant: “Backlund! Backlund! Backlund!”

 

It was great to see the audience in one of Backlund’s old WWF strongholds recognizing the WWE Hall of Famer after all these years.

Backlund first beat Superstar Billy Graham for the belt in Continue reading

The 1984 steel cage card in Hartford that I never heard of

I like to think of myself as having a vivid memory of 1980s WWF wrestling, and I can recall most angles and wrestlers from that decade. The last time I was truly surprised by something I never knew from that era was the original Royal Rumble that One Man Gang won in St. Louis.

But my friend, Ed, who is another long-time fan, mentioned to me a card he had just learned of from the early ’80s at the Hartford Civic Center that featured an unusual array of steel cage matches.

 

I’m not sure how or why I’ve never run across this, but sure enough, the great The History of WWE website lists the results as part of a show called “Steel Cage Turmoil,” which took place on November 23, 1984.

The highlight was a 19-match steel cage gauntlet, in which the winner of each contest kept advancing until they lost or won the whole thing. In the end, Big John Studd beat Continue reading