RIP Piper: I grew up with Rowdy Roddy

Hogan. Andre. Savage. Ventura. Piper.

All five of these guys served as the cornerstones of WWF wrestling in the 1980s. Because these guys played such well-known characters during one of pro wrestling’s boom periods, they all ended up transcending their roles to outside the ring.

 

And now three of them are gone, with Rowdy Roddy Piper’s death on July 30 putting him beside Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Andre the Giant as stars who died way too young.

It’s really starting to suck being an old-school fan raised on Saturday morning WWF wrestling. Savage’s death blew us away in 2011, Hulk Hogan just last week got exposed for his terrible racist comments, and Piper now dies out of nowhere of a heart attack at age 61.

I grew up with Piper during middle and high school – and I know a lot of you who read this blog did, too. I can’t believe Piper – who at his peak was one of the most gifted performers on Continue reading

After 38 years, Hulk Hogan’s wrestling career ends with a slur

I begged their forgiveness
I wish I was dead
I hung my head
I hung my head

– As sung by the late Johnny Cash

I feel like I’m writing an obituary for Hulk Hogan. He’s not dead, but his career, which began in 1977 and hit heights no other pro wrestler has reached, seems to be on ice.

The WWE severed ties with Hogan after someone leaked audio or video from a Hogan sex tape — an issue that has left him embroiled with online media site Gawker in court — during which he allegedly used the “N word” multiple times.

This is a fall from grace the likes of which is rarely seen in wrestling. A legend of Hogan’s stature usually rides off when it’s time — or he dies. In this case, however, it seems likely that Hogan will spend the rest of his days on the outside of wrestling, and even if he gets back in, his role will be limited.

Hogan’s career is over. There is no way in this day and age that Hogan could recover from this, nor would anyone in entertainment do business with him,” wrote Eric Gargiulo on the Camel Clutch Blog.

What a shame to see this revelation occur amid reports that Hogan was potentially training for one last Continue reading

WWE announcers’ notes, 1980s style

A lot of people in the Internet wrestling community had a good time poring over several pages of leaked announcer’s notes that the WWE supposedly supplies it commentators with. Being in the hot seat as the lead announcer of Monday Night Raw means not only coming with your “A game” for a live broadcast, but also having to hear Vince McMahon likely yell at you throughout the night on your headset with his idiosynchratic rules about what to say and how to say.

A subreddit on the Reddit site released the notes, and images of them got posted. If you haven’t seen them, it’s worth checking out if a) you’re interested in the behind-the-scenes production involved with commentators on WWE shows b) need some good wrestling humor.

You’ll see instructions such as not referring to championships as “belts,” encouraging announcers to “embellish the status of superstars,” and suggesting commentators read WWE.com all week as a resource on the federation’s storylines.

With all of this in mind, it made me wonder what notes might appears on an announcer’s cheat sheet in 1982. You can just image McMahon or Gorilla Monsoon going over these: Continue reading

Dusty Rhodes threw money to the crowd at the old Boston Garden

What a shock to hear from my coworkers today that the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes had died suddenly at age 69.

The first time I saw Rhodes in person was at a WWF show at the old Boston Garden in June 1989, when he substituted for Jake “The Snake” Roberts to wrestle “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Rhodes rolled up DiBiase for the pin and then proceeded to take some of DiBiase’s money and throw it to the crowd at ringside, which resulted in a huge roar from fans. It was a great scene.

The thing about Rhodes is that no matter what gimmick he had — polka dots, anyone? — and no matter who his opponent was, the guy was able to talk his way into fans’ minds and hearts. His promos should be studied by anyone who hopes to succeed in wrestling, because Rhodes understood emotion, how to connect with the audience, and how to sell big matches.

Sure, Rhodes was goofy in his WWF days. I know many people remember one of his early vignettes where he pretended he was a plumber, and got called to a house to unclog a toilet with shit in. “Is it brown? You talkin’ about sshocolate brown?” Rhodes asked the hilariously bad skit.

Rhodes didn’t wrestle at the Boston Garden all that much — three times in the 1980s, to be exact (thanks to The History of WWE website’s archives for the stats). Ironically, the first of those trio of matches was for the debut card of the NWA in the Garden, which was Continue reading

Killer Khan attacks Andre the Giant with his own crutch

Certain angles, for whatever reason, stick with you from youth. Andre the Giant and Killer Khan had a feud in the 1981 that was based in storyline on Khan breaking Andre’s leg. In reality, Andre likely hurt it outside the ring, and the Khan plot was a nice tie-in to his real-life injury.

But what really set the feud on fire was an simple angle on Saturday morning WWF Championship Wrestling in which Khan attacked a recovering Andre with his crutch.

What I remember most about the incident wasn’t the beating (30:02 into this YouTube clip), but announcer Vince McMahon’s reaction.


McMahon was conducting an interview in front of the live audience with Andre about when the giant would return to the ring. Suddenly, Classy Freddie Blassie, Khan’s manager, came out and claimed Andre was washed up, calling him a “palooka,” which was a classic Continue reading

30 years ago: The aftermath of the first WrestleMania

As we wind down pro wrestling’s big season, I wanted to look back at the aftermath of the first WrestleMania 30 years ago.

I’ve previously blogged about the original WrestleMania’s build up, it’s preliminary matches, and the main events on the show.

Sure, the success of the inaugural Mania opened the door for the annual card to continue, from 1985 right to WrestleMania 31 this year. They’ve been mainly good shows, with some great cards as well and a few stinkers. But had the first Mania flopped, while it’s possible Vince McMahon would have attempted another supercard, it would not have been under the WrestleMania name.

I also remember the immediate months after WrestleMania 1 because a new show debuted called Saturday Night’s Main Event. This program offered free matches pitting Continue reading

30 years ago: The big matches and main event at the first WrestleMania

Let’s continue my look back 30 years ago to the original WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden by running down the big matches on March 31, 1985. Please check my prior posts in this series about the build-up for WrestleMania and a review of the preliminary matches on the supercard.

  • Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik defeat Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo to win the WWF Tag Team Title – The match was short, but all action and was probably the best in-ring performance of this Mania. Captain Lou Albano accompanied the babyfaces to the ring, while Classy Freddie Blassie managed Sheik and Volkoff. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, on color commentary with Gorilla Monsoon, actually claimed Volkoff was a former Olympian. There were some great, simple spots in the match, including Sheik accidentally dropkicking Volkoff (I’m not sure I ever saw Sheik do another dropkick since then) and a high backdrop by Rotundo. Fans at the time buzzed about the ending, when Sheik broke Blassie’s cane over Windham’s back, leading to the title change. Interesting to note that Rotundo performed in the original WrestleMania, and this year his son, Bray Wyatt, faces the Undertaker at WrestleMania 31.
  • Andre the Giant defeats Big John Studd in the $15,000 bodyslam challenge – The rules were simple: If Andre slammed Studd, he would win $15,000 in cash in a duffel bag; if Studd wasn’t slammed, Andre had to retire. As you might imagine, this was the typical slow match these two often did, with the prerequisite rest hold bearhug from Andre. The slam came out of nowhere, and then Andre attempted to throw the cash to the crowd, but Studd’s manager, Bobby Heenan, ran up and stole the bag from Andre. The crowd went nuts at the end of the match after getting the slam they wanted.

Continue reading