Del Rio as ethnic draw? Take some pages from Pedro Morales

I have to shake my head when the WWE tries so goddamn hard to manufacture an ethnic superstar. Alberto Del Rio’s recent return has as much to do with his Mexican heritage as it does his alleged star power.

I’ve learned through hindsight that one of the key differences between current WWE head Vince McMahon and his late father, Vince McMahon, Sr., is that the latter understood that ethnic heroes like Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Argentina Rocca, and Victor Rivera came from grass-roots support. In other words, the fans wanted to love these guys.

Vince Sr. didn’t decide one day that the WWWF needed a Latin superstar and started to push around Morales. Instead, the fans reacted to Pedro, and the build followed. It worked for 12 years for Morales, who was WWWF Heavyweight Champion and later among the biggest names who established the new Intercontinental Title.

I remember when Vince Jr. did the house show promos for his dad’s TV, Morales would go off on his opponent in Spanish, which must have thrilled folks in the area who spoke that language because it let them connect with Morales on a personal level (check out 2:00 into the clip below).

Does anyone ask Del Rio to speak a few words outside of English? Nope. But that might Continue reading

Magnificent Muraco talks Boston Garden, Superfly Snuka, and Fuji Vice

The fellas at the Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling Podcast scored a rare interview recently with the Magnificent Muraco, who is on the way to retiring as a longshoreman, a career he took up after his pro wrestling days wound down in the early 1990s.

Muraco, who was one of the hottest heels in wrestling during his 1981 and 1983 runs in the WWF, sounds old now but still has fond memories of performing in the Northeast. He occasionally watches his old matches and said his style back then was to get beaten on for the first seven to eight minutes of a bout to get the crowd riled up.

“All I do is get the shit kicked out of me and the people are popping the whole time,” Muraco said.

He specifically recalled a gargantuan reaction from the crowd at the old Boston Garden when Hulk Hogan and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka teamed up. He’s likely referring to a May 1985 show in which Hogan and Snuka faced Muraco and Cowboy Bob Orton, which was the first WWF show broadcast from the Garden by NESN.

Muraco was questioned during the podcast about the Nancy Argentino case, which has Continue reading

Iron Mike Sharpe: Loud, lumbering — and memorable

If I asked those of you around for the WWF scene in the 1980s what you remembered most about Iron Mike Sharpe, most of you would say one of two things:

  • His loud yelling throughout the match
  • His odd, leather forearm pad

Sharpe was an interesting character in that as a jobber, he was among the most memorable from the early ’80s, but as a true star, he just never made it. I remember when he first came into the WWF in early 1983 that Captain Lou Albano managed him, which in those days signaled that he would be challenging for both the WWF Heavyweight and Intercontinental Titles. And he did get those championship bouts — for example, losing to IC Champ Tito Santana in the old Boston Garden in March 1984 — but few of the fans took him seriously as a contender, and he was quickly demoted to the squash matches.

I found an interesting result involving Sharpe from Madison Square Garden in November 1983, at which Magnificent Muraco defeated Sharpe Continue reading

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka is charged with the 1983 murder of his girlfriend

Time caught up to Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka this week, as more than 30 years after the mysterious death of his girlfriend, Snuka has been charged with her murder.

On Tuesday, Snuka turned himself in to Lehigh County, PA, police officials to face charges of third-degree murder, which essentially means killing with malice. The charges carry a possible 40 years in prison, according to the Morning Call of Allentown, PA, which had aggressively reported on the strange circumstances of this case within recent years, which eventually led to a grand jury re-examining the facts.

Snuka had long maintained his innocence in the death of Nancy Argentino, who died on May 11, 1983, during the height of Snuka’s popularity with Continue reading

Has the Barclays Center shoved Madison Square Garden aside for wrestling?

Back in the day, Gorilla Monsoon used to remind us that Madison Square Garden was the “Mecca of professional wrestling.” And for good reason: In the 1970s and ’80s, many of the WWF’s singles titles changed hands in the arena, and some of the biggest bouts of that era occurred there.

But it’s been a long time since MSG hosted any major angle or title change, and this past weekend’s SummerSlam extravaganza at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn — three sold-out nights there — has perhaps cemented that building as the new home base of the WWE in New York City.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. Matches at MSG had a certain aura Continue reading

My memories of Rowdy Roddy Piper at the old Boston Garden

Man, it still feels so weird to think Rowdy Roddy Piper is dead. So many of the great times I had with WWF pro wrestling growing up centered on angles and matches with Piper. He was so entertaining at his peak.

Piper has some interesting history in the old Boston Garden. For those who don’t know, the Garden was an arena built in 1928 that was torn down 60 years later to make way for the stadium now known as the TD Garden. By the time I was going to WWF shows at the old Garden in the 1980s, it was run-down place with old, rickety seats that were way too small and the occasional rat scampering along the walls upstairs. It also had an overhanging balcony that gave you a great view for hockey, basketball, or wrestling — thus the name of my blog.

I first saw Piper live sitting in that balcony, taking on Bruno Sammartino in their first match in Boston following a famous Piper’s Pit at Madison Square Garden during which Piper called Sammartino a “wop.” Piper’s feud with Bruno is well remembered in Boston, and in their initial quick meeting, Piper was DQ’d.

After a tag team rematch in January 1986 that included “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and Cowboy Bob Orton, Piper and Sammartino clashed in a steel cage match that is still talked about today here in Boston. Piper was at his bad-guy best in this bout, even taping posters of the Chicago Bears onto the cage to razz Boston fans who had seen the Patriots go down to the Bears in that year’s Super Bowl.

Sammartino beat a bloody Piper in the match, which drew on of the largest crowds I can ever recall at the old Garden: 16,180. It was the same night that Continue reading

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