This week, I had the chance to watch a video blog by Van Halen singer David Lee Roth titled, “A Personal History of Professional Wrestling, Part 1,” which was highlighted for me by his commentary about Nikolai Volkoff.
The 30-minute clip has plenty of zany moments as only Roth can deliver them.
In the beginning, he talks of his youth going to local drug stores and seeing wrestling magazine with Bruno Sammartino on the cover. Roth is correct when he opines that Sammartino was right in the mix when American pop culture shifted from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles in the 1960s.
But the part I got the biggest kick out of was his remembrances of Volkoff (about 14:00 into the video). Roth noted that Volkoff’s Russian character played off the real fears of the American public during the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union. It’s hard to describe if you weren’t alive back then, but in the early and mid-’80s, a lot of people believed the Soviets had nuclear missiles pointed at us ready to launch.
“His name was Volkoff, which if you said it fast enough, sounds faintly like, ‘Fuck off,’ ” Roth says. “As a teen-ager … being able to say fuck off, even faintly, at the dinner table or to yell it gleefully in a full room of mixed ages and family and friends during the wrestling matches was priceless.”
Roth also briefly discusses the Iron Sheik and Sgt. Slaughter in terms of foreign menace gimmicks in the WWF.
Having heard Roth discuss wrestling several times, it’s clear he’s a fan of yesteryear and today (he talked about the recent WWE Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden during his video). I don’t understand how the WWE hasn’t grabbed him for a celebrity appearance on Monday Night Raw, since Roth is someone well known to the large contingent of 40- and 50-somethings who tune in to Raw.
“World Wrestling Entertainment has had as much impact on me as Mark Twain or Abe Lincoln or Groucho Marx,” Roth quips in his video.