Pro wrestling great “The Livng Legend” Bruno Sammartino died on April 18, 2018. He influenced generations of wrestlers and fans during his career and in retirement, and he carried himself with grace even during difficult situations. Here is my open letter to Bruno after hearing of his death.
I start watching wrestling in 1981, so I never saw you in your heyday fighting the likes of Superstar Billy Graham, Larry Zbyszko, and Spiros Arion. My first recollection of you was a house show promo you did for a match against Stan Hansen at the old Boston Garden in either Feburary or March of ’81. It was clear to me even as a kid that you had an aura about you, as if you represented something greater than just a wrestling match.Embed from Getty Images
As a I learned more about your history in the WWWF and WWF by reading the Apter mags, I was excited that I got to see more of you as the early 1980s progressed. You took another tour of duty as a color commentator for the syndicated Saturday morning shows on Channel 56 here in Boston, and then you accompanied your son, David Sammartino, when he debuted.
Little did I know until many years later how unhappy you were to be involved with Continue reading
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!”Embed from Getty Images
Backlund first beat Superstar Billy Graham for the belt in Continue reading
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
On my blog, I tend not to stray too far out of the 1980s, but as we all know, wrestling lives on in 2013.
My friend, Eric Gargiulo, over at the Camel Clutch Blog gave me the spotlight this week to discuss CM Punk’s recently-ended WWE Heavweight Title reign.
Punk’s title run clearly set him apart as the greatest heel world champion in WWE, WWF, and WWWF history. Six months ago, I would have argued that Superstar Billy Graham held that honor, but Punk took things to a higher level before losing to the Rock at the Royal Rumble.
It seems to me that when the WWE started its Hall of Fame, the top five or 10 longest reigning WWF Heavyweight champions should have automatically been inducted in the initial years. As we know, that has not happened, but a big step in the right direction occurred on Monday Night Raw this week with the news that Bob Backlund was going into the hall’s 2013 class.
Backlund is technically a three-time former WWF champion, although I believe the official record books still say two-time. That’s because in 1979, Backlund did a quickie title exchange in Japan with Antonio Inoki that was not publicly acknowledged at the time (and still isn’t talked about often).
Taking the brief Inoki run out of the picture, Backlund held the belt from February 1978 until December 1983, nearly six years. Take that, CM Punk.
As was the case back in those days, Continue reading
The Under the Ring blog recently talked to Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper about the 1980s scene in the WWF. There was some fun memories in the post, as well as least one instance in which Hogan’s famous tall stories reared their ugly head. Continue reading
Bob Backlund gets a bad rap these days. Most fans either remember him as the nutty heel who turned on Bret Hart in 1994 and briefly won the WWF Title before losing it to Diesel (better known as Kevin Nash), or worse, they remember his tenure acting as a kook for TNA Wrestling.
But for those of us who grew up watching pro wrestling in the early 1980s, Backlund was one of the biggest stars. Continue reading
In 1978, Bob Backlund defeated Superstar Billy Graham for the WWWF World Title. Soon after, Graham left the federation.
When he returned in 1982, he had shaved off his trademark bleached-blond hair, grown a mustache, and assumed a martial arts gimmick. But his return was big enough that even five years later, he immediately was put into the WWF World Title picture to chase Backlund, who still had the belt (save for a brief title switch from Backlund to Antonio Inoki, back to Backlund in 1979).
Those of us watching pro wrestling in 1982 will remember well the angle in which Continue reading