I’ve been thinking a lot about current WWE foreign menace Rusev and what his future may bring.
For eons, pro wrestling has exploited either current world situations or long-standing xenophobia to create hugely effective heel characters. But it’s been a while since the WWE has put its force behind a foreign threat like Rusev, who is alleged to hail from Russia.
When I think of bad guys from other countries, my mind immediately goes to the Iron Sheik and his successful run in the WWF in 1983 and 1984. It’s possible in ’84 that the Sheik was the most hated guy in wrestling (the irony being he is a nice guy outside the ring, having met him before briefly).
Can the WWE replicate the Sheik’s atmosphere with Rusev all these years later? Longtime mid-carder Jack Swagger seems prepped to take the role of the All-American hero who will fight Rusev.
I finally had a chance to try out the new WWE Network last night — and of course the first stop I made was an old WWF house show from Madison Square Garden in April 1981.
A lot of my inspiration for writing this blog comes from my nostalgia of the ’80s wrestling scene that I grew up on, and the WWE Network is a pipeline back to those halcyon days.
With house shows filed under the “Old School” heading on the website, I have high hopes that an old Boston Garden card may eventually show its face on the network, as the intro mentions the Garden, MSG, and the Spectrum.
For the record, the MSG clip I watched wasn’t actually the full house show, but instead an hour of the featured matches. Many of the prelim bouts that filled out the house show cards in those days were skipped on the network clip. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, do I really need to see Baron Mikel Scicluna fight S.D. Jones? On the flip side, why not just post the whole show and let the viewer decide what to watch?
It was 30 years ago this week that Hulk Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik for the WWF Heavyweight Title, ushering in Hulkamania in wrestling and setting the stage for Vince McMahon’s national expansion.
Hogan’s victory also planted the initial seeds of the first WrestleMania, although I’m not clear if McMahon had a supershow in mind at this point.
As I wrote earlier, the Sheik had shockingly defeated Bob Backlund for the belt on December 26, 1983, at Madison Square Garden. At the next monthly house show at the Garden on January 23, 1984, Hogan challenged for the title and won.
The shift in champions and power was shocking in ’84 because Continue reading
I can’t believe it’s been three decades since a moment that until many years later was probably the single most shocking thing I had experienced as a young pro wrestling fan: The Iron Sheik winning the WWF Heavyweight Title from Bob Backlund.
The match took place on December 26, 1983, in Madison Square Garden. The Sheik had attacked Backlund a few weeks earlier on WWF Championship Wrestling and clobbered the champ with a pair of Persian clubs. None of this really indicated a title change, as Backlund was always involved with angles with his challengers on TV.
During the match, the Sheik applied his finisher, the camel clutch, to Backlund in the middle of the ring. As Backlund struggled, his manager, Arnold Skaaland, threw Continue reading
It’s incredible how many people end up on my blog searching for a long-lost prelim wrestler by the name of Silvano Sousa.
Sousa was quite active around the WWWF horn in the 1970s, but also kept busy in the early 1980s. For example, he wrestled for the WWF 52 times in 1980, according to The History of WWE website, and many of those matches occurred in Massachusetts — in cities like Fall River, New Bedford, and even North Adams.
Most of the time, at least in the ’80s, it appears Sousa was in the jobber vs. jobber match that was the mainstay of many WWF house show cards. It was not unusual to have three or four of these matches to round out the bigger match-ups on the show. It’s hard to believe in 2013 that fans paid money to see these matches live, but we did.
Anyway, one result of Sousa’s that cracked me up just imagining it was when Hulk Hogan, then a heel just before his big run in the AWA, fought Sousa and Pete “Duke of Dorchester” Doherty in a two-on-one encounter at the Worcester Auditorium. The Auditorium hosted wrestling in Worcester before the city built the Centrum (now DCU Center), and, in fact, when wrestling hit its dark days in the early 1990s, I remember seeing TV tapings at the Worcester Auditorium.
Back to the Hogan match: I’m sure Sousa joining forces with Doherty would be some long-time fan’s perverse dream team of unforgettable jobbers. Both of them had the great 80s hair-dos, and I can only imagine the selling they did to put over Hogan as he was preparing to fight Bob Backlund and Andre the Giant.
Sousa also had a short run in 1980 against Tor Kamata. I didn’t even realize Kamata still wrestled at that point.
Sousa, whom I believe is still alive, is a new inductee into the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. “Silvano has been a huge part of New England in and out of the ring, whether it be wrestling or training, and he finally gets his place in the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame,” according to his Hall of Fame bio.
Here’s an interesting final tidbit, with thanks again to The History of WWE site: On December 8, 1980, the Unpredictable Johnny Rodz defeated Silva in the opening match of a house show at Madison Square Garden. It was the same night Pedro Morales defeated Ken Patera to become Intercontinental Champion. It was also the same night John Lennon was shot and killed in New York.
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was named the No. 1 manager in WWE history on the federation’s website last week.
Strangely enough, while I think you could easily rank Heenan as the greatest manager ever in wrestling, I might take umbrage with him being called the top WWE manager.
Don’t get me wrong – Heenan was menacing, funny, and effective as a mouthpiece for his various wrestlers. But his performances from the AWA may be even better than his WWF material.
Plus, being nostalgic as I am, I view the “holy trinity” of WWF managers as Captain Lou Albano (No. 5 on the list), the Grand Wizard (No. 7 on the list), and Classy Freddie Blassie (No. 4).
When I first started watching wrestling in 1981, these three Continue reading
So, this weekend, in the shadow of WrestleMania 29, two of the biggest omissions in the WWE Hall of Fame will be corrected.
Madison Square Garden has lost its luster as the “Mecca of professional wrestling,” as Gorilla Monsoon used to call it, but it is appropriate that Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund — each of whom headlined dozens of cards at the arena during their tenures as WWF Heavyweight Champion — will get their due tonight at MSG during the Hall of Fame induction.
As I’ve written many times on this blog, Continue reading