Dear friends —
Anyone who’s followed this blog may have noticed my infrequent posts compared to past years. I realize there is a combination of reasons for that problem, including:
- I’ve got kids and life is busy
- I get home from work and am exhausted
- So many of the 1980s stars continue to die
The exterior of the old Boston Garden
I originally started this blog to remember the good times of watching ’80s wrestling in Boston. I have so many vivid, fond memories of matches I saw at the old Boston Garden and Continue reading
I wanted to write a brief post on the death of Nikolai Volkof, who died on July 29 at age 70. Volkoff was a well-known heel in the 1970s WWWF, battling Bruno Sammartino among many others, before returning in to the WWF in 1984 to start the run he was most well remembered for.
Volkoff teamed with the Iron Sheik as a cartoonish bad guy duo managed by Freddie Blassie, and just before each of their matches began, Volkoff would sing Continue reading
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
What a sad weekend for fans of 1980s WWF wrestling, as we mourn both the “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff and George “The Animal” Steele, both of whom died after lengthy illnesses.
These guys played strong heel characters in the WWF in the early ’80s. Koloff went on to feud with the Road Warriors in the NWA in the mid-1980s, while Steele turned babyface and had a long TV feud with Randy “Macho Man” Savage over the affections of Miss Elizabeth.Embed from Getty Images
George "The Animal" Steele
Steele, whose real name was Jim Myers, was 79 when he died on Feb. 16, 2017, while Koloff’s birth monicker was Oreal Perras and he was 74 at his death on Feb. 18, 2017.
Both wrestlers were outright mean during the 1970s for the WWWF. Steele actually did menacing Continue reading
A few months back, I took road trip out from Boston along Interstate 90 to visit the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame during its last weekend at its location in Amsterdam, NY. In 2016, the hall will reopen in Wichita Falls, TX.
I don’t know much about Wichita Falls, but I have visited Amsterdam a couple of times, and it’s a depressing old city that used to be a center for carpet factories. Now, the downtown where the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame was resembled a ghost town on a Saturday afternoon, with only some restaurants and a used clothing store open.
Hopefully Wichita Falls brings a better vibe to the hall of fame.
Inside, the hall was a two-story journey through wrestling history, with tons of framed posters, ring robes, and arena programs.
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
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