I’m quite late — two months!?! — in getting up another post about the late Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and the mark he left on the fans in Boston during his WWF heyday in the 1980s.
The first time I ever saw Heenan live was at the old Boston Garden, when he appeared as a manager at a house show in March 1987, just a few weeks before WrestleMania III.
Heenan managed Hercules and Paul Orndorff, who teamed up with Adorable Adrian Adonis to face Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and Billy Jack Haynes in an elimination match. It remains one of my favorite personal matches I ever saw live, largely because it was allegedly Piper’s Continue reading
I distincitly remember watching a Madison Square Garden house show in 1984 that was being broadcast (I think) live on the USA Network.
Hulk Hogan was set to face Big John Studd.
Suddenly I saw in a big surprise: Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was standing next to Studd. Way back then, there was no internet covering wrestling and I had not yet subscribed to insider newsletters, so I had no clue Heenan was coming in.
Heenan — who died on Sunday at age 72 — had finally defected to the WWF from the AWA. Studd won the match by countout, starting a long partnership between he and Heenan, and launching Heenan’s career as one of the top managers in the WWE.
Heenan’s real first name was Raymond, although many also remember Continue reading
I took a trip back in time thanks to an old buddy of mine who is a sports editor for some of the weekly newspapers here in Eastern Massachusetts, including for my hometown of Billerica.
My mother, of all people, tore out a story by my friend, Doug Hastings, that appeared in the Billerica Minuteman. She hand delivered it to me last week and said, “Read this.”
The column was about a local wrestler named Flex Armstrong, and Doug wrote it from the perspective of a long-time fan still finding excitement in wrestling after watching Armstrong compete in a match recently in Rhode Island.
I know a lot of WWE fans who still keep tabs on the independent pro wrestling scene, which is pretty active these days in the Boston area. Lowell, Mass., which is just north of Billerica, has hosted Chaotic Wrestling shows for years.
My favorite line in Doug’s story was this gem:
As a kid, there weren’t many bigger wrestling fans than me, although Billerica’s very own Scott Wallask might have me beat, but not by much.
Well, Wallask is me, and I got a good laugh out such high praise.
I met Doug in 1984 at a summer camp just as the WWF was beginning its national expansion. We were both still in middle school, and he was the first kid I ever met who was a unabashed fan of the heels, with his favorite Continue reading
This year marks the 30th anniversary of WrestleMania 2, a lousy card that took place on April 7, 1986.
I’m not sure what to say about this show. Having just rewatched it recently on the WWE Network, Mania 2 was just as bad today as I remembered it back in the day. Even by 1980s standards, the matches felt rushed and there was no showstealer that you’d expect to see today.
This may have been the worst WrestleMania ever, with the only possible competition being WrestleMania IX.Embed from Getty Images
The event — which took place on a Monday night — emanated from three arenas: Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, NY; Rosemont Horizon (now the Allstate Arena) outside of Chicago; and Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Vince McMahon — who clearly believed 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
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
I begged their forgiveness
I wish I was dead
I hung my head
I hung my head
– As sung by the late Johnny Cash
I feel like I’m writing an obituary for Hulk Hogan. He’s not dead, but his career, which began in 1977 and hit heights no other pro wrestler has reached, seems to be on ice.
The WWE severed ties with Hogan after someone leaked audio or video from a Hogan sex tape — an issue that has left him embroiled with online media site Gawker in court — during which he allegedly used the “N word” multiple times.Embed from Getty Images
This is a fall from grace the likes of which is rarely seen in wrestling. A legend of Hogan’s stature usually rides off when it’s time — or he dies. In this case, however, it seems likely that Hogan will spend the rest of his days on the outside of wrestling, and even if he gets back in, his role will be limited.
“Hogan’s career is over. There is no way in this day and age that Hogan could recover from this, nor would anyone in entertainment do business with him,” wrote Eric Gargiulo on the Camel Clutch Blog.
What a shame to see this revelation occur amid reports that Hogan was potentially training for one last Continue reading
Let’s continue my look back 30 years ago to the original WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden by running down the big matches on March 31, 1985. Please check my prior posts in this series about the build-up for WrestleMania and a review of the preliminary matches on the supercard.
- Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik defeat Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo to win the WWF Tag Team Title – The match was short, but all action and was probably the best in-ring performance of this Mania. Captain Lou Albano accompanied the babyfaces to the ring, while Classy Freddie Blassie managed Sheik and Volkoff. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, on color commentary with Gorilla Monsoon, actually claimed Volkoff was a former Olympian. There were some great, simple spots in the match, including Sheik accidentally dropkicking Volkoff (I’m not sure I ever saw Sheik do another dropkick since then) and a high backdrop by Rotundo. Fans at the time buzzed about the ending, when Sheik broke Blassie’s cane over Windham’s back, leading to the title change. Interesting to note that Rotundo performed in the original WrestleMania, and this year his son, Bray Wyatt, faces the Undertaker at WrestleMania 31.
- Andre the Giant defeats Big John Studd in the $15,000 bodyslam challenge – The rules were simple: If Andre slammed Studd, he would win $15,000 in cash in a duffel bag; if Studd wasn’t slammed, Andre had to retire. As you might imagine, this was the typical slow match these two often did, with the prerequisite
rest holdbearhug from Andre. The slam came out of nowhere, and then Andre attempted to throw the cash to the crowd, but Studd’s manager, Bobby Heenan, ran up and stole the bag from Andre. The crowd went nuts at the end of the match after getting the slam they wanted.
As a wrestling fan, it’s been sad to hear about the closing of yet another major arena that played such a big part of the sport’s history in the 1980s.
The New Jersey building currently called the Izod Center, but known by many as the Meadowlands, will close at the end of the March after losing its major tenants to competing, more modern arenas in the New York City area. The WWE had planned to hold this year’s SummerSlam at the Meadowlands, but now is on the search for another arena.Embed from Getty Images
For old-school WWF fans, the arena originally made its mark as the site at which Bruno Sammartino originally retired as a full-timer on October 4, 1981, defeating George “The Animal” Steele.
The high point in the ’80s likely came with Continue reading
It was great to see 1980s stars like Rowdy Roddy Piper, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Mean Gene Okerlund, and “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart join Hulk Hogan this week as Monday Night Raw celebrated the Hulkster’s 61st birthday.
Has it really been 30 years since Hogan climbed to the throne by taking his first WWF Heavyweight Championship? I remember that match so well.
All of those guys who made the rivalries so fun in the 1980s were looking old on Raw (well, except Hart), but they all got huge ovations from the crowd. And surely Paul Orndorff is giving serious competition to Daniel Bryan for the best facial hair in the WWE with Mr. Wonderful’s crazy mustache.
Ric Flair also came out during the birthday bash. Seeing Flair and Hogan in the ring acting chummy is still Continue reading