Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wrestling's Glory Day Part II

So getting back to my previous post...I want to say that although the WWF(now the WWE) always had more wrestlers who were into having gimmicks as opposed to the NWA/WCW. The WWF did have some classic matches. Several come to mind.

Ricky"The Dragon"Steamboat beating "Macho Man"Randy Savage for the WWF Intercontinental title at WrestleMania III in front of 93,173 fans at the Pontiac Silverdome was incredible. Two great textbook wrestlers with amazing agility. As, I recall, though, Steamboat got a raw deal a few months later dropping the IC belt to the Honky Tonk Man. HTM then went on to be, at the time, the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion in the history of the WWF before being mauled by the Ultimate Warrior.

Another great match was the late Owen Hart vs. Brett Hart at WrestleMania X. Again, two well-trained wrestlers with incredible moves. This was a match that would be labeled a "great scientific match" by the experts. Both men exhibited tremendous Greco-Roman wrestling moves, as well as their vast repertoire of pro wrestling moves.

The WWF, and Vince McMahon, in particular, were at the receiving end of a great deal of resentment from promoters, traditionalists, and those who covered the action. They saw McMahon staging cards in traditional strongholds of other promoters. They complained that his daddy would never even think of bringing his promotion to Atlanta or Minneapolis. But Jr. did, for better or worse.

Some great promotions that stand out in my mind are the old Stampede organization in Calgary. Owned and operated by Stu Hart, the patriarch of the legendary Hart family, Stampede produced Brett Hart, Owen Hart, Brian Pillman, and Chris Benoit among other great wrestlers. These guys all learned from Stu in his "dungeon" where some rigorous training took place.

The other promotion that was great was the UWF. Steve"Dr. Death"Williams was the World Champ. The promotion had such stars as "Hacksaw"Jim Duggan, the Sheepherders(who later became known as The Bushwackers in the WWF), Butch Reed, Kamala, and a team known as the Blade Runners(Sting and Rock). Wrestling fans know who Sting is, but some may not know who Rock later became. Yep, the Ultimate Warrior in the WWF. That promotion was ruined by the WWF as they raided all its top stars, with the rest moving on to WCW.

I remember the UWF used to be on WPIX in New York every Saturday. It was preceded by a show called Pro Wrestling This Week, which was sort of like This Week in Baseball. Gordon Solie was the host, if I remember correctly. Solie, was one of those guys who was just born to do what he did. He was the best wrestling commentator there ever was. The voice and his demeanor gave it credibility. I would put him up there with any sports commentator.

One thing that I have to say that bothers me a bit. Is that when I watch some of the classics on television, I realize that so many of these guys are dead. Mostly at the hands of drugs. I watched three matches last night on MSG Classics and realized that there is just no other industry where so many guys die before their time. Sad but true.

Another great promotion was World Class. Run by Fritz Von Erich and based in Dallas, Texas, with the legendary Von Erich family dominating the competition. There was David, Kerry, Kevin, Chris, and Mike Von Erich. Also, there was a guy named Lance Von Erich, who was supposedly a cousin, but that was just part of the act. Incredibly, there is one Von Erich still alive: Kevin. Fritz died in 1997 of a brain tumor, while David died at the age of 25 in 1984 from an overdose, Mike, 23, in 1987 killed himself, as did Chris, 21, in 1991, and Kerry, 33, in 1993. Another son Jack Jr., 7, died in 1959 from an electrical shock.

A very, very sad story, obviously. David was the best wrestler in the family and it really hurt the promotion when he died. But I remember some great matches with David vs. Ric Flair and various combinations of the Von Erichs against the Fabulous Freebirds. Great stuff!

So, I guess this is about as much wrestling as I will be writing on here. But it is fun to walk down memory lane once in a while.

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