Well, for those of you who think I am bitter and just hate wrestling in general. I am going to talk about something that I love, that being 80s wrestling.
This isn’t going to be a history lesson of much. It’s mostly why I loved 80s wrestling, and why I feel it’s better than any decade.
People might beg to differ and they are subjected to their opinions, but nothing in American wrestling was better than the 80s. I am not saying the 50s, 60s, 70s, or the 90s were not great decades for professional wrestling because I enjoy everything from those eras, but I am going to explain why I loved 80s wrestling and why I think it was the best.
For those of you who aren't familiar with 80s wrestling, I will explain how it worked. Back in those days, there were territories in each town.
Some states didn't have their own territory, so they had to watch the nearest one, and some states had two and Texas had three.
The main reason the territories were so great was because the talent was unbelievably remarkable. You cannot find many wrestlers who lacked everything in this era.
And it wasn’t because they were more talented than wrestlers are today or anything like that; they were simply trained more pro-actively. Wrestlers weren’t trained like they were today; some wrestlers weren’t trained at all.
They learned in smaller territories in front of audiences. They learned from either their trainer or the boys in the back.
There were no schools or nothing like that. They simply learned by communicating and learning off each other, as well as what the crowd enjoyed and didn’t enjoy.
The traveling was also a key for learning as well. They would all travel together for hours on end to the next town and in the car, they would talk about wrestling.
The wrestlers benefited from this because their lives were revolved around wrestling. There was no first class air travel and suites waiting for them so they could relax and/or hit the gym; their lives were all about traveling and learning their trade each week.
Realism is a main reason why I loved 80s wrestling; I truly hate contrived, overly choreographed, unrealistic matches because they are easy to laugh and say "this looks fake".
In order for a match to be realistic, you need to know how to sell a move properly and you need to have some common sense. If you are facing a giant and you are a heel, you don’t want to be body slamming him because it’s killing his credibility.
And the giant doesn’t bump like a fish-out-of water, because he’s trying to sell convincingly as a giant. Perfect example of giant face vs. heel would be Tony Atlas vs. Ric Flair.
It works both ways too. If a giant is a heel, well then the face has to wrestle a smart match, meaning he needs to mentally beat the giant because he knows for dang sure he cannot beat the giant by out muscling him.
And since the giant is a heel, he needs to beat the heck out of this face to get some heat, usually in the brunt of the match, in order for the fans to loathe him, making the face more lovable and sympathetic, which makes the fans want to see him make his comeback, but are also curious to see how he’s going to do it because of the giant being unstoppable.
I know I haven’t got to booking yet, but this is a prime example of good vs. bad booking of a giant. If you build someone as a monster, you have to treat him AS A MONSTER, meaning he doesn’t cheat to win because then the fans aren’t going to take him seriously as a monster.
He needs to role over some people, manly jobbers and mid-carders and possible someone higher in the card if you want to book him as an unstoppable force of nature. Then when you get to that point where he’s beaten everyone that he needs to beat, you either put him over your champion, making him look unstoppable, or if you want to build up your champion, you have the babyface champion over come these odds stacked against him.
But yeah, back to the wrestlers. If you are one of those fans that says, “Well, I watch wrestling for cool MOVEZ, 80s wrestling didn’t have cool moves back then and that’s boring.
Every “cool” move-set becomes generic and cliché after a while, no matter how cool looking the moves are. You can teach a monkey how to do a moonsault off the top rope, but what you cannot teach a monkey is when, where, and why did they do a moonsault.
If you do a moonsault in the beginning stages of the match right off the bat, it has no substance. But if you’re getting your face pounded in, and then the heel puts you up on the top-rope and you push him off, turn around, nail a moonsault onto him, and then you’re both down… then that’s going to get a reaction.
A series of great moves is always fun to see and enjoy, but there’s no timing, pacing, structure, story, or psychology, which is why they are called spot-fest (moves right after each other without the match building to any climax)
Wrestlers in the 80s didn’t have many spot-fest because they didn’t force moves or do them unnaturally because instead of doing flashy moves and contrived dangerous looking moves that could knock someone out or kill them, they told stories in the ring and told stories using facial expressions, mannerisms, and moves being serviceable to the story being told. As a result, nothing looked artificial, phony, or obviously fake and the matches were easier to get into because you could get emotionally involved with the story being told.
If you don’t get me, let’s use an example. Perfect examples of this would be Rocky I vs. a Michael Bay movie.
Okay, how many times can you watch a Michael Bay movie and enjoy it? I cannot even watch his movies because they are about explosions, wackiness, and wall-to-wall action.
It might be cool to see that stuff once, but after you see it repeatedly, it becomes cliché. When you watch Rocky, you can get involved with the movie because it’s the ultimate underdog vs. the unstoppable favorite.
Then in the movie, you learned about Rocky and the troubles in his life, etc. Then you learn about Apollo Creed, and he comes off cocky and arrogant; therefore, you don’t like him much at all.
Then in the fight, Rocky gets beat and beat and beat, but the out of no where he starts fighting his way back and the beating he took for 7 rounds is almost on par with what Apollo Creed was taken, then when you think he’s going to win, the bell rings and the round is over.
And then Creed comes back and starts wailing on Rocky again, but Rocky makes his comeback and you can feel it so closely and you know he’s going to win... and then he does.
That’s storytelling right there. Even if the movie is real or not, you still got emotionally involved with the story being told, and at the end, you feel good about Rocky winning.
Now this intertwines with booking. Booking has gotten so silly, hokey, and so complex because of these “writers” writing “sports entertainment” storylines when they aren’t even big fans of wrestling, but they think since they wrote for Days of Our Lives, they can write for wrestling no problem.
They think they're so creative because they blew someone up and have trials with bogus shenanigans in order to find out who the killer was, but once they find out who the killer was, they don’t arrest them or anything because it’s just a show.
This never happened much in wrestling until Ted Turner took over and hired people such as Jim Herd, who is another hack writer for the record, to book wrestling because he has a degree in pizza management. That’s when it started, although I can credit Vince McMahon for turning wrestling into a circus act with melodramatic, super-hero characters; who were so goofy and silly looking, they look like they belong in a kid’s cartoon book.
Back in the apex of the territories if you exposed the business in some over-the-top or silly fashion, the other companies would bombard you. Jerry Jarrett, when he ran Memphis, he got Vince Russo level hate for a while because he was doing too much hardcore stuff and promoters thought he was hot shotting the business.
So yeah, bookers weren’t allowed to do that kind of stuff, nor did a lot of them want to. They wanted to book angles that were easy to like, sensible, and not complex.
They also allowed the wrestlers to be more free with their matches and promos, which made the wrestlers more charismatic because they weren’t rehearsing or acting; they were being themselves.
That’s why the promos and the facial expressions and mannerisms are better than today, not because they were more talented. The guys today are more talented, but they are poorly handled and trained.