My Memorable Moments Through My Years As a Wrestling Fan
We all have our favorite memories throughout life.
They can be personal as the birth of a child or a first kiss. We remember our first car. Our first job. The first time you went to the theatre or a concert. Or the great memory of accomplishment such as making an interception or hitting that first base hit.
Our memories are our cherished thoughts. Things which matter to us. Others may have those same moments, but everyone has a different perspective and feelings on those memories.
Not all memories are good. Some moments are too painful to be remembered. Some we are ashamed of, others we feel bad, such as September 11th or the death of a loved one. We then try to remember those good times again.
These are just a few of my favorite memories from a sport I grew up on. I got into wrestling because my dad loved the one on one combat sports like wrestling and boxing. He hated team sports. Luckily, I did fall in love with team sports.
First Live Show
Growing up in those early years in Southern Illinois, St. Louis wrestling was what I grew up on, watching wrestlers such as Dick the Bruiser, King Kong Brody, Harley Race, and the Von Erichs.
Finally my dad saw fit to allow us to go to see a live show at the Kiel Auditorium. I do not remember if it was a birthday gift or just a family night out. Anyway, I was pleased to see Dick the Bruiser beat the hated Dick Murdoch inside a steel cage. One other memory of that night is I was confused to not hear the commentators. I was expecting to hear the voice of St. Louis wrestling, Larry Munchnick give play by play.
Dick The Bruiser
Eventually we moved from southern Illinois to the northern area. Growing up with a blue collar background, my father loved the good guys and hated those flashy show offs and 'dirty' wrestlers. His favorite was Dick the Bruiser and natually I allied myself with my fathers favorite.
At the Kiel Auditorium, we were in the cheap seats. A few years later, Dick the Bruiser was doing the carnival and county fair circuit. I got to see him up close as he wrestled some guy in overalls. I did not care to much for the opponent, as I was just happy to see my idol win the match.
Blood may have been commonplace later in the 1990's and the Attitude Era, but I still remember the first time I seen blood. In an impromptu match between David Von Erich and Harley Race, Von Erich slapped on the dreaded Iron Claw. Von Erich was able to pin the champion with the move, but refused to release the hold. After what seemed to be an eternity, blood started pouring from the temple area of Race.
This was also the first time I had heard mention that wrestling was staged, or 'fake'. Later on listening to my older brother and father discuss whether it was real blood or capsules. I knew those two did not know what they were talking about and knew wrestling to be real. Whats next they gonna tell me Santa is not real????
Georgia Championship Wrestling
Finally got some cable television. My brothers and I were searching for wrestling after we finished having our own wrestling matches. What we found changed the landscape for not only myself, but for millions around the globe.
What we found was Georgia Championship Wrestling. Now some of these guys we had heard of before, seeing the territory system usually traded wrestlers and wrestlers freely moved from one N.W.A. territory to another. What was awesome was we were introduced to all new wrestlers such as JYD, Michael Hayes, Tommy Rich, Roddy Piper, and the greatest announcer ever, Gordon Solie.
This night featured the blinding of JYD by the hated Freebirds. The best friend of JYD at the time was Ted Dibiase. He gave an emotional interview and as a fan you really feared the worst for the Dog.
Cable opened up so much more wrestling throughout the years. From WCCW to AWA to WWF events, about the only events I never got to see were those from Championship Wrestling from Florida and Portland Championship Wrestling.
The Apter Mags
This was not just an event, but became a passion. Every month I could not wait to read about my favorite wrestlers and the other territories. Even though the articles and results were usually two months too late, I did not care. Through these pages I learned about the other federations I could not find on television. I was really intrigued with CWF. The evil Kevin Sullivan was terrorizing the fan favorites and the territory was hardcore 15 years before ECW.
Throughout the years there have been many fan favorites. Bruno Sammartino in the early days to Hulk Hogan to the Rock to John Cena of today. People forget just how popular Tommy Rich was in the heyday of Georgia Championship Wrestling. He was the face of the territory. Rich was a downhome country boy perfect for Georgia and the southern audience.
Rich had great matches and feuds with Masked Superstar, Ted Dibiase, and Buzz Sawyer. The Sawyer feud led to the Last Battle of Atlanta, which is the inspiration for todays Hell in a Cell.
The last memory of Wildfire was when he lost a loser quit wrestling match to Ted Dibiase. When it was later shown on the Superstation, I was in total shock. How could he lose?
Coming in after a Saturday afternoon of playing baseball in the park, I was ready for some wrestling. Turned it over to the Superstation and who did the viewers see, Vincent Kennedy McMahon. WTF? This is not right. We want our N.W.A. We want Buzz Sawyer, Gordon Solie, the Armstrongs, not the same old matches we just seen on the USA Network a week before on Sunday morning. This is not right.
Luckily Jim Crockett Promotions was able to take over the timeslot after viewer outrage.
The Rise Of Hulk-A-Mania
I was so upset when the villainous Iron Shiek defeated the All-American Boy, Bob Backlund. I had witnessed Backlund defeating Snuka, Muraco, Superstar, Valentine, and others. How could he lose to this guy.
But then on January 23, 1984, a new hero was ushered in. I admit, I was a little Hulk-a-Maniac. He was my hero for not only defeating the evil Iranian, but because he was larger than life. He was a comic book come to life.
I knew of Hogan and his trial against Nick Bockwinkel through the magazines, but it was not until this day I pledged to say my prayers and eat my vitamins.
The Four Horsemen
Eventually, I grew out of favor with Hogan. He started to bore me. Every single match was the same. 'Eye of the Tiger' or 'Real American' playing, tear off shirt, beat the hell out of the bad guy, starts getting beat for the next 5-7 minutes, Hogan is out, but no, the one finger up, Hulk Up, shaking, YOU, punches, kicks, clothesline, legdrop, 1-2-3.
Eventually I became more enamored with Ric Flair. The Apter magazines may have influenced me a bit. During these times many articles were written as to who is the better wrestler, Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan. Many of the articles kept saying Flair was better of the two. Then I started to really watch Flair's matches. And guess what, he was 100 times better than Hogan.
Even though both are two of the greatest on the mike, Hogan's rap was the same as his ring work. The same old stuff. "Well ya know Mean Gene, that evil dude really did the Hulkster and the Hulk-A-Maniacs bad. Blah. Blah. Blah. Whatcha gonna do when the 24 inch pythons and Hulkamania run wild on you." This was his interview every single week. Flair's were different. There was always two or three catchphrases such as "Wooo" and "When you walk that aisle" were always used, the meat of his interviews were always different. One could say this about all the WCW/NWA/JCP guys at the time, they were all great interviews, unlike the same old stuff from the WWF guys. But Flair always managed to stand out, his only true competition on the mike was Dusty Rhodes.
I remember the day my Four Horsemen shirt came in the mail. When I opened it, my dad looked at me like he just lost a son. Maybe it was rebellion or I was just tired of the same thing from the fan favorites.
The Road Warriors Destroy The Midnights
From the first time I saw these guys on GCW as members of Paul Ellerings Legion of Doom with Buzz Sawyer, King Kong Bundy, and Jake Roberts, I knew they were special.
I continued to follow their careers through to the AWA and back to JCP. I was sick to death of the Rock N Roll Express always holding the belts and always wondered why the Roadies never got to beat up those little punks. I knew the Warriors could destroy Ricky and Robert in a matter of seconds. In addition, why are the Warriors not tag team champions.
Finally, in 1988, I got to see the Road Warriors become NWA tag team champions beating the hell out of their favorite whipping boys, the Midnight Express.
Andre Vs. Hogan
Three great memories came from this feud. The first was Andre turning on Hogan during Pipers Pit. Finally, someone to defeat Hogan and take away the title.
Well, WrestleMania III did not exactly give me that moment, but it was still a monumental event.
A year later, these two tangled in a special Main Event. We all knew Hogan was going to win this match. It was just setting up maybe for a Dibiase vs. Hogan WrestleMania. About ten minutes later, we were all shocked as Hogan was finally dethroned. Of course, I had to rub it in to my dad. He was not a happy camper that night. Took wrestling a little too seriously, but it was all in good fun.
Piper Smashing Captain Lou With His Award
The Rowdy Scot has had some memorable moments over the years. From his time in GCW to smashing a coconut over Snuka's head, he was always controversial.
The moment for me was when he smashed the Gold Record award over the head of who we thought was his friend, Captain Lou.
In hindsight, Rock N Wrestling was not that great, but it did make the Rowdy One mainstream.
My first Pay Per View. This was a great time. I did like the Warrior and I wanted to see him beat the hell out of Hogan and I was not disappointed. Those around me were not too happy, but hey it was memorable for me.
Flair Wins WWF Gold
This was two memorable moments. The first being watching WWF Superstars and seeing Bobby Heenan hold up the Big Gold Belt, the Real World Champion.
Next came a few months later. Of course, having a nice bar-b-que with friends and watching wrestling on Pay Per View. Awesome. And as usual I was surrounded by Flair haters. Most of the viewers, myself included, knew this match would come down to Hogan and Sid Justice.
Final four, Hogan, Savage, Flair, and Macho Man. Justice throws out Savage, then there was three, the two favorites, Hogan and Justice, and the Nature Boy. Ok, we know the plan, Hogan and Justice team up to eliminate Flair, then the two behemoths battle it out for the belt.
Major SWERVE. Justice eliminates Hogan, Hulk grabs Justice, and Flair eliminates Justice. Holy S***, Batman. New Champion and just the second man to that time in history to win both WWF and NWA World titles.
I also learned a valuable lesson about crowd manipulation that night. When Justice eliminated Hogan, the fans erupted into cheers as they were solidly behind Sid. On later WWF broadcasts, the crowd noise was changed to ensure Hogan remained the good guy and turn Sid evil.
Hogan Vs. Flair, Bischoff Style
Not all the memories are great. This one is truly depressing. Hogan vs. Flair should have been WrestleMania VIII. The two legends finally met for the belt. Not at StarrCade but at a horrendous Bash at the Beach PPV. I did not see it live, watched the highlights on George Michaels Sports Machine. It was truly depressing. I expected Flair to get the belt back, but Bischoff and Hogan did their best to squash the legend of the Nature Boy and make him look like a joke. Flair is also to blame because he went along with this travesty.
The End Of Magnum T.A. Career
Even though I was a huge Flair and Horsemen fan, I still liked some of the good guys, such as The Warriors, Dusty, and Magnum. I would always cheer Flair and the Warriors against anyone, but would cheer Magnum when he fought Tully and Nikita.
On that fateful Saturday when they announced Magnum was a in career ending car crash, I could not believe it. I did start realizing wrestling was staged and thought this was a staged event. But later found out it was not.
Magnum was scheduled to win the NWA World title against Flair at StarrCade. This tragedy turned Nikita into a fan favorite as he sided with Dusty to form the Superpowers.
These five superstars deaths hit me the hardest. Granted a few of my childhood idols passed away previously, but I understood the death cycle. These five died way too young and had so much more to give not only in the ring, but to those around them.
Bruiser Brody was one of the first cool bad guys. Never to be labeled, he was either good or bad depending on what territory he was in at the time. Even when he was doing evil deeds, he still was cheered. He was hard core before the term was fashionable. The politics of wrestling took him away from his family and his fans.
David Von Erich was the Yellow Rose of Texas. He was also slated to become the World Champion. Even Ric Flair stated David had the skills to carry the NWA. Little did we know about the demons which infected the Von Erich clan.
Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit were at the prime of their careers. Both were coming off of World title reigns and the future was bright for both. Eddie was getting set to become World champion again. His past demons caught up with him. As for Benoit, it is horrific how he chose to end the life of his family before taking his own life. Both these tragedies hit me in different ways.
Guerrero was in the prime of his life and career. How could he be gone?
Benoit made me think of how could someone who was shown to have a good family life and had everything do such a horrendous act.
Road Warrior Hawk finally was able to rid his body, mind, and soul of the demons. But it was too late. His body was too ravaged. He was a childhood hero taken too early.
Cena Beats HHH at WrestleMania
This memorable event happened on the biggest stage of them all. This was probably the last time I had fun watching wrestling. Its just not as fun anymore.
Everyone I was watching the event with expected HHH to kick the crap out of Cena. The Game was primed to beat SuperCena. Then it happened. HHH taps. WTF????????
Cool Bad Guys
Well I would like to end this on a positive note.
Like stated earlier, not all memorable events are pleasant. Memorable events are those memories which stay with us for a lifetime.
This slide represents a few memorable moments.
These guys were cheered when if they had been wrestling back before the 'cool' bad guy, they would be hated by the fans. Flair or perhaps Superstar Graham set it in motion, but these cats revolutionized the wrestling cheers and boos.
Who can forget when Hogan turned his back on the fans when he legdropped Savage. he may have turned his back on those little HulkaManiacs, but in turn found a new crop of fans. Also helped to have the comic stylings of Big Sexxxay and the Bad Guy backing him up.
D-X made it cool to be a degenerate.
Even when he was the Corporate Rock, he had "the Millions, and Millions of the Rocks fans" eating out of his hand and hanging on to every word.
My most memorable Stone Cold moment happened at a live show. I was within earshot of Austin and shouted out a few vulgarities as he was irritating the fans. He looked right at me, dead in the eyes, and gave me a one-finger salute. Thats when I became a Stone Cold fan.
Hope you enjoyed my trip of my wrestling moments. You may have the same or a few differents. But wrestling is fun and memorable. There are a few more like the Montreal Screwjob or my first ECW telecast, but these were the ones which stood out to me.