A TRIBUTE TO THE FORGOTTEN HEROES OF WWF WRESTLING, 1982 - 1994
Okay, Hulkamaniacs, now that we're all sufficiently pumped from the video shown above, let's talk wrestling.
Specifically, let's talk about the Golden Age of WWF wrestling, namely the early 80's to the early 90's. As a child of the 80's, I grew up in a time when the WWF was at its undeniable peak, and also had the benefit of being young enough to find it totally plausible. By the early 90's I had wised up a bit, and was "cool" enough to tone my wide-eyed enthusiasm down to mere "ironic appreciation". But I've always had a bit of a soft spot for pro wrestling, whether it be for the thrills or merely for the laughs. These days, pro wrestling (just like everything else I held sacred at one point) is nothing but a husk of its former self, a gaudy, overproduced moneymaking machine that plays out like something of a homoerotic cousin to NASCAR. But we're here to talk about The Good Old Days, Dear Reader, so suspend your disbelief for a minute or two while we pay tribute to a dozen of the greatest stars this sport (?) has ever known. Subtle, tasteful, cerebral, and always modest, the pro wrestler has become an icon of everything America should be, and these men were the ones who did it best.
As always, feel free to pay tribute to your own personal favorites in the 'Comments' section.
IN THIS CORNER...
1) GEORGE "THE ANIMAL" STEELE
"The Animal" was a true "people's champion", and acted as a crusader for both the mentally challenged and the overly hirsute. Suffering from a combination of both mild OCD and just the right touch of severe mental retardation, he was a true nutcase in the ring, alternately chewing on turnbuckles and decimating his opponents with the dreaded Lifting Hammerlock. Always accompanied by his beloved stuffed animal (known only as "Mine"), George would become distraught by its abscence and fly into a rage whenever it was threatened.
But did you know that in real life (not that wrestling isn't "real"), Steele held a master's degree in science from the Central Michigan University, and in fact started off his wrestling career as a brainiac called "The Student"? Not only that, but "The Animal" was also an accomplished actor, starring as hulking man-child Tor Johnson in Tim Burton's 1994 film Ed Wood. A multi-demensional man, and a gibbering badass in the ring. Epic.
2) HILLBILLY JIM
Straight out of the (fictional) Appalachian town of Mud Lick, Kentucky, Hillbilly Jim took the WWF by storm in 1984, quickly teaming up with none other than the Hulkster himself in a series of high-profile tag team bouts. After being sidelined with an actual broken leg, Jim did a short stint as a manager for a few of his "relatives": Uncle Elmer, Cousin Luke, and Cousin Junior. He was, of course, a favorite to the pro wrestling fans of the Deep South, and entered the ring to the strains of "Don't Go Messin' With a Country Boy". But his immense talents didn't end there. In addition to proving that he could form complete sentences with appearances on Live With Regis & Kathie Lee and Hee Haw, Jim was also a talented designer, credited with creating George "The Animal" Steele's aforementioned "Mine" creature.
(Not to be confused with Hacksaw Jim Duggan, below.)
3) KOKO B. WARE
Possibly the godfather of the recently-abated "hyphy" movement, Koko B. Ware (aka "The Birdman") always entered the ring in oversized sunglasses and bright colors, accompanied by his majestic theme song, Morris Day & The Time's "The Bird". The guy was chock full of Pimp Sauce, and had his own trademark pet, Frankie The Parrot. Although he frequently got his ass handed to him by "bad guys" like Nicolai Volkoff and Greg Valentine (now there's a handsome fella!), Koko remained popular with the kids due to his flashy style and urban appeal.
Koko also had the distinction of performing the title track for the 1987 WWF All-Stars album Piledriver, whose video can be viewed below (sorry about the poor quality, but this is a must-see):
4) KING KONG BUNDY
Probably the only guy in the entire world with less of a neck than George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher (left).
5) BIG JOHN STUDD
Pioneering such eloquently-named moves as The Reverse Bearhug, The Airplane Spin, The Double Underhook Suplex, The Low-Angle Chokeslam, and the slightly-less-eloquent Heart Punch, Big John Studd was an early and notorious "bad guy" in 80's WWF lore, constantly posing a threat to the Hulkster and forming a deadly feud with none other than Andre The Giant. Billing himself as the "true giant", the cocky Studd offered $15,000 to anyone that could bodyslam him, which is only slightly less gay than it sounds. After several false starts, with disqualifications and plot twists aplenty, Andre The Giant eventually did bodyslam Big John in the first ever WrestleMania, leading to his slow decline in the pro wrestling world. The shamed warrior died in 1995, after a brief stint in gay porn. Maybe.
Speaking of gay porn, Limp Bizkit also gives a shout out to Big John on their late 90's hit "N 2ogether Now". Word.
6) BASTION BOOGER
Although he appeared for only a brief stint at the end of the WWF's Golden Age ('93-'94), and was used mostly as a foil for the nefarious hijinks of the higher-profile Bam Bam Bigelow, Bastion Booger is included here for one sole reason: He was a BIG, FAT, NASTY MOTHERFUCKER. I mean, look at the guy. Jesus.
Throw in an unsettling love-triangle subplot with Bam Bam's valet, Luna Vachon (right), and you have a recipe for some truly AMERICAN High Art.
7) DOINK THE CLOWN
Doink is something of a nebulous character, originally portrayed by a guy named Matt Borne from 1992 to '94 but eventually spinning off into strange sub-characters and different dudes behind the mask. But the original Borne-Doink was the real classic, an evil prankster who caused great harm to his many foes with all sorts of clown-related gags. Borne was kicked out of the WWF for recurring drug problems (no surprise there), but not before cementing Doink in the collective zeitgeist through an unforgettable series of foul misdeeds, midget-spawns, and disappearing acts. Doink was eventually paired with a 4-foot-tall sidekick, Dink, and the duo later added a couple more mini-Doinks named Wink and Pink. When Doink, Dink, Wink, and Pink teamed up to battle Jerry Lawler's own midget team of Queazy, Sleazy, and Cheezy, it was one of the few post-Golden Age WWF bouts that REALLY MATTERED.
Earthquake (aka The Canadian Earthquake, real name John Tenta) laid to rest any and all question as to whether WWF matches were staged or not upon his entrance to the ring in 1989. Chosen out of the audience COMPLETELY AT RANDOM during a match between Dino Bravo and The Ultimate Warrior, Earthquake quickly proved his mastery of the fine art of professional wrestling, much to the surprise of all parties involved. It also turns out that he was one of only three Caucasian wrestlers to ever compete in sumo competitions in Japan (true). What are the fucking chances?!
Just goes to show: Fact is stranger than fiction, fat is better than muscle, and Life imitates Art. Which in turn imitates WWF wrestling.
9) GIANT GONZALES
MOTHERFUCKER WAS TALL.
10) PAPA SHANGO
True story: Papa Shango was "discovered" by wrestlers on the set of the film Over The Top in Las Vegas, where he was working as a bartender. Quickly adopting the style and mannerisms of a voodoo priest, Shango would approach the ring holding aloft a smoking human skull, and used his magical powers to fuck with the lighting and cause his opponents to puke. Only active from 1991-'93 in the WWF, Papa Shango is now retired from wrestling and manages several strip clubs back in Las Vegas.
Bonus factoid: Early in his career in the USWA, Papa Shango was known as The Godfather, and had a signature move called the "Pimp Drop".
(Not to be confused with Screamin' Jay Hawkins (above right) or Kamala (below).)
11) JUNK YARD DOG
Alright, so maybe JYD might not necessarily be a "forgotten" wrestling hero. Dude was (and is) a goddamn legend, and had more style, grace, and charisma in and out of the ring than just about anyone before or after. Making his first WWF appearance in 1984, JYD made a HUGE impact before his departure in 1988. Junk Yard Dog wore a dog collar attached to a chain. Junk Yard Dog often barked at (or even bit) his opponents. Junk Yard Dog's theme song was Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust". Junk Yard Dog had the coolest vehicle (The Junk Wagon) in Hulk Hogan's Rockin' Wrestling (video at the top of this post). Junk Yard Dog was THE SHIT.
Sadly, Dog was killed in a car accident in 1998. R.I.P. homie.
Junk Yard Dog - "Grab Them Cakes", from the first 'WWF album' (1985):
12) THE ROCKERS
Also known as The Midnight Rockers, this tag team duo comprised of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannety was only active for a couple of months in 1987, before being kicked out for "excessive partying".
That's right. We went from obscure Polish Baroque painters yesterday to WWF wrestlers today. Wait till you see what happens tomorrow...