Memories In Melbourne
May 19, 2006 by Adam Schultz
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I first became "obsessed with wrestling" in the mid-1980s as the WWF began to redefine sports entertainment. As has been observed many times, most fans think the era you first started watching wrestling will always be your favorite, and this is certainly the case with me. Even my older brother, who first became a fan in the early 1970s, admits the classic WWF era was something special.
While later wrestling has provided me with plenty of enjoyment, I'll always put the classic WWF superstars on a pedestal -- wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, the Honky Tonk Man, and yes, even the Ultimate Warrior. And don't forget managers like Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, interviewers like Mean Gene Okerlund, and announcers Jessie Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon.
So my brother and I had high hopes for "Mayhem In Melbourne", held on the campus of Florida Tech on May 13th, 2006. Billed as "Legends Collide", the match card contained many of the greatest WWF superstars of the 80s, including Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, and King Kong Bundy. While my brother and I had a great time, it was also something of a bittersweet experience as you'll see.
"Mayhem" was sponsored by Florida Extreme Wrestling, run by Bam Bam Mancuso, an indy wrestler of 11 years. Mancuso owns a local facility called the "House of Pain," which offers training for would-be wrestlers and hosts birthday parties where kids can play around in a real ring and meet wrestlers from FEW, TNA, and other local promotions.
The venue for "Mayhem in Melbourne" was the Clemente Center, which is really just the gymnasium for Florida Tech. (Sidenote: I graduated from Florida Tech in 1988 with a degree in Computer Science. However, I think this was only the second time I had been in the Clemente Center, other than my first year orientation!)
Once my brother and I were seated, we noted many of the classic wrestlers signing autographs at a nearby table. The show announcer soon began the proceedings and we were met with our first disappointment of the night. The Main Event was scheduled to be a bout between King Kong Bundy and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart.
Unfortunately, Neidhart had missed his flight from Canada and would not be appearing. A new opponent had been scheduled, but was not announced at this time.
The crowd was also told this event would be videotaped for a DVD and possible TV show. Next the show announcer introduced special guest D- Von Dudley, who helped warm up the crowd. One interesting part was when he thanked all his fans, whether they remembered him from ECW (the crowd chanted "ECW!" and "We want tables!"), the WWE (mostly boos and catcalls), or TNA ("TNA TNA!"), the current home of "Brother Devon".
Finally, we were told the first match would feature a "WWE Mystery Guest". My brother and I speculated this might be Hacksaw Jim Duggan, who lives in nearby Titusville, FL. But once again we were disappointed when the mystery guest was revealed to be Doink the Clown. While many men have donned the face paint of our favorite wrestling clown, I'm pretty sure we were seeing some anonymous wrestler who had been drafted for the role. His opponent was "Super Cracker" Chainz, reportedly from "The Swamp, FL". The match lasted just over 2 minutes and consisted of various pranks and jokes on the part of Doink the Clown. It ended after Doink slammed into "Super Cracker" from the top rope and landed butt-first on his chest. After the pinfall and exit from the ring by the victorious Doink, Chainz broke the mood a bit by leaping up as if nothing had happened.
I should also note there were intermittent sound problems with the microphones and music system throughout the matches, which also put a damper on the evening. But we did have a bevy of Hooters girls (who handed out stickers reading "I Love Hooters") and the Blue Chicks, cheerleaders from the local basketball team known as the Blue Ducks.
Oh well, my brother and I still looked forward to seeing the "real" WWF superstars. The next match featured two FEW wrestlers: Legion Cage w/Gina Marie vs. "Annihilator" Nooie Li. Cage did an adequate job of getting the crowd to boo him during his entrance. Nooie showed the most action of the night with a hurra canrana and then a leap out of the ring and onto Cage and his female manager (made more impressive by the fact there was no mat on the outside of the ring, just hard basketball court floor). Later, Gina Marie added some more acrobatics by flipping off the top rope and onto Nooie outside the ring. But eventually Nooie won the match after a splash from the top rope.
Match #3 would give us our first real WWF superstar of the night: Koko B. Ware! However, I was disappointed to see Koko come out in a plain white t-shirt and baggie pants. As has been reported, Koko lost his macaw "Frankie" in a house fire some years ago, so perhaps he can be forgiven for not bringing another bird to ringside. But where was the flash and flair of his 80s look" Still, Koko had the crowd on its feet doing the "Bird Dance" as he moved around the auditorium. My brother even got a handshake from the "Birdman"!
His opponent was Tommy Marr, another FEW wrestler, who made the mistake of taunting Koko about the unfortunate fate of Frankie. Koko didn't take kindly to this and engaged in some "dirty game" moves, such as pulling the middle rope up into the groin of Tommy Marr and even stomping his family jewels while the referee was distracted. But naturally the crowd supported Koko and he gained the pinfall after bull-dogging Marr. Koko even administered some discipline to Marr's ringside girlfriend (who had interfered during the match) with a well- deserved spanking! Afterwards, dozens of kids from the audience were able to join Koko inside the ring for another few minutes of the "Bird Dance".
The next match brought us the second WWF star of the evening in Haku, who battled Bryan Manson of the FEW. Manson comes from the psychotic face-paint region of wrestling and was accompanied by his tag team partner Rico Moon, a diminutive biker persona. Haku received a warm ovation from the crowd. He was excused by the fans for also stomping the groin of his opponent, perhaps because he was eventually double teamed by both Manson and Moon after the referee was knocked out. But the veteran Haku made short work of both wrestlers and ended the match after a powerful takedown of Manson by the throat.
Things were looking up as the next match featured "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, who received the largest ovation so far of the night, despite more problems with the sound and music system. But the absence of a deep voice saying "Sup-Sup-Superfly" must mean Snuka doesn't own the rights to his 80s theme song. His opponent was Brian "The Blade" Gamble, who displayed some martial arts skill during his entrance with some good bo staff work. But there wasn't much in the way of martial arts during the match, which mainly consisted of Gamble putting a beat-down on Snuka. But naturally, the tide turned and Snuka gained the victory after a well-executed rollover pin. The crowd thought they would be treated to the famous "Superfly Splash", but before Snuka could execute it, his opponent made a hasty exit from the ring.
Snuka has performed his finishing move as recently as October of last year during a WWE RAW show. But it's understandable if he no longer does it, considering he will turn 55 years old in a few days! Still, the crowd was somewhat let down.
There was now a 30-minute intermission, which gave the fans another opportunity to get autographs from the WWF superstars. Then the three main event matches were set. First up was a battle between FEW's Doc Rivers (another "Swamp" character) and Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Jake definitely received the biggest ovation of the evening, especially when he entered carrying a heavy canvas bag containing "you-know- who"! The crowd began an almost continuous chant of "DDT DDT", proving the fans certainly know Jake Roberts' finishing move. Doc Rivers slipped out of several DDT attempts, but Jake eventually planted him into the canvas and gained the pinfall. Then it was "Damien" time, as Roberts opened the bag to reveal his enormous python of at least 12 feet long, and draped his unconscious opponent in living snakeskin.
Again, things were looking up for the evening at this point. The next main event match featured two WWF superstars: Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake in a tag team match-up. They faced off against the FEW's premier team of the "Annihilators", consisting of Victor Creed and Bam Bam Mancuso. (Side note: I wonder if Marvel Comics knows about Mr. Creed, seeing as he shares the same name as the X-Men villain known as Sabretooth!)
Valentine and Beefcake were known as The Dream Team when they held the WWF Tag Team Championship during the 80s. Tonight's battle showed us these veterans still had some of their patented moves. But the match ended in a somewhat confusing disqualification of "The Hammer" and "The Barber". I suppose it was only natural, considering the position held by Mr. Mancuso within the FEW. Still, the crowd was mystified by the referee's unusual decision.
The final Main Event of the evening would bring us the mighty King Kong Bundy. But as previously mentioned, Jim Neidhart's absence would prove to be another disappointment. Bundy's opponent was introduced as Bobby Hopkins from Okeechobee, FL (making him the third "Swamp" character of the evening! Honestly, there's more to Florida than swamps!). Though Hopkins was announced as 360 pounds, he was clearly giving away some hefty weight against King Kong Bundy at 430lbs! Bundy received a great ovation and kept the fans enthralled by his mammoth size and ring presence. It also helped when he used the microphone before the match to call Hopkins a "disrespectful young punk" and vowed to "kick your ass"! Bundy's biggest weapon was a series of tremendous splashes on the Hopkins, both against the turnbuckles and then on the mat.
However, as Bundy gained the inevitable victory and the crowd began to leave, the entire roster of FEW wrestlers stormed the ring to engage in a mini-battle royal. Not unexpectedly, the last three wrestlers in the ring were Bam Mancuso and his "Annihilators" Victor Creed and Nooie Li. The remaining crowd were even treated to a dismantling of the show announcer, who was on the receiving end of a "Three Amigos" by Mancuso, a top rope elbow from Li, and a top rope leg drop from Creed.
Thus the evening ended. And while there were some disappointments, I must admit my brother and I actually had a great time. My first impulse was to feel a little sympathy for the aging WWF veterans. It would be nice to think they're still wrestling for the fun of reliving glory days and to meet their old fans. However, I can't help but wonder if it's the only way they make a living these days. But at some point during the event, I realized I was not really cheering them for what they were doing in the ring tonight, but for the many years of wonderful matches they gave us over the last two decades ago. Perhaps the rest of the crowd too was honoring these superstars and what they represented: the greatest wrestling era of all time (in my humble opinion, of course)!
by Adam Schultz ..
Dirk Mason wrote:
I gotta tell you, really good article. I enjoyed reading about the stars of yesteryear. I too hope these guys wrestle because it's their passion but you're probably right they need the money.
I'd like to add a correction to my "Mayhem in Melboune" column. I said "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka would turn 55 years old in a few days. He actually turned 61 years old on May 18th! So I will forgive him even more for not doing his "Superfly Smash" during the match.
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