When Controversy Meant Something
August 11, 2005 by Christopher Guido
For the little kid that lives on inside.
Wrestling has made a large impact on my life. I am guessing anyone else who is reading this has had a similar impact on theirs. From the beginning it found a place in my heart and stayed there. I was just thinking tonight about how it used to be when I first started to watch. Contemplating the differences in what I enjoyed back then and what I enjoy today. The memories are sketchy for a lot of what I remember from my first exposure to this form of entertainment. I started watching at about age four. While reminiscing a stray thought entered my mind and I found myself reflecting about the first match that I can remember in some detail that made me so mad, that upset me so much with the outrageous (at that time at least) outcome that it made me run from the TV room to find my Dad and express my outrage.
Born in Chicago and raised in the burbs I was a fan of the AWA. I watched many feds, but the live events I got to see most were AWA events so my favorites early on were from there. I remember one afternoon sitting and watching a wrestling show on TV. I was I think seven years old. At that age I was forming opinions about whom I liked to cheer for but still had a hard time wrapping my mind around the details of the sport. I was still entrenched of the idea of good vs. evil and loved yelling at the television when my guy was losing. Especially when the "bad guy" was cheating. I mean heck, how dumb can the ref be" He was almost looking directly at the guy using the "foreign" object for crying out loud. I was the total mark, today I like to think of myself as a (stealing from the Wizard Of Oz) a mark of a different color, this time I am willing. Back then though, I was a little kid and not realizing how much I was loving it.
It's a tape of a wrestling match, it's the first time I had seen it so my little kid brain thinks it's live. So in truth I don't remember how current it was, back then you'd see events that happened months before. Nevertheless, lying on my stomach, palms under my chin looking up at the soft glow of the television between the red, white and blue ropes climbed The Incredible Hulk Hogan. Outside of Andre he was the most imposing figure I had seen. Bigger men had been in the ring, Jerry Blackwell or Haystacks Calhoun come to mind, but they didn't have the aura this guy had. Even from that age he had me, the muscles, the antics and the sheer strength, I adored every second.
Coming to the ring next, led by his manager Bobby Heenan, was Hulk's opponent. The Champ Was Here. No no, not Cena. The wrestler Bobby led to the ring was the man that I detested. Even though I didn't know what detested meant, the announcers let me know that this was how I felt. Nick Bockwinkel strode up to the apron, climbed up and through the ropes, and dared to stare down Hulk. This guy is crazy, look at him, Hulk will squash him. And he's the champ! I've seen Bockwinkel wrestle before, and I can tell he knows his stuff, but come on, this is Hulk.
The match progressed as most did back then, though at the time I didn't even realize it. The back and forth, the heel oppression and the baby face comebacks. Bobby distracted the referee and Bockwinkel took advantage. Every time my guy was about to get the decisive advantage something happened, a poke to the eye, a hand grabbing a foot from the outside, a pull of the hair and everything that made me boo and cheer. I know these two have had lots of matches, that is now I know, at the time I didn't remember the other ones at all. This is the one I remember. I am sure there are others of you who have a different one in mind, the ending is slightly different but the outcome remains the same.
Hulk has been getting beat up, Nick's scientific maneuvers mixed in with some slight brawling and Bobby's "win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat" attitude was starting to culminate towards an outcome. Nick throws Hulk into the ropes, but at the last second Hulk reverses him and Nick goes flying. Bobby had the ref's attention but started to point at Hulk. The ref slowly starts to turn but seemingly missed this moment. As Bockwinkel bounces off the ropes towards Hulk, Hulk backdrops him over the top rope to the arena floor. The ref seems to be a second late as he hasn't disqualified Hulk. At this time in the AWA that is an automatic disqualification.
Hulk goes to the floor and grabs the champ, some back and forth and a few fists later Bockwinkel is rolled back into the ring. A whip across to the ropes, a big boot and a leg drop later and I am standing all excited about the inevitable three count forthcoming. Hulk covers Bockwinkel and the ref falls to the mat. Raising his hand he counts one slap, then another for a count of two followed by the final count of .... Wait a second ..... What's he waiting for" The ref didn't count three" Why's he calling for the bell" What is going on, I have to hear this, must .... turn ... sound .... up. I'm sweating now, teetering on the brink of euphoria and devastation. Then the announcers inform me that Hulk was disqualified for throwing Nick over the top rope so Bockwinkel remains the champ, and my little kid brain snapped.
What"!"! How is that possible, that happened like 10 minutes ago (in actuality I think it was about one minute, though my memory has little kid time lapses and I remember it as a HUGE amount of time). How could he let the match continue for that long and then almost count to three before deciding to all of a sudden react to what had happened. And after all it was Nick who was rushing back at Hulk, all he did was lower the shoulder and do a heave ho. I didn't know what to do. I remember pacing back and forth before running to the basement where my dad was. I told him what happened and he smiled at first and then told me how he agreed that it sucked big time too. I don't remember it at the time but thinking back I believe that at this age is where I started to have a little conflict inside. Because as mad as I was, the blatant disregard for fair play made me feel alive inside, and in a strange way, I think I liked it.
There's tons more memories and some with much better detail. I'm sure there are lots of you that have a similar match that you reacted to in a similar way, I'd love to hear any of your matches. For me though, I think that match, that day was when I became hooked beyond enjoying guys beating guys up. The controversy made it rise to another level. There was more to it than colorful characters doing moves in the ring. Keep your arms inside the ride at all times for the emotional roller coaster began that day and I haven't gotten off since.
by Christopher Guido ..
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