The Untimely Death of Kay Fabian
May 26, 2005 by Sean O.
One night in the late 70's at about 5pm, I was over a friend's house and his older brothers had on Channel 9 (New York) and my life changed.
From that day forward, all throughout my childhood, wrestling had been an integral part of my life. Almost an obsession, you might say. Well, there was so much of it! The manic fan could easily keep themselves occupied--between World Class on MSG Network, AWA on ESPN, Georgia and Carolinas on TBS, and all the WWF stuff you could always find something on. The monthly MSG house shows were an event and I don't think I ever missed a broadcast.
In the early 80's, the WWF weeklies were "must see TV". That's where it all happened. One night in the early 80s, I sat in front of my black and white TV set in my bedroom, the screen displaying a fuzzy, UHF channel--it was All Star Wrestling, taped in Hamburg PA--the midnight broadcast. A friend of mine was sleeping over and we watched in amazement as Snuka was piledriven on the concrete by Ray Stevens and we marked out! Snuka was juicing like crazy and I remember watching in disbelief. Why the excitement" Why was I so manic"! I think I know.
Back then, the business was different. Kayfabe ensured a level of mystique. No one peeked behind the curtain so we never knew what to expect. In this day of sheets, shoots, and smarts, nothing is hidden. We know everyone's playing a role. We knew it then too. But what we DIDN'T know was what the characters were like outside the ring. And that kept it as real as our imaginations would allow.
Take for example, Kamala. As a child I was horrified of Kamala. I wasn't stupid. I knew he wasn't a cannibal from Uganda, on the hunt to devour unsuspecting fans as voraciously as Mel Philips did small feet. But he was scary. Solely because we never saw "Jim Harris". We only knew Kamala. If we saw the worker sitting with Bob Costas or Michael Landsberg talking about the business, who on earth would suspend disbelief the next time he came to the ring with a spear" No one.
The mystique is gone. The power of the character is gone. The stock argument from today's wrestling bunch is that it is no different than Hollywood-we see the actors and still pay to see the movies. My reply is simple...this isn't Hollywood. Oh sure, maybe today it is. But it wasn't always. And that's why wrestling was special.
In Tony Atlas' shoot interview (ironic that I reference that after the prior rant on shoots, eh"), he hit the nail on the head when he talked about the difference between yesteryear and today. Among a million other things, back then wrestlers were unique. The were different people, both in their appearance as well as overall aura. They walked down the street and you turned to your friend and said, "He looks like a pro wrestler." Today, the guys are pretty generic. They're kids who went to a school to learn the acrobatics. Put them in a room with a bunch of NFL players and they'd be lost. Drop Andre, Kamala, Snuka, Hogan, Ventura, Graham, Calhoun, Atlas, Studd, Bundy, Flair, Rhodes and Mulligan in there and you'd spot em right away. Add that to the general mystique of the business and you've got the enchanting, enthralling recipe for its success.
It gets by today. But without the wonder of yesteryear. Fans aren't passionate about the matches today. Sure, they like it when someone jumps off a ladder or a building. Sure, they like a million high-spots in a row. But the vested interest in a wrestler and the passion that cheered or jeered them is dead. Want proof...pull out an MSG house show from the early days and put on a Snuka/Muraco match. Or a Snuka/Piper match. Or a Sammartino/Graham match. You will see people popping like crazy! And before the high spots. There was a vested interest and a half-hearted belief. I have seen people CRYING! Jumping up and down! That's dead today. Celebration in the audience has been replaced with "oohs" and "aahs".
That interest and mystique is what captivated me. Years ago, anytime I headed out to the Meadowlands I had butterflies. It was a tangible excitement. And that joy lasted me for many years as a kid. Every milestone in my childhood has a wrestling memory that could accompany it. Even the death of my father in 1987 prevented me from being taken to a house show due to his wake! He never liked the stuff anyway. Fitting.
I don't know if you young guys will ever experience the same excitement that we did years ago. I'm only 32, not an old fart. But I tell the truth when I say that the good ole days of wrestling were just that...the GOOD OLD DAYS. I miss 'em.
by Sean O. ..
Steven Brooks wrote:
Well, you have a huge point Sean. "Old time" matches do have more mystique than todays matches. My sad story is that I'm a younger fan and have only lived with the Ortons and HHHs and Austins and Kanes. However. I have very few favorite stars from today. Maybe Rikishi (face it he is FUN!) and Bradshaw. I love older wrestlers. Ooh my favorite stars are Snuka, DiBiase, Flair, Santana, Funk, the list goes on and on. Here's what I mean. I bought the Hall of Fame ceremony 2004 and one of the extra matches was "Superstar" Billy Graham versus Bruno Sammartino. That was a classic match but after 5 minutes the rest of my family was bored. Bored!! I couldn't get enough of that match. Ooh I envy you Sean. What I would do to trade the HHH versus Batista and Guerrero versus Mysterio matches to be at the famous MSG Steel Cage match between Snuka and Muraco. Great article Sean.
Shawn Taylor wrote:
The "entertainment and information" age is a double-edged sword for wrestling's superstars and its fans. While wrestling, as it exists currently, gives superstars the chance to capitalize on more marketing and merchandising opportunities than ever before, it also allows fans to learn more and more about wrestling and its superstars. I also long for the days of old.
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