I gotta say this: I’m so bored! So you get a column! I think I’m going to look back on some legendary wrestlers and historic wrestling moments in an attempt to conjure up memories of the times that weren’t so monotonous. My favorite era of wrestling was the Mid-80s. That’s when it all started for me. Hell, I was an energetic mark experiencing Vince McMahon’s supreme plan unfold before my very own young and impressionable eyes. Hulkamania was running wild and EVERYBODY was buying into it. Hulk Hogan pinned The Iron Sheik in an unbelievably definitive moment which would catapult the WWF to meteoric altitudes. As far as I knew, Vince McMahon was a mere broadcast announcer, and there were no lame authority figures hogging the precious television moments. The Vince & Hulk connection hatched the idea which would eventually lead to the creation of Wrestlemania, which would showcase the best the Sports-Entertainment industry had to offer. Yeah, remember when all the wrestlers actually looked different and weren’t “cut from the same mold” of big muscle-head goons. You had wrestlers of all different shapes and sizes. When you watched the WWF in the 80s, one thing was for sure, you KNEW you were watching a bunch of tough mofos.
THE BEGINNING: My very first memory of wrestling occurred in 1985 when I was a fresh-faced seven-year-old youngster. My dad was channel surfing and landed briefly on an interview segment during an episode of WWF Superstars. “Look at his tongue!” my father shouted! “What?” I questioned him. “It’s green!” he proclaimed. It WAS green, and I thought that was the greatest thing on earth! It was George “The Animal” Steele and I was hooked on wrestling from that moment on! A week later, my father brought home a copy of the recently released Wrestlemania I and I watched it with awe and I had a thirst for more and more and more. Soon he was bringing other videos home to satisfy my craving, including Wrestlemania II, and various other Coliseum home video selections. I somehow convinced him to let me get “Butchermania” one time, a compilation of Abdullah the Butcher, which gave me nightmares for years, and I decided to stick to Vince McMahon’s cartoon wrestling until I was a bit older!
THE GIMMICKS: The 80s were all about gimmicks, earning or dragging as many eyes towards the product as humanly possible, that meant bringing in talent to represent extremely specific demographics; Take, for example, the Australian demographic, which was so humorously represented by one of my all time favorites…. Outback Jack! Now don’t get me wrong, you’d never catch me spending my hard earned money on a “Best of Outback Jack” compilation tape but in small doses this guy was fun to watch. Hell, he wasn’t even around very long, and failed to appear in any major PPV or Television event. But the funny thing is, EVERYBODY remembers this guy! Whether the reason is good or bad, this character left a lasting impression on just about all wrestling fans who were tuning in at this point, and that’s what it was there for, it served its purpose, mate. Fantasy Bookers everywhere are scrambling to book Outback Jack into Six-Man Tag matches with the Bushwhackers (Luke Williams & Butch Miller)!
Wrestlers with decorated histories were brought in at the lure of fame and money, only to be saddled with a gimmick that sometimes worked, and sometimes didn’t. One of those gimmicks that DID work was given to Jake Roberts when he signed on with the WWF and someone in the creative department noticed that his first name rhymed with “snake” and his offense sort of resembled that of a snake in the wild, so Jake “The Snake” Roberts was born! He started out as a heel, he would render his opponent unconscious via the dreaded DDT finisher, and then add insult to injury by allowing a 12-foot snake crawl all over his motionless carcass.
I always found it funny how commentators and fans thought it was so dastardly when he did it to his babyface opponents but cheered with anticipation when he turned into a face himself and did it to the heels.
One time on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event, Jake set his snake loose on Andre The Giant (who was a member of Bobby Heenan’s heel stable) and cause Andre to go into “cardiac arrest”! Jesse “The Body” Ventura seemed to be the only soul in the building showing any compassion for the Giant..
Of course it was all acting but we marks weren’t that smart were we?!?
An example of a gimmick that DIDN’T work would have been the gimmick given to Terry Taylor upon entering the WWF in 1988 and they painted a red stripe in his hair and called him the “Red Rooster”. The sad thing is, Terry Taylor was a former NWA National Heavyweight champion and held numerous championship in the Mid-South and Texas before getting the Rooster gimmick. Unfortunately for Mr. Taylor, I reckon that is the question he gets asked the most in interviews and such, and I personally think it’s a shame for such a great guy and phenomenal wrestler to be tagged with such a dreadful legacy.
The 80s saw the birth of a “gimmick” that would be used hundreds of times afterwards and still gets used today. The “American Patriot” will always be a big factor in wrestling. In the 80s, Americans looked up to a guy named Corporal Kirschner, who played the part of an American soldier who did battle with the foreign heels that came through, such as the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. Little did we know, the man playing this character, Mike Kirschner, was not the law abiding American that we were led to believe. He left the WWF after getting in trouble with the law and eventually did time in a Japanese prison. A tag team that embraced the “American” way was Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham, collectively known as the US Express. They held the Tag Team titles briefly but didn’t stick around long enough to make a lasting impression.
Another one of my personal favorites was the masked tag team known as The Machines. They were never taken seriously, and primarily feuded with the Heenan Family all over the country for about a year. After a while they were wrestling at house shows and bringing in local talent and throwing a mask on them and calling them _____ Machine. For example when the WWF went through Milwaukee, Wisconsin they brought in Crusher Lisowski as “Crusher Machine” for a one shot deal. I thought that was extremely creative and could have been used much more effectively than it was. But does anybody really remember why the Machines existed in the first place? Andre the Giant had been unceremoniously suspended after no-showing for a tag match against the Heenan Family. Bobby Heenan petitioned the “committee” to have Andre’s contract rescinded and fired! That’s when this mysterious masked team “from the orient” appeared and everybody knew it was Andre, and it was Bobby Heenan’s mission to prove it!
THE DRAMA: Storylines in the 80s were a hell of a lot simpler then they are these days; Ricky Steamboat was involved in two of my favorites, which strangely paralleled each other in comparison. Ricky Steamboat was wrestling Jake Roberts when he took a DDT on the cold unforgiving concrete floor and suffered a concussion and disappeared briefly before returning to extract revenge on his attacker.
This culminated into a “Snake pit” match at an event put on in Toronto called “The Big Event” which saw Ricky Steamboat defeat Jake Roberts in a brutal and bloody match. Shortly thereafter, Ricky Steamboat locked up with Intercontinental champion Randy “Macho Man” Savage; During the match, the Macho Man got desperate and draped the Dragon’s throat over the guard rail and leaped off the top rope with the ring bell, crushing the Dragon’s larynx and putting him out of commission for several months. When he did come back, the Dragon had his sights set on taking the IC championship from Randy Savage. This, as everybody knows, led to arguably the greatest wrestling match in WWF history at Wrestlemania III when Ricky Steamboat pinned Randy Savage after a thrilling contest to win the IC championship.
Being the “top dog”, Hulk Hogan always had a team of writers working exclusively on HIS storylines. The feud that fueled the Rock’N’Wrestling era was undeniably between Hulk Hogan and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. They had several one-on-one contests but there was never a clear-cut winner. A final battle of the titans was arranged for Wrestlemania I, where Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff would face Hulk Hogan and Hollywood celebrity Mr. T. Hulk & T came out on top of this one, but it wasn’t Roddy Piper whose shoulders were pinned.
The lead-up to Wrestlemania II was a painful one for the Hulkster. On an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event, he faced Don Muraco in a WWF championship match; Little did Hulk Hogan know that Muraco was on The Heenan Family payroll for the evening and it was all a set-up which led to a triple-team assault on the Champ, whose ribs were broken when King Kong Bundy delivered a devastating avalanche in the corner with help from Muraco. The Hulkster, with more pride that brains, agreed to a steel cage match at Wrestlemania II against the mammoth King Kong Bundy. The Hulkster somehow won that match, to remain the WWF champion.
Hulk Hogan always had to put up with Bobby Heenan as a thorn in his side. After Wrestlemania II, the Hulkster recruited Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndoff as an ally to do battle against the Heenan Family. They signed a match to face King Kong Bundy & Big John Studd, but Orndorff thought they needed a tune-up match. Hogan & Orndorff stepped into the ring with former Tag Team champions The Moondogs. Hulk Hogan dominated the match by himself, and Paul Orndorff felt as though the champion was disrespecting him. The following week, during their match with the Heenan Family, Orndorff turned on his partner and left him to the wolves! A week later, Mr. Wonderful showed up on television with Bobby Heenan as the newest member of the Heenan Family! Bobby Heenan convinced Orndorff to make a charge for the WWF title. The scene was set a few months later in Toronto, at an event put on in Toronto called “The Big Event”, where Paul Orndorff would come closer to dethroning the “Immortal” Hulk Hogan than anybody since capturing the title two and a half years prior. The WWF saw the success of this program and carried it through the end of the year, where on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event, Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff did battle inside a 15-foot high steel cage; There was some controversy when both wrestlers escaped the cage at the exact same time. The match was restarted and the Hulkster came out on top!
Of course the greatest wrestling storyline of the 80s was unquestionably the saga of the Mega-Powers; A storyline over a year in the making. The Mega-Powers combination was solidified at Wrestlemania IV when Hulk Hogan helped Randy Savage defeat Ted DiBiase in the finals of a tournament to be crowned the Undisputed Champion of the WWF.
From there the Mega-Powers, with Miss Elizabeth by their sides, feuded extensively with The Twin Towers (Big Bossman & Akeem, managed by Slick) until Randy Savage eventually noticed what he perceived as “lust” in the eyes of Hulk Hogan towards Elizabeth. The jealousy grew within Randy Savage, who issued a challenge to Hulk Hogan for Wrestlemania V, to prove who “the man” really was. Well Hulk Hogan came out on top of that match, recapturing the WWF title in the most well-contrived storyline plot in history. Randy Savage then became the “Macho King” and feuded with the Ultimate Warrior.
Since her death this past year, rumors have circulated that the entire storyline was recommended by Elizabeth in an attempt to make her husband jealous. In addition to that, it was said that the “Marriage” at Summerslam a few years later was also her idea to try to save their real-life marriage. Weather or not this is true or not, I don’t know, but if it was, she should have been on the creative staff full-time.
THE GOOD: In the age of what was being dubbed “Rock’N’Wrestling”, the ‘good guys’ played a vital roll in attracting the audience and there were a select number of wrestlers who were blessed with the position of leading the way. Of course Hulk Hogan was the top dog and we’ll discuss him in a little more detail later on, but everyone remembers the supporting cast of lovable personalities such as The Junk Yard Dog, Hillbilly Jim, Tito Santana, Jimmy Snuka, Ricky Steamboat, George Steele, Pedro Morales, Jim Duggan and the ultimate babyface for the ages, Andre The Giant.
It didn’t get any more entertaining than the JYD and he sure knew how to send the kids home happy. After wrestling his match he would pull an enthusiastic youngster into the ring to dance to his very own “Grab Them Cakes” theme song. You’d never know this was a guy who played a vicious heel in Calgary and Mid-South at one point, wait a minute; I DIDN’T KNOW that, I was a mark!
It wasn’t all ‘entertainment’ back then. There were a select few wrestlers who still competed at a truly athletic level; Like Tito Santana, who had thrilling bouts against Greg Valentine, Paul Orndorff, Randy Savage and Rick “The Model” Martel.
Hillbilly Jim was another one of those lovable characters that were kept a few steps behind the top dog but always earns his paycheck. In a special Coliseum Home Video release, Jim took us back home to Mudlick, Kentucky where he introduced us to his Granny and showed us the old dirty mattress that he used to practice wrestling holds with his dog before joining the WWF (by the way before joining the WWF, Hillbilly Jim was wrestling as a biker named Harley Davidson in Memphis); But I DIDN’T KNOW THAT, I was a mark!
Jimmy Snuka’s high flying style was a huge draw for the WWF, every time Snuka took that Superfly leap off the top rope (or cage) the crowd became unglued. He could dominate his heel opponent, flash the “I love you” sign, and squash them in front of a legion of fans that truly believed the Superfly was a hero and solid fan favorite! Little did some of us know that Jimmy Snuka was previously one of the most vicious heels in the WWF, but what did we know, we were just a bunch of marks!
THE BAD: Leading the pack of villains in the 80s was unquestionably the greatest wrestling manager of all time, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. His malicious Heenan Family was also on top of things and chasing after every single title there was to be won. Ken Patera & Big John Studd nearly incited a riot when they had the audacity to cut the long hair of Andre The Giant! King Kong Bundy later joined Big John Studd as one of the most powerful teams in wrestling history. When Bobby Heenan talked Andre The Giant into turning on Hulk Hogan, it literally broke the heart of the Champion. The end result to that moment was the biggest matchup in the history of wrestling when Hulk Hogan battled Andre The Giant in front of tens of thousands of fans at Wrestlemania III.
Other Heenan Family alumni include Paul Orndorff, Harley Race, Hercules Hernandez, The Barbarian, Rick Rude, The Red Rooster & Mr. Perfect. Their main enemies were always Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant.
The top heel of the era, and the only man (besides Vince & Hulk) who can claim that he had a part in the creation of Hulkamania, was “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. “Just when you think you got the answers, I change the questions!” was his motto and he broke onto the scene with a weekly interview segment called “Piper’s Pit” where he would irritate his guests to the point where a feud would follow. The most famous “Pit” incident occurred when Piper cracked Jimmy Snuka over the head with a coconut. Later on, Piper’s Pit was used as a vital set-up for the Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant showdown at Wrestlemania III. By that time, the “Hot Rod” had turned face and had a spectacular retirement match of his own at WMIII against Adrian Adonis, who wound up bald at the end of the match! Roddy Piper never won any championship in the WWF before his initial retirement, but fans certainly knew who he was and what he was about. You knew the Hot Rod was a tough cookie when he boxed Mr. T at Wrestlemania II and lost the match by DQ but made T look absolutely ridiculous in the process.
There were also a legion of heels coming in and out of the company to take on the “top dog”; Harley Race, Paul Ordorff, Ted DiBiase, Bob Orton, Greg Valentine, The Iron Sheik, Don Muraco, Adrian Adonis, to name a few, all of whom honed their villainous skills elsewhere before being recruited by Vince McMahon.
One of the most underrated heel tandem to enter a WWF ring was Mr. Fuji’s team of Don Muraco & “Cowboy” Bob Orton. These guys were such refined heels, you just didn’t notice how good they were. They were consummate performers who took their job seriously and made it their responsibility to make the fans hate them, and love the babyfaces. It’s all about psychology, especially for the heel.
Like I talked about before, gimmicks were a huge deal in the 80s, in fact, there are a number of factors that were important to get a wrestler over with the audience.
In a rare moment when all these factors click you have a truly perfect character, and that’s what Vince McMahon had when he gave Ted DiBiase the “Million Dollar Man” gimmick. Everybody wants money, and they hate someone who has money, they hate them even more if they abuse it. Ted DiBiase, and his bodyguard Virgil, would come to the ring and offer a “fan” $100 to do some disgusting task like kiss his foot or lick his shoe or something like that. One of these “fans” was a very young man by the name of Rob Szatowski; Ten years later Rob Szatowski would be known world wide as a performer himself, he’s currently wrestling in the WWE as Rob Van Dam.
This financial arrogance came to a head when Ted DiBiase decided he was going to buy his way to the WWF championship. He hashed a master plan to outsmart the WWF champion as well as WWF Present Jack Tunney and get the WWF title belt without working for it (instant heat). He first tried the easy route, and offered to flat out purchase the prize from Hulk Hogan, who flat out refused! So Mr. DeBiase enlisted the services of Hulk Hogan’s biggest nemesis, Andre The Giant! The Giant vowed to take the WWF title from around the Hulkster’s waist and deliver it to the Million Dollar Man.
In a match filled with controversy, which aired on Saturday Night’s Main Event, Andre The Giant did indeed pin Hulk Hogan to win the WWF championship, but the Hulkster’s shoulders were CLEARLY off the mat during the fall! Referee Dave Hebner declared Andre The Giant the NEW WWF champion until another referee hit the ring and claimed he was the REAL Dave Hebner and the other one was a fake! (In reality, this was Dave Hebner’s twin brother EARL, who had remained a secret until this point) Andre the Giant did deliver the WWF belt to Ted DiBiase, but WWF Present Jack Tunney immediately stripped him and a 16-man tournament was held at Wrestlemania IV, where Ted DiBiase lost in the finals to Randy “Macho Man” Savage!
THE UGLY: With all the colorful characters on the “good guy” side of the roster, there had to be some sort of “darkness” to counter all that gleefulness and evoke fear in the hearts and minds of the fans in attendance. Kamala was one of those characters that sent kids home to check under their beds and in the back of their closets before they went to sleep. Kamala was booked as a savage beast complete with a trainer (Kimchee) and manager (Mr. Fuji), who allowed the “Ugandan Beast” to devour a LIVE chicken on an episode of WWF Tuesday Night Titans!
In fact, Mr. Fuji, a devious individual himself, was often the manager who was given the unenviable task of managing some of these unsavory characters. Killer Khan had a brief run in the WWF, and possibly the most bizarre tag team in WWF history, the Wild Samoans, were by no means a “pretty” combination.
Another set of ominous characters was the Moondogs, Rex (Randy Colley) & Spot (Larry Latham), who gained legendary status while wrestling in Memphis. They would take breaks from their matches to take a moment and chew on a bone that they had brought to the ring. By this point, the Moondogs were relegated to jobber status on WWF TV but were interesting characters to say the least.
The One Man Gang was other character that struck fear into the minds of babyface wrestlers and always gave the “top dog” a run for his money. For some reason, the OMG transformed himself into an entirely NEW character, “The African Dream” Akeem, which may, or may not, have been a jab at “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.
King Kong Bundy made a splash (no pun intended) in 1985 when he beat S.D. Jones at Wrestlemania I in 9 short seconds! A year later he was challenging for the WWF title in the confines of a steel cage at Wrestlemania II! That’s where it all went downhill for King Kong Bundy, at Wrestlemania III he was wrestling midgets, and a few months later he was gone from the company.
When Demolition hit the scene in 1987, they should have been marked as Road Warrior rip-offs, but they transformed and dominated the Tag Team division! The ORIGINAL Demolition was Ax (Bill Eadie) and Smash (Randy Colley, who was also Moondog Rex), but when Randy Colley left the WWF, Barry Darsow was brought it to play the part of SMASH. Their feud with the Powers of Pain included a very confusing attempt at a rare “double switch” where Mr. Fuji screwed Demolition (who subsequently turned face) and sided with the Powers of Pain (who turned heel).
The Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian) were another powerful tag team that dominated most of their opponents but never got a run with the Tag Team titles. The team was inexplicably split up when Mr. Fuji “sold” their contracts, and the Barbarian became a member of the Heenan Family, and Warlord was then managed by Slick.
By the time the Road Warriors came into the WWF in the early 90s, their own gimmick was already exhausted, but they were booked to squash their imitators anyway.
George “The Animal” Steele wasn’t winning many beauty pageants, but he was winning the hearts of wrestling fans all around the world with his gentle beast gimmick. He would pause during his matches to tear open a turnbuckle (or two) and shove the stuffing into the face of his opponent. At the risk of ruining your cute lovable opinion of George, I feel the need to inform you that he was one of the top villains in the 1970s feuding with Bruno Sammartino and competing and brutal cage matches for various Heavyweight championships. George Steele turned “good” just as Vince McMahon was taking the WWF National. George will be most remembered for his “crush” on Miss Elizabeth, which instigated a feud between he and Randy Savage.
THE MAIN EVENT: Most of the time, the main event was reserved for one man, that’s the “top dog” and at any given time, that top dog was probably the leader of the Hulkamania revolution, Hulk Hogan himself.. The Hulkster was the money, he was the draw, and he was the main attraction. That’s the way Vince McMahon wanted it. The first 9 Wrestlemania’s were arguably drawn through the power of Hulkamania.. Hulk Hogan went to war with an endless list of enemies from The Iron Sheik, Greg Valentine, Roddy Piper, Kamala, Big John Studd, King Kong Bundy, Paul Orndorff, Andre The Giant, Big Bossman, Akeem, Ted DiBiase, Randy Savage, Zues and the list goes on and on and on forever.
My favorite main events have already been discussed; Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant at Wrestlemania III, Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage at Wrestlemania V, Hulk Hogan vs Paul Orndorff at The Big Event. However, with house shows, TV tapings, and episodes of Saturday Night’s Main Event, the Hulkster pretty much ran the gammot of challengers during his long tenure as WWF champion. He wrestled everyone from Don Muraco, to Sika, to Bob Orton, Terry Funk, Nikolai Volkoff, Hercules Hernandez, Haku, Harley Race, Akeem, Big Bossman and the list goes on-and-on-and-on!
THE TAG TEAMS: In my humble opinion, the Tag Team division was reserved for the toughest wrestlers to enter a ring. Many of the tag team specialists were known for taking a licking and keeping on ticking. In the 80s, Tag Teams weren’t just thrown together at the last minute; In some instances you had guys who made careers out of wrestling as a team. Some were thrown together out of convenience, like the Can Am Connection and the Killer Bees) and a few of those clicked and became successful because of it.
The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) is my favorite tag team of all time. They were acquired by the WWF when Vince McMahon reached out and purchased the Stampede Promotion from Stu Hart in Calgary. Part of the deal was that the WWF would bring in Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid. I think that deal worked out pretty good for Vince McMahon considering he stiffed Stu Hart, who ended up getting his lifeless promotion back when Vince decided not to pay up. Thankfully Bruce Hart resurrected it and Stampede still functions to this day.
Anyway, back to the Hart Foundation, they always talk about the perfect tag team being differing styles that compliment each other well Bret & Jim were definitely that. The “Hart Attack” was one of the most creative finishing moves used by a tag team; Jim would hold their opponent’s head up high enough for Bret to bounce off the ropes and clothesline him! NWA TNA’s America’s Most Wanted currently uses this move, as a tribute to the Hart Foundation.
The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith & The Dynamite Kid) were my second favorite team. They had a great image and good chemistry together. They won the Tag Team titles at Wrestlemania II from the Dream Team (Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake). And Dynamite got knocked silly during the final moments of the match! They had a really scary real life confrontation with the Rougeau Brothers, which you have to read the Dynamite Kid’s book to find out about it. Unfortunately these real-life cousins didn’t get along so well over time. This most likely stems from Dynamite’s chronic-asshole behavior.
Speaking of the Rougeau Brothers (Jacques & Raymond) were an amazing tag team as well. I wish they were given a run with the tag titles when they were a babyface tag team. They eventually turned heel and for added heat, they ditched Canada and moved to Memphis, which was instant heat because the Canadians felt insulted and the American’s didn’t want the extra baggage. Another team who I really enjoyed was the Killer Bees (B. Brian Blair & Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell). The feud between the Bees and the Rougeaus was spectacular. Especially when the Bees brought out their masks and confused their opponents, and the referees!
The heel tag teams were equally impressive in the 80s with the Dream Team (Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake) as well as the combination of the Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff, and later on with Demolition (Ax, Smash & Crush), the Islanders (Haku & Toma), and Don Muraco & Bob Orton. Other tag teams of this era were the Young Stallions (Paul Roma & Jim Powers), the Can-Am Connection (Rick Martel & Tom Zenk), The Bolshivics (Nikolai Volkoff & Boris Zukoff), The Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian) and Strike Force (Rick Martel & Tito Santana)..
There once was a woman named Moolah, who came along at the right place, and the right time, and sat down next to Vince McMahon. Then the Fabulous Moolah became “Vince’s girl” and the rest is history. With a promotion that was going national, fans would know Moolah as the greatest Woman’s wrestler of all time. Even though it couldn’t be further from the truth. I think June Beyers, Midred Burke and Penny Banner would have something to say about that. They took advantage of some loopholes in the history of the Women’s championship and claimed that Moolah held the Women’s title for nearly three decades (not true) before losing it to Wendy Richter in Madison Square Garden on July 23, 1984!
Wendy Richter pretty much ruled the Woman’s division for a while. She was the female babyface representative for the Rock’N’Wrestling revolution and she was even saddled with pop star Cyndi Lauper as a manager when she won her second Women’s title at Wrestlemania I! The WWF did have some pretty tough-ass women wrestlers on their roster. An influx of Women came floating in. Sensational Sherri Martel, Rockin’ Robin, Velvet MacIntyre, Donna Christanello and Leilani Kai were always in the title hunt. American fans were treated to something different when the WWF started promoting a Woman’s Tag Team division with teams such as The Crush Girls (Chigusa Nagayo & Lioness Asuka), The Glamour Girls (Judy Martin & Leilani Kai), and the ever-popular Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyoi Tateno & Itsuki Yamazaki).
Unfortunately the fire burned out and Rockin’ Robin retired the Women’s title and the Glamour Girls retired the Woman’s Tag Team titles both in 1988.
Well that concludes my look back at the 1980s WWF product. I hope you made it all the way through and hope my trip down memory lane brought back a few memories for yourself. Feel free to send in your memories from the 80s and I will post them right down below for the whole World to see! Thanks so much for taking the time to read my column; I guess it really took care of my boredom problem!
Wow, that article made me want to pull out my Zeus/Macho man vs Hogan Beefcake Summerslam and relive it all over again.. thanks for that well thought out article..
Innis Tutagalevao wrote:
This article is great,and makes me wonder again how WWE has gotten 2
far out of hand.
I have Wrestlemania 1 and 3 at home,and WM3 still rates with me as the
best card of them all .It great,”Wrestling” was to the forefront,plus
all the matches had a great build up to them the IC Savage-Steamboat
being a prime example.
I must say that the Wrestling scene today,while fueled by Vince McMahon
,has to have been greatly influenced by the fans. I mean back in the
day,we booed Greg Valentine, Dino Bravo , the Honky Tonk Man ,and Heenan
Family members to death. We were enraged when the Bossman maced the
Hulkster on the Brother Love Show. Heels were to be booed ferociously,
even though they were cooler than Koko B Ware and the Killer Bees were
ever going to be.
The fans went crazy over Hulk Hogan, The Warrior,StrikeForce,The
Fans were fickle in that when the BossMan and Hulkster joined forces
before SummerSlam 1990, fans conveniently forgot Bossman maced him,then
handcuffed him to a rail and beat him with the nightstick. In
reverse,the Powers of Pain were an awesome team ..till they went with Mr Fuji.
But still,the matches were great,the events were even greater.Plus
,kids who love these guys could watch them. I watched WM3 and my son
watched part of it with me. He enjoyed the main event because he knew Andre
from Princess Bride and Hulkster from 3 Ninja’s. I would never have him
watch Raw or Smackdown .
Anyway things were fine.Till fans decided good guys were boring.
Suddenly Tito Santana and Jim Duggan were seen as intruders on the new order.
Forget flying forearms and 3 point stance clotheslines,fans wanted guys
to be put on fire,guys to lie on the announcers table and have someone
drop a flying elbow on him.
Fans wanted the outlay to be racy ..they sure have it now. To use a
comparison,they don’t want the cute guy who opens doors or the pretty
girl with the nice personality..they want bad guys who beat up women..
scantily dresses chicks…they want guys to be struck with sledgehammers.
The 1980’s WWF Style will forever be remembered with fondness
Man, reading this article really makes me look at wrestling in a different light again. I was born in 1988 when real wrestling I guess slowly started to die out, maybe not at that point yet, but at least back then it was considered real wrestling. I watch old shows and tapes with my dad and wonder, what the hell happened? Back then they actually had real matches, hey actually had women wrestlers, not all of these women who are brought in for looks and then attempt to do some so-called wrestling. Anyways, back then, wrestling was wrestling, now a days, i consider it to be more of a beauty contest. They need to stop all of the crap where this wrestler can’t stop looking in mirrors or thas guy can’t stop thinking, I need to build up my muscles so more, there aren’t enough women flaunting themselves at me. We need REAL wrestling back, not this phony crap. I wanna know what it was like when wrestling was about wrestling and not about ratings.
Matthew Geddes (from Australia) wrote:
I just read your column and it took me back. I’m 34 now and back in the 1980s I thought the WWF was the greatest show on Earth. Even now I’m not sure that it still isn’t. Here in Australia we didn’t get to watch as much wrestling as you do in the USA, but Hulk Hogan, King Kong Bundy, Andre The Giant, Big John Studd and Greg Valentine were as big heroes as our own local sports stars. Luckily I’ve managed to find a bunch of the 1980s stuff on tape over the years and have built up a handy collection. I still love to watch it now and again, as much as I love watching the current product. I just wonder if in twenty years time people will be nostalgic for John Cena and JBL in the same way we are for Ricky Steamboat and Jake Roberts. Still, I bet I’m watching Kane and Triple H tapes in 2024 ! Great site by the way – more detail in the profiles section than anywhere else by a mile.
kingkoopa from England wrote:
wow what a excellent well written column well done. i started watching the wwf back in about late 80s i recall the programming we got over here was wwf superstars and wwf challenge.
your column took me back i was reminiscing about the sights,sounds and the wrestlers that have given me so many great memories over the years.
i fondly remember sat in front of the telly with my friends watching in awe as these real life heroes battled it out in the ring each and every week.
sigh i miss those crazy times, my favorite character of all time was the wwf ric flair stint. his cockiness,style and skill was a combination that made him god like in my young eyes.i can still recall his feuds with savage and Hogan to this day.
i will always have a passion for wrestling thanks to the groundwork that was laid back when wrestling meant wrestling.
the current “wwe”product is pretty poor but i still keep an eye on it to see if my enthusiasm can be recaptured with one of my first loves.wrestling.
but alas i don’t think those days will ever return, it hurts to say it but vince McMahon more interested in rubbish merchandise and not wrestling any more.
i don’t see why though, i mean the “wwe” is doing its worst ratings its seen for a long time but the wwf had 10s of millions of fans around the world,wrestlemania 3 had 93,000+ and summerslam 1992 had 80,000+ people sent home happy. so take note vince!!
ah well whatever world wrestling “entertainment” offers in the years to come i will never forget those golden years of wonder.
Matteo aka MatPunk76 wrote:
hi guys,i’m MatPunk from Italy,sorry for my english…i’ll do the best i can…
When i’ve seen this article on the web,a little tear started to falling down from my left eye,the side of the heart.
I’ve seen me so young,sitting down to the ground,watching my first wrestling matches of my life,how much time has passed by!
I still remember the great Killer Bees,Andrè the Giant,Haku and Tama,the Brain Busters,”Rowdy” Roddy Piper,Bobby “weasel” Heenan,and so on….
I remember the great Dan Peterson at the comment,the greatest commentor we never had here in Italy,who translated all the promos,the verbal assaults that made us guys go out of head,and also if we hadn’t to do it,i remember the morning after,at school,we were palying wrestling with the schoolmates and there was always one of us trying to imitate Dan to the comment (and there were always one of us who come back home with a black-rounded eye or a leg in non-perfect conditions ’cause a Greg Valentine’s Figure Four…..)
How many time has passed,now i’m almost a man (i go for 30….) but watching wrestling is still one of my favourite hobbies,every friday i watch WWE Raw on sat,i like too,but honestly the 80’s was another thing!
I don’t know why,may it’s only ’cause i was a child and thought everything was true,i didn’t think to the storylines and all the non wrestling scenes,but i ‘d watch wrestling for a full day,eating a sandwich in front of the tv,but it was the greatest show id seen on tv (with Happy Days and Hazard….)
Still today when i watch the first Wrestlemania,the first Royal Rumble and a lot of incredible matches, i feel like 20 years ago,i forgot i’ve seen them so many times and everytime is the same sensation….and what a sensation!
My wife joking says that i’m a “bad-grown child”…it’s possible,but i’m proud of it! :-)
Thanx for this article guys,i hope you understood what i’ve tried to write you,if you’ll post this,i’ll be very very happy of that…Thanx again for made me dream again!
Ashaki Boelter wrote:
I enjoyed your article; it was really neat to go back there. I read through many of the responses and I’d like to say to those saying that wrestling isn’t as good. I think you’re right. However, there are some wrestlers out there that are spilling their guts everytime you see them: Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle, Eric Benoit, Triple H, Booker T… There are still some wrestlers that do radiate the 80’s. And there are some wrestlers still hanging on from the 60’s or 70’s like Ric Flair.
The evident problems today: There are too many belts. There are not enough distinct tag teams. The half dressed women are a distraction. Sex sells, but that’s the difference from the 80’s and today’s. Just go rent the tapes and you’ll see that watching Family Ties was much more sexy than watching WWF 80’s women wrestling. It’s true! It’s darn true. My momma would’ve whipped my buttocks to see me at age 8 or 9 watching Sable on Saturday afternoon wrestling. So today, if the same parental standards apply, doesn’t that cut back on the number of fans? Oh, I get it. Cut back on the kids and replace them with a bunch of perverts. Sex sales I guess. No longer Ok for the majority of kids. Then again, has wrestling ever been a family show?
Hulkamania was supported by kids. That’s why it was a cartoon too. Those kids have grown up, but look at the applause Hogan gets from those grown up kids! Hogan is still a hot item in the WWE. And so is Rick Flair! The Undertaker. If MachoMan returned, so would he! I think the WWE should have a legends group invade, like WCW invaded. Bring, managed by Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Superfly Snuka, Jake The Snake, Hillbilly Jim, Valentine, Hulk Hogan, Terry Funk, Roddy Piper, King Kong Bundy, Macho Man… among others back! Have The Body sale it to the viewers. Call them the “Clean Up Crew”.
Listen. Today, when the commentator yells, “Oh my, what a move by Tori!” What guy out there is really thinking “Wow, that was a sensational wrestling move!”? Please.
You hear it all over the place how wrestling isn’t the same. The moves are advanced, but the storylines really stink. Then you have these 130 pound wrestlers calling the shots because they have a belt for their weight. What the heck is that? Ricky Steamboat fought Hulk Hogan! Andre was all over Hacksaw Jim Duggins. It didn’t matter. There was the WWF belt. the Intercontinental belt. And the tag team belt.
That’s all you need. To be the best, you got to beat the best. That was what the WWF of the 80’s made sure of. Nobody could take Hogan out. Only a selected few could hold the Intercontinental championship. The tag team division was tougher I think because of that too. Legacies were made. Now we got guys fighting to fight, seemingly without an eye on the belt. The thirst to be champion doesn’t seem apparent… Interviewed wrestlers are boring since the Rock left.
Most of the wrestlers grew up on 80’s wrestling. Right? Well, what’s the deal?
jake cairns wrote:
Great Column i am only 13 years old and im a huge wrestling fan i recently bought the wrestlemania boxset and greatest wrestlers from the 80’s and from what ive seen of the 80’s its great i loved the matches the drama and everything else i am trying to find 80’s videos on ebay but have had no luck thank you
Steve Robins wrote:
I just read your flashback to the 80’s and you really stirred up some great memories. Remembering whe the story was just a reason for someone to get there but kicked. Now it’s all story and little action well little real wrestling action. I grew up in the Detroit area with Big Time Wrestling watching Bull Curry , The Sheik. BoBo, The Stomper, Dick the Brusier, and others beat the crap out of each other. Then came the WWF Don Muraco was my personal favorite he was a refrigerator with a head I loved him. In the last ten years I’ve given up on wrestling when we lost the WCW the last wrestling went with it now fans watch two millionairs have there stooges fight to see who gets their hair cut. Where have you gone Steve Austin the Rattelsnake has left and gone away,