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WrestleMania III
March 29, 2012 5:03 AM   Subscribe

25 years ago today, the professional wrestling boom sparked by the Captain Lou Albano/Cyndi Lauper "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection" reached its zenith with WrestleMania III - whose attendance record of 93,173 for a live indoor "sporting" event in North America stood until 2010. The match between "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat is prized by aficionados as one of the greatest in wrestling history. Look into the videoscope!

The main event was Hulk Hogan's defense of the WWF Heavyweight title against Andre the Giant. But the contract signing was more entertaining than the match.
posted by Trurl (73 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hogan's other main accomplishment in 1987 was ratting out Jesse Ventura's attempt to unionize the locker room.
posted by Trurl at 5:05 AM on March 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


You mean that the match between Hillbilly Jim and King Kong Bundy each with two "midgets" didn't reach the Hall of Fame?
posted by inturnaround at 5:16 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


You mean that the match between Hillbilly Jim and King Kong Bundy each with two "midgets" didn't reach the Hall of Fame?

Well, I blame that on the inaccuracy of Mary Hart's timekeeping.
posted by Trurl at 5:19 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


*hits thread with folding chair*
posted by jonmc at 5:19 AM on March 29, 2012 [12 favorites]


Bobby Heenan was the best heel manager, and the best heel commentator, on the planet for so many years. It's really a shame that throat cancer took that away from him, and took him off of our TVs.

Also, uh-oh, it's the Botchamania Wrestlemania special.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:26 AM on March 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


I still think Andre the Giant should have just sat on Hulk Hogan.
posted by novenator at 5:29 AM on March 29, 2012


*hits thread with folding chair*

It's a "steel chair". No matter what it's made of.
posted by inturnaround at 5:30 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


by the way, the bad-guy commentary by Jesse Ventura is hilarious.
posted by novenator at 5:36 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


It really is a great match. It even outshines Savage's tournament performance the following year. The only match of Savage's career that might best it is Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior from Wrestlemania 7. (Their Summerslam match was also great.)
posted by SpiffyRob at 5:47 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat wrestled under the name Dick Blood in the AWA? Well, it says it right there on the right-hand side. Who knew.
posted by gman at 6:03 AM on March 29, 2012


His name is Richard Blood. So his real, actual, given name, is essentially Dick Blood. Wow.
posted by molecicco at 6:10 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well let's be honest, Dick Blood would strike fear into the heart of any man.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:12 AM on March 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Or he could do for Viagra what Randy Savage did for slim jims.
posted by condour75 at 6:15 AM on March 29, 2012


Has that attendance figure ever been verified?
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:15 AM on March 29, 2012


You know, I've never actually watched one of these before, but I've gotta say, the choreography is pretty exciting and the athleticism of the players is quite impressive! The drama of it all is actually pretty well-crafted! Suddenly I understand the appeal!

(Just don't tell my husband that I now spend my Thursday mornings watching WWF matches, lest he regret marrying an American...)
posted by Mooseli at 6:20 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Andre the Giant should have won the title fight
posted by Flood at 6:30 AM on March 29, 2012


Ah, whatevs...WWF went downhil after Bruno Sammartino and Ivan Pulski faded (retired?) into the background to be replaced by big showy phoney-balonies (sp?) like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.

That's when the whole sport edged into appealing to rednecks and morons, instead of hardworkin' tough immigrants, who woulda break-a your face-a, capeche?!
posted by Skygazer at 6:43 AM on March 29, 2012


"You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to outsmart the macho man."

*Sips coffee*
posted by dobie at 6:45 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love how these threads immediately turn into people swapping stories of their favorite moments from professional wrestling.

As a nerdy, bespectacled 12-year-old, I absolutely turned up my nose at most of this stuff, but now I can't help but feel like I was missing out a little.
posted by pts at 6:51 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


*Throws pts a clown frown*

Pfft... Philistine.

posted by Skygazer at 6:56 AM on March 29, 2012


but now I can't help but feel like I was missing out a little.

You were, but it's not too late.
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:04 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


You guys have to check out Clubberin', a "catalog of pro wrestling fashion" featuring mic work snippets from the wrestlers. It's hilarious, sure, but it's also unexpectedly poignant in an odd way.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:04 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Savage/Steamboat was a great, classic match. Probably one of the best of all time. I think it's been posted before on the Blue but who cares. It's awesome!

There's really nothing else like pro wrestling. It's part theater, part athletic event, part stunt show, and still has that weird carny flavor held over from its early days despite its much more legitimate current status. Even when it's shaky (see: pretty much everything going on with this current Wrestlemania that doesn't involve CM Punk or Daniel Bryan) it's still incredibly compelling.

Side note - Wrestlemania 3 was held in the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit. They held WM23 in Ford Field and while it didn't break the Silverdome record it did set the all-time attendance record for that venue (80,103). I was one of them, and even though my friend and I were up in the cheap seats and could barely see the ring, the community that surrounded the area was incredible, with people coming all the way from Ireland, Britain, and numerous other countries to see it. I'm not sure what else compares in terms of drawing that sort of international audience other than the World Cup.

Sorry, rambling a bit. I'm just always excited to see this stuff on Metafilter. It makes me feel less weird.
posted by HostBryan at 7:14 AM on March 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh, wow, i had forgotten that match. When i was a kid, we only had a VCR for a very short bit, but during that time my brother and i rented every Wrestlemania tape from the video store and watched them with total excitement as if they were happening live.

Watching that as an adult, i can appreciate how they made these matches into little ethical puzzles. The bad guy should have won when the ref was unconscious, but then he commits a evil deed by attempting to use a foreign object; the good guy's ally interferes and he scrapes out a win. Is his victory invalidated? Should we respect only the rules, or root for goodness to triumph by any means? Was George "the Animal" Steele an agent of divine intervention?

Clever stuff.
posted by ELF Radio at 7:46 AM on March 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yep, always love the wrestling threads on Mefi :-)

This year's Punk/Jericho match feels like it's going to be the equivalent of Savage /Steamboat. While not the titanic showdown that was Hogan/Andre, Cena/Rock is getting that level of hype, and I think Punk and Jericho could steal the show.

Also, seconding uncleozzy. If you haven't seen Botchamania, it's the best thing going in the world of wrestling today. [ Cornette Face ]

JEEESUS!
posted by Exploding Gutbuster at 7:47 AM on March 29, 2012


I never thought that I'd be interested in the history of wrestling, but here's a great Mother Jones article on Santorum's role in it.

http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/rick-santorum-wwf-pro-wresting

(And I don't mean Santorum in the forthy-aftermath context, although there might be articles on that too.)
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:49 AM on March 29, 2012


My brother was a pretty big pro-wrestling fan in middle school and high school (he still has the scar from when his friends started an 'amateur pro-wrestling league' and he accidentally took a baking sheet right across the forehead).

I love reading about pro-wrestling, and I love how it's really the only improvisational soap opera on television. It's sketch drama (as opposed to sketch comedy) - completely unique.
posted by muddgirl at 7:51 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


When this "Rock vs. Wrestling" stuff first came on, it began to dawn on my that this was, in fact, not really My MTV.
posted by Danf at 7:58 AM on March 29, 2012


From that Santorum link, quoting him about wrestling today versus the early "morality play" days:

"Today, professional wrestling is more about titillation than ever. The violence has been sexualized."

I'm kind of surprised to see it put so bluntly, the idea that violence is inherently virtuous, and that sexuality sullies it. Not that I didn't already know that conservatives glorify violence and abhor sex, but I didn't think it was something to be so readily admitted, as if it were a positive thing.
posted by davejay at 8:00 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Masked Man tells us all about Hogan and Andre, Savage and Steamboat, Rock and Cena, Punk and Jericho today.

I realize that I'm not in the super-mark demographic anymore, but Rock v Cena doesn't feel the same to me as Hogan v Andre. John Cena and The Rock are both top-tier showmen, nearly unequalled in their ability to hold a crowd in their sway, but the problem, for me, is the direction the business is headed.

The sly nods toward kayfabe, the peeks behind the curtain that we get in promos these days erode the idea that every match is important from a competitive standpoint. Hogan and Andre were pure characters, purely invested in maintaining the illusion of competition, the illusion that their very identities rested on the outcome of a match, and that the best man truly would win.

That's the angle that Cena and Rock are playing, that HHH and Undertaker are playing, and I just don't see it anymore. You're out there arguing about This Business and who's got ladyparts and who's better on the mic, and you're going to tell me that the most important thing is the outcome of a match?

It's interesting, actually, that Jericho and Punk are arguing about who's Best in the World. Maybe it's a happy coincidence with that particular turn of phrase, but as we enter the Reality Era, the ambiguity is fitting. Do they mean Best at kayfabe-wrestling, or best at telling a story? Best at applying holds, or best at making the audience care?

And maybe I'm wearing my rose-tinted Hitman shades, but I don't think we'll ever have pro wrestling quite like the 1980s era again. The breakdown of kayfabe that began in the late 90s (and, I think, is partly to blame for the fall of the WCW) is being managed more carefully, and maybe to better effect, but it's changing the business.

I don't think that's a bad thing, necessarily, but I'd like to see it used to improve the in-ring product (which, in many cases, is pretty sorry at the moment), rather than to throw a few crumbs toward the internet community. Give us hashtag-heel, give us Phil and Paul, but once you tell us that what you're doing is entertainment, back it up in the ring.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:12 AM on March 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


I still think Andre the Giant should have just sat on Hulk Hogan.

Well, he did step on his back. And Hogan still found the strength to win!
posted by inigo2 at 8:16 AM on March 29, 2012


"Today, professional wrestling is more about titillation than ever. The violence has been sexualized."

That is awesome davejay. Gotta love the caveat 'more than ever' too. He's not even saying it wasn't titillating when he was a fan. Oh Santorum.
posted by teekat at 8:22 AM on March 29, 2012


Savage/Steamboat was a great, classic match. Probably one of the best of all time.

I'm going to be a heretical wrestling fan and say that while I think Savage/Steamboat is a great match and a blueprint for "how to craft a classic" that has served wrestling well for decades, it has long since been outclassed by what has followed. I'd rank Ric Flair/Steamboat in 1989 over it in a second, and probably Flair/Steamboat in 1994 as well. Although most would disagree, I think Savage/Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania VII is probably Savage's greatest Wrestlemania match - it's simply epic in a way that so few matches are while still being excellent wrestling (certainly the best match the Warrior, a musclebound no-talent, ever wrestled).

Getting away from Steamboat and Savage? I'd put Los Gringos Locos v. El Hijo del Santo and Octagon from 1994 at AAA When Worlds Collide on my list - that's an epic cage match where the Gringos (Art Barr and Eddie Guerrero, both beloved, both gone from heart attacks) are trolling the audience so hard by wrestling in American flag tights and making swimming motions to tell the audience they're wetbacks and then El Hijo del Santo and Octagon have a brutal twenty-minute war with them. Just amazing to watch. While we're talking Eddie Guerrero, I'd hate to leave out his match against Brock Lesnar in 2004, because in story terms that is the ultimate David/Goliath match (because come on, Brock Lesnar is fucking enormous and fast and agile and talented in the bargain, and Eddie was 5'8" at best when he was wearing his wrestling boots), but it goes thirty minutes and every second is tantalizing because you want Eddie to win so bad.

Chris Benoit. Man, it's tough. Because Chris Benoit was one of the greatest wrestlers ever and it's hard to talk about him now because of what happened to him - and I use "what happened to him" because his autopsy revealed that he had so much brain damage that the reports of his hallucinatory episodes gained extra credibility. But Benoit was one of the best ever. There's this absolutely superb TV match from 2001 where he wrestled Stone Cold Steve Austin for twenty minutes - at one point Benoit German-suplexes Austin TEN TIMES IN A ROW - and it's just a perfect match. Austin's persona and gimmick has often overshadowed the fact that he was a truly great wrestler with an incredible amount of ring knowledge and a mastery of match psychology - put up against a technical genius like Benoit and you get sheer brilliance. And that's just one of half-a-dozen Benoit matches that I think are better than Savage/Steamboat. I could add the Austin/HHH vs. Benoit/Chris Jericho tag match from 2001 to that list, ditto the Benoit/HHH/Shawn Michaels three-way dances at Wrestlemania and Backlash - it just doesn't end. And that's before you get to his early work in Japan, when he was wrestling the Great Sasuke and Jushin "Thunder" Liger.

And you can't mention a Hart-trained wrestler like Benoit without mentioning Bret Hart or Owen Hart, who were both completely brilliant wrestlers. Bret alone has at least half-a-dozen five-star classics - two against Steve Austin, one against Owen, his matches against Curt Hennig and Davey Boy Smith, and already I'm revising my count upwards. And you can't talk about Bret without talking about Shawn Michaels, his opposite number - and if we start talking about Michaels then we have to talk about Mick Foley - and what about the TNA generation of guys, like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe and Chris Daniels? And Kurt Angle's wrestling for TNA now and we can't not mention him...

The point of all this being: if you regard Savage/Steamboat as an unapproachable pinnacle, you're wrong. It's not even close to that. That's the great thing about wrestling.
posted by mightygodking at 8:25 AM on March 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


I remember watching a shoot interview in which Steamboat reminisced about the WMIII match. Far more accustomed to extemporising his performances (and still being consistently excellent), Steamboat was surprised by Savage's insanely meticulous planning of every single move for this match - apparently he had a list that was about 127 moves long, describing every punch, every whip, every clothesline. They'd worked the entire match through several times in the weeks before the actual show.

There are pros and cons to either wrestler's approach to performance, but it seems Savage's method has won out in the long run, resulting in the robotic performances of modern WWE. Steamboat's preference for winging it on the night, like the veterans of old always did, hardly ever comes to the fore now, except by accident (e.g. Punk vs Cena MitB), and oddly enough those matches -generally slower to build, more responsive to crowd pops, and often more believable- seem to go over exceptionally well.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:26 AM on March 29, 2012


The bad guy should have won when the ref was unconscious

As a kid, I wondered why they permitted such sloppy officiating.
posted by Trurl at 8:28 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mightygodking - Oh, I don't. That's why I said it was "one of" the best. It's not my favorite match ever but it's pretty darn great.

(The ones you mentioned are all pretty great too. Let me throw Punk vs. Cena at the 2011 MitB, that one was astounding for the storytelling if not the technical flavor.)
posted by HostBryan at 8:29 AM on March 29, 2012


"Gorilla Monsoon". What a fantastic name.
posted by the painkiller at 8:32 AM on March 29, 2012


but it seems Savage's method has won out in the long run, resulting in the robotic performances of modern WWE.

This is wildly inaccurate.

There are basically three approaches to scripting a wrestling match:

1.) Pure improvisation. Nothing is determined in advance except which wrestler wins. You need to be really well-trained to do this: the Hart Dungeon teaches people how to do it, as do the Japanese wrestling dojos and a few other American schools, but it's a bit of a dying art.

2.) Semi-improvisation. The story beats and "big moves" of a match are scripted in advance, but the chaining-them-together parts of wrestling the match are devised on the fly. This is how most wrestlers work most of the time.

3.) Total scripting. Every match is completely choreographed beforehand. Bad wrestlers like Hogan do this. Perfectionists like Savage do this.

As a general rule, experienced fans can spot when wrestlers are subtly discussing their spots during the match. There's a reason for all those headlocks - they offer a perfect opportunity for one wrestler to quickly tell the other what's next.
posted by mightygodking at 8:33 AM on March 29, 2012


I prefer the macho dragon mod.
posted by markkraft at 8:50 AM on March 29, 2012


"Gorilla Monsoon". What a fantastic name.

To this day, none have matched the sheer awesomeness of Monsoon and Bobby Heenan in the commentary positions. Heenan's entire peformance throughout Ric Flair's epic Royal Rumble truly opened my eyes to how entertaining a good heel can be.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:55 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heenan's entire peformance throughout Ric Flair's epic Royal Rumble truly opened my eyes to how entertaining a good heel can be.

And for how infuriating a bad one can be, see "Cole, Michael".

Heenan is pretty great, though.
posted by HostBryan at 8:58 AM on March 29, 2012


Some links, as requested:

Jericho/Benoit v. Austin/HHH, Raw 2001, part 2

Benoit v. Austin, Smackdown 2001

Guerrero v. Lesnar, 2004

Bret Hart v. Steve Austin, Survivor Series 1996, part 2, part 3, part 4
posted by mightygodking at 9:54 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Looking back at wrestling, I think it is the commentators that end up being my favourites. Maybe its because they were there for all of the golden moments?
posted by Theta States at 10:06 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sports Illustrated on Andre the Giant in 1981.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:44 AM on March 29, 2012


Tangentially related:

Semi-retired überheel Abdullah the Butcher has a restaurant in the Atlanta area called "Abdullah the Butcher's House of Ribs and Chinese Food".

This pleases me immensely.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:49 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


So it turns out, there is a Heelbook, sort of.

If anyone wants to set it up for real, the domain name is for sale.

Ohhh, yeah!! /firpo
 
posted by Herodios at 11:02 AM on March 29, 2012


Benoit v. Austin, Smackdown 2001

Everything about that match is superhuman, even the crowd.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:26 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only match of Savage's career that might best it is Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior from Wrestlemania 7. (Their Summerslam match was also great.)

That was one of the first wrestling matches I saw. My adoration for Savage has never waned.
posted by jwhite1979 at 11:32 AM on March 29, 2012


I'd put Samoa Joe and CM Punk's trilogy of three matches from 2004 at or near the top of the list. Oh, and apparently they're now available on one DVD.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:50 AM on March 29, 2012


I was at WrestleMania I - the one with Mr. T. OK, I wasn't at Madison Square Garden, I was at a closed-circuit viewing event at a sold-out local venue, but as a ten year old viewing the spectacle on a big screen, it was just as awe-inspiring.
posted by ericbop at 12:43 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was a fan back in college, in the late nineties, where we organized PPV events (WCW wouldn't sell to us, since they had no way of knowing how many people would be watching, so we bought it at a local student's house, taped it, and showed it over projector in one of the larger science auditoriums. Strangely, the all-male dorm was consistantly the largest portion of the crowd). There was the attitude era, and the brief shining moment when WCW didn't suck the life out of me.

In China, on Star Sports, we were able to watch Raw on Thursdays, which was great, because my friends and I didn't have to teach on Fridays. We'd load up on awesome street food, awful beer, and watch wrestling and play drinking games. Here in Japan, we used to be able to watch PPV's on basic cable, so I followed a little bit. There was a serious dry-spell, though, after Austin, the Rock, Angle, and Foley left, and the PPV's disappeared. I pretty much lost interest.

Then I ran acrossed the Masked Man on Deadspin, and his Dead Wrestler of the Week column, and now his columns on Grantland, combined with the Summer of Punk last year got me right back into it. The Best and Worst of Raw is a weekly read for me now, and aside from being hilarious, you've got a true wrestling fan, agonizing over the horrible choices being made by WWE. I find myself in near constant agreement with the guy, and to me, they've easily squandered all the possibilities they introduced over the summer. It's getting harder and harder to watch, simply because there's just so little wrestling, so much talking (by people who shouldn't, like HHH, the Undertaker, Michael Cole/Lawler, the Rock), and the good stuff (Ziggler's ability to sell any move, Jericho, not-a-dick-Punk, Daniel Bryan as a freaking vegan heavy-weight heel champ, John Laurinitis' smirky-assholeness, and most importantly, the only living breathing Funkasaurus in captivity) is just falling by the wayside as we get yet another twenty minute intro with HHH breathing heavily into the mike about ...this... business.

I'm going to watch Wrestlemania, but I'm prepared to do a lot of fast forwarding. Sheamus vs. Bryan should be hyped as the future of the WWE, but it's probably either the opening match, or will be lost in the mid-card. Punk vs. Jericho will be amazing, but it will likely, at best, be the third to last match, since we need to cater to the elderly (HHH-Taker) and sell tickets to G.I.Joe (Cena-Rock). It's a damn shame, because they have more than enough talent to get by, but they're squandering it. Cena, for all of his faults, should have easily bested the Rock when it comes to the crowd (talking points: I've beaten everyone here, every time. You're next; I'm here wrestling because it's what I do, you're here to drum up ticket sales to lousy movies; I'm the god-damned Doctor of Thuganomics), but they let it turn into a non-stop junior high level pissing match about how gay the other one is, which is absurd, giving the lip-service to the anti-bullying initiative they pretty much forgot about.

In short, I love wrestling. I just wish someone would save it from people who think fart jokes are a good way to take strong women down a peg, who think gay jokes and calling each other bitches are good put downs, and racial stereotypes are the height of humor.

Then I realize, damn, there never has been wrestling without that, has there?
posted by Ghidorah at 1:05 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everything about that match is superhuman, even the crowd.

Not bad.. I don't like the submission to submission to submission thing--submission either works or it doesn't--but everything else was great. The crowd thought they were at an Oilers game, but that was kind of cool.

mightygodking, you seem to have a very mid 90s++ bias.. :P
posted by Chuckles at 1:45 PM on March 29, 2012


The other thing I can't help observing is how much pro wrestling from the 80s mirrors American politics today. Obama is the most perfect face turned heel ever ;)
(and Republicans, all Republicans.....)
posted by Chuckles at 1:58 PM on March 29, 2012


For anyone who wasn't a fan at the time, the Benoit/Jericho vs Austin/HHH matched linked above at 6:32 into Part 2, HHH tears his left quadricep in half...you can see him get up after hitting Jericho and is limping throughout the rest of the match. After this not only does he finish the match, but he continues with the Walls of Jericho spot on the announce table, something that had to be insanely painful.

HHH was out for 8 months after this match, rehabbing.
posted by griffey at 2:16 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


So where do you guys get all of this inside info on wrestling? Are there any good books on the topic? I'd love to read a credible, compelling history of the sport.
posted by jwhite1979 at 2:27 PM on March 29, 2012


Jwhite, while not a book, Brandon Stroud has started to run through older pay per views using his best/worst thing. He's usually got a good amount of background on the events, but is also pretty blunt about what worked then, but wouldn't work now. I eagerly await his dissection of the corporate ministry.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:37 PM on March 29, 2012


jwhite, I'm sure other people will have better answers to this, but I'd highly recommend reading Have a Nice Day by Mick Foley. Foley is an excellent writer (unlike a lot of sports autobiographies, he actually wrote his), and as much as he writes about his own career, it's more about the sport and what was going on in it while he was active.

For pure lulz, you can't beat The Death of WCW.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:39 PM on March 29, 2012


jwhite. It was mentioned above but The Masked Man is agreat read.

My personal favourite podcast is Review a Wai where they review classic shows going back nearly 30 years and often give a good sense of where the business was and any backstage stuff that was happening at the time (they also cover current TV, Raw & Impact)
posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:47 PM on March 29, 2012


The year after I graduated I hung around the town where I went to university. For a while I had a job, but then I got fired from Subway and I was unemployed for a few months. They weren't the best moths of my life. One Saturday afternoon a group of friends and I decided to rent Wrestlemania videos and drink beer, but when we got back from the store we realized that one of the boxes contained the wrong tape. We drew straws and I lost, so I borrowed someone's BMX bike and pedaled back. I exchanged the tape and as I was unlocking the bike I ran into a girl who had lived across the hall from me in residence four years before (and who I basically hadn't seen since). Did I mention that I was wearing track pants (which were muddy because it was raining that day) because I'd kind of given up on girls at that point? Did I mention that I was already a bit drunk? But we had that "how are you doing these days?" conversation. She had some sort of "real" job and was nicely kitted out in relatively expensive young professional clothes. She'd moved in with her boyfriend. She'd driven there. She was returning "Sense and Sensibility." Me? Unemployed. Single. Kind of drunk. Riding a beaten-up BMX. I tried to hide the tape but after she asked me what I was renting her polite smile tightened a bit, and would you look at the time, she had to be on her way. Never saw her again.

Things have worked out pretty well for me during the intervening years, but that particular afternoon was ruined.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:15 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is wildly inaccurate.

Thanks for the wrestling 101 run-down but it doesn't address my point that the current generation of WWE performers (excluding those with indie experience) have very scant improvisational abilities and little say in calling their own spots. It's my belief that this has lead to the new crop of wrestlers' obvious lack of in-ring confidence, risk-aversion and slavish dependence on company men road agents to program every nanosecond of TV time their "talent" are afforded. This, as I see it, is the downside of Macho Man's approach (not saying he originated it, but that the posted match is the most notable early instances of such an ethos) which eventually lead to the current disempowerment of individual wrestlers in favour of overweening control by a perpetually confused management agenda; that this agenda fails to adhere to the barest scintilla of common sense, even at the cost of business, is why WWE as a company hasn't been over in the past 5 years.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 4:43 PM on March 29, 2012


Was George "the Animal" Steele an agent of divine intervention?

George "the Animal" Steele ate turnbuckles for our sins.
posted by KingEdRa at 6:36 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


My personal favourite podcast is Review a Wai where they review classic shows

Oh man, the latest is Wrestlemania XX, which I was at. High above the ramp, and far enough back that we saw them "set up the Stone Cold" (bring out and start up the ATV). The crowd response during the abysmal Lesnar/Goldberg match was really something you had to be there for.

And I went to work the next morning ... in Boston. I spent 2-1/2 hours sharing a hotel room in NJ with a friend and then he drove me to Penn Station. Totally worth it.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:57 PM on March 29, 2012


This, as I see it, is the downside of Macho Man's approach (not saying he originated it, but that the posted match is the most notable early instances of such an ethos) which eventually lead to the current disempowerment of individual wrestlers in favour of overweening control by a perpetually confused management agenda

The crackdown on impro has less to do with a top-down desire to control matches and more with a desire to avoid injuries - much the same reason that they banned piledrivers and a number of the more vicious suplexes.

(And "excluding those with indie experience" knocks off, what, half the current roster at minimum? And a lot of the remainder that can't improvise are the female wrestlers, who are... mostly not good in any case.)
posted by mightygodking at 6:58 PM on March 29, 2012


I think if the office truly cared about injury rates, they could be reduced vastly more effectively by a cutting back of house dates (which would require Vince to offer decently equitable paydays from TV, PPV and merch), the institution of a long-sought-after off-season for the whole roster, and by simply not employing clumsy, failed bodybuilders at every opportunity (and pressuring smaller talent to conform to those same ludicrous physique requirements, see: Mysterio, when he's not in a hospital bed).

Perhaps I'm just seething with smarky bitterness but I attribute the steady decline in ring work not wholly to the necessities of protecting workers (which I support), but to nothing more than a policy of desperate corporate greed for "crossover appeal" - nobody can define quite what that means, but it seems to involve eliminating wrestling from the product entirely to present some generic reality TV thing instead. I hear Raw averages around 20 minutes of wrestling per hour now, and nary a move is called by commentary. Wrestling is taboo, and allowing management to ineptly work every match is how this decline was begun.

I have a feeling if Macho Man had allowed the front office to pen his WMIII match script, that posted vid would be 14 minutes of catchphrasing promo, 4 minutes of oversold punches and rope-running, and one finishing move a child can safely perform (i.e. any given Cena match), and wouldn't be watching it, and the wrestlers are poorer for it.

I think the ethos of WWE is bad for wrestling as a cultural form, and the motivations behind their decisions nothing but rotten. As a matter of policy talent is deprived of all initiative for the simple fact that actual wrestlers will want to actually wrestle, and unfortunately Vince McMahon is in the business of doing everything he can to get out of the wrestling business (that he himself has made so hostile!).
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:28 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just watched Savage/Steamboat at Wrestlemania 3, and then Savage/Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania 7. Can someone remind me of the story of the lovely Elizabeth? There was some love triangle (with Hogan?) right? And it was Macho Man who would chant "Scary Sherri"?

I should know this stuff, but it's been a while. I was watching WWF during the rise of the Ultimate Warrior. I was more into Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake , and Demolition (still remember their theme song). I guess it's not surprising that I don't remember the romantic sub-plots.
posted by team lowkey at 11:31 PM on March 29, 2012


I have a feeling if Macho Man had allowed the front office to pen his WMIII match script, that posted vid would be 14 minutes of catchphrasing promo

Speaking of Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat's cuppa coffee in the big time, as long as those 14 minutes of promo included stuff like this, I'd be all for it.

Not to be overlooked was Mean Gene's ability to keep a straight face through all the wacky hi-jinks.

After Savage's death last year, I took up watching some old matches, and they definitely have to be seen in those VHS quality uploads to get the full effect.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:41 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Books! Books! Books!

General Safety Warning: Wrestler's autobiographies are like chapters in "A Game of Thrones" - they generally have a distinct bias towards that Wrestler's version of events. Take everything with a pinch of salt until you've read enough to build up a bigger picture. Also, if it's published by WWE itself it's probably going to gloss over the nasty bits.

Some stuff that hasn't been mentioned...

Ringside: A History of Professional Wrestling in America - Worth a read if you want a complete, accurate overview of how it all came about. Be warned though, it reads like a graduate thesis that's been expanded into a proper historical text. Nothing wrong with that, but it means it can be a bit dry in places. You may actually want to read a few of the books below first then read this to fill in some of the gaps (and older wrestlers and characters) that they hint at.

A Lions Tale: Around the World in Spandex (Chris Jericho) - The first part of Jericho's autobiography is a really good place to start. Jericho has been around the block a bit, Wrestling in both Japan and Mexico as welll as the US. It's a genuinely entertaining read and covers a good portion of the modern wrestling period and the WWE/WCW Monday Night Wars.

Hitman (Bret Hart) - If you only read one Wrestler's autobiography in your entire life it should probably be Bret's. He kept a road diary for pretty much his entire career, which he drew on heavily for this book. That means it provides a pretty thorough look at both his career and the industry throughout some of its most formative years. It also, obviously, covers the Montreal Screwjob and its aftermath and Owen Hart's death. It's very much a book told from Hart's perspective, and though he comes across as someone who firmly believes everything he's saying is true, it's probably safe to say that Bret is a man who, to put it politely, doesn't tend to accept the possibility that his own opinions aren't always the right ones.

Undisputed: How to Become World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps
(Chris Jericho) - the second part of Jericho's autobiography. It's worth reading after Hitman because it it presents an interesting contrast of the post WCW era that Jericho and Hart's earlier works fill out quite nicely. Again, it's a good read but be warned that you're going to get a lot of talk about Fozzy, his metal band, in this one. There is, however, a photo of Jericho ironing a baby in it - which pretty much makes up for anything the man has ever done wrong in my mind. Comedy aside, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit were two of Jericho's closest friends, and the perspective he gives here on both their deaths (and the "does not compute"-ness of Benoit's in particular) is genuinely moving.

Ric Flair: To Be The Man (Ric Flair) - The Wrestler's Wrestler and the King of the Mic. A good, if relatively short, read. Gives a good insight into how WCW almost killed his career - and perhaps unsurprisingly it's obvious that Flair hates Eric Bischoff with the fire of a thousand suns (and isn't Hogan's biggest fan either). Be warned that like Hart, Flair is a man who clearly believes firmly in his view of events (amusingly, he calls Hart out for exactly the same behaviour).

Walking a Golden Mile (William Regal) - Not the greatest written book in the world, but an interesting insight into some of the lows as well as the highs of being a Wrestler. Regal is brutally honest about his problems with drugs, for example. More positively, it gives you a brief glimpse into Wrestling on the other side of the pond (here in the UK), which is how Regal started out.

And if you find that interesting, then I highly recommend you check out...

The Wrestling - A brief history of the high point and swift decline of British Wrestling, mainly told through interviews with various British Wrestlers. A fascinting look at an industry that stagnated and failed to adapt to the threat that WWE/F posed to its future until it was too late. British Wrestling was a very different world to US Wrestling, to which it lost many of the Wrestlers that should have been its salvation (Davey Boy Smith, for example).

You Grunt I'll Groan (Jackie "Mr TV" Pallo) - Imagine Hulk Hogan writing an autobiography in the late 80s/early 90s that broke Kayfabe and slated the industry. That's exactly what Jackie Pallo's infamous autobiography did in the UK. It made him persona non grata with a lot of the industry, and indeed many Wrestlers say that was the point at which the death of British Wrestling became inevitable. Hard to find a copy now (at least cheaply) unfortunately as its been out of print for years.

Wrestling's Ring Side (Johnny Kincaid) - A book in serious need of an editor and/or spellchecker, but Kincaid's ability to spin a tale makes it a great read despite that. Gives the same kind of insight into British Wrestling in the period most people regard as its golden era as Jericho's book does in the US. Kincaid is brutally honest about his own indiscretions, but also (without necessarily realising it) gives a good idea as to what it was like being a black wrestler starting out (and later becoming genuinely famous) in the UK at the time.

Probably many more that can be added to this list. Those are the ones that jump out in my memory though.
posted by garius at 2:39 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


eliminating wrestling from the product entirely to present some generic reality TV thing instead. I hear Raw averages around 20 minutes of wrestling per hour now, and nary a move is called by commentary. Wrestling is taboo

This is true, to an extent. They'll throw us a bone every once in awhile--Punk opened a show with a promo about the forbidden W-word and then put on a clinic with Ziggler--but for the most part, they don't tell stories between the bells anymore unless they're ham-fisted betrayal angles. Two things matter in the bulk of WWE matches: entrances and finishes. Everything in between is filler.

There are guys who can put on a show, of course, and who can tell a story and make you care, but they're not always in the limelight and mostly only "allowed" to do that at PPVs anyhow.

There's been a lot of indie talent heading to developmental, though: Tyler Black, Claudio Castagnoli, Chris Hero. Of course they'll probably be misused should they ever make it to TV, but you can hope they'll get a chance to put on a couple of entertaining pure wrestling matches before they get the boot.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:55 AM on March 30, 2012


Was George "the Animal" Steele an agent of divine intervention?

George "the Animal" Steele ate turnbuckles for our sins.


I thought it was because they didn't feed him for a few days before the matches. I mean, how did George "the Animal" Steele, function in real society anyhow? It's not like he could have a wife and kids and live in a ranch house in the suburbs.

Scary, scary man. He terrified me as a kid, I'll tell you what...he was ....


Craz-ee.

posted by Skygazer at 5:07 AM on March 30, 2012


I think if the office truly cared about injury rates, they could be reduced vastly more effectively by a cutting back of house dates (which would require Vince to offer decently equitable paydays from TV, PPV and merch), the institution of a long-sought-after off-season for the whole roster, and by simply not employing clumsy, failed bodybuilders at every opportunity...

All of those things reduce revenue (the last one only theoretically, but you stick with who brung you to the dance, and that's still clumsy bodybuilders for the most part). Banning piledrivers doesn't cost them a penny.
posted by Etrigan at 5:09 AM on March 30, 2012


It's actually a lot like he could have a wife and kids and live in a ranch house in the suburbs (Cocoa Beach, FL, to be exact.)
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:12 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


George The Animal Steele goes fishing with Greg Valentine.
posted by Theta States at 11:27 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


So much to read here but I had to respond to this:

Has that attendance figure ever been verified?

No, it hasn't. Power Slam magazine, which is a pretty reputable source all things considered, puts the actual attendance around the 75,000 mark. Which is pretty impressive in its own right. But Vince McMahon wanted the show to be the biggest thing in the world leaving a lasting legacy; and 93,173 sounds just random and truthy enough to be accepted.
posted by macdara at 3:40 PM on March 30, 2012


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