Mom: “Go to bed guys, he’s not winning”,
Us: “No mom please….he’s gonna win, it’s Hulk Hogan, he always wins”.
Mom: “No, it’s now time for bed. He’s not going to win. I’m taping it, you guys can watch it tomorrow”.
After doing this a few more times my brother and I finally won out and stayed up to finish watching this epic match, Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant. It was Sunday night March 29, 1987 Wrestlemania 3. Upon Hogan winning, my brother and I went to bed happy and the next day it was all my classmates talked about. I don’t remember what particular event caught me as a fan of wrestling (which I started watching a year or so before this), but I was hooked throughout my childhood. And from the days of AWA, NWA, WCW and WWF, I have lots of memories. Here are just some of the ones I’ll elaborate on.
The Mega Powers explode
In 1987 ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, due to his charisma and superb ring acumen, started to connect with the fans. And slowly but surely the boos turned into cheers. During a match on Saturday Night’s Main Event (Macho Man vs The Honky Tonk Man), Savage was triple teamed by Honky and the Hart Foundation. Elizabeth, Macho Man’s manager (and wife at the time) ran for help and came back with none other than the ‘Hulkster’ himself. Long story short, Hogan saved him from further beating and they formed the Mega Powers. This was unreal because you had the two top wrestlers in the WWF join forces.
At WrestleMania IV in March, Savage captured his first world title and his popularity soared. As the year progressed however, he grew increasingly jealous (some would argue rightfully so, but I digress) of Hogan’s relationship with Elizabeth. After a year of festering it reached its climax during a tag team match in February 1989. Savage turned on Hogan after feeling he abandoned him. When the match ended, Savage confronted him in the locker room and let’s just say sh*t got real.
Randy Savage being bitten by Jake Roberts’ cobra
In 1991 after feuding with the Ultimate Warrior and losing a career-ending match at WrestleMania Savage ‘retired’, an announcement made alongside Vince McMahon. After Summerslam in August, newly turned heel Jake Roberts showed up with the Undertaker and crashed Savage and Elizabeth’s ‘wedding’. A few months later after a match, Jake did a promo where he goaded Savage into the ring and ambushed him. While Savage was tied in the ropes fans watched in total horror as Jake pulled out his cobra and had it gnaw on his arm. This was far ahead it’s time and was on some holy sh*t status.
Hulk Hogan turns heel and joins NWO
We all heard it throughout the 80’s “Say your prayers, eat your vitamins.” “Whatcha gonna do Brother?” Hogan was as vanilla and wholesome of a good guy as you can get. Although he was hated very early in his career, all that was forgotten as soon as he beat Iron Sheik for the title and ‘Hulkamania’ was born. No matter who he fought, or what he did, he could do no wrong. He was always the prince who slayed the big bad dragons. As time wore on fans (including myself) started to tire of his act and the cheers weren’t as boisterous as they had been years earlier.
In 1994, he joined rival WCW where you had mainstays like Sting and Ric Flair. To kickoff his debut he feuded with Flair. And again although he was the good guy, he still received tepid receptions against the WCW king. Early in 1996 he went to hiatus to film movies. Later in the year Scott Hall and Kevin Nash defected to WCW and ‘The Outsiders’ were conceived as they wreaked Havoc. To defend WCW’s honor, six man tag team match was set up with Lex Luger, Randy Savage and Sting vs Hall, Nash, and a mystery partner. Well, see for your self.
The entire ‘Attitude Era’
I was in college during this time and after taking a sabbatical from wrestling (as girls, working, and going out started taking the bulk of my interest) it lured me back in. Every Monday we’d go to the student center and become entranced for the next 2-3 hours watching wrestling. Even the brothers who were too ‘cool’ for it, eventually jumped on the bandwagon. From about 1997 the WWF being killed in the ratings war by WCW decided to become very edgy. Adding soap opera story lines, foul language, T&A (I’ll get to that in a minute) and more violence to their standard generic wrestling matches, WWF saw their waning popularity begin swinging in the other direction.
Chairs which caused disqualifications in earlier years became the norm and you had all sorts of hardcore matches. Born during this time were stars ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and The Rock. It introduced others including Mankind, Kane, and tweaked the Undertaker’s character into a darker more sinister side of himself. Here’s a small tidbit of the ‘Attitude Era’
Speaking of T&A there were copious amounts of thong, bikini, swimsuit, and evening gown matches. And that was all the porn you needed for the average young teen.
We hardly knew ye’
A lot of wrestlers have passed over the years and I remember it like it was yesterday when Brian Pillman passed on. He was the first in what seemed like a domino effect of top wrestlers dying before 50–some even 40. My roommate was talking on the phone and he looked over to me incredulously and said: “Yo! You heard Brian Pillman died? …my cousin just told me”. Our R.A. and I were both in shock and we asked him repeatedly: “Flyin Brian….. Flyin Brian?” It was confirmed as they did a memorial show on RAW later that night. It was crazy because he was one of the more more recognizable stars at the time. Two more notable deaths came about while I was still in college: Ravishing Rick Rude and Owen Hart. Over the years we have lost a lot of greats and it has become commonplace more than ever before.
Back in the day the Wrestlemania’s had celebrities either in attendance or in guest spots. Alex Trebek, Macaulay Culkin, Gladys Knight, Burt Reynolds and others in Hollywood shared the spotlight with the grapplers. In 1997 something different happened, WCW president Eric Bichoff signed future Hall of Fame and NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman to do appearances and even wrestle a couple of matches. Vince McMahon one upped that by signing Mike Tyson to make an appearance at Wrestlemania as a guest referee and what a debut.
But yeah enough of my ranting, So readers what memories have you had of the days of yesteryear? Who were your favorites? Is it still a guilty pleasure? Sharing is caring.
“…Smart Men Rock”