When Wrestling was WRASSLING! A Retrospective…

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Our son’s teacher’s aide got married a few years ago. The man who is now her husband had an unusual part time job. He was a weekend professional wrestler. She said he had a number of different personas that he used (although for the life of me I can’t recall what she said they were). It did however bring back memories of a time when I was quite the wrestling fan. Excuse me, back then it was “wrassling.” Not to tell my age but I remember watching Bruno Sammartino, Bobo Brazil, Dusty Rhodes, The Nature Boy Ric Flair, Magnum T.A, The Junk Yard Dog, Ricky Steamboat, The Road Warriors, Tony Atlas, Harley Race, Ted Dibiase, and so many others back in the day. Many of you young people are going, who? WHO??

I always knew what this was… basically another type of soap opera but aimed at men (not that the ladies didn’t get into it as well) but that didn’t matter. I watched it religiously every weekend. Saturday at noon it was Memphis Wrestling with host Lance Russell and a cast of wrestlers that sometimes included a young Hulk Hogan, King Kong Bundy, and usually involved Jerry “The King” Lawler. Lance would interview the wrestlers which usually meant them saying what they were going to do to their opponent that Monday night in Memphis while making the time to threaten Lance. This would get Lance to tell them, “You’re going to get yours one day, not by me but by somebody!” (Sounded like something I would have said). Later on it was NWA/WCW wrestling with Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, The Anderson Brothers, and many more. Sometimes my Mother would watch it with me. In fact, she delighted in rooting against whoever I was following at the time, just to get a rise out of me. She used to tell me she would go to the “wrasslin’ matches” anytime she could when she was young. She would scream and flail her arms during matches basically making it most uncomfortable for anyone sitting around her. She said she couldn’t help herself. Wrestling does that to you…it elicits an almost primal reaction….even when you know what you’re watching isn’t real. Fans can’t help but get into it. Even when the plot lines are totally asinine. You will see a “bad guy/ heel” wrestler attack the “good guy/ face” wrestler with a steel pipe, insult and attack their family, hit them with a car and the following week be teamed up with them like nothing ever happened (mainly because it didn’t)…. What good clean fun! 👍🏻

Who can forget the uproar over “All American” Hacksaw Jim Duggan who had been embroiled in a lengthy feud with “The Iron Sheik” but was caught riding together with him in a truck heading to their next booking. How was he “caught”? He was pulled over for a routine traffic stop where they found him with marijuana and his “enemy” Mr. Iron with possession of cocaine in the passenger seat. Oops!

If you have followed wrestling for anytime, you realize that it does not necessarily take a body like Adonis to be successful in wrestling. What it does usually require is that you can communicate well. No one would ever mistake the late, great “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes for a chiseled specimen like Tony Atlas, Lex Luger or the “Rock” but the one talent he did have besides surprising agility for a man of his girth, was he could talk up a blue streak. The self-proclaimed “son of a plumber” could hold his own when it came to addressing the crowd. It was this natural charisma that led him to multiple championships in different areas of the country.

One of his main rivals during that time was perhaps one of the most prolific talkers of his time: Ric Flair. The “Nature Boy”is considered by many to be one of the greatest wrestlers of all time in a career that has spanned over 40 years. His turn of a phrase, his ability to invoke a response from the wrestling audience was equally balanced by his wrestling expertise. The “Dirtiest Player in the Game” knew exactly how to get audiences to respond how he wanted them to and usually that was for them to hate him…which was all part of the show. And the fans loved it…and so did I.

I eventually stopped following wrestling as life got in the way and more important things took precedence. Puberty….Girls…marriage…kids…..but every once in a while, I’ll be flipping channels and catch a little bit of the WWE ( formerly the WWF) and remember fondly when I cared….”And in this corner, from parts unknown…” I always wondered if the population of “From Parts Unknown” dropped to zero when a “Wrasslin’ Match” was going on…

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