Don't get me wrong -- as a child of the 1980's, there are many things I love about that generation's wrestling product.
Some key examples: Hulkamania running wild on virtually everyone (except for when he got past King Kong Bundy - I didn't care for that). The three-match series between Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair. Piper's Pit. The Road Warriors snacking on danger and dining on death. Bobby Heenan being interjected from the building during every single edition of Saturday Night's Main Event. The British Bulldogs (no relation) vs The Hart Foundation. Miss Elizabeth removing her skirt at SummerSlam.
Having said that, "the good old days" of wrestling weren't quite as good as people who wax nostalgic always make them out to be. I've included a few of those myths in order to adequately debunk them.
"Matches Used To Be More Competitive"
Maybe someone could have said this about the 1960's or 1970's, when matches were held the proverbial smoke-filled arenas, and all the competitors either had generic names like Horton "Whitey" McGee or horrible racist stereotype gimmicks like Kung Fu Chingchang, where they'd trade restholds until the curfew bell rang at 9:30. But not in my generation.
Every week, syndicated wrestling programs would feature a series of "squash" matches that often lasted three to four minutes.
Don't get me wrong: I'm sure that Reno Riggins was a fantastic grappler that somehow never got his just due.... but if anyone out there, even Grandma and Grandpa Riggins thought he had a snowball's chance in hell of going over a 400-plus pounder like One Man Gang, they must have been doing snorting some very serious 1980's blow.
Of course.... it wasn't like that every week. Some weeks, our man Reno would be properly introduced on camera wearing his acid-washed denim jacket, before getting the ever-loving shit kicked out of him by someone else.
And just to be perfectly fair, Reno Man wasn't always losing to Repo Man. Some weeks he was tagging up with another jobber, squaring off against a team of slightly-better jobbers:
Complain all you want about how Daniel Bryan doesn't get enough offense in against Sheamus; he still gets a ton more love than Friggin' Riggins could have ever hoped for.
"TV Shows Used To Be More Interesting!"
Really? Which part?
We've already talked about the constant barrage of completely one-sided squash matches fans were treated to each and every week. But if you weren't into the DL's ("Designated Losers", what we cool kids called jobbers back in the day), what else was there?
How about the "updates" that were nothing more than a thinly-veiled excuse to shill a promotion's merchandise and upcoming events?
Supremely cool columnist's note: If I were Shane McMahon, I might just want to order up a DNA test to see whether Craig DeGeorge, not Vinnie Mac, is my real "pops". You see the resemblance, right? Is it not within the realm of possibility that a young CDG got with Linda McMahon one night while her hubby was out trying on canary yellow suit jackets somewhere?
Anyways.... let's say that matches and merchandise plugs aren't really your thing. Would you then be pointing to the fact that every other commercial break was preceded by a local market interview in which Koko B. Ware would tell Ken Resnick what he was going to do once he got his hands on Dangerous Danny Davis when the two locked up next weekend in Oakland?
Now.... while I loved going to house shows at Maple Leaf Gardens back in the day -- and a main event featuring The Bundster is nothing to sneeze at -- that sounds like a pretty crappy card overall. Ooh, Outback Jack vs Outlaw Ron Bass. What a fantastic match-up; thanks for reminding us about it every 15 F*CKING minutes!!!
Also - why is King Kong Bundy nude?
"Wrestlers Were Better Workers Back Then"
It would be hard to deny that the good old days featured some fantastic including but not limited to: Ric Flair, Rick Martel, Ricky Steamboat, Ricky Morton, Rick Rude, Rick McGraw, Rick Bockwinkel, Rick Springfield, Rick... sorry, what was my point again?
Oh, right. My point was, those guys were the exception, not the rule. So even if a majority of today's guys just punch and kick, or flip and flop, it's not like this is exactly a new concept:
1980's Workrate Equivalent
One Man Gang
The Honky Tonk Man
The Great Khali
Plus, you still have this generation's AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and Christian, whom I'd argue are just as technically proficient as Barry Windham, Bob Orton, Randy Savage, Arn Anderson, Tito Santana and Mr. Perfect were back in the day.
"They Used To Take Things More Serious"
Can you believe this crap they put on the air today? You've got Hornswoggle running through imaginary holes in the wall; Eric Young and Orlando Jordan teasing a romance (at least I'm guessing that's what's going on; I don't watch that crap anymore); John Cena making poopy jokes in interviews; Santino Marella doing.... well, everything.
Next thing you know, they'll be spoofing popular game shows, including having Jimmy Hart repeatedly calling a young woman "man":
Or... I don't know, make fun of the cooking show genre that's so popular these days:
Or.... um, this atrocity in which George The Animal Steele compares a llama to Randy Orton for some reason:
See, wrestling has focused on lame comedy for almost 30 years now. The different being, the older stuff is now seen as "campy".
"Everyone Reads From Scripted Promos Now"
This is the complaint I hear most frequently, and to be honest.... it's certainly got some validity to it.
Think about it: if a wrestler is told what to say, how are they ever going to learn to speak for themselves? How are they going to let their true personalities shine?
Of course, there's a flipside to theory. Superfly Jimmy Snuka could have used some cue cards on many occasions:
In case you don't have your English-Snuka/Snuka-English dictionary handy, Fly said:
"It just seems like the (unintelligible) that everybody just wants to cripple me somehow. It just seems like'a somebody just a'want to put me outta professional wrestling. It just seems like that they wanna treat me if like I'm some kind of an animal. Seems like they wanna take me in the back of some warehouse and try to treat me to teach me some lesson into my mind. Well, Sergeant Slaughter... you might be right in your way. But you got to remember one thing, brother. I am not in your category as far as the army, where your thinking and knowledge of your mind. This man has got totally a different knowledge, and totally different thinking according to where you think. The only thinking that we're gonna doing, brother, is right inside there. Don't you (fades away)..."
You say that's a bad example because English clearly is Snuka's first language (or second, or third, or...)? Surely Ken Patera, a former Intercontinental champion and Olympic weightlifter, could come up with a better promo if those damned Hollywood writers weren't holding him back. Right?
Wow. Pretty brutal. Even Mean Gene Okerlund can't help but pack up laughing. The full transcription of that classic verbal jousting:
"It's come to the point where a conspiracy is completely out of hand. He turned his gang of henchmen on me - his goon squad. King Kong Bundy, King Harley Race, Hercules Hernandez, Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff... You know, I've been humiliated before. But I'm so humiliated now I'm afraid to turn my back. I don't want the people to see what happened to me. They whipped me like a dirty yard dog. But I'm gonna tell you something, Weasel.... and the goon squad. I can take pain. I can recover it.... recover... I can recuperate. Well, I'm beyond that. I'm so upset at... uh, the actions that are going on in the World Wrestling Federation, especially from your so-called family, it's just a matter of time. I said it before, I said it to you, Mean Gene, I've said it to everybody. It's just a matter before Ken Patera gets in full gear and runs the World Wrestling Federation, or rids the World Wrestling Federation, of the likes of you Weasel, King Kong Bundy, Race, Hercules, Worndo... Orndorff! All of you! You're all going to go down, one by one, and I'm gonna make sure of that. For the whipping that you gave me, whipped me like a red-sedded... a red-headed stepson... I'm sick and tired of that type of treatment! And when I get ready, I'm... in full gear, Heenan... Weasel... whatever you guys wanna do, just bring it on, because I'm not going anywhere. As I say, I'm going to carry these scars for a while, but I'm gonna heal, and I do heal well!"
Ken Patera heals well - watch out Heenan Family!
How about WWE Hall of Famer and former Abraham Washington Show co-host Tony Atlas? Surely the artist formerly known as Saba Simba can think fast on his feet, right?
To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin: "WHAT?"
"... from Detroit. I just flew in off a flight, rushed in real fast, because I knew the people here in Texas love to see a good fight. You know, I ain't too sure who exactly (unintelligble) gotta take care of tonight, but whoever it is, we ain't gonna do nothing but TCB - take care of business! You know, I've been all over the world. I've been in New York, been to California, been places where... I never even, I don't forgot the name of, I never even hear'd of before. But one thing for sure, coming right here in Texas, you know, I see the people that I see when I go to the movies and other places, you know? Yeah, I saw this man right here at the movies, right here - this big old man right here. He say he wanted to be a wrestler one day. I hope one day he do - great big old strong scrapplin' (?) Texan. You know, Texan, for some reason, the kids so big down here. What is it that makes people so tall? (announcer Bill Mercer: "The water") Is it the water? Well, give me a lot of good Texas waller... water, because I wanna grow tall and strong like... (Mercer: "I think you've done pretty well, wherever you came.") Well, I'm trying. Us West Virginians, we do all right. (Mercer: "You've got a problem with Abdullah the Butcher right now, they've gone after you.") Well, you know (unintelligible) Gary Hart and them, they act a little bit of everybody. But one thing's for sure, one thing they got - A-a-a-bdullah will not realize, that this man trains each and every day. And fightin' is my middle name. You know, I was raised in a cave by a old female lion, and no high-toned woman ever made me walk a straight line (WTF?). You know, fightin' is my middle name. So any time Abdullah wanna get a little piece of me, he's gotta bring some to get some, because I definitely always ready. TCB - take care of business! (Mercer: "All right, Tony".) How ya doin' - 3, 4... off."
In other cases, wrestlers aren't tripping over their lines, but rather saying really, really, REALLY terrible things, which (hopefully) would have been corrected had someone written their lines for them. To wit:
Ugh. Somehow I don't feel like transcribing that one. But the next time you guys complain about, say, Alberto del Rio having to read from a scripted promo.... realize it could have been a LOT worse!