JG's Columns JG's Ten Old School Things Wrestling Got Rid Of (and No One Missed)
By James Guttman
Nov 26, 2011 - 11:20 AM
Over on ClubWWI.com, I've been doing an audio series on why wrestling has gotten stale. Many of those reasons revolve around things that wrestling has gotten away from. Gone are the days of manager stables, ring psychology, and showing videos to your non-fans friends without them mocking you. That doesn't mean that all "old school" concepts about wrestling were great. In fact, there have been a number of things the business has completely junked without anyone shedding a tear. Like what? Like these…
Promotional Consideration Paid For By The Following…
In the 1980s and early 90s, there was no better way to know that WWF TV was ending than the familiar voice of Lord Alfred Hayes saying, "Promotional Consideration Paid For By The Following…" This one statement was the signal that the program was nearly over and there was some garbage you needed to buy in order to save the world. From there, we'd get a supply of commercials - both real and recited by his Lordship personally.
Yeah. Amazing, right? No wonder Acclaim went out of business. Why the hell would they want Lord Alfred Hayes to sell their video game? He's the exact opposite voice you want selling Double Dragon 3. While we're at it, Mr. Freeze Freezer Bars people are pretty dumb too. The guy rolls the R's for crying out loud!
It's this promotional consideration that made "Brut" aftershave more than just an aftershave to wrestling fans of the 1980s. It made it a punch line. Alfred used to deliver their catchphrase with all the gusto that he would give Mr. Freeze Freezer Bars by screaming out, "BRUT! It SMELLS LIKE A MAN!" Yikes.
Of course, these commercial breaks with benefits also gave us some memories that, in many cases, exceeded those created on the show. I can't remember all that much about Ted Arcidi but I had the Stetson song stuck in my head for months.
Curfew Time Limits
For those who haven't seen a 1970s wrestling match without WWE dubbing over the intros, you might never have heard this one before. Back in the days prior to everyone being "in on the joke", we used to have to pretend that we had no idea when matches were going to end. There was no 11:05pm end time on Tivo. There was, "Here's the main event and, well, it could go on for days…"
So what does "curfew" mean? To those unfamiliar, it might sound like the 1970s was a post-apocalyptic world where everyone had to rush home by a certain time. If a WWWF event went too long, your family and friends would be locked away and you'd be tear gassed in the streets. In reality, "the following contest is one fall or curfew time limit" was a nicer way to say, "the following contest is one fall or whenever the f**k they throw us out of the building."
"Return to you home at vunce! There vil be no more Tony Garea versus Billy Graham!"
Could you imagine this in baseball or football? A game being called on account of the stadium kicking everyone out? That would go over real well. They didn't mind it in the 70s though. No riots. Maybe more people were in on "the joke" than the companies realized.
The Strange Fixation on Bringing Animals To The Ring
In the 1980s, there was no gimmick used more than bringing your pet to the ring. I'm not talking about pitbulls or pumas or things that could scare you. No, I'm talking about cute little animals.
Matilda the British Bulldog.
Frankie the Parrot.
Even Jake Roberts's snake, Damian, who seemed to only scare the heels while the good guys found it adorable.
The 80s was a big, long, "Take Your Pet To Work Day" for WWF fans.
Slowly, though, things got a little crazy. The Islanders, Haku and Tama, kidnapped Matilda from the British Bulldogs. After weeks of being missing, the dog was found - happy and healthy. They hadn't eaten it. They hadn't killed it. Pretty sure they didn't do any really crazy stuff with it, but who knows. Either way. The dog was OK. But the floodgates opened.
Earthquake sat on Jake The Snake's snake, Damian - and killed it.
Jake Roberts got a new snake - a cobra - and went nuts. He used it to terrorize Elizabeth at her wedding reception.
Then he had the reptile bite Randy Savage's arm in an up-close Thanksgiving angle on cable TV. Happy Thanksgiving, kids. Hope you like nightmares. We later learned that the snake was venomous, to boot. No word on why Savage lived to fight another day after that.
Snap into some poison. Ooo yeah!
The animal gimmick had started to get a bit out of control and by the time they started popping up during the "Attitude Era", they were an endangered species. A redo of the Matilda storyline saw Big Bossman kidnap Al Snow's Taco Bell Dog Pepper.
Like the Islanders, he didn't rape it - although, again, we're assuming. But he did kill it, cook it, and trick Al into eating it.
Yeah. Serious. That happened.
A short time later, Torrie Wilson's dog won the WWE Women's Title in a move that made us all wish they'd have just killed and cooked that one too.
Either way, that was the end of the animals. Maybe it was the World Wildlife Fund taking the letters which made WWF go from coddling cute animals to murdering them. I can't help but think, though, if Pandas weren't so endangered, Vince would have brought one in and clubbed him to death on Raw.
What? Me Worry?
Superimposing Commentators In Front Of The Crowd
Hey…take a look at this.
Are they really there? No. No they're not. For years, WWF would tape their TV shows weeks in advance. Because of this, commentary was done after the event and then edited in later. Through the magic of green screen, the commentary team would find themselves standing in front of the audience from weeks ago - usually in a strange elevated position that would have been physically impossible given that we see that area during the taping and there's no platform there - and introduce the show.
Most people noticed this. Some people didn't. Then again, some people called the police to report that Vince McMahon's limo blew up with him inside of it following a 2007 Raw. Also, some people eat hair.
The moment that really opened up everyone's eyes to how badly done these superimposed gimmicks were was this one. It was when one of the commentators had to interact with the action taking place in the arena. Roddy Piper, enraged at Bobby Heenan's heinous comments on Paul Bearer's funeral parlor, just had to get up, go back in time, jump from one reality to another, and confront him. The whole time, Vince McMahon played along for our amusement.
But that was then. This is now. Nowadays, the commentators for Raw, Impact, and Smackdown are really there each week.
Although we usually wish they weren't.
Projecting Images From The Ring Lights
In the 1990s, WWF got a new piece of equipment. It was a spotlight that made light-based images in the ring and on the ground. They used it to death. Everyone got images. While, on paper, it sounds pretty cool. In reality, it was cheesy and pretty annoying.
On a side note, if you watch the video, McMahon uses Mantaur's real name for some reason and they leave it in the commentary. Weird.
But no weirder than the Lite Brite yellow razors.
But I know what you're thinking. It's a pretty good tool to make the babyfaces cartoony and relate to the kids, right? OK. I get that. Well, then why did evil villains like Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation get one?
At the end of the day, I can't remember one person ever saying, "You know what I miss? The lights that projected images at WWF shows in 1995. What the hell ever happened to them?!"
After about a year of being used to death, the image gimmick was gone. It was the night that lights went out in New York and no one cared.
Announcing Match Times
There was a time when matches would end and the ring announcer would tell you how long it lasted. No one really knew why. I guess some people were keeping track and writing it down in a memo pad. Then again, as I mentioned earlier, some people eat hair.
It was pointless. So much so, that in 1992, Pro Wrestling Illustrated listed "announcing match times" as OUT in their annual IN/OUT list. When a magazine that's quoting made-up psychologists with silly names says something is out, then you know it's out.
That doesn't stop people from still trying to recapture that. A few years back, a fan timed the amount of wrestling during Impact. Now, granted, I think that's sort of silly considering that the show is completely opposite of anything resembling a legitimate competition with wins, losses, and bell times. But hey - we do what we have to do. Eating hair and all that. It was the response that the kid with the timer got from TNA head writer, Vince Russo, on Facebook that drove that point home.
"I couldn't help but ask myself, "How can something so trivial mean so much to somebody that they would actually sit there and count how many minutes of fake wrestling were on a fake wrestling show in the course of two hours?" That just put everything in perspective for me." - TNA's Vince Russo
"We Are Wrestling" - TNA
So gone are the days of the companies telling us match times that they actually yell at you for doing it yourself now. Now that's progress, my friends. At least that's what they keep telling us.
In the 1990s, there was nothing bigger than 900 lines. People used them for everything. Whether it was sporting news, updates on Corey Haim, or sex, people were all about the 900 lines.
WWF and numerous wrestlers had hotlines to give you the tidbits of the day. Hulk Hogan had one where you could "phone wrestle" his biggest foes by pressing buttons. Captain Lou had one where he yelled at you from his house in New Jersey or something. Even Brian Pillman had one to express his "constitutional rights".
I'm Captain Lou and I'm Yelling At You!
Everyone had one, but no one pushed their 900 line like WCW. It was pretty subtle at first.
By two years later, Gene was a full on "get your parents' permission" proponent. His interview time, always known for witty repartee, was now known for crap he couldn't tell me on TV but only on the phone. He didn’t have a cell phone back then, though. So if you wanted to know which WWF superstar was spotted eating eggplant parmesan with Ace of Base, you had to pay $1.99 the first minute and your children's lives for each additional minute.
The act got so bad that even WWF spoofed it as part of their Scheme Gene skits. We all laughed. Of course, as we all have discovered through the years, WWF didn't mock things other companies did because they thought they were stupid. They mocked them because they hadn't thought of a better way to do it themselves. Case in point, this moment of awkwardness from the dead man and his hot line.
Rest in peace, 900 lines.
Ever heard of Women's Lib? Pro Wrestling of the 1970s and early 80s hadn't.
Long before Vince McMahon called them "Divas", TNA called them "knockouts", and Randy Orton called them "Ha-Ha, look what I did to your locker", female competitors were called "lady wrestlers." In some cases they were called "girl wrestlers".
Of course, this is all just a matter of wording. The females were treated with the same respect the men received.
Well, except for that. But hey. That's not real wrestling. That was from some porn magazine. It was sexual fetish fiction for dudes that like to see women pull hair and wreck apartment buildings. The "sport" that kept track of match times and stuff would never cover soft-core pornography fantasy stories for old men to ogle in a magazine.
The Sport That Kept Track of Match Times Magazine
Yeah. They did. Wrestling for women today might not be as lucrative as it is for men, but holy God, it has come leaps and bounds since then. Next time you complain about seeing Alicia Fox versus Eve with no buildup on Raw, remember there was a time when their matches would be nothing more than a slew of posed photographs showing them contorted around each other with "Eve's Diary" detailing how the bout made her "so hot with excitement".
Six Man Tag Team Titles
Quick. Name the dumbest title concept ever!
OK. OK. Not that one. Name the dumbest team title concept ever.
OK. Fine. Name the dumbest six man tag team title concept ever.
If you guessed WCW Six Man Titles, you guessed right. A title so stupid that most people don't even remember it existed at all. The titles were big in the 1970s and 80s. Of course, by "big", I mean that the teams were larger because they had three men on them. No one cared. In fact, the belts were used twice before WCW revived them in the 1990s. Both times, they were retired within five years.
The list of WCW Six Man Tag Team Champions read like a Who's Who of people who…uh, held the WCW Six Man Tag Team Titles. The straps were captured by such great teams as The Freebirds (not the good version, the version with "Badstreet" in a mask), The York Foundation, Big Josh/Dustin Rhodes/Tom Zenk, Junkyard Dog/Ricky Morton/Tommy Rich, and Many More!
Oh wait. Did I say many more? I meant no more. That was it. There were no other champions. The belts were introduced in February 1991 and were retired in November 1991.
So Unimportant That They Didn't Even Move Him Away From The Pole.
Miss it? Of course you don't.
In 1998, the then-futuristic NWA 2000 did and decided to use the gimmick from the past and bring the straps back. The Misfits won them in February. They were retired in November.
The belts were retired, I should say. Not the Misfits. Then again, maybe they retired too. I have no idea who they are.
Over The Top Rope Disqualifications
Ever watch a Saturday Night Live skit that has no ending? It happens a lot. The jokes play out and then, in an awkward moment, the audience claps and we fade out to Deep Thoughts By Jack Handy or something (I haven't watched SNL in a while).
Wrestling had its own version of the abrupt ending for years. The famous "over the top rope" rule. The rule was simple - if you threw your opponent over the top rope, you were disqualified.
Unless, of course, you just forgot and did it on accident.
The rule existed for one reason, to write the booking team out of a match. It allowed the good guy to lose via DQ without having to hit the other guy with a chair or shoot the referee with a blowgun or something.
That was it. Nothing else about it made any sense. It wasn't like the over the top rope thing was dangerous. Hell, they had "over the top rope" battle royals all the time. It made no sense and fans hated it.
Well, until WCW Vice President of Awful Wrestling Rules Bill Watts banned moves from the top rope in 1992. Then they hated that more.
But it was all about safety, I guess. That would explain why he also had the ring mats removed from around the ring. Oh wait, that doesn't explain it. It actually makes it seem less logical. Never mind.
This is some real boring stuff, Tony.
It makes you wonder, why they didn't just get rid of the top rope altogether? If the damn thing caused so many problems, just do away with it. Then again, the second rope would then become the top rope. So you'd have to get rid of that too. Then the bottom rope would become the top. It was an enigma wrapped in a riddle. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don't know why she swallowed the fly. I guess she'll die.
Same here. The rule was disbanded in the mid 90s and we were free to throw wrestlers wherever we please. Luckily wrestling found a new way to end matches without having a definite victory or a same old/same old disqualification. They just end it. People run in. The announcers scream, "It's pandemonium!" And then they fade to black. Seems simple enough.
Here. Let me show you. Imagine. Oh wait…
It's a group of zombies! They're running onto the page! It's PANDEMONIUM! We're out of time! We're out of time!