We all have war stories. I love to hear some good stories and laugh at a lot of the stuff that happened on the road years ago. Last weekend Brad and Bob Armstrong came thru Knoxville and we went to lunch at PF Chang’s. If there’s a PF Chang’s in your city, I highly recommend the lemon pepper shrimp and brown rice. Good stuff.
I’ve known the Armstrongs for over 20 years. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of being around any one of them from Brad, Bob, Scott, Steve or Brian know there’s never a dull moment. I’ve wrestled as a partner and as opponent against every one of them and would have to say it was like having a night off. After 20 years I still have yet to hear Bob or any one of the boys say, “Back in my day...”
If there’s one thing that really grates at me is hearing people (and not just wrestlers) say, “you know, back in MY day, we would have done it so much better and let me show you the RIGHT way to do it.” Ugh! Bob Armstrong has been around and has seen a lot more than I have, that’s for sure. But he realizes that times change and if you’re going to stay connected to this business you have to be willing to accept change and roll with it. Some can and some can’t.
Honestly, I think a lot of us look back on our youth and try to recapture the way things were because we remember how magical and new everything was. Growing up in Texas the NWA was the dominant organization. I lived for the matches at the Sam Houston Coliseum on Friday nights. The main event was always two out of three falls and there was always larger than life characters from the top to the bottom of the card.
The wrestling magazines at the time covered the three major organizations: The NWA (National Wrestling Alliance), AWA (American Wrestling Alliance) and WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation). At the time I didn’t fully understand how there could be three world champions but as time went on I got the picture. I read a really great book by Marcus Griffin called The Fall Guys. It explains a lot about how things were done way back when. It’s an interesting read if you want to know how the business worked....in the 1920's. It’s really not that different now.
With Dory Funk Jr. as the NWA champion in 1969, the wrestling “experts” christened a new era was on the horizon. At 28 years old, Dory had defeated an older Gene Kiniski in Tampa and the wrestling business was now going for the youth movement. Every time Dory came to Houston he would face the challenge of Johnny Valentine, Wahoo McDaniel, Jose Lothario, Jack Brisco or some other top name promoter Paul Boesch would bring in. It was always two out of three falls and the fans never went home disappointed. It was a different place and time for sure. No music or spotlights. The house lights down, the ring lights forcing everyone’s attention on the action.
The action was more mat oriented. Dory and Jack Brisco would wrestle hundreds of times throughout their careers and never have the same match. Anytime I see Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H, I see the same old school story telling with a twist. Of course they add just enough without going overboard. The basics are the same. It restores my faith (for the moment anyway) that there is hope that some of the younger guys will want to learn how Shawn and Hunter did what they did and pass it along to the next generation of Superstars.
I’ve got to hear war stories from some of the champs from that era about double cross attempts, politics, so called “shoots” in and out of the ring. It was cool to hear a lot of the stuff they were thinking as they walked in the ring about to defend their title. The champion had to be able to not only take care of himself in the ring but he better be able to handle anybody that came in the ring from the crowd too.
At the time, the world champion looked and acted like the world champion. From Dory Funk it went to Harley Race, Jack Brisco, Terry Funk, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, and then it gets a bit hazy from there. Another era was about emerge.
Hulk Hogan broke the mold...again. Superstar Billy Graham became the WWWF champion and was something different than what most fans perceived as a world champion in the seventies. Hogan, Jesse Ventura and countless others have said many times over that Superstar is the guy they all wanted to emulate.
The world keeps turning. Now we have Edge as the WWE champion. Kurt Angle is the world heavyweight champion.
I had the opportunity and pleasure of knowing both guys when they first started. I trained both early in their careers. Edge had his first training in Canada with Ron Hutchison and came to Stamford as a part of the first training camp with WWE. Kurt came later and was a natural. I am happy these guys have achieved as much success as they have. Both have paid their dues for sure.
I have heard arguments that while Kurt is deserving and looks the part of a world champion, Edge is just missing that little “something.”
I like Edge. I like the fact he’s been given the chance to prove he is a worthy champion. That’s the greatest satisfaction of all: Proving everybody wrong. I don’t know if being a “Rated R Superstar” would have worked for Dory Funk Jr. or Jack Brisco “back in their day” but I’ll bet you they would be open minded enough to say give the guy a chance.
The way fans perceive a champion these days is a lot more complicated than it was way back when. There are internet sites that tell us what to think, rate matches and influence opinions. With WWE really the only game in town being seen by a world wide audience the pressure is constantly on the champion to perform and draw ratings. If that doesn’t happen, chances are there will be a new champ before long.
But, as I sit here and think about things as they were and as they are, I remember the only thing certain is that nothing’s certain.
I don’t know that a match from 1970 would hold the interest of fans today, but the psychology and story telling is still the same. The champion should be the guy everybody wants to face. The champion should be the ring general. The champion should understand the psychology of knowing how to lose before you can win. Who doesn’t like watching a contest where there’s a real possibility of an upset? History could be made at any minute.
Wrestling has come such a long way. In the year 2006 we are looking at Wrestlemania 22. I remember programs that would take months to build and sometime even a year before the final big match would take place. The world champ would come to town and barely escape with his title and never want to come back, only to be forced to by NWA, AWA or WWWF officials. Many years ago we had Dory Funk Jr., Verne Gagne and Bruno Sammartino as the three champions of wrestling. Today it’s Edge and Kurt Angle. Ask a 14 year old kid if he remembers Pedro Morales’ title run. Then ask him about The Rated R Superstar. You’ve got to keep up with the times. But just so you know, back in my day we would have done it differently... But then again, this is TODAY so give Edge a chance before everybody starts talking about what a failure he’s going to be. He may just surprise all of us!