Best of the 80s

When I started this blog seven months ago, I knew it was a bold venture. I only have the time to write one review a week with my day job, so I knew it would take years to cover everything that I wanted. I’m okay with that. I don’t want to finish too quickly. I am fine with taking my time because I want to tell the story of how wrestling has evolved over the years. After the first few reviews, I started to realize that a narrative was forming. I started noticing the little details that had escaped me over the years. It’s not until you compare the two companies simultaneously that you begin to see the small things. You notice the little digs they take at each other and the references they make. That’s when I knew that I was going to enjoy covering this material. As a writer, I love noticing the small details. Now, I’m not just reviewing pay per views. I’m unfolding a story. It has taken seven months, but I have completed the first decade of this story and now it’s time to reflect before progressing forward.

The 80s in wrestling was a time of great change and great success. It was a decade that took pro-wrestling out of the territory era and into an era of national exposure. The advent of cable TV and Pay Per View facilitated a necessary change in wrestling, but the two major promotions handled that change differently. The NWA, specifically Jim Crockett Promotions, got off to the early start, but the WWF soon overtook them. JCP stuck to their gritty and more realistic approach to wrestling, whereas the WWF opted for a more family-friendly and cartoonish approach. These opposite approaches were what made the two companies unique. It could have worked well for JCP, but bad business decisions put a damper on their progress. Soon, they found themselves in dire shape and JCP was sold to Ted Turner. WCW was born, but there would be some growing pains. As you will see when we enter the 90s, those growing pains have just begun. The WWF, on the other hand, entered one of their biggest boom periods and saw nothing but growth. However, no king rules forever. The 90s will see some turbulent years for both promotions.

I’m getting ahead of myself. We will get to the 90s, but first, let’s look back on what I have covered, so far.

Best of the 80s

1983 – 1989

I didn’t start watching wrestling until 1994. That wasn’t by choice. My brother didn’t want to watch wrestling when we were growing up, so I only heard about it from friends at school. It wasn’t until he moved out, and I had a room to myself, that I started watching. I dove in head-first because I finally had access to what was denied to me for years. I didn’t care that the product had declined. I absorbed every bit that I could find. I watched WCW, WWF, Lucha Libre, and even obscure promotions that aired in the middle of the night. I also rented tapes of old shows from the video store. Therefore, most of the material that I have covered has been entirely new to me. I was aware of most of these wrestlers and I had seen some of their later material, but much of this was fresh. Reviewing these old shows has changed my opinions and shattered preconceived notions on many wrestlers. I would like to start by listing who has been the most surprising to me. These are the wrestlers who I ended up enjoying more than I expected.

PLEASANT SURPRISES AND CHANGED OPINIONS

#5 Dino Bravo

Bravo is a name that I was aware of, but he never stood out to me. He was another face in the crowd of 80s wrestlers. He was never a top star and he isn’t known for stellar matches, but I found myself impressed by him. He played his character well. His ring work, while not outstanding, was always fairly crisp. His heel work at Royal Rumble ‘88 was what stood out to me the most. He played the crowd perfectly during that segment. As I progressed through the shows, I found myself slightly disappointed that they didn’t do more with him. Stuff like the bench press record and the push-up challenge where Earthquake debuted showed what he could do as a character, but sadly he was always relegated to being the sidekick to bigger stars. He was a surprisingly consistent performer that caught my attention. I’m probably in the minority, but I think he deserves more credit.

#4 The Killer Bees

Before I started this blog, The Killer Bees were always that goofy bee-themed team. All I knew about them was they dressed in black and yellow stripes and The Iron Sheik seemed to legitimately hate them, for some reason. However, after watching their matches, I was quite impressed. Their matches were fun. I still don’t know why babyfaces were cheating to win, but I found them amusing. I was kind of sad to see them go so soon into my run.

#3 Ronnie Garvin

OSW Review had a large effect on this choice. They playfully dubbed him “Rubbish Ronnie Garbage” and somehow turned a somewhat bland, but technically sound, wrestler into an amusing character. Their nickname was meant to be tongue-in-cheek because they seem to enjoy him and I think that enjoyment was infectious. I can’t chalk it up to that alone. I was legitimately impressed by him. His NWA title win might have been ill-advised, but his performances were great. He delivers some of the hardest chops I’ve seen in wrestling and his ring announcing at SummerSlam ‘89 was entertaining. Plus, he does something in my next PPV review that will never cease to make me chuckle. However, I would like to forget that whole “Miss Atlanta Lively” thing.

#2 Hulk Hogan

I have to admit, I’ve never been a big fan of Hogan. I was hooked on wrestling by Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, and Bret & Owen Hart. I always gravitated towards the wrestlers who could put on great matches. I passed off Hogan as more of a Sports Entertainment guy. So, it was a shock to me that I’ve enjoyed Hogan’s matches more than I thought I would. I can’t think of any of his matches that I’ve covered that I overly disliked. He is limited in the ring, but he’s good at making the most of what he does know. He certainly does things that annoy the crap out of me, but I understand better now why he was such a star. I am well aware that there are some matches to come that I will dislike. I am thinking specifically of Halloween Havoc ‘98. I also know that his behavior will start to sour my feelings, but, for now, I have enjoyed what I have covered.

#1 The Ultimate Warrior

This was the biggest surprise of my blog, so far. I have always disliked Warrior even more than Hogan. I think that is mostly because of Warrior’s personal views and behavior. As the blog progressed, I realized that this man highly amuses me. I started to look forward to covering his segments because he is completely bonkers. I still don’t think he was a great wrestler, but the entertainment value is certainly present. He is an excellent example of why I like wrestling. Wrestling can be ridiculous at times, but it’s almost always an entertaining type of ridiculous.

Honorable Mention:

Lex Luger

I think this is also because of OSW, but I have been pleasantly impressed with his performances. Plus, he makes the most over-the-top noises when selling moves. He is one of those wrestlers that is great when motivated, but the pits when he is not (much like Sid and Randy Orton).

FAVORITE MATCHES

#5 I Quit Cage Match: Magnum T.A. vs. Tully Blanchard (Starrcade ‘85)

This match is the epitome of pro-wrestling drama and spectacle done correctly. There is a level of intensity to it that I have rarely seen matched. The finish of the match is brutal and well acted. The match is nearly flawless in its execution. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, due to the level of violence and blood, but it is a favorite of mine and many others.

#4 Intercontinental Title Match: Ricky the Dragon Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage (c) (WrestleMania III)

This one is a perfect mix of storytelling, tension, and excitement. It featured more near-falls than was common at the time and the crowd reacted accordingly. It was different than anything else on the card. It accomplished this without having the competitors kick out of each other’s finisher multiple times. It is a match that held the test of time.

#3 NWA World Title Match: Ric Flair (c) vs. Terry Funk (The Great American Bash ‘89)

Take the crazy intensity of Terry Funk, add in the incredible skill of Flair, and mix in a thrilling post-match brawl, and you get a highly entertaining 20 minutes. The match is made even better by Funk’s highly amusing selling and the great storytelling of both men.

#2 NWA World Title Match: Ric Flair vs. Ricky the Dragon Steamboat (c) (WrestleWar ‘89)

Flair/Steamboat at Spring Stampede ‘94 was the match that hooked me on wrestling, so it’s fitting that these two men would fill the top two spots. I chose to put this match at #2 because I find the excitement of Steamboat’s title win pushes their other PPV match slightly ahead of this one. I haven’t covered the Clash of the Champions shows yet, so I am only focusing on PPV matches. This was a great mix of storytelling and top-notch wrestling.

#1 NWA World Title Match: Ricky the Dragon Steamboat vs. Ric Flair (c) (Chi-Town Rumble ‘89)

I chose this one for much the same reason I chose the last one, but this has the added excitement of Ricky’s title win. These two men are almost incapable of having a bad match against each other.

Honorable Mentions:

WWF Title Match: Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage (c) (WrestleMania V)

The Hulkamaniacs vs. The Million Dollar Team (Survivor Series ‘89)

FAVORITE WRESTLERS

#5 The Great Muta

He doesn’t need to speak a word because he has a presence. The way he carries himself and his mannerisms speak volumes. His moves are crisp and his matches are great. It’s a shame the way WCW used him, but he was still a lot of fun to watch.

#4 Macho Man Randy Savage

He is easily one of the most memorable characters in wrestling history. He has the presence and charisma of Hogan, but with much better in-ring work. When he was champion, he was outdrawing Hogan. He can play both face and heel perfectly. Also, he is a master at selling. He can make you believe that he is hurt or fatigued.

#3 Ricky the Dragon Steamboat

He is one of the reasons I became hooked on wrestling, so I have to rank him a bit higher than others. He may not cut the best promo, but he still brings an excitement in his ring-work. He is so good at the little things. He’s one of the few wrestlers that can put on a rest hold and make it somehow look active and alive. The same can be said about when he is in a hold. He knows how to work holds as opposed to slapping them on and sitting there. I know that sounds like an odd thing to praise, but it’s those small details that make the difference.

#2 Terry Funk

What is there not to love about Terry Funk? He seems like a genuinely nice man outside of the ring and a genuine lunatic inside of it. He is the king of great mannerisms in wrestling. His facial expressions and selling bring life to a match in a way that is rarely seen. His longevity is astounding. I heard that he has had health problems recently. I hope he pulls through because the day he leaves us will be a sad one indeed.

#1 Ric Flair

The main event of the first PPV I ever watched was Flair/Steamboat. I remember my cousin turning to me, when Flair appeared on screen, and saying, “Wait until you see this guy’s chops!” I was new to wrestling and didn’t know what a knife edge chop was, so I thought he meant his legs. Flair took off his robe and I thought to myself, “They’re alright, but I’ve seen better.” After a few minutes of the match, I thought, “Oh—chops. I get it now.” By the end of that match, I knew I was hooked on this crazy thing called wrestling. Flair was the most consistent performer in everything I’ve covered, so far, so I had to put him as #1.

Honorable Mentions:

Arn Anderson

Tully Blanchard

The Midnight Express

Big Boss Man

FAVORITE PAY PER VIEWS

#5 WrestleMania III

It was the first Mania to feel like a grand spectacle. It had plenty of memorable moments and one of my favorite matches. Plus, it was a lot of fun to write the article. There were a couple of matches that weren’t that great, but the good far outweighs the bad.

#4 Survivor Series ‘87

It was a solid show from top to bottom. It did a great job of introducing a new concept and a good job of building storylines. Plus, it introduced me to the Jumping Bomb Angels, whom I really liked.

#3 Starrcade ‘88

This was another show that was solid from start to finish. There were a couple of questionable booking choices, but the matches themselves were good. The main event was great. Sadly, it might be the last Starrcade that will be really good for quite a while on this blog.

#2 Starrcade ‘86

This was probably the most fun article to write, so far. Between Cornette falling off a scaffold and Nikita Koloff’s wardrobe malfunction, I was greatly amused. Plus, it was a great show.

#1 The Great American Bash ‘89

There are a lot of people that consider this one of the best PPVs of all time. I can certainly understand why. It was filled with good to great matches and had an amazing main event. It was my first chance to cover a War Games match. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Honorable Mentions:

Starrcade ‘85

WrestleMania V

WHAT’S TO COME IN THE 90s

Dark days are coming, but then it will get better. The 80s saw a boom period for the WWF and a slow fall from grace for WCW, but the tables will turn and turn again. Soon, the WWF will see a downturn in business thanks to questionable creative decisions and a slew of scandals. A lot of the old stars will leave, but the WWF’s loss is WCW’s gain. Get ready for a roller coaster of a decade. When I started this blog, I didn’t do it only to cover the highs. I also wanted to cover the lows. I wanted to tell this story, warts and all. I started watching in what is considered the dark ages of wrestling, so I became desensitized to the lowest of lows. There are nuggets of greatness hidden during those dark years and even some highly entertaining moments. So, let’s look at a preview of what’s to come.

WCW’s Awkward Years

Things are about to get weird for WCW. Jim Herd is going to shift into nonsensical overdrive. Ever wanted to see Robocop in wrestling? How about a Wizard of Oz based gimmick? Why there’s even a match involving the electric chair! Hunker down because we’re going through a bizarre time.

The WWF’s Big Blunder Part 1

When business starts to slow, what do you do? If you’re the WWF, you look to boost interest with a little cheap heat. Unfortunately, they go for the cheapest of the cheap by exploiting a real-life war.

The WWF’s Big Blunder Part 2

Did you ever think that 80s WWF wrestlers were a little too unnaturally large? Well, there’s a reason for that. It’s about to come crashing down and it will hurt inside. Plus, dirty laundry will be aired and it won’t help matters for the WWF. However, not everything will be bad.

Silly Gimmicks

When business takes a turn for the worse, a lot of proverbial spaghetti gets thrown against the wall and some of it is highly entertaining. Art reflects life and a lot of the wrestlers suddenly need second jobs. There’s an influx of job-based gimmicks, such as a wrestling Mountie, an evil tax collector, a clown, a race car driver, and even a repo man. Then, there’s also a voodoo witch doctor, a handful of vaguely racist gimmicks, and some guy who is apparently from the moon.

Memorable Debuts

Business might become bad, but there are some memorable characters to come. Within the next year, I’m about to cover, we get Cactus Jack, Vader, and The Undertaker. The year after that, we also get Steve Austin.

I will stop my preview there because my best of the 90s entry will have to be split into two parts. When I reach the mid-90s, the number of PPVs is drastically going to increase. I will be doing another one of these posts when I reach the end of 1994, so I don’t want to look too far forward. Covering the 90s will be an interesting journey, but I look forward to it.

CAPTION CONTEST!

On both Facebook and Twitter, I asked you all to give me your funniest explanation of what Andre the Giant is afraid of in this gif.

I only got answers on Twitter. Here are some of my favorites:

@Harriszilla said, “Kittens.”

I don’t blame Andre. Those are terrifying!

@KiddKobalt had two answers. “HBK’s bald head.”

Shawn might have lost his smile in ‘97, but he apparently lost his hair this year and it is pretty scary.

@KiddKobalt also said, “That credit card bill come January.”

If you have a lot of presents to buy for Christmas, I can definitely see that being frightening.

I know I don’t have a lot of readers yet, but this is more participation than I got the last time, so I will try to do another one of these down the line.

IN CLOSING

I want to thank everyone that has been reading my blog. I started this as a way to get some writing practice. I wasn’t sure it would gain any traction or if anyone would even read it, but now I have consistent readers and that number is growing every day. If you like it, then spread the word because I would love to see that number grow even more. Be sure to follow the Facebook page and the Twitter page. I post updates and reader challenges on both accounts. Click the links above to go to either one. I would love to hear your feedback.

My next review will be a special bonus review of the movie No Holds Barred. I will try to get it out within the next few days so that I can do Royal Rumble ‘90 this weekend. That way, I don’t lose any time on these bonus entries.

Keep a watch on Facebook and Twitter for when these blogs will be posted.

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