Growing up watching the then World Wrestling Federation was great fun. On one hand there were the heroes such as Hulk Hogan, ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan and the Ultimate Warrior that everyone cheered alongside the bad guys in Sgt. Slaughter, Andre the Giant and the Undertaker that the crowd loathed. Those were great and simpler times.
The over the top gimmicks of stars such as the viking character of The Berserker, the corrections officer Big Boss Man, a petty thief in the Repo Man, Doink the Clown and Papa Shango, a witch doctor.
In addition, there were the bright and colourful attired stars such as the Macho Man Randy Savage and Koko B. Ware. Those that liked their stars with face paint were catered for as well with the Powers of Pain, Demolition and the Legion of Doom. And let’s not forget the great young talent, and ring greats, in future WWE Hall of Famers Curt ‘Mr. Perfect’ Hennig. Shawn Michaels and Bret ‘the Hitman’ Hart.
Of course, as someone who first become attracted to the product of the then WWF in the very late eighties and into the early nineties, it is only natural that I have an affection for this time period in wrestling history. It was the characters that really drew me to the product. I remember being devastated when the Iraqi sympathising Sgt. Slaughter defeated the Ultimate Warrior for the WWF championship but also the euphoria when the battle between good and evil was won by Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 7.
I remember being distraught when The Hart Foundation dropped the tag team titles to the Nasty Boys whilst struggling to contain my excitement when when the Ultimate Warrior hit the ring to stop Hogan receiving a beating at Wrestlemania 8.
When Papa Shango’s debuted in the WWF few had any real idea what he was all about. Seeing him use voodoo to make the Ultimate Warrior physically sick – albeit some sort of bizarre green puke that in hindsight seems ridiculous. What about the debut of the Undertaker and wondering if anyone could beat ‘the dead man’? And, what about seeing Jake Robert’s pet python sink its fangs into the arm of the Mach Man? As well as enthralling the crowd, the WWF product could frighten you too. I loved growing up at that time and seeing these superstars on my TV screen. These larger than life and out of this world characters
But will those growing up on the current product feel the same? I doubt it very much. If it was the over the top characters and the battles between the good guys and baddies that attracted me, what is it that attracts fans to the product now? Those ridiculous character and gimmicks of old are long gone and the dividing lines between the faces (good guys) and heels (bad guys) have been blurred beyond recognition. Of course, there are still some of the superstars that the fans can get roundly behind. Go to a WWE show and you see kids sporting a piece of John Cena merchandise in a similar way to kids in my era wearing Hulk Hogan shirts or waving foam fingers. Sure, there are still some characters from those days gone by as well, the Undertaker is still there and he’s joined by his storyline brother ‘Kane’ but where are the others?
Of course, the WWE is trying to make its current product more believable than the early 90s cartoon product was but is being believable what we’re after? I mean, take the WWE PPV later this month – Extreme Rules – no one thinks that when a superstar is inevitably is thrown through a table that the wood of that table is anything stronger than plywood, right? Or that the steel chair smashed over them is really made of a strong a steel. Of course we don’t believe it. After all, the art of Wrestling is to take an event that isn’t painful and sell it to the crowd as if it was.
If in doubt, I should state that I know wrestling isn’t real. As Vince and the WWE have never tired of telling us, it’s sports entertainment not a sport but that doesn’t mean I don’t go on nostalgia trips. Hand on heart, I miss the golden days of the Hulkamania era. I miss the pomp and ceremony, the over the top silly gimmicks, the pumped up good guys battling evil and stars with names than made them out to be superheroes and Warriors and not just normal sized guys. I miss all of that. Every single bit of it. Wrestling’s not meant to be taken seriously and I am nostalgic about the old days. I love when Raw goes ‘Old Skool’ from time to time and I popped more than anything at Wrestlemania 17 when they announced a battle royal featuring stars of yesteryear in their gimmicks that would never find a place in modern wrestling..
I know, I know. Times change and I have to roll with the winds of change and if I want to watch the WWE then I’ll have to take what I can get. Doesn’t mean I can’t miss the olden days. In that spirit, I’m off to watch Royal Rumble 1992.