Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow, Brian Damage & Russ Morgan
Regular readers will know how fond we are of reminiscing on this blog. With many of our recent Sunday Sermons focussing on more modern aspects of things, we decided we should travel back to our formative years following wrestling at look at the events, tapes and performers that got us into wrestling.
Craig: for as long as I can remember I’ve been a huge wrestling fan. Growing up, I was transfixed by the huge superheroes that dominated the WWE.
I remember some of the earliest tapes I owned being Survivor Series 1988, WrestleMania 6 and WrestleMania 7. Later that was added to by WrestleMania 9 and the 1993 Survivor Series.
Another early memory is asking my dad for a wrestling mag expecting the cartoonish wwe one. Instead, it appeared that the shop had quite the choice and instead I got a magazine with a blood covered Abdullah the Butcher on the front. Probably the first time I was terrified by wrestling, having been sheltered by that side of the business by the classic good guy vs. bad guy dynamic on show in the WWE.
So, what about you guys? Earliest memories as a wrestling fan, first tapes you owned and guys – or gals – that either got you into wrestling or kept you hooked?
Jamie: That was my first wrestling magazine too! WH Smith in Dumfries must have been doing a roaring trade in inappropriate wrestling magazines to youngsters in the early 90’s. I recall an image of a blood covered Abdullah The Butcher and Cactus Jack that has stayed with me to this day. I assume the photo was taken in WCW circa 1991, but because I never actually saw Abdullah wrestle until I was an adult I grew up seeing him, and to a lesser extent Cactus Jack, as this mythical creature I had heard tales of but never seen in the flesh. The blood on Jack’s leopard print gear has always put me off leopard print. When I see leopard print I don’t think sexy or tacky, I think hardcore violence! Mick Foley has a lot to answer for…
I too am struggling to pin point the moment I got into wrestling though, because I have been a fan for as long as I can remember. One thing is for sure though, Sting was my first favourite guy and when I got the opportunity to see WWF stuff The Ultimate Warrior blew my tiny little mind. I don’t know if it sounds weird to say that I saw WCW before WWF, but in the UK WCW Worldwide was shown on free to air TV on Saturday afternoons, while WWF was shown on Sky and my family didn’t get Sky until the day after Wrestlemania XV… not that I remember every specific detail of course…
Brian: I use to watch the WWF sparingly in the early 1980’s from time to time. My earliest memory is of Sgt Slaughter whipping Bob Backlund with his horse crop. I didn’t fully get into wrestling until my Dad brought home a bootleg copy of the very first WrestleMania. I must have watched that tape about a thousand times. I became instantly fascinated with the business. It was then that I started using whatever money I had to buy wrestling magazines and that introduced me to a whole other world of pro wrestling outside of the WWF.
Craig: On Jamie’s point about Sky TV, in the UK Raw was shown on a Friday night and we got Sky installed the Saturday morning after the Raw that Mick Foley won the WWE title from The Rock. One of the first shows I got to see on Sky was LiveWire or Bottom Line – maybe even both – that morning. I’d bought a copy of the 1998 Royal Rumble after getting the WWF Attitude Game but so much had changed between that event and, roughly, the same time the following year.
I’m sure Jamie’s with me here, it’s impossible for us UK based grappling fans to not mention the, now late, PowerSlam magazine. Almost an institution for me and opened my eyes to a world of wrestling that I didn’t know existed.
Without Sky, though, I still did get the odd tape before moving on to DVDs. I remember getting the complete WrestleMania anthology – up to XV at that point – on video and seeing for the first time the first WrestleMania, the awful eleventh instalment and rewatching many of the others. It helped, however, crush my previous fond memories of WrestleMania six and seven which are nothing like as good as I remember them being.
I’d like to ask about other promotions but for me it was almost exclusively WWE wrestling I watched other than the occasional WCW event. It wasn’t until we got Sky installed that I was able to see the likes of ECW.
Russ: We had cable TV in our house from quite an early stage. We had it when Sky Sports was free with the package. I used to watch WWF Superstars hosted by Vince and Mr Perfect. That was when I was drawn to it. One of the earliest matches I recall was Bret Hart v Dino Bravo, I think I was totally hooked. Hogan was still around, but TV was more about Warrior and Macho Man. I remember very clearly Summer Slam 1992, I was actually at Wembley and it was the last free to air day Sky Sports was on cable before we had to pay for it. As the Premier League was in it’s infancy, my dad mate an executive decision not to pay for sports. He did manage to video Summer Slam for me though.
Craig: My folks asked one of our neighbours to tape it for me. Which they duly did. There was a SummerSlam special thing that weekend, am sure, and they taped that as well. Above and beyond the call of duty!
Brian: The first promotion I saw on TV other than the WWE was Jim Crockett’s promotion back in the mid 80’s. By that time, Crockett got his promotion on regular TV (Channel 11) and at first…I thought it was so minor league compared to the WWF’s product.
After just a little while of watching…I began to truly appreciate all the stars and WRESTLING they offered and became a fan. More so than with the WWF’s product. When I finally got cable, I would watch the NWA/WCW religiously every Saturday night on TBS.
Jamie: Even at a young age, and on the other side of the Atlantic, I picked up on the vibe that Brian is talking about. I got into WWF and WCW simultaneously – although had easier access to WCW so it formed many early memories. At the age of six or seven I could see that WWF was all about the razzmatazz and bright lights while WCW felt more like an athletic competition, it was like a proper sport. Thus I grew up holding Ric Flair in the same kind of esteem as Hogan, despite him competing for smaller crowds at smaller venues. Bret Hart was the game changer for me. When he became Intercontinental and then WWF Champion that’s when I fully became a WWF guy.
In terms of seeing other promotions and being exposed to the wider world of wrestling, for years I thought it was just WWF and WCW. Again, when I got Sky I found ECW. I stumbled across it when I was watching TV with my parents and was shocked. Compared to WWF it felt like the low budget porn version of wrestling… but I still liked it! That first viewing with The Sandman’s gushing forehead and Buh Buh Ray Dudley’s foul-mouth was somewhat awkward with my parents also present though…
Brian: I also remember listening to various hotline reports. These were huge before podcasts and the internet became big. “Coach Kurt” was my absolute favorite hotline host and his news would give me the “inside scoop” on what was happening in the world of professional wrestling.
Craig: What about “dirtsheets”, Brian? Not something I heard of until fairly recently as podcasts began to cite them. You used to get any?
Russ: Obviously we had the UK wrestling scene on ITV, which contested Big Daddy v Giant Haystacks over and over again, but that left our screens in the early 1990’s. I believe ITV then picked up WCW for a few years (1992-1995ish). As I was a WWF kid, I didn’t make the most of the free to air WCW content, so I basically missed the rise of Vader, Sting, Ron Simmonds and other guys. I did watch it, but not as religiously.
Brian: I did not get into the dirt sheets as many did. That’s not to say I wasn’t tempted to purchase the Torch or the Observer….but I never actually pulled the trigger on them. The first live show I ever went to was on a school trip believe it or not.
I was already a freshman in high school and we went to a house show in Madison Square Garden. For the life of me, I can’t remember the main event…but the card had Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ted Dibiase and others. That of course was my first of several hundred shows, WWE, WCW, ECW and indie shows that I would wind up going to.
So those are the promotions, superstars, events and even magazines that we can remember helping us become the wrestling fans we are to this day. What are yours? Leave them in the comments section.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.