‘A Mark’s Eye View‘ is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
Much like other sports, many arguments about professional wrestling are due to generational differences. The greatest match of all time, the best wrestler ever and the best time to be a fan are all centered around age. (The one exception is tag teams. There has not been a truly great team since the mid 90s.) One of the best things younger fans have missed out on was a wrestler turning up in a new promotion. NXT is nothing more than a call up, NJPW is too niche to matter, and big time indie signings just do not have the same impact.
Just like today, it was every wrestler’s dream to show on in the World Wresting Federation. I was not a big fan of the WWF, so much of the joy I got was seeing someone from another promotion show up on Superstars. Over the years, many big names would go through with varying degrees of success. Ted DiBiase, the Powers of Pain, and Koko B. Ware were all big stars that made the big jump. At a time when I thought the sport was real, it was exciting to see how well these men would do in the world’s largest wrestling company.
Even more interesting was when the WWF would bring in former World Champions. The prospect of seeing how men like Rick Martel and Harley Race would do excited me. Seeing a former seven time NWA World Champion battle Hulk Hogan was a lot more enticing than seeing a PWG legend battle The Miz. During that time, dream matches were all the rage and this was the closest I thought I would ever get to seeing any of these matches.
This was not just limited to the WWF either. The Road Warriors went from the AWA to the NWA while Jimmy Snuka left the WWF and turned up in the AWA. Even the territories were not left out. Stars like Rufus R. Jones, Mike Rotunda, and Bill Dundee left the nationally televised programs to ply their trade in regional promotions around the country.
This kept the product fresh. A person like Barry Windham who did not have the outlandish personality needed to succeed in the WWF could become a superstar in the NWA. When “Ravishing” Rick Rude became stale in the NWA, he could reinvigorate himself in New York. When Terry Funk was burned out from the travel up north, he could head to Memphis before returning to Atlanta. Part of the fun of watching wrestling was that you were never quite sure who was going to turn up on your television set.
Now when a new wrestler shows up on the main roster, the same question gets asked every time. “How are they going to book him?” It takes some of the fun out of wrestling when you are not wondering how one of your favorites is going to do, but how they are going to be used. This was the same case back in 1985; the difference was it was not something fans ever had to think about. It was just exciting to see one of your favorite wrestlers perform against a whole new set of great opponents. Even if his character had been changed to a dragon.
Most professional wrestling arguments are subjective. Who’s better, what’s the best show ever, and who had the best entrance music boil down to a matter of taste. One thing that is almost impossible to argue is debuting wrestlers was always thrilling. A much later example: Chris Jericho’s RAW debut was (and still is) one of the greatest wrestling moments ever. I like Johnny Gargano as much as the next person, but Rick Steamboat’s return to the NWA was way more exciting.
Next week: Beyond the squared circle.