‘A Mark’s Eye View‘ is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
Do you get as irritated as I do when Vince McMahon walks to the ring? It has nothing to do with the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment — it’s the reaction of the fans. Is there anything worse than seeing a bunch of geeks do the “I’m not worthy” bow to a man they spend 99% of their lives complaining about on the internet?
Hypocrisy amongst wrestling fans is not a new concept. As a matter of fact, it’s not hard to make the argument (a favorite pastime among pro graps fans) that the biggest wrestling fans are the ones that are the best at performing mental gymnastics. This is not a product of easier access to more wrestling or the ability to share more ideas. Quite simply, wrestling fans have always been hypocrites.
The World Wrestling Federation was a joke in the 1980s. There was a giant, a man with a snake, a man and his hacksaw, a Macho Man, a Hulkster, and even a talking Gorilla. Unsurprisingly, detractors of the promotion derisively referred to it as a circus. (Today, WWE is called Clown School. It’s up to you to decide which is worse.) The promotion became more of a company. Reaching a mainstream audience was of maximum import and the priority was placed on image and characters.
Other wrestling companies and fans had a field day. The WWF was easy to make fun of, and so everyone did. It didn’t matter that it was seen and known by more people. It was not putting on the athletic competitions that wrestling fans deserved. Bill Watts loved signing men with a background in sports. Wrestlers like Steve “Dr. Death” Williams had football accomplishments that were constantly talked about. Williams also became a Watts favorite, always in the biggest angles and would end up the last UWF Champion.
Watts was not a fan of pretty boys, music videos, or making action figures. Terry Taylor and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express were there to draw in female fans, but they were also tough guys who were expected to handle themselves in bar room brawls. Wrestling was about real men in a real sport and working with a music television channel was out of the question. Of course, when the Fabulous Freebirds returned to the UWF, the announcement was made with a full length music video from Michael Hayes and his band. There was also significant time spent each episode of UWF television promoting the album.
The NWA was the WWF’s biggest competitor and would take advantage of every opportunity to point out how they presented a product for real wrestling fans. From longer, more athletic matches to having toned down realistic characters, the promotion was the antithesis of the juggernaut McMahon had created. They even used the slogan, “We Wrestle!”
This did not stop them from trying to use the WWF’s own tactics, however. Most infamously was the NWA’s use of Robocop. Using the fictional star of an actual movie to save a real athlete in pseudo-sport requires more logical leaps than even the most ardent NWA fan was willing to make. As wacky as the incident was, older fans remember another time the NWA tried to beat the WWF at its own game.
In, 1987, play sets like Photon and Laser Tag were all the rage. Using a complicated system of sensors and infrared, the toys allowed children around the country to play a space age version of Cowboys and Indians. The NWA decided to jump on the fad by debuting Hector Guerrero in a silver suit and space helmet. Lazer-Tron feuded with Denny Brown over the NWA World Junior Championship, but fans saw him for what he was: a joke of an attempt for the southern promotion to try to be something they were not.
It is easy to blame the internet and the countless wrestling forums for the hypocrisy of wrestling fans. While this makes a conflicting statements more easily seen, wrestling fans have been wearing blinders since before today’s more technological age. If anything, fans are less hypocritical now. They are just more outspoken and less tolerant.
Next week: The Roddy Piper Enigma