Sunday, November 25, 2012

April, 1986: Wrestling is the schoolyard buzz

My first concrete memory of modern-day professional wrestling comes from April, 1986, in the aftermath of Wrestlemania 2. I was twelve years old.

Vince McMahon's national expansion of the World Wrestling Federation was already well under way. The partnership with MTV and the Rock 'n Wrestling Connection had been a hit. WrestleMania, McMahon's big gamble, paid off.

Of course, growing up in Canada, we didn't have MTV. I was going to school in Newmarket, Ontario, a little north of Toronto.

I certainly wasn't one of the cool kids. My friends weren't the cool kids, either, as far as I knew. But I tried to be interested in what they were interested in. I got into The TransFormers. I tried Dungeons & Dragons. And in April, 1986, it was WWF wrestling.

There was some anticipation about the results. In those days, the results of the matches mattered. Wrestling matches, especially big ones, were meant to settle scores. Who won or lost was important to the fans. Not that I was a fan at that point.

I do remember a buzz of discussion at recess the Monday after WrestleMania 2.

Hulk Hogan defeated the 468-pound King Kong Bundy in a big blue steel cage. And he did it while wrestling with broken ribs!

Mr. T beat Rowdy Roddy Piper by disqualification. Piper bodyslammed Mr. T!

Now, I don't think anyone I knew actually saw Wrestlemania 2. Pay-per-view existed at the time, but not like now. Not in Canada. The way you could've seen WrestleMania in 1986 was go to Maple Leaf Gardens and watch it on a big screen. They had four giant-screen projection televisions in the center of the floor where the ring would be. The event was broadcast via closed-circuit feed to the live crowd.

Somehow news got to the schoolyard, and it was exciting.

It seemed as though WrestleMania 2 was the moment when the WWF reached critical mass. Sure, the kids were talking about it. Of course, the grownups were already in on it. Madison Square Garden was selling out. Hulk Hogan was everywhere. But it took until April, 1986 for it to really get to me.


Then, word arrived that the World Wrestling Federation was coming to my town. Newmarket, Ontario would be hosting its first WWF show. Time to dive in and get prepared if I'm going to become a fan.

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