Monday, November 26, 2012

April 1986: WWF 101 on CHCH-TV, Channel 11 - Toronto wrestling television

Wrestling has hit the schoolyard as the hot new thing. I'm 12 years old and, I figure, in grade seven in Newmarket, Ontario. That's about half an hour north of Toronto.

Toronto, of course, is home to Maple Leaf Gardens, which is to Canadian pro wrestling as Madison Square Garden is to the WWF.

With Wrestlemania 2 just finished, and the first live World Wrestling Federation show in Newmarket announced for one month away, I have about four weeks to learn about wrestling. The characters. The angles. The moves. The chants.
Maple Leaf Wrestling on CHCH-TV
Coming back from commercial on Maple Leaf Wrestling on CHCH Channel 11.
The place to turn in 1986 is television - CHCH-TV, Channel 11 in Hamilton, Ontario, home of WWF Wrestling on Saturday afternoons, and the flagship program Maple Leaf Wrestling, Saturday nights at 7pm.

Back then, CHCH was a station that served its community. Bill Lawrence hosted Tiny Talent Time. They covered Hamilton Ti-Cats football. The local news was local. You've heard of the Red Green Show? Thank CHCH. And it was the long-time home of the Tunney family's wrestling shows.

CHCH TV 11 logo from 1986.
For a month, I tried to absorb some knowledge through the TV shows. I saw Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Junkyard Dog, the Hart Foundation and Corporal Kirchner. There were the evil foreigners Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik. Hillbilly Jim and Adrian Adonis. Jake Roberts and Ricky Steamboat.

I don't remember having any favourites right off the bt, but somehow I knew I liked Rowdy Roddy Piper. Something about the way that guy talked. I don't think I ever saw him wrestle then, as WWF TV at the time did not feature big stars vs. big stars except in main events. And I definitely didn't see Hulk Hogan wrestling, even though he was the brand name of the sport as World Wrestling Federation World Heavyweight Champion.

I also began to pick up some of the names of the holds and moves -- the flying elbow, the atomic knee drop, the clothesline, the sleeper and the pile driver.

The psychology was entirely lost on me. I was a mark. I had a suspicion that it wasn't entirely on the level, but had no suspicion that I was being manipulated with every movement in the ring.

The TV product was so-so. Neil Carr, Dennis Cyr, Bobby Bass and Andre Malo were getting as much screen time as the big stars. Granted, they were getting beaten soundly in every match.

I honestly did not find myself overcome with awe. It wasn't like my long relationship with Star Wars, or my TransFormer collecting, or the joy I found with the V series or Back To The Future.

That changed when I went to my first live event.

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