Friday, November 30, 2012

Great, now I'm hooked on wrestling. Buy ALL the things!

Well, that was it. Watching a few weeks of WWF TV was not what hooked it me. It wasn't the hype. It wasn't the schoolyard banter. It wasn't the toys.

It was that live show at the Newmarket Rec Complex with Zach and his dad, and all the buzz about it afterward at school.

Nothing had captured my interest that strongly since I first saw Star Wars in 1978 with my dad. And that involved me collecting everything I could get for years to come.

Wrestling became my new obsession. I started watching all the WWF shows, which included programming from both sides of the border: All American Wrestling late on Friday nights on WUTV 29 out of upstate New ork. It eventually became a Fox affiliate. And as discussed in an earlier post, CHCH-TV in Hamilton ran an hour of wrestling on Saturday afternoon and Maple Leaf Wrestling at 7pm. I think it was several months still before the WWF added a Sunday afternoon show.

There was other wrestling on TV, too. CKVR in Barrie ran Al Tomko's All Star Wrestling out of Vancouver, BC. I have a few clips of this on YouTube, and I'll embed one here.

CITY-TV ran International Wrestling out of Quebec. It starred some folks who'd later join the WWF after a buyout - Dino Bravo, Rick Martel - and some who wouldn't - Steve Strong and Gilles 'The Fish' Poisson among others.

I was seriously a WWF mark in those early days. All Star Wrestling was shot in a small TV studio in front of a crowd of no more than two dozen and came off very corny and small-time. International Wrestling had action and heat, but it just looked unclean compared to the slick production Vince McMahon and crew were turning out.

More than anything, though, the "New York office" had marketed itself clearly: The recognized symbol of excellence in sports entertainment. It was like Star Wars vs. Battlestar Galactica, or worse, Buck Rogers, or even worse, Hardware Wars. I bought it.

I also bought wrestling magazines. Perhaps more accurate to say my mom bought me wrestling magazines.

I bought wrestling figures. Those big, heavy, rubber LJN wrestling figures. If I can find the big container of them, I'll show you.

And I rented videos. VHS tapes. There were only a few video stores in town, and I rented every WWF tape I could find. That meant watching WrestleMania 2 (which I actually found rather boring despite my infatuation) and Rowdy Roddy Piper's Greatest Hits (which I found to be amazingly awesome and great). I watched all those early Coliseum Video tapes with the long production music at the beginning explaining how modern pro wrestling evolved from the ancient Egyptian Greeks or something. I watched everything except the Hulkamania tape.

I began to develop a fandom: Roddy Piper was tops. Randy Savage was fun to watch. The Hart Foundation was exciting, especially Brett Hart. And I really did not care for Hulk Hogan. He could cut a good interview, I guess, but as a short, pale chubby kid, this huge, balding, oiled up muscle man represented the bully more than the hero as I saw it. Piper, on the other hand, was a smart-mouthed underdog whose confidence was inspiring.

And as summer approached, word came in that the World Wrestling Federation was coming back to the Rec Complex! YEAH! I guess the first show in May was so successful, promoter Jack Tunney decided to bring another action-packed card back to my small town.

"Don'tcha dare miss it," ordered white-haired Tunney pitch man Billy 'Red' Lyons on CHCH.!

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