Thursday, November 29, 2012

May 7, 1986: My first pro wrestling show, Part 2

The Newmarket Recreation Complex filled up with about four thousand people as tracks from The Wrestling Album blared to distortion over the tinny public address speakers.

The album had been released in November, at the same time the new local arena opened. Coincidence, I'm sure.

Even though it had only been out for a few months, my friend Zach seemed to know which song was for which wrestler. Junkyard Dog had Grab Them Cakes. Hillbilly Jim had Don't Go Messin' With A Country Boy. So on. Eventually, it was bell time. Ding, ding, ding, and the excitement was higher than whoever was nearby smoking the marijuana cigarette.

Wrestling Ticket Stub for Ringside-Newmarket Recreation Complex, May 7 1986
Ring announcer Norm Kimber climbed through the ropes and welcomed us to another action-packed card presented by promoter Jack Tunney and the World Wrestling Federation. Norm reminded us that anyone caught throwing anything at or near the ring would be immediately ejected from the building. We rose for the national anthem.

The action began. I was still very green. I didn't know who most of these wrestlers were, especially the "enhancement talent" that made up most of this card.

See, the WWF was running a very aggressive touring schedule in those days. On the same night I was seeing this show in Newmarket, a little ways north of Toronto in Southern Ontario, another crew including the Magnificent Muraco was performing in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Market Square Arena. A third squad was running a card with Intercontinental Champ Randy Savage at the Agricultural Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Obviously my small town was not going to get the superstar headliners. Obviously.

So, who's this guy?

That's Steve Lombardi. He stands on the second rope, and when people boo him, he says "you're a bunch of sh-ts!"

This guy? He's Sivi Afi. He's Jimmy Snuka's cousin or something.

That's Rene Goulet. He has a black glove. For some reason.

That's Duke Doherty. He's the Duke of Dorchester. Where's Dorchester?

Iron Mike Sharpe prepares to lock up with Ted Arcidi in a WWF wrestling match in Brantford Ontario in 1986.

The guy with the black thing on his arm. Zach said he was funny. Iron Mike Sharpe. "He yells a lot. Listen."

A big muscular stiff named Ted Arcidi whipped Iron Mike across the ring. "AAAUHHHHHHH" screamed Iron Mike, sounding like a 280-pound version of Charlie Brown missing a football kick.

Back across the ring charged Iron Mike, screaming "AAHHHHHHHH!!!" the whole way.

He lands in the beefy, pimpled arms of Ted Arcidi. He's being crushed in a bear hug. Referee Terry Yorkston asks if Mike wants to give up and concede.

"NONONONONONO," yells Mike Sharpe. "AUUUUUGHHHHHH!!! NONONONONO!"

Nice. Now that's entertainment.

Lady wrestlers. Candice Purdue vs. Judy Martin. Meh.

The action picked up with some stars we recognized.

Corporal Kirchner, who picked up the American flag and camouflage when Sgt. Slaughter left to become a GI Joe toy, was pitted against Nikolai Volkoff, the evil Russian, accompanied as always by his nasty Iranian friend in the embroidered blue jeans, the Iron Sheik. This was a rematch from WrestleMania 2.

Volkoff demanded we stand for the singing of the Soviet national anthem. I obliged, demonstrating my early propensity for cheering the bad guys. The singing didn't last long, as Kirchner interrupted and took the fight to the big Russian. (Lithuanian ex-pat or Croatian refugee or something, actually, but I was a mark and wouldn't know ol' Nik's history for years.)

By this point in the night, the crowd was hot. A loud arena full of Canadians screaming "U-S-A! U-S-A!" as Volkoff put his hands over his ears in pain.

The action was back-and-forth until Corporal Kirchner ran toward Volkoff and Big Nikolai used the ex-Marine's own momentum to send him over the top rope and headfirst into the top of the ring post! Well.... sort of. He sort of went PAST the ring post. But he was certainly NEAR the ring post and he ended up on the floor.

No, no! No, he must have HIT the ring post, because after about a minute, up comes Corporal Kirchner, busted wide open. Bleeding like a sonofabitch. Holy hell, he's mad. He's furious. He's straining my ability to not swear in front of grown-ups. Kirchner goes on a rampage and ..... and beats Nikolai Volkoff.

WWF wrestler Corporal Kirchner wearing a beret, tank top and dog tags
Cpl. Kirchner: History will regard him as a Sgt. Slaughter replacement and a bit of a kook. I'll remember him as the guy who gigged a gusher on my first wrestling show.

Intermission. The crowd is abuzz. Wow, that was something! Everyone's talking. That was a lot of action! And there's more!

Before the matches continue, ring announcer Norm Kimber answers the question on so many peoples' minds: when can we see more of this stuff? Well, promoter Jack Tunney has signed another action-packed card for Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens in less than a month. You'll see newcomer Billy Jack Haynes, Adorable Adrian Adonis, King Kong Bundy, Hercules Hernandez, Brutus Beefcake, Greg Valentine and the WWF Tag Team Champions, the British Bulldogs. Wow. A whole ton of people we're not seeing on this night.

The matches continue with Iron Sheik vs. someone.

Then, the main event, and a match that hooked me into the excitement of pro wrestling in a way that I probably chased for the next 25 years.

Brett Hart (yes, I think he was still using two Ts in his name then) and Jim Neidhart, the Hart Foundation, vs Jacques and Raymond Rougeau, the Rougeau Brothers. These guys could GO. And they went.

I did not understand ring psychology at all. I was a mark. Everything was new. So you can imagine how thoroughly I was sucked in by the exciting and clean-cut Rougeau brothers starting the match with an agile and arrogant Brett Hart. They grapple. They exchange holds. They come out roughly even.

The Rougeaus come out of one exchange a little better than Hart. He tags in the big man, Jim Neidhart. Neidhart starts laying heavy shots on one of the good guys. He roughs up Rougeau and keeps him in the corner. When the referee tries to push him back, Brett strangles Rougeau with the ring rope.

REF! REF! TURN AROUND! HE'S CHEATING!

Double-teaming. Tag team antics. The hot tag. The ref bump. Everything that makes tag team wrestling exciting was poured into this match and it got me good. I don't even remember who won. It doesn't matter.

What I do remember is the next day at school. Everyone was talking about the WWF wrestling show.

Were you there? Did you see that? Do you think Kirchner really hit his head on the post? Was that real blood? Well, Peter scooped up some of the blood with his ticket stub and he says it looks real. I bet it was fake. No, that guy looked really mad.

I needed to see more.

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