I appreciate the argument that by retreating down the "back in my day" path that I risk echoing the words of so many veterans everywhere, but sometimes one simply must call a spade a spade. I am 33, and I feel strongly that wrestling is deeply disappointing today, and that it was far better in the 80's.
I was born to this world a WWF fan but I do not give a God-damn for 99% of what is occurring in the WWE now, and I suppose that enough people are like me on this planet that Vince McMahon now is forced to start digging up the grave of past glories just to keep people tuned-in.
My abiding interest in the WWF started to decline in the early 90's, came back in the late 90's and died with the death of the WCW, and the forced adoption of the name "WWE".
From that moment the WWE has been garbage. It is not the wrestler's promotion; it's Vince and family, and their total lack of respect for wrestling and for WWF history.
However, Vince is merely in part to blame. Without competition, he is losing his balance and perspective. The deaths of ECW and WCW were tremendous losses not only for the wrestlers, but also for wrestling and for America. For me its like factories shutting down and jobs being lost to foreigners overseas.
Why do people in Japan obtain 10 different kinds fighting promotions with TV deals and spectacular cards shown for free on New Year's day while we in the USA are forced to pay 10 bucks a week to watch TNA? In the USA today, one can't even hear a boxing match on the radio let alone watch ECW on CBS. Isn't this supposed to be the future?
Now regardless if its product was good or bad, for years and years the WWE suffered at telling history. They acted as if we were living in an eternal present and ignored title histories as well as other promotions, and acted instead like Big Brother. Recently they have actually started referring to past wrestlers, such as when, a couple Wrestlemania's ago, and JR mentioned the Dynamite Kid. I suppose they believed even though he can't wrestle for them anymore, they still own the rights to some old videos he made, and that people have somehow remembered him despite any recognition by the WWE's publicity machine for over a decade. In addition, in a copy of RAW magazine they compared the Superstar Billy Graham to Scott Steiner. When I heard such things, it struck me as something the WWE is only going to do out of necessity, since referring to the history of one's sport is a good idea and most of what the WWE does is stupid and assbackwards.
Jesus son of the Almighty, did I just label wrestling a sport? I suppose I must still be living in the eighties. In fact, it was in 1989 that Vince McMahon "revealed" the business in front of the New Jersey state athletic commission so he could save a few dollars. When one looks at all the other ways he sold out the sport of wrestling, it makes perfect sense. Be patient and let me explain.
In Mick Foley's first tome he referred to the time Ole Anderson told him a story about a man who saw a dead baby and claimed "HOLY mother of god in hell that's terrible!" then he came across a bunch of dead babies and claimed, "HOLY shit that sucks!" and then saw a busload of dead kids ad nauseum until after a while the bloke just didn't care anymore. The moral of Ole's story for Mick is that one need to be careful when one are putting on a wrestling show to pay attention to its HISTORY, and CONTEXT to obtain the most out of storylines, and to keep the fans caring enough to keep watching.
In Terry Funk's book, he claimed that when Vince revealed the business in 89' he was angered at first, but then decided it was a good thing because it "got the monkey off our backs". Nevertheless, he claimed a part of him is still angered about it. I truly identify with that part of him and this is my main reason why: Awesome crazy magnificent events in wrestling are so much more awesome and edgy when one thinks they are real. Wrestling is better when one can let oneself be a goof, and at least the promotion and the wrestlers are encouraging one to be a mark. That is the reason why so many wrestlers for so many years did so many things to "protect the business".
That is why many even dare claim that the Ultimate Warrior is the greatest champion of all time.
Now, naturally I could never say how he would fare against a Lou Thesz or a Frank Gotch, or even Dynamite Kid. It would probably be like many of Warrior's previous matches: fast and fun to watchout probably in a much different way.
Perhaps in retrospect nobody really believes that the Ultimate of Warriors would be a legit world-beater, but who really knows? After all, many people think Chris Jericho is a tremendous wrestler, but for all we know THE WARRIOR could whip the living bejesus out of them. We will never in fact know because of the completely predetermined match factor of professional wrestling.
However, as Johnny Valentine supposedly claimed to Roddy Piper at one time, "I can't make them believe that wrestling is real, but I sure as hell can make them believe that I'm real." The Ultimate Warrior was one of those blokes, and he still is. I believe if one listens very closely in Wrestlemania 7, he tells Sherri Martel, "Come here bitch!" This was back in the super kid friendly 80s WWF, the same federation that had all these stupid sketches and angles to appeal to kids, and THE WARRIOR was the ultimate good bloke who was in fact loved by kids. Why then, why was he swearing? Did he not know the cameras might catch what he was saying? That's not supposed to happen, it must be real! If it was fake why is he really calling her a bitch? Wouldn't we have caught him telling her something like "Duck" or talking to her under his breath in a Jim Hellwig voice instead of the Warrior's growl? Maybe not, but it was somewhat real, somewhat even God-damn edgy.
By way of contrast, I recall watching RAW nearly a decade later and Ken Shamrock was SCREAMING at his sister Ryan for being a whore with the cameras right up in his face but as he didn't have a mike he thought we could hear him. Then he clearly whispers, "slap me" to her. And she slapped him. I then changed the channel.
I don't know what the Warrior's actual fighting ability was like or indeed what fighting style he dare to call it, but he bloody well sure was the correct person in the right place at the right time, for a good while, and he pulled off a character that no one else could ever obtain over. Consider: What other champion ever played the insane cosmic space warrior role?
I cannot say regardless if the Warrior in his prime would still be in wrestling today, however back then it all just clicked in my brain because THE WARRIOR had a horrific and inspiring look and a unique amount of intensity and because he was given the right stage to perform on.
The WWF of the 80s benefitted from both Vince McMahon's cocaine-inspired creative genius, but also more so from those fans and the people and wrestlers who set the standards and created the context for what wrestling was expected to be. Great men like Terry Funk, Gorilla Monsoon, the Poet and the Iron Sheik and too many others to dare mention. People that cared about legitimacy, because they knew it would always matter to the fans.
Of course in hindsight they were lying to us, but would one rather read a regular Stephen King book where at the very end, the main character declares "And right after the monster ate me I woke up and it was all a dream". "All a dream!? What the hell was I reading this book for?" So maybe it was all fixed, but would Gorilla or Jessie ever admit it? Jesus Christ in heaven with all his saints, a thousand times NO!!!!!
The WWF used to have a practice whereby the "Superstars" would wrestle blokes like Frankie Williams on Saturday morning TV and the Superstars would always win. ALWAYS. It still seemed real because it felt like a tune up match for the star wrestler. Vince later abandoned the practice when Nitro was recreating wrestlemania 5 every Monday night, and people were changing channels. But after watching Stone Cold battle the Rock for the 100 th time and the second consecutive wrestlemania, I felt "Hey, Give Frankie Williams a shot at the belt," because it just seemed at the time like a more real thing to do. One never sees boxers going beyond a trilogy of big fights and that makes each Gotti Ward fight so much more interesting than Stone Cold v Rock #232. By contrast, the Ultimate Warrior only took on Hogan once in the WWF! And he had great opponents like Macho Man Randy Savage, who I believe only wrestled him twice. And he benefitted further from events packed with talent like Steamboat, Sergeant Slaughter, Bob Orton, Greg Valentine, and Tito Santana; wrestlers that created a background of relative normalcy against which the Warrior could shine like a diamond against an azure sea. What also asssted, again, was that the WWF still cared about coming off as legit. So when THE WARRIOR obliterated his opponents in 3-minute matches, he truly seemed invincible to us owning tricycles. When my older brother grew up watching Stone Cold, even at the age of 6, he still knew it was fake. It's not Stone Cold's fault, it's the promotion.
I don't think that is ever true. The Ultimate Warrior was a big hulking individual who was ripped to shreds and yet could run to and from the ring like a bat out of hell's flames, giving the illusion of limitless stamina and energy and basically a man who could whoop a good deal of ass. In addition, the gorilla press slam. Who had the balls to make THAT one's finishing move? One'd have to be willing to try to lift any future opponent clear over ones head before launching them in the air, and he did it to the immortal Hulk Hogan and other heavyweights. One risks failure and looking like a pussy, a sissy-boy and a damned fool.
THAT is why the Ultimate Warrior remains forever in the pantheon of the wrestling gods. Like him or not, we must respect his legacy.