Fox Sports' Mark Kriegel author of one of my favorite sports biographies, Namath: A Biography, wrote a piece today called "Nothing fake about wrestling's juicing problem."
He pointed out that Vincent K. McMahon declined the chance to testify on Wednesday before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, along with Bud Selig, Roger Goodell, David Stern, Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr and Gene Upshaw. Kriegel noted subcommittee chairman Rep. Bobby Rush's comment "Steroid abuse in pro wrestling is probably worse than in any professional sport or amateur sport."
It's true. But wrestling is still a fantasy to many. And we overlook it. More so then we do with the NFL.
I have come to grips with the fact that I am a recovering wrestling fan. Back when I liked the "sport" there were far less cartoon characters and far more barroom brawling types who bordered on being flat "out of shape. " 25 years ago, you saw the change taking place as the Hulkster and McMahon teamed up to begin creating what we know today as "sports entertainment."
Also around that time, my family started taking Griswold-esq road trips. Because we weren't a family of means, and because my dad had an aversion to flying, we would pile in a used Dachshund each year and drive a thousand miles to my grandparents' house in Florida. One of the highlights of the trip was being able to purchase wrestling magazines in North Carolina (our midway break point). These weren't the glossy WWF ones. These were the truckstop ones that focused on all feds, including a lot of the southern regional ones. Besides the ads for bootleg women fighting tapes, one of my favorite features was the federation rankings. How else would I know who was lighting up the various NWA territories like Smokey Mountain and Mid-South?
Let's head back down memory lane and look at some of Pro Wrestling Illustrated's 1983 award winners and runners-up. I'd bet at least half of them were juicing, but what difference did it make?
Wrestler of the Year
Harley Race: Harley "Racist" (from what we are told) was inducted into the prestigious WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
Runners up: Nick Bockwinkel, André the Giant, Bob Backlund
Tag Team of the Year
The Road Warriors (Hawk and Animal) - these guys flat out gave me nightmares. One's dead, the other's kid is a Buckeye.
Runners up: Kerry, Kevin and David Von Erich, Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts), Jack and Jerry Brisco
Clearly this is back when the tag team divisions really meant something. Aside from a quick (in this blogger's opinion) resurgence in the late 90's with the Dudleys, Hardys & Christian/Edge's epic TLC matches, tag team wrestling has been dead for sometime.
Match of the Year
Ric Flair vs. Harley Race, NWA World Heavyweight Championship, St. Louis, MO
Falir is the absolute best. Don't believe me? Take this dingo's word for it.
Jimmy Snuka ushered top rope (and top of the cage) meneuvers into the sport. Albeit, in retrospect, at a far less dangerous pace as his high-flying followers. But, obviously fans ate it up.
The American Dweem Dusty Rhodes, David Von Erich, The Junkyard Dog
Greg Valentine - this before the dreaded shin guard was used to cripple opponents with the patented figure-four leg lock.
Runners up: Masked Superstar, Kevin Sullivan, Michael Hayes
Brett Wayne Sawyer is better known as the Mad Dog's brother.
Runners up: (Captain) Mike Rotundo, (Pistol) Pez Whatley, Brad Rheingans (who?)