Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rasslin’ Back In The Day

The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser
Last night on Facebook, Bill Lawrence, host of the WLIP Wake Up Call, was posting some old photographs of wrestling stars. Or do you say, rasslin’? The first photo was of Sodbuster Kenny Jay. He followed up with Kenosha’s own Tony Leone and then Yukon Moose Cholak. Finally, he changed his profile photo to legendary rasslin’ promoter Bob Luce. We chatted back and forth briefly, bringing up such notables as Pepper Gomez, Jimmy Valiant and Sgt. Jacques Goulet. All of this reminiscing brought back a fond memory of a great rasslin’ show I attended back in the day.

It was back in the ‘80s, a late winter day. The venue was the venerable Milwaukee Auditorium; it was a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon. The main event featured two classic tag teams – Dick the Bruiser and the Crusher vs. the Fabulous Freebirds.

The Bruiser and the Crusher were as old school as you could get. Growing up, I remember watching the Bruiser Sunday mornings on Bob Luce Wrestling (thanks, Bill) and the Crusher Saturday afternoons at 5:00 on channel 18’s AWA wrestling.

I first saw the Freebirds on WCCW out of Texas. They were easily my favorite tag team ever. I must have witnessed Michael P.S. Hayes, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy and Buddy Jack Roberts do battle with the Von Erich family at least a hundred times. In my humble opinion, this is by far the greatest rasslin’ feud of all time.


Freebirds Terry Gordy, Michael Hayes and Buddy Roberts
While the Freebirds vs. Von Erichs feud was the granddaddy of them all; the match in Milwaukee was nothing to sneeze at. Gesundheit. Seriously, da Bruiser and da Crusher versus the boys from Badstreet, U.S.A.??? It doesn’t get much better than that.

In attendance with me were my friends, Doug, Glenn and Gary. Doug, while a casual fan at best, definitely enjoyed the live action. Glenn and I were more hardcore fans, but we were nowhere in the league of Gary. He lived and breathed pro wrestling. He was the biggest rasslin’ fan I ever knew.

Being such an avid fan, Gary was overjoyed when he found out that the tickets I had acquired were ringside in the fourth row. Our proximity put us literally within spitting distance of the wrestlers. And sweating distance. And bleeding distance…

Okay, nobody bled on us, but we were definitely introduced to the other bodily fluids of the combatants. In fact, in one of the preliminary bouts, Bob Backlund body slammed Larry Zybysko into our row. It was pretty cool. I think Gary might have had an orgasm. I’m not sure.

After all of the opening matches were complete, it was time for the match we were all waiting for. Since there were three Freebirds, Buddy Jack Roberts was not wrestling and was outside the ring. However, just because he wasn’t officially wrestling, it didn’t mean he wasn’t participating.

Early in the match, Hayes and the Crusher were locked up on the mat near the ropes. Seizing the opportunity, Roberts slipped off one of his cowboy boots and handed to Hayes.

Hayes grabbed the boot, stared at it for a moment as a demented smile came across his face and then began beating Milwaukee’s own, the Crusher with it. The enthusiastic blows caught the Crusher all over the head and upper body. It didn’t look good for the fan favorite.

A side note - For those of you not familiar with the Crusher and the Bruiser, you should be aware that they were a bit past their prime at this time. They were a little long in the tooth. They had to be at least twenty years older than the Freebirds. They were old.

Back to the match. As Hayes continued to pummel him, the veteran Crusher was staggering about the ring, his eyes rolling back in his head. It was at this moment that I felt compelled to stand up and bellow, “Knock his dentures out!” I was loud. Very loud.

Although my friends found this amusing and responded with laughter, the guy seated directly in front of me didn’t see anything humorous in my comment. He slowly turned around and scowled at me. After he finished shooting daggers at me, he turned around to the action in the ring.

Back in the ring, the tide had definitely turned. The Crusher had somehow taken the cowboy boot from Hayes and was now the one delivering the punishment. Before long he had the leader of the Freebirds on rubber-leg street, wobbling around the ring like a drunken sailor.

As the beat down continued, the “gentleman” that I had upset earlier, turned around and shouted at me, “Ha! How do you like it now?” Undaunted, I replied, “Come on, you know this is all fake.” Evidently that was the wrong thing to say.

Remember I said that my friend Gary was the biggest rasslin’ fan I knew? Well, that was until I ran into this guy.

Upon hearing my declaration that rasslin’ was fake, his head started quivering and turned a bright, crimson red. Then, his whole body started shaking as he pointed a trembling finger in my face and forcefully hissed, “F#ck You!”

No longer undaunted, I managed to tell my enraged adversary, okay, okay, never mind. Satisfied that I was no longer disparaging the “sport” he so loved, he steadily and deliberately turned away from me, still noticeably shaking and remaining a bright shade of red.

Fortunately for me he didn’t hear me mumble under my breath, “The next thing you’re gonna tell me is that Roller Derby is real.” I don’t think that would have went over well with him. Call it a hunch.

I’m not sure, but I believe the Bruiser and the Crusher won the match that day, most likely because the Freebirds did something to get disqualified. You know how rasslin’ goes. But real or fake, it doesn’t matter. Rasslin’ back in the day was good stuff.

Until next time…from the booth.

3 comments:

Leplume said...

I was never much of a wrestling fan except that I do remember liking Rowdy Roddy Piper. Only because he starred in one of the all time worst horror movies ever. It's called "Them" and I love bad horror movies so he's a-ok with me! LOL

Sue said...

Ha ha - as you say wrestling 'back in the day' was far better than the'pretend' stuff now. Can remember my Uncle (who is now close to 80) watching Saturday afternoon wrestling on the TV and laying on the floor banging with his hand and screaming as if he was the ref - unbelievable the noise. It is no where near the same now - for some reason I could not take Steven to see WWF live and Margaret 'volunteered' to take him ha ha - she had such 'fun'!!! But the old wrestling was much better - as a lot of the 'old' things are. !!!

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

MB - Piper is legendary! I remember a classic moment with him where he was "interviewing" someone. It got quite heated and pretty soon they were toe-to-toe and in each others face. Finally, Piper, who had been chomping on gum the whole time, announces in a loud voice, "there are only two things I love doing, chewing gum and kicking ass. And I'm all done chewing gum!" With that, he spits out the gum and proceeds to start pummeling the other guy.

Sue - agreed, the old-time wrestling was much more entertaining. I attended dozens of show over the years and I always found the audience as entertaining as the action in the ring,