Joined: 01 Aug 2006
|Posted: Fri Sep 23, 2016 10:20 am Post subject: YR Watches...1978-1984 WWWF
I started watching wrestling around 1981. It was WWWF making the transition into the WWF. Although growing up in NY, I never heard anybody call it the WWWF. It was always the WWF. My memory eludes me a bit from this timeframe other than remembering how over Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson were (still surprised they didnít try to be a tag team for longer), how good Adonis and Murdoch were, how good Johnny Rodz was as a worker when he had the chance to shine and how my dad eschewed wrestling after years of being a diehard Bruno fan. All because he took me to a wrestling card and all Afa did in one match was pick his nose to get heat. This lead to many years of discontent between the two of us between my love for pro wrestling and his hatred of pro wrestling and neither of us understanding the otherís viewpoint.
My interest in watching this era piqued when I saw a video of a Piperís Pit segment with Greg Valentine and they basically acknowledge their dog collar match for Crockett to the audience and then decide to hug and let bygones be bygones. This was early í84 and simply this was a Vince Sr. move instead of a Vince Jr. move as Jr. hated giving even a concept that another wrestling promotion could exist. And it was just foreign to me to see a WWF that operated more like a NWA territory than the Vince Jr. pro forma wrestling behavior and guidelines. I went back to 1978 because I still wanted to see some Bruno, but I wanted some watchable TV production. You could probably call them the ĎHeyman Yearsí because thatís when Paul started to take an interest in the business and get involved with the business. Then he started to be mentored by Blassie, Roth and Albano and the rest is history.
Getting back to the Piperís Pit segments. They were a strange lot. Everybody remembers how great they were, but they actually werenít. And thatís not due to Piper. It was due to what looked like complete clusterfucks where they would promise Piper a certain amount of time and then cut him short. All the while throwing ANYBODY with a pulse and a singlet out there and expect Piper to make lemonade out of lemons. For every Frankie Williams, which was a clusterfuck from the get go that Piper made into a great segment, there was a Tony Garea that wouldnít sell for Piper and it didnít go over.
What most remember from Piperís Pit was the infamous Jimmy Snuka coconut incident. I watched it when it originally aired and it was talked about quite heavily by wrestling fans. Looking back it was such a brilliant piece by Piper as he ends up coming off as the best type of heel that drawsÖa heel thatís not a pussy, but still a coward.
Not only that, Piper set up the spot brilliantly by letting a couple of coconuts drop on the table. This signified that they were real coconuts, but just in case anybody forgot that coconuts are quite stiff. Then BAM! Out of nowhere Piper hits Snuka and Snuka collapses the entire stage and history is made.
I think thatís what really made Piper such a draw. It just seemed like to me that the WWWF was filled with great workers, but they always worked lighter in NY than they did elsewhere. And they made sure to temper their heat compared to what they would do elsewhere. A Don Muraco who had the audacity to go after Gordon Solie physically would joke around with Gene Okerlund. A Dick Murdoch who could cut a racist promo in the South, nary the word in the NYC.
I wonder if it had to do with the landscape of NY back in the 80ís. People forget that Manhattan was probably the 2nd most violent burrough in NY (only behind the Bronx). Harlem was horrific. The West side had massive violence to outsiders who were also frequently kidnapped for ransom. Even Times Square was a pretty scary place. It was still a busy city, but people would travel in packs because itís much more difficult to rob a group of 8 instead of one person. Between the teen wilding and Bernie Goetz, it was a crazy time. And NYC was where the culture of lawyers and lawsuits was born. So between the violence and the lawsuits, perhaps the WWWF wanted to keep things under wraps in order to avoid those costly ventures.
The wrestlers that stood out to me the most were Adonis and Bruno. I always knew Adonis was brilliant in the ring, I just didnít know how good he was on the mic. I would be interested in learning more about Adonis, but thereís little information available. Unfortunately, heíll be remembered mostly for his Adorable Adrian gimmick.
Years ago I would have been impressed with Adorable Adrian because of his girth and ability to take big bumps and do some top rope moves. But watching Adonis when he was slimmer you start to see how his weight during the Adorable Adrian years took away from that brilliance in the ring. He wasnít nearly as smooth in the ring. Iím thinking the wrestlers were impressed by watching an obese guy take big bumps, but it takes more talent to hit the transitions and sequences smoothly in the ring than it does to take a big bump. Donítí get me wrong, both require talentÖbut Adorable Adrian couldnít do what a younger, in shape Adonis could do.
I never really watched a lot of Bruno and he gets some flak for his lack of a moveset. But what impressed me about Bruno was his ability to work the crowd. Why use a piledriver when you can get just as over using a bear hug?
According to Zbyszko, he came to Bruno with the idea about Larry turning on Bruno, but Bruno pretty much booked the entire angle and told Zbyszko what to do. Why? Because Bruno knew the New York crowd and knew that this angle could draw money and how he would get it to draw.
Itís really a nice piece of work by both guys as Zbyszko is the young guy who just wants to wrestle Bruno to see if he can beat him and possibly get out of his shadow. Bruno is the old guy that loves Larry like a brother and has no interest in beating him. Zbyszko then threatens to quit wrestling because he canít get out of Brunoís shadow and then Bruno reluctantly accepts Larryís challenge. Then itís the old guard vs. young lion in the ring with the young lion slowly getting frustrated and then turns heel on Bruno Bruno, like Piper wasnít afraid to get the head and thatís why they drew so well.
I also started to think that Backlund was more over in MSG than given credit for. The problem was he was following Bruno and the WWWF business model revolved around MSG and selling it out every month. Bruno did that for 12 years straight, so anything remotely less than that would be considered a disappointment.
I forgot why they liked Big John Studd so much. Studd was the drizzling shits in the ring, but he was a big dude who could talk well on the mic, kind of a sign of things to come for Vince Jr. Ken Patera was a much better worker and a phenomenal athlete. I think people underestimate the part that strength plays in terms of athleticism. They tend to relegate athleticism to agility and jumping prowess.
I just donít think they ever quite found a spot they were looking for with Patera. While he was one of the strongest men on earth, he didnít have that cut, bodybuilderís physique. It also didnít help that he wasnít very good on the mic (sometimes atrocious) and the he and Mr. Saito threw a bolder threw a McDís window.
There was a question posed of what Vince Jr. would have done if Hogan didnít jump ship from the AWA. Most point to Vince Jr. going after Dusty or Austin Idol. I tend to believe he would try with Ventura or try to do anything with Billy Graham or perhaps go with Orndorff. Vince Jr. is a mark for physiques and I think that Orndorff would have likely been his best option. Orndorff was always an enigma to me because he wasnít anywhere near Luger bad, he was impressive to look at and looked like a guy that could snap and kill you with his bare hands and had that great piledriver. But, there was something about Orndorff where he never quite hit the lick as a wrestler. He wasnít panned like Luger was and he actually gave a shit about his profession. But, I tend to think that if Hogan doesnít jump from the AWA, Vince Jr. goes with Orndorff and the wrestling world is forever changed.
Vince Jr. did a great job of stacking up great heels for Hogan with Iron Shiek, Terry Funk, Roddy Piper, Bundy and then Andre and Savage. So I tend to think that Orndorff might have been a solid, but still underwhelming draw if it was him instead of Hogan.
Andre was great during this timeframe. There will never be another Andre and I think it has little to do with him being used as a special attraction while Paul Wight was a full time performer. Andre was charismatic and knew how to play the babyface role.
If thereís one big difference I see between wrestling back in the day and wrestling from the past 15 years is that the wrestlers knew how to be babyfaces. And Andre was one of the best at it. Itís much easier to be a heel than to be a true face and Andre was proof as when he switched to heel he played that brilliantly as well. Most wrestlers can never play both that well, particularly giants like Andre.
Then that leads us into Vince Sr.ís death, Hogan coming into frame and the birth of Hulkamania. And this quaint little company that relied on Bruno selling out the Garden on a monthly basis turned into the Tour de Force in the 80ís.