The other day, I was reading through the great book, Wrestling at the Chase: The Inside Story of Sam Muchnick and the Legends of Professional Wrestling, and I realized something. I realized I miss the gold old days of pro wrestling. I miss when guys like Dusty Rhodes were at the top of the sport. The bygone era when guys who didn’t look like your typical star could still get a chance to shine. Guys like Terry Gordy, Big Bubba Rogers, “Playboy” Buddy Rose, and numerous others were on top because they were the best at what they did. Days when having a great muscled-up physique didn’t automatically make you a star. In short, I miss fat pro wrestlers.
Back in the days when wrestlers earned their checks by how many tickets they sold, the emphasis wasn’t so much on looks. It was a combination of their actual skill in the ring, along with their charisma out of it. If they could use their words to rile the fans up to the point that they would buy a ticket to see him get his butt kicked, that was enough. If he was good enough in the ring to make the fans believe what they were seeing, that was enough. Looks were just a bonus. Some of my favorite wrestlers would never be offered a cover spot on a men’s magazine, but they sure could make you believe they would whip the ass of whoever DID appear on the cover.
I use the term “fat wrestlers” loosely here. I’m not just talking about fat guys, I’m talking about guys who just don’t fit the “fitness” profile that you see with most guys in the ring today. Guys like Arn Anderson may not have gotten a chance in today’s wrestling world because he was not muscled up, and didn’t have six-pack abs, but he could talk, he could express emotion, and he knew how to tie guys up in a pretzel to get his point across.
You turn on WWE programming today, and you’re sure to find plenty of guys that are ripped and look like they’ve stepped straight off the pages of Muscle and Fitness. What you won’t find, however, are guys wrestling who looks like your dad, or the tough guy down the street who works on cars.
The loss of the average looking, but the tough son of a gun, in favor of hiring muscle-bound freaks who sometimes have trouble with the basic concepts of wrestling, has hurt the suspension of disbelief of wrestling to a degree. I want to see a guy who looks like my uncle fighting a guy who looks like your uncle.
A lot of the best wrestlers to ever come along were great examples of what I’m talking about. Mick Foley never looked too imposing physically, but because he knew how to connect with the fans through his interview style, and his brutal style in the ring, you always knew he was a threat. He didn’t have to rely on being muscled up with baby oil dripping off of him to become a star.
Take Phil Hickerson as an example. Phil spent a lot of his career wrestling in the Memphis area. While he certainly didn’t look like a star by today’s standards, he was one tough son of a gun and you had no problem believing what he did was real. Above is a video to help get my point across, and if you’ve never seen many of these guys I’ve mentioned, I urge you to search out footage of them and see just how some of these less than stellar looking athletes were some of the better workers in the business. And as a special bonus in that video, the two muscled-up chumps Phil was beating on here grew up to be Sting and The Ultimate Warrior.