Welcome back to another edition of the Retro Round Table. This is where I get together with several of my online, retro-minded friends and we each give our opinion on the topic of choice. With Wrestlemania coming up this weekend, what better time to talk about our favorite old school wrestlers?
I’m joined again this week by Hoju Koolander of the SequelQuest Podcast, Spyda-Man from 20 Years Before 2000, and Eric Vardeman of Eric V Music and Retro Ramblings fame. So let’s get into the discussion, and when you’re done reading, join the discussion in the comments by telling us who YOUR favorite wrestler was back in the day. Let’s get to it!
My favorite WWF/WWE wrestler of all time has to be Junkyard Dog! He was so crazy and I will never forget his snarling face as he would enter the ring to the sounds of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” while barking at his opponent and swinging that badass chain around his neck. My introduction to JYD was in the form of the animated Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestlingcartoon. Out of all the iconic characters in that show JYD’s character just stood out to me and I was hooked. The one match of his that stands out more than any other to me is when he gave Macho Man Randy Savage a beat down to win the WWF Wrestling Classic in 1985. I didn’t see it live since it was Pay-Per-View, but I had friends who were wrestling junkies, so I borrowed their VHS tape of the event. Unfortunately, I never got to see Junk Yard Dog wrestle in person and I will never have that chance. In 1998 JYD was in a car accident after leaving his daughter’s high school graduation. He passed away at the age of 45. For his contributions to wrestling Sylvester Ritter aka Junk Yard Dog was inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2004 and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012.
When it comes to wrestling, I’ve always been hooked more by the peripheral personalities in the business over the “Superstars”. It’s weird that the muscular bodies slamming into each other in the ring that were being celebrated by everybody else often took a backseat to Sensational Sherri, Jimmy Hart or Mr. Fuji when I was watching a WWF show. None had more glory in my eyes than the man, the mustache, the tuxedo, Mean Gene Okerlund. Though he did once train very comedically for a tag team match alongside his partner, Hulk Hogan, Gene was primarily a backstage interviewer, which meant he was given audience to the wackiest turns of phrase to come out of the mouths of the Macho Man Randy Savage or the Ultimate Warrior. His reactions to the madness were just fantastic. Gene was that familiar face I could always count on during my early days as a wrestling fan, so this golden voiced, balding man was the glue that held the federation together in my eyes. Just think about it, everybody had to pass by Mean Gene’s microphone to state their reason for beating up their opponent that night or at the next Wrestlemania. He was in a way, my idol. Not being very athletic as a kid, I instead pretended to be an interviewer like Gene Okerlund, running up and down the basketball court at recess getting sound bytes from my classmates during the game. Most common were the phrases, “Shut up” and “Get out of here”. In the 90s I even got to eat at the short-lived fast food chain, Mean Gene’s Burgers and have cherished the napkins, placemats and t-shirt purchased that day. I hear Mean Gene even announces for weddings now, so maybe when my wife and I renew our vows he can break out the tuxedo one more time for me to cut a promo on my beloved, brother!
– Hoju Koolander
You can follow along with all of Hoju’s retro shenanigans on his twitter feed, @hojukoolander, read a lot of his his fine writing on a variety of retro topics at Retro-Daze, keep up with him at PopGeeks, and listen to his awesomely fun pod cast at SequelQuest Podcast where he and his cohorts craft sequels that we never got to movies that we loved! And if you haven’t checked it out yet, Hoju recently did a review for us of the cheesy 80’s movie, Body Slam. Check it out here!
My favorite old school wrestler, without a doubt, is “The Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich. He was a part of the WCCW out of Dallas/Fort Worth. Their syndicated show was on in my home town every Saturday night from 10 to midnight and I watched it religiously. He feuded with Gentleman chris Adams, Gino Hernandez, “Iceman” King Parsons and even wrestled against Jerry “The King” Lawler and Ric Flair. He and his brothers were in an ongoing feud with the Fabulous Freebirds that was always entertaining. While all the Von Erich’s used the move, nobody perfected the Von Erich “Iron Claw” like Kerry.
– Eric Vardeman
Give Eric a follow on Twitter at @Eric_Vardeman, and you can find his retro memories right here on Retro Ramblings! His new weekly feature here on Retro Ramblings, Music Mondays, is awesome too. He looks back at the songs gracing the Top 40 list from 35 years ago in 1983! He’s also a talented singer/songwriter, and you should check out his music at EricVMusic.
The very first time I came across professional wrestling on television, I saw what would go on to become my favorite act. It was late 1985 on a Saturday afternoon while I was scanning the channels. I flipped through and saw smoke, flashing lights, and heard rock music. I went right on past it, but stopped and backed up, and watched as two men clad in bandanas strode through a crowd of people. It was the Rock & Roll Express on their way to the ring for a match. I had never seen or heard of wrestling before, but was instantly intrigued. I watched their match and was blown away by what I saw. And then, when they hit one of their helpless opponents with their patented double drop kick, I came out of my seat. I was instantly hooked.
I tuned in to wrestling every chance I got after that, looking to see more of the Rock & Roll Express. They were the reason I begged my Dad to take me to the matches when they came around the next time. I had their shirts, their gloss 8×10’s, their magazine, was a member of their fan club, and wore bandanas on my wrists to school. It was an intense fandom. As the years rolled on, and their star started to fall a little, I still followed them in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and to this day, I still enjoy catching Ricky Morton in action on local shows.
– Retro Rambler
So what about you? Who is your favorite old school wrestler, and why? Join in the conversation in the comments section below.