Ole Anderson, RIP

Alan Rogowski, better known as Ole Anderson, passed away yesterday. Details as to the cause of his death have not been made public, but his obituary states that he passed peacefully.

For those of you who don’t know, Ole Anderson was a professional wrestler. He was not just one of your run-of-the-mill wrestlers either. He was a tough-as-nails, take no gruff, star throughout the ’70s and ’80s. While he was a bigger attraction in the Carolinas and Georgia, he was known the world over.

As a founding member of the legendary Four Horseman, Ole Anderson was always in the mix at the top of the card and was a money-making draw for promoters everywhere. From his incredible run with his brother Gene as one of the top tag teams in the world, The Minnesota Wrecking Crew, to his later tag team run with “cousin” Arn Anderson, to his role in the Four Horsemen, and his bitter rivalry with Dusty Rhodes, Ole entertained millions for years.

For me personally, I hated Ole Anderson when I was a kid. The Rock & Roll Express were my favorites when I got into wrestling in 1985 and 1986, and one of their toughest challenges was Ole and Arn. Ole would continually put beatings on Ricky and Robert, and I would sit on the edge of my seat hollering at the TV and Ole in particular.

As I got older and understood pro wrestling better, I came to admire the persona of Ole. The tough SOB always put on entertaining matches and was always involved in storylines with my favorites, so I had a vested interest in his matches more times than not.

Ole’s way of doing things behind the scenes rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and over the last two decades, you’d be hard-pressed to find many good comments made about him by his peers. But I’ve never paid much attention to that in the past, and I still don’t now. From a fan’s perspective, Ole was a fantastic performer and knew how to get you riled up while you watched. That seems to be a rare trait among the crop of today’s wrestlers.

Being a lifelong wrestling fan, I’ve seen a lot of my childhood heroes pass on, and it’s always tough seeing the news when it pops up. Ole’s passing surprised and saddened me, but I hope he’s finally able to rest in peace. Thanks for the many memories Rock, you’ll be missed.

Getting Back to Old School Blogging

If you’ve landed here at Retro Ramblings (which you obviously have if you’re reading this) you’ll notice that things look quite a bit different than what you’ve been used to for the last several years.

In several posts in the past both here on this blog and on social media, I’ve bemoaned the loss of great retro blogs. I’ve also bemoaned the loss of traditional blog formats. All the while, I was perpetuating the sleek look and style of more contemporary sites. That’s a little hypocritical I guess, so I’ve decided to be the change I want to see. I’m taking Retro Ramblings back in time with a presentation just like all of my favorite blogs back in the day. Gone now is the slick formatting, and I’ve stripped Retro Ramblings of all it’s bells and whistles and am focusing on the just the content again.

This style may turn some off, but I hope not, and this style may help encourage others out there to dust off the old-school blogging templates and give things a go at it again. I kind of doubt that will happen, but instead of just wishing it, I’ve decided to go with it myself just hoping to reach someone.

And hey, since this blog is all about old-school things, It’s kind of appropriate to have an old-school blog feel to it as well. Some may see this as a step backward, which I guess it technically is, but I see it as a step forward. A step towards making me happy with it again, which is something I’ve struggled with through the last few years.

I tended to “present” things instead of writing about them. Things that I may or may not have had a connection with simply to please segments of the audience. But with the return to an old-school blog comes an old-school approach. I’m not just presenting things, but will be talking about my memories of them and connection to them from the past.

Again, this may not be your cup of tea, but I hope you stick around and see where it goes. It should be a fun ride.

Toys I Never Had: Hot Wheels Freight Yard Sto and Go Playset

The Hot Wheels Freight Yard was one of the several Sto and Go playsets that were so popular in the ’80s. It was also the largest of the bunch as it not only opened up vertically into a playest but had train tracks that folded out horizontally as well.

And unlike Hot Wheel’s other Sto and Go sets, the Freight Yard came with vehicles in the form of a locomotive, 2 freight cars, and a caboose. Item B pictured in the shot with the Freight Yard was an additional Freight Master Train Set that could be added to your Freight Yard fun.

Notice that the ad states that no electricity or batteries are needed. Since this was 1984, electric train sets were still sort of en-vogue, and no one wanted market confusion with this playset.

The 1984 price tag of $34.99 on this Freight Yard translates to $101.65 in 2023 dollars, making it quite an expensive playset. Other Sto and Go playsets of the time retailed for $23.99, or $69.69 in today’s dollars. Back when I had a couple of Sto and Go playsets in the mid-’80s, I never knew how expensive of a toy I was playing with.

But as I’ve documented before, I loved train toys when I was young. The trains that Matchbox produced, the Micro Machines train sets, and even an old series of Happy Meal boxes that were train cars in vacuum form. I loved them all, and I pined over this Sto and Go for years. Heck I still pine for it today.

Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff in the Cage

I’m a lifelong fan of pro wrestling, so naturally, I have a lot of memories from years gone by that jump out at me. One of the memories that came flooding back to me recently was the night that Hulk Hogan fought Paul Orndorff in a cage on NBC’s Saturday Night’s Main Event. Thanks to the guys of TRN’s House Show Podcast reviewing the show, I felt like a kid again.

Saturday Night’s Main Event was at one time THE biggest wrestling show on television. Pay-per-view was in its infancy for most of the series run, the NWA had yet to launch their Clash of the Champions series and the regular wrestling shows on television were still filled with non-competitive matches for the most part. Yeah, they’d throw us a bone every now and then and give us a decent main event match, but even that usually was just to set up something for later, and would often end in a non-finish.

So when a Saturday Night’s Main Event show would roll around on NBC about once a month, it was must-see TV for young wrestling fans. Or must-record-TV in my case. Even being the weekend, my mom wouldn’t let me stay up to watch it as it happened. Instead, I would set the timer on the VCR, record it, and then watch it the next morning as soon as I got up.

The match I’m going to be talking about here took place on the January 3rd, 1987 Saturday Night’s Main Event. The “main event” of the show pitted World Wrestling Federation champion Hulk Hogan against his one-time friend turned bitter rival, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. And this wouldn’t be just another match. No sir. This match was going to take place inside the walls of a 15-foot-high steel cage! The only way to win one of these cage matches was to put your opponent down to the point that you could leave through the door, or climb over the top. The important thing is that your feet must touch the floor.

So I’m watching the tape the following morning after the live event, and the Hogan-Orndorff match was up first. It was a good back-and-forth affair, but nine-year-old me really had no reason to think that Orndorff would actually beat Hogan. But it got to a point in the match when both men were a little groggy, and they started to climb out on opposite sides of the ring. Jesse “The Body” Ventura on commentary exclaimed that it was a race! I kinda got on the edge of my seat. It was neck and neck as they both started down the outside. Vince McMahon was yelling for Hogan to drop down! Then it happened. Both men hit the floor at the same time! The theme song “Real American” started playing, which after the bout a winner’s music is played, but in this case, it didn’t really tell you who won since both men used the same theme song!

Wait…who just won the match? There was confusion at ringside as both men were claiming victory. McMahon and Ventura were each arguing the case for a different competitor. Referees Joey Marella and Danny Davis were each declaring a different winner. Multiple replays of the finish were shown, but no official announcement had been made. It was Saturday night suspense at its finest! The show went to a commercial break, leaving everyone pondering what the outcome was! When the show returned, an announcement was made that this match had been declared a tie. But since a tie is like kissing your sister (my words, not theirs), the referee ordered the match to be restarted!

So after we had just witnessed an incredible battle, with an incredible ending, we were about to get even more! Unfortunately, the rest of the bout was not as exciting as the first half. Hogan went on to soundly defeat Orndorff once they were back in the cage. He even gave Bobby Heenan a good thrashing for good measure after the match was over.

Hogan would go on to an even bigger moment just a month later that I’m sure I’ll be covering at some point soon, while Orndorff would start to fall off in his importance as the rest of 1987 rolled on. But none of that could take away from the flat-out excitement of their cage match on that Saturday night so long ago. I still get goosebumps re-watching it today. You can watch the full match below and re-live the excitement, or live it for the first time.

Superman Peanut Butter

Superman Peanut Butter

It’s funny how some things can just pop into your head that you haven’t thought about in many years. This is one of those things.

Peanut butter is a staple in most American homes.  You can find it in cabinets, in lunch boxes, and in lunch pails all across this great country.  It’s patriotic….right behind apple pie. And you know what else is patriotic? Superman by gosh!  If you slap Superman’s name and image on a jar of peanut butter, you have the ultimate weapon against communism. 

At least that’s what a lot of us kids growing up in the ’80s in the rural area I lived in thought anyway.  We’d spend a lot of our time at recess after lunch playing Superman vs The Russians on the school playground.  No joke. We had our bellies full of Superman peanut butter and were battling the red menace to keep our playgrounds safe…just like in Red Dawn.  It was serious business. I even started a super-secret spy club in school to help combat the threat that we were exposed to on the news every night.  But I digress. 

Anyway, I’m not sure Superman peanut butter tasted any better than Skippy, Peter Pan, or Jif.  Actually, from what I’ve read online, Superman may have even been a cheaper variety than those others listed.  No matter the cost, that brand of peanut butter with Superman on the label is what I still identify as the epitome of peanut butter from my childhood. 

As a sidebar, I can explicitly remember one distinct point in time when I was eating Superman peanut butter.  It was January 28, 1986. We were out of school that day due to snow. I was sitting on the floor of our basement where I usually played, with a Superman peanut butter sandwich in front of me as I watched the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger.  It was one of those moments where you always remember where you were and what you were doing….and I had Superman peanut butter to make me feel a little better as I watched those events unfold.