Mike “Virgil” Jones, RIP

Damn. Two RIP posts in back-to-back days. Just yesterday I wrote about the passing of Ole Anderson. It’s been a tough stretch for old-school wrestling fans. They say these things come in threes, but I hope that superstition doesn’t come true.

If you were a pro wrestling fan in the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s you know who Virgil was. For several years in the late ’80s, Virgil was paired with “The Million Dollar Man” as his servant and helped play a hand in all of Ted DiBiase’s dastardly deeds, drawing the ire of the fans along the way.

Virgil’s WWF run came to its apex when he finally had enough of DiBiase’s treatment of him and stood up to The Million Dollar Man at the 1991 Royal Rumble. He blasted DiBiase with his own Million Dollar title belt, and went on to win that belt from him at Wrestlemania 7. Virgil went on to moderate success as a good guy before finishing his mainstream career as part of the nWo in WCW in the late ’90s.

While most fan’s memories of Mike Jones are as Virgil, my favorite memories of him were from his early days in the Memphis circuit when he went by the persona of Soul Train Jones (pictured above).

He was a middle-of-the-pack performer back then, but I didn’t know things like that back then, and he was one of my favorites. We got the Memphis television show on a couple of week’s delay here in my neck of the woods, and it was on at midnight. I had to record it each week and watch it the next day, and I was always excited to see how Soul Train Jones each week. His battles against the likes of Tojo Yammamoto’s men, Goliath, Big Bubba, and a young Cactus Jack always thrilled me. He was such an electric performer in that persona.

Whether you were more of a fan of Virgil or Soul Train Jones like me, the fact remains that another one of our wrestling heroes has left us, and that leaves another hole in my heart. Rest in peace Soul Train.

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.

My 9/11 Story

It’s often been said that you’ll always remember where you were on 9/11. I certainly remember where I was that day, and this is my story.

This past Saturday marked my wife and I’s 23rd wedding anniversary. I know it’s hard to believe that she has been able to put up with me that long, but it’s true. All the way back on September 9, 2000, we tied the knot. We had a fun honeymoon made up of visiting various places and doing various things for a week. One of the places we visited was the resort town of Gatlinburg TN where we stayed in the honeymoon suite of one of the better hotels there. We thoroughly enjoyed everything the hotel had to offer including the private balcony on the river, the private access to the pool and hot tub area, the fireplace in the room, and the jacuzzi tub.

So as our first anniversary was approaching, we thought it would be great to go back there and stay in the same suite again to celebrate one year of marriage. Not only did we like that idea, but we also liked the idea of once again incorporating several stops and adventures during our week-long celebration just like we did the year before. Gatlinburg and its surrounding areas were going to be our first destination.

We arrived in town on the afternoon of Sunday the 9th of September, and took in a few of the local attractions before calling it a night. On Monday the 10th, we made the hour-long drive across the mountain to the town of Cherokee NC. Cherokee is a historic town that sits in the heart of the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation. After seeing all of the sights and doing some touristy stuff, we headed to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino to spend the evening playing various slot machines. We stayed out late and got back to our hotel in Gatlinburg even later and crashed hard. Without having anywhere in particular to be on Tuesday, no alarms were set to wake up at any certain time.

On Tuesday morning, I sleepily woke up sometime after 9 AM. I turned on the TV, and so I wouldn’t disturb my still-sleeping wife, I muted the volume and started flipping through the channels. I surfed past CNN quickly, but an image caught my eye before I could stop my thumb from pressing the button on the remote, so I had to flip it back. The image on the screen was disturbing. What appeared to be the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center was center screen with smoking coming from both. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t make out the scrawl at the bottom of the screen with the details of what I was seeing.

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Wrestling in 1993

Recently, Jeff and I along with the help of Jason recorded and published a new episode of the Gnarly 90s podcast with a look at the year 1993. We touched on all the major news events, sports stories, television and movies, and the new technology that debuted in 1993. One subject we didn’t touch on was the events in pro wrestling in 1993.

1993 has long been shunned by pro wrestling fans as a “down” year. While it’s true that attendance and ratings were down that year, and a lot of hokiness ensued that year, I really enjoyed it. Back then, I was just as glued to the weekly shows as I was in 1986 or 1989, two very fondly remembered years in wrestling.

In the WWF, while they were in a rebuilding era where talent was concerned, 1993 saw the launch of Monday Night Raw. The first half of the year featured the show coming from the Manhattan Center in NYC and provided a unique experience for a wrestling fan. One that few have been able to capture since. It was an intimate setting with a very enthusiastic crowd and combined with the focus on putting forth top matches, it resulted in a tremendously fun show to watch every week.

Who can forget the angle where Money Inc. smashed Brutus Beefcake with a briefcase that lured Hulk Hogan back into action on behalf of this friend, or the night that the 1-2-3 Kid scored the amazing upset victor over Razor Ramon? The environment was perfect for wrestling even if it wasn’t at the heights Vince McMahon wanted it to be at.

Over in WCW, they too were in a bit of a rebuilding era with their talent, bringing in and promoting new, young acts for the fans. Their WCW Saturday Night show also had a great feel to it as it emanated from the re-vamped Center Stage Theater in Atlanta. The small crowd was on top of the action, which was pretty good. Along with what ended up being great action on their PPV events, and the every-couple-of-months Clash of the Champions TBS specials, WCW was a lot of fun to watch and keep up with on a weekly basis.

1993 was also the year ECW got on television. While Eastern Championship Wrestling wasn’t quite what Extreme Championship Wrestling would be later on, it was still a fun show at a minor league level. It was a place to see some older stars like Terry Funk, Eddie Gilbert, Jimmy Snuka, and others, while at the same time building the foundation of stars that would define ECW for the rest of its tenure like Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, Taz, Sabu, and Public Enemy.

And possibly my favorite wrestling promotion of 1993, Smoky Mountain Wrestling enjoyed the most entertaining year of its short existence. SMW was hitting on all cylinders in 1993 with The Rock & Roll Express enjoying a tremendous revival and feuding with longtime nemesis Jim Cornette and his tag team of The Heavenly Bodies. We even got to see Bobby Eaton join the mix with the Bodies against the R&Rs who were joined by Arn Anderson. Ron Wright as the elderly manager of The Dirty White Boy was a great act and a highlight of the weekly TV shows. But SMW also brought great action in the year all year long, maybe capped off by their Bluegrass Brawl event in the spring. It had a great old-school territory-type vibe to the promotion that made it different, yet complimented the other major offerings in the wrestling world that year.

All in all, even though most fans look down on 1993, I put it in the Top 5 wrestling eras of my lifetime. And the best part is, thanks to modern technology, you can re-experience it all today. With the WWE Network offering every episode of Raw from that year as well as their PPVs, all of the WCW Saturday Night episodes, the PPV events, and the Clash of the Champions are all available as well. And under their ECW banner, you can watch all the episodes of their TV from that year as well. You have to turn over to YouTube to watch SMW, but every episode of their TV is there too. So in theory, you can go back and relive all of 1993 today. As a matter of fact, I believe I’ll do just that.

Photos From My Dead Mall

A few years ago my mall died. I know I’m not alone in this fact as numerous malls have closed all around the country in the last decade. For our local mall, it started when a new shopping center was constructed seven miles away. Only a few stores left for the new center, but it was like the first little snowball starting to roll down the hill. A couple of years later, a new mega-shopping attraction began construction, and all of the anchor stores in the mall declared they would be moving there. Even Stevie Wonder could read the writing on that wall, and before we knew it, most stores in the mall were signing up for the move to the new outdoor shopping center. The few shops that were left were too small to afford the move and ended up staying at the mall until the end, and then just vanished. The independent stores went out of business altogether, and the smaller chain stores just didn’t relocate, and that was the end of the mall.

A few days before it closed for good, I was able to get in and take the photos in the slideshow below. Consider them autopsy photos. If you have any questions as you browse through them, feel free to ask. I’ll be over in the corner weeping.

Ric Flair’s Last Match

As this post goes live, Ric Flair is just a couple of hours away from wrestling his last match as part of a special event called, appropriately enough, Ric Flair’s Last Match.

I don’t plan on watching it live due to a couple of reasons. One is the hefty price tag for the online PPV event, and as early as I have to get up every day, I wouldn’t be able to stay up late enough to enjoy it. Those are the practical reasons. Another reason is, that I’ve already seen his last match back at Wrestlemania 24.

Now I know that Flair went on to wrestle in TNA after his retirement match against Shawn Michaels at that event fourteen years ago. But I’ve never watched any of the matches he had there, nor do I intend to. His send-off at Wrestlemania and the retirement ceremony the following night on Monday Night Raw was a perfect endpoint in my mind. I briefly wrote about it once upon a time while looking back at some of my favorite Wrestlemania memories. Here is what I had to say:

For me, it was the end of an era.  An era of fully enjoying watching wrestling.  I watched Raw the following night and the awesome send off the WWE gave the greatest wrestler of all-time.  That was the last time I watched a full episode of a wrestling show.

I had seen my favorite at his peak, and at his lowest, and then I got to see him on one last high over those two days.  As Flair closed the book on his active wrestling career, I closed the book on my fandom.  No one would ever capture my imagination like the “Nature Boy” did again.

I still feel that way. Tonight’s event has even more nostalgia associated with it since it is the last card that will be presented by Jim Crockett Promotions…my all-time favorite promotion that brought me so much entertainment through the years. Not only that, but being held at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville is significant as it’s the site of two of Flair’s world title wins. The first being over Ricky Steamboat at WrestleWar ’89, and the second was over Randy Savage at Starrcade ’95. Both of those events I witnessed live on PPV. One other little bit of nostalgia associated with the event is that its start time is 6:05 pm…a little nod to the history of wrestling on TBS with its traditional 6:05 start time every Saturday night for YEARS.

Even though I won’t be watching, I wish the “Nature Boy” all the best. Not only in health as he’s attempting to do this match with a pacemaker, but in spirit as well. I hope Ric finds the happiness that he’s searching for by going out there to do what he loves one last time.

Who knows, maybe one day when I’m older, I’ll attempt to do something I’ve loved one last time and will know what he’s going through, and someone will be cheering me on and wishing me well from afar.

https://youtu.be/P2EG-qrRda0

My Origin Story: Comic Books

Ever since I was young, I’ve enjoyed comic books.  Although I’ve never been a hardcore comics buyer or reader, I have dabbled in them from time to time, and my collection has expanded and retracted a lot through the years.

In the beginning, my older brother had a large collection of comic books that were kept under a table on our carport in the house I grew up in.  During the summer months, I would pull out random issues and read through them.  In his large pile of comics, there were superhero comics like Justice League America, Superfriends, Unknown Soldier, Sgt. Rock, Fantastic Four, Batman, and Incredible Hulk. There were the more kid-friendly books too like Richie Rich and Uncle Scrooge comics. And then there was also a nice little selection of Cracked and Mad Magazines to enjoy as well.

Rainy days were whiled away kicked back on a sofa we had on the carport, watching and listening to it rain and reading issue after issue.  Since they were kept in the carport, they ended up drawing moisture, and thus any monetary value they had vanished.  But that didn’t matter to me.  What mattered was the content inside.

We eventually let my Uncle come and take them all away when we were moving to a new house.  I never saw any of those old issues again, and when we arrived at the new house, I no longer had any comic books to read.

Eventually, I was turned on to the joys of reading Archie Comics.  During the summers, the family would travel with my old man on his business trips, and on one trip somewhere, my mom picked up an Archie Comics digest to kill time while riding.  Once she was done with it, she passed it back and I settled into the back seat and blew through the whole thing and loved it.

The characters of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and Reggie populated a fun world that was filled with great supporting characters like Moose, Midge, Dilton, Josie, Big Ethel, and others.  I soon found myself spending allowance money on new issues of the Digests and Double Digests of the Archie world, but it wasn’t long before a superhero comic once again caught my eye.

While at the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store on a weekly shopping trip with Mom, an issue of Green Lantern caught my eye.  Now there was nothing really grabbing about this book, but the local grocery store was never known for its variety of comic books on the rack. In most cases, there were usually only 4 or 5 titles to choose from each week. I had been a fan of Green Lantern since the Superfriends cartoons, so I picked up this issue of Emerald Dawn #5.  Unfortunately, I had no point of reference to the story since I picked up the 5th issue from a 6-issue mini-series.

Even though I had no clue what was going on in the story, I went back and picked up the 6th issue the following month.  To this day, I’m a fan of Green Lantern and have picked up a lot of GL comics through the years when I’ve been back on the collecting wagon or was intrigued by different storylines. But again, nothing about this particular story or issue begged me to buy it. It was just there among the few other titles available, and it was the best pick of the bunch I guess.

I didn’t really pick up many more comics from that point on for a while. FOr a long time, I had spent my weekly allowance on wrestling magazines, and I went back to ready those. That is unntil the hype surrounding the Death of Superman storyline came out.

The Death of Superman was one of the biggest storyline events in the history of comic books.  The hype surrounding it was unreal, and thus, the first print copies of Superman #75 sold out in record time.  My brother had an interest in picking up the issue as a collector’s issue, and I had an interest in reading it.

Wax Pack Flashback | Watch me open an old pack of Doomsday: Death of Superman trading cards!

He took me to a local comic book and card store to pick up a copy, but they were already sold out.  The dealer told us he would be getting more copies in and we should keep checking back.  We went back every few days to see if he had gotten any in.  My brother kept getting disappointed, but I just kept seeing more and more cool comics to pick up that I hadn’t seen before.

While he nor I was able to get a copy of Superman #75, I did get a chance to read a copy at school. I was hooked. Then I started actively seeking out the follow-up issues that DC Comics labeled collectively as “Funeral For a Friend”, and the follow-up to that, “Reign of the Supermen”. I wasn’t picking those issues up from a collector’s perspective, but rather I was really into the story. I eventually continued on with the Superman family of books beyond the whole saga for quite a while and really enjoyed being immersed in the world of all things Metropolis through the various titles.

Before the whole Death of Superman saga was complete, it was Batman’s turn to be put through the wringer, as the Knighfall storyline was starting up. You remember the story right? When Batman got his back broken, someone else had to take over, and when Bruce Wayne was eventually healthy enough again he returned and had to reclaim the mantle of Batman. It was another huge storyline, and another one I was all in on. Between this and the Superman storyline, I was a comic book fiend.

Another contributing factor to my fandom at the time was a title I saw while visiting that little comic and card shop trying to get a copy of Superman #75. That title was Wizard Magazine.

The issue that was out at that time was #17.  There was really nothing special about the issue, but I was hooked on the contents of this magazine from the beginning.  I could see all of the comics that were currently on the market and the ones set to come out. I could read details on various comic events, and also learn the histories of various characters and stories through the years. It was also where I first learned about Valiant Comics and Image comics. Neither of which I ever picked up issues from, but it was fun to keep up with the goings-on in the offerings from those companies. From then on, I picked up every new issue and would read it from cover to cover within a week of getting it.

I was turned on to several characters and storylines that I liked, and my friend Geoffrey and I would get on the phone and discuss the cool-looking issues that were coming out, and just talk about comic books in general that we were learning about from reading Wizard every month.

This seems like a good time for a little sidebar in here. If you were a fan of Wizard magazine back in the day, or just comic books in the ’90s in general, you owe it to yourself to check out the podcast, Wizards: The Podcast Guide to Comics. It’s hosted by my good friend Adam and is part of The Retro Network’s universe of nostalgia-themed podcasts. In each episode, Adam and his co-hosts go through an issue of Wizard magazine and talk about everything between its covers. There’s tons of great discussion on comic books of that era, the regular features found each month in the magazine. In addition to that, Adam also does special issues where he interviews various writers and editors that worked on the magazine through the years. You can even hear me on a special episode discussing the Death of Superman storyline!

Now back to the story…that little old comic book shop went out of business at the tail end of the speculator market, but I had the opportunity to pick up a good many books there, some of which I still have in my collection.  I’ve never stopped reading comics since picking them up all those years ago.  I still read the occasional Superman title, but Batman took over the spot as my favorite years ago.  Today, I like to go back to that era and read these issues over again, and also finally check out books I missed back then through the DC Universe Infinite and Marvel Universe apps.

So that’s how fell into comic books, and why now I’m a huge fan of superheroes in all mediums.  But what about you?  Do you enjoy comics?  If so, how did you get into them?  What was the first comic you read?  Tell me about it in the comments section below and we’ll reminisce together.

I Miss Fat Pro Wrestlers

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.

Is Nostalgia Dead?

A few weeks ago I hosted a live Space on Twitter and was fortunate to have one of my online heroes, Shawn Robare, join in for a conversation. The conversation ebbed and flowed, and several minutes were spent talking about the good old days of what I like to call the “retro verse” blogging community.

In the neighborhood of ten to twelve years ago, there was a thriving community of bloggers who focused their efforts on writing about the “good old days”. Those days of our childhood that were filled with toys, cartoons, movies, television shows, and just the general pop culture of the ’80s and ’90s. It would have been hard to throw a rock and not hit a blogger who dedicated at least a little bit of their online space to writing about things from days gone by. But now, it’s hard to find many of us left who dedicate their time to spinning tales of wonder about those good old days.

We offered up varying opinions as to why that is. Things like the rise of social media and the shortened attention spans of the audience were discussed. But then Shawn asked a question that I’ve thought about every day since that conversation: Is nostalgia dead?

He followed that question up with a hypothesis that so many of the things we used to pine for from our youth is no longer gone. In this age of streaming, it’s hard to think of a movie, television show, or cartoon from our youth that can’t be accessed now at the touch of a button. Our favorite toy lines from back then now enjoy as much or more success as they did in their heydey via all of the various reboots and relaunches. Hell, even New Coke and Crystal Pepsi have seen limited re-releases to quench our thirsts in this modern age. He is very correct in the thought that it’s hard to really miss much from our past because so much of it is now thriving again in the present.

With that perspective, it makes sense that so many of my favorite old online haunts went the way of the dinosaur and became extinct. Even Shawn’s own Branded in the ’80s site ceased publication last year, albeit for different reasons than I’ve highlighted here, but it’s now dormant nonetheless.

So why do some folks like myself continue to spend time writing and podcasting about those things from the past? For me, it’s a simple answer, and that answer is I still like to share my memories. And I’m certainly not alone, as there are several holdovers left from the retro blogging community who still carry the torch, and I’ve even discovered a few newcomers as well. As a matter of fact, just three short years ago, Jason Gross and I launched The Retro Network as a hub for creative people to have a place to share their memories without having to host a site of their own. We’ve got over two dozen actively engaged contributors who write, podcast and produce videos that are all centered around nostalgia.

But what about the audience for such writing? Does it still exist? It’s one thing to create the content, but it’s a whole other for people to find and digest it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen the bounce rate for Retro Ramblings climb, and time spent on the site fall. Both of those statistics point to a declining fanbase. But is that because a once engaged audience no longer feels the nostalgia tug at their heartstrings like they once did and thus no longer need a nostalgia fix, or could it just be they are just tired of what I’m offering in particular? The answer to that eludes me, and neither one feels good. On the flip side of that, my social media engagement continues to rise, pointing to it being a trend where folks would rather just scroll and hit a quick “like” button versus stopping to consume something you’ve created in full. And that’s a painful trend as Shawn pointed out in our conversation. A lot of time gets spent crafting a post or feature, and all it warrants from the vast majority is a “like” without them ever actually reading or consuming the content itself.

I’ve said all of that to say this…if you’re like me and you enjoy reading other people’s memories of the things you enjoyed, or you like discovering things from the past that you may not have had the pleasure of experiencing back when it was popular, there are still retro creators out there that are working hard to scratch your itch. I’d like to close this piece out by highlighting several of those folks. I won’t be hitting everyone out there in the retro verse in this list, but I did want to highlight several in case you were unaware of their existence. I mean, if you’re reading this right now, you’d probably like to visit these fine folks as well.

  • Rediscover the ’80s – Jason is always going back to the ’80s to look at some interesting facet of the decade.
  • The Retro Network – A whole stable of folks who are putting memories on an almost daily basis.
  • Dinosaur Dracula – Matt has been doing this a long time, and still brings things to the table I haven’t thought about in years.
  • 20 Years Before 2000 – A whole host of topics get explored in a fun and colorful way.
  • Masked Library – Kevin brings a lot of wrestling talk, but also hits the nostalgia bone quite a bit.
  • The Retro Dad – Retro memories and interests of a 20th Century Gen-Xer.
  • Plaid Stallions – Always bringing up cool old rack toys that were found on store shelves along with a lot of Mego talk.
  • Retroist – All kinds of stuff from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s
  • Retro-Daze – Tony and the gang have new old memories going up all the time and a fun community all around.

As I said, it isn’t a complete list by far, but those are some of the sites I check daily. And who knows, maybe one day, something like the old Pop Culture League or League of Extraordinary Bloggers will come along again and more voices will be found out wandering in the dark.

But what are your thoughts on the question of Is Nostalgia Dead? Does it tug at you like it once did, or are most of your nostalgia needs now filled? Do you still enjoy reading/listening/watching things nostalgia-related. Please sound off in the comments section below, because it’s a subject I’m deeply interested in knowing people’s feelings on.

Happy Birthday Ric Flair!

Today marks the 73rd birthday of the greatest professional wrestler of my lifetime, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, so for this edition of Retro Ramblings, I want to share with some thoughts about the best of all time.


When I first got into wrestling in 1985, Ric Flair was the king of the mountain and had been for a couple of years. Even though I was at the age where I mostly cheered for the good guys, something about Ric Flair made me a fan of his at the time, even though he was a rulebreaker. At my age now, I’m aware of the fact that Flair was very charismatic and that’s likely what drew not only me to him, but probably millions of others watching on television as well.

As I got older, I continued to be a fan of Flair. When wrestling hit its last boom period in the late ’90s and the nWo came along, I cheered for Flair even more. He represented the past, which as you know by being on this blog, is a thing I do. I like the older stuff. But he was the “retro” whereas the nWo was the new hip thing. In the early 2000s, he was part of the nucleus of the Evolution stable in the WWE, and it felt a lot like watching the legendary Four Horsemen again, so I was still a huge fan. Even today, I still like to keep up with his antics, and am genuinely happy that he has continued to find ways to be relevant to other generations as well.

So in honor of the legend’s birthday, I wanted to share a video of him. Something that would capture part of the essence of what made him special, both in the ring and on the microphone. Flair has had a ton of great opponents and even more great matches over his long career, so there are a lot of videos to choose from when trying to pick one.

But I’ve settled on a little gem from late 1988 that took place on the weekly NWA/WCW wrestling show on TBS where he put on a showcase with preliminary wrestler George South. The match has a little back story to it, as Flair rarely wrestled on TV in this era, but when he showed up to the studio on this day, booker Dusty Rhodes told him he was going to wrestle. Flair wasn’t really in the mood, but Dusty insisted. So Flair set out to make a point. He told Dusty to give him George South. As the story goes, just before going out on camera, Flair told South, “Today, you’re Ricky Steamboat pal.” Steamboat was one of the sports greatest performers for years, and someone whom Flair had 100’s of mat classics with.

Now South was a pretty damn good performer in his own right, but he wasn’t a guy you ever saw winning matches on television. But on this day in 1988, Ric Flair went out and made the whole world believe that George South was a world-class athlete who was more than capable of taking the world title. It’s a great example of just how damn good Flair always was in his role. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have through the years, and one more time before I go, Happy Birthday Naitch!

How I Remember Christmas

Like I’m sure it was for most kids, December 25th has always been one of those benchmark dates on the calendar. Alongside my birthday, and the last day of school, it has always been a measuring point for the year. And for good reason, as I’m sure I’m not alone in enjoying the gift-giving, gift-getting, food, and fellowship that the magical holiday brings. So in this special edition of Retro Ramblings, I want to share some of the things I think of when I think about Christmas.


For me, the highlight has always been about the time I get to spend with family. Especially my Dad. All through my years of growing up, my Dad traveled. He would be gone for roughly 300 out of the 365 days of a year. But his work always slowed down in December and he had a lot of time at home that lined up so well with our Christmas break from school. And while he himself never got overly excited about Christmas, he did so many little things to make it special for me. Things that most would not think are overly special but so special to me, that I’ve tried to do the exact same things for my daughters every year now.

There is so much nostalgia built into the holiday season for me. So many different things about the holiday that trigger vibrant memories of some of the happiest times of my life. So here in this article, I want to share with you a lot of the little things that I enjoy during the Christmas season, their origins in the past, and some of the strong memories associated with them.

(In no particular order)

MY COUSIN TIM COMING OVER ON CHRISTMAS MORNING TO SEE WHAT I HAD GOTTEN

Every year around mid-morning, my cousin and his parents would stop by to see what Santa had brought, and to show off some new toy he had gotten as well. He and I would play with whatever new things we had while the parents sat and talked, drank coffee, and just enjoyed each other’s company. The fireplace would have a nice crackling fire in it while some low Christmas music played in the background. It was just a wonderful setting for enjoying the mid part of the day.

In recent years, my daughters had the pleasure of being visited every Christmas morning by their great grandparents, who would come see what they had gotten for Christmas and join us for a simple breakfast of orange cinnamon rolls and ham…..just like we always enjoyed on those Christmas mornings so long ago.

THE TOWN CHRISTMAS PARADE

One of my favorite days of the year…seeing the vehicles decorated for Christmas, seeing Santa Claus riding into town high atop a town fire truck, and then following him to the local grocery store to get a treat bag. That bag usually consisted of an apple, an orange, a few pieces of strawberry candy, and a full-size candy bar. The whole town would usually show up for the parade and treats, even though that number was roughly only about 600 people. It was a day that I can think back on and not really remember anyone being anything but happy.

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Thanksgiving is Hard This Year

Thanksgiving has been a favorite holiday of mine for about 30 years or so now…since about 1992 I suppose. Before that, my family always went out for dinner on Thanksgiving because my Dad nor my brother were fans of turkey or dressing. So I was dragged along to places like Cracker Barrel instead of sitting down to a nice home-cooked, traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

But around 1992 I think, I put my foot down and declared that I wasn’t going out, and that I’d sit at home, make a frozen pizza and watch football. Surprisingly, my folks were ok with that since I was old enough to stay home. A year or so later, Mom decided that even though they were going out for dinner, she wanted some turkey. So she baked a turkey breast, made some dressing, and a bowl of potato salad. All of which I was free to consume while watching football, and she would just have some later in the evening after the restaurant meal had faded away.

For the rest of my years living at home, this was my Thanksgiving tradition. Those three dishes and football. When I got married and moved out, I told my wife that I wanted a complete Thanksgiving dinner, because I’d never really had one. We made plans to cook and invited our parents over. The spread that the first year set the bar for every Thanksgiving since, as we had the works. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese, deviled eggs, homemade rolls, broccoli casserole, sweet potato casserole, green beans, corn, and pumpkin pie. That year started a tradition that has yet to end at our home. Every year without fail, I’ve cooked a large dinner and invited numerous people to join us. It’s been a labor of love, but one well worth doing.

This year is different though. While I’m still cooking the whole meal, there will be fewer people around our table to share it with. My wife and daughters will be here of course, but we are without some notable people. My Mom and Dad won’t be joining us this year. Mom has Dementia, and since her fall at the beginning of July, she has been in a nursing home. Dad plans to spend the day with her there, and I can’t blame him. She has been his world for 50 years now.

I went to visit Mom today and spent a couple of hours with her. Unfortunately, the Dementia effects are bad today, and not only did she not recognize me, but she also has no clue that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. So I’m finding it hard to enjoy the holiday this season, as her idea all those years ago started me down a Thanksgiving path. And beyond that, her being at my table for the dinner has been something I’ve cherished throughout the years. Hell, it even broke the old tradition of them going out to eat for Thanksgiving. I’m still preparing the full meal, but it’s not going to be the same knowing she has no idea what’s going on, and that she and Dad won’t be with us. Dad doesn’t even want me to bring food down to him at home in the evening saying that he wishes the holidays just wouldn’t come this year. Even though it’s hard to wrap my mind around, I guess I can see his point.

But I’ve said all of that to say this…enjoy your loved ones this Thanksgiving (and every other day) because you don’t know when all of the things we take for granted will be taken away from us. Like I wouldn’t have thought last year that it would likely be the last Thanksgiving dinner I got to share with my Mom. It’s that thought and others like it that are going to make Thanksgiving hard this year. Luckily, I still have others that I love joining me, and for that, I’m thankful.

I hope you and yours have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Enjoy it.

– Mickey