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.

The Buffalo Bills in the Playoffs Takes Me Back to the ’90s

Scott Norwood

They made their fans sweat it out, but the Buffalo Bills are in the playoffs again this year with the Jacksonville Jaguars loss this weekend. Their season hasn’t been pretty, but they’re in pretty good form right now and can make a run at the Super Bowl with a little luck.

Whether they achieve that goal or not, just seeing the Bills back in contention for a Superbowl berth takes me straight back to the ’90s. Back then, the Bills being in the playoffs and having exciting moments went together like peanut butter and jelly. Like back in 1993 when they were a wildcard team and had to face the offensive powerhouse Houston Oilers.  And they had to do it without their starting quarterback Jim Kelly, their starting tailback Thurman Thomas, and one of their best linebackers, Cornelius Bennett.  At least they were getting to play in their home stadium if nothing else. 

My old man and I decided to watch the game that afternoon.  My Dad was just a casual football fan and rarely watched a game unless it was the Superbowl, and even then I think it was just because it was a national event, and not because he personally enjoyed it so much.  As for me, I was really getting into football at that point, and watched full games every week, and was excited about all the playoff matchups.  What we thought was going to be just an enjoyable playoff game, turned out to be one of the most exciting NFL games ever played, and featured the greatest comeback in NFL playoff history. 

At halftime, with the score being 35 – 3 in favor of the Houston Oilers, my Dad decided he had seen enough, and changed the channel to some western movie most likely.  Even though the game was a blowout, I decided I wanted to keep watching it and headed off to my bedroom to see the rest of it. 

As the Bills started their comeback and continued to rack up points, I tried to keep my Dad informed by yelling from the bedroom to the living room, “THE BILLS JUST GOT A TOUCHDOWN!  IT’S 35 – 10!”.  “THE BILLS GOT AN ONSIDE KICK!”.  “THE BILLS JUST GOT ANOTHER TOUCHDOWN!!!  IT’S 35- 17!!!”.  It wasn’t until they had come all the way back and took the lead that he became interested once again and changed the channel back to the game.  I rejoined him and we watched the closing moments of regulation where the Oilers tied the game with a field goal with just a few seconds left. 

But that was just a formality, as destiny was clearly on the side of the Buffalo Bills.  The defense picked off a Warren Moon pass that set up the winning field goal from Scott Christie to set the Bills on a course to the Superbowl and left the Houston Oilers on the wrong side of history.

Watch the highlights on YouTube

Now if you’re relatively new to the world of football, you may read that and think that maybe destiny will shine on the Bills again this year, but as Lee Corso would say, “NOT SO FAST”.  Because the Bills have also been on the wrong side of history in the playoffs before, and matter of fact, it was such a moment in NFL history that it earned a nickname..the Music City Miracle. 

Back in 1999, on a cold and snowy Saturday here in the Appalachian mountains, I took a ride with my brother to look for some carpeting for his house instead of just laying on the couch watching football all afternoon.  At the carpet outlet, they had a television set up and were watching the wildcard match-up between the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans.  The game was a low scoring affair, but I had a seat and focused on the game while my brother was doing his browsing and haggling with the salesman.  When he was ready to leave, the game was half-way through the 3rd quarter. 

We got back home, and I turned on the game, and he decided to sit and watch the end of it with me since it was a close game.  After just a few minutes, we watched the same Steve Christie kick what was thought to be the game-winner with just 18 seconds left to play, but this time, the Bills WERE NOT the Cinderella team.  The Tennessee Titans were as you’ll see in the clip below. 

So as the Bills enter the playoffs once again, I have to wonder if Lady Luck will shine on them this time, or will she be riding shotgun with their opponents?  One thing is for sure, with their history of dramatic playoff games, I’ll be tuning in, and I’m sure all those nostalgic memories of their games from the past will come flooding back again, and take me back to the ’90s once more. I’ll try to forget the one where Scott Norwood went wide right though. That was a heartbreaker right there.

Maybe I should call up my Dad and brother and see if they are up for watching one more Bills playoff game together.

The Christmas Eve Party

As I’m writing this, it’s 6:52 AM on Christmas Eve. I’ve got some spreading of Christmas cheer to do later this morning as I’m going to visit Dad, drop off a homemade cobbler to my brother, spend some time with Mom at the nursing home, make a stop at a store for a last-minute item, and drop in on a few friends for a few minutes along the way.

Running around on Christmas Eve is nothing new for me. When I was younger, I would tag along with my dad as he made his usual rounds on that day. He owned his own business, and back then, it seemed like all of his friends owned and operated their own businesses too. And since these were small businessmen, they were generally open on Christmas Eve as their livelihood depended on working as many days a year as possible.

But Dad would go around and visit each of them on Christmas Eve. I remember stopping by Popsicle Sweat’s used car lot, Billy Wayne’s auto part store, going to see Grey Preston at the local bank, stopping by Estel Venable’s gas station, and dropping in at the fire department, the rescue squad, and the police station as well. Some of my favorite memories of Christmas are these yearly trips around time spreading cheer.

Once all of that is done, it’s time to put the finishing touches on things for tonight’s Christmas party. We’ve got some family and friends coming over for what should be a very enjoyable evening/night. This too reminds me of one of my favorite parts of Christmas growing up…the family parties on Christmas Eve.

Growing up I had huge families on both my Mom’s side and my Dad’s. My Mom was one of eight children, and each of those 8 had a couple of kids. My Dad was one of fourteen! And each of those had multiple kids as well. I had tons of cousins and would see various ones of them throughout the year, but the family get-together on Christmas Eve meant that ALL of us would be together at one time. We ranged in ages from 7-17, so there wasn’t a huge disparity there.

On Christmas Eve, we would start by visiting my Mom’s family. It was always a simple dinner menu of Ham, some veggies, mac and cheese, and a plethora of desserts. The folks would sit around in the kitchen while all of us kids would be in the living room. We’d hoop and holler and go through the presents under the tree, waiting for one of the adults to come in and play Santa Claus. Usually, it was my Uncle Ernest who had a booming voice and was quite intimidating. He would walk in and get real loud, telling us all to get away from the tree or he wouldn’t be handing out anything. He’d then torture us by going through and finding all of the adult presents first and having us run them to the various recipients. He’d finally get through with that and move on to us kids.

With both families, there were so many kids that we drew names. You could count on getting one present from whoever got your name, and a little something from the grandparents as well, which was usually a shirt of some kind. Before we would leave for the other party we had to go to, my Uncle Jack would go out on the front porch and start lighting off Jumping Jack fireworks, and that always got all the kids in an uproar. That is a tradition I need to implement in my own family’s Christmas. I remember how much fun that used to be running from the unpredictable fireworks.

Then we would head over to my Dad’s parents for their party. You could always count on plenty of finger foods and desserts there like sausage balls, cocktail wieners, ham biscuits, cakes, pies, and homemade candies. We would draw names there too and that meant a couple of more presents before heading home. A few of the presents I got in those years stick out in my mind, so I must have enjoyed them quite a bit. I remember getting the G.I. Joe S.L.A.M. Tank, a Three Stooges VHS Tape, and a Popeye VHS tape at various times.

As time marched on and I got married, my wife and I settled into the tradition of going to her family’s Christmas Eve party. I’d sit and watch my kids running around with their cousins just like I used to do. And even though I seemed to hate it as a kid, I emulated my uncle Ernest. I’d go in the living room and tell the kids to quiet down and start picking out presents for the adults and have the kids deliver them before they get any of their presents. Life had come full circle.

Over the last five years though, her family has suffered many losses. Several of the older generation of the family have passed on, some of the younger generation have grown up and moved away, and the family Christmas party has shrunk quite a bit. My wife’s aunt hosted the family party for a couple of decades but these days don’t quite have the energy she once did, so she gave it up last year. At that point, my wife and I stepped in. We hosted a small gathering last year, and this year we’re hosting our first full-fledged family Christmas party.

This suits me just fine because now that my daughters are mostly grown, I expect they’ll be leaving home any year now, and I want to have this family Christmas Eve party tradition established with the hopes they’ll return each year with their families, thus carrying on the tradition I’ve known all my life.

Things are mostly set for a big night tonight, minus a few last-minute details I need to attend to. I hope that with all I’ve learned from the Christmas Eve parties of my past, I can create an atmosphere of holiday cheer and fun that the little ones at the party will be writing about thirty to forty years from now like I am this morning. Or at least have memories they fondly look back on one day. I guess that’s all one could ask for.

October 28th, 1989

You know how there are just certain days from your past that you remember more than others? Well October 28th, 1989 is one of those days for me. It was a Saturday, which meant cartoons in the morning, but it was what went on that night that made it memorable. Let me tell you about it.

I’ve talked about the yearly Harvest Festival we had every year at my elementary school. Well, in 1989, the Harvest Festival fell on Saturday night, October 28th. So all day long I was eager with anticipation of that night’s event. It was also the night of WCW’s first Halloween Havoc pay-per-view event, which admittedly, put me in a disadvantageous position of possibly having to choose one or the other to enjoy that evening. So my morning hours were wracked with nervous feelings. Not enough that I couldn’t enjoy my usual Saturday morning cartoons, but it still played on my mind throughout the day. Normally, I can make my mind up quickly about things, but this was different. This particular day offered a very hard decision to make.

But as the cartoons ended and the afternoon started to roll around, my Dad made an offer. Since he would be going to the Harvest Festival with us so he could play bingo, he wouldn’t be there to watch TV. He suggested that we set the timer on the VCR and record Halloween Havoc while we were out! Now keep in mind, this was still the era before we had one of the cable black boxes that allowed us to get all of the PPV shows at no additional charge. At that time, I was allowed to order every other wrestling PPV, and this was the show. I skipped WWF’s Summerslam that year because I had gotten The Great American Bash in July. So we got the PPV ordered and the time set so I wouldn’t have to miss Halloween Havoc after all. With that set, I could turn my attention to the Harvest Festival.

So I spent the afternoon playing with Construx toys while I counted down the time left before time to go to the Harvest Festival. You know how I know I was playing with Construx? Because I was already trying to build what my interpretation was of the Thunderdome cage that was to be featured in the main event of the wrestling show that night. As it turned out, I wasn’t that far off.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I really can’t remember my Halloween costumes from through the years. While that is true, I actually do remember my costume from 1989. I went as a convict. It wasn’t the most creative idea, but at least I had a costume. Time was getting close, so I got the costume on, but I still had a little time before we would be leaving.

It was in that short amount of time that I watched the only episode of the TV show “She’s the Sheriff” that I would ever watch. Since She’s the Sheriff was a syndicated show, and since it had already ended its first run, I probably had to have been watching it on my local Fox affiliate. I can’t tell you what episode it was that I saw that day, and since there are no full episodes on Youtube for me to embed, you’ll just have to make do with a video of the opening credits for the show.

So we finally got to the Harvest Festival and my first order of business was to take my Mom to the showcase and show it off to her. Our school had a big showcase display right across from the office in the main hub of the school. Back then, the top three classes at school all had a part of the Harvest Festival to handle. The 7th graders got to put on the yearly haunted house, the 6th graders were in charge of The Disco, or The Batcave as it was called in 1989, and we 5th graders had to put together the showcase. The theme for that year was antiques, and my Mom had donated her grandmother’s kitchen knife to be put on display with the other relics. The showcase wasn’t really anything special, but since we worked on it, I had to show it off.

Once I got tickets to the games in the gym, it was time to say bye to the folks and go run with my friends for the night while all the parents went to the cafeteria to play bingo. I used to think that would be so boring until I had kids of my own, and then it turned out that the bingo was the highlight of my night when taking my kids to these things.

My friends and I ran around and played games, toured the haunted house, and made several trips to The Bat Cave. Not to dance mind you, but to hear the music and hang out in the darkened room. No self-respecting 5th-grade boy could be seen dancing awkwardly in front of the girls.

But even as I was having all of this fun, my mind kept drifting back to home and the hard-hitting NWA action I was missing out on. The Festival was starting to wind down so I made my trip to the “general store” to buy some old-fashioned candy and got ready to go home to see how things were turning out in the wrestling battles.

The flaw in my plan was realized when we got home and the show was still going. So not wanting to get spoiled on anything prematurely, I waited until it was over, rewound the tape, and started the show!

I had been highly anticipating the Halloween Havoc show because the NWA had done such an amazing job building up not only the rivalries but the theme of the show itself. It had a Halloween setting and had an advertised main event of a Thunderdome cage match pitting Ric Flair and Sting against Terry Funk and The Great Muta. The promotion for the cage itself was fantastic as they boasted it would be the largest cage in history and would be electrified to make sure the competitors stayed inside.

But not only was the main event something I was really looking forward to but there were also several other key matches that night as well. The first meeting between The Road Warriors and The Skyscrapers was dubbed as The irresistible force meeting the immovable object, The Steiner Brothers taking on the mysterious tag-team only known as Doom, Lex Luger meeting Brian Pillman, and other matches.

It was hard staying awake that night to take it all in, but I fought my way through it, and watching that show capped off a great night in my young life.

After all of these years, it’s funny to think back about how a school event and a wrestling show could make such a lasting impression on me. But I think it has more to do with the current state of life we find ourselves in. So much responsibility with jobs, families, and the like, that sometimes our hearts ache to just go back, even if just for a little bit. And that’s what Retro Ramblings is for me. It’s my chance to go back, even if just briefly, to a simpler time. Thanks for taking a minute to make the trip with me.

And just for the record, here’s my ratings for the Halloween Havoc ’89 matches from that night:

  • Tom Zenk vs. Mike Rotunda – 2 stars
  • The Samoan Swat Team vs. The Midnight Express & Steve Williams – 3.5 stars
  • Tommy Rich vs. The Cuban Assassin – 1/2 a star
  • The Fabulous Freebirds vs. The Dynamic Dudes – 3.5 stars for the crowd atmosphere
  • The Steiner Brothers vs. Doom – 3 stars for the mystery
  • Lex Luger vs Brian Pillman – 4 stars
  • The Road Warriors vs. The Skyscrapers – 3 stars for the spectacle
  • Rick Flair & Sting vs. Terry Funk & Muta Thunderdome Cage Match – 4.5 stars for the whole experience