Weekend Reading 06/11/23

Every weekend, I like to share a curated list of retro, geek, & nostalgia-themed articles, stories, and posts that I’ve come across in the last week. It gives you a chance to escape the daily grind, and just sit back and pass the time reading about the good old days. So with that in mind, here are some things I wanted to share with you.


Suburban Commando Magazine From 1991

In this Time Capsule, we’re taking you back to the fall of 1991 and the debut of Hulk Hogan’s movie, Suburban Commando. This souvenir magazine is full of information on the movie, photos from the set, and several pinu-up posters. Check out this magazine at your leisure and reminisce about the days when Hulk Hogan was a budding Hollywood star.

The flipbook below is easy to use, and I suggest enlarging it to full size for maximum enjoyment.

Saturday Nights Main Event

There’s never been anything quite like Saturday Night’s Main Event for great Saturday night entertainment. I became aware of it after it had already begun its run, and didn’t even get to get my first live glimpse of one.

My first was on Saturday night May 1, 1986. I didn’t have a TV in my room, so I slept in my dad’s spot in his bed since he was out of town. He had a little black and white TV on the nightstand beside the bed. I tried hard to stay awake to watch it, but I didn’t make it. I had fallen asleep before it started. It was probably the news that did me in.

But I woke up just in time to see what was supposed to be the start of a Ricky Steamboat vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts match. Ricky Steamboat was my favorite wrestler at the time, and I was always excited whenever I got a chance to see him on TV. Unfortunately for 8-year-old me, the match didn’t really happen, because Jake attacked before the match and nailed Steamboat with the DDT on the concrete floor. I was super pissed! While I hated that I didn’t get to see an actual match, the angle did lead to some good ones down the line.

The next big event I can really recall from SNME was the Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff cage match from January 1987. I wrote about it in depth over at TRN last year, so I’m not going to go into much detail here. But I did want to share that I knew that match was happening that night, but my excitement level got turned up to 11 while watching The Golden Girls, as one of the commercials was a short promo from Hogan with the cage in the foreground. That was awesome.

And then in March 1987, the episode that featured a battle royal as a way to hype the upcoming Wrestlemania 3. Hogan and Andre went at it in that battle royal, and the whole thing was awesome.

There were numerous other memorable moments to be enjoyed through the years on Saturday Night’s Main Event, and every now and then on Saturday nights, I get really nostalgic for it. TOnight is one of those nights.

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

Re-Watching SummerSlam ’98

Being a big fan of old-school wrestling, I sometimes go back in time and old wrestling shows via the WWE Network on Peacock. Over the holiday weekend, nostalgia got the better of me and I decided to go back and re-watch what I remember being a great summer-themed show, WWE’s SummerSlam ’98.

In 1998, the then WWF was in the middle of its Attitude Era, and the storylines and action leaned more towards the controversial than it had in previous years. As an example, it was just two short months prior to this event that The Undertaker threw Mankind off the top of the Hell in a Cell cage in a scene that is still held up as a symbol of the Attitude Era.

I have to admit, I was guilty of enjoying trashy, crash-style television at the time including Jerry Springer, the WWF, and other offerings. I watched Monday Night Raw religiously every week and caught every PPV event the WWF offered, so I was pumped heading into this event. SummerSlam is one of the traditional big four events of the year, so extra emphasis was put on this show.

Most of the hype for SummerSlam ’98 was centered on the rivalry between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Undertaker, and with the World Heavyweight Championship being on the line in the main event, the hype was off the charts. They even produced a pretty swank video package set to AC/DC’s Highway to Hell to hype it even more:

Just because they put a lot of effort into hyping the main event didn’t mean they ignored the rest of the card. Vince McMahon, Vince Russo, and the rest of the gang put together a solid card from top-to-bottom with plenty of intrigue throughout:

  • WWF World Title: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker
  • WWF Intercontinental Title Ladder Match: The Rock vs. Triple H
  • WWF Tag-Team Title Falls Count Anywhere Match: Mankind & Kane vs. The New Age Outlaws
  • Lion’s Den Match: Ken Shamrock vs. Owen Hart
  • Mixed Tag Team Match: Sable & Edge vs. Marc Mero & Jackie
  • Hair vs. Hair Match: X-Pac vs. “Double J” Jeff Jarrett
  • 4-on-3 Tag Match: Kaientai vs. The Oddities
  • WWF European Title Match: D-Lo Brown vs. Val Venis

I don’t intend to run down every match detail by detail, nor do I intend to give you the winner in every match either. If I did all of that, it wouldn’t leave you much incentive to go check it out for yourself. Instead, what I intend to do is kind of review it through a few lists I came up with while watching. So without further ado, here we go.

The Five Best Matches From SummerSlam ’98

In my own personal opinion of course.

  1. The Rock vs. Triple H Intercontinental Title Ladder Match – it featured plenty of drama, high-risk moves with the ladder, and a satisfying ending to not only the match itself, but the storyline that had been running for months involving Degeneration X feuding with the Nation of Domination.
  2. D-Lo Brown vs. Val Venis European Title Match – Even though this was the show opening match and it wasn’t designed to take the spotlight from other, higher profile matches on the card, it did. The chemistry was incredible and the two performers put on a clinic in how to get a crowd pumped up for the rest of the action they will be seeing.
  3. Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker WWF World Title Match – This was the main event, and it certainly had a big-fight feel to it, but the action felt a little underwhelming in comparison to the first two matches I mentioned.
  4. X-Pac vs. Double J Hair vs. Hair Match – Both of these men have been excellent performers since they first got in the business, and with several years to perfect their craft under their belts, they came out and gave an electrifying performance filled with great back and forth action.
  5. Ken Shamrock vs. Owen Hart Lion’s Den Match – In what was a brutal mix of pro wrestling and UFC, the Lion’s Den match was pretty great seeing Owen and Shamrock going hold for hold and shot for shot.

My Five Favorite Performances From SummerSlam ’98

  1. Owen Hart – getting to see a true master of his craft lead a less experienced opponent through a cool match concept was a treat.
  2. Mankind – From his interview at the beginning of the show bemoaning his destroyed hearse, to his promo with Vince McMahon later on, the the performance he gave taking a beating from the New Age Outlaws, Mankind turned in a fine night.
  3. Val Venis – Val was still a relative newcomer, but he had his gimmick down to a science, and he and D-Lo pulled out a heck of a match to open the show.
  4. X-Pac – Like I said earlier, X-Pac had been perfecting his craft for years up to this point, and he put his many talents on display in his match on this show. Even watching it twenty-fours years after it happened, it still felt fresher than anything I’ve seen in modern wrestling in a long time.
  5. Mark Henry – in the early stages of his “sexual chocolate” gimmick, watching him try to put the moves on Chyna was just flat out entertaining.

My Five Favorite Spots of the Night

  1. The Undertaker driving Austin through a table on the floor by deliverying a leg drop frm the top rope of the ring.
  2. The Rock giving an early People’s Elbow to Triple H while Triple H was on a ladder.
  3. Triple H attempting a move from the top of the ladder only to be caught with a Rock Bottom.
  4. Edge’s dive over the top rope onto Marc Mero on the floor.
  5. Jeff Jarret using an atomic drop to crotch X-Pac on the post on the floor.

The Ten Most 1998 Things About SummerSlam ’98

  • The Rock’s sideburns.
  • The Insane Clown Posse being involved.
  • Val Venis and his aggressive porn star gimmick.
  • X-Pac using the terms “biotch” and “suck it” during his pre-match promo.
  • The mass of Austin 3:16 and DX shirts in the crowd.
  • The quote, “My name’s not Elmo, but you can tickle me any time”.
  • Both of the New Age Outlaws wearing Southpark shirts in their match.
  • Jim Ross having to apologize for saying “son of a bitch” on the air.
  • The announcers talking about the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. FYI, McGwire led on this date 55-54.
  • Jim Dotson and his hat.

Other Thoughts I Had While Watching SummerSlam ’98

  • D-Lo claiming to be from a different home town in Europe every week while European Champion was a great touch.
  • The referee in the opening bout was one tough son of a gun for taking Val Venis’ moneyshot finisher.
  • I could have done without seeing Kurrgan dancing.
  • The Godwins going from hillbillys to Dixie Mafia-esque tough guys called Southern Justice was one of the better make overs of the year.
  • The fiery gates of hell entrance way was a great setup.
  • The New York City buses being wrapped with ads for this SummerSlam in the week leading up to the show was great.
  • The hair clippers for the hair vs. hair match didn’t work. I don’t believe the clippers have ever worked in any hair vs. hair match ever.
  • Howard Finkle doing the crotch chop was not needed.
  • Seeing Edge make his pay-per-view debut and realizing he is main eventing shows today is surreal.
  • The “Marvelous” Marc Mero gimmick wouldn’t get over in today’s world.
  • Jackie was so far ahead of her time as a female wrestler.
  • The Lion’s Den match concept needs to be brought back. Maybe bill it as “Pit Fighting”.
  • The greatness of Owen Hart was not fully appreciated by the masses until it was too late. We lost him just nine months after this show.
  • Ken Shamrock being billed as a former “UFC Superfight” champion feels so out of place in today’s world.
  • I wonder how they Kane in that dumpster?
  • The ladder match made both The Rock and Triple H bonafied wrestling superstars for good from that point on.
  • Steve Austin and The Undertaker didn’t have great chemistry in their first high-profile match together. That would change.

So that’s it. I re-watched SummerSlam ’98 and thoroughly enjoyed it. You should go check it out on Peacock if you’re a fan of old school wrestling. Now I just have to decide what my next old school wrestling rewatch should be.

Five of My Favorite Moments in Royal Rumble History

With wrestling being a big part of my childhood, I watched all of it I could. Most weeks, all we had available to consume were the weekly programs offered by the WWF, the NWA, and various other territories depending on where you were located. But in the late ’80s, wrestling on pay-per-view became a thing, so all of a sudden, there were special events at different times of the year to add to the mix of the regular weekly shows.

Pay-per-view made the already heated real-life rivalry between the WWF and the NWA even hotter, as both companies were scheduling events to run on pay-per-view, and their competitor was counter-programming with special events on free television. The WWF started this trend by offering up a new concept called The Royal Rumble that aired free on the USA Network, opposite the NWA’s Bunkhouse Stampede pay-per-view event. Little did we know as fans that this new concept would catch on in such a big way, and turn into a yearly special event that continues to this day.

Through the years, many memorable things have taken place during the annual Royal Rumble match, and here are five of the more memorable ones from my memories.


The First Royal Rumble in 1988

Back in late 1987 when the first Royal Rumble was announced as being broadcast on the USA Network, I was pumped.  I had gotten to go to a friend’s house to watch Starrcade ’87 but had yet to be allowed to order a wrestling pay-per-view.  So when I found out this event was going to be free and I would get to watch it, I was bouncing off the walls.

The first Royal Rumble didn’t disappoint either.  One of my favorites at the time, Ricky Steamboat, had a match with Rick Rude, and there was the contract signing between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant for their rematch at the upcoming Wrestlemania IV.  But the big draw was their new concept in battle royals, the Royal Rumble itself.  Just the concept was enough to get me to watch the show without all the other matches.

This first one was probably the hardest to peg who was going to win.  Once they added the stipulation that the winner would get a title shot made it pretty easy to guess who was going to win each year.  But this one lacked all the real big stars and was made up of mid-card guys, making it really hard to figure out.  “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan came out on top, and I had a hell of a time watching my first “big event” live. 


Ric Flair wins the WWF Title in 1992

Growing up a staunch NWA and WCW fan, Ric Flair was my champion.  Not only that, he was my hero.  While a lot of other kids worshiped Hulk Hogan, I sat at the foot of the mountain while Flair and the Four Horsemen preached on the mountain top.  So when he made the jump to the WWF in 1991, I was rooting hard for the day when he and Hogan would square off for the WWF World title. 

Since that didn’t happen on a big stage, the 1992 Royal Rumble was the next best thing.  The title had been held up after Flair had interfered in a title match between The Undertaker and Hogan, and the winner of the Rumble would be declared the new champion.  I knew going into this one that Flair had a legitimate shot at coming out on top.  When he came out as the #3 entrant, for some reason, it cemented it in my mind.

Flair was always known as “the 60-minute” man, and here he had a chance to prove it.  It was so much fun watching him run into a lot of his past rivals and friends in the course of the match.  Guys like Roddy Piper, Kerry Von Erich, The Barbarian, and others just made the whole thing that much sweeter.  In the end, Flair outlasted everyone else in the match to capture his first WWF Title and validated my faith in the man.  When it was over, he cut a heck of a promo too. 


Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior’s Teaser in 1990

Back in this era, it was super rare to see two babyfaces or two heels lock up in a wrestling ring.  Throw on top of that the fact that Hogan and the Warrior were the two biggest babyface stars in the company, and I really didn’t see this one coming. 

Late in the match, each man was busy throwing out the competition until there was no one left.  When they finally came to this realization, the staredown commenced.  After a few seconds of immense crowd reaction, the two went to battle.  It ended up a stalemate as they collided with clotheslines at the same time and the battle was over.  But it whetted the appetite of everyone watching for their eventual main event showdown at Wrestlemania VI. 


Diesel’s Run in 1994

Up until 1994, we had seen some impressive performances in the Rumble, but most of them were related to how long someone could stay in the match.  In 1994, Diesel came along and set a new record for eliminations, and in the process, set a new standard for dominance.

Diesel entered the Rumble and not only cleared the ring of everyone in it but also immediately eliminated the next several competitors shortly after they entered the ring.  The performance propelled him to superstardom and left a mark on the history of the Rumble. From that point on, fans no longer only talked about who won the match and who lasted the longest, they also talked about who had the best run of eliminations.


Bret Hart and Lex Luger declared Co-Winners in 1994

In a move that has been panned by wrestling fans for over 25 years now, the 1994 Royal Rumble had co-winners for the first time.  The match came down to the Bret Hart and Lex Luger at the end…two babyfaces, and during a tussle on the ropes, both men went over the top and hit the floor at the same time, setting off a dispute.  Several referees, hand raisings, and presidential decisions later, the decision stood, and both men wound up earning a shot at the WWF title at Wrestlemania X.

I thought it was a novice approach and a fun idea to have co-winners.  I’ve been in the minority on that opinion for a long time now, but I don’t care.  It helped add to the unpredictable nature of the Royal Rumble that continues to this day.

 

Classic WWF Wresting Trading Cards (1990)

In this Wax Pack Flashback video, I open a pack of Classic WWF Wrestling Superstars cards from 1990. These were some of my absolute favorite cards to collect back then, and I was fortunate enough to find some unopened packs of them to open again and let the nostalgia watch over me.

LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars Action Figures

This LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars card back is from early in the toy’s run, as it still pictures the likes of Hulk Hogan, Hillbilly Jim, Big John Studd, and others that were part of series 1. But it also features Paul Orndorff, Brutus Beefcake, and King Kong Bundy, which would place this card back as being from series 2.

While technically these were “action figures”, a more accurate name for these would be “inaction figures”. They featured no articulation and were comprised of stiff rubber. They were absolutely fantastic as display pieces to show your love for wrestling in general, and the magical era of Hulk Hogan and the WWF in particular.

But when it came to playing with them, it took a lot of imagination to pretend you were pitting them in wrestling combat with each other. But what kids out there wanted to display them and not play with them? Not this guy.

But I wasn’t into them in the beginning. One reason was the fact that they were hard to find in the rural area I live in, and when they were to be found, they were expensive versus other action figures I was into at the time, namely GI Joe and Masters of the Universe. But when I would go to my grandmother’s house, her neighbor’s kid would bring them over and we’d play with them. That was almost enough to make me succumb to the power of the LJN figures, but not quite. What put me over the top was my cousin had the ring. Once I got to play with that thing I was hooked. I told my parents that I wanted some. And you know who they chose as the first figure to buy for me? “Mean” Gene Okerlund. What the heck was I supposed to do with an announcer as the only figure in my collection.

I ended up also getting Junkyard Dog and Nikolai Volkoff but trying to play wrestling with the same two figures over and over, and the fact that it was so hard to do so with their lack of articulation doomed it all for me and I called it quits on the line. But looking back at it now, I wish I had been more involved with it. I likely wouldn’t still have any of them, but being able to put them up on display today would be pretty cool.

Now while I’m on the subject of the LJN WWF figures, I want to take just a second and mention the knock-off Sgt. Slaughter figure.

The ad above is for a Sgt. Slaughter action figure that was produced independently from LJN to mimic their line of figures and capitalize on both the popularity of those figures and the popularity of St. Slaughter himself. For years, the rumor was that an official LJN figure of Sarge was in the cards, but after he cut his own personal deal with Hasbro to appear in the GI Joe line of 3 3/4″ figures and wasn’t going to cut Vince McMahon in for a share of the loot, he was fired from the WWF and his planned LJN figure fell thru.

Rumors also persist that this particular figure was made from the original prototype mold that LJN had produced and was later purchased from them by Hasbro. So this figure was actually independent of the LJN line but fit with those figures perfectly.

As you can see from this ad, Hasbro made no bones about the fact that their figure was superior to the LJN ones, as the advertising focuses on the Sarge figure standing tall over LJN figures that had succumbed to his awesomeness.

Now whether the story about the mold is true or not, I really have no idea. But this figure got made and was sold through direct ads I believe. I remember seeing ads for the figure in various wrestling magazines in the late 1980s, and even though I wasn’t really into the LJN figures by that point, I still wanted this Sarge figure. I guess I just thought it would be cool to buy a wrestling action figure from a wrestling magazine. Through the years I saw numerous things in those magazines that I had dreams of purchasing, but to this day, I’ve never purchased a single thing from one.

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.

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!

M.U.S.C.L.E. Toys

I certainly dabbled in more than my fair share of toy lines as a kid, but one of the lesser ones turned out to be one of my favorites. Let’s remember M.U.S.C.L.E. in this edition of Retro Ramblings.


M.U.S.C.L.E. Men started out as a manga comic in the late seventies in Japan called Kinnikuman. It proved to be so popular, that an anime series of it was adapted and ran from 1983 – 1986, and focused on an intergalactic form of professional wrestling. Toy company Bandai quickly started producing the little two-inch figures as the show’s popularity soared. And like so many other things, when it became popular there, toy companies in the United States took notice, and Mattel launched its own line of the little pink warriors. Since the name Kinnikuman translates to “Muscle Man”, Mattel named the line M.U.S.C.L.E., an acronym that stood for “Millions of Unusual Creatures Lurking Everywhere”. M.U.S.C.L.E. Men were produced from late 1985 – 1988 before finally fading from store shelves. Although their popularity was short-lived, it was impressive, as M.U.S.C.L.E. was listed as one of the 10 Best-Selling Toys of 1986. 

The little pink M.U.S.C.L.E. warriors were not really posable in any way and were so small that you couldn’t really do much with them. But the fact that they came in multi-packs, and that they were marketed as “wrestlers” was enough to hook me initially. It was intriguing to see who would win in a fight between someone with a motorcycle for a body or a human with a ripped body and the head of a wild boar. Of course, who won that battle was up to the kid in control of the action. That is until the Hard Knockin’ Rockin’ Ring Wrestling Arena came on the market. 

It was a small yellowish-orange contraption with glorified rubber bands for ring ropes, and a plastic arm that held the two combatants. You and a friend would do battle by moving your wrestler side to side, Rock ’em Sock’em Robot style, in an attempt to knock your opponent off of his plastic control arm. If you did, you were the winner. The key was to find one whose body was slightly too big to fit in the controller, and then force him into it anyway. He would then be almost impossible to beat. My best friend and I would play this for a while, and for each match, we would select a combatant. The winner would win the losing figure from its owner. Both his and my collection of these increased and decreased, depending on who had the better day of competition. 

The big drawing point for me was two-fold. First, their small size made them easily transportable. It was quite easy to stuff several in each pocket and head off somewhere and take the action with me. The second part was the cheapness of the toys. For a kid with a light allowance, being able to pick up multiple little M.U.S.C.L.E. warriors in one package was quite the draw. They were typically available in a blister card pack of four figures for around $1. Then there was the clear trash can pack that was stuffed with 10 mighty M.U.S.C.L.E. Men for the low price of $3. So as you can see, a kid could grow their collection quickly with minimum allowance spent.

M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were one of my favorite toy lines as a kid. Heck, I still enjoy the newer versions they put out today based on other popular properties like Masters of the Universe and Street Fighter. If you remember them, hit me up in the comments with your thoughts on them.