Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Prayers and Vitamins

The Ambiguously Gay Uno came home from work yesterday to find me on the couch. That's not exactly breaking news, this I know.

There I sat, Indian-style with my back hunched forward en route to scoliosis, my elbows planted firmly on the insides of my pointed knees, my chin resting on my clasped hands and a natural, innocent grin strained my cheeks.

"You look like a kid again," AGU says to me, he says.

Now playing on TiVo: The 2005 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

How could I not look like a kid? Like many boys growing up in the late 1980s, professional wrestling was one of my first true passions: I genuinely thought Hulkamania would live forever. That wasn't just a slogan, that was an absolute. And as I sat there yesterday, 21 years removed from attending the inaugural WrestleMania (at MSG), I really did feel like a kid again. Childhood memories came flooding back as they aired video clips of events and matches I'd seen live or on television, many of them etched in my mind forever, many of them I imitated relentlessly with my elementary school chums.

When Hulk Hogan picked up the mighty Big John Studd and body-slammed him down to the mat, I helped the Hulkster lift the mulleted bohemoth. When Andre cracked Leapin' Lanny Poffo's head wide open with a gargantuan head butt in a 20-man battle royale before tossing him over the ropes and scoffing at the fallen scrub, I called for the blood of the Giant. When the Macho Man attacked Hogan after a grave misunderstanding involving Miss Elizabeth, I wanted to mediate their imminent and avoidable dispute...Vince McMahon never accepted my offer and, alas, the MegaPowers exploded on the road to WrestleMania V.

The induction ceremony continued, and I really felt like a kid again.

First they introduced the five inductees unworthy of the 9-10 pm television slot on SpikeTV: "Cowboy" Bob Orton (aka "Ace," aka one of two dudes with the unoffical moniker Ace Cowboy I stole mine from) , tag team partners Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Shiek (who still has the old-timey Fingers 'stache, though the funky-toed boots went unseen), "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff and the second best manager in the business, the "Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart (who even toted along his trademark airbrushed megaphone).

I booed when Volkoff routinely grabbed the mike from Howard Finkel before every match to mumble a version of the Russian National Anthem. I spat at the Shiek when tried to camel clutch my favorite wrestlers. I jumped up and down when Jimmy Hart distracted one of the Hebner Brothers, who failed to see that he threw his megaphone to Jim "The Anvil" Niedhart so he could knock the opponent out. Now I was cheering them all. Welcome back, o ye villains of my childhood.

Then they brought out Mean Gene Okerlund, to his old theme music "Tutti Frutti." Mean Gene, who looks exactly the same today as he did 25 years ago, bobbled the script and introduced the one and only Nature Boy Ric Flair to present Rowdy Roddy Piper into the WWE Hall of Fame. Cue Also Sprach Zarathustra, cue the well-tanned, seemingly 80-year-old former leader of the Four Horsemen, cue the old memories of my favorite wrestler of all time. Hell, my senior quote in the high school yearbook was a Ric Flair gem: "Like it, or don't like it...learn to love it, 'cuz it's the best thing going today. Wooooo!"

Flair was arguably the greatest orator of all time (arguably), full of charisma and class and hilarious witticisms. But on this night, he proceded to stumble over his words like the pill-poppin' drunkard he probably is and told some of the worst stories known to man. At one point he laughed through this little number:

"We ran pretty hard in those days. One time we checked into a hotel and Piper said 'I'm Roddy Piper and I'm from Pluto, this is Ric Flair and he's from Mars.' That's how hard we ran."

To that I say, in the words of the immortal Rod Farva, "You guys are real crazy. Hey, look out for these guys." I'm sure the two of them had some ridiculous nights on the road, but that anecdote was just atrocious, Flair.

Piper came out for his induction and lit up the crowd with his inane sense of humor. All of a sudden I was recalling old episodes of Piper's Pit and scenes from the wrestling movie Body Slam. But most of all, I couldn't help but think of WrestleMania V, when controversial talk show host Morton Downey Jr. was Piper's guest on the Pit. Downey blew smoke in Piper's face, to which Piper replied, "Don't blow no smokes in my face." Downey repeated his actions, and Piper admonished the celebrity once again. Following the third transgression, Piper whipped out a fire extinguisher and sprayed Downey to the ground. The crowd erupted. Ahh, good times.

And then it was time for the main event. Sylvester Stallone came out to introduce the last inductee, the man with the 24-inch pythons who told us to "train, say our prayers and take our vitamins," Hulk Hogan. Stallone began with an anecdote about Rocky III, saying they had eight stunt men for the scene where Thunderlips throws Rocky out of the ring -- four of those stunt men were taken to the intensive care unit after the shots. Stallone himself said, "He hit me so hard that my collarbone was in my, like, coccyx," although he was pointing to his shoulder.

When it comes crashing down and it hurts inside...ya gotta take a stand it don't help to hide. Every time I hear Hogan's "I am a Real American" theme song I can't help but smile wide. I've always said, if I were a baseball player, that would be my song for when I came to the plate. Well, the music starts blaring and out comes Hogan, as big as ever and as commanding as ever, the blonde fu manchu intact, clad in a tux and a black bandana to match his duds. There was no red and yellow on the man that night, but there was a little red and yellow in all of us (cheesy, yes, but also absolutely true).

Hogan let the applause go on forever. I'm pretty sure the crowd gave him three standing ovations before he uttered his first word and broke out into chants of "One more match, one more match." What I wouldn't give to turn back the clocks to the late '80s to watch a beaten Hogan's arm stay in the air on the third attempt from the referee to see if he were conscious, to watch him stomp his foot, to watch him break out of the hold, whip the opponent off the ropes and raise that big boot to the face of his enemy, to watch him cross the ring and deliver the legdrop, to watch him smile as he pinned the now fallen combatant, to watch him celebrate with posedowns for all four sides of the arena, to watch him wiggle his wrist and cup his hand to his ear, soaking in the crowd's admiration.

You've seen it so many times, yet you'd love to see it just once more. These days the only thing Hogan's known for is for having manboobs, no hair and a slutty-lookin' singing daughter, Brooke Bollea. My my, how times have changed. Where's the feud with the Shiek? Where's the feud with Andre? With Piper? With the Macho Man? With the Ultimate Warrior (the only guy to truly beat Hogan for the title, even though it was all fake)?

Oh to be young again...But watching this hour of nostalgia television, I felt like a kid, more than two decades after my father took us all to the first Wrestlemania. And after all these years, I'm left with one burning question: Whatcha gonna do, Mean Gene, when Hulkamania runs wild on you?


At 1:11 PM, Blogger poophopanonymous22 said...

well i'll be damned ace, u just gave the poopster chills reading that. kudos bar for u next time we randomly meet

and bobby the brain heenan is the best manager in the business, i assume thats y u had jimmy at 2, just wanted to clarify, damn i miss wrestling

true story, went to camp in new hampshire, and there was this supah sweet chinese restaurant not so nearby, and i happened to catch yokozuna and mr fuji there, among others, luckily it wasnt all u can eat, otherwise, i may not have walked outta there alive

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Thanks poophop...I really got chills watching the induction ceremony, which I found randomly on the tube and TiVo-ed. I had totally forgotten about it until I got home from work yesterday and saw it in my list of things to watch. Total chills.

And yes, Bobby the Brain is clearly the best manager in the history of wrestling. He was so crafty!

The Yokozuna/Lex Luger era of the WWF never happened as far as I'm concerned.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger FLUFFDEAD said...

Ok Ace,

Now you really hit a sweet spot for me. I loved that article and relate very much to it. I was also at the first Wrestlemania January 23, 1984, at Madison Square Garden. We had sick seats and I remember it like it was yesterday. In fact, I still have the program and line up card of the matches from it. I went to as many WWF matches as Dead shows, well thats a lie but I loved it just as much. Please tell me what channel I can go see this Hall of Fame ceremony.


At 2:21 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

I don't know if they'll re-run it any time soon, but it was on Saturday night on SpikeTV. It was all part of the WM XXI weekend...

It wasn't a very good program, but it will definitely throw you back into the old days.

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Greg said...

Besides the Ultimate Warrior, didn't Andre also beat Hogan legitimately prior to handing the title over to Ted DiBiase (which Jack Tunney later nullified, leading to that gigantic tournament for the vacant title)? I thought he had, but I don't really remember any details of the match, so it's certainly possible that Hogan got screwed somehow...

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

If I remember correctly, it was not legitimate at all...in fact that's why Tunney overruled it.

That's the match where the Hebner twins were revealed, where Earl came out for the first time and fucked Hogan, right?

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

Personally, I was never a huge wrestling fan. I watched and enjoyed, but never really got into it. My brother, on the other hand, was a fanatic. He went to basketball camp one year and his coach happened to be a former "nobody" in the WWE(F), one of those guys that got paid to get the crap kicked out of him. I forget which names he used, but one was the "Brahma Bull" before the Rock took it. Anyway, this guy used to get us sweet tickets, ringside, whenever any events came to the New England area. It was a pretty good few years for tickets. Unfortunately, it was during the time when the WWE(F) wasn;t doing so hot, so we never got to see any of the stars like Hogan, DiBiase, etc. We did see Stone Cold right before he got huge, and he swore at my brother. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

The guy who sits next to me at work has a Million Dollar Man figurine/doll thing on his desk that he got at Wal-Mart last week. Complete with Million Dollar belt and all.

Remember the WWF ice cream things on a stick and the cartoon where they all hung out at Junk Yard Dog's place? Those were quality.....

At 4:26 PM, Blogger The Letter D said...

I hate to admit it, but I was a Hogan mark back in the day.

"If you want to have these 22 inch pythons kids, say your prayers, drink your milk, and take your vitamins. Or use steriods, that works too, brother."


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