Monday, January 17, 2011

The 1970's: Nixon went to China...Sammy kissed Archie...Race beat Funk...and another Funk...

All decades and eras in wrestling can be special to those who lived through them. Many fans in their twenties and thirties celebrate the "Attitude Era" now as a bygone time. As hard as it is to believe, the industry is nearly completely different now only a decade and change later.

Still, there are some who celebrate the times that came before they were even born. The allure and mystique of being able to look back at a time where black and white photos and grainy video footage are often the only looking glass.

For me, this era is the 1970's.

Did the '80s and '90s contain great stars, events, and rivalries? Absolutely. However, something about the "Me Decade" and the wrestling therein has an extraordinary appeal.

The '70s, to me, could be dubbed the last great "wild west" era of wrestling. Driving through the back roads, jumping from territory to territory, wrestling in armories, high school gyms, and barrooms. While all of these concepts survived for at least a little while longer, they all truly embody the idea of the '70s.

The NWA was still the great governing body of the sport. True, gritty, tough-as-nails names like Harley Race, Jack Brisco, and the Funks not only showed how to be a great champion, but how to be a true man. At this time in Florida, an American Dream was born.

In the Midwest, the AWA was thriving with the likes of regional favorites such as The Bruiser and The Crusher. Nick Bockwinkel was proving that a champion could be tough yet refined. Other stars here, such as the legendary Bobby Heenan, were just beginning their years of contributions to the business.

Vincent J. McMahon, independent from any other organization with his WWWF, had the man that many claim to be the greatest of all-time as the cream of his crop for much of the decade. Bruno Sammartino had the second of his championship reigns while Pedro Morales, Superstar Billy Graham, and Bob Backlund rounded out the era's title holders. The WWWF perhaps also included the most colorful cast of characters in wrestling at that point, foreshadowing what was to become of the company in the 1980's.

While promoters had yet to truly see the value in merchandising their stars, you can slowly begin to see the seeds being planted for the boom of the next decade. Photos and programs still ruled the roost, especially at shows where fans could take home a souvenir of their favorite star. Occasionally items such as the earliest t-shirts and even pennants, often locally made, will appear from the decade. Still, the early in-house publications from the wrestling companies themselves such as Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine and the WWWF's Wrestling Action are the number one indicator that promoters were beginning to notice the need for merchandise.

One carryover from the 1960's was the fan club. Ranging from fly by night setups to decades-long devotion, fan clubs for individual stars were all the rage. Magazines like Wrestling Revue and Wrestling World devoted full sections to these fan clubs. For a nominal fee, fans were usually treated to newsletters, photos, and other items pertaining to their favorite star. Some of the bigger names even had multiple fan clubs. For years the late, legendary, wrestling journalist Georgiann Makropoulos ran the Bruno Sammartino fan club and in turn cultivated a decades-long friendship with the champ.

Champions who were champions. Men who were men. Midgets that were...midgets. Women wrestlers who were WRESTLERS with, just perhaps, a dash of "Diva" mixed in. Those were the days. While I may not have been around to have enjoyed it as it happened, I will certainly promote and celebrate the era and its stars as long as possible.

For a gallery of wrestling merchandise from the 1970's, please visit and join our Facebook Fanpage.

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