Thursday, May 16, 2013

Memories of Mat MAYhem

For the past month or so, friends of mine who are also wrestling fans have all heard the same thing out of me: I've been very disinterested in any of the current wrestling product as of late.  Post-WrestleMania burnout?  Possibly.  Some have said that even the WrestleMania build was lacking this year, but being involved in the weekend and at the event live completely nullified that for me.  It just seems that creativity is at an all-time low throughout the industry.  Whereas this time of year is normally full of new characters and feuds, it just feels to me like nothing is on the immediate horizon.

Will it pick up again?  I'm sure of it.  Thinking back to the month of May in years past, several of wrestling's most beloved concepts and events find their anniversaries at this time.  A legendary television program, an innovative pay-per-view, and one of the greatest matches of all-time are all a part of wrestling's "MAYhem."

Take for example the night of May 11, 1985.  It was a Saturday night and NBC was about to change wrestling forever.  The night before, the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island had witnessed the first taping of the WWF's Saturday Night's Main Event.  Four all-star matches featuring both the WWF Champion and the WWF Women's Champion?  Hulk Hogan, Wendi Richter, JYD, Roddy Piper, Mr. T, and Cyndi Lauper all on free tv?  That was Saturday Night's Main Event.  Although the WWF had produced two similarly star-packed specials earlier in the year for MTV, this was on prime time network television.  The current champions may be on television multiple times a week today, but it was always an event when Hogan made a tv appearance in 1985.  As if the first WrestleMania wasn't enough, SNME, as it came to be known, proved to anyone that the WWF was on the pop culture map.

For many fans, WWF concepts like SNME weren't exactly how they enjoyed their wrestling.  This group of fans frowned upon the heavy celebrity involvement and wanted wrestling the way that it had been presented for decades prior: two gladiators in a hard-hitting battle to the finish.  This style was by no means gone and in fact hit new heights just four years later.  On May 7, 1989, the NWA presented WrestleWar 1989, also known as Music City Showdown.  The event was held in Nashville, Tennessee to a crowd of around five-thousand fans.  The WWF, completely in war mode, ran a card in the same building the night before which has often been attributed to the low WrestleWar live gate.  No matter the tactics being played in the business, nothing was going to stop two of the all-time greats from putting on the performance of a lifetime.

The main event of the show (though not the last match) saw Ric Flair defeat Rick Steamboat for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship after over a half an hour of non-stop action.  While the pair had other blockbuster matches in 1989, this is considered by many to be their greatest.  The match is actually, for the record, my personal favorite of all-time.  It should be noted that both Flair and Steamboat have been quoted as saying that their matches in the late '70s and early '80s in the Mid-Atlantic territory were worlds better than their later efforts.  Sadly, the record of those matches are exclusive to memories of those who were there live.

The show also featured a number of other notable matches, including a very underrated encounter between Michael "P.S." Hayes and Lex Luger where the Fabulous Freebird snatched the NWA United States Championship from The Total Package.  The icing on the cake, as it were, for the show is the broadcast team.  One of my favorite teams, Jim Ross and Bob Caudle, call the action just as you would expect two of the all-time greats of the booth would.  If there were ever a broadcast team that perfectly blended the best of two eras, it was J.R. and Caudle.

Another home to classic matches was born just six years later on May 14, 1995.  It was about a month earlier at WrestleMania XI that Vince McMahon announced a new concept in pay-per-view wrestling: In Your House.  In the months where one of the "big five" WWF pay-per-view events was not taking place, a two-hour In Your House event would be available for just $14.95.  The price was about half of the cost of the larger events and only around forty-five minutes shorter.  For the first event, the WWF even gave away a house!  It's actually been said that the winner was only able to live in the house for a year.

Nonetheless, the concept worked as proven by a modern day pay-per-view calendar of around twelve events per year.  The In Your House events slowly began to receive subtitles such as "International Incident" and "Buried Alive."  These subtitles would eventually overcome the "In Your House" title which was finally dropped in 1999.  Though events of today such as "Money In The Bank" and "Over The Limit" are full length and full priced pay-per-views, I still think of them as "In Your House" events.  On April 30, 2013, WWE released a DVD and Blu-Ray compilation of the best In Your House matches hosted by a man often associated with the event, Todd Pettengill.

Will we see any groundbreaking wrestling events take place during this month of May?  With the month half over, I'd venture to say no.  Perhaps it's a better time to take a look back at wrestling's past.  It's always a good time for that.  As I frequently say and convey, you can never go wrong with a little, or a lot, of nostalgia.


Bryan Cochrane said...

You forgot one of the biggest events in May. In May 1996, Scott Hall first appeared on WCW Monday Nitro. His famous said,"You know who I am, but you don't know why I'm here." He stayed in character as Razor Ramon. We all thought WWF was invading WCW. The next week he came into the broadcast booth telling Eric Bischoff, "You want a war? You got a war." Later Nitros would see Kevin Nash join Scott Hall. They would become known as The Outsiders. At The Great American Bash in June 1996 they announced that at Bash at the Beach, they and their secret partner would face three of WCW's best, which turned out to be Sting,Macho Man, and The Total Package. Before leaving Kevin Nash jackknifed Bischoff through the stage. A month later at Bash at the Beach we would witness the greatest heel turn in wrestling history as near the end of the match, Hulk Hogan in his signature red and yellow comes walking down the aisle. I will never forget the call made between Bobby Heenan and Dusty Rhodes. Dusty said, "Hulk Hogan is in the building!" Heenan almost immediately said, "Yeah, but whose side is he on?" Heenan never did trust Hogan. This time he was right. Hogan went into the ring, pushed the ref aside, and dropped the leg on his "brother" the Macho Man. Tony Schiavone said, "Oh my god!!" Dusty, said, "Is he the third man?" After Hogan slapped hands with Hall and Nash and dropped another leg on the Macho Man, Heenan said, "Hulk Hogan has betrayed WCW!" Thus was born the nWo. It all started in May 1996 with Hall's first appearance on Nitro!!

J\/\/ said...

Another iconic May moment!