Thursday, September 24, 2015

Demolition--WWF's Greatest & Least Celebrated Tag Team

When I got into wrestling "full-time" after being a casual fan for a few years, it didn't take long for me to figure out who my favorites were. In the tag team ranks it was no-contest, Demolition ruled the roost. They could brawl, wrestle, and flat-out destroy their opponents and look completely awesome while doing it. They didn't look like superheroes, they looked like a couple of real guys, albeit with face paint, who just wanted to kick ass and collect championships, as they often did in their run. As soon as I saw the team roar down the aisle to their legendary theme music, I was hooked.

Ax and Smash were well into their run by the time that I took note. Bill Eadie and Barry Darsow played the destructive duo to the fullest, even though Darsow was not the original Smash. It's common knowledge that Randy Colley, best known as Moondog Rex, was the first Smash. Only a couple of matches were held before it was decided, for variously given reasons, that it was not working out. Fresh off of a run in Jim Crockett Promotions as Krusher Kruschev, Darsow took over the Smash gimmick. There is a widely-known early Demolition promo photo that is often thought to be Colley, but it is in fact Darsow with very short hair. No merchandise is known to exist featuring Colley as Smash. I went as far as to pull screengrabs from one of the early televised matches to create a composite photo of Colley's "Smash."

Once Demolition found its footing, so did the merchandise. Figures, cards, stickers, magazines, and drinking glasses can all be found celebrating the tag team. LJN Toys famously produced the first Demolition action figure of Ax, but Smash did not see the light of day as he was scheduled for a later series that went unproduced. When Hasbro took over the WWF license, both Ax and Smash saw release in the first series.

Demolition proved the ability to have good matches with nearly all of the WWF tag team opposition of the time. Big, small, fast, or lumbering, the style of the opponents made no difference. Ax and Smash would adapt, and that was a big part of what made them great. The only truly disappointing matches given forth by the team were against the Road Warriors who at the time were strictly being marketed as The Legion of Doom.

Demolition were often labeled as "Road Warrior ripoffs" when nothing could be further from the truth. Face paint was just about where the comparison began and ended. Some will cite the attire, but aside from both teams looking like toughmen who could destroy just about anyone, there wasn't much to compare in the look. As far as in-ring style, Hawk and Animal gave little to their opponents and were known to steamroll through their matches, whereas Ax and Smash did what was best for the match itself. Nothing should be taken away from the Road Warriors and their contribution to the business, but as fans get more and more educated to the business it becomes clearer that Demolition made their own impact and in a much shorter time.

To the surprise of many, the original Demolition run with just Ax and Smash was just under four years long. It included three WWF Tag Team Championship runs, both heel and face personas, and two managers, Johnny V and Mr. Fuji. By the end of 1990, Ax had departed the company and Smash was teaming with Crush. By the Fall of 1991, we had seen the last of the Demolition name on WWF television.

Although there was some bad blood between Eadie and WWE over the years, it's surprising that we have not seen much use of the team for nostalgia purposes. Though the boys have been produced as WWE Legends action figures and have appeared in a video game, the two are never used for appearances on WWE programming. The company frequently touts the virtues of the Road Warriors yet all but ignores their own homegrown tag team of Demolition. Certainly a WWE Hall of Fame induction would be warranted, as well, especially since both men are very active and willing to participate. How cool would it be to have the team back on the stage in tuxedos and paint ala the 1987 Slammy Awards?

Demolition is one of wrestling's great success stories. A team that made their mark in a short time, left the business with families and smiles on their faces, and are here to tell about it years later. In my years of meeting wrestlers, there are few that I enjoy encountering more than Eadie and Darsow. They are two examples of complete gentlemen in the wrestling business. Even if they never get that WWE Hall of Fame nod, they know how many fans were impacted by their years in the ring. Barry Darsow has been quoted as saying that he feels he is "the luckiest man in the world" as to how his life and career turned out. Eadie has expressed similar sentiments. That is some phrasing that we hear far too little from those in the wrestling world.

Long Live Demolition!

No comments: