Thursday, November 19, 2015

Remembering The Champ Of Class...Nick Bockwinkel

The immense losses for the wrestling world in 2015 continue. Although I would not say that there have been more wrestling deaths this year than in others, those who have passed certainly represented the upper echelon of anyone who ever graced the squared circle. Verne Gagne, Dusty Rhodes, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and now Nick Bockwinkel. These men ruled the industry. These stars were pioneers who are still emulated today. These men were champions in every sense of the word. With Mr. Bockwinkel, it would not be out of the question to label him as the champ.

Although I knew the name early on, Nick Bockwinkel was one of those names that I went back and discovered after the fact. It may very well have been after I acquired his famous Remco AWA action figure. With his blonde hair, yellow tights, and white cloth jacket and knee pads, the figure was something special. That made me think that the wrestler himself must echo that sentiment. I was very much on the right track with those thoughts. How many wrestlers can you list that, after listening to one promo or watching one match, you totally understood the greatness of? Not too many, but that was Nick Bockwinkel. In fact, if a bad promo or match from the man even existed, I challenge you to find it.

Bockwinkel brought class to an industry that's often missing such a concept. He was definitely best as a "bad guy," but he didn't yell or scream. He rarely seemed riled up in promos or even for much of his matches. He was smarter than you. He was more talented than you. He was all-around better than you. That's why you bought a ticket to see him get his comeuppance. For whatever number of "smart" fans that existed in Bockwinkel's heyday, they probably paid to see just who he could outwrestle next. He was Flair before that name was even known, and with a lot more class. There's that word again.

Nick Bockwinkel was revered not only by fans, but by his peers in the wrestling business. Even when he was without a belt, he carried himself as a true champion and sportsman. Pull up one of the "Legends of Wrestling" programs on the WWE Network in which he participated in, and you'll see the respect that his fellow legends have for him. That gratitude carried over whenever Bockwinkel made an appearance at a convention or fanfest. Wrestlers and fans alike were thrilled to be in the presence of the champ, and I'm fairly sure that the feeling was mutual.

It was those same wrestlers and fans who knew quite early that Mr. Bockwinkel was suffering with ailments that were gradually taking their toll on the legend. For a few years I actually marveled that these facts seemed to stay confined to scuttlebutt at shows in which Bockwinkel attended. Wrestling gossip travels fast, yet it was quite awhile before I saw even a mention of his health problems in written form. Once again, I do believe that the respect this man earned, and held, among us all aided in these horrible truths being suppressed.

80 years is a long lifespan for a wrestler, and I think that we can look back on Nick Bockwinkel's life with a lot of happiness. He never seemed anything but pleased about his career, beginning with his legendary father at his side and ending in several behind-the-scenes capacities. He was a multi-time world champion, Hall of Famer, and topped the list of many "greatest of all-time" lists. He will always be the champ. He will always be better than his lowly opponent. He will always be...pure class.

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