Growing up, I believe I was a natural mark for the heels or bad guys in wrestling lingo. I was an avid Ric Flair fan, loved the Horsemen. I never really liked Hogan, to be perfectly honest with ya, and this is before I got the knowledge I have on the sport now. I always thought he was a little too bland and well, this was proven when he had his infamous "heel turn" in 1996. As most everyone knows, Hulkamania helped the WWE (formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation, now known as Entertainment after the Wildlife folk had them get the 'F' out...) and Vincent Kennedy McMahon Jr. hit heights most never thought sports entertainment would hit. If you ask the casual fan, Hulk Hogan is the greatest of all time. Yet, I could tell anyone who's never seen a Hogan match how it'd play out (considering in the years I watched, I could count on maybe two hands how many clean losses he took. Seriously, no joke.) from start to finish. Vince booked the WWF around Hogan and because Hogan had complete control over what he got to do, well, you do the math. He almost never lost. He was Superman in Red & Yellow without the blue. Still, at some point at the turn of the decade, Hogan left Vince and went South to WCW. The House That Flair built as I like to call it.
Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen, are hands down the most infamous wrestling group in history. The term 'gang violence' came from what these guys did to people on a regular basis in the 80s. Ric was the leader and he held the World Title off and on throughout the majority of the decade. Unlike Hogan however, Flair knew how and when to put other guys over, knew when to let the belt go for the greater good of the company as a whole. That said, you never got tired of seeing Ric as either champion or challenger, because he made you care with the promos he cut. In any event, Flair up through 1991 I believe stayed in WCW until he went to the WWE for a spell. In January of 1992 at the Royal Rumble, the WWE's annual PPV centered around a clustefuck extraordinaire, Flair lasted well over 60 minutes and became WWE Champion in the only time that belt ever was on the line in that particular event. He stayed for about a year and a half I believe becoming champion twice before going back to WCW.
Of course, once Hogan got there in 1994, it was only a matter of time before they eventually pulled ahead of the WWF which they finally did. They got their own show on Monday night called Nitro to go opposite of Raw in what kickstarted "The Monday Night Wars". A war which WCW would win for close to a year and a half before the WWE finally won one and eventually, won them all. Well Len, how did this happen? A few things went WCW's way during that time frame. For one, Hogan was at the top as the premier attraction and the nWo was good to a point. They were pushing the right guys and at the time, top to bottom, their television and pay per views were fun to watch. The other thing which was big was this. Nitro went live every week, while Raw was taped. There was no internet dirt sheets or sites back then to give away spoilers, so Eric Bischoff came up with the idea 'if people know what they're gonna watch beforehand and it's bad enough, it'll keep them from changing the channel once they turn us on' and ran with it.
For a while, this worked rather well until they did it on January 4th, 1999; giving away the one thing people actually wanted to see. On that night, the WWE Champion was going to become Mick Foley aka Mankind and well, WCW no-sold it as a mere ho-hum event. They were wrong. Fans tuned in to watch it, WCW gave us another Hogan run as champion this time with a finger poke and I'll get to that in a bit. Long story short, after the 4th of January in 1999, the WWE never looked back and WCW never recovered. Ratingswise, the WWE continued to slaughter WCW to the point where simply put, Vince bought em' out.
Remember Stone Cold Steve Austin? He was at one point in time, an employee of WCW. He was infamously fired by phone by Eric Bischoff and told as he later revealed in an interview back in February of 1998 that 'black boots and black tights just weren't something they could work with'. Now Austin long before he went bald and all bad ass, was damn entertaining to watch in WCW as a blonde with a full set of hair. Yes, he had hair and it was blonde. Yes, he was always funny to listen to and on top of that, he could wrestle. After a short stop off in Extreme Championship Wrestling otherwise known as ECW, he arrived in the WWE around 1996 as The Ringmaster. In 1997, they finally let him be Stone Cold Steve Austin. The thing which ultimately put the WWE over the top was that they managed to keep their main event scene fresh and used their mid-card to develop future main eventers for a later date. Think of it as a minor leauge so to speak, while the WCW used theirs to a point, the WWE had theirs at one point loaded with the likes of HHH and The Rock. Hell, during the focal point of 1998 the summer more specifically, the WWE had HHH and The Rock as a focal point of a gang feud between HHH's DX and The Rock's Nation of Domination. Those two would later main event a slew of PPVs in 2000 together, but it all started there. Stone Cold was the horse that Vince rode back to the head of the pack and simply put, it was the equivalent of any 'Team A passed on this guy and Team B snatched him up, dusted him off and won many titles while Team A withered away and died' stories you could think of.
But now...it's different. Now the game has changed considerably and while there are two promotions on television at the moment, it's nowhere near the level of quality it once was. It may get back to that point at some time down the line, but right now, it's really bad. The Rock and Stone Cold have moved on from wrestling, most likely never to wrestle again. Hogan...he's busy lotioning up his daughter in a really uncomfortable fashion to watch (if you're not from WV or some backwoods town where incest is a welcome lifestyle choice) or being the father to a kid that's busy driving drunk and paralyzing others. (By the by, Len would like to take this time to tell Nick to not drop the soap, Brutha.) But yeah, Hogan comes back every so often or has the past few years to bury some poor schlub who hasn't deserved it. The most recent being Orton about two years ago at Summerslam. Randy Orton, as in Cowboy Bob Orton's son. Yeah, there's a lot of second generation stars running around right now and of them all, Orton's probably the one with the brightest future. Triple H has evolved into this generation's Ric Flair, as he'll most likely be a 16 plus time World Champion when he finally retires and his kids (his daughter Aurora Rose and kid to be determined later) eventually step into the business. Back in the 80s and 90s, you could turn on a show and watch great matches, great characters and you didn't like missing a show.
These days, with so much being spilled to websites and the like, you can not watch and you're either still up on what's going on or glad you didn't. Then again, much like most of the stuff I've grown up loving, I guess change was inevitable even if it was for the worse. The WWE has bought out its major competition from a decade ago and now owns all their properties and video libraries. The other promotion Total Nonstop Action or TNA...ugh. I'll rant about them at a later date and time. Same goes for a few other things, such as 'What Made The Attitude Era So Much Fun' and 'Why Did WCW Lose The Monday Night Wars' and what yours truly would've done in the month of January 1999 that would've kept WCW in business and conceivably kept them in the thing. (Trust me, you wrestling fans will be surprised when you read exactly what I would've done differently that night. I may write this later today, so as to not keep folks in suspense.) But yeah, wrestling is fake. It is scripted as far as the who wins and who loses, but as most of you already know by now, the moves they do to each other are definitely capable of paralyzing you. Uhm...I'm definitely winded as I finish this, I can't even think of a catchy way to end this thing. So that's the bottom line because I'm too spent to end it another way. :-)