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Christmas Chaos (Part II): More last-minute gifts for the rasslin’ fans on your shopping list

December 20th, 2010 1 comment

'F' you: The stacked classic WWF logo is back.

Note:Talk about Christmas chaos: I was informed over the weekend that my flight to London to join my wife and her family was canceled because of icy weather shutting down Heathrow Airport–with no flights likely to be rebooked until after Christmas. There were no words for my disappointment. (Actually, several words came to mind–all the worst obscenities you can imagine.) Needless to say, I didn’t feel like writing much–I’ve been as ornery as the Christmas Creature. However, I’m happy to say that my wife called me at 4 a.m. to inform me that my Virgin Atlantic is back on. Now back in the Christmas spirit, on with the list. Merry Christmas, everybody.

WWE gets the ‘F’ In: Gotta hand it to the WWE Marketing machine–they don’t miss a trick. The same week the company aired its “old-school” edition of Monday Night RAW, the company released a series of T-shirts at WWE Shop Zone with classic WWF logos, including WrestleMania, King of the Ring and Summer Slam. (Geez–check out dude on the left in Mania shirt–even the company’s models are on the gas.)

Produced on thin, soft cotton, these shirts are a throwback to the days of ordering from the pages of the WWF Magazine.  (Don’t act like I was the only mark who used to buy into the Former Fed’s hype–I’m sure a few you bought what Vinnie Mac was selling in the mid-’80s)

The WWF logo has been absent from the company’s clothing line for years since the World Wildlife Fund lawsuit; however, the only logo they are prohibited from using, I believe, it the Attitude-era “Scratch” logo.

Pretty cool gift idea for the old-school fan. The entire vintage-looking line is available by clicking here.

Dragon Masterpiece: Timing is everything in all forms of entertainment, and the wrestling business is no exception. Not long after his actual in-ring return from his plane crash in 1976, Ric Flair reportedly asked booker George Scott to be paired up with an athletic rookie named Rick Steamboat, real name Richard Blood, a chiseled young man who had adopted the well-known surname of ring-veteran Sammy Steamboat. Scott trusted Flair’s instincts, which resulted in a new style of working, first in the Carolinas, and, later, the rest of the country. While the Valentine era was known for stiff, methodical contests, especially his bouts with guys like Wahoo McDaniel, Steamboat and Flair set a new standard of pure athleticism. The two young lions immediately clicked, with their athletic, state-of-the-art (especially for the time) bouts captivating MACW fans.

Talk about heat: Nobody built a match quite like the Steamer.

Steamboat was in phenomenal shape for the era, and the girls loved him. But he was so athletic in the ring that the male fans didn’t consider him a pretty boy. Work-wise, I’d say Steamboat was in an elite class inside the ring, along the lines of Jack Brisco and Shawn Michaels. As Harley Race says: “Steamboat was very, very good. He was easy to work with–if you could keep up with him, that is.” Clips I saw of a one-hour Broadway between Steamboat and Race back up the former NWA World champ’s remarks. He was super smooth very early in his career and, with the possible exception of Ricky Morton, nobody sold an opponent’s offense quite like Steamboat. His realistic style of taking abuse always seemed reminiscent of a heavyweight boxer on the ropes after 10 rounds. He was the total package—he really could do it all.

Flair and Steamboat’s battles for the NWA  title were legendary, including a one-hour draw on March 17, 1984, in Greensboro, and the main event of a card in enemy territory when the NWA “invaded” East Rutherford, N.J., on May 29, 1984. The Greensboro Broadway (draw) and plenty of other classic Steamboat matches are included on Ricky Steamboat: The Life Story of the Dragon, the WWE DVD released earlier this year. In a classic case of WWE marketing gone wrong, Steamboat appeared on RAW to coincide with the release and was seriously injured when he was brutalized by the Nexus, which had to leave him thinking, “There’s gotta be a easier way to plug a DVD.” (By the way, check out the cool Steamboat Mattel figure as well; link below.

The 3-disc set includes a documentary chronically Steamboat’s career and is available by clicking the Amazon link below.  The doc portion is OK, but the match selection is pretty strong. Although I can think of about a dozen other bouts that should be included, the  WWE DVD includes some of the best matches you’ll ever see, including:

NWA World Tag Team Championship Match
Jack & Gerry Brisco vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & Jay Youngblood
Starrcade November 24, 1983

NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair
Boogie Jam March 17, 1984

Intercontinental Championship Match
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Randy “Macho Man” Savage
WrestleMania III March 29, 1987

2 out of 3 Falls Match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair
Clash of the Champions VI April 2, 1989

Iron Man Challenge Match
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Rick Rude
Beach Blast June 20, 1992

No Disqualification Match for the WCW World Television Championship
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Steve Austin

Legendary Likenesses: The new Legends line from Mattel has exceeded collectors’ expectations, with several past Memphis wrestlers–including Kamala (I say Kimala), the Rock, Terry Funk, Rick Rude and Curt Henning–already immortalized in these fantastic action figures. Available in stores or by clicking some of the links below. Great gift ideas, as many people who were fans long ago are not aware of this line–I’ve seen some amazing reactions to my small collection. The Roddy Piper figure (see link below) is one of the best figures I’ve ever seen–even plays his famous entrance music on the posing stand. The new Randy Savage figure from the Defining Moments line–the first of the Macho Man in about a decade–is also excellent.

Even Mr. Perfect would be satisfied with the new Mattel Legends line.

That Memphis Magic: If you’re looking for rare Memphis wrestling footage–but want to avoid adding to the grudge-match controversy of the Lawler/Maclin lawsuit–visit my buddy Rick Baker’s site at www.70s-tv.com, where you’ll find tons of classic Memphis wrestling (in good quality, too), including a nearly complete season of rare 1979 shows.

Mercy, daddy!

God bless us…everyone…including you stinkin’ rednecks in Jonesboro, Arkansas: Merry Christmas, everyone. As always thanks for reading. I’ve tried to update more this year–much to the chagrin of some of you–but I think most have appreciated my efforts. I’m restarting the newsletter in the New Year (no, really) and I’m looking to add a KFR podcast as well. More details when I return from England, where I will no doubt will forced to endure several questions about British wrestler Big Daddy and his feud with Giant Haystacks over the next 10 days.  (Most Brits think Big Daddy (Shirley Crabtree) was the greatest wrestler who ever lived–the horror.) Until next year–cheers! Random gift ideas posted below as well.

Christmas Chaos (Part One): Last-minute gifts for the rasslin’ fans on your shopping list

December 16th, 2010 1 comment

"Dirty" language: Dutch speaks the truth in his new book.

The real dirt on the wrestling business: Only fitting that we start off my annual (OK, it’s only the second year in a row, but…) down-to-the-wire recommendations for the rasslin’ fans on your Christmas Chaos shopping list by looking at the new book from “Dirty” Dutch Mantell. I first met Dutch in 1989, my freshman year in college. He was booking Memphis, and had built an angle involving longtime area mid-carder King Cobra and Jerry Lawler, who had recently turned heel for the first time in years. As the main event of Mid-South Coliseum card that Dutch billed as “Christmas Chaos,” Cobra shocked Lawler and the approximately 3,000 fans in attendance by pinning the World Unified champion to win the title. As the crowd popped for the upset, Dutch walked out from the dressing-room area to observe his handiwork. My friend and I, two marks who thought we were smarter to the business than we really were, motioned Mantell to come over, and he obliged. I told him, “You booked a good angle!” Dutch kayfabed me, acting like he had no idea what the hell I was talking about. (In hindsight, I’m surprised he didn’t grab “shoo-baby,” his bullwhip.) A few years ago, I was surprised when Dutch told me that he remembered our initial “conversation,” practically verbatim.

In his new book, Tales From a Dirt Road, Dutch shares his wit and wisdom on a variety of subjects, including the infamous legit street fight between Ernie Ladd and the Brisco Brothers (a great story that will have you convinced Ernie Ladd was the baddest man alive), navigating the treacherous, shark-invested political waters of the rasslin’ business, a showdown with men in white hoods in the South who were definitely not Tim Woods and Johnny Walker, a wild barroom brawl with the Undertaker, trials and tribulations of the wild and wooly JBL, traveling with lunatics like the Iron Sheik and Sid Vicious, and tales of the usual suspects like Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee,and Buddy Landell. In fact, the chapter titled “The Last Sellout” was inspired by an interview I conducted Dutch earlier this year. When I asked him about the last sellout at the Coliseum–a wild brawl with the Dutchman, the King, the Nature Boy and the Superstar–he told me, “‘The Last Sellout’–man that, would make a great title for a book.” Well, he decided to go with a different book title, but the Last Sellout chapter in Tales From a Dirt Road will give you the lowdown on the one of the last great Memphis angles of all time. (Lawler vs. Idol, Rich drew big money the following year, but they did not sell out.)

Dutch also provides a rare glimpse into the working (arguably, mind you) mind of Vince Russo. Once after a long TNA writing session, a frustrated Russo confessed to Mantell, his writing partner, “Y’know, I just don’t understand this whole babyface vs. heel thing.” An exasperated Dutch replied, “There’s a book you should read.” Russo perked up: “Really, which one?” Mantell deadpanned, “The Bible.” Click the link below to order Dutch’s new offerings of homespun rasslin’ goodness. You won’t be disappointed.

Rasslin’ with history: People frequently ask me what I believe to be the best bouts ever held in the Memphis territory. I can usually rattle off 10 bout, but sometimes it’s difficult because Memphis ran every Monday night at the Mid-South Coliseum during my childhood. So that’s a lot of bouts over my years a fan, which began in the summer of 1977 and lasted through through the period when I became a referee in 1991. Even then, I remained a fan and always will be at heart. (Or as fellow longtime Memphis wrestling fan Dave Millican and I always joke, ”Once a mark, always a mark.”) Certainly, some of my favorites growing up were Jerry Lawler’s bouts with the likes of Bill Dundee, Dutch Mantell, Nick Bockwinkel. For that reason, it might be easier to point to the entire year of 1982–arguably the most wildly entertaining 12 months in the promotion’s history–and say, “Take your pick.”

Like, totally awesome: Revisit Memphis rasslin' in the early '80s.

For the most detailed examination of the year 1982–with a roster than included the Fabulous Ones, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, Terry Taylor, Koko Ware, Bobby Eaton, the Moondogs, Austin Idol, Jacques Rougeau, Jimmy Hart–and what it meant to Memphis wrestling, be sure to pick the new book from Mark James, Memphis Wrestling History Presents: 1982, A Legendary Year From the Golden Era, which includes reprints of every Monday night souvenir program from 1982 along with comments from the men who made Memphis the most entertaining territory in the country in 1982, everyone from Mantell to Jarrett to Dundee to Austin Idol. Click the link below to order. Mark put a lot of work into this book (gathering the programs alone was no small feat), and any Memphis wrestling fans will be delighted with the result. Available by clicking the link below.

Let me tell ya somethin, paly: While Mark James’ book is packed with excellent insider info and anlaysis, Ron Hall’s Sputnik, Masked Men & Midgets is a gorgeous scrapbook of the bygone days of Memphis wrestling, through the ’50s to the ’70s, with pictures you won’t find anywhere, including rare shots of Sputnik Monroe, Jackie Fargo, Don & Al Greene, Tojo Yamamoto, Tommy Rich, Dundee and Lawler.

Memphis magic

Hall, a longtime authority on Memphis music and local pop culture in general, also includes a special bonus treat: a bonus CD of songs long out of print by wrestlers like Sputnik Monroe, Jackie Fargo, Len Rossi, and even “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant’s 1978 classic “Son of a Gypsy.” Mercy, daddy! Click the link below to order, brotherjackdaddy.

OK, Define “Top”: Easily the most controversial WWE DVD release in recent memory, the company’s Top 50 Superstars of All Time supposedly attempts to take an NFL-Films-style approach to preserving its history with a countdown of the greatest performers in history. To illustrate just how petty WWE is, Hulk Hogan is number 23 on the list, while Rey Mysterio is number 9.

I'll say this: The DVD cover represents what would be one hell of a battle royal.

If Ric Flair had not signed with TNA, he’d likely be number one, especially after his huge retirement send-off; instead, he’s somehow “tied” with Dusty Rhodes at number 17. (Poor Ric–after years of futility in JCP, he still can’t beat Rhodes convincingly.) Shawn Michaels, practically a WWE lifer, is number one–at least that somewhat makes sense. Twenty years ago, I’d never dream that Jerry Lawler would receive such respect on a WWE presentation at number 20. (But even Lawler would be embarrassed to see that he’s one spot ahead of the legendary Lou Thesz.)

Longtime company employees Pat Patterson and Fabulous Moolah are ranked ahead of Buddy Rogers, Jack Brisco and Nick Bockwinkel, which is a joke. And don’t even get me started on the low rankings for Bruno and Backlund. When I initially saw the list, I was more amused than anything–this is pure marketing and political bullshit (Triple Hi is #12)–but you wouldn’t believe how many fans were irate over this.

Even though I completely disagree with the list, I’m intrigued to watch it–much like a trainwreck. Maybe I’ll do a more in-depth look at the list after I’ve seen it, but debating the rankings is about as futile and worthless as discussing WWE Hall of Fame credentials. The release is loaded with clips and matches from the past over three discs, so it’s worth checking out.

I’ll have more gift ideas tomorrow, so check back then, ya stinkin’ rednecks.