Hey now! I'm sure you all know of Mr. Edison and his exploits by now (and if not, stop being a sucker and get on it here and here), so I'll dispense with the lengthy introduction. Let's just say Mike lives, breathes and stands for punk, rock, roll, wrestling and everything else that is good in this world. He's been a busy gent of late. His book 'I HAVE FUN EVERYWHERE I GO: Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes, and The Most Notorious Magazines in the World' (one of the best reads of 2008) has just been published in paperback, he's been seen blogging it up on PopMatters and even has a new video out (yes, that is Handsome Dick Manitoba as ring announcer). The guy's all over the web, which means the internet might be one step closer to becoming a better place. And seriously, read the book if you haven't, I'm not bullshitting you. Without further ado, we present Part One of Mike's Greatest Moments in Professional Wrestling (which originally appeared in print via our friends at Humanbeing Lawnmower). I hope you enjoy it, and if not, please consult the contacts page to see where to come and pick-up this Oriental Spike I have waiting for you...
By Mike “Rocket Train” Edison
GREATEST MOMENTS IN PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING, PART ONE
Nothing is as important as professional wrestling. Nothing. As you’ve probably heard me proselytize before, it is much like what Dostoyevsky said about Faith: If you get it, no explanation is necessary, and if you don’t, no explanation will do.
This list if for those of you who are already hip, so do not look for any epiphanies here. Mine came twenty years ago while watching the Masked Superstar break Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert’s neck while the Grand Wizard of Wrestling egged him on (see below). And if I had lost any faith in this Sport of Kings in the 21st century, it was restored when I took a timekeeper’s bell to the face in a brutal match in the north of France a few years ago — Truly, there is nothing like an ambulance ride and a couple of hours in an emergency room having your face stitched up to restore one’s faith in wrestling (never mind the Vicodin script that comes with).
This list is the Greatest Moments in Professional Wrestling in name only — it could have easily been called, simply, Greatest Moments Ever, or at least of the Modern Age. For all of you armchair academics out there ready to do battle and start braying about Strangler Lewis and Killer Kowalski, I have limited this list to things I actually witnessed with my own eyes, in person, or on television, the invention of which was, of course, THE Greatest Moment in the History of Professional Wrestling.
1. Roddy Piper Beats up Jimmy Snuka with a Coconut in “Piper’s Pit”
Everyone knows that the three Greatest Moments in the History of Television were (1) the first man landing on the moon, (2) Richard Nixon’s resignation, and (3) Piper clubbing Snuka with the coconut. The best part isn’t the actual impact of said coconut with Snuka’s boulder of a brain, although that was plenty good, it was Piper’s wonderfully racist rant which was heled along by a bag full of tropical fruit. Surely, this is why God gave us youtube. (I doubt there are many PC types trolling this website, but lest we forget, racism is one of the pillars of pro-wrestling — remember, this is the same guy who told African -American strong man Tony Atlas to shine his shoes, and we all laughed then, too. Other key riffs that make wrestling such an evergreen are jingoism — viz. post-war German heels, Cold War Ruskies, Allah-worshipping oil sheiks, etc — homophobia, and misogyny.)
2. Eighty Year Old Female Wrestler Mae Young Gives Birth to a “Hand”
I already know I am going to get a lot of shit for putting this so high up on the list, or on the list at all, by purists who thought this miracle of childbirth crossed some sort of line or was just plain icky (Runner up: Mae flashing her withered, latex-prosthetic tits during a “lingerie match” with female wrestlers a third her age). But if it weren’t so fucking great than explain why it makes every RAW highlight reel — that’s 1600 hours of programming whittled down to just a few minutes, and the only two things you can always count on being included is Stone Cold Steve Austin clobbering Vince McMahon with a bedpan (see Part II, coming soon) and that crazy old bat Mae Young squeezing out a “baby” (no kidding, it looked something like a plastic hand from a deformed mannequin, covered in Vaseline) while drinking a can of beer and smoking a cigar. That her mutant offspring looked like it was created by Salvador Dali, that her water broke after she was slammed through a table, and that her baby-daddy was a barely literate four-hundred pound black man who courted her with perfume bought by the gallon at a gas station only helped make this the greatest on-screen romance since King Kong courted Godzilla. And don’t forget this all went down on live TV — you just knew you were witnessing something REVOLUTIONARY. Go ahead, Tina Fey, watch it and learn.
3. Extreme Championship Wrestling
Speaking of revolutions, this was the one, baby. If you ever had the good fortune to attend one of their events at the old Elk’s Lodge in Queens, then you probably had a fair idea of what a Hitler Youth rally might have been like. ECW fans were rabid, frothing, all-male teenage virgins (and a couple of weird, fat, ugly chicks) who apparently lived on diets of illegally obtained malt liquor and broken glass. The current version of ECW cannot compare to the primitive, visceral high that was the early ECW before the WWE bought them out. Back in the glory days it was dangerous just to attend an event — at one show, “bring a foreign object night,” security confiscated hundreds of frying pans, cheese graters, can openers and just about every other household item that these violence-worshipping mouthbreeders (I would include myself in this group, except that I have had sex with a girl once before) could steal from their moms. Like punk rock before it, ECW scared the living bejeezus out of the industry, who had little choice but to adopt it as their own.
4. The Masked Superstar Breaks Eddie Gilbert’s Neck
This excerpt from 'I Have Fun Everywhere I Go' explains it best:
The Masked Superstar was managed by the Grand Wizard of Wrestling. The Grand Wizard was a raving lunatic who wore a ridiculously loud plaid jacket, a supremely ugly tie, flare pants that looked as if they were hand-crafted from fuzzy toilet-seat covers, horrid wrap-around shades that brought into sharp relief the worst features of his mole-like face, and a sparkly turban, punctuated with a rhinestone dollar sign. Overall, the effect was one of a Martian who had just raided a Jewish retirement home in Miami. And he claimed to be one of the most intelligent men in the world. He was perfect in every way.
How could anyone, stoned or not, ignore the sublime beauty of this? The Masked Superstar? The Grand Wizard of Wrestling?? His big move was something called the Corkscrew Neckbreaker. There was poetry everywhere!
The Superstar’s idea of wrestling was to treat Gilbert’s head like the twist-off cap on a bottle of Budweiser. For his part, the Grand Wizard exhibited all the symptoms of a man having stroke. “Break his neck! Break his neck!” he spit, standing over his charge. The Masked Superstar gleefully complied.
It was all so completely insane, so colorful, so out-of-control, so ridiculous — how could this even be allowed to happen in a civilized country? — I was sold instantly.
The real kicker, though, came after a commercial for the Apex Technical School (“And when you graduate, you’ll have a set of your very own professional tools!”), when Backlund came back on TV and began crying.
Not just crying. Balling his eyes out like a little girl. Oh, Eddie, you didn’t deserve to be treated like that. Masked Superstar I’m gonna get you, you Big Bad Man. Grand Wizard, you are so evil, weep, weep, weep…
This was The Champ? The Heavyweight Champion of the World?? The Standard Bearer of All That Is Tough on God’s Green Earth??? Whatta fruit!
This was all too much for my brain, now glowing like molten lava and threatening to erupt. I was laughing so hard that I was on the floor convulsing, crying harder than Backlund. Jim considered calling the paramedics, then he remembered that we were both tripping on acid and let it go.
5. Butcher Vachon’s Wedding
The early-mid-eighties were a fertile time for absurdity in professional wrestling, and for the artistic maturation of its greatest visionary, Vince McMahon, Jr. Vince had taken over his old man’s successful but regionally-bound WWWF promotion, where he had played the role of awestruck announcer in an over-sized corporate blazer. Ignoring the old way of doing things (vestigal respect for other promoters’ territories), Vince was the one guy who realized the power of cable TV, namely that he could beam his roster of loony-tunes grapplers into living rooms nationwide based on the power of just one station, a SuperStation, for instance, as long as he could provide them with cheap and plentiful content. Well, as anyone who knows anything knows, wrestling was made for television, and vice versa. And Vince, just beginning to push the creative envelope and fan the flames of his own ardent ego, cast himself at the center of this new electric circus. Out of this, 'Tuesday Night Titans' was born — a talk show for wrestlers, hosted by none other than Vince — still sporting the blazer, although he had bulked up and it fit him pretty well by now — and a lisping old poof called Lord Alfred Hayes riding shotgun in the Ed McMahon (no relationship) position. Now, to compliment the eight or ten hours of actual grappling that was on every week, there was also an hour of wrestlers being interviewed Johnny Carson style — as if they were real people! And so we got to see them demonstrate their hobbies, e.g. cooking omelets, and clog dancing, not to mention some finely-honed sketch comedy featuring men whose only previous known talents were snapping spines. The best-remembered bit of this run was Butcher Vachon’s wedding. Butcher was a perennial also-ran, a filthy son-of-a-bitch Canadian eye-gouging bad guy, and you can bet his wedding reception didn’t last long before it broke out into the kind of slapstick donnybrook (pies in faces, etc) that is simultaneously both hopelessly dated and sorely missed by this year’s model of professional wrestling.
Coming soon, in Part II: Bruno almost dies, a victory for Iran, Flair wins...and wins...and wins...and Liberace sets the record straight. Can your heart stand it?!!
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To read a previous Termbo interview with Mike, go here.