It’s been a hellova year so far…
Brad Armstrong passed away Nov.1 last year. Paul Bearer died March 5 this year.
May 8 marked 11 years Davey Boy Smith passed away. Two years ago May 20, Randy Savage suffered an apparent heart attack while driving down the road.
14 years ago May 23, Owen Hart fell to his death from the roof of the Kemper Arena in Kansas City. I was there that night and will never forget the shock and sadness everyone felt backstage.
Last Wednesday, May 15 another colleague, friend and member of the wrestling fraternity passed away. His name was Ron West. Ron was a referee and front office manager for all the major promotions from the 1960’s – 1990’s. In recent years he had been with Cole Brothers Circus doing the same thing he used to do in wrestling. Managing all the details from set up to break down, there was no one better than Ron West.
I met Ron around 1981 when I started in Atlanta for Georgia Championship Wrestling (later WCW). Jim Barnett was the promoter Ron was the man trusted to make sure the towns ran smooth and talent was taken care of. The boys knew if they needed anything they go to Ron. Later in my career I would see Ron working various Southern offices from Bill Watts Louisiana to the Fullers Alabama-Florida-Tennessee territories. He was always gracious, funny and knew when to be business. That’s why he was trusted and admired by so many.
He brought his two sons Brent and Rodney along to help promote, announce and do whatever was needed. There was a strong bond between them and it was evident the love and mutual respect they had for each other. Brent and Rodney will miss their Dad dearly. So will everyone who had the pleasure of crossing paths with Ron. He was one of the few stand up people in the business…
It’s funny how we all grow up with the same dream of wanting to get into the business of pro wrestling and become linked through experiences and circumstances. I’ve made a lot of acquaintances over the years and a few friends. It’s surprising to me how many people I’ve called friends have gone. That’s life…or so I’ve heard.
A Memorial Service will be held Saturday May 25 @
NOON – 2 PM
Stuart Park Baptist Church
850 17th St NW
Cleveland, TN 37311
I was asked recently about bringing old school wrestling back and if I thought it could work. It reminded me of what my mentor Houston wrestling promoter Paul Boesch once said:
I like fishing. I also like strawberries. When I go fishing, I put worms on the hook. Fish like worms so I’m not going to try and give them what I like.
In other words if people come to see old school wrestling and story telling, great. But if you promote something YOU like and no one comes to your shows, what’s the point? The point is “give ’em what they want” or you won’t be running for long! I remember Houston having a solid line up of stars and the main events always featured something special. I might not have liked the over the top gimmicks, but enough people did that Houston was a hot bed for action in the 1970s.
Harley Race, Johnny Valentine, The Funks, Jack Brisco, Wahoo McDaniel, The Great Malenko, Fritz Von Erich, Jose Lothario, The Great Mephisto, The Infernos, The Von Braunners, Toru Tanaka, The Spoiler, Ernie Ladd, Dusty Rhodes, Bill Watts and many others provided believable old school matches that might hold up today if fans were educated to it after a while.
But times have changed and with everything at a click of a remote control, the attention span of today’s fans is hard to contend with. I explained it would take patience to build a match and tell a story. The story sometimes built from week to week with undercard stories developing along the way.
I wish that formula could work but it would take a lot of talented veterans and rookies along with a solid promotional model to make it work. The original process consisted on the premise that wrestling was actually competitive and not pre-determined. Feuds over championships and personal issues were the focus and fans got the message that “these guys really don’t like each other.” The cat’s been out of the bag for years about the in ring performance and the competitive spirit backstage is where the real drama lies.
The nature of sports entertainment creates a sense of getting ahead at any cost and can carry over into the ring. People used to debate the legitimacy of wrestling where as now they are more interested in the politics backstage.
There was a time when the guys went out, had a match and either got over or didn’t. And that determined who was in the main event. Now it has been said and insinuated that it’s more who you know rather than what you know. That argument only goes so far because PPV and regular TV ratings don’t lie. Eventually the cream will rise. Of course learning the ropes and manipulation are all part of the road to the top.
The old timers knew how to manipulate and get their way. Buddy Rogers was one of the best and there’s enough people still alive who knew the antics of the original Nature Boy who can verify and confirm such stories. The tradition continues and is a rite of passage for anyone with the ambition and drive to do whatever it takes to succeed.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
There’s a lot of opportunity on the pro wrestling scene these days. To get a developmental deal is just the beginning. The goal is to get on the main roster and make an impact. How? Watch, listen and learn from the ones who’ve been there and are there now.
We can’t go back in time but we can tell stories in the ring. Working a body part in new and interesting ways has always been a key ingredient to a good/great match. The difference is in the emotion and feeling. People can tell when a performer is into his gig or phoning it in.
I’m a firm believer that you must enjoy what you’re doing to be convincing. If you don’t believe what you’re doing, how is anyone else going to? Too many times I’ve seen guys do high impact moves only to get up ten seconds later like nothing fazed them. Then one will win by a school boy. Amazing.
Until next time…
Thanks for reading.