I’m not sure if I’m bored of talking Detroit sports or if I’ve got the Swine Flu but I’m not feeling the normal routine today. I’ve been spending some spare time over the last few months catching up on my wrestling history. The Chris Benoit-fiasco ruined present-day wrestling for me but I can never get enough of the old stuff. The interest in the old stuff was dormant for a while, too, until I realized that ESPN shows old school AWA programming weeknights at midnight. The timeframe runs from 1985-1988. My family was not privy to cable TV until roughly 1990 so the only federation that I was familiar with before that was the WWF.
It wasn’t until after 1990 that I started watching the WCW and even Global Championship Wrestling weekdays after school. So, seeing the AWA—even though it’s 20 years later!—is like striking wrestling gold. It never occurred to me when I was 10 years old that Curt Hennig wrestled somewhere else before he was Mr. Perfect. The same goes for all the guys that came to the WWF during that time. Among the wrestlers from the AWA that eventually made the leap to the WWF were Shawn Michaels (member of the Midnight Rockers), the Texas Tornado (Kerry Von Erich), Mike Rotunda, Yokozuna (Kokina Maximus) , DDP, Scott Hall, Big Van Vader (Leon White), the Nasty Boys, the Beverly Brothers (the Destruction Crew) among many, many others. I didn’t know it at the time but the WWF was just a part—albeit a big part—of the wrestling industry. Finding out that Scott Hall wrestled under his name well before he ever wrestled as the Diamond Stud in the WCW and Razor Ramon in the WWF is like finding $100 bills in the couch cushions. This is a world that I had no idea existed. Just last night in a segment called “Mat Classics”, the AWA showed a match from 1981 featuring Rick Martell and Tito Santana versus Jim Brunzell and Greg Gagne. That was six years before Martell and Santana became the Strike Force in the WWF. When I got hooked on this AWA-thing, I began to look up old clips on YouTube! Pretty much every federation you could ever want to see is there.
Anyhow, the best part of my integration to non-WWF wrestling of the 70’s and 80’s has been my introduction to Bruiser Brody. Without cable, there was no way for me to see Brody. He was killed in Puerto Rico in 1988 so by the time I got cable, he was long gone. Brody wrestled under the name King Kong Brody in the AWA as a member of Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie’s army. He frequently teamed up with Nord the Barbarian (aka The Berzerker in the WWF). You may remember Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie from when he came to the WWF with Sgt. Slaughter in 1991 as General Adnan. Anyhow, Brody’s combination of size—6’5 and 300 lbs—and charisma—his promos were legendary—would’ve made him a mega-star in the WWF. A number of his matches—including a bloodbath against Abdullah the Butcher—are on YouTube! TV can be a weird thing. All of this happened 20+ years ago but to me this is all happening right now and I’m loving every minute of it. If you are a wrestling fan from back in the day, then do yourself a favor and—at the very least—DVR ESPN’s AWA programming. Right now, the action is from 1988 and Hennig just dropped the title to Jerry Lawler. This is just before Hennig left for the WWF and just before the AWA became totally irrelevant. If we’re all lucky, ESPN will start the loop over in 1985.
This isn’t from the AWA but here is an old school video just to get you in the wrestling mood. I’m sure some of you will remember from the WWF. Keep your eyes pealed for Koko B. Ware, Hulk Hogan, Superstar Billy Graham, Don “The Rock” Muraco, Billy Jack Haynes, Bam Bam Bigelow, Oliver Humperdink, The Honky Tonk Man, and a very young Vince McMahon. Don’t get piledrivered!