The 8-Ball 06.21.12: 8 Mind Blowing Old School Photos
Posted by Ryan Byers on 06.21.2012
From Andre the Giant's immense size and Stu Hart wrestling a tiger to a young Fit Finlay, Jerry Lawler's leaping piledriver to Andy Kaufman and more, 411's Ryan Byers counts down the top 8 mind-blowing old-school photos!
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 8-Ball. I am you party host Ryan Byers, and, this week, we take another foray into the world of pro wrestling images . . . something that we did a few weeks ago to a positive response.
However, before we get there, I've been told that I should plug my Twitter more, so, here it goes: Follow me on twitter. There you will see me live-tweeting most episodes of Monday Night Raw, yammering on about whatever Classics on Demand I'm watching at the moment, and occasionally throwing out other wrestling related thoughts . . . oh, and I also re-tweet Barack Obama and RuPaul a lot.
Anyway, let's move along to what you all came to see.
8 Mind Blowing Old School Images
It's almost cliché to say it, but professional wrestling is a completely different animal than it was fifty, thirty, or even ten years ago. The industry has changed so much over time that, when we look back on the past of the "sport," sometimes it is hard to reconcile what we see there with what our conception of what wrestling is today. In this week's column, I have decided to pay tribute to some of those images, throwing at you eight pictures of the wrestling of yore that caused me to do a double take when I first came across them.
I don't necessarily want to call this list a "Top 8" because that would imply that I've seen a far greater percentage of all of the wrestling pictures in existence than I actually have, so, instead, this week we'll settle for Eight Mind Blowing Old School Images.
8. Fit Finlay Was Young, Once
David "Fit" Finlay first came on to my pro wrestling radar when he popped up on WCW Saturday Night one evening and started beating the snot out of Lord Steven Regal. Literally from the first time that I saw him and every time since, he looked like the world's most badass middle aged man. (Okay, the world's most badass middle aged man NOT named "Terry Funk.") Finlay was always that slightly old guy who put on great professional wrestling matches, even when I started getting my hands on some older New Japan tapes and watching his pre-US work. Later on, he became one of the oldest full-time wrestlers on the WWE roster. To me, he's always been the old guy in the room. Always. Then, out of nowhere, I saw this undated photograph which reminded me that, as all people were at one time or another, Finlay was one young. Most likely the photograph comes to us from the early 1980s, as that is when sources reflect Fit won his first championship . . . but, even taking into consideration the decade, seeing a young Fit Finlay is still surreal.
7. Andre's Ten-Woman Wingspan
Obviously, Andre the Giant was big. That's sort of what "the giant" means. However, every now and again, you see a picture of Andre that highlights just how truly enormous he was. Such is the case with the photograph above, where the Frenchman holds out his massive arms and covers the heads of ten young women. (Okay, it's more like eight women he's covering, but there are ten in total standing around.) What really makes this picture interesting to me is that I grew up with Andre in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, at which time he was mainly considered noteworthy for his girth, even though he was still billed at the greatly exaggerated height of 7'4" tall. What this picture reminds us of, though, is that Andre was once much more svelte than he was later in life and that he wasn't just a fat guy . . . he really was a man of almost normal proportions, albeit one who was significantly supersized. The striking transformation of Andre the Giant - along with some fairly attractive young women - make this image a memorable one.
6. Don Muraco Likes the Ganja
These days, we're used to a professional wrestling industry that is ruled by the "Wellness Policy," a supposedly-strict framework of rules that prevents performers from imbibing most performance-enhancing substances and certainly all recreational drugs. Even the use of marijuana, which has gained more and more social acceptance over the years, will result in a large fine under the WWE's current anti-drug regime. Even in the years before the policy went into place, drug use was still wrestling's dirty little secret, particularly in the family friendly Hulkamania era. That's why it's such a mindfuck to see somebody who was active in the Hogan era - namely a young Don Muraco - wearing a t-shirt that so openly endorses the use of a controlled substance. Plus there's another layer of head scratching here, as the absolutely ripped and jacked Muraco is far from most people's mental image of a pothead. He's not just a pothead . . . he's the pothead who will break your neck with his bare hands of you bogart the stuff for too long.
5. Freddie Blassie Files His Teeth
As I've noted in this column in the past, WWE essentially writes pro wrestling history these days, and, though the WWE version of history certainly loves Freddie Blassie, they almost exclusively love Freddie Blassie as a manager. They ignore the fact that he spent decades as one of the most hated heel wrestlers on the face of the planet before he started managing. Blassie had one of the more over-the-top gimmicks of the era, as he was essentially a vampire. Now, I don't mean a sparkles-in-the-daylight, perpetually takes his shirt off, Twilight sort of vampire or even a Gangrel-esque "living a gothic lifestyle" vampire. I'm talking about a guy who absolutely loved to bite opponents in the ring and rip their flesh open, spilling as much blood as possible. To attain this goal, Blassie would literally file his teeth down to points. Was he really taking the file to the enamel and applying pressure? No, of course he wasn't. It was a "work" like everything else. However, the images that exist of the act are still damned convincing, to the point that even I have gazed into Blassie's crazed eyes on a couple of occasions and thought he really was prepping his incisors for some cannibalistic activity.
4. McGuire Twins: Fatty Fat Fat Fat
There aren't that many fat men in professional wrestling anymore. Yeah, we've got Brodus Clay trying his best to keep the gimmick alive, but, as recently as twenty-five years ago, it seemed like every morbidly obese person the planet was trying to make a quick buck off of pro graps. Perhaps nobody exemplified this better than Billy and Benny McCrary (stage name McGuire), who were certified at one point by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the heaviest twins on the planet. Each one weight approximately 650 pounds, and they spent their adult lives essentially doing whatever they could to make money off of the fact that they were fat, which included setting foot into the squared circle when they weren't busy riding comically undersized motorcycles down the street. The image above exemplifies what the McGuire twins were all about, doing an almost comedic "dog pile" spot with a single opponent that no doubt caused the crowd to "ooo" and "aah." It perfectly demonstrates the spectacle that acts like the McGuires brought to professional wrestling, a spectacle which, sadly, is missing in a lot of regards today.
3. Lawler Catches Some Air
The feud between Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman is the stuff of legend. I have a hard time calling it one of my favorite feuds, because I watched it in bits and pieces years after it happened. However, were I watching it start to finish at the time it occurred; I would probably come close to calling it the greatest of all time. The main reason that it was so awesome was the fact that it was believable. Kaufman and Lawler both had the chops to make it feel as though they were legitimate enemies, whether it was the profanity-laced tirade on Light Night with David Letterman or Kaufman running down the City of Memphis with his hygiene tips. The picture above captures that believability in one instant, as the infamous Lawler-to-Kafuman piledriver is captured from a perspective that folks rarely remember it from. This shot shows that, rather than protecting the celebrity as much as humanly possible, Lawler actually LEPT into the air to deliver the maneuver, which, though it was still perfectly safe in the end, increased the risk factor significantly. This truly shows Lawler's dedication - and, moreover, Kaufman's dedication - to making things feel like a shoot.
2. Street and Son
Speaking of the WWE version of history, a guy who does not get nearly enough credit as one of the great gimmick wrestlers of all time is "Exotic" Adrian Street, who was equal parts effeminate nancy-boy and brutal street fighter. He was the wrestler who, after a redneck threw his favorite homophobic invective at him, would have the redneck down on the floor, either squealing in a submission hold or knocked cold from a right hook. With an over the top, larger than life character like this one, it's difficult to believe that Street at one point had a normal family life with a mother and a father, just like all of us. Well, believe it, because the picture above is a legitimate shot of Adrian Street, in his full wrestling gimmick, standing next to his father, a grizzled British coal miner who most likely would have been one of the individuals hurling one of the aforementioned invectives if he was front row at one of his son's matches. It's the kind of shot that reminds you, in fact, that professional wrestlers are real, legitimate people, no matter what insane things they do in order to entertain us.
1. Stu Hart Wrestles a Goddamn Tiger
The title says it all. Stu Hart, patriarch of the sprawling Hart wrestling family, once decided that it would be a good idea to set foot into a professional wrestling ring with a real life Bengal tiger. Why did he think this was a good idea? I'm not entirely sure, but, as legend has it, when the Ringling Brothers Circus came through Calgary, Stu thought it would be a fine idea to call them up and ask if they could borrow Sasha, one of their male tigers, for a professional wrestling match. Still clawed and still fanged, the two grappled for several minutes and, though the results of this exhibition have been lost to history from what I can tell, reports indicate that things went about as well as they could, though the big cat did manage to throw Hart out of the ring for a huge bump at one point in time. With wrestling largely playing it safe these days and with animal cruelty laws in full force and effect, there is no way that something like this would happen today, giving it that true "WTF?" factor when viewed today.