Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wrestling's Most Memorable Moments - The Rockers Breakup

Over the years, professional wrestling has changed. I'm not breaking any new ground with that statement, it's obvious to even a casual observer that wrestling is not the same thing as it was in the 80's when I was a kid, or even what it was when I was a teenager and young adult in the 90's and early 2000's. Still, I'm a lifelong fan, and although I now get way more enjoyment out of watching old matches on YouTube or WWE Classics on Demand, I still try to catch Monday Night Raw every week, even though roughly three quarters of the show does nothing but piss me off and make me wax nostalgic for the days when wrestling was "good".
But what makes older wrestling good, you may ask? Well, for starters, nowadays the WWE doesn't even refer to itself as wrestling , they call themselves "sports entertainment" (not sure what they think that second W stands for), and the wrestlers are "superstars." They avoid saying the words wrestling or wrestler like the plague. The title belts are only referred to as "championships" too, for reasons I still don't quite understand (to the point where the announcers will say "he hit him with the championship". Its a little fucking ridiculous). And I guess that's fine, Vince McMahon can market his product however he likes. I can watch or not watch as I see fit. And I do. I still watch hoping to catch a glimmer of what used to make wrestling great. Every now and then they even come close.  I could go on a rant listing all the things that are different now, and why it was much better 10, 15 or 20 years ago than it is today. But I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to focus on one thing that it seems to me that the WWE has forgotten how to do, and the product in my opinion suffers for it.

To me, the WWE has forgotten how to make iconic moments. Think about this for a second, if you're a fan. What's the last truly iconic moment the WWE had? For me, I think it goes all the way back to 2004; Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero hugging in the ring to close WrestleMania 20. Sure there have been some memorable moments since then. Undertaker's matches with Shawn Michaels and HHH at the past few WrestleManias come to mind. They're excellent matches, all of them arguably five stars, but great matches and iconic moments are not the same thing. RVD beating John Cena for the WWE title at ECW One Night Stand is another comes to mind, but again was that a truly iconic moment? Or was I just an ECW mark happy because the company got to shine for 5 more minutes before it was killed dead again?
No, the moments I'm talking about are the truly legendary ones. The ones that as a fan are burned in your brain. And the collective psyche of your wrestling fan contemporaries as well. The ones you not only remember, but you remember where you were and who you were with when you saw them. That's what this column is going to be about. Once a week (or so) we're going to take a trip down memory lane to revisit the  moments when wrestling was great. The ones that gave you chills. The moments that made you go from a kid watching wrestling because its just what was on after cartoons when Saturday morning became Saturday afternoon (and you didn't feel like watching bowling), to a diehard, life long wrestling fan.
Today's feature is a moment that is one of my favorite and most memorable to me personally, of all time... and I know its a lot of other people's too. It was Saturday January 11, 1992, and I vividly remember sitting in my grandparents' living room, eating meatballs and Italian bread, and watching Shawn Michaels betray Marty Janetty on Brutus Beefcake's Barber Shop during WWF Superstars. I know this is a moment most wrestling fans of my generation remember well. The hilarious thing I've found is that most of us remember it wrong! I guarantee if you ask old school WWF fans, 9 out of 10 will tell you that Shawn superkicked Marty through the plate glass window on the Barber Shop set. That's how my brother remembered it. That's how whoever wrote this article on WWE's own website remembers it! And that's how I remembered it, until a few years ago when I found the segment online...

You can imagine my surprise when it turned out that despite the fact that I could vividly picture it in my head, Shawn didn't kick Marty through the window at all. He kicked him, then picked him up and threw him through it! But my surprise as an adult was nothing compared to how I felt about this when I saw it as an 11 year old mark. My mind was reeling! The Rockers were one of the best tag teams ever! They couldn't break up like this! This is all despite knowing that wrestling is "fake" even then (I hate that term... the outcomes are predetermined and they're not really harming one another, but the athleticism, conditioning and artistry it takes to be a professional wrestler are all very, very real). Its very weird, my transition from mark to smart fan was very gradual and layered, it didn't just go from "it's real" to "its fake". There was a lot of in between. Figuring out how the moves were done and then practicing on my little brother definitely helped. But I digress.

Looking back now, its kind of amazing the way wrestling asks its fans suspend disbelief all the while knowing we are (or should be) in on the whole thing. Like, even at 11, I knew that Shawn coming out in a leather jacket, acting cocky and calling himself the captain of the team meant he was going to turn heel on Janetty (not that I knew a wrestling bad guy was called a heel then). It didn't matter though. Marty going through that window was still a huge surprise, and that made it a truly iconic moment in wrestling history. The WWE isn't capable of this today. Probably because they don't have the attention span to build to anything anymore (or they think WE don't have the attention span to follow it, I don't know). Everything nowadays is instant gratification and immediate payoff, and it absolutely hurts the product because there's no drama. The Rockers debuted in the WWF in 1988. They were a babyface tag team for that entire time. That definitely contributed to why this was so shocking and dramatic.

I can't decided what I love best about this segment. It could be Beefcake's ridiculous outfit and haircut. It could be the fact that every word out of Bobby Heenan's mouth after Shawn kicks Marty is pure fucking gold. Or it could be that this is the moment that launched the solo career of my favorite wrestler (and the greatest in-ring performer) of all time. Whatever it is, this is just something I feel they've forgotten how to do today, and the product unquestionably suffers for it.

So there you go. Hope you liked it. Even if you didn't, I'll be back next week with another!


  1. I was so mad and so pro Marty Janetty at the time. I hated Shawn. Eventually I realized that was his whole intent, and loved him for it.

    CM Punk and Daniel Bryan go out of their way to call themselves wrestlers and say wrestling. And I love them for it.

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