By Evan Ginzburg, Columnist
Welcome aboard our weekly Wrestling- Then & Now column where we time travel between eras. Since I’m not one of those “there’s been no good wrestling since the territories” dinosaurs nor am I one of the disrespectful “that old school stuff is boring” kids, it may just be a bumpy ride. So, buckle up and enjoy.
First off, the Edge-Randy Orton match was, in fact, top notch – but in no way, shape or form “the greatest match of all time.” My impartial panel of historians and current “wrestling journalists” combined forces, we put the data into my exclusive wrestling data bank, and without question have designated it the 1037th greatest match of all time, right behind Abdullah the Butcher vs. Mr. Wrestling II at 1036 which happened Forty-five years ago today. Now it did edge out at #1038 Charlie Cook defeating Harley Race via DQ in Miami Beach, Fla 39 years ago today. Because, simply put, Charlie Cook should never have beaten a Harley Race on his best or Race’s worst day of the week.
Hopefully folk will realize that entire paragraph is, in fact, a rib. And if you think I have dates like that stored in my brain I do not. Newspaper journalist Mike Mooneyham, one of my favorite sports and wrestling writers posted these memories on his Facebook page just today. He’s a must read.
Now these are some dates I DO have etched in my memory bank. April 30, 1977 is quite the story. I was a youngster, and a total “mark.” And all the “big kids” were telling me that Superstar Billy Graham was going to take the title from our hero and semi-god Bruno Sammartino in Baltimore And on that very day just as they said it would, that indeed happened. Thus, the horror of it all dawned on me- wrestling wasn’t, um, “real.” At first, I was quite disillusioned but later looked at it all as I would a movie. Hey, Bruce Lee didn’t kill Chuck Norris for “real.” And Clint Eastwood didn’t shoot that guy dead in the movie. Why couldn’t I enjoy it for what it was? And I did. Until February 20, 1978, a day that will live in infamy for us Superstar fanatics when Backlund pinned him in the middle of the ring at MSG. I was there and walked out head bowed and somewhat broken. It was the end of a glorious heel era.
Speaking of endings (see how this column works?) Edge ended up seriously injured in his supposed greatest match of all time, following a pattern of long out of ring older guys coming back for a payday and getting hurt. This is not a good trend and as much as Vince wants to suck every drop of blood out of these guys and their names- as they sure have a hard time creating new stars of that level today- they should beware of going to THIS well once too often.
Which reminds me of the innumerable times the late, great SD Jones would run towards his opponent in the corner, said gentleman would move at the last second, SD (Special Delivery!) would bang his head against the upper turn buckle and next thing you know he’d be in that familiar position of “looking at the lights.” You’d think he would learn from his mistakes, but nah. Head. Upper turnbuckle. Disaster. Time and time again. Inevitably, Gorilla Monsoon would declare with great sadness in his voice, “SD went to the well once too often.”
I couldn’t tell you what happened on last weekend’s pay per view, but I remember important moments like that.
Glad to see New Japan Pro Wrestling back with live wrestling and they will have an actual audience starting in July. New Japan World is wrestling’s best bargain at nine bucks and change a month and I highly recommend it.
I was saddened to hear of the passing of not one but two gentlemen I have a lot of respect for in the wrestling business. Dr. Julian Shabazz was, as Mike Mooneyham acknowledged “among many other endeavors, a decorated author, a friend and mentor to many, a distinguished professor at Benedict College, and CEO of Awesome Records. Julian wrote a book on pro wrestling (The Black Stars of Professional Wrestling), a history of Benedict College athletics (Roar of the Tigers!), and also co-authored the original biography of underground comic/author Rudy Ray Moore, who created the character Dolemite.
And I also found out long after the fact this week that my friend Wayne St. Wayne passed in 2019. He wrestled in Calgary, Amarillo, Florida, St. Louis, and other territories under a plethora of names such as Mike/Michael Hammer, Buddy Frankenstein, Dr. Blood, Mike Blood and Wayne Hammer. He was also a noted painter and a mainstay in the St. Louis Arts community.
RIP to them both.
On June 14 from 1-11pm EST, wrestling authors united in a virtual wrestling-themed convention for uncertain times on FITE TV. Every 45 minutes, new wrestling superstar and/or author/historian appeared on this video streamed interactive Q&A broadcast. Focusing on wrestling books and history, there is something here for every fan. You can listen to me among them.
Well, if you spend a lot of time reading about the history of professional wrestling right at The Gorilla Position have, we got a treat for you. Yours truly, along with West Coast based indie heel manager Buddy Sotello, have started a unique show, Wrestling & Everything Coast to Coast, where we have hour long interviews with unsung heroes of the wrestling industry. This week we speak with noted print and wrestling journalist Ryan K. Boman from the distinguished The Gorilla Position talking wrestling journalism, fan misconceptions, wrestling in the era of CoVid-19, Harley Race, Bruiser Brody and much more. Listen here!
— Check out both 350 Days starring Bret Hart, Superstar Graham, and three dozen legends and Wrestling-Then & Now starring Killer Kowalski & Nikolai Volkoff both free on Amazon Prime. 350 Days is also available free on Tubi. You can check out the new 350 Days trailer here.
That’ll about do it folks. Catch you next week for Wrestling- Then & Now.
Evan Ginzburg is a contributor for The Gorilla Position. He was an Associate Producer on the movie The Wrestler and 350 Days starring Bret Hart and Superstar Billy Graham. He is a 30-year film, radio and TV veteran. Check out his Evan Ginzburg’s Old School Wrestling Memories page on Facebook. He can be reached on Twitter @evan_ginzburg or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.