Friday, April 25, 2014

No. 41 – One of These Days

Performer: Pink Floyd
Songwriters: Roger Waters, Rick Wright, Nick Mason, David Gilmour
Original Release: Meddle
Year: 1971
Definitive Version: Tongue, Tied & Twisted, 1988. It’s all in the mic placement, but the reaction to the appearance of the flying pig midway through this song is the loudest crowd roar I’ve ever heard, topping even SkyDome after Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series home run. Even David Gilmour’s wild pedal steel guitar in the song’s second half can’t top it for pure volcanic activity.

When I was exposed to this song during the Summer of Love, I thought One of These Days made a perfect wrestler’s theme—both for the raucous entrance to the ring and triumphant departure after winning. If that statement sounds a bit peculiar, allow me to make a full confession: I once was a huge wrestling fan.

I used to think professional wrestling was the cheesiest thing in the world. When I was a kid, it meant a bunch of guys doing fake moves in front of about 10 people in some studio somewhere. I didn’t catch the bug.

Scott did, however, so in May 1985, he was tuned in to the debut of Saturday Night’s Main Event on NBC. Of course, it was the World Wrestling Federation’s coming out party after the wildly successful debut of Wrestlemania, and it built on the popularity of Hulk Hogan.

I knew all of this, vaguely I think, and I remember watching a little before Beth and I went and did something better with our idle time. I had to admit there was a huge difference in excitement level when it was a performance in front of 10,000 people instead of 10, but wrestling still wasn’t my thing.

But Scott was into it. When I was home for the next year, if Scott was watching wrestling Saturday morning while eating his cereal, I’d watch with him. He started introducing me to some of the characters, like on a soap opera.

I found myself liking Jake “The Snake” Roberts. He was a bad guy, but he wasn’t obnoxious like the Hart Foundation, who I loved to hate, or Randy “Macho Man” Savage, who I loved to hate even more.

Savage was an easy lightning rod, because he had the certifiably hot Miss Elizabeth as his valet, and he treated her like crap, not in a violent or threatening way but in a rude and insulting way. But it was an entertaining schtick. His interviews were insane; he’d always interrupt whenever anyone tried to interview Miss Elizabeth; and he’d always hide behind her at some point during a match.

It was all a big hoot, totally preposterous, but the more I watched, the more I found myself being pulled into it. I found myself not just watching because Scott wanted to but because I wanted to. Slowly, I found myself going from laughing at wrestling to laughing WITH wrestling. Big difference.

I finally pledged allegiance at Thanksgiving 1987. I was home from Northwestern, and the big match was Savage against Bret “The Hit Man” Hart. A couple things had happened in the interim, aside from my breakup with Beth, which gave me far more idle time to watch wrestling. The first was that Savage was now a good guy after protecting Miss Elizabeth from the reviled Honky Tonk Man. The second was that I learned some interesting facts about The Macho Man.

In a baseball book I came across in a bookstore, I read about Randy Poffo, who played a couple years in the Reds and Cardinals organizations in the Seventies and never made it above A ball. At the bottom of the page, it said to turn the page to see what Poffo was up to now. There was a picture of Randy “Macho Man” Savage with Miss Elizabeth holding the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship belt. No way! Macho Man was a baseball player?! That’s awesome!

The match against the Hit Man was entertaining, and during it, the WWF cameras focused in on Brian Bosworth and a few other Seahawks players attending. After Savage won, a few of them even came down to the front row to taunt the fallen Hart Foundation.

Hey, wait a minute. NFL players like wrestling? You mean it’s OK to like wrestling? Well, I was all in now.

So, in addition to it being the Summer of Love, 1988 was the Year of Wrestling. It started with Scott in February playing—and I couldn’t make this up—his VCR recording of The Main Event, which I missed due to work. It ended with me and Scott—and I WOULDN’T make this up—attending our first live wrestling event.

It was The Survivor Series, where teams went head-to-head. I liked the idea of it, and after my devastating breakup with Melanie just a few months before, I wanted to do something fun. It was at the Richfield Coliseum outside of Cleveland Thanksgiving night. Why not?

So instead of attending the family Thanksgiving, Scott and I had early Thanksgiving dinner at Mom’s—the last time Mom made a Thanksgiving dinner for family members as far as I know—and then it was off to The Survivor Series. Scott and I were in the 10th row on the floor, and we had a blast.

But just as my torrid relationship with Melanie came to an abrupt end, so did my love of wrestling. At The Survivor Series, The Macho Man, of course, was the World Heavyweight champion after winning a tournament at the previous Wrestlemania (which I drove down from New Buffalo to Columbus to watch with Scott on pay-per-view). Life was good.

Unfortunately, the WWF wanted Hulk Hogan back as champion. Scott and I hated Hogan as much as we loved Savage. He was boring, in the ring and behind the mic. Sure enough, at The Main Event the following February, the “partnership” between Hogan and Savage split up, with Macho Man infamously “turning on” Hogan and becoming a bad guy. That set up a title bout at the next Wrestlemania, which Scott and I knew would lead to a certain Hogan victory.

Just before that match, however, Savage did a guest spot on Arsenio Hall for the ages. He was hilarious, and, unlike Hogan, there was no question but that Savage was in on the joke. I mean, come on. How can you not root for a guy who can drop a topical Pete Rose betting joke on Arsenio?

It sucked that the WWF was going to be all about Hogan again, so Scott and I both dropped out. But we kept our eyes on it from a distance. Over time, Savage became a good guy again. Hogan again was shunted to the side as his steroid scandal erupted, and now The Macho Man was going to battle “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair for the World Heavyweight title at Wrestlemania VIII in April 1992 in Indianapolis. Well, Scott and I agreed: We had to be there.

I drove to Muncie for the weekend, and we made our way to the nosebleeds of the Hoosier Dome in our pink Macho Man T-shirts, rooting our man on one last time. By now, we were so well-schooled in wrestling match progression that although we didn’t know how the match would end, we knew that at some point late in the match, Flair would get Savage in his dreaded figure-4 leglock.

This would be the moment of truth. If Savage broke it, that meant he was going to win. That’s exactly what happened. As soon as Savage broke the hold, Scott and I started doing the Yes-Yes dance, because we KNEW Savage was going to win the title, and he did a minute or two later to the acclaim of the entire building.

And with that, I retired as a wrestling fan. There was only one direction now for Savage—down. I didn’t want to stick around for it. Much of the old guard was passing anyway, and I didn’t like the new guard. The storylines were getting more convoluted and dark. I know some fans would disagree—this is my increasing Old Fartism shining through here—but wrestling stopped being the live-action cartoon that had sucked me in.

But, it sure was fun while it lasted.

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