May 21, 2011

Bright Lights. Big Cities. Pretty Ladies.

In many ways I suppose I'm a recovering professional wrestling fan. Call it yet another Saturday morning habit that I never grew out of. One of my earliest memories with my best friend & future best man was watching him mimic Pedro Morales' convulsions after being thrown out of the ring on his head by Greg "The Hammer" Valentine when we were both about 7 years old. My grandfather was also a huge fan, and one of the ways we bonded was that he would take me with him to the live events at what used to be called the Baltimore Civic Center.

But, of course, Wrestlemania was different. It was always a huge event in some huge venue, and, in the days before pay per view, if you couldn't get a ticket, your only option was to go to some hall where they'd be projecting it on a movie screen in closed circuit TV. So, Granddaddy took me with him to see Wrestlemania IV on the closed circuit, where the main event was a tournament for the WWF World Championship. In the end, the winner, and my favorite to win the night, was The Macho Man, Randy Savage.

The Macho Man died in a car accident yesterday, and the world is definitely poorer for having lost his unique brand of craziness. I was always a fan, and I'll miss him.

But, as I think back to that show, something really awful dawned on me.

Here's the card from that night back in 1988:
* Bad News Brown (DEAD - Heart Attack) won a 20-man battle royal, including the Junkyard Dog (DEAD - Car Accident), Bred Hart, Harley Race, and others
* Don "The Rock" Muraco def. Dino Bravo (DEAD - Gunshot)
* Greg Valentine def. Ricky Steamboat
* One Man Gang def. Bam Bam Bigelow (DEAD - Drugs)
* Ravishing Rick Rude (DEAD - Drugs) fought Jake "The Snake" Roberts to a draw
* The Ultimate Warrior def. Hercules Hernandez (DEAD - Heart Failure)
* Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant (DEAD - Heart Failure) were both disqualified
* Brutus Beefcake def. The Honkytonk Man by disqualification
* The Islanders, Haku & Tama, and Bobby Heenan def. Koko B. Ware and the British Bulldogs, Davey Boy Smith (DEAD - Heart Attack + Drugs) and The Dynamite Kid (PARALYZED)
* Demolition def. Strike Force
* The Million Dollar Man, Ted Dibiase def. Hacksaw Jim Duggan, then Don Muraco
* The Macho Man, accompanied by Miss Elizabeth (DEAD - Drugs) def. The Natural Butch Reed, Greg Valentine, The One Man Gang, and Ted Dibiase to become the undisputed World Heavyweight Champion

Let's not even get into the long list of wrestler deaths in between (Mr. Perfect, Crash Holly, Eddie Gilbert, Owen Hart, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Louie Spiccoli, Rocco Rock, Johnny Grunge, etc.)

There's something terribly wrong when something that's supposed to be fake, pre-determined violence leads to so much death.  As much as I enjoyed it, I can't help but wonder did I, as a fan, contribute to many of these deaths by encouraging this insane lifestyle?

It's entirely too sad.

That said, I have a treasure trove of fond memories, both of the shows, and what they meant to my family, so, for that, I am eternally grateful to The Macho Man and his friends.

Thank you, Randy Savage. There will never be another one like you.  Rest in peace.

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