For some time now, speculation from pundits had it that this year's WWE Hall of Fame inductions would not only include the long-overdue Randy Savage ceremony, but also, in a nod to the Bay Area location, the incomparable Ray Stevens. Tim Hornbaker had written an excellent bio of "The Crippler" for this issue of FSM, and I had planned to jump on board with my recollections of the Blonde Bomber.
It seems like a day never goes by that someone doesn't email me, twitter me, or talk to me at a live appearance where the subject comes up--either "Who is the greatest manager of all time?" or "Jim, you're the greatest manager of all time". I appreciate very much those who put me in that position, but I always disagree--noting that while I'll accept the number two spot, number one is reserved in my mind for Bobby Heenan. Another name on nearly everyone's list of top managers, James J. Dillon, feels the same way and pegs "The Brain" as the best ever.
Then I looked at Twitter.
There were condolences popping up everywhere on the death of Jimmy Del Rey, one half of the Heavenly Bodies with Dr. Tom Prichard and the cornerstone tag team of Smoky Mountain Wrestling. He was 52. Initial information I received was it was a car accident.
This past month was another sad one for wrestling as we lost another of the sport's all-time great personalities with the passing of Douglas "Ox" Baker at the age of 80. The "Fabulous" Ox Baker was another of those unique, only-in-wrestling types that made an impression on you from the second you saw him, and he certainly did on me as a 13 year old fan when he appeared on Dick the Bruiser's WWA TV show from Indianapolis, Indiana.
It was just a few days before I began writing this month's column that I was speaking via transatlantic telephone to our erudite editor Elliott, bemoaning the fact that I had not had the time to dwell on a topic for same, due to the ridiculous schedule I ribbed myself with in the month of September. Suddenly, as he usually does, he cleared the clouds with a simple statement--"Jim, THAT'S your column!
This month I begin my column with an exclamation of frustration--AAAARRRGHH! There, I've gotten some of it out of my system and I feel slightly better. You see, the topic of discussion here this month is one in which, to me, there are so many things wrong going on at one time that my brain cells are colliding over which one to rant about first. I guess I'd better just blurt the dreaded words out, and then stop and analyze point by point why I feel like heading for the belltower with a high powered weapon.
This month's column is a tough one for me. I've paced around for days trying to think exactly what to say, and how to say it. Then, I've paced around more waiting to write it. It's not that I don't want to write about the two men that are the subjects--far from it, they were two of my favorite people in the world--it's just that the process of going back and describing those relationships is a hard one since both are gone.
Over the last few months, my column has centered on milestone anniversaries in our sport, relating specific incidents that happened on a particular date in history. Last month's, for example, detailed how OJ Simpson created Stone Cold Steve Austin, and that OJ still owes me $5,000.00. If that's not enough of a tease to make you search for a back issue or head to the internet, I don't know what is. This month's column, however, is more a remembrance of a season, a time of the year when some of the biggest wrestling events were held, that sadly, much like so many other time-honored traditions in the grappling game, no longer exists.
Over the past few months, my column has centered on anniversaries of events both famous and infamous, memories bright and bittersweet of moments in the sport of wrestling that will never be forgotten. This month, I look back on the anniversary of an event that is considered infamous indeed, but it's connection to, and impact upon, pro wrestling has never been talked about--except for when I grumble about it on the phone with someone--until NOW!