My column here in FSM each month is usually dominated by stories of wrestling's past that are not often told these days, even forgotten in some cases by all but a few ardent wrestling historians. The average fan may know the names, or might have heard rumors or stray bits and pieces about those involved, but usually not the complete facts, much less a first-person account. This month, I present to you a story from wrestling history that has never been told anywhere, by anyone, until now.
I write a monthly column for Fighting Spirit Magazine, the United Kingdom's largest pro wrestling/MMA magazine, available on newstands across the UK. You can check out more about FSM at fightingspiritmagazine.co.uk, but in the meantime here's an archive of my columns.
This past summer marked the 20th anniversary of "Hell freezing over" in pro wrestling for the second time in a year, when I debuted in the World Wrestling Federation (the first frostiness having occurred when Jerry "The King" Lawler made HIS first appearance there in late 1992).
Last month's issue of FSM featured a remarkable article by John Lister on Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling, occasioned by the new WWE DVD release on the historic promotion. Reading it, I was struck by the accuracy and detail put forth by someone who wasn't there at the time, but has obviously done extensive research.
People always say, "You can't go home again", but every time I go to the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte, North Carolina, it feels like I have.
"Often imitated, but never duplicated!"
The impending release by the WWE of the history of the "War Games" matches in the NWA/WCW has led to renewed interest in these classic matches, and my ears perked up even more when I heard that one of the "Blu-Ray" exclusives was the infamous SMW Rage in the Cage match in Knoxville at the volunteer Slam 1993.
"Living the dream."
Before that became a marketing slogan, a power-of-positive-thinking motto, and/or a phrase bandied about in jest by up and coming young wrestlers barely making enough money to pay the bills, that phrase would have best been applied to young Virgil Riley Runnels, Junior--better known in all the finest social circles as "The American Dream", Dusty Rhodes. As this issue takes a closer look at his son, Cody, it's only fair that we examine his controversial father as well.
Normally, when it comes time to pen my monthly prose, yours truly will engage in a dialogue with our illustrious Editor, Brian Elliott, about what subject would be suitable for me to pontificate on. He often leaves me a lot of room as far as specifics. This month, his suggestion was along the lines of, "much of our mail indicates the readers like when you do historical pieces, but many of the writers wish you'd do something on today's wrestling, which seems to contradict the former advice."
When preparing to pen this monthly column, I'm sometimes struck with writer's block on a topic, but once inspiration strikes, the words flow out in a torrent and the only problem thereafter is the editor's, trying to shave the copy so it fits on two pages. This month, the topic was immediately apparent, but sitting down to write it I still didn't know what to say.
It occurred to me when reading an advance draft of historian Greg Oliver's fine article on Harley Race set for this issue, that I knew all these stories were true, and I still almost didn't believe them. Harley Race is a living tribute to the kind of human being that used to thrive in the sport of pro wrestling, the kind that probably wouldn't even try sports entertainment, and the generation who paved the way for today's million dollar babies to be of interest to TMZ and reality TV.