WWE Hall of Famer Bobby ‘the Brain” Heenan passes away

It is with great sadness that I write that wrestling’s greatest manager, Bobby “the brain” Heenan has passed away at 73 (or 72 technically)

For any fans of the Golden Era of WWF in the mid and late 1980s, Bobby Heenan is one of the most important and well known elements of that group. He’d be put on the same level of importance as Roddy Piper,  & Ted Dibiase as one of the biggest heel acts in the company.

Heenan had the gift of gab, and used it both in his managing as well as during his lengthy term as a color commentator in WWF (with Gorilla Monsoon) and in WCW. I will always remember how Bobby Heenan spoiled Hulk Hogan’s heel turn. “Who’s side is he on:?!” Classic.

 

 

Its a sad day in wrestling, however i am happy that Bobby Heenan is no longer suffering. Heenan has had a series of surgeries after his throat cancer and jaw replacement. In recent years, Bobby lost his ability to speak, a great tragedy on top of the many this man suffered. RIP Bobby.

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WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2004: Junkyard Dog

jyd1

Junkyard Dog

Class of 2004

Rock’n Wrestling Superstar; Grabs Them Cakes

jydold

Hall of Fame Rating

5 out of 10

Memorable

Simply put, I dislike the Junkyard Dog. It’s not that he is particular offensive, especially considering his era. Instead, it is that he had almost absolutely nothing to offer to wrestling, but got over anyway. He was a one trick pony at best. His one trick was charisma (kinda). Now many wrestling fans, experts and professionals alike will tout charisma as one of the most if not the most important aspect of a professional wrestler.  Charisma is the unteachable; encapsulates the IT Factor.

 The belief is that no matter how good you are in ring, if you are boring….

Meet Lance Storm

Meet Lance Storm

…..no one wants to watch you.

I tend to ascribe to Bret Hart’s philosophy, that a wrestler’s worth can be split into three sections, namely In Ring Ability, Charisma and Look.

So, with that in mind let’s take a look at the Junkyard Dog.

Let’s start with his greatest and only attribute, charisma. JYD, started off his career around the territories and ended up quickly in Mid South. Mid South was owned and run by another WWE Hall of Famer, Cowboy Bill Watts. Watts had a few things he was known for. He was a drinker, he was a hot head and he was good ol boy from Texas. He took one look at Sylvester Ritter (JYD real name) and said “You look like trash” and coined the name the Junkyard Dog.

Now, this was originally designed to be a golden era version of Santino, a lower card wrestler who didn’t do anything and lost all the time. Who would you cheer for a guy who literally brings trash in a barrel to the ring?

The answer is the fanbase of early 1980s Mid South. This character got over and go over a lot. People in the south for the first time in its history cheered a black babyface and JYD ascended into the semi-main event.

Ritter was a trail blazer in that regard. He did play a very second largest babyface role in the South….in the early 80s. Both Ritter and Watts deserve credit for trying something new. (Also Ernie Ladd who was doing some of the booking at the time). It was revolutionary and was most definitely against the grain of the time and the norms found in their Southern location.

mississippi

JYD’s Fanbase?

So why did the Junkyard Dog get over? Your guess is as good as mine. Watts, not a terrible businessman by territory owner standards, saw that the fans took a likeing to JYD and decided to push him. This novel approach has never been done again.

Right Cesaro?

Right Cesaro?

And push him they did. JYD, leaning solely on his fun and unusual cadence, references to literally being a dog and bouncing around became one of the biggest things in Mid South. He became big enough that Vince McMahon came knocking.

In WWF, JYD used his only asset to his advantage as well, getting over with the children who were being overly marketed to in the Rock’n Wrestling ERA. JYD was a doll, appeared in the Saturday morning cartoon and danced with children. He was the perfect real life cartoon character. JYD’s contribution ends here.  When you are a one trick pony, you can only go so far. So if on Bret Hart’s scale JYD is a 6 in charisma. How is he on the other two?

In the looks department, JYD struggles. He looked like a barrel chested man (common in the 70s and 80s) who thought he was a dog, complete with dog chain, tearing things apart, literal junkyard garbage and barking. He looked ridiculous. Not more ridiculous than let’s say the Bushwhackers, 2015’s Hall of Fame malaise, but ridiculous none the less.

There is also another point. Taking an Africian American man, and turning him into a literal dog-man is kinda racist. It would never fly today. Can you imagine if Titus O’Neill instead of doing is bark taunt, was JYD Jr, wearing a dog chain and rolling around the ring. Oh how the sponsers would cry!

Sponsors as represented by Crying Man Big Show

Sponsors as represented by Crying Man Big Show

Later in his career, especially once he left WWF in 1988, JYD toned down the barking and all the silliest parts of his gimmick. What was he left with then?

Out of Shape Man with a Dog Chain....Yup

Out of Shape Man with a Dog Chain….Yup

JYD would definitely be a one or two in the look category, whether it was his out of shape, beer drinker body or his bothersome racist gimmick.

Bret’s third criteria is an easy one for this blog and you my dear reader. WRESTLING ABILITY!!!! Now, correctly  many of my favorite stars, Warrior and Hulk Hogan included, would be low scorers in this department. Simply put, technically they weren’t great. Yet both look like Flairs or Briscos (Jack not Gerry) compared to JYD.

Yet, both Warrior and Hogan understood the story of a match, which is a major part of in ring work. We tend to forget that up until the last 15 years, it was very uncommon to have tons of high spots, kicking out of finishers, reversal fests we see today. A good match was one which told a story. Hogan/Andre or Savage/Warrior did the trick. Both Warrior and Hogan understood this element and it would bump their “in ring” numbers up. JYD on the other hand…..

Here is an example of JYD storytelling

JYD proceeds to do nothing, headbutt, and lose to a belly to back suplex, then play sore loser. What a great match!

Now for those who might say, he was restrained by his character and the gimmick match- Sure.

Here’s JYD vs Ric Flair at Clash of Champions- noteworthy for its ability to make even Ric Flair look terrible. (This link below works, just click on it.)

Plainly Junkyard Dog fits into a similar category in the Hall of Fame as George Steele or Hacksaw Jim Duggan. They were memorable characters who did little else, and are flimsy in terms of “Hall of Fame Careers”

I’ll always remember JYD, even if what I remember is kinda embarrassing.

Sponsors as represented by Crying Man Big Show

It’s okay Big Show…

The Junkyard Dog’s career ended with a whimper. He was a product of territories and very limited, growing more and more limited as he got older. It is possible that had JYD been retiring before the end of the territories, he may have continued to work, similar to a Bobo Brazil or Thunderbolt Patterson. . Like many of the biggest stars in the 1980s, suffered from lack of place to go.

Junkyard died in a car accident in his 40s in 1998. You’ll see him on all the lists of the wrestlers who died young.

 

Why 2004?

2004 was the return of the WWE Hall of Fame. It was three years after WWE won the war against WCW and  their first class included only those who made a mark on 70s and 80s WWF. JYD was a crowd pleaser in his time with the E and served as both the Africian American inductee of the year and as one of the deceased,

With 11 inductees, 2004 was a year which hit on all the major and minor well known faces. If Santana, Race and Studd were going in, JYD made sense.

 

Opens Door For?

Ko Ko B. Ware and the Bushwhackers. Comedy characters with low win/loss record who kids always remember fondly.

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

Grab Them Cakes….a song so strange its either about the joys of diabetes or some kind of sexual inuendo. Certainly one of the weirdest songs on the WWF 1985 “The Wrestling Album”, Keep in mind  that’s an album which features a song where Captain Lou claims to be the creator of music while George the Animal Steele yells for ambiance.

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2004: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine

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Greg “The Hammer” Valentine

Class of 2004

Bruiser, WWF Mainstay

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Hall of Fame Rating

6 out of 10

Influential

Greg Valentine is the average example of a wrestler type which doesn’t exist anymore. His look, his style, and his aggression were very prevalent in wrestling in the 1970s and 1980s. Every territory had its own Greg Valentine. He was a bruiser. Where did it go and why?

Take a look at Greg Valentine in his prime.

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Almost no muscle and thick.

Compare him to an average wrestler today.

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Does Randy Orton remind anyone else of Ryan Gosling?

Valentine looked out of shape. He had “retired football player” all over his body. And this was totally acceptable. This 1970s look existed almost until the 1990s. Harley Race, Pedro Morales, Johnny Rodz, and Blackjack Mulligan are just some of the Hall of Famers with a similar look. He kinda looks like your uncle. Or what you would expect the gym teacher to look like without his clothes on. George Steele actually led a double life and WAS a gym teacher most of the year in the 1970s and even today.

http://blogs.poughkeepsiejournal.com/underthering/2010/10/03/under-the-ring-interview-with-george-the-animal-steele/

This look doesn’t exist anymore. All the stout wrestlers either took steroids (ala Hercules) or realistically just stopped joining the business. WWE gave stout wrestler Husky Harris a great deal of flack for his weight, moving him back to NXT, (where he is super as Bray Wyatt) Fellow husky brawler, Trevor Murdoch, never really succeeded.

Valentine was also very slow and methodical in his wrestling style. No star today can get away without spots. Antonio Cesaro lifts a man on his knees in an impressive feat on strength. But its purpose is to show and not tell of Cesaro’s strength. Valentine had no such moves. His strength was built up by announcers and more by his look. He looked like a guy who may get into a bar fight. It takes 35 seconds for anything but a punch to happen in this match.

This all stemmed from his bruiser image. The bruiser in wrestling had a hard nosed, more punches and kicks style that is considered today to be the example of a bad wrestler. But it was very common. And truly many many wrestlers of the 1970s were fit, generally able to last long matches which would be hour draws where nothing really happened. Valentine was good at this.

Now when looking at his career, Valentine had much mid-card success in a couple of territories. He had a successful NWA Tag Team championship reign with Ric Flair. His dog collar matches with Roddy Piper over the United States Championship were brutal and great brawl matches. Blood Blood Galore.

But overall, Valentine’s success came from a good business decision. In 1984 Valentine returned to the WWF on a hunch. He supposed that the national expansion of the WWF would be successful. Have this guy on your side at the racetrack.

bryangif

And this guy too.

Valentine was rewarded with a long intercontinental reign in 1985 and was spearheaded an a real tough man. Greg embraced his Hammer moniker with impressive results. Valentine retained at Wrestlemania 1 over hot as ever Junkyard Dog before losing the IC title back to Santana in a vicious cage match.

Valentine then held the tag team championship in the old couple like Dream Team with Brutus Beefcake. This was 1986.

This caps off any large success Greg Valentine had in his career. He stayed in the WWF until 1992 and was never treated to any other title success of main event feud. This is due to Valentine’s inherent problem. He had a general lack of charisma. He always needed a manager. Jimmy Hart, and Johnny V were paired with Valentine most of his run in the WWF. He couldn’t cut it. Both literally and figuratively.

I do believe that this is probably the most unitentionally racist promo I have ever seen. He didn’t try to be racist.

Valentine spent the rest of his WWF career spinning his wheels as part of Rhythm and Blues or being paired up with other brawler types like Ronnie Garvin and Jim Duggan. But as wrestling became WWEized and more cartoony, Greg Valentine lost his place. He was a man of a previous generation and didn’t work in the bright light atmosphere of Repo Man or The Undertaker.

Amusing

Amusing

Valentine faded from there, bouncing around from WWF to WCW and eventually to the independents. Valentine is a wrestler who feels like a relic. A relic of a time where stocky men in tights beat the every loving crap out of each other.

That whole thing looks painful.

Why 2004?

2004 was the re-introduction of the WWE Hall of Fame. For this, they decided to go with wrestlers who were important to the early 1980s in WWF. And almost all of them did that (not PETE ROSE!!!) Valentine fit mostly as well.

He gave most of his career to the WWE. Valentine was there for over 12 years. This good hand type is a very common occurrence in the WWE Hall of Fame. Valentine was appreciated for his dedication.

Still the question persists, is Valentine a great Hall of Famer? No. He’s a welcome hand type of guy. He never really succeeded in a main event style (Although was “awarded” WWF title in the screwiest finish ever in the early 80s.)

Valentine is acceptable and memorable. That’s it really. Plus he did this.

Rythm_And_Blues_04

Opens Door For?

Old hand types, Hardcore Holly or William Regal. Men who are company men and just stick with it and do their job good enough

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

He can’t speak so his acceptance speech would be boring. It was boring.