A Mark’s Eye View is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
2019 has finally come to an end and it is time to look back. I wouldn’t be qualified to talk about this past year — I actually quit watching the sport in 2019. (Well, “Quit” is a relative term; I still have the WWE Network, NJPW World, Highspots, and a subscription to the Observer.) so I thought it would be a great time to look back at the year wrestling became a lifelong obsession for me. So strap in and let’s set the dial to 1987!
The year started with Dusty Rhodes winning the Bunkhouse Stampede. The Stampede was a series of battle royals held in December in the which participants would wear whatever they wanted to the ring. They could also bring weapons. The winners would meet in another bunkhouse battle royal in January to determine a winner. In the time before PPVs, it was almost impossible to track reliably. Thankfully, Big Dust was there to tell fans he won.
Bret Hart is a pro wrestling legend, but that didn’t happen overnight. In February (the match was actually in January but it aired in February), the Hart Foundation won the WWF Tag Team Championship for the first time. The Harts beat the British Bulldogs in a nothing match. It was the first WWF title Hart would win on his way to winning the WWF Triple Crown.
Obviously, the big news was WrestleMania III. Along with the iconic supercard was an interesting experiment from the Fed: The Killer Bees also won the Frank Tunney Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament. It was the WWF’s version of the Crockett Cup, and it was the only time the event was held. It was also a rare pinfall loss for Demolition who went on the become the most dominant team in the WWF.
The Super Powers (Rhodes and Nikita Koloff) won the second annual Crockett Cup. Ric Flair and Barry Windham wrestled another one of their classics. Tragedy struck the Von Erichs again when Mike Von Erich committed suicide. Austin Idol used the assistance of Tommy Rick and Paul E. Dangerously to defeat Jerry Lawler. The King had his head shaved and a riot ensued.
The tragic decline of World Class Championship Wrestling was highlighted by the David Von Erich Parade of Champions becoming the David and Mike Von Erich Parade of Champions. The annual event which once saw 43,000 fans witness Kerry Von Erich defeat Ric Flair for the NWA World Title had a card featuring featuring a six woman mud pit match and competitors like Cousin Junior and Jeep Swenson.
Owen Hart had been lighting the wrestling world on fire during the past year. His reign as the first gaijin IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion ended after a month long reign. Antonio Inoki became the first winner of the current IWGP Championship. (Surprise!) Before Inoki’s victory it was defended annually in a tournament.
The NWA held its third month-long Great American Bash tour and introduced fans to WarGames: The Match Beyond. Lex Luger and Steve Willams win the United States and UWF Heavyweight Titles respectively on two different Bash stops on the same day. Williams would go on to become the last UWF Champ. Sherri Martel won the WWF Women’s Title.
The Rougeau Brothers beat the Hart Foundation for the WWF Tag Team Titles…kinda. The decision was later reversed and never acknowledged by the WWF. Bruno Sammartino wrestled his last WWF match. Months later, “The Living Legend” would leave the company. The animosity between Sammartino and company head Vince McMahon would last for decades.
Much like Rich and Kerry, Ron Garvin saw his career take a turn for the worse thanks to his NWA World Title victory. The fans turned on the “Hands of Stone” and Garvin never recovered. Piledriver – The Wrestling Album 2 was released. Some of the most memorable songs in wrestling history are introduced to fans including “Jive Soul Bro”, “Girls in Cars”, and the theme song for Demolition.
Only 3,000 fans attended WCCW’s 4th Cotton Bowl Spectacular. This despite Kerry returning to the ring for a workout after a motorcycle accident and Kevin Von Erich challenging for the World Class belt in the main event. In a typical tease, Kevin walked out with belt before it was returned to Al Perez on television.
“Superstar” Billy Graham’s tumultuous relationship with the WWF began in earnest. Graham wrestled his last televised match. This began decades of accusations, glad handing, bad blood, and kind words. The last Starrcade on Thanksgiving is held. The show moves the next year and never seems to treated with the same grandeur as the first five years.
Big Van Vader squashed Antonio Inoki in his debut, leading to a riot. It would be a start of a fantastic career. The second Slammy Awards are held. The show – directed by Kay Fabe – is still fondly remembered. Vince McMahon’s performance of “Stand Back” and the faces and heels teaming together on “If You Only Knew” are the show’s highlights.
Next week: No more gimmicks?
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