SLAM! WRESTLING: Guest Columnist

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Monday, June 14, 1999

SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column

Wrestling hopeful: It's time for a change

By STEVE GAINES -- For SLAM! Wrestling

As I sit here deep in thought on the wrestling world as a whole, I would like to share with you my opinions on the game today. My dream is to be World Champion. WCW, WWF either one is fine.

I'm at the very bottom of the ladder starting to learn the ropes and climb my way to the top of the mountain. I grew up with a thirst for the big men in funny tights yelling into the camera and battling it out every Saturday on my television. Andre The Giant, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart and the Blue Blazer were my heroes. The WWF reigned supreme.

The NWA was great with Dusty Rhodes, the original Four Horsemen, Ricky Steamboat, the Koloffs, Ronny Garvin and Magnum T.A. as the top draws but it didn't have the same appeal. Florida was home to Mike Rotunda and Kevin Sullivan. The UWF was still around and a great commentator by the name of Jim Ross made the show worth watching. A couple skinny guys named Sting and Rick Steiner were a tag team lead by Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert. Dr. Death Steve Williams, and The One Man Gang were the top draws. World Class Championship Wrestling was home to the Von Erich brothers, Ravishing Rick Rude and Jerry "The King" Lawler. It was a great promotion. The AWA was fantastic with Sgt. Slaughter, the Gagnes, Nick Bockwinkel, Ray Stevens, and of course their top bad guy, Larry Zbysko.

It was truly a fantastic time to be a wrestling fan.

Fast forward to today.

World Class went bankrupt, the AWA and UWF were bought out by WCW who all but left the NWA as a shadow of it's once great legacy pulling away its top stars. The WWF has turned the world of wrestling into "Sports Entertainment" leaving the wrestling action as second fiddle to the interviews and storylines. Another large promotion newer to the game, the ECW, is fighting for survival. All the while wrestlers I've loved on the screen have passed away. Andre, the Junkyard Dog, Rick Rude, Owen Hart, Adrian Adonis, Louie Spicolli, Brian Pillman. Tragedies all. Fly with the Angels, the boy inside me loved you very much.

Meanwhile, the game has slowly eroded into a cutthroat sex-driven forum where "Say your prayers and take your vitamins" have been replaced with "Bite Me" and "Suck It." Now I have to ask myself if I still want to follow through with my childhood dream.

Working for the WWF was my top goal. I wanted to be the hero in Red, White and Blue tights who fought off the evil Russian and Iranian bad guys.

Unfortunately, that hero is dead and buried. The industry killed the Hitman, they killed the Patriot, they killed Hulkamania and with it they killed the innocence in the hearts of so many of us. The idea that "good is good" and "bad is bad" has been replaced with "bad is good" and "good is bad".

I refuse to believe it.

I still believe that you should be yourself and that everyone is beautiful, Bret Hart taught me that. I still believe that a golden heart that's pure is more important than fame or money. Andre the Giant and Owen Hart taught me that. I still believe that love of your country and pride in your homeland is something worth fighting for. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and the Harts taught me that. I still believe that saying your prayers and taking your vitamins are a great way to start each day. The Hulkster taught me that.

Heroes, where have you gone? I'm growing tired of "Oh Hell Yeah" and "Too Sweeeeet!". I'm sick of guys from Hell and crotch shots. I'm sick of DJ's and dancing girls and all but naked valets. Give me a hero. A real hero who doesn't waiver from his beliefs. A man. A real man. Not a beer guzzling, foul mouthed good guy. Not a fat guy who throws himself through tables every week with more tatoos than a biker rally. Push somebody that isn't a booker. Get the owners and presidents off the television. Bring back a hateful villain from an enemy country who can't stand America but for some reason doesn't go home.

Maybe I just don't get it. Maybe it's better this way. After all the sport is at it's all time height in popularity. Everybody wants to be a wrestler these days. I've wanted to be one since I was five years old and watched my first Georgia Championship Wrestling show as Ric Flair and Greg Valentine won the tag titles.

I used to wrestle a coat stuffed with pillows. A makeshift He-Man plastic waist cover and some tin foil was my World Title. I beat Ric Flair, I beat Nikolai Volkoff, I beat Kevin Sullivan, I beat Nikita Koloff and I was the hero. I was the good guy. I love guys like Nash, Hall, Austin, and the whole DX and N.W.O. clans. I watch them every week but how I long for the days of almost a decade ago. Where dreams of valor, bravery and chivalry reigned supreme. Where Ric Flair and Jerry Lawler were real bad guys and people showed up to boo them. Where Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan were real good guys and people showed up to cheer them. Where a kid could get lost in a fantasy world and stay all day. Now a kid has to watch a watered down version because the real thing is too graphic. What a shame.

The funny thing of all this is that the WWF built it's empire on children's dreams. The WCW, then Georgia Championship Wrestling of the N.W.A. was more of an adult version of wrestling. Today, WCW is much more acceptable for children but still not quite acceptable enough. "Bite Me" across the back of a wrestler's singlet is proof enough of that.

I want my children to be able to watch me on television someday after I make my way up the ladder. Right now that wouldn't be possible. So I have to ask myself, "Is wrestling still something worth doing?" Yes, it is but only to change things. I want to be the hero that time forgot. The hero that fights for good and battles the evil. I want to be Hulkamania. I want to be the Hitman. I want to be the American Dream. Even if it costs me a big pay day in the big time to do it.

What's worth doing if you don't believe in it?

I don't believe in porn stars, alcohol and Satanism. I don't believe in gratuitous sex, ho's, pimps and gangs. I believe in family. I believe in love. I believe in good over evil, right over wrong and chivalry. I believe in real men. Real men don't let the woman of their life walk around naked as a spectacle for the world to see. Real men don't act like teenagers making gestures at their crotch and references to drugs such as marijuana. Real men don't flip off the crowd while guzzling booze and then sell t-shirts in children's sizes. I know they're only acting and you know what...that's part of the problem. Maybe Hogan can say that Hulkamania was an act but deep down he loves children and that's a known fact.

Bret Hart wasn't acting when he was the top hero in the WWF. That was him. That's why it hurt him so much to walk away from that character. It wasn't a character at all. He was walking away from his heart. I want to be the hero that Owen Hart was off the camera and should have been allowed to be on camera. I want to be the hero that lies in all of our hearts. The hero we all love, we just refuse to look for because life's crushed our innocence.

"Enough is enough and it's time for a change" has never been more true than it is right now.

If wrestling won't give the children a hero to be proud of then by God's grace I'll spend my life in the ring striving to give them one myself. "One More For the Good Guy" will one day really mean just that. I only hope the circus still has room for a clown.

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