Wednesday, December 28, 2000
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
The strange attraction to Maple Leaf Wrestling
When I was five years old I remember watching my Maple Leaf Wrestling, Saturday 1pm on Channel 11. This was my favourite show and I would wait all week to get my one hour of wrestling. How did I survive without my Raw, Smackdown!, Nitro, Thunder, ECW Hardcore TV, WOW, Heat, Superstars, Live Wire, Metal, Jakked or whatever other indy I can find and salivate over? Every week I would watch superstar #1 beat the living horse snot out of preliminary wrestler #1. I knew who would win every match before the competitors were announced.
We start our hour off with a run down of the superstars we were going to see in action this week -- they only mentioned the superstars and not the jobbers they were about to cream.
Barry O would already be in the ring waiting for the Junkyard Dog's theme music, 'Another One Bites the Dust', and for roof to blow off the arena as 10,000 JYD fans would get up and dance with The Dog. Junkyard would pick a lucky young fan out of the crowd (I secretly longed to one day be that lucky fan) to dance with him in the ring. After the dancing ritual was complete, the bell would sound and after a few headbutts and a THUMP bodyslam JYD would score the pin and continue to dance his way back to the dressing room.
Next Hulk Hogan would come rampaging down to the ring.....just kidding Hogan never wrestled on Maple Leaf Wrestling as he was reserved for Saturday Night's Main Event. (Could you imagine if we never saw the World Champion wrestle or at least appear on TV every week now? It is unheard of!)
The second match of the card features S.D. 'Special Delivery' Jones squaring off against Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine. (S.D. was one of the rarest of the old school 'Job Squad', I think he used to actually win matches at some point in his career. The fans used to cheer him and he had a nickname -- preliminary wrestlers don't usually have nicknames and nobody cheers for them. That is all aside for the point, as I never saw him win a match and he wasn't going to win his match this afternoon either.) S.D. starts off strong, but after an Irish Whip gone bad he is pounded relentlessly with 'Hammer' style elbows and slapped into a figure four leg-lock which he promptly submits to (no tap out -- in the old days they actually had to tell the referee that they give up). Valentine refuses to let the referee raise his hand and insists on raising his own hand.
At this point we go to Billy Red Lyons in the control centre. Billy tells us about the upcoming card at the Maple Leaf Gardens, live events were another place you could watch Hogan wrestle. (Live events used to come to Toronto every month but now with their ever expanding exposure the WWF only comes to T.O. once every three months, if that.)
Our voice over commentators are doing a tremendous job this week as Lord Alfred Hayes and Gorilla Monsoon were a dynamite duo. They were always ahead of their game (which couldn't have been too difficult as they had already seen the tapes dozens of times before they did their voice overs).
Before we continue with our regular schedule, let me take you to 'The Body Shop'. 'The Body Shop' was the original 'Piper's Pit' spinoff hosted by Jesse 'The Body' Ventura. Jesse would be decked out in the most flamboyant of outfits, always accompanied by a feather boa around his neck and a bandana on his head to cover up his receding hair line. This week, as it seemed like every week, Jesse's guest was New York tough guy Adrian Adonis, sporting his leather jacket, leather biker cap, dark sunglasses and leather briefcase (that he affectionately named 'Good Night Irene' as he used it as a weapon in most of his matches. I don't think anyone fully understood the hidden meaning of 'Good Night Irene', including me). Jesse would then interview Adonis and the conversation would generally end up being related to 'The Polish Power' Ivan Putski. I think Ivan was the only man Jesse ever feuded with.
After a long commercial break we would return to action with Dusty Wolfe ( who later changed his name to Dale Wolfe when Dusty Rhodes became part of the WWF and it would be foopa to have two wrestlers named Dusty in the same federation) vs. 'Superfly' Jimmy Snuka. 'The Superfly' dominated the contest. After selling a couple Dusty Wolfe punches, Jimmy would respond with some chops to the chest, a body slam in the middle of the ring, a climb to the top rope, a double 'I Love You' sign and a big 'Superfly' splash. Monsoon would scream over the mic, 'Stick a fork in him, he's finished!'. Snuka, was one of the most popular wrestlers in the WWF and a favourite amongst most of my friends.
Back to Billy Red, who normally would be placed in front of a still frame crowd (I think we were to believe he was actually standing in front of 10,000 screaming fans but being a mature 5 year old, I never was sold on this). We would hear once again about the enormous live event coming to Maple Leaf Gardens (this would be the same live show that would be in 20 other cities but we weren't suppose to be aware of this and I don't think I was). Billy always made me believe that this card in Toronto was going to be the best ever.
Our main event was next as Big John Studd, accompanied by Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan entered the ring (stepping over the top rope). This was going to be a handicap match as Big John was going to be facing both 'Iron' Mike Sharp and Rick 'Quickdraw' McGraw. The only question was, 'Who was at a handicap?'. Studd would easily pound the goat balls out of both men simultaneously. The match would usually end with Studd pinning both men at the same time. An over-powering chant of 'Weasel Weasel Weasel' would start up in reference to Bobby Heenan and then we break for commercial.
We return to have Lord Alfred and Gorilla tell us to tune in next week and let us know what superstars would be in action.
This concludes my recap of a typical Maple Leaf Wrestling show.
To this day I can't tell anyone what drew me in. I can't even see how the product of yester year resembles the product of today. How could my sport go from the one-hour syndicated show of 1985 to this mega corporate giant of today? I don't question it, I just accept it.
Phil Moreau is from Niagara Falls, Ontario and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.