The Mental Ward: I Love the 80s…..Brother!


I first discovered pro wrestling in the mid-1980s. “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes doing battle with “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton inside a steel cage is one of my earliest wrestling memories. However, when I saw “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Sting go 60 minutes at the first Clash of the Champions, I was hooked for life. THAT was storytelling. THAT was drama. THAT was pro wrestling. In my youth Hulkamania ran wild. In my high school and college years, The Attitude Era redefined the industry. In my adult years, things just haven’t been the same. A spark is missing. The sport I loved has morphed into something almost unrecognizable at times. Yet, I still watch. I cling to hope that pro wrestling will one day again return to past glory. Webster defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Ladies and gentlemen, come on in. We’re all friends here. Welcome back to, “The Mental Ward.”

There is a new trend within the WWE these days that is actually not that that new at all. We are seeing the PG era of the 1980’s reemerge from the ashes and onto our television sets each and every week. From big muscles and cheesy story lines to pre-taped interviews that are shown before each match, long gone are the days of mostly-naked women and bare asses being kissed. Never again will we see the Evangelist Against Television Media Entertainment. Instead, we get three grown men clapping and being positive on Monday nights. (By the way..Kevin Owens has done more in one month than Kofi has been able to do in nearly a decade). There are “fans” who don’t realize that there was wresting prior to the 21st century. It’s not their fault, they really don’t know any better. They love these goofy story lines and cheese ball characters. We’re seeing a return to the golden age of modern day wrestling. The only problem is, the proverbial cat is out of the bag as far as how the business works. The WWE is attempting to “Disney-fy” their brand. They are PC and never push the envelope.

What kills me are the people that sit at the decision making table within the company. Guys like, Michael P.S. Hayes, Arn Anderson….and until last week, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Yet, no one can seem to effectively present their ideas to the big bosses and change the culture. I want to go on record as saying that I am a huge fan of what they are doing with John Cena and Kevin Owens. That story line is about as old school as you can get. They’re using a veteran to build up and promote a newer star with a bright future. They have had two absolutely incredible matches. Last Sunday’s match at the MITB PPV might be a match of the year candidate. Rollins and Ambrose was great as well but I would have enjoyed a swerve leading to a heel turn and a new champ but there’s 6 months left in the year. They revved up a feud between Reigns and Wyatt, and Rusev was a non factor all night. I felt that overall it was a decent PPV, but other than Owens/Cena, it was just an average event. Nothing spectacular……

When Hulk Hogan used to cut those famous promos about his heel opponent, we ate it up and he laughed all the way to the bank…! Today if John Cena does that we chant, “Cena Sucks!” The nWo, DX, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock and others from the Attitude Era realized the financial potential of being a “cool bad guy” or an “edgy babyface” and what that meant for merchandise sales. In a way, these guys transformed wrestling for the good, but we are now seeing the affects of it today when we have cool bad guys that refuse to be traditional heels because people won’t buy their T-shirts and action figures. Couple that with the fact that we have 30 & under NXT athletes that have only seen one way of doing things during their careers and you have a problem. When you don’t know any better, there’s no reason to change.

As for the veterans that work in creative and report to Triple H, there’s no excuse for them not speaking up, other than the fact that they have a steady job and enjoy getting a paycheck. Believe me, I get that. However, someone needs to stand up and say there is something wrong with the product. I had high hopes in GFW, but apparently they’re using TNA’s old 6 sided ring. Jarrett loves that thing for some reason. Personally, I hate it. I watched some episodes of Raw and Nitro on the network the other day. (Yes, I re-subscribed to watch Owens/Cena) The drama, the wrestling and the promos were THAT good. It wasn’t staged. It was a shoot from the hip mentality in a lot of ways. I wish it would get back to the days of the wild west. I went back and watched the Nation of Domination parody that DX did back in 1998. Classic stuff. Well worth the time to sit down and watch. I watched the first Nitro following the “Bash At The Beach” PPV when Hogan joined the nWo. Hall & Nash were money. Again, great TV that we just don’t see anymore. We do however, have the network to tease us with it all. I need my wresting issues resolved before I really start trolling on Twitter.

I wanted to close this week by taking a few moments and give my thoughts on “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. I really don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been said. I obviously didn’t know him on a personal level, but at the same time, I feel like I did because he is my earliest wrestling memory. I can’t tell you the venue, but as I mention in the opening of this column every week, the first wresting I can recall watching on TV was between Rhodes and “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton in a steel cage. I was hooked for life at that point. As I got older, I began to realize just how important Dusty was to professional wrestling. I also got to watch his son Dustin go from being “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes in the NWA/WCW to the gig of a lifetime when he became Goldust. I don’t think Dusty will ever go down as a great technical wrestler, but he was great at the psychology of a match and he knew how to sell it. Not to mention he was a master on the mic. As I’ve stated before, Dusty could have retired on what he earned during his feud with the 4 Horseman during the 1980’s, particularly his feuds with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard. Nothing on TV today compares to that era. I loved watching him in the ring. He played a major role in my love for this sport, and he’s gone entirely way too soon. I hope the next generation of wrestling fans will have their own Dusty to look back on fondly. Thank you Dream for everything you gave us as fans and everything that you will continue to give to the professional wrestling industry for many years to come. That’s all for me this week. I’m taking it to the “pay windah”. As always, you can catch me on Twitter at @jonward51.

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