RINGSIDE REMEMBRANCES — “MAKE ‘EM LAUGH!”

Posted January 9th, 2011 by 1Wrestling News Team

Ringside Remembrances – Make ‘Em Laugh

Jay Shannon draws upon four decades as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of professional wrestling.

“Humor is just another defense against the universe” – Mel Brooks

Last week, I ended the year with the sad column about all the good people that we lost in the last year. To balance that out, I wanted to bring some smiles, this week. One of my best friends, Joe, sent me a big box for Christmas. Inside, there was the entire Hogan’s Heroes, Get Smart and M*A*S*H* TV series (along with a bunch of great wrestling DVDs). Those shows never fail to make me laugh. There are a few people in wrestling who have the same effect. So, to start the new year, I present my Top 25 Wrestling Personalities that make me laugh…

1. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

It takes a special kind of person to be able to take humiliation, over and over. Bobby was a master at doing that. He could be the evil mastermind behind “Mr. Perfect” or Ric Flair, one minute, and then end up facing the Red Rooster or wearing a weasel suit. His days in the WWF/E were some of the funniest things on video. My favorite has to be from Wrestlemania XX. The Coach was in search of the long-missing Undertaker. He hears these strange noises coming from behind a sliding metal door. With a bit of fear, he inched the door open. Out spills Heenan, Fabulous Moolah, Gene Okerlund and Mae Young. They had, apparently, being playing a bit of Post Office, behind closed doors. Heenan stuttered and stammered as Coach tried to figure out just what was going on. (like any of us didn’t know). There were a thousand other examples that I could post, but everyone who watched the sport in the 80s or 90s has their own special “Brain” moment. He tops my list, for a reason. He was the best in the business at bringing smiles to the fans’ faces, even as we booed him out of his sequined jackets.

2. The Rock

Dwayne Johnson could easily make a living as a stand-up comic. His film career has often been laced with comic moments (just watch Scorpion King or Get Smart). When he was a wrestler, he started out with very little personality. As he morphed from Rocky Maivia into The Rock, his comic sense blossomed. I have the multi-disc The Rock DVD set on the shelf. I play it fairly often, especially after a long day at work. Rock could slice and dice an opponent with words, as easy as he could cripple them with the Rock Bottom. There are several Rock promo’s that spring to mind for this column. The “Birthday Party” where Rock tore into his supposed first girlfriend for turning him down was classic. Rock’s humiliation of The Coach was an on-going thing that never fails to make me giggle like a child. I’m glad his acting career is doing well, but wrestling sure needs someone with Rock’s comic timing, these days.

3. The Bushwackers

Butch and Luke were two of the most vicious brutes to ever come out of New Zealand. They spilled more plasma than an over-turned blood mobile. Then they came to the WWF. Suddenly, they turned into something more like Moe, Larry and Curley. They never had a sincere prayer of winning the tag belts, but that’s not why they were there. Butch and Luke were there for the kids. I can remember watching the Sheepherders in the old Southwest Championship Wrestling territory. When Butch and Luke showed up in the WWF, I was ready for some blood-letting. What I got was two men licking people’s faces like my pitbull, Molly, does when she wants to wake me up to take her outside. Some of their vignettes were better than a ton of the 80s sitcoms. Butch and Luke have pretty much retired, but I still run across a Bushwackers clip, from time to time. I always walk away with a smile on my face. Their intro vignette with Gene Okerlund is available on YouTube.

4. Santino Marella

Wrestling has gotten too serious, in recent years. The comedy bits had faded into almost non-existence. Then, along came Santino. His butchery of the English language flashes back to the days of Jose Jimenez (I went to the ballpark and the people were so nice. They all stood up and sang Jose, can you see?) Santino has that same silliness in his persona. He ices the cake by being a decent wrestler. His shots at Sheamus during their recent feud were classic (I went out tricks or treating as Sheamoose but everyone thought I was a ghost.) He may never win the World or WWE title, but he doesn’t need to. Santino (and his “twin sister”, Santina) will go down as one/two of the most enjoyable characters in the history of wrestling.

5. Jay Lethal

If imitation is the true sincerest form of flattery, then Jay Lethal has flattered two of the best. His imitations of Ric Flair and Randy Savage took a good wrestler and pushed him to the next level. The Woo-Fest between Lethal and Flair had to be one of the funniest things that I have seen in close to 40 years watching wrestling. Even Flair was having a hard time keeping a straight face, and he was in the middle of the thing. Lethal is an extremely gifted grappler but the impressions are a sure bet to put the fans in stitches.

6. Ric Flair

He may be “The Dirtiest Player in the Game”, but no one in wrestling could ever top “The Nature Boy” when it comes to drawing laughter. His temper tantrums may look like a six-year old who didn’t get the bicycle for Christmas, but they are magnificent pieces of comedy. His “love affair” with a mannequin (back in the early 80s) was something straight out of the Laurel and Hardy days. Flair, like the late, great George Carlin, has gotten a bit cynical as he has aged, but he can still pull a smile when he slices and dices an opponent with his barbs. Seeing a 60-year old man bragging about all his female conquests reaches the point of ridiculous but we love to watch his strut and do the pelvic thrust like a 20-year old at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. One can only hope that Flair will teach his comic timing to one of his charges, so when he retires, the comedy doesn’t go with him.

7. Jimmy Garvin

Of all the vignettes that I’ve ever watched, one tops the list. It’s on the WWE’s tribute to World Class DVD. Jimmy Garvin and his then-valet, Sunshine, lost a “bet match” to David Von Erich. The two of them had to be valets to David for one day. Von Erich had Jimmy digging post holes, hauling hay (not an easy job) and washing David’s big shaggy dog. Sunshine whined and shrieked at the heat and the water and such. Jimmy cut a great promo of “Walk…Walk…Walk…It’s hot…I don’t wanna walk…this dog stinks!” Just typing that piece has me snickering. My wife is looking at me like I’ve lost what little mind I have left. I guess I’ll have to head to YouTube or my video collection to show her what I’m laughing about. Be right back. Ok, now she’s sitting in the living room, laughing herself silly at Garvin. He had such great timing.

8. Road Dogg/B.G. James

I was sitting in the fourth row at Wrestlefest 2010 with my wife, Dianna. She excused herself to find the ladies’ room. When she came back, she was confused what that huge noise that she heard was. What she heard was approximately 400 people sing-songing along with Road Dogg’s “Oh, You Didn’t Know” intro. From his early days as Jeff Jarrett’s Roadie, through hia D-X, New Age Outlaws, 3LiveKru and Voodoo Kin Mafia days, the second generation star has never failed to entertain. His promos are often biting and sarcastic but filled with humor. He has worked with several partners and he has over-shadowed them all. He is the most successful of the James/Armstong clan. There is a possibility that the New Age Outlaws may be doing a West Coast Reunion Tour in the spring. I will be right there to sing along and if they are coming to your town…”Your *** Better Call Somebody!”

9. Vickie Guerrero

I am one of the people that think Vickie is a beautiful person. Not just her outer looks, those fade as age progresses. What makes her so lovely is her willingness to become the target for everyone’s nasty attacks, while still staying at the top of her game. Vickie suddenly found herself with children to raise alone, after the sudden death of her husband, Eddie. Instead of killing herself in some minimum wage job just to make ends meet, Vickie turned tragedy into success. The former cheerleader was soon the butt of a million jokes. From John Cena and Jerry Lawler to Santino, Vickie has been ridiculed by them all. A storyline marriage to Edge led to some downright hurtful comments directed at her. Still, she endures with the “Excuse Me” screech. I can actually compare Vickie’s character to that of All in the Family’s Edith Bunker. Like Edith, Vickie is always seen as the bumbling fool but underneath, you always know that she is a 1000 times smarter than given credit for. She’s survived bad relationships with Edge, Eric Escobar (what ever happened to him?) and now Dolph Ziggler. I honestly hope that if Vickie is or will be romantically involved with someone else, in real life, that she will always keep her great sense of humor.

10. Bugsy McGraw

My buddy, Lee, often talks to me about seeing Bugsy as a vicious heel in Florida, when he was a kid. The Bugsy that I remember rode down a water slide in Grand Prairie, Texas with Bill Mercer. He wore a flying helmet and goggles, along with an ugly tuxedo jacket, complete with tails. He paid tribute to Jerome “Curly” Howard with many of his twists and Nyuk Nyuk Nyuks. The kids in Dallas, myself included, loved watching him wrestle. He would prank the ref and his opponent before getting down to business. While we were still giggling at his antics, Bugsy would finish off his foe. He would then dance with the kids at ringside. I still remember being at Reunion Arena with my best friend, Fred, and the two of us dancing at ringside with Bugsy. I haven’t thought of that little memory in forever. I love doing this column.

11. Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant

I was never fortunate enough to experience the Boogie Woogie Man Experience, live. I did watch a lot of his stuff on tv and later video. Valiant could work a crowd like few others. His outrageous movements seemed pulled right out of a Hal Roach comedy film. I could just see Harold Lloyd doing the Valiant Bop, probably on the ledge of a 30-story building. His promos were filled with puns and one-liners. Every week was like the matinee show at the Aladdin in Las Vegas. Like many others, Valiant focused his attention to the kids. He has done so much charity work that a book could be written, just on that. What he did in the 1970s and 80s was to keep the audience all in full Kid Mode. That’s never a bad thing.

12. Iron Sheik (modern day)

He competed in the 1972 Olympics (he sports the medals proudly). He was a former WWF and Tag Team Champion. He showed fantastic strength with his Persian Clubs. What he was, almost always, was hated. The Iron Sheik of today is a far cry from that anti-American heel that almost crippled Bob Backlund and made life Hell for Sgt. Slaughter and Hulk Hogan. The Iron Sheik of today is a man who loves to tell stories of the “good ol’ days”. He talks freely about his feeling towards other wrestlers, promotions, titles or whatever a fan (or another wrestler) can get him started ranting about. His sinister little laugh when he talks about the days when he took a lot of “medicine” had that naughty little boy feel to it that had dozens of us on the floor. After talking with him on a few occasions, last May, I have the utmost respect for Mr. Vaziri. He is a wonderful man, filled with a million memories. Thankfully, age hasn’t diminished his ability to spin a good yarn. Ask him about the car ride with Fabulous Moolah. If you don’t laugh, you never will. I am proud to say that a photo of myself with Mr. Vaziri is framed and hangs, with honor, on the wall of my office.

13. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

I’m not the biggest Stone Cold fan. He was a decent wrestler that elevated himself to the top. A big part of what got him there was a great sense of humor. His promos in ECW, against WCW and WWF, were hilarious. His attacks in the WWF/E with beer trucks, milk trucks, monster trucks, bedpans, etc… are the measuring stick for a lot of the up-and-coming superstars of today. While some of his character was “borrowed” from others (Sandman did the beer can thing first), he made it his own. He is and was one of the best stick men to come down the pike. He was able to work a crowd into a frenzy. Face it, he’s been retired for some time and crowds still chant “What?” on a regular basis. His videos are some of the most popular on WWE.com and other video websites.

14. Degeneration X

There were quite a few members of the elite squad, over the years, but the best are still the originals. Triple H and Shawn Michaels made life miserable for Mr. McMahon and his family, the Spirit Squad, and a gazillion other teams, over the years. I have the “New and Improved D-X” video collection and every single vignette is a gem. There are two bits that instantly spring to mind. “The Manure Bath” for Vince, Shane and the Spirit Squad and the “We got Two Words for ya…Look Up!” (where the Spirit Squad got drenched in D-X-Green Paint. Shawn is now retired and Triple H has been on a sabbatical for almost a year. There are other pretenders to the D-X throne (Fourtune, Santino/Kozlov, etc…) but they can’t lace the neon green shoelaces of Shawn and HHH.

15. Eddie Guerrero

Eddie was a great performer in Mexico, Japan and WCW. He did very well in ECW, also. Where Eddie came into his own was after splitting with Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit as the Radicalz. When Eddie went solo, his Latino Heat persona came out. It was like Razor Ramon on steroids. He pushed the sleazy character to the hilt. His motto, alone and with his nephew, Chavo, was “We Lie, We Cheat, We Steal”. That should have mad e hjm one of the most hated heels of all time. However, five years after his death, “Ed-die” is still chanted every time Chavo hits the Three Amigos Triple Suplex. Eddie was a master of timing. His vignettes with Chavo as Los Guerreros are often used as training tools of how to mold a character into something special. His flirtations with Chyna (and other Mamacitas) took the fans back to the days of Freddie Prinze as Chico yelling “Looking Good!” Eddie had that same appeal. If Eddie hadn’t died suddenly, I could have seen him retiring from wrestling and having a very successful career in films. He was that funny and more. The world suffered a great loss when Eddie passed and it will likely never be filled.

16. Crash Holly

Crash was a small man, in comparison to many other wrestlers. However, he came out and proclaimed himself as a “Super Heavyweight”. He brandished a standing scale and often tried to Chokeslam men like Big Show and Undertaker. He looked foolish in the attempt but he always tried. His “Scared Rabbit” behavior when he had to defend the Hardcore title has been mimicked in recent years by Eric Young. Crash didn’t back up from a fight, he ran like Hell in the opposite direction. Sadly, Crash had a bad reaction to some prescription medication and died at a rather young age. His over-the-top bravado will never be match, though it will always be misse.d.

17. The Gobbledy Gooker

A lot of fans hated this character. I had a lot of fun watching Hector Guerrero inside the weird bird suit. In a recent video clip, here on 1Wrestling.com, Hector said that the character was always meant for the kids. The adults who mocked the silly bird just didn’t get it. I wasn’t exactly a kid when GG was hatched but I immediately got the fun of him. He was the comedy time-out for all the seriousness of men and women beating the stuffing (pun fully intended) out of each other. Seeing him doing a Do-si-do with Gene Okerlund is still one of those memories that come in crystal clear. The WWF actually did the right thing with GG. He was a mascot, not another crazy, in-ring character. Had the WWF put him in the ring, he would have just been another bad footnote in wrestling history. Instead, at least in my opinion, he was just a fun little character to make us laugh between matches. I know he was more than that but that’s what he was to me.

18. John Cena

Even in his beginnings as The Prototype, Cena showed a great comic sense. His “Audio Rewinds” were different and cute. When he showed up in the WWF, his raps were laced with laughs. The one he cut against Big Show at Wrestlemania XX had the whole crowd howling with laughter. As Cena has “matured”, so has his humor. Now, he can spin an insult-laden rant at warp speed. The recent “Running the Numbers” on Vickie with Jerry Lawler took me back to an old TV show I watched in the 80s, where various comics would throw out insults as fast as possible (Your sister’s so fat, she can’t wear an “X” jacket because helicopters keep trying to land on her.”) Cena can be serious, when called for, but he would much rather sport fun of others. A sure sign of how well he can work a crowd was during his “Good-bye Speech”. He got a mix of smiles and tears as he had half the crowd chant “Let’s Go Cena!” and the other half bark out “Cena Sucks!” Cena often cracks himself up but he never loses the audience when he does. He’s just that good.

19. Blue Meanie

The name came from the Beatles’ film “Yellow Submarine”. This obese, sapphire-locked grappler would come out and dance like somebody working at Chippendale’s. Long before Chris Farley did the bit on Saturday Night Live, Blue Meanie was bumping and grinding in that little Bingo Hall in Philly. He helped take a parody of the New World Order and make it something special. The Blue World Order is still something beloved. Just watch TNA’s Hardcore Justice. Even with a fake Blue Meanie, the BWO got a heck of a cheer. Blue Meanie has gone from quite husky, down to svelte and back to chunky, over the years. The fans love him, no matter what he looks like. He can break up a crowd, just with a mischievous look. His voice and laugh are guaranteed to bring about chuckles. He is so fun to watch.

20. George “The Animal” Steele

George was a horrific, vicious heel in the 1970s. His Flying Chicken Wing dislocated more than one shoulder. As the 80s rolled around, George grew into a more lovable, playful character. Children laughed with him, instead of crying in fear of him. He became quite playful in the ring. Gnawing on turnbuckles and showing off his stuffed friend, “Mine”. His vocabulary was quite limited. When I say George’s acceptance speech for the WWE Hall of Fame, I nearly fell out of my chair. He could actually string a series of sentences together and be easily understood. Wow! George even went on to co-star in the Academy Award winning film, Ed Wood. He played another wrestler, Tor Johnson.

21. Captain Lou Albano

The Captain coined tons of catch phrases. “Often imitated, never duplicated” is his most famous. My favorite was the one where if they put his foe’s b-b sized brain in a bird, it would fly backwards. That is a very loose paraphrasing of Lou’s great words. Lou often waddled out to the ring to rant and rave about his man or team’s opponent. His slicing wit and marksmanship timing were far ahead of their time. He translated that great comic sense to the world of acting. I still love to watch Body Slam to see him nearly foam at the mouth. Plus, he worked with my favorite singer, Cyndi Lauper, on several of her videos. Albano is gone, but he will never be forgotten…or duplicated.

22. Jesse “The Body” Ventura

It takes a huge talent to trade barbs with Vince McMahon and make Vince look like a rank amateur. Jesse did that, in spades. After an outstanding in-ring career, Jesse had to retire due to a blood clot issue. He worked with Vince to help mold the early days of the Hulkamania-era WWF. After leaving the announce booth, Jesse took on Hollywood and became one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Inner Circle of actors. He also had a very successful political career (serving as a mayor and the governor of Minnesota). He has also published several well-received books. He can mix comedy in with the most serious of subjects. My favorite story about Jesse was when he won the governorship of Minnesota. While most new Governors would spend thousands on a gala event, Jesse had another idea. He wanted to save the state all that money…so he threw a Pot Luck Dinner at the Governor’s Mansion, instead. Only Jesse could get away with that.

23. Freddie Blassie

Freddie left a string of broken and bloody bodies across the world, during his wrestling career. When he decided to retire from in-ring competition, he moved over to management. He led several men to championships, including Iron Sheik’s win over Bob Backlund for the WWF title. Freddie also had a semi-successful recording career. His two songs, Pencil Neck Geek and King of Men, have been staples on the novelty radio show, The Dr. Demento Show since I was a young kid. I actually have a copy of that song on one of the very few vinyl albums that have survived the various moves during my life. I also purchased it from ITunes and my daughter, Jessica, loves to listen to it when we ride to wrestling shows. Freddie even starred in a low-budget film with the eclectic comic, Andy Kaufman. “My Breakfast with Blassie” was a take on the “My Dinner with Andre”. Kaufman and Blassie talked for just under an hour and a half about Blassie’s little quirks (he didn’t like to shake hands). I had a copy of that film, once upon a time. A flood, years ago, damaged a lot of my VHS tapes and that was on one of them. It wasn’t a great film. Even as a wrestling fan, it was quite boring. But Blassie was right on par with Albano as the comic master of the early 80s. By the way, he was so popular in the mid-60s that Blassie did a cameo on the Dick Van Dyke Show (The Twizzle).

24. The Ding Dongs

These guys were just silly. There were a Talent Enhancement tag team in the old Jim Crockett Promotion. The crimson-clad masked men had bells emblazoned on their outfits, and wore Christmas Jingle Bells like bracelets on their wrists. To the best of my knowledge, they only won a single match. They beat George South and Cougar Jay at a Clash of the Champions in 1989. Kids just loved the silliness of these cowled comics. I still remember that Clash match. Tony Schiavone, I think it was, actually uttered the line “The Ding Dong just rang his bell”. That was back when wrestling still had a sense of humor.

25. Jerry “The King” Lawler

Lawler has worked audiences for longer than I’ve been watching this great sport. He can still cut promos that are scathing. His verbal shots on Vickie Guerrero, recently, were brutal but hilarious. During his early days behind the announce desk, Lawler was quite buffoonish, especially as it related to the Divas (Puppies!). That one line would have everyone I knew, male and female alike, cackling with delight. As he moved through his 50s and into his 60s, Lawler matured in his comic delivery. While he still made comments about the females in the WWE, they weren’t the blatant Puppies chant. His remarks now could easily be heard on the stage of any given stand-up club. He takes the thoughts of the fans, quite often, and turns them into cutting commentary directed at the target du jour. Michael Cole has been a recent recipient of The King’s venom. The crowd cheers wildly when Lawler cuts Cole off at the knees. Lawler hasn’t always been a fan favorite, but he’s always been admired for his humor.

In Conclusion:

Again, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year. I hope this starts off the first week of 2011 with a few fond memories and a smile or two. The men above helped to make wrestling fun for me, through the years. There are great new kids out there who make me laugh today. Dinko, the Demented Clown is the first to come to mind. Watching him slip in and out of the ring to confuse an opponent could rival any shenanigans that Doink did two decades back. Silly Billy, in UWC, takes the childlike character and made it work, without being offensive. O’Cat would make Buster Keaton proud with his slapstick-like antics in the ring. Wrestling can be a serious business, but it has to have a little humor or it’s as boring as watching paint dry.

A quick side note to finish up. To Chicago Ed, I don’t want you to think I have forgotten about your idea. The ref column is almost done and should be posted either next week or the following. There is just so much info to go through to show the zebra-shirted backbone of wrestling the proper respect.

Remember, my e-door is always open for your ideas, comments and remembrances.

Peace

–Jay Shannon
Jade89512@yahoo.com

Category: Wrestling.

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