Salutations, squared circle spectators, once again, I am your host, Llakor, Guardian of Useless Knowledge. Time to get the hamster up onto his wheel to power up the Time Machine, so that we can once again return to a time when men were men, and Spider-Man was single. (Hell, more importantly, Mary Jane Watson was still single.) A time when Loosie was still tight. A time when a five minute match was a squash, not a main event. A time in short: When We Were Marks.
Well, I know that I promised to tell you about The Match That Convinced Us Wrestling Was REAL, but first I'll have to tell you a little tale I call: The Tournament, the Cuban Assassin, and the D.D.T.
WHEN WE WERE MARKS
Fall 1980, and the argument raging through the Oxford Elementary School Ground, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada was, "Was Wrestling Real?", or as the opponents, or as we called them the goobers, preferred to put it, "Don't You Know That Wrestling Is Fake?" Physical confrontations having failed; emotional tirades having failed; appeals to reason having failed; only one argument remained. We would describe a match, one that all the wrestling fans had seen, a match of such intensity and violence that all who saw it, and all who heard of it, would be forced to agree that wrestling HAD to be real.
The match in question was the final match in a tournament to crown a number one contender for Leo Burke's title. Except that the Atlantic Grand Prix didn't use the term 'number one contender', or at least, not as such. The announcers tended to talk a lot about 'moving up the ladder', or 'getting a shot at the gold'. That was how the tournament was billed, as a shot at Leo Burke's gold.
The tournament featured Sweet Daddy Siki vs. Ron Bass, the winner advancing to face the winner of No Class Bobby Bass vs. Big Stephen Petitpas. On the other side, Killer Karl Krupp faced Rudy Kay, with the winner squaring off against the winner of the Cuban Assassin vs. Bobby Kay.
Now as soon as we heard these brackets, we smelled a rat, or rather a fish, or as Bill McCullogh put it, "There is something fishy about these tournament brackets, but only a man with no class would try to rig a tournament." Ron Bass was No Class Bobby Bass' idiot brother, and he was essentially the heel jobber to the stars. His gimmick, to the extent that he had one, was that he could never do anything right. We all assumed that he had no chance against Sweet Daddy Siki, the black Gorgeous George of the Atlantic Grand Prix, or, if you prefer, the African North American Ravishing Rick Rude of the Atlantic Grand Prix. Big Stephen Petitpas, on the other hand, was a talented wrestler, but, for some reason, Bobby had his number. For more than a year, Stephen had been trying to beat, or even catch, Bobby Bass and failing miserably. At one point, he confided to Bill McCullogh that he had given up on winning a match against No Class Bobby Bass, and at this point, he would settle for Bass standing still long enough for him to get his hands on him. Confrontations between No Class Bobby Bass and Stephen Petitpas followed a familiar pattern: Bobby distracts Stephen, hits the low blow, wins. Next match: Stephen chases Bobby, Bobby outruns Stephen, Stephen 'blows up' (runs out of breath), Bobby hits the low blow, wins. Next match: Stephen chases Bobby, Stephen pretends to blow up, Bobby gets caught, hits the eye poke, hits the low blow, wins. Next match: Stephen lets Bobby hit the low blow, Bobby hurts his arm, Stephen pulls out the armored cup to show to the crowd, Bobby hits the low blow on Stephen's now unprotected groin with his other (uninjured) arm, wins. Lather, Rinse, Repeat...
So to us, it looked like Bobby had 'arranged' an easy first round for himself and Sweet Daddy Siki. Since Bobby had been trumpeting Sweet Daddy Siki as the second-coming, we knew that if they faced each other, Bobby would bow out gracefully. On the other side of the tournament were four guys who hated to lose, and would do almost anything to win. We assumed that Killer Karl Krupp would prevail, or at least, that was what I was trumpeting, and nobody was willing to argue with me. But could an exhausted Killer Karl Krupp beat a Sweet Daddy Siki, who was literally and figuratively 'fresh as a daisy'? Well, we would never know, because we, (and No Class Bobby Bass) were in for a little surprise.
On the 'fair' side of the tournament, things took a somewhat predictable turn. Killer Karl Krupp was taken to three falls by Rudy Kay, but finally got the win after beating Rudy to within an inch of his life. Surprisingly, the Cuban Assassin beat Bobby Kay with ease. We weren't surprised that the Assassin won, just that he did it so quickly, disposing of Bobby in under a minute. (I discussed that match in my first column.)
On the 'fixed' side, things unraveled for No Class Bobby Bass in a hurry. His idiot jobber brother Ron surprised Sweet Daddy Siki at the start of their match with a school-boy roll-up, while Siki was still preening in the mirror. Siki fought back to get the second fall, but never really recovered his poise. With Sweet Daddy Siki, poise was everything. He once walked away from a title shot, losing to a count-out, because he had 'broken a nail'. When Ron hit a still discombobulated Sweet Daddy Siki with a sunset flip, No Class Bobby Bass tried desperately to keep Siki from going over, but the normally blind referee regained his sight long enough to spot the interference. When the referee drop-kicked (!) Bobby off the apron, Ron victory rolled Siki over and shocked the world, or at least the Maritimes.
No Class Bobby Bass always claimed afterwards that he was emotionally shattered after Siki's loss, and his brother's 'betrayal'. How else to explain his match against Stephen Petitpas? Bobby was certainly easy to distract. Stephen got the crowd into a rousing chant of, "No Class, No Class, No Class." When Bobby turned to snarl at the crowd, Stephen chop-blocked the hell out of him. For the next five minutes, Stephen put on a clinic on how to take someone's wheels away. Once he had Bobby immobilized, Stephen moved in for the kill, and to the roars of the crowd, got sweet revenge for a year's worth of frustration. He also made sure that he got the win.
After the first round, No Class Bobby Bass faced disaster. He did have two wrestlers in the semi-finals, but Stephen Petitpas had a history of dismantling Ron Bass, and while the Cuban Assassin might be able to beat Killer Karl Krupp, he might not be able to survive beating Killer Karl Krupp. So, Bobby moved to Plan B, or as Bill McCullogh put it darkly, "palms were greased". In theory, Bobby's plan had the virtue of protecting the Cuban Assassin, while simultaneously punishing his suddenly uppity idiot brother. When Ron Bass showed up the next week, he was filled with confidence, having spent the entire previous week training and watching films of Big Stephen Petitpas. It was almost heartbreaking to watch No Class Bobby Bass and Bill McCullogh break it to him that his opponent wasn't going to be Big Stephen Petitpas, but Killer Karl Krupp. "But I haven't scouted Krupp," he wailed, "what am I supposed to do with that monster?" "Lose quick," suggested Bobby, "and try not to get hurt." As I mentioned, part of Ron's gimmick was that he couldn't do anything right. Fitting that tradition, he didn't lose quick, actually taking the first fall, and surprising the hell out of Killer Karl Krupp. Then he made the huge, ghastly tactical error of spitting in the face of an already pissed off Krupp, and well, the pain began. He didn't lose quick, he lost long, and slowly, AND he did get hurt.
At this point, all of Bobby's hopes rested on the shaggy shoulders of the Cuban Assassin. Before the match, Bobby gave his patented advice on how to beat Big Stephen Petitpas, "Run like the wind, and when he's not looking, go for the cheap shot." Unfortunately, as the Cuban Assassin pointed out, "Bobby, I don't run. For one thing, I'm not that fast." Oops! The Assassin compounded Bobby's misery by offering to win the match, "the Cuban Assassin way." It was an unhappy No Class Bobby Bass who came to ringside. For the first half of the match, Bobby's misgivings seemed justified. After a year of facing No Class Bobby Bass, Stephen Petitpas was used to deceit and subterfuge. Every foreign object the Cuban Assassin came out with was batted aside, or taken away and used on No-Class Bobby Bass. Every outside interference by No Class Bobby Bass back-fired. Stephen was essentially fighting a handicapped match, and not only winning, but dominating. When Stephen hit a mat-shaking belly-to-belly suplex to win the first fall, his victory seemed inevitable. The announcers were already discussing a Stephen Petitpas vs. Killer Karl Krupp final to the tournament, and No Class Bobby Bass was stunned and useless on the outside of the ring, when Stephen reversed an Irish Whip, threw the Assassin into the ropes, and put his head down for the back-drop. But instead of taking the back-drop, the Cuban Assassin skidded to a stop, grabbed Stephen Petitpas' head and dropped to the ground. When Big Stephen Petitpas' head hit the canvas, he crumpled like a rag doll, a six foot, three hundred pound, rag doll. As the Cuban Assassin rolled Stephen over for the 1-2-3, there was dead silence. Silence from the crowd, silence from those gathered around the TV, and even, shockingly, silence from the announcers. Big Stephen Petitpas meanwhile, NEVER moved. Finally, someone said, "What on God's Green Earth was that?" and the spell was broken. While the announcers tried to figure out what was going on, the referee was busy trying to revive Big Stephen Petitpas. Failing in this, the referee called for the bell to start the third fall, and started counting Stephen out. The Cuban Assassin in turn, smugly waited it out in a neutral corner, smirking like Sylvester with a mouthful of Tweety, spitting out yellow feathers. 1!... 2!... 3!... At home, we were relieved because this looked somewhat familiar to us. At 5 or 6 Stephen would start to twitch, then he would struggle to his feet just in time to beat the ten count, and all would be right with the world. 4!... 5!... 6!... Stephen WAS twitching, but not in the 'I'm just recovering from being stunned' way, he was twitching more in a 'I'm having an epileptic seizure' way. 7!... 8!... 9!... Our world was turning upside down, and Big Stephen Petitpas showed no signs of making it right by getting to his feet. 10! The referee awarded the Cuban Assassin the match! Un-freaking-believable! At home, all we knew for certain was that the Cuban Assassin had just KILLED Big Stephen Petitpas with a move that we had never seen before. We didn't even know what the move was called, until the Cuban Assassin rolled out of the ring to collect his manager. Dragging No Class Bobby Bass pass the announcers, the Cuban Assassin kept repeating over and over again, "D.D.T., 1-2-3, D.D.T, 1-2-3, D.D.T., 1-2-3..." That was how we were introduced to the most dangerous move in wrestling, the D.D.T., or as we called it, the D.D. Freaking T.
It was one of the most, hell who am I kidding, it was the MOST disturbing thing we had ever seen on TV. Under normal circumstances, I would have been doing cartwheels around the TV as my man, the Cuban Assassin, had pulled it off. Since I was the only one who believed he could escape with a win, the opportunity to gloat was limitless. Anyone who knows me, knows that I rarely, OK never, give up a prime gloating moment. But looking at Big Stephen Petitpas' still motionless body, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I was by no means as emotionally shattered as my friends, whose reactions ranged from sheer disbelief, to trembling lips and swollen eyes. We were all too macho to cry in front of each other, but if we had been watching alone, there would have been serious water works. (Maybe not on my part, but I was "a heartless prick who cheered for the bad guys", or at least that's how one my 'best' friends described me after I failed to show enough concern for Big Stephen Petitpas' well-being.) Eventually, to our relief, Rudy and Bobby Kay came out to the ring, got Stephen to his feet, and half carried/half dragged him to the back. To say that Stephen did a good job of selling the D.D.T., would be giving him not enough credit by half. This match would have taken place sometime before Hallowe'en, and Stephen didn't show back up on our TVs until after Christmas. When he did come back, he had a gimmick for a couple of months where he was awfully grumpy about taking shots to the head, and had a tendency to lose matches by DQ for excessive and inappropriate violence, after some poor schmuck heel made the mistake of hitting him in the head. Not that Big Stephen Petitpas was doing anything different from what most heels did in every match mind you, it was just that as a baby face, he was completely incapable of distracting the referee first, so he was always getting caught. He finally regained his composure some time in March, having sold the effects of the D.D.T. for about six months, more or less.
Prior to this match, the Cuban Assassin was viewed, at least by my circle of wrestling-mad friends, as more of a hairy goof than anything else. A talented wrestler; a tag team champion; a trusted flunky of No Class Bobby Bass; a man who could pull out a foreign object at any time; all of those things and more, but not someone we considered a threat, not someone we considered dangerous. After the match, we still considered the Cuban Assassin to be a hairy goof, but now he was a dangerous, even lethal, hairy goof. He didn't use the D.D.T. in every match, it was always the biggest club in his bag, but he had plenty of other ways to beat you. On the other hand, he did threaten to use the D.D.T. in every match, and many baby faces started wrestling the Cuban Assassin with new-found respect. In the weeks following the match, some wrestlers and some announcers suggested that what had happened to Big Stephen Petitpas was some kind of fluke. Of course, nobody was too keen on finding out the hard way how effective the D.D.T. really was. When No Class Bobby Bass offered $1 000 to any wrestler who could get up within ten seconds of being hit with the D.D.T., there weren't any volunteers. In the months and years that followed, not many wrestlers made the mistake of dropping their heads too early, and those who did, never repeated the mistake. We respected the move so much that it was the one move that we never tried to duplicate on each other. We experimented with back body drops & body slams, the Iron Klaw & the Sleeper, the school-boy roll-up & the sunset flip, and we tried all the various flavours of suplexes, but we never even considered trying to duplicate the D.D.T. Untrained as we were, we might kill someone trying to duplicate that move!
The immediate aftermath of this match was for some of our parents to suggest that we stop watching wrestling for a while. It was bad enough we were staying indoors on a Saturday afternoon. It was somewhat worse that some of us, well one of us, cheered for the bad guys, but the worst of all, was us coming up from the basement after wrestling looking like someone had just killed a puppy in front of us. Our parents were, of course, insane. Stop watching wrestling? With the finals of the tournament next week, in a match that no less an expert than Bill McCullogh had called, "The Irresistible Force Meets the Immovable Object! The Master of the Iron Klaw Against the Inventor of the D.D.T! With a shot at Leo Burke's title at stake." Stop watching wrestling? They had to be kidding. Even if Leo Burke's title wasn't at stake, this was for us a dream match. We never, ever saw main-event calibre heels square off against each other. Killer Karl Krupp was legendary for his ability to dish out punishment. The Cuban Assassin was legendary for being able to take punishment. And, unlike a Killer Karl Krupp/Rudy Kay match, we would feel no guilt at all watching the Killer dismantle the Cuban Assassin. (I had a serious case of divided loyalties as I cheered for both guys, but it was certainly no hardship for me to watch a match with my two favourite wrestlers in it.) We had considered the Iron Klaw the most devastating finishing move in the history of wrestling, but now the D.D.T. looked like it was going to take its place and then some. Stop watching wrestling? Not this week, and not in this lifetime. Little did we know that we were about to witness a match that would PROVE once and for all that wrestling was REAL.
NEXT WEEK: The Match That Convinced Us That Wrestling Was REAL
(Who is busy trying to figure out what idiot decided to cast Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. She'd make a great Gwen Stacy, but Kirsten is no Mary Jane. )