Those young-in wrestling fans of today with their Pac-Man video games, Walkmans and mix-tapes tend to wistfully look back on the attitude era as the dream time of wrestling. A time when wrestling was the talk around water coolers and even teachers turned a blind eye to kids suplexing each other in the playground. But there was another boom era for wrestling. A period that completely defined professional wrestling. A period whose influence can still be seen in professional wrestling of today. The 80’s!
Pre-attitude era the biggest boom period for pro-wrestling by a long shot was the 80’s. The 80’s was when professional wrestling got out of dingy, darkly lit town halls with grandma seated at ringside and into outdoor arenas and homes across the world on prime time TV and home video. The personas of wrestling in the 80’s matched the size of the arenas too. Professional wrestlers of the 80’s were huge, well-muscled, thickly mulleted giants in flamboyant, neon get ups. In-ring skills didn’t necessarily matter either. The biggest stars of the 80’s like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were hardly what you’d call mat-technicians. If you were over 6’2, didn’t mind weekly injections of steroids and could handle tight-fitting, flashy lycra framing your gentleman’s area, then it seemed you could be a pro-wrestling superstar.
So with the business going from strength to strength in the 80’s why would you change a winning formula? Despite pro-wrestling sort of falling off a cliff in the early 90’s, it seemed as if wrestling promoters felt that the only way to drag wrestling out of the doldrums was to stick with what worked in the 80’s – more mullets, more neon tights and more steroids…Oh, wait! Steroids were illegal now. Say your prayers and eat your vitamins then!
Well into the 90’s pro wrestling was still well and truly entrenched in the 80’s. Take a look at WWF’s “Crush” in this shot below.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear this shot was taken in the 80’s. Wrestling fans however will know that this was Crush’s look from 1993 to some time in mid 1994. Ok, so in 93/94 the 80’s were only 4-5 years ago. It’s not unusual for remnants of a decade to spill over into the next. Just look at how some people still wear Crocs in 2015, or Limp Bizkit, who with the help of Vince McMahon, tried to stay relevant as late as 2004. So how about in 1996? The 80’s were long gone by then, right? Even grunge had been and gone. Well, take a look at Eddie Guerrero back in WCW in that very year.
Or the Steiner Brothers in 1996 before Scott went solo and did that whole NWO thing.
It wasn’t until 1998 when the attitude era fully kicked in that wresting started to lose some of its 80’s quirks and foibles, right? WRONG! In 1998 this happened.
God only knows why but in 1998 after Stone Cold Steve Austin had won the WWF Heavyweight title and DX were a thing, the WWF tried to keep the 80’s alive by integrating the “NWA” tag titles into the WWF in the form of the Midnight Express. It was a storyline so out of place for its time that it predictably went nowhere and the WWF focused on Austin, DX, The Rock. You know, guys who were massively more popular than this shit.
So with the attitude era and ruthless aggression period long gone how could wrestling still possibly be the 80’s? We may not have the mullets or tassles anymore but the spirit of the 80’s lives on in professional wrestling in smaller, more subtle undertones. Take the awful colour scheme of John Cena’s T-shirts for example. The colours are very bright and quite 80’s
Then there’s Dolph Ziggler. If ever there was a current day wrestler who should’ve been wrestling in the 80’s, it’s Dolph. Bleached blond hair, denim vest and loads of pink and blue scattered across his merchandise and outfits.
It’s not just in the outfits that the spirit of the 80’s survives in modern day professional wrestling. There’s foreign heels vs America angles ( Rusev v Cena ), women’s wrestling being held down ( renaming the women’s division the “Diva’s Division” ) and no health insurance or unionisation for talent. All were hallmarks of the 80’s that live on in today’s product.
Are there any other facets of the 80’s that carry on in modern day pro-wrestling? If you think so, leave a comment!