Truth or Consequences: Bufton vs. The Retards


Hello to you all and welcome, once again, to Truth or Consequences, the thinking man’s wrestling column, back after a brief fortnight’s absence, whilst I sorted out some bits and pieces in my private life.

But never mind all of that – I’m back and I’m better than ever, ready and raring to go with a whole bunch of opinions and abuse aimed at some of the stars of the 1980s, thanks to some narrow-minded criticism from one of my readers.

But before I get onto that, I received a quick question from Jim regarding the current World Heavyweight Champion and a wrestling great, Bret “The Hitman” Hart…

“Was Batista the Patriot early in his career? I hit the site a while ago and found a lot of similarities in physical structuring. With the exception of Batista now being too big to fly high, he bears a great deal of likeness to the Patriot. Are they one and the same? Also, what is Bret Hart thinking by not cutting a court case with Vince over using his name for the new video? Is he getting a cut of this? I would think he and the Ultimate Warrior would take legal action over the new DVDs. I didn’t like where I saw them taking the stars. Vince did Bret a great disservice upon his departure from WWF – how could he play along with this unless he needed money? Out of all the wrestlers I have followed, he had earned my respect as a performer. What is he thinking?


Thanks for that e-mail, Jim. First of all, I’ll get the easy stuff out of the way by saying that Batista most certainly wasn’t the Patriot early in his career. Dave Bautista (the man beneath the tattoos) made his pro wrestling debut in 1997 as Kahn in Wild Samoan Afa’s wXw promotion. Since then he as worked exclusively for WWE and its developmental territory OVW as Leviathan, the Demon of the Deep, Deacon Batista (with Reverend D-Von) and his current gimmick of, simply Batista. The only brush with any other promotion that he has had was when he went to WCW’s Power Plant facility for a try-out (having taken an interest in wrestling, after meeting Road Warrior Animal and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig at a bodybuilding show, so legend goes) only to be told that he’d never make it in the wrestling business. Short-sighted? WCW? Surely not.

As for the Patriot himself, the original Patriot was a guy named Del Wilkes, from South Carolina, who had been wrestling for a damn sight longer than The Animal, having been trained by Verne Gagne during the dying days of the American Wrestling Association. After retiring from the ring, he sold his gimmick and ring name to former WWF jobber, Tom Brandi, who continues to use the gimmick on the Indie circuit.

As for Bret, well…I’ve given the man a bit of a slagging off myself over the last few weeks for ‘selling-out’ and returning to Vince to knock out an official ‘Best of…’ compilation but, after reading a interview with the guy, I have to think that his reasons are more than just financially based. Let’s face it, whatever accusations you can lay at Bret Hart’s door, being stupid isn’t one of them. He had a huge payout from Lloyd’s of London, once Goldberg ended his wrestling career and his name value alone has meant that he can always command top-dollar for various Indie promotions, even if he only appears in a non wrestling role, as he did with Jeremy Borash’s World Wrestling All-Stars promotion in 2002.

According to his interview in the WWE Magazine Special bearing his name, the deciding factor in giving his blessing to a WWE sanctioned compilation wasn’t money, but a discussion with a six year old boy at the dentist who said that Bret was his favourite wrestler. Realising that this kid couldn’t have seen much of his early work, Bret asked him what his favourite match was and the boy confessed that he’d never even seen a Bret Hart match, but that he liked playing as him on the WWE video games. That, according to the man himself, is why he felt that his legacy should be honoured by a genuine collection featuring him as ‘The Excellence of Execution’ rather than a compilation that focussed on Montreal.

If this is true – and really, we can only speculate about that – then that’s fair enough. Bret Hart is, indeed, a legend in this business and he deserves to have his contributions to wrestling treated with rather more respect than the Ultimate Warrior received. As far as Jim Hellwig is concerned, I’m sure there must be some sort of royalty agreement going on there, as he does own the copyright of the Ultimate Warrior and his facepaint, but Vince owns the rights to all the footage. Not being a lawyer and not seeing the contract, I’m not too sure what’s going on. Obviously, Warrior has been very vociferous about how he doesn’t consider ‘The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior’ to be an official representation of his work, but I wonder if his morals and ethics regarding this matter will stretch to him refusing the royalty checks when they turn up. I doubt it – and, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t hold that against him…money is money, after all.

Thanks for your e-mail and I hope I’ve answered you questions.

It’s a pleasure to get e-mails like that. I’m secure enough in my writing ability and my knowledge of wrestling that I don’t need people saying how great they thought my column’s were, but a nice, polite bit of correspondence always goes over well with me. The flip side of this is the following e-mail from Matt Giberson. Normally, I do some editing to people’s e-mails, just to tidy up the occasioanl spelling mistake or grammatical error that plagues us all at one time or another, but I thought I’d post this one just as I received it…


Brilliant. Just brilliant.

At first I was just going to take the high road and say that, hey, wouldn’t the world be a dull place if we all thought alike? After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and all that but, for some reason, this e-mail triggered my nasty streak and I thought that anyone as arrogant as this deserved to be taken down a peg or two.

Slyvester Ritter, aka Junkyard Dog does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame in my not-so humble opinion. That was something I believed back in the summer of 2004, when I first wrote that piece (yeah – we’re talking about a column nearly 18 months old) and it’s something that I believe now. Come on – what has he done to deserve his position in the Hall? Was he a tremendous champion? No – outside of a couple of regional straps, he was never a major title-holder. Was he the first major black superstar? No – that accolade would have to go to someone like Bob Brazil, Ernie Ladd or even Bearcat Wright. Was he an awesome technical wrestler or a bruising powerhouse? No – he was an out of shape hulking oaf. Was he a red hot promo man? The common consensus is yes, but he really wasn’t. He wasn’t a Flair, a Rhodes, a Jericho or a Christian, put it that way. Hell, he was barely a Hogan.

And yet, people like Matt persist in saying that JYD should be considered a bona fide Hall of Famer and there is a damn good reason for this – the reason being that most people are idiots. Just because Junkyard Dog was wildly popular back in the day, we all have to look for a reason to justify that massive fanbase in retrospect. Because we’re all so clued into the business these days, we can’t just accept that, when we were kids, we supportted Junkyard Dog because that’s what the WWF told us to do as fans. It was just JYD, either…we did the same for “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, George “The Animal” Steele and any one of a dozen other lumbering stiffs that Vince and go wanted to push as top babyfaces. We liked them because we were all marks back then but now we have to rationlise that fact for some reason. We weren’t duped by the WWF marketing machine, we insist – we loved Hacksaw because he stirred the patriotic sensibilities of an entire nation; we love the Animal because he was an enigmatic character with many hidden depths and Junkyard Dog…well, he may have sucked in the ring, but he was an awesome promo man, right?


The fact is that we were puppets throughout the eighties because we didn’t know any better and that’s why we now have people insisting that Junkyard Dog gets put into the Hall of Fame. That’s why Koko B. Ware is part of the WWE’s “Legends” league, even though the man is not worthy to lace Harley Race’s boots. That’s why Hillbilly Jim got one of the biggest pops of the night at WrestleMania X-Seven. And that’s why Hulkamania will never die.


Oh yeah – Hulkamania. I am the first to admit that Hogan revolutionised the business but, after sitting through the ten or so Coliseum Home Videos dedicated to the man, it’s safe to say that he was lucky enough to have the right look at the right time in the business. That’s hardly new or sensational. However, we bought into Hulk Hogan in 1984 because he was new and different (and because he defeated the Iron Sheik, of course) and that’s all well and good. However, we continued to buy into him, because we knew no better and because Vince McMahon and the WWF told us that this was the guy we should root for.

Do you remember why we were supposed to hate King Kong Bundy or Big John Studd or Hercules Hernandez during the mid-eighties? What was Bundy’s motivation as an on-screen character? There was nothing. We hated Bundy and all the others because the WWF told us to in the simplest short-hand possible, by pitting them against the Hulkster.

It went on for years. Hogan was the icon, the seminal babyface, who overshadowed every other good guy, be it Piper, Savage, Warrior or Hart and then something happened and the fans began to turn on the Hulkster. Maybe the preteen set that were first drawn in by his antics began to mature, but suddenly Hogan wasn’t what we wanted to see. We wanted to see good wrestling, rather than five minutes of staredowns at the start of every match. We wanted Hart and Michaels, Razor Ramon and the 1-2-3 Kid. It was clear that we, as wrestling fans, had outgrown Hulk Hogan.

But then we realised something else. You couldn’t hear the first strains of ‘Real American’ without feeling your pulse race thanks to an involuntary Pavlovian reaction. You would mark out, just to hear the Hulkster’s music and so, being rational adults, we had to come up with a reason beyond the fact that we were mere guinea pigs in Vince McMahon’s global wrestling experiment. And so the lies began. Hogan really wasn’t all that bad, we’d say. Or, Hogan really was that bad, but he was the best of a bad bunch. Or, Hogan was quite a lot worse than some of the others, but God, that man had charisma and by golly he could talk.

Well, if that’s true, then why does every wrestler who wants to do a Hogan ‘tribute’ always go via the route of the promo, be it Big Show, Steve Austin or Alan Funk? Hogan is a cliché in wrestling – the posing, the extended entrance, the matches that always follow and exact same pattern. Bret Hart and Ric Flair can slag each other off over who is the more predictable in their matches until the cows come home, but Hogan has both of them beat.

Hogan was a wrestling phenomenon, an experiment with the art form that became far bigger than was originally intended. We were all marks in the truest sense of the word back then and it haunts us now. We have to rationalise how we created this monster, because otherwise we would just have to admit that, sorry, we were once gullible, just like the little kids buying the Hurricane masks at the merchandise stalls.

This was also true on a smaller scale for the Junkyard Dog. There is no denying, of course, that he was popular, but that’s not necessarily due to any talent on his own part. Hell, the man’s main feud was against Harley Race, a man who was well past his prime when he was running the WWF circuit, but who had one thing going for him – Bobby Heenan. You put anyone against the weasel in the 1980s and they are de facto babyfaces, whether we like it or not. Of course, we can’t accept that with our new smarkish mindsets, so we look for other reasons, all of which are bullshit.

Heenan is an interesting example as we all love him now, and with good cause. I would argue until the ends of the Earth that Heenan deserves his spot in the annals of wrestling history. The man was gold on the mic and could take a mean bump when the story required it but let’s not forget that, when we saw him in the eighties we all hated him. He was the Weasel and, no matter how funny he was (and he really, really was), he got more heat than anybody not directly facing Hogan.

Try an experiment. Get yourself a couple of old tapes, with JYD matches on them and watch them with the sound down, so you don’t get the commentators trying to angry up the blood and let’s see what you think. Try and remain impartial. If you can get through four or five of his matches without wanting to invent a time machine, just to travel back to Stampede during the early eighties and put a bullet through “Big Daddy Ritter’s” head, then you’re a better man than I.

Sometimes we all have to accept that we were marks at one point in our lives and that we’re still marks now, albeit for different reasons. It’s not just with pro wrestling, either. I bought a couple of DVDs a few months ago – Defenders of the Earth, M.A.S.K. and Dogtanian and the Muskehounds – all of which are cartoons that I remember fondly from being a kid. I watched them again and I was sorely disappointed because they truly were awful and that no amount of nostalgia could make up for that. Okay, so I wasn’t really expecting much else – of all my old cartoon favourites, the only one that has really stood the test of time for me is Transformers: The Movie.

However, during my frequent forays around the ‘Net, if found that a whole hell of a lot of people still like those cartoons and that’s fine too. What’s wrong about it is that they try to graft adult rationale onto them to justify there reactions, again, as if they’re ashamed to enjoy a kid’s cartoon (in a sense, marking out for Defenders of the Earth). They will waste their time and ours, discussing how the use of different animals in Dogtanian neatly parodies the ideals prevalent in French society at the time. They will mention all kinds of socio-political and socio-sexual reasons behind why the different characters in M.A.S.K. had certain vehicles or wore certain masks. All of this is a vain attempt to avoid the real issue. They, as adults, still get a kick out of what they were into as children. Now, I’m not going to say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s true.

What I don’t get about Matt’s e-mail is the sense of anger and frustration that is evident because I disagree with his point of view. He seems incapable of realising that some of us have moved on. Should we celebrate the fact that Junkyard Dog, this substandard wrestler with such a limited moveset and such poor promo skills, was a major draw in the mid-eighties? Certainly – but in a Hall of Fame that has yet to include bigger names and better wrestlers (I’m thinking of Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, Terry Funk, Bob Backlund, Dusty Rhodes, Bret Hart, the Road Warriors, Dynamite Kid and the like) JYD sticks out as a severely overrated grappler.

One final point…the column I wrote in 2004 – my third ever wrestling column, I should point out – was an opinion piece and, whether you like it or not, my opinion is just as valid as yours. I’d go further and say that my opinion is more valid, as I actually back it up with some facts. I actually said in the column that I realised loads of people loved the Dog, but that for me he was never anything great. One of my favourite wrestlers from the eighties was Haku, during his feud with Big John Studd – he was so different to the regular wrestlers of that time period and I thought he was awesome. Would I like to see him in the Hall of Fame? Of course I would. Do I think he deserves to be there? Not a chance. He was average at best and usually a lot less than that.

Yes – I can totally see why you think Junkyard Dog should be in the Hall of Fame, because emotionally and intellectually you are still the same guy who marked out for him in the eighties. You didn’t know why you liked him then and you don’t know why you like him now. The only difference between the two is that now you are prepared to defend your position with phoney rationalisations.

But hey…it’s only entertainment, right?

By the way – I know that you’re likely to respond to this, so here’s a challenge for you…if you do so, try and do it without the excessive swearing. Try to, I don’t know, argue your case instead of just throwing insults. Debate and discussion raise us above the level of animals, so let’s do that. If you can give me solid, rational facts for including Junkyard Dog into the Hall of Fame, then I’ll listen to them.

That’s it for this week – I’ll be back next week with some more thoughts on the wacky world of professional wrestling.

Until the next time…farewell.