The View From Down Here – All Those Years Ago (Ric Flair, John Cena, Chris Benoit, CM Punk)

Last fortnight I had a look back at what I feel was the anniversary of something major in wrestling – Ric Flair’s 1992 Royal Rumble win. Well, that got me thinking about history.


I know 2012 is the anniversary of a lot of things in professional wrestling – it’s been ten years since ROH was launched, since the WWF became WWE, NWA-TNA made its debut, the Smackdown/Raw brand split began, and even the WWE debut of John Cena; and it’s been five years since Chris Benoit did what Chris Benoit did. Now, I’m reasonably sure that at least a few of those will be covered by better writers than me here at Inside Pulse, so I thought I’d look back at anniversaries of my own.


Now, 1982 was when I finally got “into” wrestling. I’d watched it and enjoyed it before, but in this year I finally had the chance to see it. You see, we got our first VCR machine (or VTR as it was called on the box). And so now, with a fortnightly trip to the video store, I watched every video cassette I could get my hands on.


And then when the WWF exploded onto the world stage with Wrestlemania, I was in mark heaven. Various TV channels showed wrestling here on free-to-air, not just from WWF, but also AWA and NWA/WCW.


So let’s look back and do a sort of ‘what the hell does it all mean now’ type of column. And what better basis for this column than the Pro Wrestling Illustrated year end awards.


1982 is a good spot. Not only is it when I could really indulge in my wrestling fix, but it is 30 years ago. Wrestler of the year was Bob Backlund (with Ric Flair at number 2), tag team of the year went to Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell, match of the year was Backlund v Jimmy Snuka in a steel cage for the WWF title, Andre the Giant was voted most popular wrestler and Ted DiBiase the most hated, while Brad Armstrong was Rookie of the year. To me, this is all pretty meaningless, as none of it seems to have any bearing on anything nowadays. Although Ric Flair is still there, and Ted DiBiase now has a Jr after his name. I’ve not seen the Backlund/Snuka match (as the one on Bloodbath is from 1980).


1987, 25 years ago. Hulk Hogan was wrestler of the year with Flair at number 2. 25 years later and… they’re still involved. And they still insist on getting into the ring. The Midnight Express were tag team of the year, and I have seen very little of them; mind you, the Hart Foundation were in at number 2, and they were a favourite team of mine. Match of the year was Randy Savage v Ricky Steamboat. 25 years on and it still stands as one of the greatest matches of all time, and I feel it had a great affect on the way matches were constructed. It was the first time anyone on a big stage had done so many two-counts and near-falls. It changed the way audiences could get into matches and be held in the palm of the hand. Feud of the year was Road Warriors and Super Powers against the Luger version of the Four Horsemen. I never saw any of these matches. Then we have Dusty Rhodes as most popular, Flair as most hated, Curt Hennig as most improved, and Owen Hart as Rookie of the Year. 1987 was one of my favourite years watching (particularly WWF) wrestling, but looking at this list – Savage, Road Warrior Hawk, Hennig and Hart are all gone. Great year, sad to look back on it now.


20 years, and we’re in 1992. Ric Flair was wrestler of the year, and deservedly so. Terry Gordy and Steve Williams were tag team of the year. I didn’t see much of them at the time, but with the joy of YouTube, I have come to appreciate the Miracle Violence Connection (gone but not forgotten) all the more. Match of the year was British Bulldog v Bret Hart for the IC title at Summerslam at Wembley, England. Gotta agree, Bulldog’s best singles match ever and a fantastic end to what was an awesome PPV. The Moondogs v Jerry Lawler and Jeff Jarrett was feud of the year, about which I know absolutely nothing, but for it to come above Flair/Savage (number 2), it must have been incredible. Sting was most popular, Rick Rude most hated. Sting’s still there; Rude died in 1999. 13 years ago. Wow, where’d that time go? Rookie of the year was Eric Watts. Seriously? Mind you, Diamond Dallas Page was number 2, and he didn’t become any good until he feuded with Benoit, so I’m guessing 1992 was not a good year for debutants.


1997 was 15 years ago, and a time when I was going away from televised wrestling, having discovered the local independent scene. WWF held virtually no interest for me with its increasingly puerile storylines and decreasing in-ring action, and WCW was going through a severe case of nWo-overdose. And the PWI awards seem odd. Lex Luger was wrestler of the year, relegating Steve Austin to number 2? Seriously? The Outsiders (Hall and Nash) were the tag team of the year, though I seem to remember them avoiding matches more than actually wrestling. Bret Hart v Steve Austin from Wrestlemania was match of the year, and I cannot argue with that one, with the only other match even close to it the 10-man tag match at the end of In Your House: Canadian Stampede. Feud of the year was DDP v Savage. Again, really? How in the hell was that better than the second-placed Bret Hart v Steve Austin? Sting was most popular, Hart most hated, and Prince Iaukea was Rookie of the… hang on… what? Seriously? Was this another year when there were no rookies worth watching?


Fast forward to 2002, a decade ago. Brock Lesnar was wrestler of the year. Rob Van Dam came in at second. They’re both still around, but was Lesnar really the best wrestler in 2002? Better than Kurt Angle? Hell, better than Chris Benoit? (This is pre-Incident, so Benoit could easily have got the nod at this point in time). Tag team of the year went to Billy and Chuck… what the? Mind you, looking at the rest of the list, this is clearly the year tag team wrestling stopped being relevant in North America. Match of the year, the Rock v Hulk Hogan from Wrestlemania… again, what the?! Yes, it had a hot crowd and some interesting emotion, but it was crap! Hogan could barely move. I watched it again before this year’s Wrestlemania, and, really, it is not good. And Hogan is still getting into the ring. At least the Rock’s match against Cena is watchable some time later. Feud of the year was Eric Bischoff v Stephanie McMahon. I can sort of understand that, I guess, as the whole focus was on those two; heaven forbid the wrestlers could get over. RVD was most popular, Chris Jericho most hated, and the Rookie of the year was Maven… hahaha!


2007, a scant five years ago. John Cena was wrestler of the year… hang on. When we had Kurt Angle at number 2 and all manner of others out there, Cena was the best? Most popular, sure, I can live with that, but the best? Paul London and Brian Kendrick made up the tag team of the year. Again, confirming that tag team wrestling was still really in the doldrums. John Cena v Shawn Michaels at the London Raw was match of the year. Didn’t see it, but I doubt it. Mind you, as far as in-ring spectacle was concerned, 2007 was a particularly crap year, but I still would have given the nod to one of the few ROH matches I have seen – Bryan Danielson v Nigel McGuinness. No idea what show it was from, but it was certainly an awesome match-up. Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe had the feud of the year, and I can certainly get behind that decision. John Cena was most popular (understandably so), while Randy Orton was most hated (no comment on that – I would vote for him as most boring, but that’s me). And Hornswaggle was rookie of the year… what? Dear God. So PWI stopped trying at about this point in time?


One last one – let’s look back at last year. CM Punk was wrestler of the year. Yep, completely agree. Beer Money Inc were tag team of the year. Again, agree one hundred per cent. CM Punk v John Cena at the Money In The Bank PPV was match of the year. While I had it high on my list, my favourite match was a Beer Money v Motor City Machine Guns encounter. Feud of the year was Cena/Punk. Again, I preferred the Beer Money/MCMG feud. Punk was most popular, while the Miz was most hated. Really? I would have gone with most over-rated (and, no, Blair, I’m not jumping off the Miz bandwagon – look back on my old columns. I’ve always thought he was over-rated, and was even abused by fellow Pulse writers for saying so…) or most annoying. Hey, Mark Henry was most improved in 2011, and I’d have to say I agree with that. Although taking 15 years to improve seems rather, well, “special”. And Rookie of the Year was Ace Hawkins, and I have absolutely no idea who the hell that person is.


Okay, a little bit of anniversary history. Hope you all enjoyed this look back.


And that’s the view.


Now, for this week’s piece of Australiana, a comedy piece from one of my favourite Australian comics Shaun Micallef.


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