Greatest Wrestlers of Yesterday: #1
By Ray The Rambler
Wrestling history is a topic I’ve recently found myself fascinated with. I know a lot about recent wrestling history but found I don’t know enough about wrestling before the 90s. It all started as I was watching some old British wrestling from the 1980s where I knew only one wrestler on the card for the show, the wrestler was Dave ‘Fit’ Finlay. The most noticeable difference between past pro wrestling and modern pro wrestling I noticed was before it was fought out at a much faster pace. The moves and manoeuvres performed were much different. It was much more technical. Much more grapples. Now, there is a story before any wrestling is performed heading into a match. For a ‘feud’ to be successful, there must be an interesting story behind it. The story is the engine of the feud. The wrestlers I’ll be blogging about in the upcoming weeks will all be pre-90s, I mean this by it will be before then when they were at their prime. You’ll more than likely would of heard of these wrestlers, after all they are the ”Greatest Wrestlers of Yesterday”.
”Mr Wonderful” Paul Orndorff
It was 1984 when Paul Orndorff signed with the WWF, he quickly aligned himself with Roddy Piper. In February of 1984, Orndorff challenged Hulk Hogan in Hogan’s first New York City title defence. In the main event of the “War to Settle the Score,” Mr. Wonderful interfered on behalf of Piper in his match against Hogan. Mr. T would come to the aid of Hogan, setting up the first WrestleMania main event. At the first ever WrestleMania, Orndorff and Piper lost to Hogan and Mr. T. Orndorff would go on to forge a friendship with Hogan through the rest of 1985 and into 1986. However, Orndorff grew jealous of the major superstardom Hogan had achieved and often tried to overshadow Hulk during tag matches, working entire matches on his own and never tagging Hulk in. During a match with Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd, Hogan was stabbed in the back by his tag team partner after receiving a vicious piledriver and was mocked relentlessly. August 28, 1986 Hulk Hogan was in a match vs. Mr. Wonderful and won by disqualification at the Big Event, a show that drew 74,000-plus fans to the CNE Stadium in Toronto. This was the pinnacle point of Paul’s career and the first indicator that Hogan VS a hated heel could sell out huge venues. This led to character creations such as Sargent Slaughter. January 3, 1987 Hogan defeated Orndoff in a critically-acclaimed steel cage match on Saturday Night’s Main Event. For the rest of spring and summer, Orndorff would make sporadic appearances before once again turning face and befriending Hulk Hogan. Through fall, Orndoff feuded with the Heenan family. At Survivor Series 1987, Orndorff and Team Hogan lost to the Heenan Family in the main event of the first November Pay-Per-View event. As the 1980s were coming to a close, Orndoff left the wrestling business for a number of years.
Here’s a video of his work.
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
The year was 1981 when Greg “The Hammer” Valentine made his first appearance in Vince McMahon’s WWF promotion. He didn’t come alone, by his side was a hall of fame manager known as the Grand Wizard. Greg challenged Bob Backlund for his WWF championship and, in one of the most controversial moments in the history of the company, was erroneously declared champion. As a result, the championship would be held up until Backlund defeated Valentine for the title. Sadly, this would be the closest Valentine would get to the big belt in his WWF career. It was 2 years later when Greg ”The Hammer” Valentine was seen in the WWF again, he returned with Capt. Lou Albano as his manager. Greg had many fantastic classic encounters with Tito Santana for the Intercontinental championship, Greg defeated Tito for the championship on September 24, 1984. Almost a year later, once again Greg faced up against Tito for the championship in an outstanding steel cage match which many fans consider as one of the greatest cage matches of all time, sadly for Greg he lost to Tito and lost his Intercontinental championship. August 24, 1985, In a tag team with Brutus Beefcake…..known as the “Dream Team,” defeated Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda to become the WWF Tag Team Champions. Greg would go on to participate in several tag team combinations, including the “New Dream Team” with Dino Bravo as his partner and “Rhythm & Blues” with Honkytonk Man. Greg Valentine was one of those wrestlers who made every match he participated in believable. Like Shawn Michaels, or should I say Shawn Michaels was as good as making matches look believable like Greg ”The Hammer” Valentine did. He was a take no crap, hard hitting wrestler to his opponents, much like Finlay, William Regal. Greg was the type of wrestler you looked forward to watching especially when the card may not of been that good. A known fact a lot of wrestling fans know is, when it appeared as though the entertainment portion of some shows was taking over, Greg was always quick to remind Vince McMahon that he was promoting professional wrestling.
Here’s a sample of Greg’s work.
Thank you reading, I hope you enjoyed my column this week. I thought I’d do something different than what Iv’e been doing over the past year of writing about wrestling. Please leave me your comments on what you think about these wrestlers. Which one do you think was the better one?
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