TRN Round Table: Our Favorite Old School Wrestlers

We’re back for another edition of the TRN Round Table where various members of the network and our friends get together to share our opinions on a given topic.  Wrestlemania weekend is almost upon us, so in this Round Table, we’re discussing our favorite old school wrestlers.  When you’re done checking out our pick, be sure to leave your favorite in the comments!


 

Randy Savage and Elizabeth

“Macho Man” Randy Savage has always been at the pinnacle of my favorite pro wrestlers from back in the day. He excelled at every part of being a wrestler and to me, had everything it took to be the best. He was a champion in the ring, holding the Intercontinental Heavyweight belt and WWF Champion belt in the ’80s. He was a high flyer but also had the technical skills and could just flat-out brawl outside the ring. He was popular among the fans whether he was a good guy or a heel. The way he talked was just plain cool and could hype his feuds and matches during his promos with his unique style. That also translated to being a great color commentator for a while in the early ’90s when he retired from active wrestling. His persona also transcended the ring being the spokesman for Slim Jim and culminated as “Bonesaw McGraw” in the 2002 Spider-man film.

And to top it all off, he had the most beautiful woman in wrestling on his arm. The fact that Miss Elizabeth was everywhere that Savage went was cause enough to make every fan’s head turn. I was always fearful for her when the action left the ring and even when Savage lost, he always had the best consultation prize. And while his on-screen ego seemed to trump his treatment of Elizabeth, she still stood by his side. Their on-screen relationship eventually culminated into “The Match Made in Heaven” when Savage married Elizabeth at Summerslam, making every fan jealous and dashing the hopes that she would find her true love in the crowd one day. While their off-screen lives ended in divorce and tragedy, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth are still the king and queen of pro wrestling to me.


– Jason Gross

Jason is the co-host of the flagship TRN Podcast, as well as the host of the Situation Jukebox podcast here on TRN.  He can also be found reminding you about everything that was cool in the ’80s at Rediscoverthe80s.com.  Hit him up on twitter @rd80s.

 

Jake the Snake Roberts

Such a tough thing to write as an adult especially with all of the interviews and “tell-all” stories that have come out about these larger than life characters over the decades. Some have fallen from grace. Some seem silly now. I searched for an answer that drew me in as a child and can do the same today. There’s only one wrestler from the glory days of the Rock n Wrestling era who can accomplish this feat. Jake “the Snake” Roberts.

Whether as a heel or a face Jake demanded your undivided attention every time he was on screen. He also was involved in some of the most memorable and most shocking moments during that era of professional wrestling. He unleashed a cobra to bite “Macho Man” Randy Savage on the arm and not let go. He stripped “Ravishing” Rick Rude of his tights in front of the entire live crowd and a censored graphic on TV because Rude had airbrushed Jake’s wife on to the sensitive parts of his ring gear. He scared the biggest wrestler of the time, Andre the Giant, away with a snake. He ruined the wedding reception of Savage and Miss Elizabeth with a snake in the box. Later, he almost crushed Elizabeth’s head with a chair but the Undertaker intervened just in time. He turned bad by manipulating the Ultimate Warrior in his feud against Undertaker. Most memorable of all is when he was tied up in the ring ropes and Earthquake squashed the bag containing his longtime pet and companion, Damian.

Most of all, he was a great wrestler. It’s a shame he never won a title in WWF but he also didn’t need to. Anyone in the ring with him looked like a star. Whether Jake was siding with the devil or fooling the angels. He showed that always being in control and focused achieved more than screaming and flamboyance. However, the story played out the closing chapter was never in doubt when Jake hit the DDT. Still one of the most devastating moves to witness. Also one of the more devastating to take, just ask Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat, but you can’t because he got knocked out cold.

Kevin Decent

Kevin is the host of the newest podcast here on TRN, The House Show, as well as a prolific author.  You can find his writing here at TRN, as well as at MaskedLibrary.com.  

 

Mean Gene Okerlund

When it comes to wrestling, I’ve always been hooked more by the peripheral personalities in the business over the “Superstars”. It’s weird that the muscular bodies slamming into each other in the ring that was being celebrated by everybody else often took a backseat to Sensational Sherri, Jimmy Hart or Mr. Fuji when I was watching a WWF show. None had more glory in my eyes than the man, the mustache, the tuxedo, Mean Gene Okerlund. Though he did once train very comedically for a tag team match alongside his partner, Hulk Hogan, Gene was primarily a backstage interviewer, which meant he was given audience to the wackiest turns of phrase to come out of the mouths of the Macho Man Randy Savage or the Ultimate Warrior. His reactions to the madness were just fantastic. Gene was that familiar face I could always count on during my early days as a wrestling fan, so this golden-voiced, balding man was the glue that held the federation together in my eyes. Just think about it, everybody had to pass by Mean Gene’s microphone to state their reason for beating up their opponent that night or at the next Wrestlemania. He was in a way, my idol. Not being very athletic as a kid, I instead pretended to be an interviewer like Gene Okerlund, running up and down the basketball court at recess getting sound bytes from my classmates during the game. The most common were the phrases, “Shut up” and “Get out of here”. In the 90s I even got to eat at the short-lived fast-food chain, Mean Gene’s Burgers and have cherished the napkins, placemats, and t-shirt purchased that day.

– Hoju Koolander

You can follow along with all of Hoju’s retro shenanigans on his twitter feed, @hojukoolander, and read his fine writing here on TRN.  He is also one of the co-hosts of Wizards:  The Podcast Guide to Comics, and SequelQuest Podcast where he and his cohorts craft sequels that we never got to movies that we loved!

 

Kerry Von Erich

My favorite old school wrestler, without a doubt, is “The Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich. He was a part of the WCCW out of Dallas/Fort Worth. Their syndicated show was on in my home town every Saturday night from 10 to midnight and I watched it religiously. He feuded with Gentleman Chris Adams, Gino Hernandez, “Iceman” King Parsons and even wrestled against Jerry “The King” Lawler and Ric Flair. He and his brothers were in an ongoing feud with the Fabulous Freebirds that was always entertaining. While all the Von Erich’s used the move, nobody perfected the Von Erich “Iron Claw” like Kerry.

– Eric Vardeman

Give Eric a follow on Twitter at @Eric_Vardeman, and you can find his retro memories right here on TRN!  His weekly column, Way Back Wednesday, is awesome too.  He looks back at the songs gracing the Top 40 list from 37 years ago in 1983!  He is also a frequent guest on the TRN Situation Jukebox podcast.

 

Hulk Hogan

Well, you know brother, I have been a true die-hard Hulkamaniac from Day 1. Training, saying my prayers, eating my vitamins all the way. I was a mark for the Hulkster as far back as I can remember and really still am to this day. I have many other favorites from the awesome ’80s decade, but Hulk Hogan will always top my list. Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you?!?!

Tim

Tim runs the @oldschool80s twitter account that features daily ’80s goodness and is a must-follow for retro fans.  He also contributes to TRN on a regular basis with ’80s themed articles.

 

Rock and Roll Express

 

The very first time I came across professional wrestling on television, I saw what would go on to become one of my favorite acts.  It was late 1985 on a Saturday afternoon while I was scanning the channels.  I flipped through and saw smoke, flashing lights, and heard rock music.  I went right on past it, but stopped and backed up, and watched as two men clad in bandanas strode through a crowd of people.  It was the Rock & Roll Express on their way to the ring for a match.  I had never seen or heard of wrestling before but was instantly intrigued.  I watched their match and was blown away by what I saw.  And then, when they hit one of their helpless opponents with their patented double dropkick, I came out of my seat.  I was instantly hooked.

I tuned in to wrestling every chance I got after that, looking to see more of the Rock & Roll Express.  They were the reason I begged my Dad to take me to the matches when they came around the next time.  I had their shirts, their glossy 8×10’s, their magazine, was a member of their fan club, and wore bandanas on my wrists to school.  It was an intense fandom.  As the years rolled on, and their star started to fall a little, I still followed them in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and to this day, I still enjoy catching Ricky Morton in action on local shows.

– Mickey Yarber

Mickey is the co-host of the flagship TRN Podcast.  You can also find him hosting the YouTube series, Wax Pack Flashback, as well as contributing many of his memories via articles here on TRN.  You can find him on Twitter @yesterdayville.

 

Junkyard Dog

My favorite WWF/WWE wrestler of all time has to be Junkyard Dog! He was so crazy and I will never forget his snarling face as he would enter the ring to the sounds of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” while barking at his opponent and swinging that badass chain around his neck. My introduction to JYD was in the form of the animated Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling cartoon. Out of all the iconic characters in that show JYD’s character just stood out to me and I was hooked. The one match of his that stands out more than any other to me is when he gave Macho Man Randy Savage a beat down to win the WWF Wrestling Classic in 1985. I didn’t see it live since it was Pay-Per-View, but I had friends who were wrestling junkies, so I borrowed their VHS tape of the event. Unfortunately, I never got to see Junk Yard Dog wrestle in person and I will never have that chance. In 1998 JYD was in a car accident after leaving his daughter’s high school graduation. He passed away at the age of 45. For his contributions to wrestling Sylvester Ritter aka Junk Yard Dog was inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2004 and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012.

– Spyda-Man

You can check out Spyda-Man’s retro home on the web at 20 Years Before 2000.  You can also follow him on twitter @20_Years_Before.

 

Brutus Beefcake

There are a great many wrestlers from my youth that I consider favorites. Each of those favorites I find appealing for a myriad of reasons, but usually, it boils down to just three – skill, gimmick, or acting ability. Consider one of my favorites, Hulk Hogan. He wasn’t the most skilled wrestler, but he did have a decent gimmick… even when he turned heel in the WCW. But his acting ability (though not Oscar-worthy) could make you stand and cheer. You loved Hogan for who he portrayed himself to be more than any other reason. Then there is Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat – another favorite of mine. What he lacked in his ability to ignite a crowd with the microphone, he more than made up for with his skill. He could show you what a true art form wrestling could be, especially when he was facing an opponent who could match his skill (like Randy Savage).

But when I think about every wrestler I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing compete, and try to narrow it down to just one person that really made me want to tune it to see what would happen… I think of Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. Probably an odd choice, I know. Brutus wasn’t the most skilled wrestler. He wasn’t a crowd-pleaser with a microphone in hand. But man, did he have a heckuva gimmick. When he entered the arena with those massive barber sheers, you knew there was a good chance somebody was about to lose their precious hair.

A wrestler’s look is almost as important as their speaking and in-ring ability. To know that Brutus could ruin that for some poor soul created palpable anticipation in me. Even though I was fairly certain at the time that everything happening was staged, and that this fresh hairdo wasn’t going to be all that surprising to Beefcake’s opponent, it still felt so unpredictable and visceral. No other wrestler could stir up those kinds of feelings in me like “The Barber”.

Anthony Grate

Tony is the mastermind behind Retro-Daze, and the Retro-Daze YouTube channel featuring RD’s Detention.  Tony is a true “keeper of the flame” in the online retro community.

About Mickey Yarber 191 Articles
Sometimes referred to as The Retro Rambler...I was born in the '70s, grew up in the '80s, and came of age in the '90s. I love to share all the fun stuff from those years via articles and videos, and occasionally make un-needed appearances on various podcasts. I can also catch quarters off my elbow. Email to book me for your next corporate event.