Tuesday, February 27

10 Worst Things About Wrestling In The 1980s

The 1980s were the decade everything in wrestling changed. From the expansion of WWE to the fall of the territories, the rise of cable TV and PPVs and merchandising exploding, this was the decade that made modern wrestling what it is. It’s easy to look back and think of what was great then, and fans alive for that era can have fond memories of what seemed to be a better time.


Related

10 Best Technical WWE Wrestlers Of The 1980s, Ranked

These WWE wrestlers shined in the 1980s with their amazing technical skills in the ring.

But under that wave of nostalgia is an ugly underbelly for the wrestling business in the 1980s. It can be simply how it can seem a bit more boring to modern fans to some actions and attitudes that were frankly appalling. Here are ten reasons why wrestling in the 1980s wasn’t the best time, as fans believe, and a darker side to this period.


10 Bullying And Pranks Were Out Of Control

Some Pranking And Bits Were Horrible

  • Curt Hennig was a notorious prankster
  • The British Bulldogs got into a fight with the Rougeaus over their tactics
  • Eddie Gilbert’s ego burned a lot of bridges

Sure, rookies may get some hazing today, but in the 1980s, it was absolutely awful. Flat-out bullying could take place as more than one rookie was treated to a legit fight in the ring just to “teach them a lesson.” The backstage attitude was worse, throwing guys into bad spots and crossing way too many lines.

Then there were the pranks, which crossed the line way too much, such as drugging a guy’s drink before they went driving. It led to legit backstage fights with way too many guys pulling moves that would get someone fired today and brushing it off as “folks can’t take a joke.” Today’s social media bullying has nothing on the real-life antics of this decade.

9 The Old-Timer Attitude Wore Thin

Too Many Older Promoters Didn’t Change With The Times

  • Too many territory owners pushed their favorites too much
  • Verne Gagne’s AWA went out of business, refusing to change with the times
  • Jim Crockett tried to expand but was undone by bad moves

The major shift in the 1980s was Vince McMahon beginning the grand expansion of WWE and putting the old-time promoters out of business. A key reason he succeeded was that too many of those older promoters kept running things in the ’80s like in years past and were unable to handle the changing mood of the fans.

Related

10 Best Wrestling Territory Babyfaces Of The 1980s, Ranked

Back in the territory days, the top babyfaces were the biggest stars in their respective region, but didn’t necessarily gain mainstream attention.

Verne Gagne is the worst example, refusing to make Hulk Hogan champion and running shows like he always had, putting the AWA out of business. He wasn’t alone as other old-timers like Bill Watts and Jim Crockett failed to realize their model of booking and running shows was dying out and while the territory era was great for its time, promoters failed to see how sticking to the old ways wasn’t going to work in a new era.

8 The Attitudes Were Awful

A Different Time Period Does Not Excuse Them

  • Jesse Ventura would often slam “Chico” Santana
  • Too many acts based on evil foreigners
  • Col DeBeers was presented as a white supremacist.

Society was much different in the 1980s. But it’s still outright appalling to see just what was “acceptable” behavior back then. The treatment of women alone could be terrible, as valets could be slapped or attacked, while actual women’s wrestling was treated almost as a joke.

Then, there were racial issues that played too much into terrible stereotypes, and let’s not get into how LGBT folks could be seen in this time period. Wrestling is hardly along, yet it’s still jarring just how much of the 1980s has not aged well, and little wonder Peacock has to put warnings up for some shows of the time for some outrageously tone-deaf material.

7 The TV Shows Were Less Polished

The TV Programs Were Low Rent

  • Many promotions ran out of a small studio
  • World Class introduced entrance music and on-ring cameras
  • WWE were the first to do more shows out of regular arenas

Newer fans may be a bit taken aback at how low-rent the TV shows in this time were. Many places worked out of studios with barely a hundred people, not the hot crowds of today. There was also how the productions weren’t as good, even Crockett and WWE having cheaper low-def cameras.

Related

10 Wrestling Titles From The 1980s We Completely Forgot Existed

There are loads of championships from the 1980s that fans likely forgot about — if they knew about them at all.

The shows didn’t sparkle as well as today as the smaller studios robbed it of some energy, not to mention too much emphasis on bigger stars vs jobbers. Sure, WCCW paved the way with better tricks, but some of the TV programs at this time could be less thrilling for modern fans.

6 Syndication Meant Fans Missed Good Stuff

TV Deals Cut Down Some Good Promotions

World Class Championship Wrestling logo

Today, thanks to the Internet, it’s easy for a smaller company to get national attention. Back in the 80s, too many places were only on local programming. Some guys were lucky, like World Class or UWF, but for places from Memphis to Portland, if you didn’t live in those areas, you had no idea these programs existed.

It was a key reason why so many of the older territories died out, as the bigger guys who had syndication deals meant fans got more used to WWE or WCW than the smaller and better spots. It’s too bad some terrific wrestling spots never got the national exposure they deserved because of how different TV was in this era.

5 Finishers Were Weaker

Today’s Filler Moves Were Once Finishers

  • Hogan’s Legdrop was made as a powerful move
  • The piledriver was once banned because of how dangerous it was supposed to be
  • Jake Roberts revolutionized things with the DDT

In a way, wrestling was a tad safer in this time, but that didn’t take away from just how dull so many finishers were. Sleeper holds, bear hugs, full Nelsons, and simple suplexes were made to be knockout moves with the crowds okay for them but nothing spectacular. That’s why Jake Roberts’ DDT was so effective, it was a truly wild move.

Related

10 1980s Wrestlers With The Best Entrance Attires

Many of wrestling’s biggest stars from the ’80s enhanced their look with eye-catching entrance attire.

Moves today brushed off as mid-match stuff like a piledriver were pushed more, but it was also a time of blows or finishers that just looked so weak. It took a while for flashier finishers as folks today, but just laugh at what was once a knockout blow.

4 The Dusty Finish Was Rampant

Too Many Fake-Out Finishes Burned Out Fans

  • Starrcade 1985 was the ultimate Dusty Finish
  • The Grahams really created it in Florida
  • A Time-limit draw was a common way to end a TV title bout

Dusty Rhodes didn’t come with a bait-and-switch booking finish, but he used it so much that it got named after him. It wasn’t just Dusty as scores of bookers used a finish where it looked like the face had won a huge match, including a title, only for it to be announced the ref had made a change and the heel kept the belt.

The idea was to build up business at house shows, but fans grew to hate these finishes, especially when used at big events like the first PPVs. There was also an overreliance on time-limit draws or the heel champion being disqualified to keep the title. What was once a clever idea became overused and ruined too many feuds. In trying to beef up the local shows, the territories relied on a bad finish that annoyed far more fans than it ever built up into successes.

3 The Travel Schedule Was Horrible

The Long Road Trips Took A Toll

  • Adrian Adonis was killed in a car wreck traveling to a show in 1988
  • Canadian driving was a nightmare in this time
  • Magnum TA’s career was cut short by a car crash

Travel today may be a bit rough on wrestlers, but it’s nothing compared to how it was in the ’80s. Even if it was a smaller territory like Texas or Memphis, there was still some traveling around cities for long drives. Canada was a nightmare to handle in the wintertime, and more than a few accidents occurred.

Related

10 Bad Wrestling Moments From The 1980s Nobody Talks About

These are bad moments from the 1980s that wrestling fans don’t talk about, including poor booking decisions, goofy angles, and abysmal matches.

It was worse for the larger areas from WWE to Crockett with guys having to be up all night and barely any sleep to make it to shows, even doing two shows in the same day. It’s no wonder this led to crazy behavior on the road, as trying to maintain this frankly insane schedule broke more than a few wrestlers in this time.

2 Matches Were Much Slower Paced

Bouts Could Be A Bit Slow And Repetitive

  • A “Broadway” bout was commonplace
  • Many NWA matches went at least 20-30 minutes
  • WWE were the ones preferring shorter matches

Some fans may prefer the classic feel of wrestling in this time with longer bouts. However, it also meant that matches could be slower-paced and even outright dull. With an emphasis on time-limit draws, there was a lot more stalling and filler, as a fifteen-minute match could feel longer.

Some wrestlers could spark it up with brawling or a hot tag team match. Yet looking at the NWA, especially in this time, could show some slow and plodding matches that also were way too repetitive (especially Flair and Hogan). Fans then may have enjoyed it enough, but some wrestling shows could be incredibly dull for folks to try and get into today.

1 Drug Use Was Rampant

Far Too Many Lives Were Cut Short By Drug Use

  • World Class had a horrible list of wrestlers dying of drug use
  • Buddy Landel’s addictions ruined his career
  • The death of Len Bias in 1986 changed attitudes on drug use

There’s no getting around the fact that the attitude toward “casual” drug use in the 1980s was far different than today. People honestly treated cocaine or other drugs as no different than cigarettes and saw no reason to avoid taking a lot of them. That’s not including the various pills and “uppers” to help in the long travel.

The long list of lives cut short by this is a tragic testament to how terrible the drug use was. Granted, wrestling wasn’t the only sport so affected, but it’s still appalling to consider how the widespread drug use contributed to cutting far too many careers and lives short.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.