The longer this self-quarantining continues to drag on, the more I am finding myself revisiting an old friend.
Since we spend most of our time these days in some manner of informal lockdown, I have been watching an extraordinary amount of television. But with just about all sports on hiatus (thank heaven for that Korean baseball!) and much of regular network/cable offerings already into summer reruns, I have reconnected with an old passion: professional wrestling.
OK, I heard that snicker. But at this stage of the game, my sports-starved brain would welcome bare-knuckle boxing between a pair of hamsters.
Once a loyal follower, I drifted away from the squared circle about a decade ago, but my interest has again been piqued. There are now a handful of weekly cable enterprises, including a promising promotion on TNT called All-Elite Wrestling. All-Elite is still in the fledgling stage of its development, but is already more entertaining than the once-proud but now stale WWF.
More than anything else, what this renewed interested has brought me is a trip back to memory lane, plus some long-distance conversations with my son, Geoff, who lives in Ohio. During his formative years in the 1980s, Geoff and I made numerous road trips around Ohio to see the likes of Hulk Hogan and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka in person.
During my own formative years in the 1960s, I was also a huge pro wrestling fan. At that time, however, televised matches were few and far between and never offered any sort of world title bouts that are now commonplace. My favorite wrestler when growing up was Bobo Brazil, who could have whipped Hulk Hogan with one arm tied behind his tights.
Ahh ... the memories of body slams and bloodied faces.
Here's a look back at my favorite masters of mayhem. I have included their real name:
1. Bobo Brazil (Houston Harris): I grew up watching Bobo use his famous "coco butt" head smash to defeat the likes of the evil Killer Kowalski, Dick the Bruiser, Johnny Valentine and the dreaded Sheik. Bobo died in 1998 at age 74.
2. Dusty Rhodes (Virgil Riley Runnels): Dusty's finest hour was spent in the old NWA. I think he lost more blood in the ring than any other wrestler in history. He passed away in 2015.
3. Ric Flair (Richard Morgan Fliehr): He was the first to truly master the art of the microphone. Always stylin' and profilin'. Wooooo!
4. Bruno Sammartino (Bruno Leopoldo Francesco Sammartino): Bruno was the Man in the early 1960s, but few ever saw him wrestle because of the sport's limited exposure at the time. He once held the WWF title for more than 11 years (4,040 days). He died in 2018.
5. Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea): Arguably the most electrifying personality in wrestling history, Hulk's limited in-ring skills keep him this low on the list, but his talent to command the TV camera was second to none and led to Hulkamania running wild across the nation.
Honorable mention: Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka (died 2017), The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), Sting (Steve Borden), Goldberg (Bill Goldberg), "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (Steven James Anderson), The Ultimate Warrior (Jim Hellwig, died 2014), Andre the Giant (Andre Rene Roussimoff, died 1993), Randy "Macho Man" Savage (Randy Poffo, died 2011).