AWA Wrestling, Today’s Black Wrestlers, Pillman Memory


So, what wrestling show do you watch most?

For me, itâ<80><99>s easy: AWA Wrestling on ESPN Classic. The timingâ<80><99>s right: Itâ<80><99>s late at night, when the Romilar is starting to kick in. The announcing is so horrific, it makes me feel better about my time on WCW TV. Adorable Adrian Adonis eschewed homosexuality upon returning to the AWA, so parents, if you want your gay son â<80><9c>deprogrammed,â<80> Verne Gagne is the guy to call. (Call fast.) Youâ<80><99>d never know Paul Heyman turned out to be a wrestling genius judging from his cliché-ridden, phony laugh-driven promos. Nick Bockwinkel was really old, but still really good. Tommy Rich wasnâ<80><99>t that old, but really burnt out. What better way to honor the incredible career of Wahoo McDaniel than by continually misspelling his name â<80><9c>McDanielsâ<80> on the graphic? And interviewer Larry Nelson did better facials than Teri Weigel.

Nothing, however, is like traveling to Larryland.

Itâ<80><99>s the guiltiest of pleasures, but Larry Zbyszkoâ<80><99>s nonsensical self-aggrandizing filibusters are truly epic and either cure or cause sleep apnea, I forget which. Why the heck is he wearing a gi? Well, because he carries nunchakus. Oh. Why does he carry nunchakus? It sure ainâ<80><99>t because heâ<80><99>s schooled in the martial arts, because a guy with a black belt, or a purple belt, or any belt would just go in there and chop down his foe (WHOOO!) instead of STALLING FOR AT LEAST 10 MINUTES BEFORE LOCKING UP, and thatâ<80><99>s even on TV matches. TV time was valuable then as now, but AWA booking was so stuck for ideas that they allowed Larry to stall for ONE-SIXTH of some TV shows. (Note to TNA: Try that with Kurt Angle.)

Larry pioneered the art of marrying the promoterâ<80><99>s daughter, then usurping the kingdom; Triple H perfected it (and picked a much more lucrative kingdom).

Watching AWA on ESPN makes you realize how truly bad the AWA was; so bad that it couldnâ<80><99>t even take advantage of nationwide ESPN exposure to draw money in Hibbing, MN.

It also makes you realize how important lesser promotions that basically nobody watched were. Curt Hennig was, at best, average when he was AWA champ. His promos were clumsy and trite. His work was solid, but he missed a lot of spots, too. But it didnâ<80><99>t matter, because Hennig was merely learning his craft in AAA ball. When he got to the bigs, he benefitted from that experience.

These days, young guys go right from the training center to national TV, and when they suck, you canâ<80><99>t UNSEE it. Case in point: Kenny Dykstra. Heâ<80><99>s 22, and heâ<80><99>s done.

Hey, what a great time to be a black man in WWE. Mark Henry was, sadly, the victim of Michael Hayesâ<80><99> racial insensitivity â<80>” and heâ<80><99>s now ECW CHAMP! Coincidence, Iâ<80><99>m sure. Just to make sure we all understand that WWE is a safe haven for inexplicably underused wrestlers of African-American descent, Ron Killings is coming in with a major push. Teddy Long is reprising his poor manâ<80><99>s Don Cornelius routine on ECW TV, and Kofi Kingston got to (kinda) beat Chris Jericho.

Yes, itâ<80><99>s a great time to be black and in WWE.

Unless youâ<80><99>re Shadd Gaspar, and Cody Rhodes tells you to shine his shoes on live national TV.

THE PILLMAN CHRONICLES: As I struggle to fill spaceâ<80>¦I mean, as this column grows, I will tell tales of the late, great Brian Pillman, my close friend who often called at odd hours with hare-brained schemes.

To wit: I was getting ready to head to Tempe, AZ, to cover Super Bowl XXX for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Brian, who was in the middle of that convoluted work/shoot angle that involved every single promotion in North America, had an idea: He would chain himself to the goalpost at the Super Bowl on live national TV.

Me: â<80><9c>Gee, Brian, thatâ<80><99>s a great idea.â<80> (And it was)

Brian: â<80><9c>I bet youâ<80><99>re wondering how you figure into this.â<80>

Me: â<80><9c>Well, Iâ<80>¦â<80>

Brian: â<80><9c>You have to give me your press pass. That way Iâ<80><99>ll be able to get near the field without attracting too much attention. Iâ<80><99>ll be chained to the goalpost before anyone knows what happened.â<80>

At this point I explained to Brian that if I gave him my press pass, A) I couldnâ<80><99>t get into the game and B) I would be fired by the Post-Gazette and probably never work in journalism again.

Brian: â<80><9c>(long pause)â<80>¦Look, I canâ<80><99>t be the only one making sacrifices.â<80>

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