Hearne: The State of WWE Wrestling & Monday’s Matches @ Sprint

Was a time being a seven-time World Heavy Wrestling Champion like Handsome Harley Race was a big deal…

Less so these days since the WWE wiped out the NWA and other regional wrestling circuits around the country. For example, the current WWE world champ is a 210 pound dude named Daniel Bryan who rather unceremoniously won the belt minutes after Wichita refugee Big Show took it from fellow behemoth Mark Henry.

These days, wrestling is about two things; ridiculously improbable storylines and high risk acrobatics.

"Actually the belts aren’t that important today," says retired promoter Jon Lunkwicz. "If you look at one of the most important wrestlers today, it’s John Cena, and he hasn’t been a champion for awhile."

Cena wrestles "The Big Red Monster" Kane in one of two headline matches Monday at the Sprint Center.

"The scripts have become as important as the matches," Lunkwicz says.

Thanks for that to WWE honcho Vince McMahon – the son of legendary World Wide Wrestling Federation promoter Vincent McMahon. The younger McMahon is credited with stealing Hulk Hogan from another circuit and playing all sorts of silly, in-ring charicatures of himself that continue to this day.

"Vince was evil, he was playing himself," Lunkwicz says. "He did a lot of bad things to wrestlers."

The other major difference in the WWE today has to do with the death-defying, high-flying stunts that have resulted in shorter career spans, Lunkwicz says.

Former longtime National Wrestling Alliance champ Lou Thesz, for example, wrestled from 1932 when he was 15 years-old until his retirement in December of 1990 at age 73!

That’s 58 years, for crying out loud. No way Thesz could have lasted that long flying upside down and sideways in and out of the ring onto the floor and into tables and chairs the way today’s WWE stars do.

"Well, they picked all that up from the Mexicans," Lunkwicz says. "Mexican wrestlers are called ‘luchadores’ and they did a lot of somersaults off the ropes and the American wrestlers picked that up."

The result being an endless parade of new faces and career-ending injuries.

"Take The Edge," Lunkwicz says. "He retired this year and he wasn’t that old – he was in his mid-30s. he had to have his neck fused. He was out of wrestling a year or so after he was injured and he came back, but he just couldn’t do it anymore.

"They (still) come back – like The Rock, he’s going to wrestle at Wrestlemania this year – but they don’t wrestle full time anymore. It’s a lot more dangerous and a lot more risky."

The Rock will turn 40 in May.

"He’s probably healthier now because when you think about it, he’s been out of wrestling for 10 years," Lunkwicz says. "But he doesn’t wrestle weekly anymore. Like Kane, you don’t really see him wrestle much anymore. You see him come out and threaten people. And his brother The Undertaker wrestles just a couple times a year, like at Wrestlemania. And he hasn’t been defeated yet at Wrestlemania – he has a stretch there of like 25-0."

By and larges – behemoths aside, the wrestlers of today are far more buff than the stars of yesteryear, like Race and deceased local star Rufus R, Jones pictured at right.

There’s a reason Kane, 45 – who wrestles Cena Monday at Sprint  – and The Undertaker, 47, are still in the game.

"They didn’t have to do the dangerous moves," Lunkwicz says. "They didn’t have to do the moves that could cause damage to their spine and neck. They didn’t have to do the high-flying stuff."

That’s because Kane wrestles at a billed weight of 323 and his brother The Undertaker at 299.

"The big thing was in the old days, you had the occasional big guy like Ernie "The Cat" Ladd and Andre the Giant and the matches were more actual wrestling and less acrobatic moves," Lunkwicz says. "We had a match even at the Beamont Club."

With the weekly television matches and pay-per-views like Sunday’s WWE Royal Rumble going for $44.99, do many of today’s stars retire rich before their shortened careers get the better of them?

"It’s kind of like everything," Lunkwicz says. "It’s the upper 5 to 10 percent. First of all, the majority of them don’t have long-term contracts. That’s why you see guys come and go."

Like former WWE star Chris Jericho who is slated to appear Monday at Sprint.

"He was one of the superstars and he dropped out over a conflict with Vince McMahon, over how much he should be paid" Lunkwicz says. "And he tried to make it in a rock band, but just never did anything."

The 41 year-old Jericho was lead singer in the heavy metal band Fozzy.

Also on hand Monday, in one of the main events, is a wrestler known as The Miz.

"The Miz is an obnoxious idiot who’s catch phrase is, ‘I’m awesome,’ " Lunkwicz says. "But there’s nothing very interesting about him. C.M. Punk is interesting because he’s pretty small and he acts like he’s on the outside, but if he was an outsider, he wouldn’t be in the WWE."

And so it goes, in the WWE six-days-a-week, high risk world of wrestling entertainment.

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8 Responses to Hearne: The State of WWE Wrestling & Monday’s Matches @ Sprint

  1. Super Dave says:

    All Star Wrestling Back In the Day
    Jon Lunkwicz said

  2. Orphan of the Road says:

    The Mongolian Stomper vs Cowboy Bob Ellis
    This mid-60s feud ended up in a Texas Death Match at Municipal Auditorium. Once a month the show would move from Memorial Hall to the big arena.

    These two had gone at it for quite awhile and this was the end-all event. The place was packed to the rafters and the show in the ring was bloody. The Stomper was in charge.

    The the audience began surging towards the ring. The wrestlers barely cleared the floor before a full scale riot broke out.

    We headed across the street to the Muehlebach where Mr. Hawkins managed the restaurant for our ride home. Maybe 45-minutes later in come the two mortal enemies to have a late diner.

    The next Saturday Bill Kirsten filled us in on the Missouri Athletic Commission sending a decree saying the two wrestlers could never meet in the ring in Missouri again. And then he announced them as a new tag team to challenge Giegel & the first Bob Brown for tag team champs.

    A passion play in every card.

  3. KCMonarch says:

    Finally an interesting piece to read on this site!
    Thank you Super Dave.

  4. Bill says:

    Next time you want to do an article on wrestling…
    You might want to talk to a promoter who has an idea of what is going on today. You could have talked to Metro Pro Wrestling’s Chris Gough. The guy was a writer for WWE, and he has a good thing going now with Metro Pro.

    Also Chris Jericho is still the lead singer for Fozzy. They are huge overseas and tour nonstop until Jericho wants to come back to wrestling for 6 to 10 months. It was the same thing he did a couple of years ago. Jericho and McMahon actually have a great working relationship, and Jericho has also written two New York Times bestselling books.

  5. Rick says:

    Not to brag but…
    Super Dave u had pretty good stuff. But as one of the few local wreslting historians and with my best comedy club owner impression I am the only one in the KC area with a wrestling book in the hall of fame. So a few minor corrections. The Stomper was actually Archie Gouldie and he to the best of my knowledge was never part of the Assassins. Unless something recently happened to him he is still alive and living in the smokey mountain region where he lasted wrestled.

    A local and also deceased wrestler was part of the Assassins. Ray Hercules Hernadez was a one time member of the Assassins.

    Bob Morse used to be a trrainer of local police. Also a notorious drinker.

    While Danny Little Bear was loved by the audience he was hated by fellow wrestlers and was slammed pretty hard in Chris Cough’s video account of central states wrestling. Also some drug accusations made against him.

    Bulldog liked by everyone? Not quite. Sometimes heel. Sometimes face. Often resented by other wrestlers when he was the booker for pushing himself. But also admired for taking off the robe moves at an old age.

    Central States wrestling was also a hotbed for something not well known……homosexuals. Sadly one fo there announcerts died of aids and ring worker and sometime wrestler Terry Garvin was involved in several underage homosexual scandals. He was the Jerry Sandusky of his age. Got to say I’ve always wonder about….Giegel???

    Saw Race and other wrestlers at his wife’s funeral a few years back.

  6. Super Dave says:

    So you have a book big deal lots of people do
    Your wrong Rick, Archie Gouldie was known as The Mongolian Stomper. You got your Stompers mixed up.

  7. Rick says:

    NO Super Dave
    you are wrong and have your Stomper’s mixed up.

    Yes when Archie first came to KC in the early 60’s he was known as the Mongolian Stomper. However he eventually dropped the Mongolian from his name after he became a babyface and never used Mongolian again in this area. Though he did in other stints in other regions.

    Your Stomper John Steele Hill NEVER wrestled in the KC area as the Stomper. He did however wrestle here as Jerry Valiant and won the central states tag titles with Roger “Nature Boy” Kirby a few times in 1982 I believe..

    Also if you go to Wikepidia and look under central states title you will see Archie winning the title in 64 and the 70’s I believe. He is listed as the Stomper not Mongolian Stomper. The second title win was over Black Angus another local legend.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. macho man says:

    Hey rick
    Good stuff. Love wrestling. Love your info. Don’t love guys though.

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