Everything, All The Time, Right Now
I once rode a train from Longview, Texas to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota carrying nothing but a bag of clothes and the September 1987 issue of Superstar Wrestler Magazine. I’d picked it up because Kerry Von Erich was on the cover and when I was 10 years old, I’d all but decided I was gonna be just like him when I grew up. The long hair, the big muscles, chicks hanging off of him at all times, it all seemed very, very cool. Add to all this his asskicking feuds with the Fabulous Freebirds and the loud rock music that played every single time he hit the ring, and Kerry seemed to have the complete package. As I got older I realized differently, of course. Kerry had some severe issues and ultimately put himself in such a bind emotionally, physically, and legally, he saw the only plausible way out was to stand in front of the wrong end of a shotgun. His suicide in 1993 opened my eyes to the sometimes seedy underbelly of the industry, and actually drove me away from wrestling for a few years, but on that train ride in 1987, he was still bigger than life.
I would say the greatest thing about the pre-teen years is a complete lack of understanding of just how screwed up your surroundings truly are. At that stage, you’re not old enough to be taking on just a whole big bag of responsibility, but you’re close enough to the teen years where you start to test your independence a bit more. In my case, it was hopping on my bike and disappearing from my mom’s house all day, or starting up my Go-kart at my dad’s farm and riding for hours on my own, all over the wide open spaces. Around that same time, pro wrestling was also a very big deal to me. It was on TV a lot, and was largely inescapable. The Von Erichs in WCCW, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams and Terry Taylor in Mid-South, Nikita Koloff in the NWA, and Billy Jack Haynes in WWF, those were my guys, and every month I’d hit the newsstand to see if any of them made a magazine cover or had a featured article.
Print media was such an important bridge between fans and product back then. You didn’t have 1000 television channels to choose from, and that massive computer sitting in your den didn’t do much more than stare back at you, so magazines became a valued source for someone wanting to learn more about the wrestlers. Of course, the overwhelming majority of these articles that were printed were little more than propaganda pieces used to build the mystique of professional wrestling, but as a 10 year old kid I was oblivious to that. Guys like Kerry Von Erich and Billy Jack Haynes were superheroes to me. Exposing them as the walking, talking, wrestling trainwrecks they truly were would have accomplished nothing, and as history has shown, certainly would have done nothing to benefit the business.
I all but memorized that issue to Superstar Wrestler Magazine during that near 24 hour train trip from Texas to Minnesota. It was actually an issue heavy on the Minnesota crew during that time, as there were features on the Road Warriors (my favorite tag team at the time), Rick Rude, and Curt Hennig. I recall the Rude feature being especially cool as it was little more than a bunch of photos of him laying around in a pool on one of those inflatable rafts looking extremely cocky. That hardly seemed like a terrible life to me. The Hennig feature introduced me to Scott Hall for the first time, as it was a story all about how Curt had taken Scott under his wing and was showing him the ropes. The story was coupled with several photos of them working out in the gym and I remember thinking Hall had the biggest damn arms I’d ever seen. His mustache he was rockin’ at the time was pretty boss as well. That article actually got me into seeking out AWA wrestling, which was where I first saw the greatness of such legendary heels as Col. DeBeers and Larry Zbyszko.
We’re in the “Everything, All the Time, Right Now” age of information, and that certainly has many advantages attached to it. No need to have that massive encyclopedia set taking up a bunch of room in your house anymore, just take to the web and in a few short seconds, it’s all right there in front of your prying eyes. Instant gratification comes with a price, however, and I think our level of appreciation for things is at an all time low. The horse is out of the barn and is streaking, unencumbered, across the field. There’s no getting it back now, but there are certainly times, and this is coming from someone who is typically not all that nostalgic, that I miss those pre-teen years in the late 80’s when information was at a premium. Those years when the little things still mattered. I mean, consider the scenario: a kid, on a train, reading a magazine, for 24 hours, without complaint. Show me one kid in the U.S. now capable of that level of patience. Now, a kid sends 20 texts and watches 2 YouTube clips just to get from their house to the sidewalk. Call me an old man, but for all our ‘progression’ as a country, it’s done nothing at all to progress us as people.