“Piledriver” by Koko B. Ware
RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#376: The Rock n’ Rasslin’ Connection
My dad turned me on to wrestling. He grew up with golden age greats — guys like Mad Dog Vachon, Sweet Daddy Siki, Little Beaver and many more. I was raised on re-runs of those old matches (on the rare occasions they were on) and of course Vince McMahon’s WWF.
For me, it all began around 1985. McMahon had been boosting the WWF with cross promotions into music and movies. Hulk Hogan became pop star Cyndi Lauper’s “bodyguard”, and she began making appearances at WWF events, until “Rowdy” Roddy Piper assaulted her, kicking off a feud with Hogan that culminated in Wrestlemania I with Mr. T! It was a fun time to watch wrestling.
The wrestling characters looked like rock stars. Some, like the Demolition and the Ultimate Warrior, didn’t look too different from bands like Kiss. Most of the guys had long hair. It was easy to see the visual connection.
McMahon released The Wrestling Album in late ’85, capitalizing on his music connections. Wrestlers were given the chance to sing campy theme songs, while rock star Rick Derringer contributed a legitimate rock track called “Real American” for Hulk Hogan, for which a music video was made. This was followed by a second album called Piledriver, on which Derringer recorded a heavy metal theme song for the tag team Demolition.
“Real American” by Rick Derringer
Ozzy Osbourne appeared in Wrestlemania II, by the side of the British Bulldogs for the tag team championship. Wrestlemania III, even bigger than the first two, was attended by Alice Cooper in the corner of Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Roberts was facing off against a music-based character, an Elvis impersonator called the Honky Tonk Man. While Roberts lost the match, he and Cooper exacted revenge by dumping a huge python named Damien all over Honk Tonk’s manager, “Colonel” Jimmy Hart (himself a musician – Hart had a Top 5 hit in 1965 with the Gentrys on a song called “Keep on Dancing”).
The next step was a Grammy-style WWF awards show called the Slammy Awards. I caught the 1987 installment, billed as the “37th Annual” even though it was only the second. The wrestlers were given the chance to lipsynch their songs while chaos ensued backstage between “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and “King” Harley Race. It was plenty stupid, obviously completely fake, and a lot of fun. I actually watched it again not too long ago and made it all the way through!
The family went to WWF events about once a year. They were held at the Auditorium, and the seats were shitty, but we did get to see Randy “Macho Man” Savage when he was the champion of the world! It was Boxing Day, Dec 26 1988. All my shitty camera captured of him was a red and black sequinned blur. You can see Miss Elisabeth’s hair and arm holding the ropes for him. Both these stars are dead now. Savage was facing off against Akeem (formerly One Man Gang) in a non-title match. I also have some pictures of “Canada’s Greatest Athlete” Iron Mike Sharpe, and Axe and Smash (the Demolition with manager Mr. Fuji) from the same night. A magical blur, these pictures are! Emphasis on the blur.
I don’t follow wrestling anymore, and I haven’t since the 80’s. If I see an old match from my day, I still stop and watch it. Just like a good song, an old classic wrestling match sure can bring back the memories.
Who was my favourite, you ask? André Roussimoff, better know as André the Giant. Known for his huge size and equally huge heart, the Giant used to wrestle and defeat multiple opponents at the same time. Author of the Princess Bride, William Goldman said, “André was one of the gentlest and most generous people I ever knew.” For those reasons, he always will be my favourite wrestler. Second to André would be his friends in Demolition, Axe and Smash, who you can see in the pictures below battling the Powers of Pain.
“Demolition” by Rick Derringer