Professional wrestling wasn’t always the glossy product you see on Monday nights with the cinematic video packages, pyro and constant references to social media. It also wasn’t quite as gritty and smoke-filled as some revisionists would have you believe, either. If you’re over the age of 30, you probably have fond memories of a time when you could not only watch the then-WWE, but, depending on where exactly you were located, might see Mid-South Wrestling, World Class, The AWA, Championship Wrestling From Florida or Jim Crockett Promotions. There was also Pro Wrestling This Week, which, once you see it, you’ll wish there was something like it for modern independent pro wrestling.
Of course, here at home we had Houston Wrestling, which lasted for more than half a century before Paul Boesch closed the doors on it back in 1987. So popular was Houston Wrestling that the sitting Vice President at the time, George H. W. Bush, sent Boesch a telegram honoring him during the show.
Before the WWE Network was a thing, actually seeing this stuff in the modern era wasn’t easy. Unless you were into the world of tape trading, it was practically impossible. Then YouTube came along, and while not everything from the glory days of professional wrestling is up there, a lot of really interesting video has been uploaded.
Take the above video, for example. It features matches from, as best I can tell, Ctrl+F-ing results pages, 1979 through 1981. It’s a great flashback to a different time in the world of wrestling, and well worth exploring on a Throwback Thursday or a Flashback Friday or just a Sunday when Netflix isn’t inspiring you.
Here are some things that stand out:
1. That sub-gif-level video in the opening is a great example of how far video editing has come and how, even way back then, promoters didn’t want to give too much away visually when they didn’t have to. Also, “The Biggest City in the South” is a nickname for Houston I had never heard before.
2. There aren’t a ton included in the video, but the commercials that are here are amazing. Just go ahead and skip to 1:30 in the video and try not to smile while Mickey Gilley awkwardly lip-syncs his way through a promo for his best-of collection, on album or 8-track, at a special price that will end without any advance notice. That’s followed up by a commercial for a sexy apron, because meat and potato night at the old homestead could be just a little bit sexier, wink. Can you really trust a commercial in which the announcer says, “It’s all in good fun”?
3. The first match on the card involves little people, who actually have characters and spots. While minis are a thing in Mexico, little people wrestling has largely been phased out in the U.S., even though Torito and Hornswaggle had one of the most fun matches in ages at Extreme Rules 2014. Shame they both got released; Torito was legit one of the best wrestlers on the roster.
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4. Paul Boesch takes a few minutes out of the show to talk about what happens when someone tries to steer you off the road. Was this an epidemic in Houston in 1979? Did Paul Boesch just have a bad night? Dude has a ton of advice for you if you think you’re being followed, including driving to a police station, not going straight home, and taking your tire iron out and keeping it in the front seat with you. Can you imagine Vince McMahon taking two minutes out of a Raw broadcast to talk about not washing your clothes with gasoline or looking both ways before crossing the street?
5. It’s so cool to see a wrestling promotion actively interested in the past. Yeah, a lot of classic wrestling is available on the WWE Network, but you won’t see the WWE talking much about anything that happened before the last PPV. Pro wrestling has a rich history, and it’s cool to see that there was a time when people weren’t ashamed of it.
6. Does anyone else miss the spectacle of two-ring matches? Not just Wargames, mind you, but any match involving multiple rings. It’s something that you’ll never see in modern, major league wrestling because just think about how many tickets they’re not selling by taking up that extra space on the floor for more wrestling. Balderdash.
7. Wrestling videos like this give us a window into what wrestlers were like before they arrived in the form we’re most familiar with. Andre the Giant is way more than just a dude an orange racist once slammed. Jose Lothario was more than just that dude who was randomly hanging out with Shawn Michaels when he achieved his boyhood dream. Watch enough online wrestling, and you’ll learn that Buddy Rose was more than the blow away diet, that Jim Breaks might be the greatest heel you’ve never seen and that Volk Han might be the best wrester with only 100 matches to his name. Do those YouTube searches. Fall down those rabbit holes. You already watch ten hours of wrestling a week; what’s a few more?