Gorilla Monsoon: A Birthday Playlist for a Wrestling Legend
Growing up as I did in the '80s, professional wrestling was more than entertainment, it was religion. The Hulkster, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage and Andre were all unapologetically over-the-top, one-dimensional; comic characters that did glorious battle for dubious reasons. It was a great time to watch people beat the crap out of each other.
Wrestling legend Gorilla Monsoon, who would be 75, was retired from the beating up people game by then, but he remained one of the voices of the generation through his commentary with partners Bobby "the Brain" Heenan and Jesse Venture. Monsoon narrated some of the greatest matches of all time, including all eight of the first WrestleManias.
At this time, he was also a consummate backstage manager, and his habit of standing just behind the curtain and troubleshooting earned that spot the nickname of the Gorilla Position.
Yet before that Monsoon was tremendous in-ring talent, and is often considered one of the sports great big men, and was a two time Tag Team Champion that could go toe to toe even with Andre the Giant and Bruno Sammartino. Muhammad Ali himself met his match at the hands of Monsoon when he entered the ring during a bout between Monsoon and Baron Mikel Scicluna.
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It's never been proven whether the incident was a work or not, but Ali danced around Monsoon taunting the big man until he found himself caught up in Monsoon's famous airplane spin slam.
So happy birthday, Gorilla! This week's playlist is dedicated to you!
Phil Collins, "Easy Lover": Monsoon's reign as a competitor predates the regular practice of using entrance music for wrestlers, so I can't start us off that way. Being as he announced the event that would become the biggest show in wrestling, WrestleMania, I thought I'd pay homage to the very first event. The official themes song was Easy Lover by Phil Collins... it was the '80s, OK? It's not much of a battle-cry tune, but at least it's catchy.
Gorilla Monsoon, "Down Song": From an easy lover to "Get down! Down on your knees!" This German doom-metal band did not actually name themselves after Monsoon, but rather pay homage to a legendary Manchurian giant that supposedly roamed the wilderness fighting bears and drinking their blood. Having said this, the band has no problem being identified with the imposing figure of the famous wrestler, who could easily pass for a giant himself.
Pras feat. Mack 10 and Reptile, "Yeah 'eh Yeah 'eh": Pras never gets enough credit in my opinion. Of all the Fugees I like his solo work the best. It may lack the poetry of Wyclef and Hill, but it's definitely better straight rap. Reptile namedrops Monsoon in his verse, claiming he's about to tackle like the legend.
Jane's Addiction, "The Irresistible Force": One of Jane's Addiction's best songs ever, "The Irresistible Force" is highly subjective and esoteric. You can spend hours interpreting the lyrics, but here's my take. Monsoon was famous as an announcer for the calling big matches "The irresistible force meeting the immovable object," which is a terrific analogy for the drama and ultimate pointlessness of all human conflict. I doubt Perry Farrell was thinking of that when he penned the lyrics, but the meaning holds true regardless.
Ray Stevens, "Ballad of the Blue Cyclone": As mentioned before, Gorilla Monsoon's coup de grace was the airplane-spin slam. Monsoon hoisted an opponent onto his shoulders, spun them around to make them dizzy, then dropped them from his imposing 6'8" height. I'll take you on out with the single greatest song about wrestling ever sung, in which Ray Stevens tells us of the Blue Cyclone's battle with vulture using not one, but two airplane spins. It just gets better from there.
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