On Assignment By Liz Hunter Inside Wrestling August 1990
The NWA raised several questions after their first New York-area card in two years rocked New
Jersey's Byrne Meadowlands Arena:
Will Lex Luger ever win the NWA title and, if not, how many more opportunities will he get?
When Ole Anderson swung Woman's shoe at Lex Luger, was it the impact or the odor that knocked the challenger down?
How does the verbal abuse suffered by the once popular "Z-Man" Tom Zenk bode for the future of fellow pretty boys Rick Morton, Robert Gibson, Brian Pillman, Marty Jannetty, and Shawn Michaels (to name but a few)?
Let's start with the third question and work our way backward.
There are two ways to judge the negative crowd response elicited by the introduction of the Zenk-Gibson team (Zenk replaced Rick Morton, whose flight was re-routed). Either the fans were exercising their displeasure at Zenk wrestling for the second time that night (he and Brian Pillman defended their U.S. title belts earlier against the Midnight Express), or they just plain don't like them.
Theory number one is unlikely. Past experience has usually shown if a popular wrestler was forced to battle twice in a night, he could count on a more enthusiastic reception than usual, an indication of the crowd applauding his courage and stamina.
"Fans understand the mental and physical preparation that goes into a match" says Steve Williams, "and they know that to wrestle twice in a night, with one match probably against an opponent you haven't prepared for, isn't easy. Even when I was a rulebreaker I could hear a few cheers of respect the time I came out for a second match."
Which leaves us with theory number two, and the fact that the boos, curses and catchalls directed at Zenk and Gibson indicated the majority of Meadowlands fans hated their guts.
"An entirely plausible theory" says my colleague Eddie Ellner. "Its about time the pretty boy element in professional wrestling was exposed as the frauds they are. I mean all of them, even the ones still being cheered - Beefcake, Terry Taylor, Jannetty, Michaels - every wrestler getting by with capped teeth and long hair. They're bums, a disgrace to the sport. Morton and Gibson should be hung by their bandanas."
"It's about time wrestling fans smartened up enough to distinguish between good looks and skill," Ellner continued. "Sometimes the two traits appear together. Rick Steamboat is skilled. So are Sting, Roddy Piper, and Rick Rude, and they are all matinee-idol handsome. But we have been too generous with others. Tommy Rich is a fat, bloated powder puff. Thank God they ran the Simpsons out of Texas. They were the worst. Weak, without soul, no heart, no skills, just long hair. The only strong thing about them was their cheekbones."
Ellner was shifting gears and, as his mouth gets excellent gas mileage, he could have gone on for hours. The point is well-taken, however. On this night in the Meadowlands, Zenk and Gibson were roundly booed by a hostile audience. At one point in their match against the Freebirds, Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin pulverized Zenk into the mat as many fans rose to their feet and applauded.
"Ever since The Road Warriors began attracting fans, I think the lines between good and bad have become permanently blurred," offered Associate Editor Bob Smith. "Fans recognize excellence these days and care little in what kind of package it's delivered."
Does that mean it's open season on pretty boys?
"If all I had were good looks, I'd have been six feet in the ground long ago," answered an angry Robert Gibson. "A sweet smile doesn't deflect a forearm. A little black book won't block a dropkick. People are just jealous. The idea that a wrestler can get by on looks is an absurd concept. I do my talking in the ring with my skills, not in the mirror with my smile."
"Face it, faces sell seats," Ellner responds. "A promoter finds some good-looking stud who doesn't make a complete fool of himself in the ring and pushes him because the fans love him. That's when the garbage starts. Referees have been protecting The Rock 'N Roll Express since they broke in. Personally, I'd rather have my sister date a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle than Gibson or Morton."
Before I'm completely out of space, allow me to briefly return to the column's beginning and question number one.
"The U.S. champion is the automatic number-one contender for the NWA title," explains NWA Executive Vice President Jim Herd. "As long as Luger holders the U.S. belt, he will continue to receive title matches. Will he ever win the title? Only time will tell."
Oh, and question number two? According to Woman's personal shopper, the feisty manager uses odor eaters in all her expensive shoes. I guess Anderson must have connected.
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