Home / Uncategorised  / LOOKING BACK: WWF IN THE 80s: ROCK & WRESTLING CONNECTION


LOOKING BACK: WWF IN THE 80s: ROCK & WRESTLING CONNECTION

On January 23rd, 1984, Hulk Hogan pinned the Iron Sheik to win the WWF (know called WWE) World Championship. This began a phenomenon lovingly referred to as “Hulkamania.” It also set off one of the more interesting periods in professional wrestling, and in pop music, which came to be

On January 23rd, 1984, Hulk Hogan pinned the Iron
Sheik to win the WWF (know called WWE) World Championship. This began a
phenomenon lovingly referred to as “Hulkamania.” It also set off one of the
more interesting periods in professional wrestling, and in pop music, which
came to be known as the Rock & Wrestling Connection.
Having inherited the WWF from his ailing father in the early
80s, Vincent K. McMahon was setting out to make wrestling history in a variety
of ways. For those unfamiliar with early pro wrestling, the sport was
controlled and promoted on a regional level prior to the rise of the WWF. These
regions were called “territories.” McMahon’s power base in NYC and his
substantial financial clout enabled him to poach talent from these territories,
eventually eclipsing and subsuming them into his own.
After inheriting his father’s wrestling promotion, McMahon would go on to turn it into a multi-million dollar enterprise.
One critical weapon in this conflict was the insertion of
the WWF into 80s pop culture. Men like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage became
household names, and this was done in part by making pro wrestling “cool.” By
tying it in with popular music and other cultural fixtures, McMahon made the
WWF name a drawing point in itself, a sum of the colorful characters and
bigger-than-life storylines.
In 1985, Hulk Hogan began hanging around with 80s pop
sensation Cyndi Lauper on televised wrestling. Dave Wolff, Cyndi’s boyfriend
and manager at that time, was a huge fan of pro wrestling growing up, and
helped to engineer the deal with McMahon and the WWF. Prior to this, Wolff had
recruited WWF personality “Captain” Lou Albano to star in Lauper’s video for
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Things were about to heat up, however, and Cyndi’s
involvement in sports entertainment was about to deepen.
Wendi Richter, posing with her manager Cyndi Lauper
For the buildup of the inaugural Wrestlemania event, Lauper
declared that she was managing WWF Women’s Championship contender Wendi
Richter.  At Wrestlemania, Richter
marched to ringside as “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” blared over Madison Square’s
sound system, and beat Fabulous Moolah for the Women’s Title. In addition, she
began “feuding” (the term used within wrestling for a staged, extended rivalry
or conflict) with both Albano and infamous WWF bad guy “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.  A match was even hyped and shown on MTV,
called “The War To Settle The Score,” which also involved Piper’s fellow heels
(wrestling bad guys) Bob Orton Jr. and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, as well
as TV celeb Mr. T coming to the aid of Hogan. In his autobiography, Piper
recalls being tempted to hurt Cyndi Lauper for real; it was suggested by an
unnamed WWF employee that “the end of Lauper’s career could be the beginning of
yours.” Piper, however, went easy on Lauper but developed some real-life heat
with Mr. T. The two went on to have an (allegedly) semi-legitimate boxing match
at Wrestlemania II, in which Piper claims (in his autobiography) that his hands
were purposefully misplaced in his gloves so as to handicap him.
Hogan and Mr. T prepare to battle Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. Also pictured is WWF Superstar Jimmy Snuka.
Cyndi Lauper was not the only 80s rocker to make appearances
at WWF events and get involved; the subsequent two ‘Manias had cameos from
famous rock icons as well. At Wrestlemania II, The British Bulldogs, a popular
tag team consisting of Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid, were joined by not
only Lou Albano but the infamous Ozzy Osbourne. While he refrained from biting
the heads off any small animals, Osbourne did stay ringside with Albano as the
Bulldogs took the Tag Team Titles from the duo of Greg “Hammer” Valentine and
Brutus Beefcake. At the third Wrestlemania, dark rocker Alice Cooper
accompanied Jake “The Snake” Roberts to the ring to confront the Honky Tonk Man
and try (unsuccessfully) to unseat the Elvis-gimmick villain as
Intercontinental Champion.
“BRITISH BULLDOGS FOREVAAAAAAAAAH!!!”

Jake and Alice, pictured with Damian the snake.

Celebrity cameos and involvement at major WWF events would
continue well into the 90s and the modern era, but nothing could hold a candle
to the craziness that was the Rock & Wrestling Connection.  While the WWE is currently very popular, not
to mention a very lucrative company, it owes its initial launch into mainstream
entertainment to the brilliant mix of pop culture and sports entertainment that
took place in the mid to late 80s. It was a formula that made people take
notice, and that put, in wrestling slang, “an ass every eighteen inches.” That
is to say, the tickets sold out and the plan was a success.

bryan.eddy@newretrowave.com

Review overview

POST A COMMENT