WWF, Before WWE: World Wrestling Entertainment’s Earlier Days
WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, has an amazing way of drawing droves and droves of fans. It is a unique production, mixing sports and entertainment. While the WWE entertains kids of all ages, I remember it when it all started as a little-known program with no bells, whistles, or celebrities and showed only on a local television station in New York.
The whole thing started back in the 1960’s, with the McMahon family involved from the start. Jess McMahon, father of Vince McMahon, Sr. knew a thing or two about promoting, having spent years as a boxing promoter in the early 1900’s.
I remember as a little kid staying up late on Saturday nights in the mid-1970’s to watch wrestling with my father and siblings. My dad worked long hours and this was our fun time together. We’d eat popcorn and make French bread pizzas. The show ended after midnight, and I’d rarely manage to stay awake to the end.
The World Wrestling Federation or WWF, as it was known then before they were forced to change their name after a legal battle with the World Wildlife Fund, had matches called by an announce named Vince McMahon, Jr. That’s right- in those days Vince McMahon was not the larger than life character we’ve recently seen have his head shaved due to a lost bet with billionaire Donald Trump. He was a low key character in the soap opera drama that was the WWF.
Many of the characters I remember, like today’s wrestlers, each had their own character. There was Ivan Putsky, known as “The Polish Power”. His theme song was Bobby Vinton’s “Melody of Love”, the lyrics of which were partially in Polish.
Then there was George “The Animal” Steele. Steele played a violent mentally deficient psychopath, who loved to eat the corner buckle cushions off of the ring. He had a green tongue. It was supposed to make him look freakish and scary, but really it just looked as if he’d just finished a big, green lollipop.
“The Samoan Chief”, Jay Strongbow, who dressed as an Indian chief doing war dances at the beginning of each match was also a popular character. And there were so many others. Even as a child I knew they weren’t real, although I have met grown adults who will swear on their lives that wrestling is real.
Yes, years before “Hulkamania”, or “Smack Down” there were the characters that started it all. These athlete/actors whose job it was to entertain and thrill the crowds in the theatre of the square circle.