The show that made many of us fans is back, but is it really?
That’s all it takes to go back in time. You know that, right?
Sometimes when I am watching Raw, Smackdown, or ECW, I wish that I had 1.21 jigawatts, so I could go back to yesteryear when I was younger and WWE had me gasping for more each week.
If I had a DeLorean and some plutonium, one reason I would use them to send me back would be to watch World Wrestling Federation Superstars in its heyday (yes, it really would be a reason).
Every Saturday, early afternoon, in the late 80s and early 90s, I looked forward to watching the hour of wrestling action and suspense that Superstars brought.
Now, as WWE tries to roll back the clock and bring back its former flagship program from the depths of discontinued franchises (Blast Off! and Action Zone, no such luck), I hold back a tear and begin to reflect on Superstars, the show that I believe is the reason myself and so many others fell in love with the sport of wrestling.
After some Saturday morning cartoons, I would turn my TV on to Fox 29 in Philadelphia and get set.
The anticipation always began with the best warning I ever received as a kid (because I knew wrestling would follow): “These actions should not be imitated in any form whatsoever in the home.” How many times did my family and friends imitate the voiceover? I believe as many times as we imitated those actions in every form whatsoever in the home.
Then the World Wrestling Federation identification intro would hit either with “What the World is Watching” and then later, “the World Wrestling Federation for over 50 years the revolutionary force in sports entertainment.”
This would be followed by the theme song, which changed with the times, and hit its peak when they had actual wrestlers singing along to an all too catchy number: “Are you ready? Are you ready to go? Are you ready? Are ready to go?” Yes, Triple H was one of those wrestlers singing along way back when.
Then the commentator, usually Vincent K. McMahon, would welcome us to the show. Things can be said about how well “commentator Vince” actually commented the matches. With his “what a maneuver” and “1-2-3, he got him, no he didn’t” liners, the hold for hold play-by-play was not his specialty. But for his lack of calling every move by its name, he made up for it with his enthusiastic opening lines, during pay-per-views and every week on Superstars. “Welcome everybody to Superstars! Welcome everybody to the new generation! Welcome everybody I’m Vince McMahon alongside Jerry King the Lawler!” With all of his different color analysts, Jesse Ventura, Macho Man, Rowdy Piper, Mr. Perfect, Reo Rogers, Bobby Heenan, the King, and more, McMahon always kept Superstars interesting and flowing (at the time, most didn’t know, at least, I didn’t, that he was the boss, which is why he was probably so enthused).
A list of wrestlers who were to appear on that show would be announced with their pictures shown. I would always be hoping for Hulk Hogan, but rarely did I ever get that wish.
The matches on Superstars are not directly correlated with those we see each week on Raw. On Superstars, there would be the known wrestlers (i.e. The Big Bossman) battling an enhancement talent or a jobber, if you will (i.e. Iron Mike Sharp – who actually had his following, mind you). Growing up, not knowing the term enhancement talent or jobber, my circle of friends and family would call them nobodys. Because you had to be somebody to be able to get the honor of having an interview of yourself going on in a little square on the bottom of the screen while your match was in progress. Loved those square interviews!
After the first match, viewers would be sent to Update, usually, where the top news story in the World Wrestling Federation would be reviewed and of course, it all came “From the pages of World Wrestling Federation Magazine.”
There would also be a featured match week, for the most part, more to what we’re familiar with today on the three brands, where two top stars would face one another. In fact, some titles even changed hands once in awhile on the show. Demolition won and lost your tag titles. Mr. Perfect won the Intercontinental title in the finals of a tournament. Diesel defeated Razor Ramon for the I.C. title.
Local shows would be promoted in segments where an announcer would hype the show and then a few wrestlers would talk about their matches. This had many names including Event Center and Face- to-Face. This is where Rick Rude would make fun of Philadelphia fans and Hacksaw Jim Duggan would say Philly is the birthplace of USA.
Interview segments were a big rage on Superstars. From Piper’s Pit with Rowdy Roddy Piper to the Funeral Parlor with Paul Bearer to The Heartbreak Hotel with Shawn Michaels, (also Brother Love and the Snake Pit, which originated that other show) many memorable moments happened on Superstars in the confines of a wrestler hosted talk show.
Plus, you had the awesome, random platform in the back of the arena. This is where Mean Gene, Craig DeGeorge (or Craig the George, as I thought growing up), Sean Mooney (not his twin brother Ian Mooney, mind you), and others would interview wrestlers, before conducting the interview in the ring became the norm. The awesome, random platform would also be a vital location to hold the infamous Gobbledy Gooker egg back in 1990.
Superstars would also be the place for new wrestlers to show vignettes on their upcoming arrival. Dusty Rhodes showed he could deliver pizzas, wash cars, and clean toilets to prove he was the common man. Mr. Perfect showed he could own any athlete at any game by perfecting every sport ever known to man. Ludvig Borga laid the verbal smackdown on America each week during his pre-debut tirades.
Between all that, one of the most memorable parts of any Superstars broadcast took place. A section of the show, at the time, that seemed unnecessary, but after all these years, it is the part of the show that makes me smile the most every time I think about it. Each week, a voiceover of Lord Alfred Hayes would accompany an onscreen saying, “Promotional considerations paid for by the following.” That classic line would be followed by another: “Mr. Freeze Freezer Bars.” (There is some argument over whether it is bars or pops – the debate continues).
See, it was those little things that made Superstars more than just another wrestling show after all these years. It was the show that we grew up with.
The program would end with McMahon and company running down next week’s lineup. Most of the time, at least in my region, the show would get cut off before Vince had a chance to say goodbye. We would have to endure another week of school before we would be able to spend another exciting hour with our favorite show.
There is little optimism in my mind that the new version of Superstars will be able to replicate the same feelings I have toward the, as Michael Cole would say, vintage (everyone laugh) Superstars of days gone by, but just to be able to say that Superstars is back on television is endearing to the soul.
Why WWE has not put out a best of Superstars compilation DVD yet is beyond me. They do, however, have a great two page timeline of top moments from the show in the May 2009 edition of the magazine (which is a superb publication, in my opinion).
Another hour of WWE may be testing the limits of our maximum wrestling intake per week, but it being Superstars makes it a little more digestible. WWE Magazine even joked that they are pushing for a show called WWEdnesday. I don’t know about that. Maybe if they called it Wrestling Challenge, they might have something.
So as Superstars returns to the airwaves, just not in my area, yet, we look forward to seeing what this new hour of WWE action will have in store of us.
We already know it is bringing memories galore for many of us.
One upside already to the new show: in Philadelphia, the old version was always before or after the original American Gladiators. You know, the show hosted by Mike Ada…
– Brock Koller
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