Presented by Sean Oliver and Kayfabe Commentaries
This shoot will be covering the happenings surrounding the WWF in 1981.
Rick Martel entered the year as one half of the WWF World Tag team champions along with Tony Garea.
Martel was wowed coming to a big time territory after spending his early years in Canada and smaller US territories.
Garea and Martel had mutual friends and hit things off right away. Martel’s brother died less than a year before he started in the WWF and Garea became a support system for him.
The Moondogs who worked with Martel and Garea did not work ultra stiff like later variations of the team would be noted for.
Lou Albano was a comedic force of nature and he made the locker room incredibly fun to be in.
Albano would go out of his way to put babyfaces over while stooging as a heel manager.
Vodka was Captain Lou’s drink of choice and would get progressively more drunk as the three hour TV tapings progressed.
Lou would mock Martel’s French accent during promos and crack Martel up.
Andre the Giant, Rene Goulet, Pat Patterson and Martel could all speak fluent French.
The WWF worked a slower style with big men, so Rick had to slow down his high flying ring style.
Martel and Stan Hansen worked together a bunch when both men were still very green in the mid-70’s. They ended up working together in the WWF and having a long run on top of the AWA.
Hansen worked a manic style and you had to work hard to keep up with him.
Martel and Hansen brawled into the dugout during SuperClash 85, the fight left Martel very sore.
Angelo Mosca came to the WWF early in 81. Mosca was a loud and proud mountain of a man.
Jim Duggan was working in the WWF as a jobber during this period. Hacksaw was already a fun loving guy at this point.
Bob Backlund failed to have the same emotive abilities that made Pedro Morales and Bruno Sammartino great babyface World champions.
Backlund being a mega athlete allowed him to be a success despite his lack of charisma.
Mosca got upset over a planned finish in a match with Backlund and he started shooting on Backlund during a match, Backlund quickly shut that situation down.
Martel and Backlund were both breaking in the business in 75 and spent time working in Florida together. Martel witnessed Backlund embarrassing bar room tough guys during this time. Backlund was used as a shooter to face marks by at least one promoter during his early years.
Larry Zybysko left the WWF after a long contract dispute following his feud with Sammartino the year earlier. Zybysko told Martel that the WWF would die without him there.
Hulk Hogan used racism to start a feud with Tony Atlas. This leads to a discussion on how race baiting is no longer feasible for a P.C. product.
Hogan and Martel ended up being roommates while working in the AWA.
Backlund was able to remain champion for so long thanks to his rotating heel roster.
The wrestling business changed into a glitzier product, much like Hollywood evolved into bigger flashier movies along the same time frame.
The Grand Wizard would say his piece as a manager and step aside so his charges could talk. Others like Albano dominated the promos.
Gorilla Monsoon was a veteran who would help you develop your skills. Martel suffered a concussion just prior to Christmas, so Monsoon invited Martel to stay with him over the holidays so he could be aided in his healing.
Martel made it a point to watch a lot of the matches so he could keep growing as a worker.
Keeping a title for a long time in a big territory like the WWF would only lead to more promoters trusting you on top down the line.
The Moondogs took the belts off of Martel and Garea in March. Martel wasn’t worried as Vince Sr. was trustworthy.
Albano bladed himself severely one night and bled buckets of blood. He needed 8 stitches to close the wound.
AIDS created a whole new problem for guys who liked to blade. Martel once refused to work with Abby the Butcher because of Abby’s blade use.
Andre the Giant fell getting out of bed and broke his ankle. They credited Killer Khan with committing the injury and he and Andre made tons of money on the top of the card. Martel blames Andre’s drinking as to why Andre fell.
Good workers had to have natural instinct to work with guys from Japan who didn’t speak English.
Hogan left to film “Rocky 3” against Vince Sr’s wishes. The locker room could sense the tension during the fallout from this issue.
Stan Hansen refused to be pinned by Bob Backlund in World title matches as he didn’t want to hurt his Japan money. Martel feels Hansen should have stayed in Japan in that case, and not come to a place where he didn’t want to do proper business.
There is a difference between working a violent match and looking like your working a violent match.
Moondog Sailor White was stopped at the Canadian border and detained due to criminal indictments. This caused Spot to replace him in the team. Martel feels White was a better worker than Spot.
David Sammartino debuts in the WWF. Martel felt the Sammartinos missed a lot of money making angles by not working together at this time, with Bruno acting as his manager/mentor and occasionally teaming up with his son.
Curt Hennig debuts as well and is given a solid push as an opening match guy with big potential.
Pat Patterson asked Martel to keep an eye on Hennig as they traveled the roads together. Martel eventually got Hennig booked in Portland so Hennig could work with better wrestlers and learn his craft.
Hennig eventually developed a huge ego in the late 80’s and turned Martel off with his braggadocios behavior.
Hennig and Martel made up in WCW a decade later.
Rookie Rick Martel was wowed by Dusty Rhodes’ gift of gab while cutting promos.
Rhodes wanted to be the centerpiece of a promotion, which is why he never worked a long stretch in the WWF until the late 80’s.
George Steele was articulate in the locker room but could turn on the beastly gimmick in a flash. Martel tells of a story of how Steele and others picked up a hitchhiker, with Steele reverting into his gimmick to freak the guy out.
Don Muraco was the total package at this point, and he made a great choice to be the IC champ.
Muraco had to fly back home to Hawaii frequently to avoid burning himself out.
Rick McGraw was known as a partier and drug guy already at this point in his career. He would be dead within 4 years.
Martel and Garea regained the belts and it gave them a renewed boost in popularity.
Masa Saito returned to the WWF. Saito was a machine in the ring and Martel loved working with him.
Battle Royals were tiring as you had to constantly be in motion, and there was no room for high spots.
The Meadowlands Arena was spread far out and it was hard to get the fans heat to generate to the ring.
Bruno retired in October. This sent shockwaves through the locker room since he served as a big draw and could be an arbitrator between the talent and Vince Sr.
Fuji and Saito used salt to help defeat Garea and Martel for the titles. They put onions in the towel that was used to wipe Martel’s eyes out in order to give him red eyes and put over the angle.
Jesse Ventura entered the WWF late in the year. He was a blast to hang out with.
Ventura stunk in the ring but he had the look and the charisma to carry himself.
Adrian Adonis came into the WWF at the same time. Adonis had amazing talents for a man who physically didn’t look the part.
Muraco and Backlund showed off their incredible endurance by putting on a pair of sixty minute matches on the same day against one another.
Superstar Billy Graham gave Martel workout tips when Martel was a rookie. (Do more roids?)
Monsoon’s big voice could sure be intimidating when he was giving out instructions and corrections towards you in the locker room.
The athletic ability it takes to put on a good match should have been more revered by sports reporters. The constant beating your body took should have also earned the wrestlers more mainstream respect.
The WWF was a great place to work as the locker room was relaxed and everyone was making plenty of money.
Their was far more pressure on the workers once the national expansion began. The money was great, but the travel was killer.
Andre and Rick Martel were working in Atlanta when they passed two women who were speaking French. The women started talking to each other about how big Andre’s penis must be and Andre shocked them by answering in French “Would you like to try it for yourself?”
Andre’s life got worse in the later 80’s as he had far less car rides with his friends where they could drink and joke around and far more airplane rides where things were quiet and cramped. His body began to give out on them and the non-stop attention started to get old.
Final Thoughts: It was a nice change of pace to listen to a shoot that revolved around the pre-expansion WWF. I have not been exposed to much in depth history from this era, so I found this to be a fun and informative two hour trip through history.