Kazmaier the wrestler?
The other day while flipping through tv channels I came across some pro wrestling shows. One was a WWF (World Wrestling Federation) show and the other was WCW's Nitro (World Championship Wrestling). I grew up on wrestling but haven't followed it for several years now and so I flipped back and forth between channels to get a quick update of both groups.
On the WWF show Mark Henry was wrestling
- if you could call it that since he looked like he could barely move.
I'm so-o bad huh? Anyway, I'm thinking to myself some things never change
- it was so stupid. Now you're thinking who cares about this stuff right?
Well seeing Mark Henry trying to wrestle had me comparing him to Bill Kazmaier.
Many strongman fans are unaware that in 1991 Bill Kazmaier teamed up with
professional wrestler Rick Steiner when his younger brother Scott was sidelined
with an injury. This short-lived stint into the world of professional wrestling
was something that most hardcore wrestling fans would rather forget but
something that strongman fans might want to know about.
|The first time I saw Kazmaier wrestle
I thought he was horrible but at least he was in shape and looked the part.
Mark Henry looks ridiculous out there and blows up within the first minute.
I think that had Bill Kazmaier started out in the WWF instead of WCW that
he would have had more success. The early 90's in the WWF were made for
the muscle bound behemoths like him.
For those who have not seen Kazmaier wrestle I've written
a play-by-play of one of his matches:
|On September 5, 1991 World Championship Wrestling (WCW)
held their 16th Clash of the Champions: Fall Brawl. This nationally
televised wrestling card took place in Augusta, Georgia with the featured
main event being the final round of the vacant World Tag Team Championship
Bill Kazmaier entered the tournament with Rick Steiner and had made it to this final round. In their semi-final match it was Kazmaier who had power slammed (weakly) his opponent for the victory, but the final was against a more experienced and tougher team in The Enforcers, Arn Anderson & Larry Zbyszko. Both Anderson and Zbyszko boast many titles between them and an even greater in-ring savvy and wealth of dirty tactics that is immeasurable. This was to be Kazmaier's first championship match.
|Since the main
event was for the world tag team belts it would be shown last. As a special
perk for this show Bill Kazmaier would attempt to set a new world record
in bar-bending. I should note that Kazmaier was recognized for that year,
1991, by the Guiness Book of World Records as being the strongest man in
the world. I believe this was for his 300kilo bench press record.
Kazmaier was able to bend the 3/4" steel bar but was sneak
attacked from behind by Anderson and Zbyszko who hit him with a 45lb steel
plate on the right side of his ribs. Commentators informed us that being
the tough guy that he was he refused to go to the hospital because he had
a championship match later that night.
When match time finally came Kazmaier had his ribs all taped up and his partner Rick Steiner assured him that all he had to do was stand there while he took care of business. Rick started out the match by attacking Anderson and Zbyszko before the bell even rang. The Enforcers quickly gained the upperhand while Bill looked on as his partner was getting creamed. The Enforcers continued to punish Steiner as they tagged in & out. Steiner did not even make an attempt to tag out knowing his partner was injured. But Rick fought back and somehow found the strength to suplex Anderson who immediately tags Zbyszko and then they double-team Rick in their corner. Again Rick fights back with the Steinerline (clothesline) on both of them. He then grabs Anderson and hoists him onto the top turnbuckle in the corner for what looks to be a belly to belly suplex off the top rope but gets nailed from behind with a knee by Zbyszko. Anderson then comes off the top with a flying clothesline that sends Steiner reeling and it is at this time that Kaz stretches as far as he can to slap Rick on the head, for those of you who don't know this counts as tagging out, and runs in the ring. He delivers a couple of powerslams then a shoulder block and scoops up Anderson for a military press slam and then Zbyszko but gets hit in the ribs on the un-injured left side (if only it hadn't been so obvious - HA!) and falls with Zbyszko on top for the three-count and its all over. The Enforcers win the vacant World Tag Team Titles. Total match time was 3 minutes and 33 seconds which was absolutely ridiculous for a main event and a championship one at that.
Bill Kazmaier did have more matches but then seemed to just disappear from the scene. I believe this was around the time that Scott Steiner returned from injury.
All of this brings to mind another strongman, Tom Magee, who actually did well in wrestling if only he had stuck with it a little longer. On the reverse side there have been a few pro wrestlers who took a shot in the strongman competitions. Pro wrestlers Ivan Putski, Ken Patera, Jerry Blackwell, and Superstar Billy Graham all participated in some of the very first competitions. Ken Patera was the only one to have any success in the WSM, but all of these guys were hugely successful in the pro wrestling circuit although none of them are active anymore except maybe Putski on some independent cards. Jerry Blackwell died several years ago from pneumonia. I'll remember him from the AWA back when it was thriving - those were the days.
Now Tony Halme can also be added to the list of wrestlers turned strongman, sort of. He has made a challenge to Riku Kiri, Jouko Ahola, and Juha Tuhkassari in the Viking Press event at the Helsinki GP'99. He's promised to pay FIM10,000 (approximately USD$2000) to any one of them if they beat him in this event. I can vaguely remember Halme when he wrestled and he were crap but of course this says nothing of his boxing abilities or how his press is. I'd put my money on Kiri. If the challenge is only to be an exhibition at the break then why would the strongmen even bother? Obviously it would be an unfair challenge in that they would already be tired or even injured from competing in the competition. If Halme wants anyone to take him seriously then he should enter the competition and level the odds if he has the guts.
|Anyway, I can see a lot of similarities
between the path that the strength competitions are taking here in the
US and the same road that pro wrestling took about 15 years ago. It reminds
me of the old WWF which was basically only a regional promotion in the
northeastern part of the States. Then Vince McMahon, Jr. took over and
all hell broke loose. It was good for wrestling at that time and was an
almost overnight success. The popularity of the promotion spread like wild
fire over the United States and dominated national television. McMahon
had great vision and seized his opportunity and today this once regional
promotion is still going strong although the Atlanta based WCW has an edge
over the WWF right now.
Can Manfred Hoeberl be the Vince McMahon of the strongman competitions? He seems to possess the vision needed to popularize the competitions across the globe. Already there are rumors going around that would indeed paint him in that role pitted against the IFSA. And just like in wrestling we may have a power struggle with two promotions each trying to survive alone. Only time will tell. Even so the WSM competition's popularity has already grown by leaps and bounds. Whereas before it was unheard of people now talk about it …..er poke fun at it which is at least something more than there ever was in the past. So I think that there is room for both but it might stretch the talent pool too far. Still I am glad that some people are finally putting together something for strength sports even though it's promoted mainly in Europe hopefully soon this will start to change.
Now I know there are some folks out there who cringe at the thought of the strongman competitions even being compared to pro wrestling and would rather not see it follow in it's footsteps because they think of it as "fake sport" well I've got news for them: the WSM competition is already thought of as a "freak oddity sport" so get over it.
Sami had this to say "At least Svend and I would not want to see the WSM change into even a bit of pre-arranged sport, or back into the circus-like atmosphere that it once was." Okay but just realize that pro-wrestling is great entertainment here even if you don't like it. Of course I think such things like a certain annual "Snowman" competition is just as ridiculous and really a parody of an actual strongman contest.
Sami further commented "This Snowman competition takes place in Finland and is organized by Markku Suonenvirta and Ilkka Nummisto. The competition has had for example the following events: digging through a wall of snow with a shovel, riding down a snowy hill with a mountain bike, dragging a sledge in deep snow, boiling water with common tools and rope pull over a hole in ice. Last year the participants included Marko Varalahti and Harold "Iron Bear" Collins. This competition is not to be taken too seriously." Neither is pro wrestling and by the way, pro wrestling isn't just an "American" thing as it is immensely popular in Canada, Mexico, and Japan too.
Note: Thanks to Mike for help in nailing down the time frame.