Friday Wrestling Conversation: Which Wrestling Era Do You Wish You Had Been A Part Of?

“Man, I was born in the wrong decade.” “Wow, I wish I could have been there.” “What do you think that was like?” At some point or another, I’m sure we’ve all said these words. We see a movie, or watch concert footage, or pull up old matches where the crowd is electric and the wrestlers are whipping them into a frenzy, and we wonder just what it’s like to be a part of that.

We’ve all been talking about Dusty Rhodes so much since he passed, and one of the most interesting things is seeing just how varied people’s experiences have been. People used to watch him in Memphis, in Georgia, in North Carolina. People whose parents took it harder than they did because watching him light up an entire arena with a wink and a smile was how they’d fill their weekends. WCW and WWF fans who had to start with the polka dots and then backtrack. I don’t really fit into those categories. I grew up more poor than I’d like to admit, but it wasn’t in the South where people turned to the curly-haired bad man. I didn’t get WCW on TV, and I certainly didn’t get any of the territory shows. My connections to wrestling didn’t grow from the territory system, yet I think that’s the thing that fascinates me the most.

Wrestling has a predominantly oral history. But like any oral history, it’s those who are the most vocal and the most successful whose stories endure, whether they’re true or not. But sorting out wrestling’s past can be a fascinating, and sometimes (most of the time) incredibly disappointing. To wit: The Fabulous Moolah is hailed as a legend and a great contributor and pioneer of women’s wrestling, when, in reality, she probably did more to hold women back than some of the worst men in the business. The territories were snatched up and picked apart then dispatched. The bones of the territory system are still there, but they’ve been picked clean, and the cause of death was determined by the ones who killed it. And its legacy? Decided by just the same.

It’s difficult to think that I would’ve loved to have lived during that time because the struggles in life and in wrestling for women would’ve been worse. At the same time, there are so many individual points in wrestling that would’ve been amazing to witness. To just once sit in the Greensboro Coliseum in its heyday. To watch Tommy Rich and Buzz Sawyer fight in the Battle of Atlanta, something you can’t even watch back on tape. To watch greats like Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair and Ted DiBiase and Jake “The Snake” make names for themselves before they were co-opted and commodified by, as my friend Robert puts it, Vince, Jr. and his cartoon wrestling show. I love watching old VHS tapes of ECW, but I could bury myself forever in the Southern territories and be happy as a clam. There’s a unifying experience when you get two people of a certain age who grew up in the South, cutting their teeth in Georgia Championship Wrestling or the NWA. It’s the kind of thing that has you wishing you could’ve been a part of that, even for a moment. Wow, I wish I could have been there.

So, how about you? Do you wish you could have hurled epithets at J.J. Dillon? Experienced the rush of the ECW arena? Been there for Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi? Witnessed Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid in Japan? What makes you think “Man, I really wish I could have been there for that?” Tell us in the comments below!