On this day, the 19th of January in the year of our Lord 1981, a professional wrestler won a wicker desk on The Price Is Right. Before we show you the footage of what that specific brand of pure joy looks like, I must begin with who Ox Baker was, when he still resided on Planet Earth.
1. He Was A Fearsome Professional Grappler
Here is Ox looking like a cross between an old-timey circus strong man, Ming The Merciless and the bad guy from Wes Craven’s Shocker, a movie that you are going to watch immediately after you finish this article. I like how Ox takes the first slap to the face like an old lady on Hee Haw, full on with a look that says, “Why I oughta … ” and trudges after Ronnie “Pre-Hands Of Stone Apparently” Garvin to the ring. Now, Mr. Baker does lose a few chin whiskers here, but it was only because Garvin did it with the help of two guys you don’t know or care about, so let’s all shrug and move on.
In another fine exhibit of the late, great Mr. Baker’s work, here is Ox going toe to toe with Bruiser Brody, who is one of the few men on the planet you could put next to Ox and have people say, “Eh, I don’t know. Can I use one of my lifelines?”
This is also a fun, historical little piece of film as it is some of the rare footage of televised matches from Angelo Savoldi’s International Championship Wrestling in the northeast United States. The man calling this match like a documentary and after three Ambien is Angelo’s son, Mario. This match took place in Portland, Maine in 1986, so I’m going to pretend that is a super drunk Stephen King entering the ring at the end of the match looking like Jim Cornette in the alternate timeline where Corny is an emcee at a three-ring circus-themed gentleman’s club.
And here … here is Ox starting a riot in 1974.
Personally, my favorite part is when the guy in the Dumb and Dumber tuxedo gets up on the apron as if to say, “Uh, hey, guys. We might want to think about wrapping this up” and then two seconds later the first chair flies into the ring.
Oh, in addition to a long and storied career as a professional wrestler, he also trained The Undertaker. You know; no biggie.
2. He Was A Professional Movie Star
Here is the trailer for Jackie Chan’s Big Brawl, which features Ox Baker, Dr. Giggles, the voice of Aku, and the Big Nazi who Indiana Jones kills with an airplane in Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
There are few things this trailer has more in common with professional wrestling than the sheer audacity of trying to make Hong Kong look like Chicago. That’s some super kayfabe stretching for you right there.
Here is Ox going full method for the role of Slag, a post-apocalyptic bat fighter in Escape From New York.
I can’t believe no one has dubbed this over with “Bat Fight “ from the Eastbound and Down outtakes. What is the Internet even for, if not for that? Better yet, how has not a single member of The New Day cosplayed as The Duke of New York, A Number One? If Big E and Dean Ambrose formed a Duke/Snake based tag team gimmick, I would drive straight from Silverlake, California to Stamford, Connecticut so I could manage them as Brain. We’ll get Bayley to join our faction as Maggie and be unstoppable. Tell me I’m wrong.
Mr. Baker was also in the (thankfully?) lost wrestling movie Blood Circus but as this clip here contests, perhaps that is best for everyone. It’s sure as hell not as good as The Mountain Goats’ “Ox Baker Triumphant”, that’s for damn sure.
Neither of them hold a candle to “Wrasslin’ Blues,” naturally.
3. He LOVED Dogs
“The good that you can do in the world will always come back to you one hundred percent.” Could not have said it any better myself, sir.
4. Yes, He Was On The Price Is Right
Without further ado, I present to you Ox Baker on The Price Is Right: one of the greatest segments in the history of the long-running television show and Exhibit A in the case of the limitless possibilities of human joy — even in those who look like monsters on the outside.
Let me break down my favorite parts.
1. Calling a man who looks like that “Douglas” is just about the most incongruous thing I’ve ever seen. This isn’t like ironically calling a big guy “Tiny” or your dachshund “Killer.” If I showed 1,000 people a photo of this man, negative 15 of them would come up with “Douglas.”
2. I teach improv comedy for a living, and if half of the house improv teams at The Pack had as much natural chemistry as Ox Baker and Bob Barker, we’d have a waiting list in the hundreds. The effortlessness of the “especially if I don’t win” exchange is so good it makes me physically angry — which is the highest compliment I can give anyone. There is a lightness and breezy comfort between these two that makes me want to write 900 words about the Venn diagram of professional wrestling, game show hosting, and dedicating your life to the health of dogs.
3. People love to tell us rasslin’ connoisseurs that wrestling is fake, but I ask you this: What are the chances that Ox “I Like To Hurt People” Baker knows the actual price of a fancy wall clock better than three women? I’m not saying the fix in, but I am saying that the producer in the control room took one look at the barbarian gold mine on their screen and bellowed, “I don’t care if he bids a billion dollars, I want that bearded mountain spinning the wheel after the next commercial break! That’s just good television!” I want to direct the Netflix series remake of Quiz Show, put Braun Strowman in the John Turturro role and put a down payment on a house.
4. “Now the two best-looking men in the world are on this stage right now” makes me ache for the days when they would let guys cut promos as themselves. How goddamn charming is that? Bob Barker is genuinely enjoying himself immensely here and handling himself like he’s stood next to giant funny gladiators his entire life. I defy you to tell me that if you switched out Bob Barker for Lance Russell you’d be able to tell the difference.
5. They double down on the “Ox Baker knows his interior decorating” gimmick, and it is incredible. A massive hat tip to the same producer for being savvy enough to know that the way to Ox’s heart is through wicker furniture.
6. The Abbot and Costello routine continues when Bob and Ox (trademark pending) reminisce about their time in Missouri. I’m waiting for Barker to throw on a baseball uniform and bewilder the big man with the unusual names of the players on the team Bob manages.
7. Ox Baker gives Bob Barker the secret handshake after he wins, and I died. This is my corpse writing this article. In lieu of flowers, please send your condolences and a small donation to The Cauliflower Alley Club.
8. The swerve at the end where Ox a) doesn’t hulk up, spin the wheel with all his might and send it crashing into the crowd like an errant tire from a NASCAR crash, b) the “near fall” where it looks like Ox is going to end up with 90 or 100 on the wheel, and c) Ox ultimately doesn’t make it to the Showcase Showdown. I guess the producer felt like he had pushed the limits of storytelling as far as he could go and was on the verge of losing the audience completely.
When it was all said and done, Ox ends his time on The Price Is Right with the same grace, class and good humor that he showed for the entirety of his life on this planet.
Ox Baker’s catchphrase in wrestling was “I like to hurt people.” To quote another Will Ferrell character, “I don’t believe you.”