Thirty years ago today — May 10, 1988 — the World Wrestling Federation brought a card to Duluth for the sixth time. A television crew came along to capture matches for four episodes of the syndicated weekly program Superstars of Wrestling.
Joe Klander can definitely be called a multimedia artist. He paints, he sculpts, he puts opponents in a full nelson. His art show last year at the Duluth Art Institute was called “Strongman” ond explored his heroes and influences as a kid. He will appear on the upcoming season of America’s Got Talent, and a documentary about him is currently making the rounds at Film Fests, opening last weekend at the Fargo Film Fest.
JK: From what I’ve been told I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil, and watching pro wrestling not long after that. Mike Scholtz’s documentary “Kinderchomper” hit on my childhood-like arts and crafts art exhibit I was working on and my life as a pro wrestler father and husband. I am constantly reaching back to my boyhood imagination and dreams for inspiration and for some reason always ask myself the question “Would me at the age of 10 think this is pretty awesome?”
Trade in your candy hearts for some “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart and the Hart Foundation. The World Wrestling Federation was in Duluth 30 years ago today — Feb. 14, 1988 — for its fifth card at the Duluth Arena. (The WWF is now the WWE, and the Duluth Arena is now the DECC Arena. Times change.)
Terrance Griep is a Minnesota writer and wrestler who makes frequent trips to Duluth (see stories on PDD here and here). He’s subject of an art exhibit at the MSP airport; visit when you catch a connecting flight.
The World Wrestling Federation — now known as World Wrestling Entertainment — brought a card to Duluth for the third time on Oct. 8, 1987. In the video clip above, Randy “Macho Man” Savage declares his enthusiasm for his first trip to the Zenith City.
Announcer Gene Okerlund mentions Bam Bam Bigelow and Nikolai Volkoff in his opening remarks, but neither of them appeared at the show.
Thirty years ago I attended a World Wrestling Federation card at the Duluth Arena … because that’s something teenage boys did in 1987. I went with a group of friends that included Barrett Chase, who co-founded Perfect Duluth Day 16 years later. Seated directly behind us was a complete stranger. Eventually, the three of us ended up in business together … if you count goofing off on the internet as “business.” I certainly do.
As far as wrestling cards go, this one was pretty mediocre. “Macho Man” Randy Savage was in the main event, which was enough to make it worth the twelve bucks or whatever it cost to get in. A number of other well-known wrestling names were on the bill — Honky Tonk Man, Killer Khan, Junkyard Dog, Sherri Martel, Koko B. Ware, Dan Spivey — but the Macho Man was unequivocally the legend in the room.
Years later, all memory of who won or lost those wrestling matches faded. Barrett and I would end up going to five WWF cards in Duluth during a one-year timeframe spanning May 1987 to May 1988. Those events became mostly mashed together in our brains, but we could somewhat distinguish them by remembering main event matches or which other friends came with us to the shows.
Thirty years ago today the World Wrestling Federation — now known as World Wrestling Entertainment — held its second-ever card at the Duluth Arena. Above, Dino Bravo threatens Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, saying “I’ll break both your legs in Duluth!” Below, Ken Patera promises “lumps and bumps” for Hercules Hernandez and Bobby Heenan.
Prior to a Heavy on Wrestling card in Duluth this past weekend, “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart sat down for an interview on Fox 21. At the very outset he launched into an anecdote that seems to imply a tag team he managed, the Hart Foundation, wrestled the British Bulldogs in Duluth in the 1980s.
In the dressing room before the match, so the story goes, a dog named Matilda, the literal bulldog that accompanied the two wrestler “Bulldogs” to the ring, became agitated by Hart’s megaphone and unexpectedly attacked it. The summation of the story is that the surprise attack by Matilda in Duluth inspired planned antics by Hart at Wrestlemania III, the famous wrestling card that attracted 93,173 people to the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., considered at the time to be the largest audience for a live indoor event in North America.
The World Wrestling Federation brought its first card to Duluth 30 years ago — May 14, 1987. The main event featured Billy Jack Haynes losing a chain match to Hercules Hernandez. The syndicated TV program Superstars of Wrestling featured two promos for the Duluth Arena card tucked into the commercial breaks of local broadcasts. One featured Haynes (above) and another starred Adrian Adonis (below).
The American Wrestling Association brought some of its finest grapplers to Duluth 30 years ago, as the newspaper ad above attests. It was six months before the World Wrestling Federation juggernaut brought a series of shows to the Duluth Arena. The AWA, of course, was a smaller promotion and held its card in the Duluth Auditorium, with the ring placed on the stage the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra typically occupies.
I spent last Saturday night thinking and rethinking about cultural archetypes through the most popular form of American theater, the wrestling show.
Heavy on Wrestling, a Duluth-based promotion, has organized numerous cards over the past decade at casinos and entertainment centers throughout the region. Last week’s event at Wessman Arena was intergenerational. Baron von Raschke, who started wrestling in 1966, served as the “commissioner.” For those a bit younger, who remember wrestling on network TV, “The Million Dollar Man,” Ted DiBiase and Eugene were present; DiBiase signed autographs and Eugene wrestled Minnesota wrestling mainstay Mitch Paradise.
If you thought wrestling was something that only happened on cable TV, you are missing out. There are more than a half-dozen wrestling promotions in Minnesota running shows throughout the state. To learn more, follow the work of Razzling Rick.
Thirty years ago — April 20, 1986 — the American Wrestling Association held what may have been its largest show, WrestleRock, at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. More than anything that happened on the mat, the event is most remembered for the gloriously cheesy promo video, “WrestleRock Rumble” which blatantly stole from the Chicago Bears’ “The Super Bowl Schuffle.”
Duluth WrestleRock connection: Central High School graduates Scott and Bill Irwin, wrestling as the Long Ryders, lost an AWA World Tag Team Championship match to Curt Hennig and “Big” Scott Hall. It would be the Long Ryders’ final match. Scott Irwin died from a brain tumor on Sept. 5, 1987.
According to Ringside News, Superior High School 2010 grad Nikola Bogojevic is part of a group of new recruits training at the World Wrestling Entertainment Performance Center. (He’s the hulking mass at the far right in the image above.) These men and women “will have the chance to hone their skills and fulfill their dream of becoming a WWE Superstar.”
Professional wrestling great Nick Bockwinkel died Saturday night at age 80. The image above is from what was probably his last appearance in Duluth, as special referee during a World Wrestling Federation card at the Duluth Arena in 1987. (WWF is now World Wrestling Entertainment; Duluth Arena is now the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Arena.)