Quad-City Times – December 12, 1984
By Craig Cooper
Give us your tired, your wretched, your poor, your weak-minded, your infirm, your zombies yearning to see blood spilled. Charge them $6, $8 and $10 per seat, and you’ve got a pro wrestling crowd.
The crowd of 5,000 or so in Rock Island High School Fieldhouse this Monday night is a walking, breathing, sociology textbook. There appear to be even a few that the sociologists wouldn’t be able to stratify. On the spectrum of crowds, with the ballet crowd a 1 and the crowd that shows for a riot at 10, this is a solid 9.
“All we got here are wackos and wombats,” says one of the dozen police officers on hand to keep the whole thing from getting out of hand.
“Look at this. This IS America,” says a school official at least half seriously.
On hand are three teen-agers wearing Iranian headresses. They quickly work the crowd into a frothing, patriotic frenzy with Sousa march music playing over the loudspeaker.
There are young kids and middle-aged men dressed in combat fatigues, complete with the wide-brimmed “D.I.” hats. They have come to see the flag-waving Sergeant Slaughter, who is a no-show.
Standing on their chairs at ringside are a well-dressed, affluent-looking couple who are laughing uncontrollably, not only at the action in the ring but also the action in the crowd. This is more fun than a Three Stooges video.
And more kids. The place is crawling with young kids who want autographs and older ones who want to heckle and throw paper cups at Nikolai Volkoff.
Then there are the people who believe they are watching real blood-and-guts action.
Wrestlers Moondog Rex and Moondog Spot, who both carry giant bones into the ring with them, are said to be from “parts unknown.” That is somewhere between Mars and the Ozarks. From the looks of the crowd, Moondogs apparently have brought an entire busload of fans with them from “parts unknown.”
Raven De La Croix, actress-producer-stripper who is engaged to wrestler Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, says that Rock Island’s paper cup and penny-throwing crowd is nothing compared to the guerrilla warfare in the big-city arenas.
“You have to wonder about the mentality of these people. Just look at them. This isn’t bad, though. In the bigger cities they carry knives and all sorts of things. Now, that’s scary.”
One of the police officers shows a bolt, removed from a folding chair, that somehow ended up in the ring. The thought that even The Iron Sheik from Iran would catch a bolt in the head is frightening.
Of course, what would another knot be to that shaved head, which already has all the bumps, dips and scars of Interstate 80 in Illinois.
The wrestlers all use the same lockerroom, not even separate ones for the good guys and the villains. At the very least you’d think the free-worlders should be separated from the commies – Volkoff and the Sheik. They are all dressing together, though, and even after the most violent of matches all is forgotten until the next stop on the tour, which they travel to together.
“It’s like anything else. Some of the guys don’t like each other, but they are professionals,” explains Raven, who is decked out in a pink sweater, black pants that look like they are so tight that they come off only with a crowbar, and pink suede boots. “In the ring it’s serious, though.”
“I have taken Greg to the hospital more than just a few times to get stitches in his head. That’s usually after he gets hit with a chair.”
Raven says The Sheik is “really a sweet man.” Try convincing the mob of that.
“Nobody likes me because I hate America,” says Volkoff quietly, with a distinctly Eastern block accent. “There is more crime in one day in an American city than there is in all of Russia in one year.”
That kind of talk explains why Volkoff is one of the most hated men in professional wrestling. Like all good Russians, however, who are better capitalists than most capitalists, Volkoff knows a good thing when he sees one. Few in Russia make the coin he makes for just acting like our stereotype of The Ugly Russian.
Volkoff probably makes more in one month than most of his comrades make in a year. He even takes two months off a year; probably to go to Hawaii.
“Besides, could he be a good guy with that ugly face,” laughs Valentine, Volkoff’s tag-team partner for the main event.
Volkoff claims he was the Olympic heavyweight champion at home in Moscow in 1980. The record books says Ilya Mate won the heavyweight gold in Moscow in 1980. Who is going to argue?
“Yes, I’ve heard of Dan Gable. He’s retired now,” Volkoff said. He knows Gable, that’s good enough proof for me that he won in 1980.
The main event is over, and all the bad guys have lost. Every single one of them. The fans go away happy and refreshed.
The wrestlers pile into their rented Buick Regals in groups and drive back into Chicago for the next night’s card.
Rock Island, Illinois: Monday, December 10, 1984
(High School, att. 3,572) – Pat Patterson (sub for Jay Strongbow) beat Jerry Valiant – Bret Hart beat Moondog Spot – Angelo Mosca beat Moondog Rex – Tony Atlas beat David Shults – Blackjack Mulligan beat Iron Sheik – Blackjack Mulligan (sub for Sergeant Slaughter) and Tito Santana beat Greg Valentine and Nikolai Volkoff