No Holds Barred

TV Guide – December 5-11, 1998
By Bruce Newman

No Holds Barred article title

Pro Wrestling’s Outrageous Superstars Are Pinning Down The Sport’s Biggest Audiences And Ratings Ever!  Here’s Why.

Before you see him on-screen, you hear him coming with the thunderously amplified sound of glass shattering into a thousand jagged pieces.  It’s as if Stone Cold Steve Austin had just kicked in the front of your television set.  And in a way he has.  Striding into the ring for Raw Is War (USA Network, Mondays, 9 P.M./ET), the feared dreadnought of the World Wrestling Federation glowers at the red light on the top of the television camera.  But rather than rushing to drop his opponent into that orthopedic hell known as the Stone Cold Stunner, he responds to the crowd’s plea to once again preach the gospel according to him, Austin 3:16.  “I just whupped your ass!” he bellows and triumphantly raises his huge biceps into the air.  Like Hollywood Hulk Hogan, who at this moment is doing virtually the same routine on TNT’s WCW Monday Nitro (Mondays, 8 P.M./ET), Austin’s greatest strength as a wrestler is his mouth.  “I don’t read from a script out there,” Austin says.  “Everything from me is ad-lib.  You turn a camera on, put that little red light on me, I’m gonna go.”  So turn a little red light on TV’s hottest form of entertainment, because as Austin himself might say: Hell, yeah!  Professional wrestling is ready for its close-up.

5 Reasons To Love Wrestling
1. Unlike Starr vs. Clinton wrestling, the bouts don’t last forever, and bad guys are easily identifiable.
2. It allows us to dream of one day seeing the Spice Girls vs. Degeneration X.
3. No animals are injured in the course of simulating violence.
4. At last, a place where Dennis Rodman doesn’t feel like an outsider.
5. In the post-Cold War era, it’s nice to think this is the closest thing we have to life-and-death struggles between good and evil.

Even against the strong seasonal pull of Monday Night Football and the contraction of Ally McBeal’s miniskirts, younger viewers have been abandoning the broadcast networks for World Championship Wrestling’s Nitro and the WWF’s Raw Is War, providing TNT and the USA Network a combined Monday night audience of almost 10 million viewers, a 36 percent increase since last year.  The WCW, which exists essentially as a division of Ted Turner’s cable-television empire, and the WWF – once a mom-and-pop-you-in-the-mouth operation that has grown into a $500 million-a-year company headed by chairman Vince McMahon – produce a dozen hours of new programming each week, of which as many as seven hours routinely wind up among cable’s top 10 in the ratings.  Weekly viewing for all wrestling combined is a whopping 35 million viewers.  The two Monday wrestling shows are usually watched by more young men, more teens of both sexes and more children than any show on the broadcast networks.  Among its target audience, wrestling is bigger than The Simpsons, The X-Files or Friends.

Wrestling last bobbed up in the pop-culture mainstream a dozen years ago, creating way-larger-than-life cartoons, such as the Iron Sheik and Sgt. Slaughter, whose chief preoccupations seemed to be race and patriotism.  This time, no longer even pretending to be a real sport, wrestling has gone postal, creating dark narratives of rebellion in the work-place, gang revenge, epic family soap operas of an almost Dostoevskian complexity.  “Now we’re going with the real issues,” says WCW star Hogan.  “We’re going with the fact that ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage is divorced in real life and [so I might say] ‘Hey, Macho, I got your ex old lady.  What are you gonna do about it?’  We’re digging a little deeper, personalizing it, trying to create emotion.”

The WWF has been wrestling with its own tough-love triangle of the androgynous Goldust, his estranged but pregnant wife, Terri, and Val Venis, who announced a few Mondays ago that he could not have fathered anything because of an old vasectomy, wrestling’s version of the disabled list.  “We’re not in business to try and dictate to the audience what stories they should want,” says McMahon, who not only runs the WWF but also plays its most hated villain.  “They’re going to tell us, and we’re going to listen to them.”  McMahon was listening carefully when he began his attempt to supposedly push Austin aside and create a more button-down “corporate champion” last April.  It set off a feud with Austin that has often left McMahon flat on the canvas, twitching deliriously following a Stone Cold Stunner.

McMahon might have gotten the idea of employer-employee conflict from the WCW, which in 1996 transformed long-time blond “babyface” (that’s wrestling lingo for good guy) Hogan into a “heel” or bad guy.  He became the ringleader of the New World Order, a violent splinter group working within the WCW to foment rebellion against its billionaire boss, Ted Turner.  “I wanted them to be rebels with a cause,” says WCW president Eric Bischoff, who is forever hatching dark plots or being kicked senseless as a sort of on-air stand-in for Turner.  “I wanted them to stand up and say, ‘Hey, Ted Turner, kiss my ass!’”

That idea became such a ratings blockbuster that it allowed the WCW to create a young adversary named Goldberg for the 45-year-old Hogan.  By last summer, Goldberg was the rage, becoming heavyweight champion in July.  That month alone, the WCW sold more than $400,000 in Goldberg caps and shirts.

GOLDBERG After an astounding string of victories, Goldberg has finally met his match.  “I’m 160 and 1,” says the 6-foot-4, 285-pound behemoth, known for a no-frills approach (shaved skull, black boots, black trunks, white-hot fury).  “I lost to a car.”  Recently, Goldberg was driving from the Atlanta airport to his home near Dawsonville, Georgia, trying to steal a few days with his girlfriend, Lisa Shekter.  Talking on his cell phone, he ran his Chevrolet Impala SS into another car.  The collision turned into a roadside fan-club meeting, as both the police and the other driver happily chatted with the WCW champ. “They got my autograph when I signed the police report,” says Goldberg. No one was interested in his signature back when he was just a football player named Bill Goldberg.  The former Georgia Bulldog played sporadically over three years as a defensive lineman for the Atlanta Falcons before a serious abdominal tear made him consider another line of work.  “I never aspired to wrestle,” says Goldberg, who since his college days had been friendly with pro wrestlers who frequented Atlanta’s weightlifting gyms and finally was persuaded by them to give it a try.  “But here I am, wearing my underwear on national television in front of millions of people.” Goldberg, 31, admits that his parents (Dr. Jed Goldberg, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist, and Ethel, a violinist, who now live in Miami) were initially aghast at his move to wrestling.  “But now that I am one of the most successful Jewish athletes since the beginning of time, they’ve caught on like wildfire.”  - Mark Lasswell

GOLDBERG
After an astounding string of victories, Goldberg has finally met his match. “I’m 160 and 1,” says the 6-foot-4, 285-pound behemoth, known for a no-frills approach (shaved skull, black boots, black trunks, white-hot fury). “I lost to a car.” Recently, Goldberg was driving from the Atlanta airport to his home near Dawsonville, Georgia, trying to steal a few days with his girlfriend, Lisa Shekter. Talking on his cell phone, he ran his Chevrolet Impala SS into another car. The collision turned into a roadside fan-club meeting, as both the police and the other driver happily chatted with the WCW champ.
“They got my autograph when I signed the police report,” says Goldberg.
No one was interested in his signature back when he was just a football player named Bill Goldberg. The former Georgia Bulldog played sporadically over three years as a defensive lineman for the Atlanta Falcons before a serious abdominal tear made him consider another line of work. “I never aspired to wrestle,” says Goldberg, who since his college days had been friendly with pro wrestlers who frequented Atlanta’s weightlifting gyms and finally was persuaded by them to give it a try. “But here I am, wearing my underwear on national television in front of millions of people.”
Goldberg, 31, admits that his parents (Dr. Jed Goldberg, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist, and Ethel, a violinist, who now live in Miami) were initially aghast at his move to wrestling. “But now that I am one of the most successful Jewish athletes since the beginning of time, they’ve caught on like wildfire.”  – Mark Lasswell

Outdoing TNT’s WCW is not a problem at USA Network, where high concept and wretched excess have led to a decisive 19-7-1 edge since April in the unholy war for Monday-night ratings.  Recently, the WWF made a highly rated spectacle of itself by having the Undertaker’s younger brother Kane douse three helpless opponents and a referee with gasoline.  (Kane wears a mask because he was supposedly disfigured as a child from a fire accidentally set by the Undertaker.)  Fortunately, referees managed to stop Kane before he could light his blowtorch.  Then there was a female plant in the audience performing a memorably obscene act on an Italian sausage.  Not to mention McMahon apparently wetting himself in terror during a match.

“McMahon is doing things that involve a tremendous amount of excessive, gratuitous violence,” says the WCW’s Bischoff.  “I know that sounds ironic coming from a guy who produces wrestling.  But the blood, the carnival approach to wrestling, the extreme violence, are all kind of shocking.  Ted doesn’t want to see blood.”

HOLLYWOOD HOGAN As a WWF star in the 1980s, Hulk Hogan was the sport’s golden boy, with countless endorsement deals, movie roles, even his own Saturday-morning cartoon show.  A decade later, the 6-foot-5-inch, 270-pound wrestler, now known as Hollywood Hogan, is a foul-mouthed, treacherous villain for the WCW.  What happened? After retiring in 1993, Hogan (born Terry Bollea in 1953) became disenchanted with his next job: making the syndicated drama Thunder in Paradise: “I was sitting in those trailers for 12 hours a day, going, ‘What am I doing here?  I could still wrestle.  I’m not that old!’”  Soon, emissaries from the WCW came courting.  Signing with the archenemies of the WWF might have signaled a crack in Hogan’s virtuous rep, but he initially continued to play the blond beacon of goodness that had lit up the WWF as its five-time champion.  Then, he recalls, during a meeting with Ted Turner and WCW president Eric Bischoff, Bischoff had a shocking suggestion: What if Hulk became a bad guy? Hogan unveiled his new persona two years ago, launching an anti-WCW guerrilla campaign (sponsored, of course, by the WCW) called the New World Order.  Hogan, who makes a reported $5 million a year, has found fans surprisingly receptive to the dark trappings of his new identity – with one exception: his wife, Linda, with whom he is raising two kids (Nicholas, 8, and Brooke, 10) in Tampa, Florida.  That’s because Hogan now dyes his hair and beard with a compound of Just for Men and Clairol hair colorings, black dye and peroxide.  “It stains like hell,” says the evil one, “and I have to be careful not to get any on the sink, because my wife would just kill me.”  - M.L.

HOLLYWOOD HOGAN
As a WWF star in the 1980s, Hulk Hogan was the sport’s golden boy, with countless endorsement deals, movie roles, even his own Saturday-morning cartoon show. A decade later, the 6-foot-5-inch, 270-pound wrestler, now known as Hollywood Hogan, is a foul-mouthed, treacherous villain for the WCW. What happened?
After retiring in 1993, Hogan (born Terry Bollea in 1953) became disenchanted with his next job: making the syndicated drama Thunder in Paradise: “I was sitting in those trailers for 12 hours a day, going, ‘What am I doing here? I could still wrestle. I’m not that old!’” Soon, emissaries from the WCW came courting. Signing with the archenemies of the WWF might have signaled a crack in Hogan’s virtuous rep, but he initially continued to play the blond beacon of goodness that had lit up the WWF as its five-time champion. Then, he recalls, during a meeting with Ted Turner and WCW president Eric Bischoff, Bischoff had a shocking suggestion: What if Hulk became a bad guy?
Hogan unveiled his new persona two years ago, launching an anti-WCW guerrilla campaign (sponsored, of course, by the WCW) called the New World Order. Hogan, who makes a reported $5 million a year, has found fans surprisingly receptive to the dark trappings of his new identity – with one exception: his wife, Linda, with whom he is raising two kids (Nicholas, 8, and Brooke, 10) in Tampa, Florida. That’s because Hogan now dyes his hair and beard with a compound of Just for Men and Clairol hair colorings, black dye and peroxide. “It stains like hell,” says the evil one, “and I have to be careful not to get any on the sink, because my wife would just kill me.”  – M.L.

At the USA Network, executives have a tendency to start nervously burbling euphemisms for vulgar when McMahon’s name comes up.  McMahon himself is unapologetic.  “Everything [controversial] is there for us to use in terms of the fiction we write every week,” he says.  “Quite frankly, the race issue [which dominated wrestling during the Gulf War] is dead.  If it were a real hot topic, I’d use it.  In a heartbeat.  I will unabashedly use whatever is necessary to entertain our fans.”  The lone demurral on this policy comes from Austin, the heel with a stone-cold heart of gold.  “I can’t say that I agree with every storyline we have,” he says.  “Every time you hear some racism or a bunch of the sexual stuff, that’s a complete turnoff for me.”

THE UNDERTAKER The Undertaker refuses to acknowledge the existence of Mark Callaway, despite the fact that they are both 6-foot-10-inch, 328-pound specimens and were born to the same parents in March 1962.  (Rumors have it that they even share the same wife, Jodi Lynne, and the same two sons and live in the same house in Nashville).  “Taker” only wants to answer questions about the Undertaker.  And his answers have a way of turning every question into a case of morbid curiosity.  So what does the grim grappler do when he’s not in the ring?  “I choose my next victim.”  Thanks, but we meant: How does he relax?  “I listen to the song of choice for that particular mood.  It could be any funeral dirge or AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell,’ which is a favorite of mine.  Anything by Black Sabbath is good.”  What are the Undertaker’s aspirations?  “To cause as much havoc and mayhem as possible and eventually become the next World Wrestling Federation champion.” It wouldn’t be the first time.  The Undertaker’s curriculum mortae reads like this: After making his debut in 1990, he went on to briefly take the WWF championship in 1992 and again in 1997.  From July to August, he was the Federation’s Tag Team champion with fearsome Stone Cold Steve Austin.  You would think Taker would be in a jovial mood, given the overpowering dominance of his favorite move, the Tombstone Piledriver, but you would think wrong.  The ghoulish giant is even offended by hypothetical questions, for instance: Who’s tougher, Undertaker or Mean Mark Callous (one of his many previous pro-wrestling incarnations)?  “Mean Mark Callous is dead,” he says darkly.  Sorry we asked, big guy.  – M.L.

THE UNDERTAKER
The Undertaker refuses to acknowledge the existence of Mark Callaway, despite the fact that they are both 6-foot-10-inch, 328-pound specimens and were born to the same parents in March 1962. (Rumors have it that they even share the same wife, Jodi Lynne, and the same two sons and live in the same house in Nashville). “Taker” only wants to answer questions about the Undertaker. And his answers have a way of turning every question into a case of morbid curiosity. So what does the grim grappler do when he’s not in the ring? “I choose my next victim.” Thanks, but we meant: How does he relax? “I listen to the song of choice for that particular mood. It could be any funeral dirge or AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell,’ which is a favorite of mine. Anything by Black Sabbath is good.” What are the Undertaker’s aspirations? “To cause as much havoc and mayhem as possible and eventually become the next World Wrestling Federation champion.”
It wouldn’t be the first time. The Undertaker’s curriculum mortae reads like this: After making his debut in 1990, he went on to briefly take the WWF championship in 1992 and again in 1997. From July to August, he was the Federation’s Tag Team champion with fearsome Stone Cold Steve Austin. You would think Taker would be in a jovial mood, given the overpowering dominance of his favorite move, the Tombstone Piledriver, but you would think wrong. The ghoulish giant is even offended by hypothetical questions, for instance: Who’s tougher, Undertaker or Mean Mark Callous (one of his many previous pro-wrestling incarnations)? “Mean Mark Callous is dead,” he says darkly. Sorry we asked, big guy.  – M.L.

With continually sold-out arenas now accounting for only a fraction of wrestling’s muscular bottom line, television has become its glorious, incandescent fountainhead.  The cable shows serve as diverting infomercials for the monthly pay-per-view extravaganzas to which the storylines inexorably build.  Those subscription bonanzas, in turn, drive the sale of the Undertaker home video on the Home Shopping Network and a Goldberg collectible figure on QVC.  (Home Shopping Network sets up temporary studios in the arenas so the wrestlers can be part of the real action, which is in licensing fees and other ancillary sales, valued in the tens of millions of dollars.  QVC plans to do the same beginning December 30.)  Almost everything connected with wrestling is merchandised these days, from hats and shirts to temporary tattoos and beach towels.  The WCW has ever sponsored a car in NASCAR’s Busch series for the last three seasons, while the WWF is planning a casino in Las Vegas and a theme restaurant in New York City’s Times Square.

STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN Once he was Stunning Steve, a preening pro wrestler with a flowing, golden mane.  But Steve Austin isn’t blond anymore, he’s completely frosted: stone-cold furious at his opponents, at wrestling officials, at life in general.  That’s his ring identity, anyway.  His raging-nihilist persona, which he has been using to ice WWF foes for the last three years, has proaic roots.  Austin, 33, was born Steven Williams in Victoria, Texas.  He was working on a loading dock when he decided to try his hand at tossing around bodies instead of boxes and joined the WCW as a pretty boy.  But he didn’t last long, being dismissed in 1995.  (Austin claims he was dumped after he tore a tricep muscle; WCW president Eric Bischoff says, “It was his lack of communication with [us], a relatively poor attitude and a long track record of injuries that made us think keeping him under contract wasn’t a great idea.”) “I was really pissed off about the way I was treated, but getting fired from the WCW was the best thing that could have happened to me,” says the 6-foot-2, 252-poud wrestler.  He reemerged later that year as a grappler who was less fabulous than furious on Extremem Championship Wrestling (yet another made-for-TV circuit), and his seething ring performances worked.  Austin was recruited by the WWF. That’s when he chopped off the locks and forged his Stone Cold character – with a little help from cable TV.  “I saw an HBO special on serial killers – that’s what gave me the concept of a guy who basically doesn’t give a damn about anybody.”  But the icon of anger is careful not to take his image too far.  “I don’t endorse serial killers in any way, shape or form,” he says.  “Stone Cold Steve Austin is basically a redneck from South Texas.”  Although he claims to have taken more than 200 stitches in his face (“There’s people with more.  I’m just giving you my statistics”), Austin, who makes a reported $2 million a year, wants to keep wrestling as long as he can.  “There’s nothing like being in front of 15,000, 20,000 people.  It’s a pure adrenalin rush.  I like being in front of people.  When I’m done with this, I’d like to try some Hollywood acting.”  - M.L.

STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
Once he was Stunning Steve, a preening pro wrestler with a flowing, golden mane. But Steve Austin isn’t blond anymore, he’s completely frosted: stone-cold furious at his opponents, at wrestling officials, at life in general. That’s his ring identity, anyway. His raging-nihilist persona, which he has been using to ice WWF foes for the last three years, has proaic roots. Austin, 33, was born Steven Williams in Victoria, Texas. He was working on a loading dock when he decided to try his hand at tossing around bodies instead of boxes and joined the WCW as a pretty boy. But he didn’t last long, being dismissed in 1995. (Austin claims he was dumped after he tore a tricep muscle; WCW president Eric Bischoff says, “It was his lack of communication with [us], a relatively poor attitude and a long track record of injuries that made us think keeping him under contract wasn’t a great idea.”)
“I was really pissed off about the way I was treated, but getting fired from the WCW was the best thing that could have happened to me,” says the 6-foot-2, 252-poud wrestler. He reemerged later that year as a grappler who was less fabulous than furious on Extremem Championship Wrestling (yet another made-for-TV circuit), and his seething ring performances worked. Austin was recruited by the WWF.
That’s when he chopped off the locks and forged his Stone Cold character – with a little help from cable TV. “I saw an HBO special on serial killers – that’s what gave me the concept of a guy who basically doesn’t give a damn about anybody.” But the icon of anger is careful not to take his image too far. “I don’t endorse serial killers in any way, shape or form,” he says. “Stone Cold Steve Austin is basically a redneck from South Texas.” Although he claims to have taken more than 200 stitches in his face (“There’s people with more. I’m just giving you my statistics”), Austin, who makes a reported $2 million a year, wants to keep wrestling as long as he can. “There’s nothing like being in front of 15,000, 20,000 people. It’s a pure adrenalin rush. I like being in front of people. When I’m done with this, I’d like to try some Hollywood acting.”  – M.L.

Not even the widespread assumption that many wrestlers use steroids to pump up their brawny physiques can harm the bottom line.  In fact, the rumors may have added to wrestling’s outlaw mystique.  The WCW claims to have a testing program, although Bischoff remains deliberately sketchy on how it is enforced.  McMahon, who does not deny he used steroids himself at one point, says the WWF tests only when it detects signs of abuse.  What are those signs?  “If we found a syringe filled with steroids, we’d say, ‘What the hell are you doing?’”  McMahon explains.  “But the audience doesn’t give a damn.  No one cares.”

As wrestling’s pitchmen discovered in the sharp decline that followed its vogue in the ‘80s, there is a line that can’t be crossed without alienating hard-core loyalists.  The WCW has recently edged up to that line in an attempt to attract more mainstream viewers, promoting a procession of celebrities who have climbed into the ring.  Last summer, Jay Leno wrestled at a WCW event in South Dakota, not long after several unconvincing appearances by basketball’s Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone.

From television’s first tottering steps in the ‘40s, when there was more airtime than there was programming to fill it, wrestling has been the medium’s alarmingly big-boned stepchild.  Almost purely visual in the beginning – like Kabuki but with blondes – wrestling is now driven by storylines so powerful, they could almost work as radio.  “It’s total male soap opera now,” says Dave Meltzer, the editor of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter.  “The characters are more realistic because that’s what the public wants, a Jerry Springer-type show.  It’s a lot more talking and a lot less wrestling than it used to be.”

VENTURA’S HIGHWAY It’s Veteran’s Day, and Minnesota Governor-elect Jesse “The Body” Ventura wends his way through the long-term-care ward of the Minneapolis V.A. hospital.  The patients brighten perceptibly when the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Ventura enters their rooms passing out cards drawn by kindergartners. For Sunday-morning pundits, Ventura’s victory proved as jaw-dropping as Truman beating Dewey in 1948.  In Minnesota, however, the Body’s win signaled only the latest incarnation for the 47-year-old, who was born James Janos; he has also been a Navy SEAL, a professional “bad guy” wrestler in the WWF from 1981 to 1989 and a movie actor in such films as “Batman & Robin” and “Predator,” in which he plays a mercenary who shakes off his grievous on-screen battle wounds with the classic line, “I ain’t got time to bleed!” Now, in the V.A. hospital, World War II vet Don Levens jovially greets the governor-elect.  “This is going to be more fun than wrestling,” Levens declares of the new administration, led by the first Reform Party candidate ever to capture a state house.  Ventura alters the metaphor.  “[Being governor] is kind of like the Navy,” he says.  “You enlist for four years and then decide later whether you want to give it another four years.” This knack for speaking in common-man sound bites coalesced with Minnesotans’ historic delight in jabbing a stick into the eye of political expectations and propelled Ventura to the statehouse.  Viewed as a gadfly whose supporters were mostly young yahoos dazzled by a candidate who knew how to execute a Flying Nightmare, Ventura was virtually ignored by his well-funded foes (state Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III and St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman), who outdistanced him in the polls right up until Election Day.  But with the help of ingenious TV ads featuring Ventura as a G.I. Joe-like action figure fighting off evil “special interests,” Ventura managed to capture virtually every demographic in the state.  “Getting over” is what pro wrestlers call winning an audience over to your side – and Jesse “the Body politic” had just gotten over like no one before.  – Neal Karlen

VENTURA’S HIGHWAY
It’s Veteran’s Day, and Minnesota Governor-elect Jesse “The Body” Ventura wends his way through the long-term-care ward of the Minneapolis V.A. hospital. The patients brighten perceptibly when the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Ventura enters their rooms passing out cards drawn by kindergartners.
For Sunday-morning pundits, Ventura’s victory proved as jaw-dropping as Truman beating Dewey in 1948. In Minnesota, however, the Body’s win signaled only the latest incarnation for the 47-year-old, who was born James Janos; he has also been a Navy SEAL, a professional “bad guy” wrestler in the WWF from 1981 to 1989 and a movie actor in such films as “Batman & Robin” and “Predator,” in which he plays a mercenary who shakes off his grievous on-screen battle wounds with the classic line, “I ain’t got time to bleed!”
Now, in the V.A. hospital, World War II vet Don Levens jovially greets the governor-elect. “This is going to be more fun than wrestling,” Levens declares of the new administration, led by the first Reform Party candidate ever to capture a state house. Ventura alters the metaphor. “[Being governor] is kind of like the Navy,” he says. “You enlist for four years and then decide later whether you want to give it another four years.”
This knack for speaking in common-man sound bites coalesced with Minnesotans’ historic delight in jabbing a stick into the eye of political expectations and propelled Ventura to the statehouse. Viewed as a gadfly whose supporters were mostly young yahoos dazzled by a candidate who knew how to execute a Flying Nightmare, Ventura was virtually ignored by his well-funded foes (state Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III and St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman), who outdistanced him in the polls right up until Election Day. But with the help of ingenious TV ads featuring Ventura as a G.I. Joe-like action figure fighting off evil “special interests,” Ventura managed to capture virtually every demographic in the state. “Getting over” is what pro wrestlers call winning an audience over to your side – and Jesse “the Body politic” had just gotten over like no one before.  – Neal Karlen

It’s no accident, then, that its leading libertarian thinker is also wrestling’s biggest star.  Standing defiantly on the ring post looking out, Austin brays his gospel to another sold-out arena, while his fans refract it back to him with the red laser targeting lights used on high powered weapons, lighting up the massive promontory of his chest with dancing red dots.  Stone Cold is ready for his close-up.  Hell, yeah.

Hollywood Hogan - TV Guide cover

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One response to “No Holds Barred

  1. Classic Wrestling Articles

    So happy to finally have this article typed up and published. Some of the image scans may not be as good as I would like but it’s finished and I am happy. I have held onto this TV Guide for 17 years because apparently I am a hoarder for random wrestling paraphernalia but this piece of my collection has now officially fulfilled its purpose. Hope someone enjoys it…

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