When I was a kid, my Saturdays were booked solid from 6:05 to 8:05 pm. During those two hours I was glued to the big console TV set at my grandmother’s house (at least until we finally got cable). That was when World Championship Wrestling aired on the SuperStation in Atlanta.
All my favorites would parade onto the set to challenge their hated rivals; The Road Warriors, Magnum TA, and of course, the styling and profiling Nature Boy Ric Flair. These larger than life characters would then make their way to the ring to pound another opponent into submission.
The promised showdown between the heroes and their arch rivals never occurred on TV, however. Those collisions were saved for the live arena events, where you had to buy a ticket to watch. On free TV, it was invariably the world heavyweight champion against some pale, undernourished schnook who passively took his beating, lost the match and headed to the back to presumably collect his street clothes and gas money.
Over the years, I developed a fondness for these lovable losers; guys like Bill and Randy Mulkey. The two pasty, bleach-blonde jobbers would get their heads handed to them every week by the Legion of Doom, or the Four Horsemen or the like. The Mulkeys didn’t have the physical tools to be successful professional wrestlers; they were small, thin and, shall we say, not blessed with movie star looks. Yet there they were every week on my TV. Why did they do it? Couldn’t be for the money. They never won championships. And it sure wasn’t the thrill of victory, even a scripted one; the Mulkeys were world champion jabronis.
In a weird way, it had to be the love of the game or, in this case, the match. The Mulkeys were doing something they loved, and were doing a good job of it. They made the superstars look good by taking their beatings, got themselves on weekly cable TV, and along the way picked up a few fans like me.
Yet they never made the main events. They were never the guys you paid to see in the arena, taking on Dusty Rhodes in the steel cage match. They were content to ply their trade on the weekly shows I watched for free.
Weirdly enough, the opposite is true in football. We watched live on free TV as Alabama clashed with LSU, and a media spectacle unfolded for us from the comfort of our own couches. In contrast, this weekend’s game against Georgia Southern can be viewed only by purchasing the pay-per-view broadcast or going to the game in person. Nobody ever paid to see the Mulkeys get their asses kicked, but the only way to watch the Eagles get stomped is to call your cable company with credit card in hand.
This weekend, it’s likely some fans will choose instead to skip this one, to spend time outside or with their families, rather than watching the Tide mudhole Georgia Southern. If you’re one of those who choose to do so this weekend, think in passing about ol’ Bill and Randy, and all the other jabronis and how many beatings they took for the love of the game.
Of course if you’re watching the game, feel free to hate them, because this weekend, they’re the bad guys, and the Tide is going to put them in the Doomsday Device.