Continuing from the first article of a much larger series exploring the numerous different eras of professional wrestling. In the first article I explored the history and icons of the first part of the Golden Era which lasted from 1984 to 1988. Now allow me to present to you the second part of the Golden Era which lasted from 1989 to 1992.
At the dawn of the second part of the Golden Era the WWF was riding high on the backs of Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and Andre the Giant. While the feuds and storylines were intriguing enough, WWF decided to add even more intrigue into their storylines and feuds during this time. It was in this latter part of the overall era that I was born in 1989 and in about 1994 when I actually first laid my very young eyes on professional wrestling thanks to my local video store, thus the love affair was born. First off let me begin by adding a couple of wrestlers I left off from the first part.
While Jimmy Snuka basically introduced the high flying style, Steamboat made it popular and turned it into a wrestling staple. Steamboat beautifully blended technical wrestling with high flying martial arts solidifying himself as the Bruce Lee of professional wrestling. Steamboat was involved in one of the most famous feuds in wrestling history with the Macho Man Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship. The feud culminated in arguably the greatest wrestling match on North American soil at Wrestlemania 3 which would be won by Steamboat. Aside from his high flying and martial arts expertise, Steamboat would mystify audiences as he actually breathed fire and brought a komodo dragon to the ring to counteract Jake Roberts' snake. Whenever wrestling fans in the future witness their heroes doing death defying leaps of faith they have the Dragon to thank.
The Junkyard Dog's legacy in the annals of wrestling is simple. He transcended race and became the first African American wrestling superstar. Now I know there were many great ones before him such as Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson, but none of them reach the height of popularity JYD achieved. JYD entertained millions with his dog like tendencies such as carrying a collar and chain and pretending to urinating on his opponents in canine fashion. JYD would also be the first to fully get the audience involved as he would invite children into the ring to dance with him. There will hardily be another as entertaining and barrier breaking as The Junkyard Dog.
Now onto the stars and icons of the latter part of the Golden Era. Starting off with one of the most famous and iconic legends of this profession. My all time favorite wrestler and the very reason I started watching wrestling.
This man right here The Macho Man Randy Savage, too hot to handle, too cold to hold, the cream of the crop cause no one does it better! I cannot put into words how much love and admiration I have for the Macho Man. the man who introduced me to professional wrestling, the man who made me believe that wrestlers were the greatest athletes on the planet, but my admiration for Macho Man is another article for another day perhaps. The Macho Man is easily one of the most recognizable and most quoted wrestlers in history, with his amazing and colorful ring attire and iconic catchphrase "Oooh Yeeaaah!" that makes the Kool-Aid Man wet his pitcher. Savage's popularity rivaled and almost eclipsed Hulk Hogan's popularity, no small feat. Savage's gravely voice and flashy clothing would launch Savage into pop culture lore. Whether he was driving his elbow into an opponent's chest from the top rope or masterfully promoting Slim Jims, there will never ever be another Macho Man Randy Savage.
If Roddy Piper and the Iron Sheik set the standard for being a wrestling villain then Jake Roberts took it to a whole new level. Roberts was not satisfied with just having charisma, he had to have dark charisma and introduce psychotic mind games into professional wrestling. Roberts perhaps is remembered for doing some of the most shocking things in wrestling first off by bringing a live python by the name of Damien into the ring and laying it upon his opponents, scaring them beyond belief as you would imagine. Another infamous moment in Roberts' illustrious career was during his intense rivalry with Randy Savage that started by Roberts placing his pet cobra Diablo in Savage and Elizabeth's wedding gifts. The infamous moment happened when he tied Savage into the ring ropes and actually forced his cobra to bite Savage's arm and striking Elizabeth in the face as he cackled with sadistic delight. Needless to say this was the first and only time I've ever cried watching wrestling (not counting today's wrestling, which makes me cry for other reasons). Although Roberts' menacing promos and frightening persona are the testament to his legacy, his lasting legacy to professional wrestling has nothing to do with that. It was Roberts that invented one of the most famous and used wrestling maneuvers of all time, the DDT. Whenever you see a wrestler trying his hardest to be dark and vile, just know that neither he nor you will ever see someone as dark and as vile as Jake the Snake Roberts.
If anything this latter part of the era brought us it's some of the greatest wrestling villains of all time like the aforementioned Jake Roberts, another great villain of this era as The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase. The very epitome of the corporate greed and corruption that defined the 80s. The Million Dollar man was Lex Luthor before Lex Luthor was cool. Effectively trying to buy his way to the very top of the WWF, even going as far as buying the WWF Championship from Andre the Giant after Andre defeated Hogan for the title thanks to an elaborate scheme that would see Dibiase hire an exact double of the referee through plastic surgery (the referee's twin brother in reality). Dibiase would eventually be forced to vacate the title. Even this didn't stop Dibiase for having some sort of title, so he introduced the Million Dollar Championship that was bigger and grander than the original title in all it's diamond studded glory. Even his own title didn't satiate his greedy appetite, he had to rub it in everyone's face how rich and powerful he was as he challenged audience members to prove how low they are beneath him by offering to pay them money to perform humiliating challenges which he would always tamper with in order to make them lose. Also like other great villains, Dibiase has without a doubt had the greatest evil laugh in wrestling history which echoes through out his theme song.
The ultimate pretty boy in this era. Rick Rude represented the egotistical jock that every guy wanted to be and every girl wanted to be with. If Roberts defined wrath and Dibiase defined greed, then Rude defined lust and wielded it well as he would grind his colorful and painted on tights in front of every woman he saw whether she was single or married, Rude didn't care, he knew he could make her weak in the knees and so did we with his chiseled abs and porn star stache. Rude is probably best known for his amazing feud with the next entrant on this list which saw such moments as Rude attacking him with an iron bar and having one of the most famous cage matches in history for the Intercontinental Title. Every pretty boy wrestler today models themselves after Rude, whether it's Shawn Michaels or Dolph Ziggler, it all started thanks to the Ravishing one.
Now enough with the bad guys and onto one of the most heroic and kid favorite wrestlers of all time. The Ultimate Warrior was probably the first wrestler that resembled a comic book hero with his face paint, wild hair, and erratic behavior sent thousands of kids into a frenzy as they painted their faces and pretended to shake the ropes just like their hero. Warrior represented a more out of control and animalistic Hulk Hogan who he would go on to face in one of the most epic clashes of all time at Wrestlemania 6 for the WWF Title which Warrior would eventually win, cementing himself and all of his nation of warriors into the annals of time.
Some of the other great talents that would emerge in this era such as Tito Santana, Koko B. Ware, and Big Bossman would also go on to have great careers along with legendary tag teams such as The Powers of Pain and Demolition.
While the first part of the Golden Era is sometimes known as The Rock 'n' Wrestling Era, I like to refer to the latter part as The Reality Era as everything seemed so real for me at the time and presented each feud as intensely personal. Many future legends would debut at the end of this era, many I will include in future installments.
This concludes the two part installment of the Golden Era. Stay tuned for the next installment which will see WWF's throne as the king of wrestling promotions be seriously challenged by an emerging promotion under new direction by a young and ambitious genius and an underground promotion that rose to immense prominence. So long for now, and good fight, good night.