Hogan's Heroes - Why pro wrestlers should be in the
Olympics, by Dave McKenna
Olympics sure have grown up since Jim Thorpe forfeited
a medal for having played bush league baseball for
pay. By now, the amateur façade has, as Ric
"Nature Boy" Flair would say, been dropped
like third-period French. The United States has generally
taken advantage of the move toward an all-pro Olympics.
When the just-for-the-love-of-the-sport boys stopped
bringing home gold in, for example, hockey and basketball,
America called in the professionals.
about time we did the same in wrestling.
not? Nobody save the Iron Sheik would deny that we
have the best wrestlers in the world. Yet in Athens,
for still another Olympiad, America's professionals
were kept off the mat while our amateurs foundered.
Domestic wrestling fans pinned their medal hopes on
Rulon Gardner, the beloved hayseed champ of Greco-Roman
grappling. Gardner decisioned Iran's Sajad Barzi to
win a bronze. A bronze medal? Only an amateur would
be satisfied with that finishthere's no third-place
belt in pro wrestling.
move to the pros would benefit more than just a singleted
few. The networks' hunger for spiced-up programming
has already given us synchronized, beach, and rhythmic
versions of every Olympic sport. Think of the content
benefits our pro wrestlers could add to programming!
Poor NBC had to cook up a heartwarming story out of
nothing more than Gardner's missing toe. With the
pro wrestlers around, you'd never hear a storyline
that lame again. In his autobiography To Be the Man,
Flair claims that the WCW's writing staff once cooked
up a hunchback character whose physical deformity
was so pronounced he couldn't be pinned, thereby guaranteeing
a run at the championship. Talk about inspirational!
we've seen in Athens, nothing spikes interest like
a good controversy. No one paid attention to the pipsqueaky
male gymnasts before wee Paul Hamm grabbed a South
Korean's medal after a fouled-up scoring decision,
then turned heel and refused to give it back. Such
scoring dilemmas would be the rule once the pros came
to Olympic wrestling. Forget amateur moves like escapes
and takedowns. How many points would a ref award the
piledrivers and sleeper holds our wrestlers will slap
on the competition? How would they score the Rock's
pet headbanger, "The People's Elbow"? And
what would Kurt Angle, one of many U.S. Olympians
to graduate to the professional ranks (sadly, nobody's
yet made the reverse voyage), earn when he finishes
off an opponent with the reverse body slam he's dubbed
has fueled great Olympic rivalries in other sports"Do
you believe in miracles?" and so forth. On paper,
Gardner vs. Barzi was a xenophobe's wet dream: America
vs. the Axis of Evil! Yet, in the hands of amateurs,
the match had none of the international intrigue of
Hulk Hogan vs. Iron Sheik, the 1984 bout that gave
Hogan his first WWF championship. "USA! USA!"
Now, that was wrestling.
we start doing the right thing and sending our professional
wrestlers to the Olympics, the world will follow suit.
There's just one pesky question that Games organizers
will have to work out: What's the national anthem
of Parts Unknown?
McKenna is the sports columnist for the Washington