When I was 17, it was a very good year…

The AWA began airing their weekly wrestling shows on ESPN in 1985, to my total delight.  If you had cable television in 1985 like we did, then you had ESPN — which meant that your universe of hot pro wrestling content suddenly expanded that year.

Prior to this, we had the WWF out of New York, which was campy and over-the-top like your goofy uncle.  And we had NWA out of the dirty South, which was gritty and raw, like that white trash kid who lived in your neighborhood trailer park and threw rocks at cars.

So the addition of the AWA out of Minnesota was an exciting breath of fresh air.  They featured a bevy of talented and handsome young lions to cheer for (Curt Hennig, Rick Martel, Jim Brunzell) who in 1985 slid easily into the rasslin fantasies that always played out in my head while I was bored in Geometry class, my text book placed strategically on my lap.

Perhaps more than any other federation, the AWA reveled in the sexiness of masculinity.  Their roster included several hairy-chested daddies (Michael Hayes, Jim Garvin, big Scott Hall, the Fabulous Ones) who proudly flaunted their manly beefcake, flirting shamelessly, their hyper-confidence inspiring lust and desire in my testosterone-soaked teenage brain.

One of the YouTube channels I follow has been posting the AWA episodes from that first glorious year on ESPN.  This is good classic rasslin, and a fun walk down memory lane as I recall at least a shadow of my youthful excitement when I discovered the AWA on ESPN.

This match from the 10/22/85 episode features the Fabulous Freebirds in tag team action.

I suppose Michael Hayes had a partner, but I paid little attention to him.  My focus was glued to this blond viking, with his dark beard contrasting with his beautiful golden tresses.  His thick hairy body was a total turn-on, forcing me to crave running my hands from his ample chest, all the way down that long treasure-trail to the tight black spandex briefs.

I realize Hayes may not appeal to every wrestling fan — he’s not as cute as Curt Hennig or as swole as Rick Martel.  But in my mind, his sex appeal is undeniable, and the fact that he put himself out there, grinding his hips and striking sexy beefcake poses for us, raised him from about a 7 to at least a 9-and-a-half.

I suppose Jim Londos had a partner too, but again, my attention span was very limited.  Why would I ever look away from his smooth physique, his clean-cut preppy haircut, and his perfectly-chosen snow white outfit.

Meanwhile Hayes steps in front of the camera to present his dick right in our faces.  He insists that we keep our wandering gaze on him at all times.

The AWA guys were well-trained and athletic.  Their moves were crisp, like this gorgeous Elbow Drop to the jobber’s leg.  The Heels focus on the jobber’s leg, proving that they understand and respect classic ring psychology.

This is in contrast to some of the big clumsy goons that other federations were beginning to promote just because of their epic size.  We could count on the AWA to keep it classy and classic.


I don’t remember Hayes using the Figure 4 Leglock much, but he really should have added it to his arsenal.  His dry-humping of Londos’s boot is a nice treat.

He’s like a dog in heat, humping your leg with growing intensity.  And those tall yellow boots, laced nearly up to his knees are kinky as fuck.

Like a good Dickhead Heel, Hayes refuses to release his leglock long after the bell rings.  Apparently he’s having fun and doesn’t want to stop until he reaches climax.

The outraged commentators use provocative language to further stoke our arousal:

“They’re not content for Londos to just lie there and writhe in pain — they wanna hurt him some more!”  “It takes a while sometimes to get the man unraveled from it.”

Now do you understand why gaining access to these AWA shows was as wonderful as winning the lottery to a horny young wrestling fan who just couldn’t get enough of it?

Now do you see why this horn-dog Michael Hayes and his bad-ass partner were able to not only intimidate me, but excite me as well?

Just in case any viewers still were on the edge, they show the Figure 4 in slow motion as Verne Gagne describes it in gratuitous and thrilling detail:

The devastating thing about the Figure 4 is that you are hyper-extending one leg with your own other leg.  You’re using two legs to do it…

This hyper-extends the ligaments on the side of the leg, the man’s leg is hurting right now.  You go inside, now he swings that one over.  And it’s the lower leg right now that’s gonna be hyper-extended, you can see where the pressure is.  He locks that over.  There’s two legs pulling down on the one.  And it’s one of the most painful in the world.  I use that one myself and it’s very efficient.”   (Oh Verne — you filthy-mouthed slut.)

The Figure 4 Leglock is being fetishized for how “devastating” and “painful” it is — and Michael Hayes is presented as heartless and sadistic for having mercilessly “hyper-extended” the helpless man’s ligaments.  I’m loving Hayes more and more.

As we go to commercial, we’re treated to an ad for AWA Wrestling on ESPN at 8:00 PM.  I’ll be tuning in for sure if they’re going to show us these chubby jobbers in sexy red speedos being brutalized by big bad men like Scott Hall and one of the Long Riders.

This is the wrestling I love, that respects its traditions, that treats the holds and moves as legitimately tortuous, that delights in violent and vicious tactics.





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5 Responses to When I was 17, it was a very good year…

  1. Mike says:

    I would have loved to have seen early 1980s AWA with rookie Steve Olsonoski feuding with Jesse the Body Ventura or Big John Studd. Basically the good looking 21 year old collegiate wrestler just thrown out to slaughter. Have a silent clip someone recorded ringside of some of Steve/Studd and boy did they not hold back in their freshman years and it’s surprisingly Big John who’s bloodied at the end but victorious. It’s obviously just an arena match and not TV but the clips are my favorite thing ever and I’ve searched to futility for the full match.
    As for AWA TV, yes Tom Zenk and Ricky Rice did make me gasp upon first look.

  2. RayAtL says:

    First, the Arsenal blog has been on fire lately. The “I, booker…” series is quite intriguing and the feature on the black jobbers instagram was excellent too.

    So, I’m a few years older than you and discovered the AWA on ESPN during my first year of commuter college. I had plenty of NWA growing up in the South and when exposed to WW”F”, I found it much too homogenized. But something in the AWA shows just rocked my world … no matter who were in the matches… like the previous post, Steve Olsonoski was a handsome favorite and god did I go for Michael Hayes… that hairy chest and heel moves won me over…. even Verne Gagne’s gut and great wrestling moves certainly “moved” me.

    I had read about the AWA in those typical newstand Wrestling magazines but it was an embarrassment of riches to have ESPN serve it to me. The first Curt Hennig vs Nick Bockwinkel match on the TV show (not the arena) is still my favorite match of all time and Arsenal called it “the Last Great ‘Rasslin Match” a few years back.

  3. Jb says:

    Hey mike- I agree- would love to chat with you about those old matches )

  4. Rookie Jobber says:

    My aunt was friends with Brad Rheingans and Steve Olsonoski (true story!). So anytime they showed up on an AWA match I’d always pay close attention, thinking how cool it would be if they would be my uncles. Even then, age 10ish, I knew I liked wrestling for reasons that were different than many people, but it took into my teen years for me to really develop the fantasies of having Brad or Steve O marrying my aunt, discovering my jobber fetish, introducing me to Vern Gagne and then turning me into a jobber for the promotion. But develop it, I eventually did.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow we’re the same age. I was 17 in 85 too. I miss those days.