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Solie's Tuesday Morning Report

Dedicated to Gordon Solie
January 29, 1929 - July 27, 2000

Solie's Final Edition

The Way I See It...

by Earl Oliver

Farewell to Solie's Newsletter

by Matt Benaka

Crossface Connection

by John Cross

The Solie Years

by Ervin Griffin

Volume 7, Issue 753 - November 3, 2003

Well, this day had to come. This 753rd edition of Solie's Wrestling Newsletter will be the last. Included in this final edition will be columns from Solie's regulars, Matt Benaka and John Cross. Also, Solie's original wrestling historian, Ervin Griffin has contributed one of the "look-back" articles that made him famous in these pages, this time, looking back at...Solie's Wrestling Newsletter, and what happened in pro-wrestling during the "Solie years". As Editor-In-Chief, I have contributed one final "The Way I See It..." column.

But first, here is an interview with Road Warrior Animal, conducted by my long-time friend and current publisher of the wrestling newsletter that inspired me to get into this whole wrestling writing game in the first place, The Bagpipe Report.


An Interview with Road Warrior Animal

By Blake Norton

“Part of my life is gone. Hawk and I have been best friends, brothers, everything.”

He was a consummate businessman. Hours earlier, he'd be in contact about The Road Warriors doing business here in Ireland. But now that wasn't an option; in such little time the landscape of Road Warrior Animal's life had changed forever.

Three days ago, Hawk, one half of what many consider to be the most popular tag team of all time, passed away in his sleep. I put the call through to Animal, totally unprepared to do an interview. “How are you doing?” I asked; and within seconds, we were on a journey through his life, his times, his partner, friend and confidant. Instinctively, I began taking notes on the beautifully candid web of truths, insights and memories he shared. By the tone of his voice and the manner of his delivery, it was clearly something he wanted to share with the fans, the fans that Hawk and Animal attribute their amazing success story to. There was a pure, unbridled honesty about Animal in the wake of tragedy that shone through from his opening words.

It took ten minutes for the business part of his mind to kick in, a reflection of Animal's candor and sincerity. “Hey... are you taking notes on this?” he asked abruptly, no doubt hearing the feverish woodpecker like tapping on a keyboard in the background.

“Yes” I answered.

And forward we went.

This wasn't an interview, it was a conversation between friends who probably work far too much for their own good; so in accordance with the wishes of former world tag team champion Road Warrior Animal, I share with you the dignified and candid story of the Road Warriors.

The Last Time We Talked

Part of my life is gone. Hawk and I have been best friends, brothers, everything. Laughing, kidding around. He called me the morning before he died. "Man, these buggers are killing my head!" he grunted with a laugh. He was pulling the staples out of his head he got from a stray chair in his latest match. As we're laughing on the phone, he outright refuses to go to the hospital to have it done by professionals, as usual. “I'm not going to a doctor! Dr Hawk can do it!” he growled. We're like the two stooges.

As Close as Brothers, as Close as Family

Hawk wouldn't want people crying about him. Hawk had a big heart. My kids were like his kids. He'd just brag about them to everyone. He always used to say that he couldn't have kids himself – he'd point to his face, and say “because I wouldn't want to do this to them!” Hawk was so proud of my son James. James is 6'3 already, a high school football player. Hawk would brag about him so much. That was the way he was. I have one son in the army. He'd pray for them every day.

Hawk had a unique relationship with his wife. They share a bond and a love. People are lucky to even think about it in this world. Hawk and I talked just like every Joe collar worker out there; about the wife, the kids. Those were the first topics of conversation. Business came second. And every day, at the end of the conversation, not to be ashamed of it, Hawk would say “you know, Animal, I love you, man.” I'd say “I love you too, brother.”

Hawk and I had a relationship with the fans unlike anyone. The fans reacted to our look.

We're doing a book right now. I owe it to him to finish it and put it out. I hate to say it, but the truth is that his passing will help sales. Everything is coming from the heart, and it's true. We were almost done, man. We have so much footage! But it will be finished, and dedicated to his memory.

The New Hawk

One of the things Hawk and I never did was have big heads about the business, and we never forgot where we came from. We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we had something special together. That doesn't mean that there weren't challenges. Hawk lived life to its fullest. "Here's hawk, he did it all and it did him in!" he used to say. “I want you to make sure it's on my tombstone!” I'd yell “don’t say that, man!” I didn't want to hear that!

People can say what they want to say about being a born again Christian. Everybody acts like you can't talk about it in society, like it’s such a taboo subject. For Hawk, it started two years ago. I was going to a religious meeting, and Hawk called and asked if he could come. Since then, he has been a committed Christian. Hawk has thanked me every day for the last two years. All the events we did with Ted DiBiase, not only did we succeed in everyday wrestling, but now it was in the Christian end too. People believed in what we were saying. Guys like Austin now do an interview and you know when they're misleading you, portraying a character over who they really are. We talk about our real lives, from being bouncers on up, no sugarcoating.

The Legion of Doom

The one thing Hawk wanted was for people to see that the last five years, he changed. The last Dream Poll they did on WWE.com, Hawk and I had 42% of the vote. Hawk was so proud of that fact… He was a man's man. He'd tell you to your face what he thought (laughs). After all these years, Hawk and I grew into one unit. I could look at his eyes in the ring. He and I looked at each other and had what I can only explain as ESP. I knew exactly what he was thinking, what move he was going to do, where I should be; and vice versa. We still had a lot to offer. We knew there was enough left in our business because of the fans that there was 3-5 years left of a good run. We wanted to go out that way, on top.

Something that bothered Mike was that Vince McMahon never accepted his calls. Hawk wanted to call him up and be a man's man, say what had to be said. Vince and Hawk had some falling outs over the years, there's no question about that; but Hawk was ready to put it behind them, and both sides could have benefited from giving the relationship another try. It wasn't to be; but well, he'll get the last laugh now, brother! He's up there with Owen and Stu looking down. They've got (Brian) Pillman, Davey Boy, Curt Henning… Let me tell you something, they have a better territory up in heaven than anywhere down here right now, Hawk's going to make good money up there! (laughs)

Fans need to know that the Road Warriors were the Road Warriors, plural. Yes, we both individually could have done something great in this business, but... Hawk brought the best out in Animal, and Animal brought the best out in Hawk. What people don't realize about Hawk is that he was a very... a very loving and caring guy. He had the biggest heart and had the best intentions in the world. I know Vince McMahon held a grudge against him because Hawk had a mishap several years ago when he was under certain influences; but people knew it was the substances talking. It’s a real shame that some people just couldn't let the situation go.

Hawk is a bigger man for how he has conducted himself these last few years, because he admitted and took care of his problem. Nobody's going to dump every vice they've got, but he worked hard every day to treat his family and friends with respect. People need to remember that. He was a true friend, a brother... I've been closer to him for twenty-one years than my own family.

Working with WWE

Hawk was so excited when the WWE called and asked if we could do TV (earlier this year). They told us it would be a fifteen minute segment; but by the time Austin got done talking, we had three and a half minutes. So we walk down to the ring, get set up in the corner how they like, and half the time is already gone. They wanted to know if we would get a pop. Well, we got a pop; there were so many signs in the crowd! The people erupted. We were really disheartened by what we were told afterwards. They said they didn't like the match; I said we just didn't have the time to do a real match. What kind of a match can you have in two minutes?

With the WWE when they said they'd do business (earlier this year), we wanted to retire with the WWE, like Kiss doing their retirement tour, a twelve year retirement tour (laughs). I kidded with Jim Ross, sent him an e-mail about a five-year retirement tour. All over Europe, Russia, the UK, we would have done good business. We were disappointed that we got the wrong call. We could have done good business for the WWE. Look at Kane and Rob Van Dam; they didn't mean anything as a team before they beat us on Raw. They have credibility individually, but not as a tag team; not until they wrestled The Road Warriors. The WWE teams are struggling. They never piped in cheers for us like they do for so many of them these days.

Balancing the business mind of Animal with the charisma and spontaneity of Hawk

Hawk was the guy who would flip out immediately and knock you out. I was the guy who would take it... take it... take it... THEN knock you out (laughs). Hawk, God bless him, he tried... but it wasn't within his chemical makeup to be a businessman. I didn't mind it. I prided myself on the technical end, the production end of the business. People don't realize that with the exception of the paint and haircuts – the haircuts were Hawk, the paint we did together - everything was my idea. The shoulder pads, the look, they were all things I came up with. All the production was my idea. I'd script a lot of the matches and tell Hawk his part - because that's what worked well for us. When (former manager) Paul Ellering left, that area (match writing) was open. It didn't make one of us better than the other. It made us function as a team.

Take a look at the interviews and you see the dynamic reflected. Hawk would be the wild guy who would go off the handle, and I'd close the deal, making the key points we needed to get over in the interview about our opponents, the titles, the storyline. When we got out there, I would snatch the really big guys and press them over my head. Hawk would do a lot of flying, where I did the ground, power work. (It’s really a metaphor for our whole lives). I was pretty much a jock, I had the jock mentality, not that I was better, but I spent so many years getting myself into shape that I didn't want to screw with that. Hawk was very much of each and every moment. He lived life at a thousand miles an hour.

Hawk Left WWF in 1992; Shortly Thereafter, the Road Warriors Split Up

I was offered to come back as a singles wrestler by the WWF, but I turned it down. Meanwhile, over in Japan, they tried to make Hawk and Kenski the Road Warriors. Hawk said no. So they called it them the Hellraisers.

I understand that Hawk had to leave the WWF at that point. Hawk needed to do it, and Vince McMahon didn't keep up his end of several promises that were made to us. We stuck to our word and gave 100%. Two or three different times when they didn't do what they promised, and Hawk just said "I can't take it any more." It was his way of rebelling – simply doing what he wanted to do. When he stayed over in England, like a businessman like you said, I fulfilled two of his bookings in Japan where I had Crush as my partner there. I took a double suplex and got dropped crooked, and I herniated a couple of discs.

Hawk said ‘I really want to do this thing with Kenski.’ I said ‘don't worry about it, build him up, we'll come back and turn on him, build up the story.’ We did a six man tag instead, I didn't mind that. I thank God that we could do this our whole career, our gimmick was so strong. People never forgot, because we'd go from territory to territory. We'd go to Oregon, Montreal with Dino Bravo. We never stayed too long in one place, but we worked them all. We'll take that with us forever. We won every championship there was to win. No team can ever say that again.

The challenges of dealing with Hawk’s years of hard living

It was brutal. I was parent, friend, babysitter, nurse and partner. All in one! For fifteen years. Hawk would be the first one to tell you that. He was really proud of that, that five years ago he cleaned himself up, and he could return the favor, to look out for me the way I'd done for him.

Everyone was proud of him. He made major steps that people didn't realize, that they didn't recognize and take to heart. Hawk really wanted to prove something to Vince, and it was a hard thing for him to accept that Vince wouldn't give him another look.

It was hard at times. It's brutal. Sometimes your partner was drunk. It was tough. But hey, I'll tell you what, never once was Hawk not able to do his job in the ring. As soon as the music played, he was ready to be Road Warrior Hawk. Nobody can take that away from him. A lot of our situation with the WWF over the years comes down to positioning; We knew who was doing what (drug) all along, but when Vince was in trouble for steroids, some of the boys got leaned on heavily and others not at all.

We had so much fun tagging together I don't know if we could put a finger on our favorite matches or guys to wrestle. But I'm not going to be a guy like Arn Anderson who disses and damns everyone and chops everyone's ankles out. Arn made a comment about us being idiots who couldn't tie our own boots, not to mention wrestle in main events, but let him feel that way. Arn got a nice big contact because of us, he got opportunities because of us. The Four Horsemen got popular because they wrestled Hawk and I. We had the Wargames going on. People forget about those. The scaffold matches.

We've been in every kind of brutal match in this business. Hawk broke his leg and two weeks later took his cast off and we did a scaffold match because we'd made a commitment to Jimmy Crockett. I taped up his leg and he went in there and did the match without missing a beat. I had broken ankles and hands. It's not like today, where you get a hangnail and you're out six months. We're not saying we're better than anyone, but we respect the business, and the show must go on. When Warlord fell on my eye, I was meant to be out six months, I was out two. My orbital socket wasn't healed yet, but that's what you used to do. You used to go to work regardless.

The Future

It's going to take a few months for everything to kick in, but I hope the promoters find it in their heart to do tribute shows. This is good business to them. They should think about it, Hawk would want it. It's good for everybody. I'd be happy to come in and be a referee, sign autographs, you know. When you have a gimmick like ours, nobody will ever top it. You will never see it again.

Being the most successful tag team out there, we're definitely writing the book. Aaron Lee is our publisher down in Palm Springs, Florida. We're taking bids from publishing companies. They know it's going to sell. This isn't a book from a Bobby Heenan or something else. It's a book from the greatest tag team of all time. They'll use us to sell it. We're going to dedicate it to Hawk. He would with me. Our hearts were the biggest things. I have to keep the name alive.

This is the end of an era. I own the names, LOD and Road Warrior Hawk and Animal, I've patented them for the last six, seven years, but I don't think I can go on with that name. I may as a tribute to Mike for a year, but nobody can replace him. It's like peanut butter and jelly! When they tried to add in Curly Joe to the three stooges it never worked, and there is no partner for Animal who can replace Hawk. The Road Warriors, The Legion of Doom; the team has retired, it retired with Hawk.

We made a commitment to each other that good or bad we'd stick by each other. I was going to honor that commitment to my partner, and he did the same thing. We made a tremendous amount of money in this business. We just wanted the chance, and we proved our point. We got a standing ovation in Philadelphia and Baltimore working for the WWF earlier this year. The (website) poll proved it. Hawk did what he wanted to do. He achieved his ultimate goal. He's laughing at the Warrior, laughing at guys who make fun of how he bettered his life and his surroundings. He's up there with God. If they were to die, where would they be? I know three quarters would go to hell! (laughs jokingly).

I know my partner changed his mind and bettered himself in the last few years. Maybe he had an insight… you just don't know. I've been there and felt the feeling when you do something good. There is a presence. A real presence. I feel it. It’s real. I have no regrets. We all do the best we can, we all have our challenges; and at the end of the day, Hawk believed in me and my family as I do in him. He took great pride in and had great appreciation for everyone in his life, his family, his friends, and you better believe the fans. Certain people can say what they want to say, but the crowd always erupted when The Road Warriors hit the arena floor. It was a special feeling we shared with everyone in the building when the PA came alive as Hawk growled those immortal words,

“Oh, What a Rush!”

The Bagpipe Report was around when I started, in fact, it was the only wrestling newsletter on the net at the time. Originally published by Charles Maclauren, it went through many iterations, as on on-line publication, then as an email newsletter, eventually ending up in the capable hands of Blake Norton.


Farewell to Solie's Newsletter

by Matt Benaka

Sad news greeted the inbox of my computer the other day: the newsletter at Solie's was coming to an end. While I realize everything ends at some point, it doesn't make it any easier to accept that something you've become accustomed to will be no more. I know the site will still exist to preserve the history of wrestling, but the newsletter was different. It was a living history. It was a current history. More personally, it was the first place to accept me as a writer.

Imagine a 19 year-old guy living in his parent's basement after just finishing his first year of study to earn a degree in English with emphasis on writing. Then imagine that same guy finding a site dedicated to the preservation of the history of wrestling, something that this guy'd been interested in for over a year but had no one he could discuss it with because almost everyone he knew shunned wrestling and viewed his time spent on it as time wasted. If you have all those images firmly in your mind, then you've traveled back in time to meet me when I first found Solie's Vintage Wrestling.

1997 will always be remembered by me as when I worked at Wal-Mart to earn the next year's tuition money and the time when I first began writing for Earl. I tentatively asked if he'd be interested in a series of articles about the history of the world title. He liked the idea and I started writing. I'd work at Wally World by day and type away by night. When my first column appeared in the newsletter I felt validated. As a wrestling fan I was excited that Earl had provided me with a forum where I could voice my opinions and encourage healthy debate about wrestling history. As a writer I was happy because Earl was the first editor to believe in my work enough to publish it. That was a great summer for me. I recall debates raging in the Reader's Forum about my articles. It was cool to know that people actually cared about my writing enough to argue about it. The series ended and I just kind of released for a while. I later realized that the series lived on at Wrestling As We Like It where they re-published it. It's 6 years later and I'm still amazed to realize how many people may have read the words that spilled out of my 19 year-old mind.

Here we are, years later, looking back. I look back and I see a series of articles that looked at the world title, Bret Hart going to WCW, the WCW television title, the death of Lou Thesz, and the last several months of This Week In World Title History. I also a see a series of collaborations with Ervin Griffin, Jr. on stories about Brian Pillman, Bret Hart, and Ric Flair. The thing I'm proudest of is helping to launch the Title Histories portion of the site.

The biggest thing for me is realizing how many people my work has reached and knowing that the title histories and articles will be here permanently for more people to stumble across. I have one story to tell before wrapping this up. A few months ago I was sent a survey from a guy named Mike Altamura who was looking for the opinions of wrestling historians regarding the best wrestlers in different categories. I was happy to fill out the survey and send it back, but I had to ask how he'd heard of me. He replied that he'd read my stuff at Solie's. Here was a guy from Australia who's actually been paid to write about wrestling contacting me, a guy in Kansas who has always seen himself as a fan of wrestling who also happens to be a writer, to participate in a survey. To make a long story short, Mike contacted me again and invited me to write for a new wrestling newsletter named The Wrestling Source. So, because I e-mailed Earl in 1997 and wrote for him I am now going to be writing for another newsletter as their historian.

A quick list:

Ervin Griffin, Jr.--I greatly respected your work. You were a very prolific writer and historian during the early days of the newsletter and I was honored to collaborate with you on a few occasions.

John Cross--Your editorial columns have amazed me. You never run out of things to say and you say them very well. Even if I did disagree with you a couple times, I still respected your opinion and how you came to it. I hope that you never lose your passion for wrestling. We desparately need more wrestling writers like you in the world today.

Earl Oliver--Thank you. Men have dreams in life and one of mine was to be allowed to write about wrestling. You made that dream come true for me. You're not just my editor, but my friend (so if I ever come to your part of the country I expect to get to meet you and maybe crash on the couch : ) ). Thanks for giving me my first break in wrestling writing.

To all three of you, take care of yourselves and try to keep in touch.

There's one last thing to do before I say goodbye to the newsletter and that is to shamelessly plug The Wrestling Source. It's a project I'm excited to be involved with. If you enjoyed my articles at Solie's, you'll equally like my new work. The newsletter isn't officially circulating yet, but if you'd like updates about the release date and subscription information then e-mail me at wrestlinghistory@sbcglobal.net

I'm 25 years old, but I'll always feel like that 19 year old at his MacIntosh when I write about wrestling.

Matt Benaka has been Solie's resident wrestling titles historian almost from the beginning. Though we don't always agree on everything wrestling, he has been a faithful correspondent, and I am proud to count him as my friend.


Crossface Connection

by John Cross

Well, as they say, all good things must come to an end.

Back in 1998, the City of Columbus issued all of the Code Enforcement Officers laptop computers, in order for us to get the feel for the equipment, how it was used, and to get us ready to use computers full-time in order to do our jobs. We were encouraged to 'surf' the Internet, and to look up information on people, places, and the like.

Well, one day, I typed in "Gordon Solie" into the search engine.

Yeah, it was as simple as that. 'Solie's Vintage Wrestling' was one of the search terms, and that was that. I was hooked.

I didn't realize how shallow and one-dimensional the other web sites were. Their needless pro-WWF (or, in lesser instances, pro-WCW or pro-ECW) stances biased their reaction to anything else that went on in the industry. Missing the point of what was becoming of wrestling, they carried on with their sycophantic re-telling of what happened on this show, to this character. They were website chock full of people that never knew wrestling before 1995, who never knew Dory Funk, or Chief Roller Strongbow, or who had never seen Jimmy Snuka wrestle Don Muraco. These website were populated with writers and pundits that thought Steve Austin and Vince McMahon were the end-all and be-all of wrestling

Wrestling punditry was cheapened on and by the Internet, where anyone could call themselves a 'commentator', or a 'pundit'. Those who truly loved the sport of wrestling were (are) drowned out by the marks with desktops and a cheap server. And, as the opinions of wrestling were dumbed down, the things we saw on the television were dumbed down as well.

However, this never happened at Solie's. Not once did Earl Oliver 'sell-out' to those people that criticized him for being critical of the direction that wrestling was heading. Cloaked in the true spirit of the industry that we so love and follow, Earl plowed into the fracas with three rules:

1. Tell it all like I see it, and show no favorites.
2. Make it quality, or don't make it.
3. Respect for the Industry, respect for the reader.

Those ideals (shared with me when I first started writing the Crossface Connection) separated Solie's Vintage Wrestling from the other website. His interest in making sure we all knew that he respected the industry, and that he loved it with a passion, drew his website above all the others that I have read, seen, or been told of. The Internet, rather than drawing Solie's into a mire of cloned web pages, actually gave Earl Oliver a venue to showcase his feelings for the business of professional wrestling.

And, for that, we are all grateful.

Nowhere else can one go on the Internet and find such a shrine of wrestling history. Title Histories, real names, and the links to the other quality website that share in the ideals that Solie's espouses prove that statement out. The debate at the Readers Forum is a debate among scholars of the squared circle, and I have sat at their feet and listened with awe and overflowing imagination. These patrons, to this website, add to the greatness of the site, by their care for the industry, and their support of keeping the traditions alive.

Indicative of the greatness of the site was the Tuesday Morning Report, the ultimate on professional recap. Instead of reading 'spoilers', or providing them (and, thus hurting the industry), Earl reported on the shows AFTER the fact, making his observations an addition to the fan experience, as opposed to a surrogate to the fan experience. After watching the mass-produced, slick-marketed national shows, we read the show seen through the eyes of a man who truly knows and respects the history of the venue. We nodded as he made his observations, we clenched our teeth in empathy as he explained the holes that Vince McMahon was punching in the traditions we hold dear. We slumped as he dutifully reported the slow and agonizing death of the WCW, and winced as he continued his reports on the slide of the product after it fell. It was so much more meaningful when Earl told us the story, for we could understand it better. He saw what we saw, and it was most like taking about the show with an old friend who has the same opinion about wrestling that you do. You nod, and say, "Yeah, that's right!"

I really have no surprise that Earl is closing shop on the Report. It makes sense...doesn't it? In fact, it is a surprise to me that the Report lasted an amazing 752 editions. That is astounding, and is another tribute to the dedication of the man.

Please, indulge me for a minute:

May 13, 1996

With that characteristically self-effacing set of sentences began probably the greatest single e-zine that professional wrestling has. Even if others go on longer, and have more readers, there will be no greater one than the one on this site. At the very least, it is the exemplar, the original, and the goalpost to which all subsequent e-magazines will be measured.

Because, when you boil all the other stuff away, it was a labor of love, from a man who loves wrestling, and holds it in high regard.

It has been an honor, and a privilege, to share the pages with him for the last three years, and I will always be ready to do so again. I owe it to him, for his dedication to us, to wrestling, and to this forum.

Earl...thank you. Fair weather, Captain.

John Cross, The Crossface Connection.

John Cross, a fine writer and an incisive commentator, has been the most steadfast weekly columnist Solie's has ever known. This column is number 135 - a record unsurpassed by any other writer in these pages.


The Solie Years

by Ervin Griffin

Hello readers. I am honored to be here writing for what is, sadly, the last newsletter for Solie's Vintage Wrestling. When I got the e-mail from Earl, I thought to myself what could I write about? A tribute to the newsletter, what it has meant to me over the years, just a pro wrestling article?

Finally, I decided to write on whenever the Solie years began for me. I believe it was 1996. I was a regular reader. Immediately, I took to the way Earl Oliver reported pro wrestling. While he clearly had his favorites (particularly Hulk Hogan), he was impartial and unbiased in his reporting. He also was one of the few that offered reasons for his opinions instead of just saying "Triple H sucks!" or something along those lines. I have often strived to match that level of professionalism when writing for him.

My first article was a look back at the Starrcades. It was issue #87 and it was titled "Starrcade 1983-1989: A Look Back." The motivation on writing this piece was to reflect on the NWA's (and later WCW's) crowning event. I believed then, as I do now, that they got worse as time went on, particularly whenever the NWA became WCW. From there, I concentrated on individual wrestlers themselves. While Earl had the history of The Four Horsemen already, I wrote a brief piece on them as well. From there, I wrote articles on The Midnight Express, The Road Warriors, Sting, Bret Hart and Ric Flair. I also wrote semi-eulogies for Brian Pilliman, Rick Rude and Owen Hart. Some of those articles mentioned were collaborations with Matt Benaka. My favorite work was the Ric Flair piece that I did with Mr. Benaka. It was long as hell and sometimes gave me some aching hands but it was worth it. I learned some things along the way that have been ignored (such as Flair's total of World Championships is closer 18 than 16/check out the chapters to see what I mean).

Speaking of those subjects, let me take the time to express belated condolences to Michael Hegstrand (Road Warrior Hawk). My earliest memories of The Roadies were in 1985 when, while still AWA World Tag Team Champions, wrestled the three man team of Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff and Krusher Krushev (who were NWA World Tag Team Champions at that time). Up until then, I never really saw anyone that could match up with the Russians in terms of brute power and aggression but the Warriors blew me away! That impression of them never left, not even when they started going by strictly The Legion Of Doom in the WWF (now WWE). My favorite Warrior was in fact Hawk. While Animal was the more powerful and, to be honest, the better worker, Hawk was definitely the more charismatic of the two. While he used the over the shoulder back breaker as his finisher, I always preferred his flying clothesline from the top. It was more devastating looking and he made it look so good. One of my few regrets was that I missed seeing them in action back in 1989 when the NWA would still come to towns like Bluefield, WV! They wrestled The Samoan Swat Team in a cage match at the Bluefield Auditorium! I kick myself in the butt to this day for missing that card! Anyway, Hawk (along with Animal as well as Kensuki Sasaki) gave me memories that'll stay with me until my time on earth is over. Rest In Peace Hawk! OOOH, WHAT A RUSH!

Now, back to Solie's, I have to admit this page is what gave me the idea for my site called "Erv's Medieval Pro Wrestling Page" (which is still up by the way). I used to write fan fiction using pro wrestlers that are both living and dead. Earl printed one of my earliest stories (which I still consider my best) which pitted Magnum T.A. in a fictional feud against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin! I picked those two for my first story because I found a lot of similarities between the two. Both were basically rednecks. Both had a fiery temper. Both were anti-establishment (though Austin was definitely the more extreme of the two wrestlers) and both had a rapport with the fans in that almost nothing they did would make the fans boo them. Finally, both were very good wrestlers. Despite his Texas redneck image, Austin was a very accomplished wrestler at one time and still showed it from time to time. Magnum, while having some wrestling skills, was basically a brawler but he was an early proponent of the belly to belly suplex. Might I say, he made it popular that it influenced a lot of wrestlers of later on and even today such as Scott Steiner, Brock Lesner, Kurt Angle and Rick Steiner (the Steiners in fact used to use the belly to belly as a finisher before they came up with their signature moves such as the top rope bulldog and the frankensteiner). Anyway, check out the story if you get a chance, its worth the read.

I have to say during the years that I have read Earl's newsletter, a lot of things have happened and changed. When I started, the nWo was just getting off the ground with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall running roughshod along with Hulk Hogan. Shawn Michaels was WWF (WWE) Champion and fending off challenges from Vader and Sid Vicious as well as a young Triple H. Bret Hart was still active and feuding with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. The Undertaker (in his dark persona) was beginning his now legendary feud with Mick Foley (as Mankind). Goldust (Dustin Runnels) was creating controversy with his...shall we say...suggestive acts. Owen Hart had long since broken out of the shadow of his famous brother and had a successful tag team with Davey Boy Smith (ironic and sad that both men are now no longer with us). ECW was just starting to get noticed for its sexual content and extreme violence from its performers such as Tommy Dreamer, The Dudley Boyz, Sabu, TAZZ, a younger Rob Van Damn, Steven Richards, The Blue Meanie and others. WCW was the top dog in sports entertainment with the entrance of the nWo. Sting had given up his famous spiked blonde hair and colorful face paint in favor his now infamous Crow-esqe image. Lex Luger, believe it or not, was on his best run since the late 80's.

I think of all that's happened since 1996. Kevin Nash made a decent run in WCW but nothing like his mid-90's run in the WWF. While he did get more money, his quality of wrestling suffered as he was rarely challenged. He did return to the site of his greatest success but has been out of most of it due to several injuries. He's now contemplating retirement from active duty.

Scott Hall, sadly, ruined his own career by his own vices and binges. The former Razor Ramon just couldn't control his habits. True, he still wrestles but I doubt the WWE will ever have anything to do with him in the near future.

Hulk Hogan went back and forth between "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan and "Immortal" Hulk Hogan in WCW during this time. When he first returned to the WWF, he came back as "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan until he was challenged by The Rock for WrestleMania 19. This in many ways, more so than the match with Vince McMahon, may have been Hogan's biggest moment in his brief but successful WWF/WWE return.

Bret Hart, after the infamous screwjob in Canada at Survivor Series, left to go to WCW but was never really in a serious angle nor was he used properly (in my view). While he did win two WCW United States Titles, it wasn't until Vince Russo came to WCW that he was finally injected into the WCW World Title picture. His three biggest bouts during that run was two memorable matches with Chris "The Crippler" Benoit (one of which was for the WCW World Title in the finals of a tournament/the other was a "memorial match" in Kansas City and I believe that one took place before the World title match) and one with Goldberg. Sadly, the latter would end Hart's career as a Goldberg side kick accidentally connected with the side of Bret's head. The injuries sustained by the kick are still reportedly felt by Bret even today and has kept him out of the ring.

Vader, after a lackluster run in the WWF, went back to Japan on a successful run. I don't know if he's still active over there. Sid Vicious, meanwhile, would win the WWF World Title twice between 1996 and '97. He would also go on to have a run with the WCW United States title and two runs with the WCW World Title. His career was cut short by a freak mishap in the ring when his leg was broken in two places while performing a move off the ropes.

Triple H's story is well known. After taking his lumps and hooking up with Shawn Michaels and then-girlfriend Chyna as Degeneration X, HHH would go on to take over the leadership role of that group and add X-Pac, Billy Gunn and "Road Dogg" Jesse James. He would have two runs as WWF I-C Champion during his time with DX. His biggest success came when he broke from the group and called himself "The Game." A name he's kept to this day as he's won the WWF/WWE title five times and, up until a month ago, was the (WCW) World Championship. He also held the WWE World Tag Team Championship with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, a man that he would also have a violent feud with during 1999 and 2001. He also had a legendary feud with The Rock over both the I-C title and the WWF/WWE title.

Owen Hart was a WWF Tag Team Champion during this period of time as well as a WWF I-C champion and European Champion. The only title he never held was the WWF World Title. Sadly, we will never know if he could've held it as his life was cut short in May '99 by a tragic accident during a PPV infamously known as "Over The Edge."

Steve Austin's career may have been the biggest impact during the Solie years. While everyone figured he would be a big star, no one could predict he would be this huge! During his active run, he held the WWF Tag Team Championship 4 times with 4 different partners (all of whom either was or would go on to be a WWF champion such as Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Dude Love and Triple H). He also held the WWF I-C belt twice and was a six time WWF Champion (only The Rock has held more WWF/WWE titles). These days, both injuries and personal problems have kept Austin out of the ring but he has taken a non-active role as the co-General manager for RAW.

We have seen a bunch of new stars since 1996 as well, such as Kurt Angle, Brock Lesner, Batista, Randy Orton, Trish Stratus, Victoria and Maven. We have seen stars that have been fighting for a spot for years and finally got a chance to shine such as Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, Jr., The Hardy Boyz, The Dudley Boyz, Rob Van Damn, Molly Holly, Jazz, Booker T. and Lita.

We have also seen the death of many stars that go back to when I first started watching wrestling (in 1985) pass on during the Solie years such as Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, Brian Pillman, Fritz Von Erich, Helen Hart, Stu Hart, Road Warrior Hawk, Swede Hanson, Rocco Rock (from Public Enemy) and Wahoo McDaniel.

Yes, it has been a good ride. I am sad to see it end but all things must end eventually. Nothing but the good Lord above lasts forever. So, I say to you Earl, its been real nice writing for you! See ya!

An old friend of long standing, Ervin Griffin, Jr. showed up at Solie's right at the beginning, often livening up the debate in the original Solie's Readers' Forum. Soon after that, he sent me his first historical article. Since then he has contributed immeasurably to the success of the newsletter.


The Way I See It...

by Earl Oliver

So how do I write this column?

First, I suppose I need to explain why the newsletter is ending. It partly has to do with the fact that I have just moved to a new home in Ft. Bragg, California. A beautiful country home (well, an old farmhouse, actually), in a place that my wife and I had planned to retire to in about ten years when we turned 65. This year, it suddenly occurred to us that, since we both work at home, maybe we should go ahead and move here, to start building equity in a house while we were still making good incomes. So we pulled up stakes and bought this old fixer-upper for a fraction of what a house would have cost us back in the SF Bay Area. It has an acre of land, an apple orchard, a big vegetable garden, several old-growth redwood trees and a dairy barn that has been converted into the biggest garage/storage/workshop building you ever saw.

Upon arriving here, and getting my cable hooked up, I discovered that I don't have access to UPN. So I can't watch SmackDown! anymore, which means I am unable to continue writing half of my weekly column. This got me to thinking about the whole process, and realizing that the newsletter stopped being fun a couple of years ago when WCW closed and the competition went out of the wrestling industry.

Anyone who has read this column over the years, knows how I feel about having Vince McMahon in charge (for all intents and purposes) of the wrestling industry. I have friends that feel the same way, some, who have written for this newsletter over the years, such as my old pals Bill Rawlings and Charlie Harvell, stopped watching it on TV. I didn't feel I could do that because I "had a job to do" here at Solie's.

Now, I realize that Solie's Newsletter was always supposed to be a labor of love, and never a "job".

So it seems only fitting that now that I am living in my "retirement" home, it is time to retire the newsletter. Keep in mind that it is ONLY the newsletter that is closing. Solie's Vintage Wrestling lives on, with it's Title Histories, Wrestling Image Galleries, Readers' Forum, etc., all still intact.

Of course, this was a hard decision to make, especially because I have made so many wonderful friends as the newsletter publisher, three of whom have contributed articles for this final edition.

Jeff Yelton began the trend with his first three-part treatise on wrestling music. Jeff would continue to contribute articles on the same subject for several years. About the same time, a reader in Calgary, Rudy Van Koll, started sending me encapsulated versions of Bret Hart's weekly column in the Calgary Sun.

Ervin Griffin came to me with an article on the history of Starrcade in December of 1996, and was published for the first time in Issue #87. Before that he had been a regular contributor to the original Solie's Readers' Forum, and subsequently he wrote several multi-part histories of various wrestling stars, including Sting, the Road Warriors, Bret Hart, and an incredible 37 part chronicle of the life and times of Ric Flair!

In March of 1997, Jeremy Hartley started Solie's first weekly column, called "Eye on Wrestling" which only lasted for a few weeks. Later on, Jeremy would interview many wrestling legends for his internet radio show, including the likes of Buddy Landell, Lou Thesz, George Steele, Les Thatcher, and most significant for this site, the great Gordon Solie himself. Jeremy gave me the rights to transcribe and publish those interviews, many of which can be found exclusively in the "Interviews" section of the Solie site.

Soon afterwards, in July of 1997 (#196), Matt Benaka sent me a scholarly article on the lineage of the World Title. Matt would go on to write several articles on the subject of wrestling titles, and eventually contributed the first 100 title histories that formed the basis for the more than 2000 titles from 290+ promotions around the world that make up the Solie's Title Histories section of this website today.

In August of 1997, regular correspondent, Garland Chan, began his highly successful series entitled "The Best...". Garland was the only Solie's writer I ever met in person. He came home from college to visit his folks in San Francisco, and I took him out to dinner.

Through it all, readers from all over the world sent house show reports on a regular basis, and other writers, too numerous to mention, contributed articles on everything from wrestlers' favorite foods, to finishing holds, to wrestlers' birthdays, etc. Needless to say, it was a great run.

Finally, in October of 2000, almost exactly 3 years ago, a fellow named John Cross invited me to take a look at his weekly column on his own web site, bodyslamm.cc, and asked if I would like to publish it in Solie's Newsletter. I went over and read some of his stuff, and I was impressed by his style and wit. I wrote him back and made a counter-proposal. Instead of having me re-publish the column from his site, how about contributing an original column each week that would run in Solie's Newsletter exclusively? After some negotiations, John agreed, and the Crossface Connection was born. Subsequently, John became the most prolific writer to appear in these pages (a total of 135 articles, as mentioned above), besides myself. He has been my rock over the last few years, and I owe him a debt that I can never repay adequately.

At one time, Solie's Newsletter had a regular weekly readership of 10,000 or so. In recent years, with the proliferation of wrestling web sites out there, and the natural tendency of wrestling fans to "grow out of" their interest in the sport, Solie's readership has dwindled to a bare fraction of it's former glory. I want to thank each and every one of the Solie's readers over the years - this all could not have been possible without your support.

So it is with sadness, and yet a certain amount or relief, that I hang it all up. It has been a great 7 years, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world, but it is time to move on.

At least that's the way I see it...

Earl Oliver
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter


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This page is a personal tribute and is in no way connected to any of the wrestling promotions mentioned on it. It is dedicated to the memory of the Dean of Wrestling announcers, Gordon Solie.

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