Wrestling With The Prichard Show is a weekly companion piece to Something to Wrestle With. It’s an in-depth look at some of the show’s many inside jokes, impressions, and entertaining randomness. If you’re looking for the full recap of episode 40, check out Jeff Rush’s complete rundown at PWPodcasts.
As a wrestling fan, I’ve never been much of a rib guy. Maybe it’s because I didn’t hit my growth spurt until high school and spent the majority of my preteen years footing the bill for someone else’s laugh, but stories of locker room hijinks rarely do it for me. Too often, I assume the perspective of the guy who panics upon discovering his shoes are tied together while 15,000 people look on. My sympathies naturally lie with someone who’s desperate to get a few hours of sleep but is repeatedly getting called down to the front desk of the hotel to settle some nonsensical-seeming issue with their credit card. These are a couple of the pranks highlighted in this week’s episode. They’re ultimately harmless, but still leave me cringing a bit, thinking “poor Hebner, poor Hacksaw.”
Reports of the bullying culture within WWE have become a hot topic this month and the timing of an episode centered on one of wrestling’s legendary “ribbers” is certainly ironic. It provides us with an opportunity to better understand why, in a time when bullying in all its forms is widely denounced, we can still champion a man who carved out his reputation in part by subjecting others to varying levels of discomfort throughout his career.
I wrestled with these thoughts (no pun intended) while enjoying this week’s episode. What jumped out at me most is how fondly those at the mercy of a classic Owen rib recall the experience. You won’t find the Hardy brothers, for example, beaming these days as they recall the time their money and credit cards went missing from their lockers.
Another takeaway from this show is not just how the pranks were received, but who received them. Owen wouldn’t prank you just because you were new to the roster, or he felt you were below him or he disapproved of your lifestyle. Owen Hart did not discriminate when he felt it was time to mess with someone.
Any senior can knock the books out of a freshman’s arms, but Owen may be the only wrestler in history with the balls to rib both Vince McMahon and Stu Hart.
The other important factor to consider is context. The schedule and lifestyle of a WWE wrestler is something I cannot even fathom. The constant travel and conditioning combined with the physical rigors of the profession undoubtedly take their toll. Things like stolen credit cards, damaged vehicles, and consistent emotional abuse can take these already challenging elements and escalate them to a level of suffocation.
But what if the pranks aren’t personal, aren’t potentially devastating and come from a place of humor instead of hostility?
The line that stayed with me from this week’s show is one Conrad relayed from Bret Hart regarding Owen, who said “Ribs are really what he thrived on. It’s what kept him from being homesick. Him having so much fun on the road is how he got through it.” To hear the fondness with which he is universally recalled, you have to assume Owen provided just that for everyone he worked with.
Note: While an extremely informative and entertaining episode, this show was a stark break from the usual routine. For one, given the subject matter, a wistful if not somber vibe resonated beginning to end. What’s more, Bruce was sick. To hear him say it, he sounded worse than he felt. That’s a good thing, because he sounded horrible. Given these circumstances, we had a show free of some of the usual mile markers – arguments, Meltzer rants, Conrad popping big at general craziness. We look forward to returning to the usual routine next week. And given that it will be a Jim Cornette episode, you know were in for a good time.
8. The British Bulldog questions Lex Luger’s conditioning.
7. Jim Cornette mentions Owen, then describes how much it hurts Bruce’s sore throat to do the impression. Pretty darn meta.
6. Bulldog accusing Owen of a Photoshop job.
5. Vince wrestles with the notion of Champion vs. Champion as opposed to Title vs. Title.
4. Vince doesn’t understand the notion of a sibling rivalry.
3. Stu Hart sounds scary as f**k telling an old friend he’s going to mess him up.
2. Still scary sounding, Stu Hart has some words for Bruce regarding crass comments made about his daughter.
1. Cornette goes off on Stu Hart, making those extremely crass comments regarding Stu’s daughter, Diana.
I Don’t Know When We’ll Talk About Them Again
Mike Shaw: Shaw was discussed in this week’s episode regarding his headlining feud with Owen Hart in Stampede in the mid-late ’80s as Makhan Singh. Shaw was super over in the territory at the time, but it only went downhill from there. Upon joining WCW in 1989, he became Norman the Lunatic. Managed by Teddy Long, the two worked an angle where Norman was loved by the fans, but Teddy was a heel manager. He carried a key he would use to remind Norman he could lock him back up in the asylum any time he wanted to. Norman adored teddy bears, but Long would not allow him to have any. This led to fans and, occasionally, adversaries of Long such as Dr. Death Steve Williams gifting bears to Norman. This actually got over pretty well and is probably the most over Shaw has ever been on a national level. WWF fans will remember him as Friar Ferguson and, later, Bastion Booger – two gimmicks with ever diminishing returns. He was worked into a brief angle with Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon in early 1994 before leaving the company shortly thereafter.
Sam Houston: Mentioned as one of the participants in Owen Hart’s first pay-per-views, Survivor Series ’89. Everyone else from that match will likely come up on the show again, but probably not Houston. Entrenched in the wrestling business with Grizzly Smith as his father and Jake “The Snake” Roberts as his brother, Houston would also go on to marry Baby Doll and have a couple children. Unfortunately, that’s all a bit more noteworthy than most of Houston’s in-ring career. Perhaps it was his build or charisma, or likely a combination of the two, but Houston could never really make it past the jobber-to-the-stars level. Much like Shaw, Houston’s biggest spot in the limelight came prior to his WWF run. Serving as a protégé to Dusty Rhodes in Mid-Atlantic in 1985, Houston was attacked by the Four Horsemen. He would later defeat Krusher Khruschev for the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title. From there he moved on to WWF where he was, of course, saddled with an otherwise undefined cowboy gimmick. He would pop up, most notably, on Prime Time Wrestling now and again before leaving the company in 1991. He would then move on to WCW where he would carry on much the same way for a few more years.
Line of the show:
“It’s crazy how things get a life of their own off of Vince taking a s**t…”
No Yob Award: Bret Hart. It’s evident listening to this episode that no one made a bigger impact on Owen’s career or supported him more than his older brother Bret. He vouched for him to Vince for over a year before finally getting him into WWF and, when the time was right, the two put together a feud that would serve as the brightest part of the company during an otherwise down period in the mid-’90s. It isn’t discussed in this episode, but I think it’s a safe bet to say Bret was supportive of Owen’s decision to remain with WWF following the Montreal Screwjob. You can only imagine how different things may have gone if the two had a chance to do damage together on WCW television during the late ’90s.