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20 Years Ago: The Big, The Bad, The Vicious… Bodyguard and the Discovery of Insider News

I wrote this piece for PTBN, but thought it could lead to some discussion here.

Basically, when did you first discover dirt sheets or insider news and how did it affect you as a fan? Did you regret it? Did you dive in for more?

Mention the phrase “1995 WWF” to wrestling fans and watch their eyes immediately glaze over from boredom. The roster was filled with cartoon characters, the booking littered with missed opportunity, and the television programs were canned and milquetoast at best. The Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Era was deep in the rear view mirror, and the company looked dramatically different than it did just 18 months earlier. But I didn’t care. I loved it all still. 1994 was a major year in my wrestling fandom as I attended my first PPV, had really built up a solid core of wrestling fan friends and even launched the infamous WCF in my backyard. As we rolled into 1995, we were still obsessed, talking about it all the time. Monday Night Raw was appointment TV for me regardless of the card. With WrestleMania XI approaching and WCF Winter War just past us, I was all-in on the world of wrestling.


Coming out of his Royal Rumble win, Shawn Michaels was pegged as the next big superstar, finally ready to cash in on his seemingly unlimited promise and potential. Set for a collision course with former friend and muscle Diesel at WrestleMania, Michaels decided it was time to once again employ a bodyguard to watch his back. He claimed that he was a marked man by everyone in the promotion after he ran through the roster at the Rumble, and he wanted to take no chances as he prepared himself to become World Champion. As February dawned, Michaels teased that it was time to call on some protection, sparking rumors amongst viewers of who the bodyguard would be. Now, this was pre-Internet for a majority of fans, so unless you were Rick Scaia, CRZ, the Netcop or Al Gore or subscribed to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, you were shit out of luck regarding rumors for the most part. And I say for the most part, because there were a couple of other options out there, options of which I took full advantage.

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In early 90s New England, there was a skullet-laden savior in deck shoes named Cody Boynes that helped us through these dark days. At first, there was a static-filled radio show on Sunday evenings where Cody broke news about a potential Demolition return and other unbelievable facts and figures. I couldn’t believe this goldmine I found and was sure to listen to each week until it vanished from the dial. Around 1992, I stumbled into Cody again, this time on local public access TV. Cody was chilling in a local station studio and would read news, notes and rumors from around the wrestling world. It was years later that I realized he was just reading the WON directly to his viewers, but whatever, it was awesome. It aired midday during the week, so in the summer it was must-see TV for me and during the school year, my VCR was programmed to catch the updates. Cody would even have local Indy and backyard wrestlers on as well to help push the local scene. I was a public access junkie at this point, and it was one of my favorite programs to watch. Soon enough, Cody only popped up randomly, often in repeats or way behind the times before he vanished again and I was left to fish for my own news if I wanted it to be fresh and come more often than once a month. Enter…Journal Line.

Being such a tiny state, Rhode Island doesn’t have many options for media compared to others. Sure, each town or city had their own very local paper, but the Providence Journal was the main source of news from Westerly to Woonsocket. They weren’t much for wrestling coverage, but every now and then there would be an article (or obituary) or two when the WWF was coming to the Providence Civic Center, which they routinely did at that time. By 1993, the paper also created Journal Line, a free dial up hotline that provided news updates, real time sports scores, soap opera news…and wrestling rumors! Yes! What were the odds? I vividly remember Josh Richer and myself dialing in furiously on a May Saturday afternoon to find out if the Denver Nuggets became the first #8 seed to win a playoff series as they battled the top ranked Seattle Supersonics in a tight first round series. We high-fived when we heard the score. And that was fantastic. We weren’t able to watch the game and now we didn’t have to wait for Sportscenter or the news to tell us what happened because Journal Line took care of it. It was an amazing time to be alive. With the 2/20 Raw and the reported revelation of Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard inching closer, I anxiously punched in the Journal Line number and wondered if the identity would be revealed.

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About 15 minutes into the show, Shawn Michaels’ music blared over the speakers and the Heartbreak Kid sauntered down to the ring to chat with Jerry Lawler in the King’s Court. After teasing things for a few minutes, Michaels officially revealed his new bodyguard to the world: The Big…The Bad…The Vicious…SID! Sid was back in the WWF after leaving the company nearly three years earlier. He had a year long stint in WCW in 1993 but had vanished after he was fired for stabbing Arn Anderson with scissors during a hotel brawl. Outside of the odd mention in one of the Apter Mags, Sid was completely MIA for most wrestling fans. Until this night in Macon, GA, that is. The longtime fan favorite returned, and he would be protecting Michaels against all his jealous attackers on the road to WrestleMania. As the big man marched out with no shirt and a pair of mom jeans on, the possibilities seemed endless. The excitement was palpable. Sure, we all know that 1995 would end up being a very rough year for the Vicious one, but on that night in Macon, it was awesome to be a WWF fan. The shock the fans experienced was what made us all wrestling fans…for the most part. I wasn’t shocked at all. Because I knew. Journal Line spoiled it for me. And as soon as I found out during that phone call and got really excited, a feeling of sadness warmed over me at the same time. I realized how cool it would have been to be surprised when Sid marched out instead of having some droning intern tell me over the phone. That magic moment could never be brought back for me.

For the rest of 1995, I tried to avoid Journal Line unless a potential storyline really had me hooked and I needed to know the details. I remember calling to get as much information as I could about Lawrence Taylor and if his issues with Bam Bam Bigelow were legitimate. I know I was so intrigued about Goldust that, despite my personal ban, I called in to find out his identity ahead of time. By early 1996, I was officially part of America OnLine as HRace34 and the floodgates blew open. I was all-in on insider news and rumors and it was dangerous, because it was a time full of rogues when false rumors spread like wildfire. I foolishly believed the tale that Yokozuna would be defeating Shawn Michaels for the World Title on a May 1996 Raw and was surprised when nothing of the sort occurred. It was a harsh lesson to learn early in my life as a somewhat insider.

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Every corner of our wrestling community ponders if life would be better like those old days before everything was spoiled. Then, we were more concerned about why Jake Roberts turned on Ultimate Warrior as opposed to caring if Roberts was being turned heel to job out against the wishes of the fans. I am not sure there is a right or wrong answer either way. Both have their merits. All I know is that sometimes it is worth the trip back in time to help us remember why we love and are so dedicated to this insane sport. And sometimes, even now, regardless of how much we know ahead of time and how many spoilers we read, we can still be swept up in the magic of pro wrestling. That is why we still watch.

20 Years Ago: The Big, The Bad, The Vicious… Bodyguard and the Discovery of Insider News

Comments

  1. Didn't get home internet until late 96 but spent late 95 and early 96 reading websites like Herbs Tidbits at school since the comps there had internet. Spent the summer of 96 calling "hotlines" to get news but mostly it was teenagers calling other hotline operators pieces of shit, kinda like the Internet today.

    Never once regretted getting news or rumors. Loved knowing what would happen prior to it happening. I can remember vividly the day 1wrestling broke Bret leaving for WCW the week before SSeries.

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  2. Yah the burst of hotlines in 96-98 was big time. I used to call Sushi-X all the time for the latest.

    I discovered Herb's tidbits way later (like 2005sh) and then flew through the archive.

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  3. Think the first bit of insider news I read was finding out Nash and Hall were headed to WCW. The news deeply depressed me because I loved both guys, and I knew Diesel and Ramon were going on job duty for the remainder of their contracts. Since Diesel had become cool again, I was hoping he'd get another chance with the title.

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  4. Ha, Sushi-X! What a blast from the past! Alls I know is that I would call one and it would be disconnected or direct you to a new number and that new number would be some kid calling another kid an asshole and I'd sit there and wonder why I'm not outside talking to girls... And then I'd remember I'm a wrestling fan in 1996.

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  5. I also remember reading websites to get Pillman in ECW news because ECW was not in Boston until later that year.

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  6. Really didn't get "insider" until the Internet in '96, seeing the insight and reports to things. Didn't affect me too much then but growing more sardonic as time went on and did shape some of my viewing of the business, good and bad but hard to argue how great they were.

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  7. As soon as I got Internet in 96/97 - complete game changer. Also Power Slam magazine in the UK... man I miss that mag

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  8. Power Slam still exists, doesn't it?

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  9. I stopped getting the magazine 12 years ago, but I always regarded it as my favorite wrestling magazine and always wished them success. It's pretty depressing that magazines in general are dying.

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  10. I'm gonna read this later when I have uninterrupted time to do so, but to answer the question: I started watching in 1998 at 14 years old. It wasn't much more than a year later before I went full-on smark and was reading this kind of stuff. I think it was fairly inevitable for me. Having never watched as a little kid I didn't have that childlike wonderment to shed, and thus was more interested in the inner workings and how this awesome thing came to be.


    I think it was the old Wrestlezone that was my first major source, if I'm not mistaken. And WOW Magazine.


    So given my late start in life to watching and my natural tendency to completely immerse myself in anything I'm interested in, it really wasn't that much of a game-changer for me personally. It was just the natural progression.

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  11. I actually became less of a fan in 1998. Before that I was still a hardcore mark watching all the B-shows and wrap-up shows, but when Shawn retired in 1998, my love for wrestling died a little.

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  12. "my natural tendency to completely immerse myself in anything I'm interested in, it really wasn't that much of a game-changer for me personally."

    This is similarly how I feel.

    I started watching wrestling when I was 12. Discovered inside pulse and by extension Scott Keith around 15, to answer the original question.

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  13. Yeah, Scott's stuff was a pretty early discovery for me, too. From the very beginning (or at least the very beginning of my smarkish tendencies) his sensibilities seemed really similar to the opinions I was starting to be able to back up with actual words and thoughts. I'll still look up old rants of his about shows I've never seen before I watch it to help me decide if I actually do want to watch it.

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  14. I didn't get into the insider news part until 98-99. Found Scott, Rick Scaia, and Herb Kunze among others.

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  15. I started watching wrestling with WCW in 1997. I found the land of dirt sheets and the IWC with Al Isaacs and his website (Scoops?) and read Chris Hyatte's mop ups. Hyatte's act grew stale quickly. When Hyatte started making fun of Scott, I began reading Scott's stuff and immediately switched over.


    Although, Hyatte's late WCW mop ups were fun because he'd throw in all sorts of stuff since practically no one read them.


    I didn't become a serious fan until I went to my first ROH show in the Punk days.

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  16. And I started watching in 1987. My cousins put it on every Saturday at my Grandmother's house and my uncle would bring over the "Black Box" for the PPV's.

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  17. rspw.
    Scoops sucked. So did Herb.

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  18. oh yeah. KJP's reviews were the first since he took over for this "CRZ" character.

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  19. Same. My local paper published a story on the wrestling boom and quoted Scaia. I looked up Wrestlemaniacs and Online Onslaught and have been hooked since.

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  20. In my small Oregon town we had a similar phone service called "local source" that had "insider" wrestling news and rumors as well. Good article.

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  21. Yeah WWE just recently stopped publishing theirs, and the only one I can find anywhere now is PWI. Which I usually buy twice a year, PWI 500 and the Year in Review issues.

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  22. Who would have thought PWI would be the last magazine standing.

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  23. I don't remember how I stumbled onto the #WCW IRC channel on the Turner server, but a lot of RSPW regulars used to hang out there. I got WAY into ECW in 1995, and I probably would have been a Philly mutant had I been a few years older and had reliable transportation. I guess I should thank my parents for deciding to put 5 years in between having my sister and I.

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  24. Local newspaper had a weekly wrestling column with scoops, that clued me in on the nature of the business.

    Then I went to college and discovered the firehose of information that was rec.sport.pro-wrestling.

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  25. I've been turning a friend onto wrestling becauSe he tags along to ROH shows with his roomate and I.

    He went in knowing no one, had a crazy fun time.

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  26. Kind of. The magazine itself has been wound up, but the editor still maintains the website. Publishes updates, emails from readers etc., similar to the BOD. There's not a huge amount there at the moment as he's working on an e-book.

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  27. We had the same thing from 1994-1998, the TimesLine run by the St. Petersburg Times, Shannon Rose and the Wrestling Wrap (Rap?) Report. He got to interview some guys like Cactus Jack, Dick Murdoch, Terry Funk, Barry Horowitz, Angelo Poffo, buncha other guys. Always looked forward to the updates.

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  28. Started watching wrestling regularly when I was 10 years old in 1989 just in time for the Ultimate Warrior's rise to the top. There used to be a column in the Sun Times rough every Sunday or so, his name was Downtown Brown or something like that who would have "insidery" scoops with the urging to of course dial the 976 number for more info. Didn't really care about that stuff too much until I went away to college in 97 and had unlimited internet access, where I found Scott and Rick Scaia, Eric S, etc.


    Do I wish I didn't....not really because I've always been interested in the inner working of things so it was bound to happen I'd be interested in the "real" backstage stuff, but for the most part I think now I have a good balance of still consuming the "insidery" news but still (when it's good) enjoying the product for what it is....(it also helps I pretty much watch only Raw and none of the other shows).

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  29. Fat, Ugly Inner-City SweathogFebruary 6, 2015 at 7:19 PM

    If Sid had stayed in WWF longer than his '91-92 run, do you guys think a tweener-type run could have worked with Sid on top? He was never going to work as a Hogan-like smiling babyface, but as an intense monster face, I think he could have been The Guy for a while.

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  30. Fat, Ugly Inner-City SweathogFebruary 6, 2015 at 7:20 PM

    I didn't really start following online til '98, but started watching in 1987, with some broken time during the '93-'97 timeframe

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  31. I remember back around 1998 when I was 12 or 13, there was a tv channel that aired radio shows while a ticker ran across the screen with weather and news. Every Saturday night they'd have a show hosted by this guy named "The Shadow" and he'd talk wrestling rumors and give his opinion on the shows. I was so into it. I even called in a few times with questions.

    We got the internet in our house a year or so later but I'd stopped watching wrestling at that point. Got into the news sites around 03 and found Scott's stuff around then. I was looking for ppv reviews to see what I should tape trade for and came across a smark rant. There was a guy I dealt with who would sell a 6 hour custom compilation vhs for $18. You just told him what matches to put on there and he'd send it your way. I had one tape full of Scott's best wcw matches of the 90s list he did that I watched all the time.

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  32. I found an interview this guy did with Bret Hart in 1996. His name was the Shadow Man.

    Bret Hart interview from Shadow Man's Squared Cir…: http://youtu.be/zEcTW5tqwww

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  33. Bagpipe Report, circa 1995. I was amazed that people knew the behind the scenes stuff.

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  34. This is basically me in a nutshell. From things like Wrestlezone and Online Onslaught, I ended up finding things like RSPW (remember newsgroups?), CZW, and The Smarks, and the rest was history.

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  35. I started watching in probably 1990, for reasons that I can't really remember. I was basically hooked immediately. I remember thinking, even at a very young age, that there was no way a particular wrestler would ever be allowed to beat another.

    At some point around the debut of Nitro, I started reading a local column on Saturday mornings that discussed "inside" stuff. When I finally got online in 98, stuff like psychology and workrate were natural to me, because I always was thinking about them, just not using those terms.

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  36. There was also a guy called Sushi-X at EGM and there was a guy who wrote into the magazine wondering why there were so many Sushi-X signs at wrestling events.

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  37. I remember him too.

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