|By Raj Giri||September 10, 2012 | Comments|
Hulk Hogan was so big and when he was gone -- if Hulk Hogan would have left in '88 -- let's just say -- and been gone from '88 to '90, there business would have gone down even with 'Macho Man' and [Roddy] Piper and those people. It wouldn't have gone down as much because they were more on a roll then. Hulk Hogan was so important to the building of that brand that. When Hulk was gone, you were going to be a little bit hurt there.
Then, the other thing was that you were used to all these huge, muscular guys and it wasn't just Hulk. It was Hulk and it was Warrior and it was Sid Vicious and it was the Road Warriors. In the course of 1992, if you look at the guys that depart the company, it was a pretty big list of the top talent.
Then you're left with a lot of guys like Bret [Hart] and Shawn [Michaels] who were there but they were not top guys. Bret was on the verge of being a top guy when this happened and then became a top guy pretty quick. But for a long time, he was in the middle. Shawn was not a top guy, he was starting to get his push. So, it was a transition period. Again, a lot of it also was that creative was bad.
You had the Papa Shango angle that I don't think really clicked. I don't think people wanted that type of thing. It was not like people got outraged because people were on steroids at all. I don't think that had anything to do with it. But, the fact that a lot of guys got smaller and a lot of guys disappeared that were type guys and bad creative combined. Yeah, that lead to a down period in wrestling.
WrestlingINC: Was it around that period that shoot fighting starting to get big in Japan or was that earlier?
Meltzer: Pancrase started in '93, UFC started in '93 as well. This is the bad period of wrestling, I would say, post-WrestleMania '92 was when it really went down. When Hogan left. It started to make the comeback with the Monday night wars. The Monday night wars late-'95, so the comeback started in '96ish, probably. That would be when those groups did get started in Japan and in the United States.
WrestlingINC: You started covering UFC right away with UFC 1. Was it kind of because of the pro wrestling connection and that you had pro wrestlers competing in the UFC?
Meltzer: Yeah. The first UFC had Gerard Gordeau who had one or two pro wrestling matches in Japan, but I knew of him. Ken Shamrock was a pro wrestler. Dan Severn was not in the first UFC but he was a pro wrestler who became a star in UFC pretty quick.
The crossover of guys in those early UFCs to pro wrestling -- there were tons of them. It just became a natural thing to cover. A lot of it, too, was that the first UFC, the local promoter in Denver was Zane Bresloff who at the time would have been in his last days with WWF. I knew Zane Bresloff and he was promoting with WWF until late-'93 and then in '94, he switched to WCW.
He didn't stay with UFC very long. He promoted the first two shows and then he ended up with WCW full time and didn't have anything to do with them. But, that's also how I got started in a sense. He was the one that was really gung-ho. 'Hey, we got this guy and this guy and Ken Shamrock.' I was like, 'Oh, if Ken Shamrock's in it, then I got to cover it.'
Ken Shamrock wasn't a big name in pro wrestling in the United States, but he was a big name in pro wrestling already in Japan from the dying days of the UWF. Ken Shamrock, as the promotion was dying, became one of their big stars and he was very popular with Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi when they were doing worked-shoot style. Pancrase started right before and nobody knew what pancrase was honest to God. It was just different.
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