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EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch for Donnie Abreu's column every Thursday.

Thursday, June 11, 1998

Remembering The Dog

DONNIE ABREU
By 'BIG DADDY' DONNIE ABREU
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column

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I'm impressed. The World Wrestling Federation actually did the "right" thing. Although it was brief and very bare bones, the tribute to Sylvester Ritter, The Junkyard Dog, was pure class.

By now, the entire world has heard that last week Ritter was killed in an automobile accident at the tender age of 45. Already, web sites have started to pop up everywhere, paying tribute to "The Dog". I've seen a lot of old pictures, watched some old matches and even listen to the ol' "Grab Them Cakes" theme song. I will remember JYD.

I was reminded of a 1980 issue of PWI that had the man on the cover ... he'd been blinded by The Fabulous Freebirds and then had a dog collar match with Michael (P.S. that's Dok Hendrix) Hayes . JYD couldn't see a thing, but he STILL beat Hayes. He seemed to be the toughest man alive! I remember attending a card at Maple Leaf Gardens and seeing Cowboy Bob Orton vs. Junk. In all honesty, that was one of the best matches I've ever seen. Orton was on fire! He took so much punishment and eventually hit the superplex! JYD somehow got his foot on the ropes!! In those days that was pretty much unheard of. If someone landed a half decent finisher on you, you were done like dinner. Ritter got up and eventually hit 'em with the "THUMP!" I have a hard time answering when people say to me "Who's your favourite wrestler of all time?" I usually stall and change the subject ... but now that I think about it, Sylvester Ritter would definitely be in my top 5. And that's sayin' something!!

JYD But what of those who were too young to ever see the man? What about those young "Stone Cold" lovers that think wrestling history is remembering the main event from last year's Summerslam? Did they morn? Did they take notice of the loss? Of course not. But they should. I was too young to see Joe DiMaggio play baseball, but if he died tomorrow, I'd be upset by it. So why is it that former ring stars just get chucked into the garbage heap? JYD deserves a better fate than that. I say the WWF should go one step further an immortalize the man, by inducting him into the Hall of Fame ... ASAP!

I'm sure a lot of you are thinking, "WHY?" ... Junkyard didn't headline any shows or win any titles while he was with Titan Sports ... He was never even a significant challenger to the Intercontinental OR World Titles. He was just a big guy, dancin' in the ring, havin' a good ol' time. OK, you're partly right. Ritter was involved in some ongoing feuds with some of the best our sport has ever known ... Harley Race, Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., Big John Studd, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Greg Valentine and MANY others. More often than not, the Dog held his own ... but no matter what, the fans ALWAYS loved him. Shouldn't that in itself be grounds to have him inducted? How many wrestlers get over with the fans and then STAY that way their entire career? The only other one I can think of off hand is "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. For some reason, people NEVER stop cheering for that clown!

Well, if applause doesn't get you into the Hall Of Fame ... then I pose the question to you ... "What does?" Do you have to be a former champion, like Pat Patterson, Ivan Putski or Gorillia Monsoon? Obviously not! JYD's former tag partner and current Hall of Famer, George "The Animal" Steele never came CLOSE to touching gold! In all seriousness, what did George Steel ever do for the WWF that JYD didn't? What about Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka? Ok, he ALMOST beat Don Muraco for the I-C title in that controversial cage match, but still ... he didn't win a damn thing! He did take a nice coconut shot in the head from Roddy Piper though. Maybe that's the secret??

Perhaps they measure ONLY what you did with the WWF and ignore your accomplishments in other federations? Again, I seriously doubt that. When Mr.Brisco was inducted they spoke extensively of his work in the AWA and NWA. So, there goes that theory.

Maybe it is, in actuality what I have feared for so long. Perhaps the Hall is just where all the "good boys" get to go if they play nice and don't take back and promise to work for Vince, in the office, for minimum wage.

With all due respect to all the members and to JYD, there are a TON of guys that should be in there that aren't and for whatever political reason ... may never be. Like: Bruno Sammartino, Ricky Steamboat, Chief Jay Strongbow, Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan. Obviously, I would, without hesitation put any or ALL of these men in the Hall Of Fame long before I'd even think of JYD; but because of the way they left the company or the bridges they've burned ... they may never be admitted.

So ... What IS the criteria? I know there are several WWF employees that read this article weekly ... if ANY of them know, please, TELL ME!

JYD Perhaps none of this really matters ... I mean who cares if you have your name inducted into a place that doesn't physically exist? There is nothing to look at ... no plaque to read; there's no place to go and see who's in The Hall. McMahon has said for several years now, (and he again made mention of it in passing on this week's show) ... "One day there will be a hall" ... What's taking so long? Buy a dirty little warehouse outside Cooperstown, charge 20 bucks to get in and there ya go! The other problem is, that it's just a matter of time before WCW opens their own hall ... probably in the basement of the CNN Center, and you KNOW they'll induct every fossil on their active roster! Hollywood, Savage, Flair ... hell, knowin' WCW they'd probably stick Goldberg in there today! Will the WWF want to honor these men AFTER they've been placed into the competition's sacred temple. Doubtful.

Of course, this building to honor great stars of yesteryear may just be another VKM pipe dream ... but if it does ever get built ... then I say put The Junkyard Dog in there!! Along with Tito Santana, Greg Valentine, King Kong Bundy, The Ultimate Warrior and Tony Garea! Wouldn't it be great to take your kids 30 years from now to this WWF shrine and point out the heroes that shaped your life? "Look son, that's Shawn Michaels!" I'd visit a place like that ... in fact, I'd apply for the currator position.

That's it kids ....

RIP JYD

Agree? Disagree? Think I'm completely out to lunch? E-Mail me your response and let me know. bigdaddy@better.net. I'll sample some responses in next week's column.






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