Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hammer Time!

Today, February 14, is (as everyone knows) Valentine's Day. More precisely, it is Saint Valentine's Day, a holy feast day on the calendar of the Roman Catholic church. But since I am not Catholic, I don't celebrate it, at least not as a spiritual occasion. I was raised in a different tradition, which means that the holiday was basically ignored at my Protestant Church, while it was coldly observed in my public school by children passing out little red slips of cardboard to all of their classmates, most of whom hated the very thought of giving some kind of generic love note to anyone in the room. Such a pointless practice was bound to make a kid grow up hating Valentine's Day.

When I grew older, I came to hate it for a different reason, namely that I figured I had little chance of being able to share the occasion with anyone but myself. Once I finally did snag a sweetheart, I married her as quickly as I could. Now I'm set for life, and I need not bother doing anything special for Valentine's Day.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to let the day pass without some kind of observance, no sir! For, every year on February 14, I take at least twenty seconds to reflect on the contributions to society of this man:

Yes, it is the one, and the only, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. I first learned of Mr. Valentine by reading wrestling magazines when I was a child. He was co-holder of some tag team championship with some guy named Ric Flair (whatever happened to him?) and went on to have a tremendous feud with Wahoo McDaniel. It seems that Mr. Valentine used his signature finishing hold, the figure-four leglock, to break Wahoo's leg. And if you don't believe me, just look at the t-shirt in the picture at left. He really did break Wahoo's leg. Why would someone lie about such a thing?

To demonstrate, perhaps, a latent dislike for a certain kind of men, Greg Valentine moved north to my part of the country, so that I could thrill to his exploits on my home television screen, and promptly broke the leg of Chief Jay Strongbow. Did he hate American Indians? Nah -- he must have just gotten ruffled at the sight of colorfully feathered warbonnets. Besides, everyone knows that Chief Jay Strongbow is Italian.

Mr. Valentine was with Vince McMahon's WWF (now WWE) when it went national in 1984, exposing him to a larger audience than ever at the height of his career. For his efforts, he was rewarded with title reigns as both Intercontinental Champion and World Tag Team Champion (with Brutus Beefcake, before the latter became a hairdresser). By the early 1990s, Mr. Valentine's career was winding down, but he hasn't gotten out of the game entirely. He continues to make sporadic appearances in wrestling rings, and also does Christian motivational speaking with other wrestling legends.

So if you really want to do something different this Valentine's Day, try giving that special someone a hammer-style elbow smash, or a bone-crunching figure-four leglock. Do it for them. Do it for yourself. Do it for "The Hammer". You'll be glad you did, even if they won't.

More on Greg Valentine at these fine web sites:

WWE Hall of Fame
Obsessed With Wrestling
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Happy Greg Valentine's Day!


jipzeecab said...

I'm sorry I don't remember "the hammer" but I do remember Wahoo McDaniel, probably before he broke his leg (he was a TBS wrestler). Come to think of it I dated a girl named "McDaniel" for 6 years, I got a valentine from her yesterday.
Wasn't Minnesota the home base of Verne Gagne (an actual wrestling wrestler) who was the world champion and purveyor of the "figure four grapevine" between Buddy Rodgers and whoever.
Maybe I'm going back too far for you..I am aware that the Twins had a ballplayer named Verne Gagne also.

Nicko McDave said...

Man, where do I start with this?

Valentine broke Wahoo's leg sometime around 1978. He broke Strongbow's leg sometime in 1979. I remember seeing Wahoo McDaniel on TBS in the mid-1980s but he may have been on the channel some years earlier.

Verne Gagne's finishing hold was the sleeper. My dad remembered seeing both Gagne and Buddy Rogers on TV in the 1950s, back when he and Gagne both had hair.

Verne Gagne's last name is pronounced "gawn-yuh". His son Greg was also a wrestler. By coincidence, the Twins had an infielder at one point whose name was also Greg Gagne, but he pronounced it "gag-nee". Of course, Verne Gagne was such an institution in Minnesota that the baseball announcers kept pronouncing the player's name as "gawn-yuh". So I heard.

Ask me anything about this stuff, I know it all! Well, if it happened before 2002, anyway.

jipzeecab said...

I didn't have TBS on cable until 1983 so I must have seen Wahoo after he broke his leg.
I watched wrestling for about 18 months while living on the Winnebago Indian Reservation between 1968 and 1970 on two different TV channels one out of Omaha and one out of Sioux City Iowa. Verne would appear about once every two weeks. The tv studio was in Minneapolis. The wrestling wasn't like today. There were only a couple of wrestlers with "physiques"..even Verne looked like a normal man. The wrestling was a combination of college wrestling and tumbling with a lot of handsprings and forward and backward rolls..no one ever threw a punch.

Anthony said...

Valentine wouldn't have been nuthin' without the leadership of the Grand Wizard!