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.

hbkrr

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.

dikembe

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.

shawn-michaels-sid-1995

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