Years ago, wrestling promoters’ attitudes about sex appeal were a little… different. In “No Holds Barred,” Hulk Hogan’s bikini-brief clad buttocks made the villainess swoon and immediately come… to the side of good.
Over in WCW, their “sexiest wrestler” contest was won by Tom Zenk. Even at the 1996 Slammy Awards (note to self: induct the 1996 Slammy Awards), on the same night that Sunny won “Best Buns,” host Todd Pettengill serenaded the attendees with an ode to how sexy Shawn Michaels was (specifically noting “his earrings and hair and his thong underwear”). I don’t know whether these were all ploys to attract more female fans or the WWF and WCW felt that their largely-male audience was confident with their own sexuality, but Vince McMahon saw fit to promote for the inaugural Royal Rumble pay-per-view a contest to see whose muscled physique was more fabulous.
I am of course referring to the classic confrontation between Intercontinental Champion Ultimate Warrior and “Ravishing” Rick Rude in not just any match (or a match, period), but a Super Posedown.
|I’m not sure what exactly made this particular posedown “super.” I thought that maybe it was the next-generation sequel to the the original Pose-Down!! on the NES, but this was 1989, two years before the SNES even launched. Plus, why a pose-down? What’s wrong with a pose-off? How about a pose-out?|
|Nomenclature aside, Jesse Ventura claimed that this was the event he was most excited about tonight. Not the first ever 30-man Royal Rumble, not the Harley Race-Haku match for the King’s crown (I’ll give him a pass on that), but two guys standing around and flexing. Maybe in ’95 or ’99, dueling poses could outshine the rumble match, but come on!|
|Mean Gene announced the rules for the match, reminding the fans that the decision was all theirs. Right off the bat, you could tell exactly how this contest was going to go now that the fans got to decide who won and lost, but it’s at least refreshing to hear an announcer address a wrestling audience without calling them the “WWE Universe.” Also refreshing: hearing Bobby Heenan disingenuously try to ingratiate himself to the fans like some sort of ferret-like mammal whose name eludes me.|
|When Rude undid his robe, he revealed a hairless chest to go with his long hair. Years ago, my brothers and I rented this event on Coliseum video along with a later WWF pay-per-view where Rude had short hair and a hairy chest. Obviously (to us at least), he had cut his hair short and glued the trimmings to his chest. Now that’s a conspiracy theory Jesse should investigate!|
|Rick Rude performed a double biceps pose, but lacked “peaks,” a term I didn’t know had existed before Scott Steiner became the Big Bad Booty Daddy and started rattling off really clunky catch-phrases (like “Big Bad Booty Daddy”).|
|When it was Warrior’s turn, The Body questioned his ability to pose properly, which was a valid concern given his off-the-wall in-ring persona. In reality, though, Jim Hellwig did bodybuilding before he entered the wrestling world, as evidence by this picture. At least that’s what I hope this picture is from.|
|The Warrior, naturally, rushed through his pose and then celebrated like Tarzan, much to The Body’s chagrin. “You never saw Arnold Schwarzenegger pound his chest and jump up and down when he won Mr. Olympia!”|
|That’s right. He smoked a joint and ate fried chicken instead.|
|Gorilla gave the first round to the Ultimate Warrior, but Jesse was vehemently opposed. “No way!” said Ventura. “His posing technique was horrible!”
I’ll let The Body repeat that: “No way! His posing technique was horrible!”
|Despite Jesse’s insistence that only Rick was posing properly, the fans overwhelmingly booed Rude* and cheered Warrior. It’s as if the same fans who would vote John Cena “2012 Superstar of the Year” (despite him not holding any titles and losing to John Laurinaitis) were incapable of giving an unbiased opinion.
*(that’s fun to say)
|By the way, I don’t literally mean that these were the same people who would later vote for Cena; 24 years later, most of the kids cheering Warrior and going nuts for a pose-down would grow up to chant, “Cena sucks” as loud as possible to drown out the stupid 8-year-old marks.|
|For his second pose, Rude chose “Best Abs,” which Ventura explained to Monsoon meant your stomach, “where the bananas go.”“Oh, you mean the breadbasket,” said Gorilla in my imagination. “Is that anywhere near the solar plexus?”|
|Heenan then squirted baby oil on his client’s midsection in a sequence whose homo-eroticism would be surpassed only by every single thing Bobby did and said while unveiling Narcissus at the Rumble four years later.|
|Gorilla couldn’t get over the fact that Rude posed while his “The Stripper”-esque music played. Jesse then put him down for being so out of touch with the posing world, as everyone posed with music by 1989. Ventura accused his broadcast partner of only ever having seen Sam Loprinzi and Art Grimek pose. I usually enjoy Jesse’s heel commentary, but that was going too far. I mean, Sam Loprinzi of all people! That’s cold.|
|(Also, Google tells me that the bodybuilder’s name was John Grimek, not Art Grimek. If I can’t trust Ventura’s bodybuilding insights, why am I even watching this? Without the credibility of the sporting world, it’s just two grown men pretending to compete for the affections of a largely heterosexual male audience by exhibiting their body parts one by one, which is a complete farce if there ever was one in pro wrestling, which means that I just answered my own question.)|
|It’s not just Rick’s music that Ventura defended; The Body also extolled the virtues of gyration as part of the sport of bodybuilding. The way Jesse had a scientific, sports-like explanation for every questionable aspect of Rude’s routine, he could probably successfully pitch cell phone footage of Studz Night Club to ESPN.|
|The Ultimate Warrior then showed off his own abdominals, but Jesse mentally deducted points from his score for having a thick waist. Before Warrior could lose his self-esteem and develop an eating disorder (be a star, Jesse!), the crowd once again sided with him in a landslide. Even Gorilla Monsoon admitted that Rude wasn’t getting a fair shake. When even Gorilla couldn’t rationalize the injustice suffered by a heel, the audience at home just knew Rude was gettin’ screwed.*
*see the previous asterisk
|Heenan requested 15 minutes for Rude to prepare for the next pose, but Gene said the fans didn’t have time to wait around for 15 minutes. At least, not 15 more on top of the quarter-hour this segment would end up running anyway.|
|Monsoon wondered if The Ravishing One’s next pose would be focused on the back. “It could be back or ‘Most Muscular,'” speculated Jesse. Not twenty seconds later, Rick confirmed that he’d be doing the Most Muscular pose, baffling Gorilla, who claimed never to have heard of such a pose and asked his broadcast partner if he had, either. At least he didn’t ask who the fella with the American flag was.|
|Gorilla had, however, seen such a pose, possibly while sitting in a mirrored bathroom stall, judging by Rick’s facial expression. He also noted the inferior development on Rude’s scapularis.|
|The Ultimate Warrior once again posed at the speed of light and got all the cheers, setting the score at 3-0, Warrior. Jesse just wouldn’t let up on the unprofessional Ultimate Warrior, admonishing him even for wearing face paint, which hides the face, which is part of the body, after all. Building facial muscle is pretty important, even, nay, especially in wrestling. How else do you think that WWE Superstars can absorb dozens of punches directly to the face when the average person would be knocked out after just one?|
|Mean Gene, perhaps taking a cue from his boss, asked Rude what his final “maneuver” would be, leading Jesse to derisively repeat the word that McMahon would utter 273 times on Monday nights alone in 1993.|
|As Rude worked out with a bar and did push-ups to prep for his last pose, Warrior grew restless. The Body, however, admonished him on commentary. “You don’t interrupt,” insisted Ventura indignantly. “Posing is a personal thing.”|
|Rude’s last pose would be a medley that included a pose I previously thought was confined to Hasbro’s WWF figures.|
|The Ultimate Warrior, on the other hand, basically duplicated Hulk Hogan’s post-match routine.|
|Just before the fans could vote for the Warrior on the fourth and final pose, Heenan squirted him in the eyes with baby oil, which Warrior no-sold, only to get bashed in the head with that warm-up bar Rude had been carrying around all night.|
|Awakening from the ensuing beatdown, the Ultimate Warrior cleared the ring of officials and sprinted up the aisle. We never even found out who won!|
As ridiculous as this all looks in hindsight (or, if you were an NWA fan, as ridiculous as this all looked even at the time), this posedown would build to a lengthy feud between the two men, including a Wrestlemania match and two Summerslam bouts, one of which featured some of my favorite commentary of all time.
On the other hand, once Vince McMahon saw that tens of thousands of wresting fans who paid to see a wresting event would not only willingly sit through a fifteen-minute bodybuilding exhibition, but actually cheer, you’ve got to think that a prospective World Bodybuilding Federation looked pretty good to him. Why, if people who weren’t even fans of the sport could sell out an arena featuring a posedown, imagine how much the WBF could draw if the millions of body-building enthusiasts finally had a sports-entertainment league that catered directly to them!
So when you think of this…
…and eventually this…
…you can thank the Super Posedown.