So ever since we posted our goofball video response to Damien Demento, I’ve been inundated with emails about The Ken Patera Story, the “book” I was enjoying when Mr. Braxton so rudely interrupted me. After weeks of putting it off, after inducting everything from “Gator” Scott Hall to Triple H’s Dinner with Mantaur, I can put it off no longer.
And hey, it can’t be any worse than See No Evil.
Oh, and before I get too fer along, let me state that when I refer to “The Ken Patera Story”, I’m not making reference to the alleged book (which some have claimed even exists) or the Coliseum video release. We’re covering the angle here, not the tape. Suffice to say that the tape is basically the storyline in VHS-format, complete with various matches with various WWF opponents. I won’t really elaborate more than this, because really, what could I add to such mat classics as Patera vs. Jimmy Jack Funk or Patera vs. Frankie Lane?
For those newcomers ’round these parts, Ken Patera was indeed an Olympian, participating in the 1972 games. According to Wikipedia, “He was arguably the last American to excel at weightlifting on an international level. He was a serious competitor to the Soviet legend Vasily Alexeev at the 1972 Summer Olympics, but he failed to total and was not among the medal recipients. After the press (a lift Patera was disproportionately talented in) was eliminated from competition, Patera’s weightlifting career was over.”
(I suppose I should note that even though this is from the same Wikipedia that has pronounced me dead more times than I can count and once claimed King Kong was actually a real live giant ape who starred in a series of action adventure films, we’ll take this one at face value.)
So what was a former world’s strongest man to do now that his career was at an end? Well, what every other former world’s strongest man does: become a pro wrestler.
And make no mistake about it – Patera was one bad mofo. You want to know just how tough he was? Then take a look at that hairdo. Seriously, could a 98-pound weakling pull that off? Of course not, because it looks stupid.
But when you have gold medals around your neck from various weightlifting events, it’s a different story. Heck, even today I bet there’s not a single soul reading this that would walk up to Patera and say, “Ken, that hairdo you had back in 1984 looked really queer.”
Because Patera, even in his mid 60’s, would likely bend your ass into a pretzel.
Don’t believe me? Then you should hunt down some footage of him during various strong man competitions. I won’t bore you again with my love for these events (I gushed enough a few months back in the Bill Kazmeier induction), but suffice to say that if a dude can stop a van from running into a wall just by sticking his foot in the grill and his ass against the concrete?
NOT someone you want to mess with.
He also had one of the coolest finishers I’ve ever seen: the swinging full-nelson. Why no one has stolen that one over the years is beyond me.
Well, except for the fact that you probably would literally crack some vertebrae flinging a guy around by the neck in the air like that.
But life wasn’t all roses and Intercontinental titles for Patera, as he would soon fall under the influence of this man:
Your friend and mine, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
And that would lead to disaster.
Not disaster in the sense that he lost matches. Not disaster in the sense that he made a lot of enemies. No no – disaster in the sense he would wind up…
…IN THE BIG HOUSE.
Seriously, he wound up going to literally going to prison, up the river, in the pokey. This wasn’t a joke, it wasn’t a storyline. The guy actually spent two years in the slammer for heaving a boulder through a McDonald’s window.
But it wasn’t his fault, you see. It was because his mind had been warped by that no-good Weasel!
Now I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking this is absurd and even the WWF couldn’t have put something like this together to sell to its fans.
Don’t believe me?
I love that recount, especially where Gene refers to, and I quote, “a hungry Ken Patera”, like he hadn’t eaten in three weeks.
I’m sorry, Gene, continue please.
Yeah, rapists and murders get no jail time at all! Why did poor Ken Patera get locked away? The poor dude just wanted something to eat!
He was HUNGRY, you know!
I’m sorry, Gene. Please ramble on.
I’m not quite sure what is more baffling: Patera claiming that he shouldn’t have listened to Heenan (which apparently led to his outside the ring antics) or Gene asking if it was the fault of the JUDICIAL SYSTEM.
Soon enough, Ken was once again a free man, a free man with one thing on his mind: destroy the man who put him behind bars: Bobby Heenan.
Ok, wait, time out.
I remember watching this storyline play out in 1987 and thinking, “This makes absolutely no sense. Bobby Heenan wasn’t even there the night Patera launched that boulder through the McDonald’s window. How the heck is HE to blame in all this?”
I’ve spent day and night the last 21 years pondering this, and I still have no answer.
On the plus side, I do remember the jammin’ tune that played in the background whilst Patera threatened Heenan’s life in the comeback vignettes.
Note to Van Halen: you want to make it back to the big time? Remake that for the new album.
Eddie Van Halen guitar + Ken Patera rapping = octuple platinum, baby.
Soon enough, Patera was able to get face to face with Heenan in the form of a verbal debate.
All I can say is that we need more verbal debates in wrestling. Remember Scott Steiner vs. Harvard Chris? Those were good times.
And this one was a dandy, as Patera plead his case about Heenan “selling him down the river” and how he never visited him while in prison.
“I had a lot of time to think of the Bobby Heenan types of this world,” Patera continued. “Types like yourself!”
Can’t argue with Ken there – Bobby Heenan would, in fact, be a Bobby Heenan type.
And “The Brain” was ready with his rebuttal.
Sadly, though, it was so obscene that it was replaced with what I believe was Morse Code.
Or maybe it was a CurseTrolla, I’m not sure.
Soon enough, Patera had heard enough, and proceeded to wrap a belt around his neck and whip him across the ring.
Remember when Heenan wore that neckbrace forever? This was why.
And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if his real life neck issues started from this. Just brutal.
Heenan would get his revenge shortly thereafter, proceeding to have all his family members just whip the ever lovin’ hell out of the guy.
I have to admit: even with the patently absurd premise on which this feud was predicated, the debate really fueled the fire, and the whipping was like hitting it with a flame thrower. Surely this would be a killer feud for months to come.
Except it wasn’t. Patera, who was never the greatest technician in the ring, came back in a completely limited manner. Still, as this was the era when “completely limited” didn’t prevent you from being a main event star, there was a chance for Patera to reach the very tippy top of the company. But then he injured his bicep, and was on the shelf for months. By the time he came back, the feud was dead, and so was Patera’s career, as it never recovered.
Maybe he should blame that on the Brain too.
Couldn’t be any stupider than blaming him for winding up in prison.
Which, of course, he really should have blamed on being hungry.
“Mean Gene” Okerlund: “The true tragedy began innocently enough. Late, on a snowy night, in Wakesha, Wisconsin, when a hungry Ken Patera went to a fast food restaurant after a grueling match. According to newspaper reports, Ken Patera was denied service, told the restaurant was closed for the night. It is alleged that Ken Patera and a co-defendant threw a rock through the restaurant window, resulting in a call to the police.”
“Mean Gene”: “Patera was arrested, and charged with a felony. He went to trial and was found guilty. In these days of rapists, kidnappers, and murderers plea bargaining for a fraction of their sentences or even getting off scott-free, Patera was sentenced to two years in prison. There were many who felt that a first time offender, a man who had represented his country, should not have received such a harsh sentence.”
“Mean Gene”: “Who’s to blame? The judicial system? Society? Or does Ken Patera bear the full brunt on his own wide shoulders? Let Ken Patera tell you.”
Ken Patera: “I accept full responsibility for my actions. I should have never listened to Bobby Heenan!”
Wicked rock music plays while Ken Patera screams.
Patera: “As I was sitting in prison, WEASEL…I had a lot of time to think about the Bobby Heenan types of this world. Types like yourself!”
Bobby Heenan: “You listen up, EX-CON, and you listen good! This isn’t something just coming out of my mouth, it’s not something I dreamed up. It is a…BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!”