It's Wrestlemania Time!

Thursday, March 31, 2022

We've had a few weeks of wrestling-themed content here on YesterYear Retro.  With this weekend being the "Grandest Stage of Them All," Wrestlemania 38, why not keep the wrestling content flowing?  

Admittedly, I've stopped watching WWE these days.  I've switched over to AEW, which reminds me more of the old days than the modern WWE.  Like many fair-weather fans, I'll still be tuning in to check out the "Showcase of the Immortals" this weekend.

I'm looking forward to seeing "Stone Cold" Steve Austin return this year.  He's only billed as "appearing" on the show, but rumor has it he's been training for some in-ring action.   

Please click "Keep Reading" to read on...

Retro Scans: 1995 WCW Main Event Trading Cards

Monday, March 28, 2022

Unfortunately, I've been a little too busy with work and things at home this week to put out a thoroughly researched article for ya'll to enjoy and one I can be proud of.  

Since my last two posts were about professional wrestling, focused on Big Van Vader and Scott Hall (CLICK HERE FOR MY TRIBUTE TO SCOTT HALL), I figured it would be a good time to break out a pack of 1995 WCW Main Event trading cards for an old fashioned Retro Scan!  

This pack of trading cards from 1995 is probably from my favorite era of professional wrestling, or at least, the era I'm most nostalgic for.  This was when wrestling was still 'banned' in my house by my parents, and to be honest, I was probably still 95% convinced it was real.  So, I'd sneak in a half-hour or hour of WWF or WCW's Saturday morning syndicated recap shows.  Then that evening, I'd head over to Granny and Gramps' house where I'd watch WCW Saturday Night (at 6:05PM on TBS) while they were eating dinner in the other room in order to get my wrestling fix.  

I'd say when wrestling was on top of the world, between 1996 and 1998, was the best wrestling would and will ever get, but as far as personal memories are concerned, nothing beats WCW in 1995 for me.  

I'm sure you real wrestling fans are rolling your eyes and gagging because 1995 WCW was pretty darn bad.  But for a kid like me?  It was great!  This was when the larger-than-life characters were bright and colorful, with flashy gimmicks (like Scott Hall's Diamond Studd) or were real-life monsters (like Vader).  

This pack of cards from 1995 is pretty hard to find on eBay.  Like most trading cards lately, prices have skyrocketed, and just the other day, a complete, unopened box of these cards sold for over $750!  Just crazy, considering a few years ago, I pulled these packs for just a few bucks each.  I may regret opening this pack one day, as prices continue to climb... but I'm just as eager to look inside as any of you are!  What does having a stockpile of all trading cards mean if you never open them?  I guess that's another discussion for another day.

Immediately, I was excited to see a Vader card!  After writing about Vader and his time on Boy Meets World (CLICK HERE TO READ ALL ABOUT IT), I have been on a Vader kick.  I've spent time watching several youTube clips or firing up the WWE Network on Peacock to see some of his old matches and it's been a lot of fun reliving the early 90s.  

I was also delighted to see my favorite ever, Sting (sans face paint), in my preferred "surfer Sting" gimmick as he plays beach volleyball.  What a great photo of a great guy.

Besides the baby-faced Tony Schiavone card, one other card of note was the card featuring the promotional poster for WCW Fall Brawl 1994 on it!  I've mentioned a few times before that the 1995 Fall Brawl was my favorite match ever, just for the leadup and promos alone.  Vader was scheduled to be in that match as a member of the Hulkamaniacs alongside Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, and Sting... but he was fired shortly before the show and replaced by Lex Luger.

In the 1994 Fall Brawl, Vader would defeat Sting in a number one contender's match for the World Title, but the promotional poster makes it look like the two would appear in the caged War Games match.  

Ok, ok... on to the trading cards!  Click "Keep Reading" to check them out!

The Life and Career of Scott Hall

Monday, March 21, 2022

"Hey, Yo..."

One of the most popular wrestlers of the 1990s passed away last week.  Scott Hall, the former WWF Superstar "Razor Ramon" and founding member of WCW's 90s pop culture sensation "new World order," passed away following complications during hip replacement surgery.  He was 63.

His longtime friend and fellow wrestler, Kevin Nash, made it public that Hall was placed on life support after suffering three heart attacks during the surgery.  Hall's family took him off of life support on Monday, March 14th, where he passed on 5 hours later.

Hall had previous health issues stemming from many years of alcohol and drug abuse, the physical tolls all wrestlers experience in the ring, and a life spent on the road. 

In 2014, he was helped by fellow wrestler Diamond Dallas Page in cleaning up his life and entering sobriety.  He succeeded, and the WWE brought him back in a public role and inducted him into the Hall of Fame twice.  Once as Razor Ramon and the second for being a member of the nWo.  

Hall is often regarded as "the best wrestler never to hold the World Championship in a major promotion."

With the sobering news hitting us wrestling fans this week, I thought it would be fitting that I post a tribute to the life of a man who provided so much enjoyment and entertainment growing up.  

Please click "Keep Reading" to read about the life of "The Bad Guy" Scott Hall.

Boy Meets Wrestling: When WWF's Big Van Vader Invaded Boy Meets World

Monday, March 14, 2022

Professional wrestling was a large part of my childhood, as was the story for many kids growing up in the late 80s and early 90s.  Just as important to me back then was making sure I watched the kid-friendly sitcoms on ABC's TGIF on Friday evenings.   

With the WWE's announcement the other day that Vader (Leon White) would be posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame, I spent time reflecting upon his career.  I was first introduced to Vader when he returned to the United States following his mega-star run in New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1990.  As a big fan of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), I first saw Vader sometime in 1990 but really remember him from his match with Stan Hansen at WrestleWar.  He'd then go on to a great run in WCW for a few years as the off-and-on World Champion.  During his time paired with the great former NWA Champion Harley Race, the big man had legendary feuds with my favorites growing up, Ric Flair and Sting.  Sting was already my favorite (still to this day), but his feud with Vader elevated him to new heights in many fans' eyes and cemented his status as World Champion material.

Leon White is often regarded as one of, if not THE, best "big man" in the business.  His high-flying moves from the top rope were unheard of from a man his size both back then and still today.  Standing 6 feet 5 inches and over 450 pounds, the former center for the Los Angeles Rams (1978-1980) moved around the ring like an agile cat but had the size, toughness, and ferocity of a bull.  

He was slated to participate in my favorite match of all time, the 1995 WCW War Games match, but backstage shenanigans got him fired before showing up in the WWF as "The Mastadon," Big Van Vader.  

It was during this time period that one Friday evening I switched the TV over to ABC for my usual TGIF lineup, and on one episode of Boy Meets World, there was the big man himself, Vader!  I remembered Vader having bit parts as the bully's father, but he was all over the place in this episode.  So was Jake "The Snake" Roberts and even "Brother Love" Bruce Prichard!  They had a real WWF show and in-ring action, too!  I was blown away at such a cool cross-over of two things I really enjoyed.

I had really gotten into watching reruns of The Wonder Years on Nick-at-Nite, and when Boy Meets World came along, it was a lighter, funnier, more modern version for kids my age.  As a fun connection between the shows, the star of The Wonder Years, Fred Savage, is the older real-life brother to the star of Boy Meets World, Ben Savage.  

Boy Meets World was a wildly successful family-friendly sitcom from 1993 to 2000.  Starring Ben Savage as Cory Matthews, Rider Strong as Shawn Hunter, William Daniels as Mr. Feeney, Will Friedle as Cory's older brother Eric, and (now famous wrestling fan herself) Danielle Fishel as Topanga.  The show told the story about Cory Matthews and his friends coming of age in the early to mid-90s in a comedic, kid-friendly sitcom.  The show would run until Cory and Topanga were married and in college before returning nearly 15 years later on The Disney Channel as Girl Meets World, centered around Cory and Topanga's daughter.  

At the time, wrestling was still some time away from the culture-changing popularity it would see in the late 90s, but most kids I knew were casual fans of wrestling.  At the time, wrestling and the WWF were full of colorful, larger-than-life comic book characters targeted at children and young teens.  Vader was the perfect comic book character.  An intimidating giant of a man with a gentle soul, he was the ideal fit for a sitcom made for the 16 and under crowd.  

Vader would depart the WWF in 1998 and enter semi-retirement.  After a few more big appearances in Japan and American independent shows, his in-ring career finally came to an end around 2017.  

After years of struggling with his weight, grueling travel schedules, and alcohol abuse, Vader cleaned up his act in 2007.  After becoming a born-again Christian, Vader reconnected with long-time rival (and backstage friend) Sting, another (at the time) recently born-again Christian.  When Vader announced in 2018 he was suffering congestive heart failure and went through multiple surgeries in March of 2018, his good friend Sting (Steve Borden) visited him frequently at the hospital.  

Sadly, Leon passed away on June 18, 2018, following a month-long stay in the hospital with pneumonia.  
When Vader and the WWF blended with Boy Meets World and my Friday night sitcom lineup, the result was a very memorable event!  Here's what happened when Big Van Vader, the storied pro wrestler, joined a made-for-kids sitcom in the mid-90s!

5 Memorable Characters of Edie McClurg

Monday, March 7, 2022

A few months back, I really enjoyed writing a pair of features that focused on Ernie Sabella and Larry Hankin, two of Hollywood's great character actors.  Since then, I've been itching for the chance to add to this series and highlight my favorite female character actor.  So, in taking this opportunity to do so, it's my great pleasure to celebrate the career of the great Edie McClurg!  

In my tributes to Mr. Sabella (CLICK HERE) or Mr. Hankin (CLICK HERE,) I mentioned that I enjoy watching character actors display their talents over the work of a megastar leading actor.  A character actor works in supporting or background roles, almost exclusively.  If you've ever seen someone in a movie and said, "Hey, I've seen that guy before in..." or "What's that lady's name?  She was the neighbor on..." then you've seen a character actor.  

This "5 Memorable Characters" series is my tribute to the less lauded heroes of Hollywood.  This entry in the series is my tribute to one of the funniest women in Hollywood, Edie McClurg.  You may not recognize the name, but for sure, you'll recognize her face... and most definitely her voice.

While her IMDB filmography reads like a list of greatest hits, she made her career out of leaving lasting impressions in just a few short moments on screen.  With her northern-midwest accent and sunny disposition, her voice is immediately recognizable.  

Don't let her midwestern 'niceness' fool you.  She can be hysterically funny or deadly serious, and her bubbly "fake-nice" tone often leaves people wondering if her characters are sincere or facetious.  She's quick-witted with a biting sense of humor that makes it all the funnier when she unleashes her mean streak... always done in a pleasant way, of course!  

Edith Marie McClurg was born on July 23, 1945, in Kansas City, Missouri.  The daughter of a mailman and a secretary for the Federal Aviation Administration, she began performing on stage at the age of 5.  After earning her Master's degree at Syracuse University, she reentered the entertainment industry as a radio DJ, newswoman, and producer for the Kansas City area NPR affiliate.

After nearly a decade in radio, Ms. McClurg moved to San Francisco in 1974 to perform improv comedy with the Pitschel Players.  She moved to Los Angeles a year later, where she joined the prestigious improv group, The Groundlings, as an active member from 1975 to 1985.  

She credits the Groundlings not only with her excellent improvisation training but for earning breaking roles that enabled her to be seen by a broad audience.

In 1976, through her connections in The Groundlings, Ms. McClurg made her on-screen debut as Helen Shyres in the classic horror film Carrie, based on the Steven King novel.

Tony Orlando, Cheech and Chong, and Richard Pryor all noticed Edie from her work in the Groundlings, and she soon found work on The Tony Orlando and Dawn variety show, The Richard Pryor Show, and in the 1980 film Cheech and Chong's Next Movie.

Also, in 1980, she would regularly perform on the very short-lived morning show version of The David Letterman Show as Mrs. Marv Mendenhall.  This cult-favorite talk show may have been short-lived, but the character played by McClurg on this show became the basis of nearly every other character she portrayed.  

"She (Mrs. Marv) became Lucille on WKRP in Cincinnati and the mom in Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, and even the secretary in Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Edie once told Backstage Magazine.  "So that's one character that's really stood me in good stead.  She was so sweet and funny, but she could be a little acerbic."

She worked with fellow Groundling Paul Reubens on his first stage play, The Pee-wee Herman Show, where she would appear as "Hermit Hattie."  She would also work with fellow Groundling Cassandra Peterson in the cult comedy/horror classic Elvira:  Mistress of the Dark. 

She's known for a number of roles on hit sitcoms like WKRP in Cincinnati and The Hogan Family.  Other appearances range from Harper Valley PTA, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and several voice roles in animated shows like The Jetsons, The Snorks, and animated films A Bug's Life, Cars, and Cars 2.   She even made a memorable appearance on one of the most popular episodes of The Golden Girls as a nurse nicknamed "The Angel of Death."  

Her final public appearance was a 2020 voice-over cameo made in an episode of Family Guy that spoofed Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  Sadly, recent reports suggest that Ms. McClurg is dealing with health issues and has retired from her acting career following a dementia diagnosis.

With over 90 films and 60 television series under her belt, Edie McClurg, in my humble opinion, should be at the front of every conversation that discusses Hollywood's greatest character actors.  

Without further ado, let's take a look at what I personally consider to be the 5 memorable characters of Edie McClurg's career.