I have a not-so-secret appreciation and understanding of professional wrestling. It is probably rooted in my childhood when my Dad and I would watch Verne Gagne’s AWA promotion from our farmhouse in southern Minnesota. Like comics, it has a very active fanbase. Just like my relationship with comics, it is also an interest that I carried well into adulthood.
You may be asking yourself what this has to do with comics legend and all-around good guy Archie Goodwin. For that you’ll have to read more.
When Tom Mason, Scott Rosenberg, Chris Ulm and I were starting Malibu Comics, I was living in a double-wide trailer that was a little off-the-beaten path. That is a nice way to say it had electricity, but wasn’t wired for cable television. In those days, satellite television wasn’t really available. Eventually I saved up enough money to pay a HUGE premium for the local cable company to “drag a line” to my trailer. Getting non-antenna reception on my television was very exciting. I remember the TV program I looked forward to the most was the TBS broadcast of NWA Wrestling (eventually it would become WCW).
I hadn’t been a “mark” since my early teen years. I had long understood that pro wrestling matches involved all the athletes in the ring working together to put on a show … and tell a story. The goal of the story was to inspire fans to buy tickets to the live shows as the wrestling promotion traveled around the country. With this understanding, it changes how you watch the matches. My favorites were always the guys that were both exciting and good at telling the story.
I liked Ric Flair and the Four Horseman. Great heels that could REALLY sell tickets and tell a great story. I liked Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage. I like Michael P.S. Hayes of the Freebirds. Three of my favorites are shown here. I attended at least three different Wrestlemania shows. There were years in my 20s and 30s when I couldn’t get enough.
One of the things that tends to “put off” casual audiences from enjoying pro wrestling is how carefully (in years past) wrestling organizations protected what went on behind-the-scenes. They worked very hard to make it seem real. This never bothered me. I am aware that Seinfeld is a show. It no more bothers me that wrestling isn’t “real” than it bothers me that Nathan Fillian isn’t a famous crime-writer named Castle or a spaceship captain named Mal Reynolds.
However, there were “secret” newsletters (before the advent of the internet) that you could get in the mail that would write stories about all the behind-the-scenes drama of the real wrestlers and the organizations they worked for. I was a subscriber for years to two very good newsletters, Wrestling Observer and Pro Wrestling Torch.
So when I met Archie Goodwin (probably during the days when Marvel was buying Malibu), I some how let it slip that I was a wrestling fan. I was shocked to learn that Archie Goodwin was also a fan. We talked at length about what we loved about wrestling while everyone around us was talking about comics. During one of these early talks with Archie, I reached into my briefcase and gave him one of my wrestling newsletters. He loved it.
From that day forward, I would save up a recent newsletter or two as soon as I found out Archie and I would be at the same convention. I remember a particular Chicago Convention when Archie was very busy with some fans at a convention table. He saw me walking by and flagged me down. I stopped, reached into my briefcase, retrieved a couple newsletter and slyly handed them to him (so that fans couldn’t see). His eyes lit up like Christmas morning. He thanked me, gave me a wink and went backed to helping the fans. Later in the show, we found each other again and he gave me the keepsake you see below. It is a special treasure and now I’m sharing it here for the first time.
Make special note that “Pro Wrestler Archie Goodwin” wears tights featuring Batman logos. I miss you Archie!
I am not much of a wrestling fan anymore. Not enough time. But the good memories remain.
That’s my version of the story.
— Dave Olbrich (July 17, 2015)