Legends smile with a vengeance as they pass the torch
Magnum T.A. couldn't help but smile as he looked around at Vengeance: Night of Champions. On an unprecedented night where all champions in WWE put their gold on the line, he couldn't help but be awestruck.
"It's a tremendous honor to be put in the same category as the men and women who compete today," the former NWA U.S. Champion told WWE.com. "I never in a million years believed that I'd see the sport that I love go to the heights it has gone to. It's just unbelievable."
Magnum, along with a Rick Martel, Tony Garea, Dean Malenko, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Barry Windham, Mike Rotundo and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka & Sgt. Slaughter (who narrowly missed seizing the WWE Tag Team Titles from Deuce & Domino) were honored at Vengeance for their championship legacy in sports-entertainment. Magnum's sentiments were shared by all of the legends in attendance Sunday night. Seeing today's Superstars compete in nine championship matches revived old memories and made the legends well up with pride. They remembered the honor of holding championship gold and the exhilaration they felt as they prepared for a big match.
"What a day! What a night!" said Rick Martel, who held the World Tag Team Championships with Tony Garea and Tito Santana and is a former AWA Champion. "I can feel the adrenaline. It reminds me of a lot of great feelings. You remember these times all your life. It never goes away. At the end of the day, when someone calls you a champion, it's just a tremendous honor."
Seeing some of today's champions -- like WWE Champion John Cena, Cruiserweight Champion Chavo Guerrero, U.S. Champion MVP, and World Tag Team Champions Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch, just to name a few -- and other Superstars reassured pioneers like "The Man of 1,000 Holds" Dean Malenko that their influence is still felt.
"We've got a lot of great performers, a lot of great athletes that work for us," said Malenko. "I've always prided myself on the wrestling part of the industry, the more technical aspect. It's a pleasure to watch guys like Bobby Lashley, Shelton Benjamin, and Charlie Haas -- guys who have amateur backgrounds and really excel in the art of wrestling holds and moves and counters. It's nice to see that tradition still going on in wrestling today."
Former World Champion Harley Race sees his legacy represented every time Trevor Murdoch, his former student, competes. He doesn't take the distinction of being a champion for granted.
"Any time you are in a position where your peers, plus the people who paid your bills all your life, are honoring you, it doesn't get a hell of a lot better than that," Race said. "Seeing the young guys physically doing what you used to do yourself -- there's no way you can't think back. It gets your memory going."
Magnum T.A. was gratified to see Ric Flair, a legend who is in some ways his own wrestling tradition, still going strong. Before his career was ended by a car accident, Magnum had unforgettable wars with Flair over the World Heavyweight Championship. Seeing the 58-year-old Flair challenge for the U.S. Championship reminded Magnum of their old rivalry. In addition, MVP gave Magnum flashbacks of another old rival.
"MVP reminds me of people from my past," he said. "I had a tremendous rivalry with a man named Tully Blanchard. He, too, was very brash and opinionated -- I consider MVP almost the reincarnation of my old nemesis."
Malenko, who seemingly had a counter for any hold in his illustrious career, perhaps put a Master Lock on Vengeance that even Chris Masters would be proud of. Vengeance brought champions of the past and present together so that sports-entertainment can look forward to its future.
"It's great seeing a lot of the guys who spent a lot of time bleeding and sweating for the entertainment of the fans," he said. "It's nice to see the old faces get together for one night and see them sort of pass the torch to the new champions in WWE."