The Seven is an arbitrary list of randomly connected hockey subjects that will run every Thursday on Puck Daddy. Agree to disagree.
While attending the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, something struck me. These tales from the road, stories of wrestling families, injuries that were overcome, championships won … swap out the names, toss out the scripts and it could have been a bunch of old hockey players waxing nostalgic about the glory days.
At Wrestlemania, the hock-n-wrestlin' connection grew stronger in my mind. These fans with their signs and their chants and their dedication to a maligned sport … there just seemed to be a shared DNA between puckheads and the WWE universe.
So with that, this week's list: The Seven Reasons Why Pro Wrestling and Pro Hockey Are Blood Relatives.
And here … we … go.
"The Great One." "The Rocket." "The Kid." "The Hammer." "The Grim Reaper." "The Juice." "Mad Dog." "A-Train."
Wayne Gretzky, Maurice Richard, Sidney Crosby, Dave Schultz, Stu Grimson, Jussi Jokinen, John Madden and Anton Volchenkov …
… then again: The Rock, Owen Hart, Sean Waltman, Greg Valentine, The Undertaker, Juventud Guerrera, Maurice Vachon and Prince Albert.
The nicknames spread beyond individual players. Wrestling had the Four Horsemen and the nWo. Hockey had The Triple Crown Line and The French Connection.
And they both had the Legion of Doom.
2. Barns (chants, swag, signs, etc.)
Winning a match in Madison Square Garden means as much as winning a Stanley Cup Playoff game there — the victory carries with it the weight of the barn's history, and the famous names that have passed through those doors before you. This went for Maple Leaf Gardens and The Forum and Boston Garden, too.
Inside the barns, the fans share the same fervent passion. They're decked out in memorabilia, whether it's the latest John Cena T-shirt or the latest Buffalo Sabres sweater. (Only the NFL and Champions League soccer can claim a higher jersey-to-fan ratio than the NHL, and neither boasts the coverage in a WWE crowd). They guzzle beer and wave homemade signs.
Another shared tradition: Chants.
Hockey fans have theirs, from a "Let's Go" for the home team to more localized ones — "Marty's Better" or "Potvin Sucks" or "Fire Wilson." Wrestling fans are a de facto Greek Chorus for many matches — witness the "This Is Awesome" chants that arose about 30 minutes into the Triple H vs. Undertaker Hell In a Cell match at 'Mania.
In both cases, the chants go beyond encouragement — yes, even when the outcome is scripted. They're an expected part of the overall event aesthetics. Wrestling fans clapping to encourage the face to break a punishing rest move -- er, side headlock -- know their role is as mandatory as a hockey fan properly celebrating a goal from the home team with a Gary Glitter song.
3. Family Legacy
Both wrestling and hockey are populated with more legacies than the Skull and Bones.
Alberta yielded both hockey's Sutters and wrestling's Harts. Thunder Bay produced the Staals; the Von Erichs were associated with Texas. Blake Geoffrion is a fourth-generation player; the Guerrero family is in its third generation of pro wrestlers. Hockey had Bobby and Brett Hull; wrestling had Bob and Randy Orton.
It's a family heritage. It's in the blood. It's fathers teaching sons, and mothers wincing as their boys take nasty bumps and break bones.
4. A Sudden Commitment To Performer Safety
At Wrestlemania, there was this thing called the Undertaker's Graveyard in which all 19 of his previous 'Mania opponents were represented on tombstones. It was cool, but also a little creepy when one realizes that several of them are actually dead.
The mortality rate of pro wrestling has been embarrassing, to the point where Deadspin could do a weekly series on Dead Wrestlers. To address this, the WWE has in the last decade attempted to increase standards and care in its "wellness program" for drug testing.
But it's also sought to address another issue: brain injuries.
In 2010, the WWE banned chair shots to the head. Whenever you see a wrestler use a chair during an "attack", it's hitting the back or the legs. How seriously does the WWE take this? Triple H and the Undertaker were fined for head-shots in Wrestlemania 27.
The NHL … well, you'd have to be living in the Yukon or be Don Cherry not to recognize the strides it's attempted to make in banning intentional hits to the head.
Both wrestling and hockey are inherently violent; the NHL and WWE try to keep things PG-13. Well, save for the occasional blood.
You got hockey in my wrestling!
Who can forget The Goon, Barney Irwin, who elevated hockey players to jobber status:
You got wrestling in my hockey!
The Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes are two teams that have handed out WWE belts as their postgame celebration rewards. The NHL is filled with wrestling fans, from Jason LaBarbera's Ultimate Warrior mask to Bruce Boudreau.
And, of course, The Perfect Goalie!
6. Canadian Roots
For all the kids on the pond/fathers and sons/looking up to heroes/it's like a religion stuff we hear about hockey in Canada, pro wrestling has deep cultural roots in Canada as well.
Check out the names on this Canada Pro Wrestling HOF page. Search out the legacy of Stampede Wrestling, and the graduates of the Hart Dungeon. Wrestlemania VI at SkyDome in 1990 had the largest gate in North American history at that time.
From the talent it's produced — the Harts, Chris Jericho, Edge, Christian, Chris Benoit — to the enthusiastic crowds across the country, there's a strong Canuck vibe that permeates pro wrestling. And not just because of The Mountie.
7. Fans Defending The 'Indefensible'
This is more appropriate in the U.S. than in Canada, but the sentiment exists in both nations: There are always going to be people who see you as a barbarous, uncultured moron for caring about these forms of entertainment. That paying to see examples of brutality — WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!? — is akin to funding the degradation of society.
To these people, we fans give the middle finger. Or a crotchchop. Or chant "you suck!"
Because it's what we do.