Wrestling: "No one said you have to take steroids, but the truth is that's what it was"
Documentary explores ‘golden era’ of professional wrestling
Many of them are now broken men – both physically and financially – but in the 1980s they were like rock stars, lured by a lifestyle of big money, fast women, drugs and steroids.
A new documentary entitled 350 Days explores their lives and what is described as the “golden era” of professional wrestling.
The 1980s saw a surge in its popularity in the United States and Canada. Contributing to its success was the expansion of cable television and pay-perview and a period of crosspromotion between the WWF and elements of the music industry, particularly singer Cyndi Lauper.
The documentary is a coeffort of Vancouver-based actor Fulvio Cecere, who is the director and co-producer, along with producer Darren Antola.
“I did wrestle in high school so I appreciate the sport of it, but the entertainment part of it I didn’t know anything about it,” said Cecere, 54, who grew up in Montreal and has a long list of TV and movie credits.
Cecere said he and Antola were working on reality TV show proposals. When those didn’t work out they found the world of professional wrestling provided another opportunity.
An interview with Superstar Billy Graham, who was a champion in the late 1970s as well as an award-winning bodybuilder who trained with Arnold Schwarzenegger, was an eye-opener.
“He was just so nonchalant. He said, ‘I’d get up in the morning and shoot my speed and I did this and this and that’ and just rattled it off like a grocery list,” Cecere said.
The title, 350 Days, refers to the amount of time many of the performers wrestled every year.
Bret (The Hitman) Hart made his in-ring debut in 1978.
The Calgarian gained popularity and championship success throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE), where he headed The Hart Foundation.
What Hart remembers most about the 1980s was the upsurge in the use of steroids. “You really didn’t know how good you could wrestle in 1984. It mattered how big your arms were and how you looked under the lights with baby oil all over you,” he said with a chuckle.
“No one said you have to take steroids, but the truth is that’s what it was. If you wanted to be a star you’d take steroids because everybody else is taking them. It kind of got, like, if you want to keep your job you’ve got to get competitive with everyone else.” Bill Eadie competed under the names Ax as part of Demolition and The Masked Superstar before retiring in 1982.
“It was difficult on us mentally and physically,” said Eadie, 66, who was on his way to Niagara Falls, Ont., from his home in Atlanta for an autograph signing session. “There’s probably well over 60 per cent who are broke and it’s not only guys who never made any money. There were friends of mine who if they made $1,000 they spent $1,200. They’d think it was never going to end.”