Monday, November 16, 2015

The Master of The Ten Dollar Word: Farewell, Nick Bockwinkel

A master smithy of vocabulary
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Nick Bockwinkel died yesterday, November 15, 2015. It would be easy to list his accomplishments – and there were MANY, including being the AWA World Champion at the age of 52 (!) and wrestling a match against Jumbo Tsuruta with Terry Funk as special guest referee – but instead I want to talk about Nick Bockwinkel’s master classes in promos.

A lot of wrestlers point to guys like Ric Flair as inspiration for their promo style. Flair was great, no doubt about it, but when Nick Bockwinkel called Mad Dog Vachon one of the lowest elements of humanity? You could almost taste the disdain for every single one of the crowd who liked and supported Vachon, because here was Nick Bockwinkel, of all people, holding the title, wearing his fancy suits (oh, but subtly; no flash over substance here, Nick Bockwinkel was a gentleman, albeit not of the fancy British sort, but a gentleman armed with a tiny dictionary and all the words to bring you down five sizes smaller and the physical ability to kick your ass once you were diminished), using his huge vocabulary to insult the guy YOU wanted to win, making you feel incredibly, deliciously low-class, and you HATED him for it.

They gave Bockwinkel Bobby Heenan as a manager and I suppose that’s how it was done, back in the day, but my god was Bockwinkel the least likely guy to need any managing. He used phrases like “obdurate recalcitrance” to imply stubbornness and a frustration on his part for men who didn’t seem to understand that he, Nick Bockwinkel, was the very best, and don’t you forget it.

As the years changed, so did the style in which wrestlers worked. Flair was gold watches and jets in a time where most folks were struggling against things they didn’t understand, like big government and poverty. Bockwinkel was a dictionary and a disdain for the common man that was palpable without being ostentatious. Flair made you feel poor; Bockwinkel made you feel dumb, which was somehow worse, because you could always find ways to earn money, but intelligence wasn’t so easy to come by.

Any more, in wrestling, words are meaningless without actions and vice-versa. It will be a long time before any wrestler manages to combine both their words and the prowess to back them up in such a way as Bockwinkel, but men like Damien Sandow are hearkening back to that era.

Thank you for making us feel insignificant, Mr. Bockwinkel. You made it fun to prove to you we were anything but, but my goodness, how we loved to hate you.

And how you will be missed. Goodbye, sir.