“Nostalgia”; a word defined by Webster’s dictionary as a “sentimental longing or affection for the past”, yet in the world of professional wrestling, it can mean a whole lot more. It is equal parts “hiccup” and “hope” as things continue to evolve; the fond memories of yesteryear creeping into current storylines as wrestlers return for one more run or simply a one time moment, well past their eras of focus, hoping for a few more strolls through that curtain to the cheers and reactions of many.
If anything, it proves that wrestlers may be just as nostalgic as the rest of us, never wanting to truly give it all up and stay retired.
It is the reason WWE has made every loud noise known to man in its latest offering of WCW’s golden boy “Goldberg”, even allowing the 50 year old former heavyweight kingpin to score a quick victory over Brock Lesnar en route to his latest run towards another title shot. It is the reason we are all okay with seeing the Undertaker one to three times a year; a phenomenal spectacle we know that time will eventually defeat, yet we hold on to by the grips of our fingernails, never wanting to let it go. It is the reason we were so enamored with a 55 year old Sting finally making his WWE debut a couple of years back, knowing that “Sting vs. HHH” wouldn’t be everything we hoped for, but yet, felt like it was something we just couldn’t miss, simply because of the many school recesses full of “Monday Night War” chatter that always had us wondering what would have happened if “Degeneration X” had actually gone into the Turner owned building that night they “invaded” WCW.
Deep down, even the most jaded and elitist of wrestling fans feel it; even if they aren’t willing to speak freely on the matter. I, for one, gave up the act a long time ago, and as I get older I openly embrace seeing faces from the past, even if the consensus is that it is simply a “cheap pop” or “gimmick” used to keep us watching. Who knows when it will really be the “last time”, so why not just suspend your negative thinking and enjoy it while you can? A few days ago, my nostalgia was in full effect. While the fans of WCW’s past rejoiced in highly publicized return of Goldberg, another former “Monday Night Wars” era bruiser was quietly planning his return to the ring, unfortunately to much less acclaim.
His name is Scott Norton; a man known as “Flash” to many thanks to his years of competitive arm wrestling and the speed at which he was able to defeat his opponents, a sport which garnered him a role in Sylvester Stallone’s movie “Over the Top” as well as a bodyguard position for the late entertainer “Prince” during the early to mid 80’s, including a run on Prince’s famed “Purple Rain” tour. With his various accolades in tow, a transition into professional wrestling made sense, and in 1989 he debuted for the AWA at the behest of one of his trainers, the legendary Verne Gagne. From there he made a splash in Japan, competing in New Japan Pro Wrestling and capturing tag team gold with Hercules Hernadez as “The Jurassic Powers” before being shuffled around with various different partners and eventually ended up back in the states, competing for WCW.
Early in Norton’s WCW career, he failed to get over as a monster heel in the singles division and was eventually relegated to being part of a tag team called “Fire and Ice” alongside “Ice Train” before being shuffled back and forth between WCW and NJPW on a talent trade which re-shaped Norton’s career in 1996 when he joined the hottest faction in professional wrestling, the “New World Order” playing the role of the NWO’s resident strong man in both the states and Japan, eventually winning the vacant IWGP Heavyweight Title in a match with Yuji Nagata in September of 1998. During his career, he held a variety of titles in Japan; twice the IWGP heavyweight champion with too many tag team accolades to count in his storied 16 year run with NJPW, yet his WCW career can be chalked up alongside the WCW runs of many others, simply fodder for the hungry, aging veterans looking to further their own star power, unwilling to advance any positions at the risk of hurting their own. Ironically enough, his career with WCW ended after a loss to the previously mentioned Goldberg on WCW’s weakest show, “Thunder” sometime in 1999.
So why feel nostalgic you ask? Scott Norton was never the marquee name of the WCW, nor was he ever the primary focus on a show that pushed the same ten guys while everyone worthwhile fled to WWE or Japan, so why put so much emphasis him now? The answer is simple…for as long as I could remember, I have always wanted to be involved with professional wrestling in some capacity, and in 1995, after a few months of learning about other promotions and wrestlers I had never heard of (courtesy of my Pro Wrestling Illustrated subscription) I decided I wanted to interview professional athletes and create my own magazine. At the time, I was a young kid, no older than eleven and my idea of interviewing was handwriting letters and including a second page with 4-5 questions giving 4-6 lines of blank paper space for the wrestler to write in his answers. I would put all of this together and send it away to addresses I had found in wrestling magazines or through wrestling “pen pals” you used to be able to trade merchandise, magazine posters or clippings with via “snail mail”. I would stuff all of this with a self addressed stamped envelope into a long letter envelope and send them away, sometimes with smaller items like sports cards or small pictures I hoped the athlete would sign and return. Usually, it was a waste of my time and an even bigger waste of the meager $5 allowance I received as I would come home from school disappointed day after day, finding nothing in my mailbox.
Through six months of “by mail” interview experiment, only two athletes ever wrote me back. The first was Detroit Pistons star player of the era, Grant Hill and the second was WCW wrestler Scott Norton. From Grant Hill, I received a standard printed letter and an auto penned signature 5×7 picture I am sure was sent out to thousands of other fans. From Norton I received 2 signed wrestling magazine page pictures I had included and to my surprise, he had filled out his answers to every single question I had asked, which were basic questions like “Do you think you could beat Sting?” or “How much can you bench press?” which he easily filled in with short answers. At such a young age, just that little gesture meant the world to someone who would stay the course and eventually grow up and make a living in the world of journalism. From that day forward, I was Scott Norton’s biggest fan, as all my childhood chums had decided that Scott and I were “friends” because he had sent me a letter in reply, as I milked all of the “cool points” I could for the duration of my fifth grade year. As I grew older, I teetered off into caring about other things and while I have always watched wrestling and followed it closely, I had kind of lost track of Scott’s career until recently.
Fast forward to January 2017; the place was the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. On a night that saw an incredible main event between Kazuchicka Okada and Kenny Omega dominate headlines (with good reason), another story worth talking about was occurring on the pre-show of “Wrestle Kingdom 11” in the annual 14 man “New Japan Rumble” as Scott Norton made a surprise return to action and competed, promptly hitting Ryusuke Taguchi with a power bomb and scoring a pinfall elimination. As he entered at #14, I lit up like my 11 year old self, instantly remembering the letter and all of the excitement I felt as a child all over again. A day after competing at WK11, Norton returned once again, competing in a 10 man tag team contest against the Bullet Club in a winning effort and I couldn’t have been more elated for him to be back in action, so much so I felt the need to sit down and write about it even though I wasn’t exactly sure how much of an article I could make out of it, all I knew going in was I wanted to give this man a well deserved round of applause in honor of his moment. Sure it wasn’t a highly touted return leading into a “Wrestlemania” main event spot or a “legends” contract, but for those of us who grew up a fan of the man called “flash” it was an amazing moment to witness after all of these years. Sadly, through the decades, I lost that interview page and those signed pictures in the many moves from state to state, each one of those brittle paper pages suffering folds, creases and pinholes from being taken on and off bedroom walls, but the memories of them and what they meant to my life will stick with me forever.
While this piece became more of a “thank you” then it was a “welcome back”, either way, you sure are appreciated, Scott. I hope this article is a fitting “tip of the hat” to you and your career and my hopes are that it will continue on just a bit longer. May we all take a moment today and remember to feel nostalgic.
You can catch Scott Norton wrestling for the @WrestleCircus promotion in Austin, TX on February 19th, 2017, you can also follow him @scottnorton and be sure you follow me on twitter @NicholasGrooms for more articles and stories.