Story: Rick Martel had quite a remarkable career as a professional wrestler, winning titles all over the United States and elsewhere, including toppling Jumbo Tsuruta for the AWA World Championsip, which he then held for 19 months. That alone would be impressive, but he would also rack up titles in the WWF and be toward the top of the card as a tag team wrestler and a singles worker, starring in memorable feuds as The Model. But even before all that, Martel was still a champion and in 1981, held the WWWF Tag Team Championship with Tony Garea. In this Timeline episode, Martel talks us through 1981 and as someone at the top at the time, he certainly has a valuable, first hand perspective.
Entertainment Value: If you prefer the more grounded, fact based interviews about the business, this 1981 episode of Timeline should appeal to you. Rick Martel was a solid choice to host this episode, as he was at the top of the card and held a championship during the year, so aside from his accent being hard to understand at times, he is a very good subject here. He takes an informative route with his answers and veers away from more personal aspects of the industry at the time, though he isn’t shy to discuss his feelings on his peers. Martel just states his opinions and moves on, so he doesn’t try to gossip or get shady, he just says how he feels and that’s it. I appreciated this approach, as Timeline is at its best when it focuses on the first hand accounts of the events in a given year, rather that devolving into self promotion or mud slinging stories. I love wild shoot interviews, don’t get me wrong, but Timeline just feels different than the usual shoot interviews, at least to me.
Martel has the most information about the programs he worked of course, so there’s a wealth of insights into the tag team division at the time. I think fans will enjoy his stories and memories of those feuds and programs, as he worked so many interesting teams and has worthwhile anecdotes about many of them, all worth a listen. He has good responses for the other questions and prompts as well, though 1981 wasn’t the deepest year for storylines or big moments in the business, so this isn’t an episode loaded with big bombshells. Even so, Martel shares so much interesting information here and in such a genuine, upbeat way, it is a pleasure to experience. He comes across as believable and authentic, which makes his stories and memories carry weight, as he shows little ego and doesn’t try to shoehorn himself into every story, like Brutus Beefcake would, for example. I enjoyed this episode of Timeline and for those interested in the historical aspects of 1981, this is recommended.