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Wrestling legends have decidedly different views of today's WWE

Tito Santana and Nikolai Volkoff have opposite viewpoints about today's ring product
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Nikolai Volkoff, left, and Tito Santana, a pair WWE hall of famers, were in Orillia recently. Tyler Evans/OrilliaMatters

WWE Hall of Famers, Tito Santana and Nikolai Volkoff, were both integral parts of the revolution that transformed professional wrestling from a traveling circus act to an international phenomenon and a billion-dollar entertainment industry.  

Santana wrestled for the WWE on an off from 1979 to 1993, and competed in the first-ever match at Wrestlemania, defeating the Executioner by submission. Santana would go on to become a tag-team champion and a two-time Intercontinental Champion and is considered one of the best technical wrestlers of all time.

Volkoff was more successful as a tag-team wrestler and much like Santana, Volkoff’s time in the WWE was on a come-and-go basis from 1974 to 1995. Volkoff also wrestled at the first Wrestlemania, joining forces with the Iron Sheik; they defeated the U.S. Express for the WWE Tag team championship. Volkoff went on to be a three-time tag-team champion.

The first time Santana captured the Intercontinental championship was in September of 1984, in London, Ontario. 

“The highlight of my career was the feud I had with Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine,” Santana told OrilliaMatters. “It was the longest feud in the history of the WWE. We had all kinds of great matches, until I got him in that cage match, and I gained the Intercontinental title.”

Winning the title was a special moment for Santana, but winning it on Canadian soil made it that much more meaningful.

“I always enjoyed wrestling in Canada; the fans were always great to me.”

For Volkoff, his career-defining moment came in the world's most famous arena against arguably the greatest champion in wrestling history.  

“The highlight of my career was wrestling Bruno Samartino in Madison Square Garden. It was October 25, 1976 for the WWWF heavyweight title (now the WWE Championship)," said Volkoff. "It was the first sell-out of Bruno’s 188 MSG sell outs, more than any other performer in entertainment history,” Volkoff recalled with pride even though he was defeated on that historic night.

Santana now spends his days as a middle school teacher in New Jersey, and Volkoff is living in Maryland, attending independent wrestling shows, and training the next generation of talent. Both have an interesting but much different viewpoint on today's WWE.

“I’m not interested in watching today's product, it’s a different ball game than it used to be,” Santana said. “Once in a while when I’m channel surfing I’ll watch a few minutes of it, but I don’t feel impressed with what I see, so I’ll move on to something else.”

Santana’s remarks were surprising, so I asked him to further explain what he meant. 

“There’s no ring-psychology, they just do stuff for no rhyme or reason," he said. "We used to tell a story with our matches, they just don’t do that anymore.”

Despite his feelings toward today’s WWE, Santana expressed his love for independent wrestling.

“There is a lot of talent on the Independents. I enjoy watching those guys wrestle," he said. "Every night there is at least one or two guys on the independent circuit who have what it takes to go up to the WWE and make it better, but it’s hard for these guys to get discovered because there is really only one league.”

Unlike Santana, Volkoff is a big fan of today’s WWE and thinks the future of the industry is in good hands.

“I still really enjoy watching the WWE, they have lots of good guys there right now.” Volkoff said. “I really like Roman Reigns, I worked with his father Sika Anoa’i. I like John Cena as well, a lot of respect for him and what he’s done for wrestling. I like all the guys and gals really; they are doing a good job right now.”

The opinions of these two legends deserve respect as they both helped paved the way not only for today’s product, but the future as well.

Santana’s opinion that there is a lack of story telling in the ring today is a common complaint from the old school type fan. But to enjoy today’s WWE you have to adapt and accept change just as Volkoff has done.

Santana is correct in saying it’s a different ball game today. There are many noticeable differences between the days of Santana and Volkoff and the days of Roman Reigns and John Cena. Just like everything else in today’s world, for better or for worse, the WWE has evolved.