'Twas a good decade for pop culture.note
"Legend has it that man once washed his jeans in pure acid!"
The Excessive Eighties: a time where you wake up before you go-go
when you want to kick up your Sunday shoes
as you walk like an Egyptian
, hear doves cry
or feel the Punky power like a virgin
while you moonwalk the Thriller
All the men were preppies who wore pastel suits with narrow ties, drove sports cars that Lee Iacocca personally stood behind and traded stocks on Wall Street - after all, as Oscar Wilde
said, nothing says success like excess. (Unless they happened to be teenagers, in which case they were Totally Radical
or studied karate and learnt the meaning of "Wax On, Wax Off
".) Everyone had huge hairdos
, enough make-up
to sink a ship and power suits with shoulderpads big enough to knock the giant mirrored sunglasses off
anyone who walked within a three foot radius of them. And those without them had flat-tops and wore gym clothes and break-danced on top of cardboard. Millenials (then known as "Echo Boomers" and later "Generation Y"
) started being born, one day to become, despite their best efforts
, the young adults of The Turn of the Millennium
Computing technology first became a true cultural force in this decade, starting a trend that would keep on snowballing to this very day. The Eighties was the decade of cell phones literally sized and shaped like bricks, jokes about being unable to program VCRs, the death of Betamax, and the beginnings of personal computers and gaming consoles beginning to proliferate inside homes, perhaps one of the trends from this decade with the largest of cultural implications. Cable television also took off big time, with MTV
, and CNN
becoming household acronyms.
In the US, it was also the first wave of the Japanese Invasion
, the inklings of which started in '78 with the dub of Battle of the Planets
, continuing on with Star Blazers
('84), getting even more hardcore
in '85, and hitting its apex by cranking the quality Up to Eleven
with the nationwide release of AKIRA
On the homefront, the 1980s produced a rash of pop-cultural icons that today are looked upon, at worst, with Affectionate Parody
, and at best, as the national ideal. The conservative political culture of the era meant two rather contradictory things for the production of pop-culture; on the one hand, the surge of private enterprise together with new media technologies allowed corporations such as Hasbro an unprecedented ability to build massive franchises
around their products, typically with a TV show and accompanying toys, but on the other Moral Guardian
complaints would challenge the ethics of making a show that was "essentially one large commercial." The result was the rather spoof-worthy And Knowing Is Half the Battle
segment common to many mass franchise shows, shoving an Anvilicious
moral into the action. Fortunately, these were conveniently located after the actual plot, so kids could just turn it off at that point and run down to buy the toys. Besides, the segments make great joke
Politically, the first part of the decade, Cold War
tensions continued to escalate such as the US doing things like invading Grenada and proposing ludicrously unfeasible military schemes like the Strategic Defense Initiative. Some accuse this of being an intentional move
by the West to render the economically inept Soviet Union infeasible by drawing its resources away from things like infrastructure and feeding its people, which market economies could accomplish easily. While this is, essentially, what ended up happening (though more complicated than that in real life; in Eastern Europe the decade's real deathblow to communism was considered to have been all the new media technology), the fact that the other possible outcome of such a strategy was global thermonuclear annihilation had a profound impact on Western media tropes. Most obviously, dystopian Speculative Fiction
, particularly set After the End Twenty Minutes into the Future
, enjoyed a surge. On the other hand, Star Trek
became a defiantly optimistic mainstream Sci-Fi
mainstay with the feature film series and its return to live action TV with Star Trek: The Next Generation
The second part of the decade, however, couldn't be more different. Gorbachev, spry for a CPSU leader at age 54 (this was the only time in the Cold War that the Soviet leader was substantially younger than the American), shook up the by-then sclerotic Soviet leadership upon taking power in 1985. Gorbachev restructured the economy (perestroika
) for "accelerated" development (uskoreniye
), encouraged openness (glasnost
), made tentative moves towards democracy (demokratizatsiya
), and went Karting with Reagan
. For a hot second in 1988-89, it seemed like the USSR had reached a final rapprochement
with the West. And then came The Great Politics Mess-Up
Throughout this era, there came new problems like the spread of AIDS which created a public health panic that dealt first a body blow to the gay community as homophobes treating them as modern lepers (even though that community took the danger seriously far sooner than others). However, the epidemic paradoxically later proved a partial blessing in disguise for gay rights as stricken people like Rock Hudson
were shoved out of the closet, forcing the public to realize that LGBTI people were all around them, much like themselves. The Eighties also had the highest murder rate in U.S. history, almost twice what it is today.
Politically speaking, the decade lasted roughly from the inauguration of Ronald Reagan
on January 20, 1981 to the collapse of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991, so almost 11 years. (Sometimes Margaret Thatcher
becoming Prime Minister in 1979 is considered the start, especially in the UK.) Culturally, the decade lasted roughly from the death of Disco
in 1979 to the release of Nirvana
's album Nevermind
Thanks to a common twenty- or thirty-year lag
, it's still The Eighties in much of Fictionland. Although The Seventies
and The Nineties
are gradually returning.
See Also: The Roaring Twenties
, The Great Depression
, The Forties
, The Fifties
, The Sixties
, The Seventies
, The Nineties
, Turn of the Millennium
and The New Tens
Popular tropes from this time period include:
- The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Crack cocaine and heroin caught on big during this decade, along with their pushers, hence the establishment of this trope as part of the larger "Just Say No" movement.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: G.I Joe, et. al., in order to counteract accusations of being no more than "30-minute toy commercials".
- Animated Adaptation: Of practically everything, including films, TV shows, comic books, video games, action figures, dolls, plush toys, music videos, and real-life celebrities!
- Anime, called Japanimation at the time, started becoming somewhat popular in the US in the '80s (although it would take untill the second half of the 90's untill it truly exploded in mainstream popularity).
- Canada Does Not Exist: A wave of low-budget cop and action-adventure dramas start being produced in Canada, but primarily for U.S. consumption. This leads to the weird phenomenon of shows which take place in a "nowhereland" that is neither fully the US nor completely Canada.
- Cold War and Red Scare: A big feature of this period, particularly in the early 1980s with the European Missiles Crisis, the Nicaraguan civil war and Libya. Especially Libya. The Cold War plots here can be divided squarely between before and after 8 December 1987, the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the U.S. and USSR. It's generally straight Red Scare before that. After, it's Renegade Russian or Make the Bear Angry Again.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Thanks to the movie Wall Street, an enduring image of this time. Part of the economic climate of the time were Ronald Reagan's reforms and the Black Monday crash of 1987.
- Cyberpunk: kicked off by Blade Runner and Neuromancer.
- The Dark Age of Comic Books: Began with Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns in 1985.
- Darker and Edgier: Even though this was a fun decade for many people this decade had many negative sides to it:
- Crack cocaine was created and many people became destructively addicted to it; to make matters worse, the turf wars between dealers and gangs decimated many black neighborhoods in big cities.
- The sexually-transmitted disease AIDS became an epidemic. The first two cases of patients dying from AIDS had taken place in 1959, but there are only a handful of known cases dating to the 1960s and 1970s. At least 121 AIDS-related deaths took place between 1980 and 1981. By the end of the 1980s, the disease had spread worldwide and there were over a million known patients. And in the U.S., the initial stigma of AIDS as a "gay disease" contributed to unfair ostracization of its victims and LGBT people in general.
- The beginning of the (currently ongoing) "war on drugs" resulted in skyrocketing incarceration rates, hundreds of thousands of people ending up behind bars for nonviolent offenses.
- By contrast, everyone could get behind the big crackdown on the deadly Drunk Driver traffic menace, which finally got taken seriously in a Dude, Not Funny! way.
- Likewise, smoking found itself marginalized still more with the health menace of second-hand smoke becoming common knowledge, causing a groundswell of efforts to discourage the habit and isolate smokers.
- An enormous crime wave hit America at this time: this is where NYC got its image as a crime-ridden Hellhole of apathy and darkness, and why so many action movies starring Cowboy Cops were popular.
- More generally, the 1980s were the time when the American middle class began losing ground in terms of GDP share as more people became part of the upper class.. Socio-economic inequalities more or less kept in check for a half-century started growing again, creating an increasing polarization between economic classes.
- Unemployment was a huge problem in many Western countries. Very conservative politicians like Ronald Reagan in the USA and Margaret Thatcher in the UK endorsed the free market and privatisations. This was great for billionaires and yuppies, but meant sour times for middle and lower class citizens and the poor, who didn't receive as much help from the government as in previous decades.
- The arrival of MTV had a downside as well. Music videos became so dominant that authentic artists who played instruments were now expected to create a music video for every hit single they released, because otherwise it would not receive airplay. For some serious artists this was a huge setback, because they were now expected to "act" and "look good" on camera to appeal to the record buying public. By the end of the 1980s many music fans couldn't imagine a music record existing without some kind of video attached to it. Thus several pop stars who looked attractive but couldn't sing or play a note on their instrument were launched to make quick bucks.
- In the first half of the 1980s many people across the world felt frightened because President Reagan orderded more nuclear missiles to be placed in Europe to defend the US against the Soviet Union. He also endorsed a daft plan, "Star Wars", to protect the USA in space against a possible Soviet attack. Fear for a Third World War and nuclear testing lead to numerous protests and protest singles. Only when Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet leader in 1985 tensions between the USA and USSR started to diminish.
- The Chernobyl disaster (1986) also lead to a universal fear for nuclear power disasters, especially when a huge radioactive cloud flew over Europe, having disastrous effects on the local farming industry. Since then the place has become a Ghost Town and a place where plants and animals have won back ground on humans.
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: A common way of introducing romance subplots in '80s movies.
- Drugs Are Bad: A growing awareness of the dangers of recreational drugs (especially the above-mentioned crack cocaine) led to government-sponsored programs designed to teach kids to "Just Say No", which led to this message becoming near-ubiquitous via the Very Special Episode and Public Service Announcement.
- Dystopia: Dark, crime-ridden Twenty Minutes into the Future or oppressive alternate universes were big in '80s films/TV shows.
- '80s Hair: If you were in a (popular) metal band or were a female country singer you wore it one way and only one way, BIG! This was also the decade in which the mullet really went mainstream. (Though the actual name "mullet" was only coined and applied retrospectively in The Nineties).
- Football Hooligans: For the UK at least. It became such a problem that Margaret Thatcher put together a cabinet just to tackle them. Measures put in place then led to Hillsborough. These days the problem has been virtually eradicated, although the trope appears quite often in foreign films set in the UK where football is involved, and Hooligans continue to cause problems in places not the UK (mostly South America).
- Fur and Loathing: When it started.
- Idol Singer: Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, just to name a few...
- I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: Applying to works looking at this decade in hindsight, a survivor of the so-called "decade fashion disaster" might confess to this. The fashion statements were so overly radical, more extravagant and less flamboyant than the decade before, it had to be toned down and grunged up a lot a decade later.
- Japan Takes Over the World: A staple of the decade, particularly in Cyberpunk works. Often seems a little silly now.
- Merchandise-Driven: Virtually every original cartoon made in the eighties seems to be this way.
- Montage Ends The VHS: It's when a commercial VHS tape has trailers, intros or just a compilation montage promoting a line of tapes at the end, after a movie or episode it contains is over.
- Narm Charm: Oh yes.
- Nostalgia Filter / Two Decades Behind
- Pac Man Fever
- Pretty in Mink: Works that weren't afraid to show fur tended to show even more than they would in The Seventies.
- Rich Bitch: Dynasty, Falcon Crest, et. al.
- Shoulders of Doom: The huge shoulder pads, bigger than the ones forty years earlier.
- Sweater Girl: With or without shoulder pads. With or without a bra underneath.
- Training Montage: Many an 80s martial arts or sports film had one of these, with inspirational music from Survivor, John Farnham or some other classic rocker.
- Valley Girl: Like, totally!
- Vapor Wear: Common in the first part of the decade (before Madonna); off-the-shoulder tops and tops with bare backs were common.
- Very Special Episode: Just about every show had one or more of these, often due to Executive Meddling but sometimes just plain Author Tracts. Drugs Are Bad and Too Smart for Strangers were especially popular.
Many things were created or existed in the 1980s:
open/close all folders
Works that are set/were made in this time period include:
(Note: many were also a part of the Nineties; usually those made in the later part of the decade, and are marked with a '*').
- Tintin. Series started in 1929.
- Spirou and Fantasio. Series began in 1938.
- Tom Poes. Series began in 1941, ended this decade, in 1986.
- Suske en Wiske. Series began in 1945.
- Paulus De Boskabouter. Series began in 1946, ended this decade in 1984.
- Blake and Mortimer. First appeared in September, 1946.
- Nero. Series began in 1947.
- Lucky Luke. Series began in 1947.
- Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber. Series began in 1950.
- Jommeke. Series began in 1955.
- De Kiekeboes. Series started in February, 1977.
- Judge Dredd: Started in 1977, but many of the most significant stories, such as the Apocalypse War and The Judge Child appeared in this time period, as well as iconic antagonists The Dark Judges and P.J. Maybe.
- Douwe Dabbert. Series began in 1975.
- De Generaal. Series began in 1971.
- Jan, Jans en de Kinderen. Series began in 1970.
- The Dark Phoenix Saga. Storyline started in January, 1980.
- Emma Frost. First appeared in January, 1980.
- Kitty Pryde. First appeared in January, 1980.
- Bananaman. First appeared in February, 1980.
- Dazzler. First appeared in February, 1980.
- She-Hulk. First appeared in February, 1980.
- Taskmaster. First appeared in May, 1980.
- Mockingbird. The character of Huntress/Barbara 'Bobbi' Morse received its new codename in July, 1980.
- Nemesis the Warlock. First appeared in July, 1980.
- Anselme Lanturlu. Series started in September, 1980.
- Vanth Dreadstar was introduced in September, 1980.
- His eponymous series in November, 1982.
- Teen Titans. Relaunched with new cast members in November, 1980.
- Deathstroke. First appeared in December, 1980.
- Days of Future Past. First written in January, 1981.
- Rogue. First appeard in November, 1981.
- Elektra. First appeared in January, 1981.
- Ms Tree. First appeared in May, 1981.
- Justice Machine. First appeared in June, 1981.
- Vixen. Secondly appeared in July, 1981.
- Rogue Trooper. First appeared in September, 1981.
- Captain Marvel/Monica Rambeau. First appeared in 1982.
- Grendel: Devil's Legacy. First appeared in 1982.
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!. Series started in March, 1982.
- Cloak & Dagger. First appeared in March, 1982.
- V for Vendetta. Storyline started in March, 1982.
- Contest of Champions. Series started in June, 1982.
- Global Guardians. Debuted in June, 1982.
- The Savage Dragon. First appeared in June, 1982.
- Frank Miller's Wolverine. First appeared in September, 1982
- Archie Comics
- Cheryl Blossom. First appeared in October, 1982.
- Urbanus. First appeared in November, 1982.
- Ambush Bug. First appeared in December, 1982.
- Camelot 3000. First appeared in December, 1982.
- Gilles De Geus. First appeared in 1983.
- New Mutants. First appeared in December, 1982. Received their own series in March, 1983.
- Ed The Happy Clown. First appeared in 1983.
- Jason Todd. First appeared in March, 1983. Became Robin in December, 1983.
- Damian Wayne. First appeared (as an infant) in 1987. He would grow up to become a Robin.
- Timothy "Tim" Drake. First appeared in August, 1989. Became Robin in December, 1989.
- Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. First appeared in April-May, 1983.
- DR And Quinch. First appeared in May, 1983.
- Albedo Erma Felna EDF. Series started in Summer, 1983.
- Jon Sable, Freelance. First appeared in June, 1983.
- Lobo. First appeared in June, 1983.
- Batman and the Outsiders. Team debuted in July, 1983.
- Alpha Flight. The team received its own series in August, 1983.
- Sláine. Character debuted in August, 1983.
- The Sandman
- Silver Scarab/Hector Hall. First appeared in September, 1983.
- Silver Scarab/hector Hall assumed the Sandman identity in May, 1988.
- Sandman/Morpheus/Dream of the Endless. First appeared in January, 1989.
- American Flagg. First appeared in October, 1983.
- Beta Ray Bill. First appeared in November, 1983.
- normalman. First appeared in November, 1983.
- Magik. Series started in December 1983.
- Elementals. The characters first appeared in a 1983 issue of Justice Machine. They got their own series in 1984.
- Zot!. First appeared in April, 1984.
- The Flaming Carrot series started in May, 1984.
- Secret Wars. First appeared in May, 1984, starting the trend of crossovers.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- The eponymous symbiote first appeared in May, 1984.
- Eddie Brock first appeared in September, 1986.
- The combination of the two above first appeared in April-May, 1988.
- Blue Devil. First appeared in June, 1984.
- The Ballad Of Halo Jones. Series started in July, 1984.
- Nightwing, a new persona for Robin/Richard Grayson. First appeared in July, 1984.
- Power Pack. First appeared in August, 1984.
- The Transformers. Series started in September, 1984.
- XIII. Series started in September, 1984.
- Steel/Henry "Hank" Heywood III. First appeared in October, 1984.
- Spider-Woman/Julia Carpenter. First appeared in October-November, 1984.
- For the Man Who Has Everything. Published in 1985.
- Crisis on Infinite Earths. First appeared in April, 1985.
- Fish Police. First appeared in June 1985.
- John Constantine. First appeared in June, 1985.
- Silver Sable. First appeared in June, 1985.
- Secret Wars II. Storyline started in July, 1985.
- Squadron Supreme. Limited series started in September, 1985.
- Hourman/Rick Tyler. First appeared in November, 1985.
- Angel Love. First appeared in 1986.
- The Great Powerof Chninkel. First appeared in 1986.
- Pierre Tombal. First appeared in 1986.
- Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters. First appeared in 1986.
- Maus I was published in 1986.
- Nathan Summers. First appeared (as a newborn) in January, 1986. He would become better known as Cable.
- Booster Gold. First appeared in February, 1986.
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. First appeared in February, 1986.
- X-Factor. First version. Debuted in February, 1986.
- Psylocke. First appeared in December 1986 for U.S..
- Kid Flash/Wallace "Wally" West assumed the mantle of The Flash in March, 1986.
- Apocalypse. First appeared in May, 1986.
- Watchmen: First appeared in September, 1986. Remember that it's an alternate form of the world we know. Fashions, technology, drugs, and politics are different. Except in the movie.
- Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow. Published in September, 1986.
- Dylan Dog. Fist published in October, 1986.
- The Man of Steel. Series started in October, 1986.
- The New Universe. Launched in October, 1986.
- DP7. First appeared in November, 1986.
- Strikeforce: Morituri. First published in December, 1986.
- Le Petit Spirou. First appeared in 1987.
- Ninja High School. First appeared in 1987.
- Sam & Max: Freelance Police. First appeared in 1987.
- Suicide Squad. The modern version of the team debuted in January, 1987.
- Batman: Year One. Storyline started in February, 1987.
- Captain Atom/Nathaniel Adam. First appeared in March, 1987.
- Death's Head. The "freelance peacekeeping agent" version first appeared in May, 1987.
- Justice League International. First appeared in May, 1987.
- Ghost. First appeared in June, 1987.
- Zenith. First appeared in August, 1987.
- Doom Patrol. Relaunched with new members in October, 1987.
- The Desert Peach. First published in 1988.
- Checkmate. First appeared in March, 1988.
- The Killing Joke. First appeared in March, 1988.
- The Pitt. First appeared in March, 1988.
- Excalibur. First appeared in April, 1988.
- Supergirl/Matrix. First appeared in April, 1988.
- Batman: The Cult. First appeared in August, 1988.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe
- Duckworth. First adapted to the medium in October, 1988.
- Launchpad McQuack. First adapted to the medium in October, 1988.
- Mrs. Bentina Beakley. First adapted to the medium in November, 1988.
- Webbigail "Webby" Vanderquack. First adapted to the medium in February, 1989.
- Doofus Drake. First adapted to the medium in October, 1989.
- ''Inferno. Storyline started in October, 1988.
- Mickey Mouse Comic Universe
- Arizona Goof. First appeared in December, 1988.
- The Maze Agency. First published in December, 1988.
- Huntress/Helena Bertinelli. First appeared in April, 1989.
- Lucifer. First appeared in April, 1989.
- Great Lakes Avengers. First appeared in July, 1989.
- The Post-Hawkworld version of Hawkman/Katar Hol. First appeared in August, 1989.
- The Post-Hawkworld version of Hawkwoman/Shayera Thal. First appeared in August, 1989.
- Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. Published in October, 1989.
- Anarky. First appeared in November, 1989.
- New Warriors. First appeared in December, 1989. Received their own series in July, 1990.
- Rat-Man. First appeared in Spot 2, as a supplement to L'Eternauta #86 of June, 1989.
Eastern European Animation
For films released in this time period, see Films of the 1980s
- Adventureland (made in 2009, set in 1987)
- American Psycho (made in 2000, set in sort-of-1989, based on musical information from the protagonist)
- Beyond the Black Rainbow (made in 2010, set in 1983)
- Billy Elliot (made in 2000, set in 1984)
- Donnie Darko (made in 2001, set in 1988)
- Fargo (made in 1996, set in 1987)
- Hot Tub Time Machine (made in 2010, the protagonists travel back to 1986)
- Killing Bono (made in 2011, set mainly between '82 and '86)
- The Last Days Of Disco (made in 1998, set in the early 1980s)
- Love and Basketball (made in 2000, follows the protagonists from 1982-2000)
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (made in 1997, set in the early 1980s)
- The Normal Heart (made in 2014, set in the early 1980s)
- No Country for Old Men (made in 2007, set in 1980)
- Precious (made in 2009, set in 1987)
- The Pursuit of Happyness (made in 2006, set in 1981)
- Rock of Ages (made in 2012, set in 1987)
- Rock Star
- Son of Rambow (made in 2008, set in 1982)
- Song Of The Sea (made in 2014, set in 1987)
- Sunny (made in 2011, has several flashbacks set somewhere in the 80s)
- Submarine (made in 2010, set in 1986)
- Take Me Home Tonight (made in 2011, set in the late 1980s)
- Watchmen (made in 2009, set in an alternate 1985)
- The Wedding Singer (made in 1998, set in 1985)
- Wet Hot American Summer (made in 2001, set in 1981)
- WNUF Halloween Special (made in 2013, set in 1987)
- The Wood (made in 1999, with lots of flashbacks to 1986-89)
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine (made in 2009, the bulk of the movie takes place in 1985 or the very least 1986, but given the nature of what happened to Logan's memories, it is unsure when it took place. The Other Wiki states Stryker met Logan and Victor in 1975 placing the majority of the movie in 1981. Regardless, it certainly doesn't capture the look or the feel of the time.)
Han-guk Manhwa Aenimeisyeon
- 2 Cold Scorpio: Debuted in the mid-1980s.
- Abdullah the Butcher
- Brian Adams/Crush: Debuted in 1986.
- Chris Adams: Debuted in England in 1978, debuted in the U.S. in Los Angeles in 1981.
- General Skandor Akbar
- Captain Lou Albano
- Arn Anderson: Debuted in 1982.
- André the Giant: Became one of the, well, biggest icons in wrestling in the 1980s.
- Lioness Asuka: Debuted in 1980.
- "Stone Cold" Steve Austin: Debuted in 1989.
- The Barbarian: Debuted in 1980.
- Paul Bearer: Was a very successful manager in Texas and Florida as Percival Pringle III
- Brutus Beefcake
- Chris Benoit: Debuted in 1986.
- Big Bossman: Debuted in 1985.
- Bam Bam Bigelow: Debuted in 1985.
- Eric Bischoff: Debuted as an announcer in the AWA in 1987.
- Steve Blackman: Debuted in 1986.
- Freddie Blassie
- Booker T: Debuted in 1989.
- Bobo Brazil
- Bruiser Brody
- King Kong Bundy: Debuted in 1981.
- Don "The Jackyl"/"Cyrus" Callis: Debuted in 1989 as Don Casablancas.
- Allen Coage/Bad News Allen/Bad News Brown
- Jim Cornette. Debuted in 1982.
- The Crusher
- Ted DiBiase: Debuted in the 70s, made his career with the "Million-Dollar Man" gimmick.
- Dick The Bruiser
- Shane Douglas: Debuted in 1982.
- "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan: Debuted in 1977, competed in various territories before arriving in WWE in 1987.
- Dynamite Kid
- Sid Eudy/Sid Vicious/Sycho Sid: Debuted in 1987.
- Jackie Fargo: Retired in 1984.
- Ed "The Sheik" Farhat: Continued competing into this decade.
- Pampero Firpo: Retired in 1986.
- Ric Flair: Debuted in the 70s, but really made his legacy in the 1980s.
- Mick Foley: Debuted as Cactus Jack in 1986.
- Yoshiaki Fujiwara: Gained mainstream fame in 1984
- Terry Funk
- Giant Haystacks/Loch Ness
- Eddie Gilbert: Debuted in 1979, became a big name in Memphis and other territories in the 1980s.
- Goldust: Debuted in 1988 as Dustin Rhodes.
- "Superstar" Billy Graham
- Eddie Guerrero. Debuted in 1987.
- Billy Gunn. Debuted in 1989.
- Scott Hall: Debuted in 1984.
- Stan Hansen
- Bret Hart: Debuted in 1978, found his first major success in the 1980s.
- Jimmy Hart
- Owen Hart: Debuted in 1986.
- Shinya Hashimoto: Debuted in 1984.
- David "Vampire Warrior"/"Gangrel" Heath. Debuted in 1988.
- Bobby Heenan
- Curt Hennig: Debuted in 1980.
- Paul Heyman: Debuted in the 1980s as a manager.
- Hillbilly Jim: Earliest confirmed matches in Memphis in 1983.
- Hulk Hogan: Though he debuted in the 70's, he became the face of wrestling in the 80's.
- Bob Holly: Debuted in 1987.
- Honky Tonk Man
- Barry Horowitz: Debuted in 1979, competed in many different territories before establishing himself in WWE in 1987.
- Sir Oliver Humperdink
- King Curtis Iaukea: His most prominent work was as the Chairman of the Board of Kevin Sullivan's Army of Darkness in Florida, and briefly as the Wizard in WWE in 1986-1987.
- The Iron Sheik: Debuted in the 70s, became THE Foreign Wrestling Heel in the 1980s.
- Ivory: Debuted in 1986.
- Jacqueline: Debuted in 1988.
- Jeff Jarrett: Debuted in 1986.
- Junkyard Dog
- Kamala: Made his name in Memphis and Dallas in the 1980s.
- Killer Khan
- Kenta Kobashi: Debuted in 1988.
- Ivan Koloff
- Nikita Koloff: Debuted in 1984.
- Aja Kong: Debuted in 1986.
- Konnan: Debuted in 1988.
- Kurrgan: Debuted in 1989.
- La Parka: Debuted in the 1980s.
- John Laurinaitis: Debuted in 1986.
- Jerry Lawler
- Mark Lewin
- Jushin Thunder Liger: Debuted in 1984.
- Steve Lombardi: Debuted in 1983.
- Lex Luger: Debuted in 1985.
- Jerry Lynn: Debuted in 1988.
- Madusa: Debuted in 1988.
- Dean Malenko: Debuted in 1979, competed throughout Florida and Japan during the 1980s.
- Rick Martel
- Chief Wahoo McDaniel
- Akira Maeda: Turned a superstar in the 1980s.
- Vince McMahon: Started in the 1970s, took WWE national and worldwide in the 1980s.
- Meng: Started in 1978, competed around the world before arriving in WWE in 1986.
- Shawn Michaels: Debuted in 1985.
- Mitsuharu Misawa: Debuted in 1981.
- Miss Elizabeth: Debuted in WWE in 1985.
- The Missing Link: Debuted in the 1960s, started the gimmick in 1983.
- Mr Fuji
- Gorilla Monsoon: Became the Voice of the then-WWF during this decade.
- Pedro Morales
- Don Muraco
- John Nord: Debuted in 1984.
- Scott Norton: Debuted in 1989.
- The One Man Gang
- Diamond Dallas Page: Debuted as a manager in 1987.
- Ken Patera
- Maxx Payne: Debuted in 1987.
- Brian Pillman: Debuted in 1986.
- Roddy Piper: Very remembered and loved for his work in WWE in the 1980s.
- Harley Race
- Raven: Debuted in 1988 as Scotty the Body.
- William Regal: Debuted in 1983.
- Dusty Rhodes: Debuted in the 70s, became a major star in the 1980s.
- Rikishi: Debuted in Montreal in 1985 as Alofa the Polynesian Prince.
- Jake Roberts
- "Playboy" Buddy Rose
- Jim Ross
- Mike Rotunda/Irwin R. Schyster: Debuted in 1981.
- Rick Rude: Debuted in 1982.
- Sabu: Debuted in the mid-1980s.
- Tito Santana: Debuted in 1977, best remembered as a top babyface of the 1980s.
- Randy Savage: Debuted in 1973, best known for his work in WWE in the 1980s.
- Buzz Sawyer: Debuted in 1978, competed in several territories throughout the 1980s.
- Satoru Sayama: Started in the 1980s as Tiger Mask.
- Ken Shamrock: Debuted in 1989.
- Larry Sharpe
- Iron Mike Sharpe: Debuted in 1977, arrived in WWE in 1983.
- Ron Simmons: Debuted in 1986.
- Sgt Slaughter: Debuted in the 70s, the G.I. Joe image really took off in the 1980s.
- Norman Smiley: Debuted in 1986.
- Davey Boy Smith: Debuted in 1978, made his name in the 1980s.
- Al Snow: Debuted in 1982.
- Jimmy Snuka: The decade where he really made his name.
- Gordon Solie
- Dan Spivey: Debuted in 1984.
- Ricky Steamboat: Debuted in the 70s, but best remembered as a top babyface of the 1980s.
- George Steele
- Scott Steiner: Debuted in 1986, VERY different from what he is today.
- Sting: Debuted in 1985.
- "Exotic" Adrian Street
- Big John Studd
- Kevin Sullivan: The decade where he really made his name.
- Tazz: Debuted in 1987.
- Genichiro Tenryu: Debuted in 1976, became a major figure in Japan during the 1980s.
- John Tenta: Best known as Earthquake, made his pro debut for All Japan Pro Wrestling on May 1, 1987.
- Manami Toyota: Debuted in 1987.
- Jumbo Tsuruta
- Ultimate Warrior: Debuted in 1985.
- Ultimo Dragon: Debuted in 1987.
- The Undertaker: Started in Dallas and Memphis in 1988.
- Luna Vachon: Debuted in 1985.
- Vader: Debuted in 1985.
- Greg Valentine
- Jesse Ventura: Retired from competition due to health issues and became a top heel commentator for WWE.
- Virgil: Debuted in 1985.
- Nikolai Volkoff
- Koko B Ware
- Del "The Trooper"/"The Patriot" Wilkes: Debuted in 1988.
- Dr. Death Steve Williams: Debuted in 1982.
- Barry Windham: Debuted in 1979.
- Harvey Wippleman: Debuted in the 1980s as Downtown Bruno.
- Yokozuna: Started in the 1980s as Kokina.
- The Blackjacks
- Demolition: Team debuted in 1987.
- The Fabulous Kangaroos
- The Fabulous Ones: Team debuted in 1982.
- The Midnight Express: Team formed in 1980.
- The Moondogs: Debuted in 1981.
- The Nasty Boys: Debuted in 1986.
- The Road Warriors: Debuted in 1983.
- The Rock N Roll Express: Debuted in 1983.
- The Sheepherders
- Von Erich Family: Mike debuted in 1983, and, for a short time, they experienced their greatest success.
- FMW: Atsushi Onita's pioneering hardcore promotion debuted in 1989.
- GLOW: Debuted in 1986.
- Universal Wrestling Federation: Debuted in 1984.
- WCW: The name debuted in 1989.
- WrestleMania: The first one was on March 31, 1985.
- Survivor Series: The first was on Thanksgiving Night, 1987.
- Royal Rumble: The first was on January 24, 1988.
- SummerSlam: The first was on August 29, 1988.