Friday, September 11, 2009

SmackDown LowDown

Professional wrestling is a source of constant amazement to me. I just don’t get it. Anyone can see it’s just a show but the fans are fanatics and will whip you ass if you try to point that out to them. (BTW, if you haven’t seen the film The Wrestler, with Mickey Rourke, check it out. It’s great.)

The one man whom I respect and love as much as anyone in my life is my maternal grandfather. An graduate engineer of Texas A&M University when a college degree really meant something. A senior engineer on the Panama Canal. The man who introduced me to Theosophy. Granddad was a proper gentleman. Always dressed for dinner. Was honest to a fault. He would drive to the store to give back the nickel extra the clerk had mistakenly given him in change.

To my eternal consternation, granddad was a wrestling fan. And so was my maternal grandmother, Nanny. There could not be two people more different than those two. But the two of them would get together and watch wrestling, glued to the tiny 13” black and white TV, and hoot and holler like a couple of kids. You ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen a pair of 90-year-old wrestling fans.

My dad once tried to point out to them that it was fake and nearly got his head bitten off. From that point forward, we just enjoyed the old folks enjoying themselves.

Now I know the skinny on professional wrestling. In a previous post, I mentioned that I was once the director of a large agricultural festival. As director, I was in charge of booking the entertainment. Throughout the year I would get phone calls from wrestling promoters wanting me to stage a wrestling match. I wanted to do it but the board of directors strictly prohibited it. They had tried it in the past and the result was the wrestling fans spilling out of the arena, into the carnival midway, and starting fights with every carney they could find. The last straw was when they had to call in the state highway patrol to help bring it under control.

But in my conversations with the promoters, I would ask some pointed questions, like, Q: How long does a match last? A: As long as you want. Q: How many matches are there? A: As many as you want. Q: Can I decide who wins? A: Sure, just let me know ahead of time.

When I was working for public television, we produced a nightly news and entertainment show hosted by Monroe (pronounced, Mon-row). Monroe had recently been to a wrestling match and proclaimed, on air, the whole thing a disgusting sham. Just so happened a local wrestler, Dusty Rhodes, heard the broadcast and took great exception to that assessment. Within minutes, Dusty had barged his way into the station and onto the set of a live television broadcast with the proclaimed intent of separating Monroe’s head from the rest of his body.

Dusty charged after Monroe who, naturally, fled his chair and started running around the anchor’s desk with Dusty, screaming at the top of his lungs, in hot pursuit. Someone called the cops and they got there in the nick of time as Monroe was quickly running out of steam. That show got the highest ratings of any other show we ever did.

I don’t know if the whole thing was staged or not. You couldn’t tell from the look on Monroe’s face. If he was faking it, he deserved an Academy Award.

Whatever else it is, pro wrestling is big business. The stars make some serious money. You don’t have to look far online to find tons of action figures and wrestling paraphernalia, including masks and full uniforms of your favorite troglodyte.

People are crazy about it, no doubt. But I still don’t get it.


  1. You inspired me to do my own post on wrestling.

    I'm not personally a fan, but wrestling is something very deep and primal. It's almost mythological in scope, and it's certainly not "fake." It's not a competition, but it's certainly real athletic feats.

    I like to think of it as ballet for rednecks.

  2. Excellent post, very much enjoyed reading this one! You know, I don't get it either.

    As a Mexican, by the way, this is blasphemy... they will revoke my Latino card if they ever lay their eyes on this comment. By "they" I mean... well, nevermind. If you're not out there with a wrestling mask on shouting MUCHO LUCHO at the top of your lungs then you're not latin at all, are you now?

  3. Ginx... Don't know that I agree with your assessment that it isn't fake, but I do agree that it's athletic and highly choreographed. Watch the film "The Wrestler". It pretty much nails it. I think it's success is because it's black and white. Good Guy vs. Bad Guy. You see this same simpleton mentality played out in politics as well. Bigoted right-wing conservative... Good. Compassionate left-wing liberal... Bad.

    JP... Nacho Libra!!

  4. Watching that second video clip showed that I still have the power to laugh. Classic.

    Never watched any wrestling myself, but you get the same said of it over here too. I don’t see why they just don’t admit it, and have it classified as a performing art. Give it some credibility.

  5. I love it. Always have, always will. It's pantomime for grown-ups with some homoerotic rubbish thrown in for good measure.

  6. Firstly- LOVED "The Wrestler" and thought it was total bullshit that Penn beat out Rourke for the Oscar. Incredible flick.

    Secondly- As a kid, I adored wrestling. The Junkyard Dog, Andre The Giant, Jake The Snake, Jimmy SuperFly Snooka, I played with all of their action figures.

    It's theater to be sure but those dudes really sacrifice their bodies, that's not fake. Ask Hulk Hogan what his knees feel like every morning when he gets out of bed.

    I loved Dusty Rhodes. Great story!

  7. I liked wrestling fourty years ago before the hi tech glitz and marketing got involved. It was mindless entertainment to be had and that was a good escape as anything I coulda twisted up and smoked.

  8. Simon... Kauffman is a classic. Of course, he finally pushed his luck too far and got himself hospitalized by a pro wrestler.

    Matthew... Thanks for stopping by. It's like NASCAR, you either love it or leave it. It's why there are different flavors of ice cream.

    Heidi... In your era, the modern era, a lot of pro wrestlers are football players who either didn't make the NFL or are retired from it. It would be interesting to know the story behind a lot of them.

    In the classic era, the era Walking Man is talking about, they were mostly body builder types and weight lifters who figured out how to make a living out of their avocation. Back in those days the names were Gorgeous George, Billy Graham, Haystacks Calhoun, and Killer Kowalski.

    In Florida, I don't know about the rest of the country, another wrestling icon was the announcer, Gordon Solie (who is in the Dusty Rhodes clip). Because there were so few television stations and wrestling was so TV friendly, the Friday Night Fights were regular TV fare in these parts.

  9. I'm scratchin' my head over the Christian wrestling matches that make their way to the local armory every few months. Of course I can't be bothered to actually go to one, but still...WTF?

  10. Intelli... Really! Although, when you think about it, what could be more Christian than blood, gore and trickery?

  11. My Grandpa was a big wrestling fan and when I was growing up there was a show called Live Atlanta Wrestling on the TV. I always used to tell him it was fake and he would get so furious. He took his wrestling seriously.


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