Sunday, September 26, 2010

Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned From Pro Wrestling (Pt. 1)

Even though people are usually quite surprised to hear me say this, I am a devoted fan of professional wrestling, and I have been for decades.  As a boy growing up in the Philadelphia area I used to watch WWWF (precursor to WWF/WWE) wrestling on the local channels.  When we got cable in 1981 I suddenly had access to occasional big shows at the Philadelphia Spectrum (no longer in existence) on PRISM cable (no longer in existence--boy am I old!) as well as NWA (precursor to WCW--both no longer in existence) wrestling from Georgia on WTBS.  When I was young the Philadelphia Bulletin (you guessed it--long gone) used to print summaries of WWF cards in the sports section by the baseball boxscores. 

One of my earliest memories is of the good guy (technical term: "babyface") tag team of Tony Garea and Rick Martel being robbed of the World Title by the bad guy ("heel") team of Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito.  The Japanese heels began each match by doing a Shinto ritual with salt to sanctify the ring.  When Rick Martel went to the top rope to put the finisher on Mr. Saito, Mr. Fuji pulled the original Pearl Harbor job and threw salt in Martel's eyes. That match took place in October of 1981, and I can still see him falling to the mat in agony and getting pinned 1-2-3.  

I will confess that for a number of years (basically 1990-95) I tuned out pro wrestling.  I was one of those people who thought it was "fake".  But in the mid-1990's, around the time that WWE empressario Vince McMahon announced that wrestling was "sports entertainment" (to avoid having to have wrestlers be tested for steroids and other drugs by state boxing commissions) I realized that I have no problem with matches that have pre-determined endings.  I mean, the thing I love about sports is the drama inherent in a weak team being able to vanquish a strong one.  But I don't watch wrestling for the results, I watch it for the path the grapplers take to get there. 

I plan to write a recurring series of posts about what I like about wrestling and what it can teach us about life.  I look forward to your comments.

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