Tuesday, February 20, 2007

babyfaced promoter

In reading the account of Muchnick by Matysik, I definitely got wrapped up in some utopian, warm-and-fuzzy feelings about Muchnick-- here is a hero, a promoter who followed the tenants of integrety, audience-respect, concern for athletic truth. Sam engages in a masterful design process in which he weaves seamlessly the various interests and economies. He has incredible insight and the ability to build drama in a subtle, more delicate way than relying on 'hot shots'. Sam is unequivocally presented as a model for wrestling promotion.

Matysik builds the character of Sam much like wrestling characters are built-- in simple, heroic terms. There are very few pauses in the promotion of Muchnick's style and interactions, and a definite undertone of criticism of today's practice. By the time I reached the end of the "Sam & Me" readings, I guess I'd lost my suspension of disbelief in this utopian picture. If we hear so much about Sam's careful restraint in avoiding essentialism and singularity in wrestling promotion, Muchnick's treatment in the article falls exactly into these simple traps. He's simply too good to believe... we see him win too many matches in a row.

That said, even with the accumulated skepticism, I still feel pretty warm-and-fuzzy about the framework described, and I really enjoyed the anecdotes.


Omar said...

I agree that Matysik really did a lot to build up Muchnick's reputation as a successful and legitimate wrestling promoter. Even if Matysik may be particularly biased, he goes a long way in outlining what exactly constitutes good promoting in the wrestling world. Like wrestlers themselves, promoters should try to preserve a sense of competition during a match and be able to cater the interests of the spectators. It is up to the promoter to, as Matysik tells that Muchnick does so well, provide a premise for every match so as to make the championship title really mean something. True, the author may idealize Muchnick's methods for managing his promotions, but, in my opinion, he gives a good idea of how wrestling should be managed as both as sport and as a form of entertainment.

Sam Ford said...

If he had only included a story about how Sam once spat on a baby or slapped an old woman....Seriously, I think that Matysik's essay is particularly valuable when talking about the logic of wrestling, and while he may have hero-worshipped the man he worked for, Larry brings up some significant points about how the modern product, and many promoters in his day, misunderstood and hotshotted angles. I find it hard to believe that Sam never made a mistake, and of course Larry chooses not to write about them in this chapter, but he is using Sam as the exemplar of how wrestling should be booked, in his opinion. Considering that Larry is going to be one of the main historians of record for the St. Louis territory, his version of Sam Mushnick as hero is going to become an important part of Sam's legacy. In some ways, the historians are almost always as fascinating as the historical figures they write about.

Rob said...

One thing this article left me very curious -- because it is so endlessly positive -- is just where exactly did everything start turning around and how did it all end?

Matysik blows through the last several years at the very end of the article, quickly mentioning the last days of their offices, and the hotels they stayed in, but tells very little about what happened.

I'm curious to know in more detail what was going on at that time, and how it is that the end of such a great promoter's wrestling circuit came to an end. Would Matysik claim that it was Sam's fault? His fault? Someone else's fault?

We hear a great deal about how well Sam handled himself during St. Louis's best times, so I'm quite curious to know how such a person dealt with St. Louis's worst times.

Sam Ford said...

Actually, it's funny that you say that, Rob, becuase we are going to be reading another piece from Matysik's same book later in the semester in which he covers the very topic you are discussing, the 1980s and the rise of the WWE. I'll be interested to read your thoughts when we hit that era.