Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Filling In The Gaps

For this post, I want to do something a little bit different than I've done in my posts so far. Rather than write a mini-essay with my thoughts and what I've synthesized lately, I'm going to write a bit and ask some questions about the big picture that I've been curious about and keep coming up in the material.

First of all, we looked at both the WCCW and AWA seperately. If I had only covered the WCCW material from class, I could easily come away thinking that they were the biggest and baddest wrestling association before the WWE came around. Similarly, I could come away thinking that the AWA was the biggest and baddest wrestling association before the WWE. So I'm trying to figure out how these two co-existed and if and how they really interacted with each other at all. The AWA thought they were important enough to drop out of the NWA, so when they did, did this have an effect on the WCCW? Did the Von Erichs play any role in the success of the AWA? Did their respective successes just peak at different times? Did people watch both the AWA and the WCCW? Or just one or the other? Did audiences switch between them, or just go directly to the WWE?

How do all of these pre-WWE wrestling organizations fit together?

The other thing that consistently comes up is "Japan".

I don't recall us covering any material on Japanese wrestling, and yet there seems to be some kind of major connection between Japan and the American professional wrestling industry. Listening to the insiders in the American industry speak, they talk about it like it is second nature and something everyone knows about, yet I've never heard of a Japanese professional wrestling indsutry at all. Further, it seems like the Japanese were well aware of the American industry, so was there a seperate Japanese industry, and if so, did anyone ever try to bring it over to America? And how did these connections form so early on throughout so much of the industry? How significant are they?

So, I guess those are the two big things I've been wondering a lot about lately, and don't feel like I have any really good answers to from the material thus far.


Sam Ford said...

Rob, you raise some interesting questions, and I would recommend revisiting a few of the readings if my short explanation is not a benefit. Think back to the explanation of how a world champion was chosen for the NWA from Larry Matysik's "Sam & Me, Part II" that we looked at a couple of weeks ago. For WCCW you get the idea that, for Dallas, the world champion would come in from time to time, like Ric Flair, to face one of the Von Erich boys, or some other top contender. And then they had their own local championship in the interim, just like St. Louis would often feature world title matches but also had a Missouri Champion.

AWA is a different story. There are two reasons these two did not have an affect on each other. And it is as follows:

The NWA had been in operation in one form or another for decades, branching out of the "Strangler" Lewis Gold Dust Trio. The NWA solidified in 1948 or so and established the dominant way of touring, with all the promoters linked up.

In the 1960s, two groups split off from the NWA because they didn't want to acknowledge the NWA World Champion and for various other reasons. One was Verne Gagne, who formed the AWA as a standalone organization. However, as we see in the documentary, he still had a good relationship with other promoters and mainly stayed within his own territory, despite not being an official member of the NWA. Then, the WWWF branched off, based on a match between Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz where Thesz was given the title. WWWF in the Northeast still considered Rogers the champion and formed their own title that would be centered in NYC. Again, Vince Sr. remained part of the territorial system and later even brought the NWA Champion in from time to time and worked fairly closely with NWA promoters. (For a time, WWWF even joined back with the NWA in the late 1970s).

The WCCW didn't branch away from the NWA until the mid-1980s. By this time, VInce had put most of the territories out of business, and the nature of the business had changed anyway. That's because of cable. Now, TV made regions butt into each other as they hadn't before. The 1980s version of the NWA largely just became the Crockett Promotion that aired on TBS. It's a messy history that we'll see spelled out a little bit more in Sex, Lies, and Headlocks, but basically because of its cable exposure, the Crocketts located in the Carolinas and now taking over Georgia were so strong that they wielded all the power in the NWA by this point.

So Fritz pulled out and wanted to launch WCCW as a national brand, but this was two decades after Verne pulled out.

As for Japan, we will be reading a little bit more about the modern WWE/Japan connection late in the semester, but you can also look at the Lou Thesz piece by Dave Meltzer from a few weeks ago to get more info about the early Japan connection. In the 50s, post-World War II, American wrestlers started touring Japan. A wrestler there named Rikidozan (Korean by birth, but the Japanese didn't know that) became a national hero by being pitted up against much bigger American wrestlers.

Japanese wrestling became a big deal, with Rikidozan as the hero and later rival wrestlers/promoters The Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki, with Baba running All-Japan and Inoki running New Japan. Look back at the Dory and Terry Funk autobiographies to flesh this out a little more, but the basic story is that many big name Amercian wrestlers would be brought in for tours of Japan and would align with either Baba or Inoki. The tours would pay really, really well, and the wrestlers would often get several weeks off between tours, making it preferable to the American way of life.

There wasn't room for a limitless number of American wrestlers in Japan, but a few foreigners were always a part of the Japanese promotions, so that's why guys would often tour Japan a lot.

Japanese pro wrestling has a whole other long and storied history, so it's one of the reason I limited this class to American wrestling in general. The connections between American wrestling and Japanese, or Mexican wrestling, or Puerto Rico, are all long stories...but hopefully this STARTS to clear some of that up.

X P said...

I've actually always wondered about wrestling organizations outside of the united states. If they were ever as big as they were here in america. If theie wrestling is portrayed in the same manner as our wrestling is portrayed. If they had a world champion belt.
Actually that is one question that has always made me curious. In many sports, when they win the championship, they are declared the world champions. But how can this be if not all the countries in the world have competed? Is it just assumed that the united states team will defeat any other team? This streches out beyond wrestling, into sports such as basketball and baseball.
When I saw the documentary on the WCCW and heard about the japan tours, i thought maybe the wrestlers would do that in order to qualify to be a world champion. So then I figured there must be wrestling buisnesses in several countries where wrestlers go to wrestle they're top contenders.

luistenorio said...

I was wondering about the place of the wrestling organizations in relation to each other. It seems clear that the WWF was a regional promotion that went national and their form of presentation overtook all the others. It seemed like the WCCW film focused more on the personal issues and the rise of the WCCW more than the actual fall from a business perspective. What I mean by that is that we didn't see what other measures were taken to prevent a fall other than what kind of wrestlers Firtz got to replace his children. We saw the AWA had put on three Super Clash pay per views. THe WCCW was a part of those and yet those kinds of things were not shown.
Japan is something I have known about as a place where wrestlers go to wrestlers and go around like they do here on the independent circuit. The people in Japan know them so it is another fan base that can be tapped into for popularity and money.

Ismael said...

I don't really know much about wrestling in Japan, but it seemed like American wrestlers were so popular because of their appearance. In the video we watched this past monday, one of the wrestlers commented that they definitely stood out among the crowd of small Japanese men. Just as we become intrigued with Japanese wrestlers like Yokozuna, it could also be possible that American wrestlers have the same effect in Japan. Since there was an obvious language barrier, the average Japanese person had no idea what they were saying, which would've added to their intrigue.