In his piece about the ideology of professional wrestling, Jim Freedman relates that before the advent of television, the travelling show was the mainstay of wrestling promotion and publication. A wrestler's fame was garnered town by town as he travelled through the many territories in North America. Freedman presents the small town of Simcoe, Ontario as the wrestling world in miniature--a place where wrestling exists in its "original form".
The modern era of professional wrestling has ushered in at time dominated by the television. But it was not always so. Audiences could not be so easily reached as they are today, and as we've discussed, radio could not provide the much needed visual aspect of wrestling matches. As a result, wrestlers toured the different territories tried, more than anything, to establish their wrestling personas. In Freedman's Simcoe, the ideal wrestling hot spot, the heels and babyfaces that passed through were well known. Fans eagerly anticipated the arrival of their favorites and hoped to see them vanquish the villains. What really called my attention to Freedman's passage was the importance of the small town to wrestling as a whole. I would expect big time wrestlers to visit big time cities where they could really capitalize on large crowds and great publicity. It just wouldn't seem worth it to stop by outlying suburbs or no-name towns. As I continued to read, however, I realized why these towns mattered so much to professional wrestling. Quite simply, the small town represented the kind of milieu from which wrestling had emerged.
The classical pitting of good versus evil in the ring evoked an ethic with which many town folk could identify. It was the well-mannered, hardworking layman against the white-collared, egocentric capitalist (capitalist in the sense that Freedman describes). It was through the characters that wrestlers portrayed in the ring that viewers could reaffirm their basic ideas of good and evil, right and wrong. A simple victory by a local hero could instill shred of hope in social underdogs. A win by a conniving villain could just easily, though perhaps not as overtly, bring a sense of disillusion and pessimism to the same people. Professional wrestling's ability to play off these hopes and fears that people had made it seem almost imperative that travelling shows stop at small towns and pay their respects to the truly devoted fan.
In watching the documentary about the heroes of the WCCW, I could really see the shift that modern wrestling has taken in the publication of wrestling personalities. One of the main reasons the Dallas territory was able to make itself so renowned was because of the way it was able to present its telecast. The audio and visual technology the WCCW presented made it more exciting to the TV viewer and, more importantly, the transmission of their programs via satellite made it a worldwide phenomenon. I'm curious to know if major wrestling shows today still traverse some of the old routes that the travelling shows would run.