Sunday, February 18, 2007

Past sheds light on today

Reading the biographies of wrestlers from the past was really interesting because I am a big wrestling fan but don’t really know much about the great wrestlers of the past like Terry Funk or Dusty Rhodes. I think I have seen Terry Funk wrestle once before but what I knew about him only extended to what people call the hardcore legend. I did not realize he had been wrestling for such a long time or that he had be a World Champion. It really sounds like he should be called a legend. When I would see him on TV, only as an old legend that seemed to get beat down. He didn’t even move that well. I actually thought he should retire because he was really showing how fake wrestling is by the mere fact that he could not move and he could somehow still “compete.” His tights were also confusing. Watching his match on Thursday let me see how good he was and he was really good at the tough guy person on the microphone. It is kind of sad to think of what I saw of him. He was just getting beat down.

The paper by Beverly takes some time to focus on Gorgeous George and the comparison to Ric Flair just makes me understand Ric Flair’s character even more. I did not get to see him in his prime, which means when he was younger. It does not make me a fan though it does make think that his character is not that original. Or at least his lack of originality seems to be more apparent. I do have more of an appreciation for those pioneer wrestlers that started to revolutionize the gimmick beyond the tough guy and the foreigner. The evolution of television is also documented and the change in tastes of the people is something I did not think about before. TV shows where good resolutions for the characters were guaranteed so it is interesting to think that people might not have wanted to deal with the uncertain outcomes. I am sure some fans must have known it was fake but did not want to deal with the drama. If you look at today’s television programs, you have a lot of dramas on now and sometimes you know the hero or good guys will win but the possibility of failure is there and it just makes sense that the crazy out comes of wrestling would appeal to people today.


Sam Ford said...

Regarding your comments on Terry Funk, his last major match was at ECW One Night Stand this past year, where he teamed with Tommy Dreamer to take on Mick Foley and Edge. Terry ended up falling off a ladder, being wrapped in barbed wire, beating on Foley with a barbed wire baseball bat, etc., and that's at 61 years old.

We'll see plenty more of Funk in the future, but the story of his career has been a series of Terry Funk retirements, followed by yet another match. Terry's an odd guy (I was once backstage at a TNA event, and he had taken the blood from his forehead and rubbed it all over the walls around him and was sitting by himself), but he's probably 62 now and still is likely to show back up because wrestling is, as Moolah and Mae said, what he does.

Regarding Flair, it's not quite fair to say that he's not original. While he borrowed some mannerisms from Gorgeous George and Buddy Rogers, among others, that's more to point out how his act paid homage to wrestling history than to indicate he is derivative. Not trying to say that you have to like Flair's act, but his performances in the ring and on the mic is quite different. We'll be talking about Flair plenty more and moving into Flair "in his prime" soon, so we'll revisit this question then to see what you think when being able to see "Nature Boy" Ric Flair "in his prime.

X P said...

I agree about not being fair towards Flair. Gorgeous George was the original, but Flair was jsut trying to revive the sport and he noticed how well Gorgeous George suceeded in attracting crowds. In a sense I see it as taking advice of how to be successful in wrestling.

Omar said...

I've got to agree with you on the fact that the readings really give life to some of the wrestling personalities we've heard about only in passing. It is pretty astonishing how long some of the wrestlers like Lou Thesz and Buddy Rogers stayed in the business considering how old they are and how dangerous the maneuvers they perform are. That the kind of thing you would probably never see in popular sports like football or basketball.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of the use of gimmicks. Especially when they extend way beyond wrestler's personality outside the ring. That's probably why wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and Gorgeous George were so wildly popular. They were able to meld their mannerisms outside their with those inside the ring to create the kind of character you'd want to see wrestle again and again.

Peter "The Malcontent" Rauch said...

I think the "originality" issue is one of those things our culture is at a loss to deal with right now. Sparing a short essay on Benjamin's "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," I'll just say that unoriginality is not necessarily a universal negative. I think the reason we have self-consciously derivative personas (like Ric Flair re: Buddy Rogers) is the same reason we've had five actors playing James Bond: fans' love for the character is deep enough that it outlived the career span of the people who first inhabited it. Stories have to move forward, after all, but a story that ends is a story that eventually stops making money. So wrestling, like nearly every other long-form popular medium we have, tends to go in circles, and when you're writing in circles, it makes sense to work a little reincarnation into the mix.

Sam Ford said...

To build on Peter's comment, the art then becomes variation on a theme, and people enjoy seeing these sparks of the prototype with a new and interesting twist thrown in, just like people like seeing the same genre of film or wrestling match again and again but are surprised by new nuances or new combinations of various tropes.