Monday, March 19, 2007

Nothing Too Major Off My Chest

I don't know why I feel the need to continue to refer to my chest in these entries. I guess because I know deep down "Joshua Shea's Latest Post" makes me seem like my ego is even bigger than it truly is.

Quick plug for myself. My review of Mick Foley's latest book, "The Hardcore Diaries" has just gone up on For those of you that follow wrestling, you'll know it's the best site for real wrestling information. For those that don't follow wrestling, go read it anyway so you can have something to ask Foley about when talks about himself to you later this semester. You can find the review at:
I tried to link it, but I'm HTML illiterate.

Much thanks to those of you mentioning me in your blogs. I appreciate you making my entry the most popular one for a second week in a row. Maybe on the day I come speak, we can set up a table for autographs when the class is done.

I have to say, in the last week, I've thoroughly enjoyed the blog. Gone are the days of trying to compare minorities' roles in wrestling to TV shows of the late 70s like Good Times and The Jeffersons. Now, you seem to actually want to start talking about wrestling. It's about time. I must give credit to Carolina, Omar and Luis for delivering some of the best wrestling-based posts since this board started.

From what I've been led to believe, the class is set into two kinds of students. One is a comparative media studies student who probably doesn't know much about wrestling. The other is a wrestling fan that likely isn't a media geek. Interestingly, my major in school was media studies (not comparative though...I know the difference between TV and Radio) but I identify much more with that second group of people and it seems like the wrestling fans are finally making their voices heard.

This is terrific. Keep doing it. Help explain to the media people (most who will end up in real estate if they're men and marrying well and staying at home if they're women) why we like wrestling because they're never going to get it. And I'm not talking about the kind of appreciation we all have for art or music that is very on the surface and mostly taught in college (due to time), I'm talking the kind of appreciation where they know why you realize there are only 13 days to Wrestlemania.

As I was reading the responses to last week's post, I kept seeing people asking what I'd like to see in class. I'd like to see some straight ahead facts. Who were the last 5 men to hold the WWE Championship? Who are considered the great tag teams in WWF history? What are some independent organizations operating today? I think you can analyze the hell out of anything (and some of you have proved you can) but don't have a firm basis in the facts of what you're analyzing, it just comes across as bullshit, especially to those of us who have a solid background in wrestling. You may be able to draw a comparison to Midwest wrestling in the 70s and German food, but you don't understand the heart and the soul of wrestling. If you can't wrap your hands around the passion, you'll never really get it.

Here's a story....

My greatest memory in wrestling was when I was working for an independent wrestling group called EWA here in Maine. I had moved from being a heel commentator to being a heel manager. I got my guy (6'7" Canadian Hercules) into a loser-leaves-town match with Dave Vicious. This was largely a blow-off match to a feud Hercules and I had been having with Dave and his manager. Hercules couldn't talk worth a lick, so I did it for him. He had accepted an invitation to WCW's training camp and wouldn't be with us for a while. Before we went out, we all went over the match, and since this was the blowoff and I had more heat than Hercules, I was the one who would take the post-match beating by both Herc and Dave.

After Hercules lost, I came in the ring to help him, he turns on me and gives me a chokeslam like planned....except I landed wrong. I twisted in the air on my way down and landed on my hip. Our ring wasn't exactly soft or as springy as the WWE ring. I hurt, and I knew Dave was about to do his finisher on me and I would land on that hip again. I told Herc under my breath that I was hurt and I couldn't take Dave's finisher. He told the ref, the ref told Dave's manager, and Dave's manager told Dave. I think, much like in the game "telephone" that the message got lost along the way. While he didn't put his finisher on me, he did punch me in the gut (which I have to say I sold better than any punch I'd ever had) and he set me up for a piledriver. I'd never taken one, knowing that if performed incorrectly I could be seriously injured. Luckily, Dave kept me safe, but when I landed, I played dead. No opening the eyes, no obviously fake body twitching. Just laying there, not moving. The ref came to check on me and I muttered under my breath, get the stretcher.

The paramedics hit the ring and started screaming like I could have a broken neck. I refused to move or talk to them. Later I was told that Herc and Dave were backstage peaking through the curtain worried, wondering who had actually injured me. A couple of wrestlers broke kayfabe who were my closer friends, coming out to check and try to help. I told one I was okay, but to play along. The ring announcer let people know in a somber voice that it was the end of the show and they should leave (but check our Web sites for updates) but most people didn't. You could hear a pin drop even though there were probably 300 people there. The paramedics turned me over and collared me. They didn't have a stretcher, so they used an eight-foot table for the move to the ambulance. They got me on the table and by this time, my eyes had been shut 20 minutes and I was having a fun time guessing where I was and who was around me. If I'd been actually hurt, the amount of time and lack of preparation these paramedics showed would have really ticked me off. As I hear the fans mumbling and whispering, I was carried through the curtains and to the back.

I don't know who stopped the procession to the ambulance, but they set the table upright. I did the Undertaker sit-up, opened my eyes and saw 15-20 people with stunned looks. One wrestler, a legit tough guy, started crying. People looked like they'd been through hell...even if they all knew it was fake and planned. I just acted like a better corpse than anybody thought I could. I was amazed that most of the fans stayed, I was amazed my acting ability made people think I was actually unconscious, and most of all, I loved the fact we sent the fans home on a downer. Nobody ever did that, but it paid off as our next gate was pretty decent.

There's no other place in life I could have had that experience I listed above. You want to talk different media forms? I was involved with producing TV and radio commercials, running our Web site, and writing our souvenir programs at one time or another. That's aside from the live performance aspect.

You can phone this in if you want. I phoned in several art history/appreciation courses. But if you are, at least keep your BS fluffy posts short. And to those who are gaining a true appreciation or those who are wrestling fans and are simply putting up with the CMS students, share some stories. Go read Carolina's story about waiting for Wrestlemania tickets. That's the kind of analysis you should be looking at.

And I finally saw Lipstick & Dynamite. Good lord that was dull. Until next week.


Sam Ford said...

I had a similar experience, Joshua, putting on a show in front of a hometown crowd with a lot of hometown wrestlers. One brother uses a few weapons on another brother in one of the main matches, and suddenly one of the hometown boys doesn't get up. I jump up from play-by-play, dropping my heel act, dialing frantically on my cell phone and trying to get a signal (people know that this building is terrible for cell reception). A few minutes later, while we are still checking on him in the ring, you can hear the faint sound of an ambulance. Being in a rural setting, the sound of an ambulance is rare enough that you perk up when you hear it, and you can hearing it coming from over a mile away.

The noise gets louder, and then we ask that the building's double-doors be opened and the ambulance drives right into the "arena" where the show is being held. The EMTs put the injured man on a stretcher, and many of the fans escort him out, watch us load him in the ambulance, and then watch the ambulance pull away.

Those fans sat and watched as the ambulance drove more than a mile until it wound out of sight (the building was on a hill), and the fans inside could hear the noise of the sirens slowly fade away. Most of the building started out jaded but were starting to be convinced that he was really injured. When the brother came back in the main event and did a run-in, the surprise was actually exciting, for the performers and the fans alike. It's those types of feelings that really drive a wrestling crowd and energize the experience.

Great story to relate, and it underscores what we keep coming to--how wrestling is powered by that constant question of the division between "real" and "fake." It's simple, it exists throughout entertainment, but wrestling is the place where it is most pronounced.

Oh, and a couple of quick reminders:

1.) Dave Meltzer is a good legitimate source for wrestling news.

2.) Lipstick and Dynamite is not boring, although people from the class are more than free to disagree, as Joshua has. I know that the video greatly transformed some of your interests in a final project since watching it, but others of you may agree that it had little meaning. Would definitely like to see some class reaction on that account.

3.) And this is important. While I share Joshua's kudos on some of the class posts recently (and you'll be interested to know, Joshua, that Omar is not a previous wrestling fan prior to coming into this class, as some of his first posts illustrates), remember that Joshua isn't the evil tyrant who grades you. I am the evil tyrant who grades you. And while I enjoyed Carolina's post about the tickets as well, especially how she wove it in with some of our readings, I don't want you all to take Joshua's advice and start giving me posts listing the first five WWE champions and when they lost their belts are some other fact regurgitation. Remember, the class blog is largely a place for reaction to readings and viewings and (much as Joshua will cringe to read this word)--analysis. EWWW!

Mike W. said...

Lipstick and Dynamite was boring from the vantage that it's a documentary, and unless you're really involved in the subject matter, it can't be interesting. Joshua's already shown his disdain for women's wrestling, so I am not surprised he doesn't like it. Personally, I think that a feminist scholar or someone involved in women's studies would find the documentary more interesting than even a wrestling fan. The evolution of women's wrestling is not the same as men's, and has a unique story to tell. It's not the greatest wrestling movie out there, and it's possible that little more than the overt lack of in-ring footage in this film hurts its entertainment value.

Second, be forewarned about the severe amount of popup ads and sources of godknowswhat kind of spyware come from visiting that site. Stick with Meltzer instead.

I've been laid up for the past few days, reading some wrestling books and watching the Royal Rumble anthology. Foley's Hardcore Diaries wasn't amazing, or even necessary, in my opinion. Thankfully, it was short, and it shows what wrestling companies consider "controversial." I'm somewhat aligned with Joshua's feeling that it's a one-man pity party for Foley because he didn't always get his way leading up to One Night Stand 2006.

That said, there is one point Foley brings up that struck me: the self-sabotaging wrestling booker. He often wonders, sometimes in private, sometimes out loud, if the WWE braintrust wants the show (ONS) to succeed. It was fascinating to me because I can't think of any other media out there where the potential for sabotage exists, or has happened. Do sitcom writers willfully neglect a show to get it cancelled? Do dramas deliberately weaken the most popular character because they prefer another one? Honestly, I have no idea, but in pro wrestling, there's ample speculation that certain wrestlers had been deliberately undercut, despite their popularity, to help keep the status quo. I wonder what Foley has to say about the legacy of sabotage in wrestling, and if there is anything else out there that comes close.

I also read Thomas Hackett's "Slaphappy," a book that I can not recommend to anyone at all. I may get into that at another point, but it's simply uninteresting, disorganized, poorly researched, and lacks an overall thesis.

Joshua, I'm having a hard time dealing with your attitude. You've done nothing to follow up on the questions people have given you, you seem to insist in this one-world vision of pro wrestling in which you are the correct one, and everyone else is an overanalyzing non-fan jerk. Your petty comments, classist remarks, and name-calling make no sense in the face of your blanket generalizations of everyone else's posts. If you want to criticize a post, do so: this "me vs the world" attitude is phony, however, in the face of overgeneralized, undercooked, and hyperdefensive posts.

At the base of it all, I'm trying to figure out what your MO is , Joshua. Is it important to be a wrestling fan to analyze it? According to you, yes. However, in doing so, you are putting forth something quite contradictory: this notion flies in the face of your demanding that wrestling is sometimes just wrestling, and a very simple concept to understand. If it is so simple and does not need deep analysis, why can't the average non-fan watch it and grasp it? You seem to have put out two arguments here that are irreconcilable.

I've seen good and bad research on wrestling. Take each for their own merits, and don't disregard them all because it has come from the Ivory tower. Ultimately, though, I think you're making the mistake of creating this phony dichotomy of "high/low cultures." This idea that if we are academics, we can't be fans (especially not if we're in CMT); that high culture is indoctrinated appreciation for the age of a fine bourdeaux and Charlie Parker, art museums and yoga; that low culture is Miller Lite and Ring of Honor, Metallica and NASCAR.

I'm taking this from your repeated insistence that it is impossible for the Ivory Tower types to "get" wrestling. That's simply an absurd overgeneralization, and one steeply contradicted by my DVD and VHS collection, my books, and my ability to parallel anything on the face of the earth with wrestling (but, perhaps, that's the part you hate).

I also think that one cannot simply say that "wrestling fan" is a simple and unanimous concept. Nobody dares think of fans of "music" as being a inseparable and cohesive unit, right? Likewise with wrestling fans. Some people may know that there are only 13 days to WrestleMania; others (myself) have so much apathy for Cena, Lasley, Umaga, and Donald Trump himself that they can't wait for WM to be over; others still swear off the WWE entirely, thinking it to be the evil corporate entity that reflects everything they hate, swearing loyalty oaths to their favorite indies, engaging in tape trading, and extolling the virtues of "puroresu."

In the end, a wrestling fan is not a wrestling fan is not a wrestling fan. Let me be clear: even thoughI find Cryme Tyme and other characters to be wholly racist stereotypes, I find the physical and sexual treatment of women by men appalling, and lament the homophobic overtones of the programming, I'm still as much of a fan as you are. Just because you want to think that wrestling programs are made spontaneously and devoid of any culturally concurrent scenarios' influence, just because you're hyped for a lackluster Wrestlemania (Benoit v MVP? Really?), you're still as much of a fan as I am.

If nothing else, that I can disagree with more or less everything you say (save for the charming anecdote), but still feel confident in being a severe fan of wrestling, that shows there's no room for treating wrestling fans as a uniform, uninformed and passive mass.