I just went online and bought JR beef jerky. I'm a vegetarian. That's how awesome he was.
So, I think there's a whole lot Prof Ross let us in on, and I was really grateful for all of his input, and his willingness to get into the spirit of our class. In class I asked him about how he managed to play so many roles within the industry, and what his relationship to performance was, particularly in terms of his role as sports announcer, a seemingly responsive and 'objective' rather than character role.
In response, JR spoke of how much the personalities in wrestling are successful in their ability to extend and hyperbolize the actual core character of the performer. He cited The Rock as a prime example, his character being based on his actual personality as a cocky college football player. He also said that he was playing himself when announcing, though it was an extension of the everyday self, a more full and exaggerated version of true man. He mentioned several times that some of the wrestlers were indeed the playground bully all grown up, and this can't be turned on and off in absolute terms.
Since this theme came up several times during our time with JR, it made me start to really think about the performers in wrestling. It seems like they aren't exactly characters, and they aren't exactly acting. Instead, there is some sense of alter-ego, or inflation of self going on. Wrestling isn't acting, these aren't characters conceived in the minds of writers, but developed in the atheletes themselves.
We've blogged plenty about the idea of the off-stage wrestler-- what happens when he has to 'turn it off'; and read some pretty funny examples of wrestlers' personas persisting in their everyday existence (some of Ole Anderson's anecdotes and the actions of Blassie in Breakfast with Blassie come to mind). And JR's comments made me think that maybe we overstate the division between character and man in wrestling; if these two faces are really integral, perhaps the most brilliant wrestlers are those who are too bold, too overpowering for the average world.