Tuesday, September 9, 2014

9/10/2014 Post for History of Pro Wrestling

A quote that I really thought helped give insight into the purpose of Pro Wrestling came from "The Art of Professional Wrestling: Folk Expression in Mass Culture" by John A. Gutowski. The quote reads "...transformed a basically dull sport to a crowd pleasing spectacle." I think this is a perfect way to explain how and why Pro Wrestling got started in a short phrase. Amateur wrestling is very boring. There's not a huge fan base for it because not many people find it entertaining enough to watch. However, Pro Wrestling is found far more entertaining and, therefore, has a far bigger fan base. This is basically because Pro Wrestling seems far more violent, key word is "seems." While amateur wrestling is real, it doesn't allow a view to get out his/her frustration out by watching it.  

One thing that I found very interesting in "Andre the Giant" by Dave Meltzer was that people considered him to be 7'4, but he wasn't. People were so interested in him because the local magazines made it seem like he was the most "giant" person in the world. They exaggerated his height and weight to create more news about him. However, there were other athletes, that the article mentions, that were even taller than him. However, since he started out in France and there wasn't international news, his name of being "Andre the Giant" spread fast. I wonder if he would have been as famous if he was born in today's world-wide connected society. I don't feel like he would have been.

4 comments:

Sam Ford said...

You draw an important theme here, Marshall, and that is emphasized by wrestling's existence as drama more than sport (as Workman develops/describes) and wrestling's ability to draw on certain repeated motifs, as Gutowski describes....Certainly, the strategic use of hyperbole is one of them. We see this embodied in the story of Andre the Giant. Certainly, the performer himself had a naturally interesting--and exceptional--story. But wrestling, in order to transform Andre from exceptional human being to "mythic" status, took great care to exaggerate certain aspects of his identity--add some inches to his height, add to his weight in a way that still seems somewhat plausible...change up his back story or present it slightly differently from territory to territory...as you say, in ways that was more possible in the "territory era" than today.

The ability to create your own regional history has shifted doubly today...Not only is there an era of "Internet" fact-checking that's possible, but there's also a lack of a major regional system today--meaning that, if someone is introduced in WWE in a certain way, a much different process has to take place to change or shift their identity from that point forward....

Perhaps most fascinating to me in this "myth-making" category is the fact that Vince Sr. gave Andre a major run against Hulk Hogan with Andre as face and Hogan as heel...and then, seven or eight years later, Vince Jr. just actively pretended that never happened....to quite a bit of success. (Of course, much had changed between 1979/1980 and 1987...including WWF going from a regional to a national promotion and a major shift toward promoting Hogan and the WWF characters to younger fans...

michael richardson said...

The place of tall tales and exaggerations in wrestling, and I suppose the larger world, seems like it has radically changed within the last 40 years or so. It is almost sad that the ability to tailor stories to certain groups of people has died away with our more connected culture, because I feel like part of the draw with Andre could have been that for every place he went to, the story was that one of the head honchos of that region found him and brought him in. You can't foster a sense of ownership like that anymore, no more than you could hide Andre's ailing health in our era of camera phones and Huffington Post. Wrestlers have backstories still, but the suspension of disbelief is limited.
In short, the steam powered hammer killed John Henry.

Sam Ford said...

Certainly, many "carnival" aspects of wrestling culture of yesteryear would be hard to pull off once the regional aspect of wrestling has shifted. One really tough challenge that produces for WWE is that their wrestlers don't jump from territory to territory when it's time to get a fresh start. They can't move to another territory with a new gimmick to freshen themselves up and then return years later, unless they are fired--and knowing that the employment options are challenging outside the most prominent national company. So you end up watching guys have a tough time repositioning themselves in front of the same national audience, year after year. And there are many creative challenges with an audience who get used to seeing a guy in one gimmick accept a new one, or who watch a guy as a mid-card wrestler for years have a hard time taking them seriously when the WWE tries to push them up a card...in a way that territorial shifts were able to take care of in the past.

Katie Clark said...

I agree, the exaggeration of Andre's height is certainly interesting. The way writers often try to create characters that are mythical in nature. Today we have wrestlers such as Mark Henry, "the world's strongest man." Or Big Show, "the world's largest athlete." I mean, these attributes are clearly not true and people don't really believe these things. (Or at least I hope they don't. Perhaps I give people too much credit.) Regardless, the success people have as "freak show" wrestlers has always been interesting to me. Our society is obsessed with the peculiar and abnormal. And wrestling provides that and more.