Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Average Joes, Average Sonnys

I always enjoy reading from Top 100 Pro Wrestlers of All Time because most of the time, the wrestlers are those of whom I’ve never heard (This should not be surprising, considering the fact that I started watching wrestling less than a year ago, and am only well-acquainted with current WWE RAW wrestlers).  As I started reading the passages selected for today, I came to Bruno Sammartino (Number 15 in the Top 100).  I love the way that Molinaro so nonchalantly states that Sammartino “defeated Buddy Rogers for the WWWF World title at Madison Square Garden in 48 seconds.”  Now, that’s a match I’d like to see!

I also liked reading about Andre the Giant, though every match of his I watch makes me sad.  I can’t help but see the disease that simultaneously gave him the ability to be great and led to his ultimate demise.  This is especially true of his later matches, and chapter five of Dave Meltzers Tributes II makes the decline of Andre’s body painfully obvious.  Despite the difficulties, there is still joy in Andre’s life.  I enjoyed hearing the stories retold in Meltzer’s book (pg. 74), and I appreciate the honesty on the part of Meltzer in acknowledging the tall tale tendency in the professional wrestling world.  There’s proof of that in the many versions of the story that emerged to explain how Andre was introduced to wrestling in the U.S.

Early Andre the Giant
Andre the Giant, WrestleMania 3 

Mark Workman’s “The Differential Perception of Popular Dramatic Events,” drew some criticisms from me at first, until I realized it was written in the 70s.  In his article, Workman interviews two wrestlers and three fans about their wrestling views; the fan segments caught my attention (I realize that the interview was not the main discussion of the article, but it was the most interesting point, perhaps unintentionally, in my opinion).  The first, Joe “has swallowed the official rhetoric without a modicum of skepticism,” according to Workman.  He believes completely wrestling is real; it’s “’brute force against brute force.’”  He takes wrestlers’ personas at face value, and believes that the portrayed hurt is real.  The second “representative fan” is Mike.  He thinks that some matches are fakes, while others are real.  When a guy goes down after a solid punch, it’s real, whereas any imbalance of action and reaction constitutes a fake match.  The third fan, Sonny, has the most modern view: he knows it is unreal, “but finds wrestling to be entertaining nevertheless.”  These three views were supposedly representative of the majority of other wrestling fans, which was what irked me the most.  The first two views took up at least a full page, while Sonny’s view only took up a tiny 2.5-sentenced paragraph.  I was upset with the portrayed gullibility of the wrestling fan community… until I realized this was written in 1978— years before Vince McMahon would reveal to the world that “wrestling is all phony” (as worded by Ole Anderson in his book, Inside Out).  This realization changed my view on these fans’ notions of wrestling as real vs. wrestling as fake.  It is interesting to see how a little change like that completely morphed the view of professional wrestling, so that there are virtually no "Joes" or "Mikes" around today. 

1 comment:

Sam Ford said...

I'm very interested in Workman's presentation of the fans as well...and question the degree to which and the ways in which fans perform their role as fan, subconsciously and overtly. For instance, to what degree--and when--are fans engaging in a certain degree of "suspension of disbelief" even when talking about professional wrestling? And what degree might fans have felt a need to "protect" the wrestling world and its legitimacy in the same way that we so often see wrestling performers did--from Ole Anderson's justifications described in our readings from his book so far to Gorilla Monsoon's comments in Workman's piece? That's not to say that these particular "representative" fans Workman highlights were "performing" in their interviews with him, but I do wonder the degree to which a.) these fan "types" are representative in the late 1970s and b.) whether there might be greater degree of performance among those "fan types" than Workman acknowledges here...