Sunday, September 14, 2014

Friday Night in Dothan, Alabama

I just loved the article by Randall Williams, The Hulk vs. Ox Baker, as it really provided insight as to what southern wrestling was all about; in this case at the Houston County Farm Center, where 5000 fans, mostly working people, including farmers, entered a giant hot barn, walked upon a red-dirt floor, riddled with dried tobacco spit and Coke to watch matches. This was the backbone of southern wrestling at its best. Williams mentions that it was estimated that 60% of all the national attendance of wrestling was in the South, in arenas just like Dothan. Although the date of this article is not mentioned, it still typifies the southern wrestling experience, dating back to the 1920s.

In addition to the physical surroundings of southern wrestling, I found it interesting that the article brought out how southern wrestling was predominately a closed business, by that Williams meant a family business, either by blood or marriage. This esoteric folk group of promoters and wrestlers were most active in southern wrestling.

I also got a look at how the wrestlers’ esoteric group (from a folklore standpoint) behaved or was expected to behave. That is to say, there were two dressing rooms at Dothan, one for the faces and one for the heels, and how they did not associate with each other, even when the matches were over. The fans or exoteric folk group would not understand if the two groups were friendly towards each other. Faces and heels also had agreements between themselves so that they would not hurt each other.

Southern wrestling also called for fan challenges from the wrestlers, which were legitimate shoots. There was mention of the typical 10 minute, $500 challenges to all comers where the wrestler always won, while the fans whooped it up for their locals.

This article related a lot of folklore to me regarding the textual nature of southern wrestling, how it was deeply seeded both by environment and the subcultures of the history of wrestlers and fans. It would make a wonderful ethnographic study.

1 comment:

Sam Ford said...

Absolutely. I think Randall's focus, from a "southern culture studies" perspective, is very helpful for us to understand the regional flavor and nature of wrestling. There is, obviously, a national "wrestling" culture and industry--but the ways in which it manifests itself differs greatly as you move from territory to territory. We see Ole describing this in his book, in terms of his experiences trying to make it at Calgary Stampede wrestling for Stu Hart, his mixed feelings about working for Eddie Graham down in Florida (where the Jack Brisco/Dory Funk match we watched take place), and his disdain for "Tennessee wrestling" and the lack of credibility for the matches Nick Gulas puts on in Nashville or Jerry Jarrett's work (which we'll cover more as we talk about Memphis wrestling). Obviously, he sees a much different vibe in the work he was doing in the Carolinas for the Crocketts or, later, in Georgia. We've watched and talked some about New York wrestling. This week, you'll watch a full documentary on Dallas wrestling. I think we should think some about what caused the cultural specificity that we see develop. Some of it, perhaps, was the idiosyncrasies of the particular promoters involved in each town. Some of it was the culture of each territory and just how different it is for various parts of the country...