Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Real Life is Wrestling

I don’t have a whole lot to say about these readings (which were the first three chapters of Jim Freedman’s Drawing Heat and an article on Jerry Lawler by Molinaro from the Top 100…).  I enjoyed the how Freedman told the story of the elderly wrestling fan, known simply as Ma.  Ma was a very active wrestling fan in that she was not afraid to speak her mind— or to hit someone with her cane.  She most often attacked the referee, and I appreciate her response to Freedman’s questioning: “Fighting fair isn’t worth it if the referee won’t make both wrestlers go according to rules.  That’s the problem.  That’s why good people don’t have a fighting chance today.”  Ma would know.  Her life story, which Freedman retells in the following few pages, is one that perfectly merges with the story that wrestling tells (pg. 21).

She was the underdog, the good guy that played by the rules, and yet life kept giving her unfair amounts of disappointment and pain.  Her father died when she was eighteen months old.  Her mother remarried “a lazy and violent sort of man who abused the kids,” according to Freedman.  They quickly became miserably poor.  So poor, in fact, that Ma’s mother could not support them all.  Ma went to an orphanage, and then ended up in Canada with another abusive (foster) parent.  The neighbors grew concerned and wrote to Ma’s mother to come and get her child.  A time of relative happiness followed, when Ma’s mother came and rescued her from her foster father, and the two of them bounced around trying to survive.  Ma met a “loving, gentle, perfect man” and got married, had children, and saved up enough money to buy a house.  As soon as everything was starting to look perfect, a lawyer and a businessman repossessed the house and the couple lost everything.  Soon afterwards, Ma’s perfect husband gave himself to the war cause and was dead within six months.  Ma was taking care of ten kids and working three jobs to get by when she was introduced to wrestling.

Today, Freedman takes an eighty-eight year old Ma to a wrestling show, featuring Dewey Robertson and Mad Dog Vachon vs. Bad Boy Bobby Duncum and Big Swede Hansen.  Dewey and Mad Dog have worked hard all their lives, and tonight, they are ready.  They have worked hard enough to secure their victory.  While the ref is distracted telling Mad Dog that only one wrestler is allowed in the ring at a time, Bad Boy and Big Swede have teamed up against Dewey and are choking him.  Ma decides it’s time to take action.  She gets up and hobbles over to give the ref a piece of her mind and get in a few good jabs with her cane as he rushed to rectify the situation that had gotten out of his control.  Later, Mad Dog sees an opportunity to attack Big Swede and gain the upper hand, but Big Swede sees it coming and counters, making Mad Dog go down hard.  It seems doubtful that the hard-working good guys will win tonight.

These stories have so much in common.  Both the faces and Ma and her mother relied on hard work to thrive, but both found that hard work is rarely enough to win.  When Ma is sent away because her family can’t support them all, she ends up in an even worse situation.  Likewise, when Dewey is alone in the ring with the ref yelling at his partner, the others take advantage of his solitude.  The referee is finally notified of the situation by Ma’s prodding, and Ma’s mother comes to Ma’s rescue at the insistence of the neighbors.  The match continues.  Ma’s life continues, bouncing from place to place.  Ma meets a great guy, and life seems to be on the up and up when suddenly everything is snatched away.  In the match, the faces find a weak moment and Mad Dog attacks Big Swede, but at the last moment, victory is snatched away, followed by a hard fall to take your breath away.  Life goes on, and the match continued.  Ma’s says she is happier now than she’s ever been.  Even after all the beating, maybe the faces can come out on top in the end (or so I'd like to think).  I guess my point is that I appreciated these back-to-back stories that helped show how wrestling can reflect the real life of normal people.


Sam Ford said...

I am really looking forward to our discussion today of the world that Jim Freedman lays out for us. We aren't watching Toronto wrestling, but--in this book--we have a depiction of Ontario area wrestling as an ecosystem--a tale of two promotions, amidst a wrestling world that was changing dramatically--but also of the performers in that business and the fans that surround it. It is a holistic understanding of wrestling in the territory days--the local connections that empowered regional wrestling and made it make sense.

The juxtaposition between Ma Pickles' story and the match happening in the ring has all these great parallels, as you say--and yet you don't find Ma Pickles, in the twilight of her life, bitter at the struggle...there's that resolve...the one that you can't help admire in the classic wrestling baby face, who ought to know the Horatio Alger myth is just that--a myth--but who just won't give up anyhow.

And perhaps, like the wrestling match, it isn't the plot but the characters that are "truth." Ma Pickles maintains a consistency in who she is. She has pushed through life with a resolve that makes her, perhaps, one of the true "faces" we get a glimpse of in this book.

Gary said...

Poor Ma Pickles, but I agree, after all she has been through in her life, all the pain both physically and more emotionally she has persevered and is one of the true faces in the book. I can draw parallels to a character in Ole's book, that of young Tommy Rich was just beaten up and overwhelmed in many matches and rematches with Abdullah the Butcher. Tommy typically would not take any help from the referee and crawled to Abdullah's leg over and over, and Tommy wanted to wrestle Abdullah again and again, never giving up, having a heart that wouldn't quit. The fans loved Tommy when he took this angle.

Marshall Metcalf said...

I wonder if people in today's society relates as well with faces as Ma did. I feel like a stigma in today's society, especially the younger generation, is that most people are more selfish and will do anything to win or make it the top. For instance, while we were watching the WWE match, I liked Randy Ortin the best. I think that Ma is an incredibly interesting character. A fan becoming a main attraction of a wrestling match just seems like an odd phenomenon. People, you would think, go to a match to watch the wrestlers...but they end up watching fans such as Ma. I guess that they can be entertaining. It's like people watching on campus, which my best friend and I often do.