In honor of Independence Day (the national holiday, not the Will Smith film), I’ve dedicated this column to some flag-waving, stars and stripes-wearing, All-American professional wrestlers.
TODAY’S ISSUE: “All-American” Wrestling Gimmicks
Mick Foley was well known for his ‘cheap pops’ in which he simply ended any statement with, “…right here in Miami, Florida!” or whatever town they were in that night. However, I think the easiest of the cheap pops comes when a Red-White-and-Blue super patriot gets the crowd to chant “USA! USA! USA!”.
I was just a young cynic when I first saw Hacksaw Jim Duggan pumping his fist in the air and encouraging fans to chant the name of the country in which the matches were taking place, and I never really understood what made him the guy that embodied my native land.
Sure, guys like The Patriot were All-American by default, but why Duggan? I recall at some point, he even started using his famous 2×4 as a flagpole, and had a real US flag attached, much the same way Coach Scott D’Amore of Team Canada uses his hockey stick as a flag pole for the Canadian banner. However, what made Jim Duggan “All-American” was beyond me. Was it the 3-point stance finisher? Was it the blue tights and boots? Was it the lack of ability to utilize the English language? Or was it his immaculate conditioning and physical appearance that made him an American icon? Take your pick.
In January 1984, when Hulk Hogan defeated the evin Iranian Iron Sheik for the WWF Championship, he became an American Hero, complete with his “American Made” t-shirt. Naturally, the pro-US crowd supported Hogan as the embodiment of our nation’s values against such a hated foreign menace. So All-American was he, in fact, that Hogan soon went from using Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” as his ring entrance music (obviously a nod to his appearance as Thunderlips in Rocky III) to the more familiar “Real American” tune. Precious memories for me include stooges Patterson and Brisco coming out to that song as a thumb in the eye to Hogan sometime around 1999-2000. Then again, who got the last laugh? Hogan wore the Undisputed Title once more in 2002, and he defeated the almighty HHH of all people, to win it!
Hogan stood tall for America for years, including his infamous feud with G.I. Joe turncoat and Iraqi-sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter, which culminated at WrestleMaina XII. Hogan gave up his traditional yellow do-rag for a more patriotic blue-field-with-white-starts motif, presumably in honor of his duty to bring home a wrestling championship held by an… umm… American. In fact, even the veteran “WrestleMania” logo was made over in red, white and blue for the occasion. And no singer embodies the spirit of the USA more than Willie Nelson, whose rendition of “America the Beautiful” was so inspiring that the LA crowd broke into a “USA” chant. Before the event began, out came Hacksaw Jim Duggan in the most God-awful Uncle Fat Sam getup you could possibly imagine. He was there to provide color commentary in the opening match. How American of him.
You know, Slaughter burned a Hulk Rules t-shirt. The un-American bastard. The action began after Hogan carried a US flag to ringside, this proving his patriotism. The match was a typical Hogan affair. It included Hogan taking an extended beatdown, including a pretty good blade job, but then coming back with the “you!” finger-wave to the face of Slaughter, followed by three devastating punches. And guess which of his multiple finishing maneuvers Hogan pulled out of his vast arsenal to end the match and secure baseball and Mom’s apple pie for us all? You got it, the Stinky, Wart-Infested, Giant-Killing Legdrop of Doom (thank you, Mr. Keith). I did like the nod to the ’84 Iron Sheik title match via the Camel Clutch sequence. Nice touch, actually. The crowd was rabid for the Hulkster all throughout the match. Plus, I love Bobby The Brain’s line early in the contest, “It doesn’t cost any more to complain!”
Who can forget Hogan and well-known (Canadian?) patriot Edge capturing the World Tag-Team Titles on July 4th, 2002? It was another glorious moment for the old US of A, as Hogan donned red, white and blue feathered boas instead of his familiar red and yellow. Makes my eyes a little watery to think of it…
However, Hogan’s ridiculous “Mr. America” thing on SmackDown didn’t go over as well a few years later, but in fairness, it wasn’t intended to be about Americana as much as pretending Hogan was off television, and that nobody could recognize a 6’8″, 300-pound, orange man with white hair sticking out from his mask.
At the 1993 Survivor Series, The Xenophobes (The Undertaker, Lex Luger and the Steiner Brothers) defeated The Non-Americans (Yokozuna, Jacques Rougeau, Crush and Ludvig Borga), but the reason I mention it is that the previously ominous and dark Undertaker removed his trench coat to reveal a stars-and-stripes design on the inner lining. This was just to hammer home the fact that while he might have been an invincible undead zombie, he was an AMERICAN invincible undead zombie, thank you very much.
Undeniably, some of the greatest pro wrestlers in history are Canadian-born, or Canadian-trained. When playing heels, our friends from the great white north are often considered foreign menaces, but when US crowds like a Canadian wrestler, such as Bret Hart (once upon a time), Benoit, Jericho (sometimes), Christian and others, they never chant “USA” at them! How strange.
Muhammad Hassan is an Arab-American, and a heel. He’s a heel because he complains a lot, and cheats to win. Yet, the reason he complains and cheats is that he feels unfairly discriminated against following the events of 9/11. Quite honestly, he started out his WWE career making valid points, and reasonable complaints about how closed-minded and cynical Americans were after the tragedy that day. Clearly, every American with ethnic or religious roots in the Middle East is NOT a terrorist, yet that’s how our nation responded for a while. I personally know decent American citizens whose co-workers and associates for years physically attacked them on 9/11, as if these people were secretly involved in terrorist activities the whole time we knew them! Absolutely absurd. That’s the reason I LOVE to hear crowds chant “USA” at Hassan – the character is from Michigan, idiots. Unfortunately, the Hassan character has de-evolved into Typical Foreign Heel #25, who plays on the xenophobic fears of typical proud Americans. Namely, he looks and talks different, and believes different things. Ooooh, scary!
By the way, according to Ask Jeeves, the definition of xenophobia is: an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange. Emphasis on the word “unreasonable”.
“Made in the USA” Lex Luger was born when the former “Narcissist” gave up the mirrors and silver tights for stars-and-stripes and bodyslammed the pseudo-Japanese Yokozuna (from French Polynesia) on the deck of the USS Intrepid docked at New York Harbor, when nobody else could do it. Luger arrived in a helicopter, and sported a red, white and blue polo shirt. This was to clarify that he was now All-American. Aside from the new look, including a haircut, and the new babyface persona, complete with his “Lex Express” tour bus, the new Luger also fell into my Jim Duggan category of American hero. I don’t understand how a bad guy can just change his tights and suddenly be an All-American boy. Then again, I’ve never understood why people get all excited if somebody from their hometown becomes famous. It’s not like YOU contributed to the success of Cassius Clay simply by also growing up in Louisville, Kentuky!
Oh, well. Happy Independence Day to all, and to all a good night.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. – Is “reckful” the opposite of reckless? If so, what exactly is “reck”?