The moss covered, three-handled family gredunza is the third of Chris Jericho’s 1004 moves, preceeded by an armdrag and armbar, and to be followed by an armbar and the Saskatchewan spinning nerve hold. It is a reference to the Cat in the Hat’s TV special.
David Ditch makes a terrific argument for easing WWE’s road schedule.
Phil Clark hits the TNA heavyweight division with some deserved praise.
Dan Hevia pretty much inspired the events that took place last night in regards to my next two columns. The idea that it used to be better is a wild misconception, however, as I’m about to prove.
Wrestlemania 3 – A commentary
So I promised something lighter for this week, and we’re going to go right for the jugular with that one. I wanted to get as far away from Chris Benoit and all Chris Benoit-related stuff, so last night, I hosted a viewing of Wrestlemania 3. I invited a professor of mine who has been interested with wrestling since I began talking about it to her, as well as a colleague who watched wrestling in the late 80’s, but hasn’t really watched since. Along with them was one of my roommates, who is not at all a wrestling fan and thinks we’re all freaks for liking it (she comes in around the 10 minute mark). The idea was to have a fairly upbeat discussion about how wrestling is interesting and worth studying, not necessarily that it is horrible and a reason to incarcerate someone. And for this, there’s really nothing more suitable than the WWF in 1987.
Below are notes and reflections I had during the first half of the proceedings. The second half will be published next week.
-Okay, so I’m assuming that everyone reading this column has seen Wrestlemania 3. I’m going to assume you know the general plot. This should not be difficult. It’s like knowing the general plot to Rocky. Also, this isn’t a play-by-play of the recording. There’s lots of silence (much like a director’s commentary) and lots of general conversation that has nothing to do with wrestling. The written section is a highlight of the interesting theories and notes that came out of the show.
-Explaining wrestling to people who know nothing about wrestling, whilst at the same time explaining everything that’s changed in the last 15 years is next to impossible, so I plan to stick with the macro generalities of character and space, many of which are covered quite nicely in Mark Allen’s piece that came up yesterday.
-The way they treated ethnicities in the late 80’s were different than today. Whereas today we have giant Iraq giants, and Latino militants, back in 87 the Russians were simply Russian; The Japanese were simply Japanese. The Mexicans were simply Mexican, and were generally cheered more than today.
-Canadians get a weird rap on this card, though. There’s the Rogeau Brothers, who are good Quebecers; Dino Bravo, an evil Canadian; the Can-Am connection, perennial bland faces; and the Hart Foundation, who are cocky heels here. The only definitive opinion WWF has about Canada at this point is that Canada and Quebec are two completely different places.
-Bob Eucker and Mary Hart are the first two faces we see outside of Vince and Aretha. The use of celebrity used to push the actual wrestling was in full force here and it worked perfectly. Also, Jesse Ventura lipsyncs everything Monsoon says.
-The Can-Am Connection and Strike Force. Was there a difference in terms of what they set out to do, exactly?
-Only people who have watched wrestling for a long time would understand why Bob Orton would have worn that cast for so long. Everyone else just thinks it’s sad that he was forced to wrestle with it.
-Was anyone not on steroids at this point? I mean, yes, they have a crappy drug testing system now, but only 20 years ago it was the general standard to be as juiced as you could be.
-The actual style of wrestling hasn’t really changed. Tag team matches are still done just about the exact same way. Only the moves have changed.
-How DID everyone see the action all the way back at the end of the arena? I mean, yes, the light eventually died down and the screens turned on and the lighting became fantastic, but the first hour was probably completely unwatchable to the cheap-seated audience.
-Even the good guys cheat now, but back then all you needed to do to get heat was have an illegal double team that lasted longer than the requisite 5 seconds.
-The red, white, and blue stripes are only the first Reaganomic-styled aesthetic happening on this night.
-Mr Fuji, for example, was a wonderful caricature. But the wonderful vaudevillian aspect of it is that there were so many multicultural wrestlers on this card wrestling as the simplest stereotype of their own culture.
-Even the gay wrestlers of the modern era weren’t quite as fruity as the Can-Am connection’s winning dance/hug.
-What makes a redneck gimmick a face or a heel? Geographical coincidence?
-I never noticed this, but Hercules didn’t just take the name because he was strong; he actually thought he was thousands of years old and part of Greek mythology.
-Speaking of Greek mythology, why did they never again use the chariot-style mini rings that took the wrestlers to and from the ring? I mean, the KISS school of entrances is nice and all, but variety is appreciated, too.
-The steroid use on both Hercules and Billy Jack Haynes is astounding. This is not helping me forget about Benoit, especially since these two are essentially having a submission match.
-Compared to real sports, wrestling arenas are kind of vacant ad-wise. The Silverdome had a few Bud signs, but that’s it. Hockey arenas are pretty much Nascar vehicles, now. The lack of outside advertising is an interesting case for escapist theatre, actually.
-Soccer has practical athletic attire. But that’s it. Every other sport (including wrestling) makes it’s athletes don an incredibly unnatural style of dress.
-Heenan was the star of the show, no doubt. He’s on screen just about every other segment. It helped that he managed half of the heels on the roster.
-The discussion in the 80’s was “well, you know it’s fake, right?Ã¢â‚¬Â The answer in the 2000’s is “If I wanted something real, I’d watch UFC.Ã¢â‚¬Â I wish UFC was around in the 80’s simply for this reply.
-I never understood the people who watch wrestling AND sports. My colleague thought it was an unfair analysis, because people watch porn AND have sex. I think there’s a problem with this. My roommate agreed with him. The professor tried to bring classical music into it. It was the first four-person argument of the night that eroded into uncomfortable silence.
-In response to Hercules cutting open Haynes after the match: just because the match ends, doesn’t mean the fake part is done. “They’re still not having sex.Ã¢â‚¬Â
-My theory on blading was disputed by the entire room (razor blade in the wrist tape), which is an interesting observation on how kayfabe still very much plays a role, even today.
-Why be a wrestler? Money! Celebrity! Mythology! My roommate should not have asked. My last reason was, however, the saddest. Sometimes, you’re just a traditional circus freak (like King Kong Bundy and his accompanying midgets), and there’s just not much else to do (outside of classical porn).
-The 6 man mixed tag is the first idea of major racist stereotyping that goes completely over the heads of the crowd. It’s still very much in the realm of the absurd at this point, so they more or less get off because it’s ridiculous.
-Hillbilly Jim’s stick entrance music doesn’t exactly fire up the crowd.
-Having a celebrity in the announce booth allows Monsoon a completely organic reason for explaining the rules of each match.
-Making midgets wrestler is a little tasteless just as an idea, let alone in a purposefully comedic setting involving two other people that make them look even smaller.
-The athletic ability of anyone over six feet tall in the WWF shoots dramatically downward with every additional inch.
-When faced with perilous pain, even the bad guy midgets will help out the good guy midgets. There’s some zen to that.
-King Harly Race wanting the Junkyard Dog to bow to him looks a lot more like a hate crime now than I’m sure it came off back then. I mean, you’ve got Race, the royalty-class, and you’ve got Junkyard Dog, a big, charismatic black guy who wore a chain and collar (and who’s finishing move was called “the Ghetto BlasterÃ¢â‚¬Â). And then Race wins and the Dog bows and the aristocracy are restored after six minutes of social protest and everything goes back to how it was before the revolution. At least, I think that’s what the message was.
-The proff, who is reading “The Hardcore DiariesÃ¢â‚¬Â right now, wanted to know about WWF writers, and general freedom in terms of creativity. Essentially, Junkyard Dog fighting King Harley Race happened because their employers are dirty carnies who just want to make a cheap buck of synergy.
-If the stipulation involves something humiliating, the person who stands to lose the most will always lose.
-Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The BodyÃ¢â‚¬Â Ventura have gimmicky names and characters because they used to be wrestlers themselves. Only Jesse escaped, becoming capable of working in an entirely other field.
-In retrospect, it’s amazing nobody thought Hogan was insane, even though he screams every single word. I mean, in his interview, he’s talking about “the purest form of the truthÃ¢â‚¬Â not being politicians, but Hulkamania. But then again, as you’ll hear in the podcast, both the girls in the room gave a “whooÃ¢â‚¬Â at the end of his interview.
-You can tell if someone’s a bad guy because 1) they are from a culture that Americans don’t fully understand and 2) if they cheat in a way the fans don’t approve.
-Dino Bravo speaking French out of nowhere is hilarious. His villainy is relative only because he’s fighting a Quebecer.
-“In fact, mating season is coming up for boas.Ã¢â‚¬Â Jesse is funny to everyone, wrestling fan and otherwise.
-Beefcake was my colleague’s favorite guy. This is a fair opinion for someone like him who only watched wrestling in 1989, but for any other point in history is kind of a funny statement.
-Was it ever really explained why Beefcake was turned face?
Anyways, that’s all for part 1. Check back next week for the second act of Wrestlemania 3 commentary.