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Wrestling, in the good old days
English: This is John Cena at the RAW Wrestlemania Revenge Tour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Two of my grandkids are John Cena fans. Those of you who are sufficiently connected to popular culture know that John Cena is the current reigning pro wrestling champion.
Pro wrestling? My grandkids? What's up with that?
Well, I can understand it, because long, long, long, long ago, my brother and I were big-time fans.
The wrestling game is the same today as every, but glitzier. different. Today's wrestlers are bigger, buffer, more acrobatic. They have entrance music, and fireworks. But it's still a scripted theatrical performance, and not an athletic contest.
When Bobbi was in school, she read an essay called "The World of Wrestling" (in text form, here) written by Roland Barthes. He says:
There are people who think that wrestling is an ignoble sport. Wrestling is not a sport, it is a spectacle, and it is no more ignoble to attend a wrestled performance of Suffering than a performance of the sorrows of Arnolphe or Andromaque.*
In other words, wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result.
Thus the function of the wrestler is not to win; it is to go exactly through the motions which are expected of him.
Our heroes were Antonio "Argentina" Rocca and Ricky Starr. The bad guys, "heels" they call them today, were Dr. Jerry Graham, Cowboy Rocky Lee, Karl von Hess, Mr. Moto, Dick the Bruiser, and Skull Murphy.
Antonino Rocca was one of our faves. He wrestled barefoot and was the first acrobat. Here's a collection of his top moves:
And here's Rocca showing a bunch of his stuff, including his signature move: the "Argentina Backbreaker." He's tag-team matched with Eduard Carpentier, another early acrobatic wrestler.
Our favorite, was Ricki Starr, ballet dancer turned wrestler. Ballet dance? Well, maybe not really. But that was the story line.
Wrestlers with bleached blond here were a thing, back in the day. The peroxided arch-villain was Dr. Jerry Graham.
The famous heavyweight boxer, Joe Louis, did a turn in wrestling. Here he's up against Cowboy Rocky Lee, a "heel" whose signature move was the "bull stabber."