“And that’s the Bottom Line cause Stone Cold said so!”

I’m going to make a statement and after I make it, I want you to admit to yourself that you had a moment of truly unjustified judgment placed upon me: “I watch professional wrestling”. Those of you who don’t watch wrestling, I can almost certainly estimate that you unjustly judged me. I could bet that at least one of you first had the thought ‘wow, I didn’t realized he, missing 7 teeth, lived in a Redneck trailer park in the deep South and dropped out of school after failing the 7th grade for the fourth time’. So, maybe it wasn’t that extreme but you know what I am talking about. As of late, there has been such a negative crazy wrestling fanattitude towards ‘professional wrestling’ but in reality ‘wrestling’ has had such a colorful American and worldly history that it is almost unimaginable to not include Wrestling in the colloquial nomenclature of what is just…well truly American. I guess the 70s jingle should have sounded something like “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, Chevrolet and wrestling”. Wow, just think of the advertising possibilities.Greek wrestling was the most popular sport in Ancient Greece and was the first sport to be added to the Olympic Games that was not a foot race. It was added in 708 BC. Sumo Wrestling has been a competitive sport in Japan since the Edo period while Sumo Wrestling has been performed in Japan for many centuries prior. The list could go on and on for types of wrestling from around the world but the professional wresting that a lot of people think about today has only been around since the late 1800s. During that time period, a lot of the wrestlers were actually greco roman wrestlingjust amateur athletes who traveled with carnies and learned their theatrics. That’s right, most wrestlers got their start in the circus. Most traveling grand circuses included wrestling exhibitions and these exhibitions quickly went from the Greco-Roman grappling to the more recognizable colorful costumes and fictional biographies for the entertainment of the crowd that we have come to love.

1938 wrestling match

Wrestling match 1938.

Throughout the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, wrestling rose in popularity and upon the creation of the National Wrestling Alliance, known now simply as the NWA, in 1948 which unified the independent wrestling companies that had sprouted up in the US and brought together one ‘world champion’. Wrestling continued to flourish into the 1950s when an even larger fan base was able to gorge themselves on the Golden Age of wrestling thanks to the advent of the television. More colorful characters were created and wrestling promoters like Vince McMahon Sr. blossomed with the popularity after the immersion of wrestlers like Vern Gagne, Nick Bockwinkel and nature boy ric flairLou Thesz (who was the first unified champion under the NWA). Wrestlers like Bruno Sammartino, Andre the Giant and the Nature Boy Ric Flair who started their careers earlier rode the wave of popularity into the 1980s which is known as the time period when professional wrestling got its biggest boom. With professional wrestling spreading like wildfire amongst the youth of America, some of the most spectacular characters became hulk hogan 2household names. Vincent K. McMahon’s WWF (formally known as the WWWF when the company was owned by his father Vince McMahon Sr.) expanded as a worldwide entity and exposed the whole nation and world to their product. Nature Boy Ric Flair rode in with his Four Horseman while The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, Sting, The Steiner Bros, The Ultimate
Warrior, Macho Man Randy Savage and the world’s most famous wrestler Hulk Hogan brought the WCW (formally known as the NWA after being purchased by Ted Turner) and WWF to houses every week and in stadiums, PPVs and television (including the WWF “The Main Event” being the highest rated wrestling television program to date stingwith a staggering viewer rating of 15.2 and a walloping 33 million independent viewers).

 

Into the 90s, WWF’s Monday Night Raw and WCW’s Monday Night Nitro along with ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling whose Hardcore style wrestling and adult themes drove the 18-25 demographic wild with bloodlust and sexual tension in the mid 90s) fought to be the best; and by the mid 90s this competition was a definite war and once a week caused wrestling fans to choose which show to watch due to both shows competing for air time on rival networks. Millions and millions of fans around the world viewed Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, the Undertaker, Diamond Dallas Page, Degeneration X, Chris Jericho, the New World Order, and many others every week fight for the attention of hard core wrestling fans.

Into the 2000s, wrestling maintained its popularity even after Vince McMahon bought out his major competition: both the WCW and ECW. The company died down a lot of its sexual antics and wrestling fans saw less blood but wrestling still held its fan base despite the PG persona. So why is wrestling viewed in a negative light? It is a multi-billion dollar industry whose front running company, the WWE, is producing one of the longest running episodicwwe' television shows ever. So, why are people so hush-hush to admit that they watch it in certain circles? One could point to the WWE’s decision to use the term ‘sports entertainment ‘ to describe professional wrestling because as we all know ‘wrestling is fake’. The WWE (WWF at that time) started to use this phrase due to the 1989 New Jersey Senate’s sports hearing in which the classification was put in place to not have the ‘sports entertainment’ industry regulated like a directly competitive sport (NFL, NBA, MLB, etc). So did the WWE shoot itself in the foot by placing itself in the same category as the Harlem Globetrotters because their level of theatrics and extravagance was meant to entertain and not be a blood sport? Once Vince let the cat out of the metaphorical bag that ‘match fixing’ occurred and that scripts were used…a lot of the steam did seem to be taken out of the sales. The simple fact is that there isn’t that much competition out there anymore, so the WWE is okay producing a mediocre product? Is wrestling anything more than a mind numbing misogynist, chest beating soap opera for men? Should I feel bad when my family sits down to watch this year’s Wrestlemania? The answer is no. If my enjoyment of a product means that you will think less of me, then I guess you just have to judge my character and watch me prove you wrong. Now I think I’ll go outside and play some baseball with my son because you know baseball is as American as apple pie, Chevrolet and Professional Wrestling. 😉

Love, peace and chicken grease.

-Chris

wrestlemania

A Revolutionary Reenactment

February 27th marked the 240th anniversary of the 1776 Patriot victory over the Loyalists at the Moore’s Creek Bridge in Currie, North Carolina, USA. This magnanimous victory led North Carolina’s delegates to be the first to vote for Independence from Britain in the meeting of the 1776 Continental Congress. This victory happened mere months before The Battle of Fort Sullivan in Charleston, South Carolina, USA on June 28th, 1776 which was days before the birth of our nation on July 4th, 1776 when we issued our Declaration of Independence.

20160228_153949240 years later, my son and I stood with thousands of other curious patrons staring at re-enactors that appeared to be plucked from the battle fought two centuries before I was even born. We stood adjacent to the Moore’s Creek Bridge which when partially dismantled on February 27, 1776, and I could almost see the nearly 1,000 free male North Carolinians between the ages of 16 and 60 regardless of race that waited quietly with the muskets and hunting rifles that they provided next to vigilantly prepared cannons. The cannonballs were anticipating the lighting of the wick, to thrust through the ranks of the British soldiers that were forced to traverse the dismantled bridge one by one. The remaining boards of the bridge had been doused with greasy substances, to make the short trip almost impossible to carry out. The ghosts of the centuries old men shook in their spectral form as the line of musket armed re-enactors fired their period correct muskets. We held our ears tightly as the cannons echo reverberates while smoke bellows into the moss laden trees above our heads. I hear the whiz of a drone above my head, I hear the clicks of a camera phone and see the fake smile of a teenage girl turned from the pretend malay to have the display for her selfie’s background. My immersion in this display is over.

As we walk away from the battlefield, we stop by the tents of the re-enactors that display ‘the way life was’. As we stop to hear the bonnet clad women explain how important beer 20160228_151409was to 18th century life, Daniel sees the smoke from the blacksmith’s fire bellowing in the distance. We meander from tent to tent viewing the reenactment of a more primitive life. At the first tent we are greeted by a man in the precise time period garb. He invites us into his tent to view the handmade toys and household items that he and his wife have made to display the versatile items. We walk through the tent and on one of the tables sat a short knife and the man explains that it is called a pen knife and the current uses of the term ‘pen knife’ is actually inappropriately named because pen knives were actually made to carve the tips of bird feathers so that the user could make a proper pen. Daniel, always bleeding with artistic juices, wanted to get a pen and ink combo to do calligraphy. So we walked away with a hand made quill and small vessel of homemade walnut ink. As Daniel walked, staring in amazement at his new acquisition, we came to the next vendor.  Inside this tent we beheld a short old woman dressed in a beautiful, pale yellow dress. Her wire rimmed glasses sat gracefully on the tip of her nose. She was a 20160228_145535purveyor of herbs, teas and other organic items. I handed her my credit card and she slides it on the small device atop her iPhone 6s to pay for my freshly cut and dried chamomile tea. She asks if I would like my receipt emailed to me, I laugh and say ‘no ma’am’. I think about the dichotomy of that situation and I follow Daniel to the blacksmith. The blacksmith hammered away at rivets to properly secure a stove shovel as his apprentice stokes the fire. I can see that Daniel is enamored by this display. (We love to watch the Blacksmiths and craftsmen on the AWE me channel on Youtube. Man at Arms: Reforged is our favorite and they create recognizable weapons from popular Movies, Video Games and TV shows.)

I had heard the blacksmith slam the hammer on pieces of forged metal on the anvil for as long as I could stand it. My ears rang as Daniel and myself walked to our last destination. “The Powder horn decorator”.  It was nearing the end of the day and most of the reenactors had since forgotten about protocol and started to drink canned Sun Drop sodas and began to change from their centuries old garb. The main Powder Horn decorator came from behind a curtain in his tent wearing blue jeans, sneakers and a touristypowder horn t-shirt from Long Island. He walked off to I guess get a bite to eat when his apprentice tried to save our trip into their tent by describing the process and to show us some of the pieces that he was making. He asked us if we were really into history to which Daniel gave a resounding ‘YES!’. The powder horn decorator’s middle age apprentice smiled and said “yeah, me too. That’s why I do this. I love to watch history stuff on TV. I love Game of Thrones. Do you watch it?” I nodded my head yes and said that me and my wife had fallen in love with it but had just began watching it and were trying to catch up on the On Demand channel on Direct TV. So, here I am…in the middle of a tent with a man dressed like a 1770s poor merchant talking about a Medieval times TV show on HBO. He looked at Daniel, said “I hope he ain’t watching it yet” and started laughing to himself. I said yeah its a little above his age group but he looked at me and said but that’s why I like it, all the hot women.” I gave a grimace smile and politely walked away.

We walked away and Daniel smiled at me and said “Dad, thank you for today, I have had an awesome time.” That made me smile and I realized that we both enjoyed our time viewing a window into the past even when reality had to rear its ugly head by the beeping of my cell phone to tell me that it needed to be charged.  Off to our next adventure.

Love, peace and chicken grease

-Chris