Greetings rasslin' fans, once again, I am your host, Llakor, Guardian of Useless Knowledge. Come, join me in my Way-Back Machine as we return to a time when wrestlers wrestled. A time when Brew-Guy was still a water-baby. A time when men were men and Chyna wasn't. A time in short: When We Were Marks.
This week, I have a tale that is a little more personal, as we explore the arguments that we used to prove that wrestling was real, in a tale I call: The OLD SCHOOL Ground Argument.
WHEN WE WERE MARKS
Once fighting over wrestling in the school ground was banned (although to be honest it was more like hockey scrums over wrestling), the wrestling fans of Oxford Elementary were forced to defend their heroes using argument and logic. Which in my case, was probably a good thing cause calling myself 'four feet of French fury' wasn't scaring anyone.
The opponents of wrestling broke into three groups. The first group included those who watched wrestling regularly but thought it was fake anyway. They were easy to convince. For one thing, they desperately wanted to believe that wrestling was real, otherwise they wouldn't be watching it religiously.
We were also helped by the peculiar nature of the Atlantic Grand Prix. For a small promotion, Emil Dupre was able to attract a large percentage of very skilled workers. Most of the regulars were trained by Stu Hart and it showed. Many were from the Maritimes and came back for the summer to visit their families and make some money at the same time. It didn't hurt that guys who were talented mid-carders anywhere else could get to the top of the card because they were wrestling at 'home'. Those making guest appearances were usually smaller skilled workers who would match up well with Leo Burke. Many came to the 'Ocean Playground' to take advantage of what amounted to a paid vacation in front of small but enthusiastic crowds. So the wrestlers who worked in the Atlantic Grand Prix didn't expose the business very much. Their punches, kicks and holds looked real to us.
In addition in 1980, VCRs were still an expensive luxury. Those of us who had them, certainly weren't going to be allowed to "waste them by taping wrestling". In other words, we didn't have someone with a 'smoking gun' of a worked punch or a missed drop-kick on tape to play over and over again. We also weren't exposed to other promotions with less skilled workers. On TV, Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling was the only wrestling TV show that we could get, or that we had ever heard of for that matter. Wrestling magazines were a mysterious contraband that we had heard about but never seen. It was literally easier to get your hands on porn than wrestling magazines. By 1980, I had had access to Playboy for more than a year. (Thank God for the Boy Scouts!) As school started, I was able to trade for copies of Penthouse magazines and by the end of the school year I had seen my first copy of Hustler. By comparison, I didn't see a copy of PWI until 1984 which coincided roughly with Vincent K. McMahon buying out the promotion, and my first look at the WWF.
Those who watched wrestling regularly pointed to weak-looking punches, wrestlers stomping their feet to make a blow sound worse than it was, and wrestlers falling down like they had been shot when the opponent hadn't even touched them. We had two responses to this. First of all, we ignored most of it on the grounds that no-one had indisputable evidence like a photograph, or two witnesses who had seen the same thing at the same time. Our other favourite response was, "Wrestler X was rolling with the punches". This in fact became our standard line for any situation when somebody came through a catastrophe unscathed. Llakor survived a fight with a bully fifty pounds heavier, and six inches taller? He was rolling with the punches. Only did minimum damage to a monster in D&D? He was rolling with the punches. James Bond was running from an explosion that went off right behind him and it didn't even ruffle his hair? That's right, he was rolling with the punches.
The argument that we took a little more seriously concerned the human punching bags Rudy Kay and the Cuban Assassin. How could they take that much punishment and still win matches? It was certainly true that those two took punishment on a weekly basis that should prevent them from walking, let alone winning matches. Usually, we pointed out that in Rudy's case he didn't get the win, he usually just... finally... crawled... far enough to his corner to give Bobby Kay the tag, and it was Bobby who got the pin. When Rudy did get the win by his lonesome, it was usually with a high impact move that you could hit out of nowhere like a drop toe-hold onto the metal turn buckle previously exposed by the heels. In the Cuban Assassin's case, we were quite prepared to argue that he was a freak of nature, but like Rudy, he usually won with a high impact move, and then had to be carried to the back by his manager Bobby Bass. If we were feeling particularly glib, we would imitate Bill McCullogh or Ed Whelan and intone, "These are TRAINED PROFESSIONALS, please don't try this at home!"
The second group, who argued that wrestling was fake, watched wrestling a little bit, but had it on the authority of their uncle, cousin, or older brother that wrestling was fake. This was serious. These were the same authorities that we relied upon for subjects ranging from booze & cigarettes, what women really wanted & what getting to third base felt like, and the existence of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny & the Great Pumpkin. Their undisputed expertise in these matters could not be ignored. There were three main arguments that we mustered against these experts.
The weakest argument, and thus the one that we went to first, was mine. It was universally agreed amongst those who watched wrestling, even a little, that Killer Karl Krupp was the most despicable bad man that anyone had ever seen. If wrestling was fake, I argued, than Krupp was pretending to be evil, and why would anyone do that? This argument was pretty much demolished when someone pointed out that Krupp was such scum that you couldn't even trust him to be telling the truth about being a villain. I desperately tried to salvage the argument by pointing out that Krupp was evil, but that he wasn't a liar. After all, he had promised to retire the Great Mulumba; he had vowed to bleed the Beast; he had pledged to put Steven Petitpas in the hospital, and he had kept his promises EVERY! SINGLE! TIME! That didn't really save the argument, but for a couple of days afterwards, no one would sit next to me in class. The argument really gave up the ghost when I made the hideous mistake of repeating it just prior to Hogan's Heroes coming on TV. As my so-called friends pointed out in gales of laughter, Colonel Klink wasn't really a Nazi and he had no problems pretending to be one.
A slightly stronger argument was provided thanks to our local newspaper which, in its weekly TV Times, listed Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling as a sport. Right alongside curling, golf, snooker and Australian rules football. If it was a sport, its results couldn't be predetermined, and if the results weren't fixed, it couldn't be fake. Unfortunately, this argument relied entirely on the prestige and trust that people placed in our local paper, the Chronicle-Herald, known locally as the 'Chronically Horrid'.
Our final argument was that if wrestling was fake than that would make Leo Burke...a LIAR. This convinced anyone who had ever watched wrestling. Or at least, given the gasps of outrage and the glares of indignation that this statement was received with, it tended to convince those still wavering that now wasn't the best time to pursue the 'Leo Burke is a big faker' argument. Unfortunately, as decisive as this argument was on those who watched wrestling, it was completely ineffective on those who didn't watch wrestling at all, most of whom were girls.
Now arguing with girls was tricky. If you argued too well and made them feel like idiots, the next dance was going to be long and lonely. If you didn't argue well enough, you lost their respect, and the next dance was going to be long and lonely. Even worse, most of the girls in our school were really smart, and had no problems winning arguments on a variety of subjects. But when it came to arguing about wrestling, we were determined to win, and we were confident that we could, because we had right on our side. Despite the failure of my Killer Karl Krupp argument, I was usually chosen to take the lead in these arguments. Partly, this was because I was just smart enough to make the arguments, and just dumb enough not to be worried about pissing the girls off. Also as the shortest kid in the class, and the only one who could speak fluent French, I was considered cute, and thus relatively immune to the girls' wrath.
Having three sisters of my own, I ought to have been prepared for the baffling female logic that I would run up against, but as I say, I was just smart enough to be really, really dumb. The biggest obstacle was convincing the girls to watch wrestling in the first place. After all, I argued, how could they casually dismiss wrestling as fake, if they had never seen it? The argument usually went like this:
Girls: Why would we want to watch wrestling, it's so stupid.
Llakor: Well, how do you know it's stupid if you've never seen it.
Girls: We don't have to waste an hour of our lives watching it to know that we don't like it.
Llakor: Well, what is it about wrestling that you don't like? Is it the violence?
(This was a trick question. We all knew that the girls were big fans of the ultra violence, because whenever a fight broke out in the school ground they turned into bloodthirsty cheerleaders. They had actually broken up at least one fight when one of them had yelled "Rip his lungs out". The two combatants had stopped, turned to look at the girls, shocked to the core, and had on the spot decided to shake hands and walk away.)
Girls: No, but watching guys pretend to fight is just silly.
Llakor: (At the pain of total social ostracism, I'm at this point gritting my teeth to prevent myself from sighing in total exasperation) But...They...Aren't...Pretending...To...Fight!
Girls: And it's so sweet that you think that honey. Everybody knows that wrestling is fake.
(At this point, I was resuming a year-long quest to make a hole in my desk using my head as a weapon. Two years of work would result in little more than a desk with an indentation the shape of a human skull, only slightly smaller.)
Llakor: Okay, let me get this straight: You don't like wrestling because it's stupid, you think that it's stupid because it's fake, and you think that it's fake because it's wrestling...
Girls: Very Good! And they said that you were a slow learner!
(Llakor resumes bashing desk with his head.)
Girls: In any case, we couldn't watch wrestling because it's on at the same time as Coronation Street.
Llakor: (sensing an opening) You like Coronation Street?
Girls: Well, of course we do.
Llakor: And Coronation Street is a soap opera, right?
Llakor: And you like fighting, right?
Girls; (giggling) Uh-Huh.
Llakor: (sensing victory) Well wrestling is like a soap opera only with fighting, you should love it!
Girls: So, wrestling is like a soap opera?
Llakor: (basking in the glow of victory) Yep.
Girls: Like General Hospital or Another World only with... fighting.
Girls: (mock serious) Llakor, we don't know how to break it to you, but soap operas, General Hospital, Another World, Coronation Street, they are all made up. They're not real, they're fake... (moving in for the kill) Just...Like...Wrestling!
(Llakor resumes bashing desk with his head. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.)
Faced with this kind of logic, we were forced to unveil the Ultimate Weapon. The neutron bomb of wrestling arguments. Something that would flatten wrestling opponents and leave their fans still standing... We would have to describe a wrestling match.
Now, one of the things about Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling was that on the surface it looked like such a wussy promotion. Before each match, the referees would frisk the wrestlers for foreign objects, and warn the wrestlers to let go of a hold when their opponent reached the ropes. and against closed fist punches, and agianst choke holds. During the match, they would actually enforce these restrictions. But really, that was just to give the proper build-up. Brawling, Cheating, even Punching were only to be used if Absolutely Necessary. Fortunately, in the Maritimes, the standards for gratuitous violence (like the standards for gratuitous nudity) were pretty low.
So we would describe a wrestling match. And not just any match, but a match of such blood-curdling intensity, such ferocity, such ultra-violence that merely describing it would leave its listeners convinced that Wrestling had to be REAL. After all, we argued, if wrestling was fake, it followed that the wrestlers were only pretending to be hurt. Why would you agree to be hurt for something that was only play-acting? Harrison Ford didn't get hurt pretending to be Han Solo, did he? Mel Gibson didn't get hurt playing the Road Warrior, did he? So, if we knew of a match were someone had been hurt not accidentally, but on purpose, well that would be proof that wrestling wasn't fake.
Did we know of such a match? Did we? Hoo-Ha! Did we ever! Better still, it was a match that had been seen by many of us, including some of those who argued against wrestling. None of us were junior recappers with CRZ's attention to detail, but we all agreed on the main points of the match. Even those who argued that wrestling was fake, who had seen this match, agreed that for this match it was very real. Ironically, it was the girls who pointed out that arguing that wrestling was fake except for one match was silly. After all, if wrestling was fake, than the wrestlers must be like actors and the title belts mere stage props. Why would anyone fight for real over them? It would be like actors getting into a fight on-stage over King Lear's crown. And the fight we had seen wasn't even over a title belt, it was over the right to compete for the title belt. A match to decide the number one contender for Leo Burke's title.
A match between...
A match featuring...
Well, come back next week won't you?
NEXT WEEK: The Match That Convinced Us That Wrestling Was REAL