Pro wrestling fills cathartic voidBy Burl Burlingame
for hundreds of rowdy fans of all
ages, shapes and sizes.
Isn't this a school night? we thought as the family of four in front of us plunked down $124.00 to watch "Hawaiian Heat '99 Superstar Wrestling" at the Blaisdell last night. Aren't they giving SAT tests this week?
Scholastic aptitude was the last thing on these kids' minds. They were there to see the circus, which is pretty much what professional wrestling has replaced in popular culture these days. There was an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred -- did I say enthusiastic? Rabid is more like it -- that was equally divided among men, women and the indeterminate. They whooped. They hollered. They made internationally understood gestures of contempt. They held up hand-lettered signs of advice, like, YOU SUCK! They weren't there to see ice-dancing.
The usual question is, is it fake? Let's just say -- it's exaggerated. No one can take or give that kind of punishment, and it looks faker in real life than it does on TV. There are no end of pulled punches and false cracks. But that doesn't mean it's scripted or choreographed. There's a real sense they're making this up as they're going along.
The real question is, why does this matter? There are two big wrestling organizations and several smaller ones, and they're all making zillions of dollars a year. Pro wrestling is big business, and the fans are voting with dollars. For some reason, people not only enjoy wrestling, they seem to NEED it. It fills a cathartic void in the daily routine. Witnessing the forces of good and evil slamming it out in the ring is a projection fantasy of the highest order.
So, in an age of deconstruction and ennui, the oblivious and outright loony fakery of professional wrestling seems pure and honest, somehow. Professional wrestling is popular for the same reasons cigarettes, cheeseburgers and double-knit fabrics are popular -- it's so bad it feels good.
The wrestlers would grab the microphone and attempt to insult the audience. One fellow, a Brooklyn kind of guy, started off by shouting, "Lookit alla youse treppadidoodah!"
And then a bleach-blonde pork-barrel of a guy announced "Ah kin speak fo' all Hay-wah-yan people -- y'all kin kiss mah ah-yass!"
To both, the audience yelled back, FOOGAH WOOGAH BOOGAH! Or something like that. The actual words don't matter so as much as the intent, right?
After a national anthem sung by a No Hope In Dope mogul, Debbie Combs strutted out to strobe lights and a highly amplified "I'm your bitch" rocker. Somebody said something from ringside and Combs screamed, "Shut-up, punk!"
"Get your big butt in the ring!" the fan screamed back.
This is the tone of the interaction between wrestlers and fans. They dance back and forth, hurling deeply felt insults, with the kind of hoppity choreography reserved for kids stuck in the middle of a dodgeball game.
Combs' opponent was Malia Hosaka, obviously a favorite because she's from here. Hosaka also had the Clairol advantage. Her hair looked great even while Combs attempted to garrote her with the ring ropes.
All the matches ended somewhat anticlimactically, with wrestlers entering in blasts of music and light, and then stealing away quietly.
The wrestlers are stubborn archetypes in a slippery world, heroes and villains in an age when the labels don't mean what they used to. They are stand-ins, stunt doubles for the psyche. It's as close as we'll get to seeing full-contact combat, even though real life sometimes seems that way.
You want real? How about a grudge match between Calvin "Waddaya" Say and Cynthia "Three-Time" Thielen? Frank "The Crank" Fasi and "Jumpin'" Jeremy Harris?
Foogah woogah boogah!
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