Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Heavyweight Champion of the World Washed My Car

One of the advantages of being semi-pseudonymous is that I can say things such as "I still watch pro wrestling" without fear of reprisal by those who think that thirtysomethings should be into more "mature" things, such as the Food Network or the Home and Garden Television Channel, let alone the CNBC channel with the stock ticker at the bottom of the page.

I grew up watching pro wrestling. I enjoy the spectacle, the pageantry, the bread-and-circuses atmosphere. Even though it is all fake, the moves are real, the bumps are pretty vicious at times, and the feuds/storylines/angles are still fun to watch. Think "male soap opera." At the risk of creating dissonance in the reader's mind, I used to study Greek and read my Greek NT while watching pro wrestling, so if I ever make a blunder relative to the Greek, perhaps there was some exciting move that pulled my attention from the sacred page to the TV screen.

Anyway...there's a local indy wrestling federation that my friend videotapes from one of the community cable channels. We've watched his tapes for about 3-4 years, and we mark out and pop to the wrestling just like it is '85 again, even though it is completely low-budget stuff.

We tried this last September to hit a live show, but we didn't arrive early enough, and the small warehouse ["arena"] where the wrestling fed holds its live shows was filled with 100 people or so, so I couldn't get in to watch the action. Oh well.

However, I noticed a few months later that the wrestling fed needed some money to pay some rent for the arena [read: "warehouse"] and, to boot, they were having a car wash in a parking lot not too far from where I reside. [Pro wrestlers don't hold bake sales; washing cars is more in line with the idiom.] At the same time, it wouldn't be right to say my car was dirty; it would be more accurate to say that my dirt was car-ish, so the car needed a washing. Apparently some of the wrestlers would be washing cars [remember this is a small indy fed, not the WWE or TNA], so, what the heck....why not?

It turns out that I got there about fifteen minutes after the car wash started. I was the first customer. Alas, there was a problem with one of the hoses, and one of the wrestlers had to get some other hoses, which meant a 90 minute trip for him to pick up more equipment.

As a result, I got to talk for about 90 mintes with one of the legends of the fed as well as with the current heavyweight champion. It was a good 90 minutes of talking shop. It was a genuine Norman Rockwell moment --- twenty- and thirty-something guys hanging out in a parking lot talking about wrestling past, present, and future. I got to ask about where my favorite wrestlers were, what happened to them, etc. I got to ask them how they felt the day after a 30+ minute barbed wire match. I learned how to take a steel chair on the head properly. We talked about wrestling camps and training schools. It was a good conversation.

Well, the hoses arrived some time later, and the 4- [or is it 5- ?] time former heavyweight champ of the fed as well as the current champ of the fed [who takes some of nastiest bumps I've ever seen] washed my car. How many people can say that the heavyweight champs of the world [past and present] washed their car?! Not many, I daresay.

Anyway, I told the Daveman about the car wash, so he marked out and had to get his car washed too. So, we took his car to the car wash, and his car got washed by one of his favorite wrestlers in the fed, a rather athletic high-flying sort of wrestler who can do incredible flips and crazy moves off of the turnbuckles and ropes.

This would've been good enough. But, I was invited to watch a live taping that same night for their two weekly shows. Now I've never been "behind the scenes" relative to wrestling, so it sounded like a hoot. What was I going to do, go out again with another ditzy supermodel? No...a man needs his space. He needs his wrestling.

Well, I ran my 7.5 mile route, lifted, got a salad at Wendy's with Dave, and then headed over to the taping. I watched them plan angles and determine how the matches would end. I talked in appreciable detail to most of the wrestlers in the fed. All of them were pretty nice and social and I complimented them on their crazy stunts, expressing a bit of remorse that they get the $&!^$* beaten out of them for my entertainment, whereas I do nothing but watch from the Barca-lounger. But, they love wrestling.

[BTW --- unless you're a big-name wrestler in a big-name fed, it is one hardscrabble life. Nothing romantic about it. Makes minor-league baseball look like a dream job.]

Dave and I got to go in the ring and see what it was like. There are apparently two types of wrestling rings: the ring that is real [and hurts when you're slammed into it even if you fall properly], and what is called a "training ring" where the floor of the ring has a lot more spring and give. This ring was a training ring, but I wouldn't want to get slammed, suplexed, powerbombed, chokeslammed, piledriven, tombstoned, etc on that canvas anyway. I did ask the 300 lb guy if he could powerbomb Dave in the ring, or, even better, on the concrete, but for whatever reason Dave just didn't seem hip to that idea.

About 10pm or so, their 300 lb behemoth had a match with the reigning champion, and the 300lb guy powerbombed the champ so hard into the canvas of the ring that one of the metal supports of the ring bent and another metal beam actually fatigued and had a tear in it, and the right side of the ring collapsed. File that in "I've never seen that." It was the hardest powerbomb I've ever seen. Even the other wrestlers were marking out to the fact that the powerbomb broke the ring. [I wonder how they'll fix it, or how much it costs, etc. Can't be cheap...] This is the wrestling equivalent of a basketball player dunking and shattering the backboard --- everybody pops and goes nuts 'cuz you don't see it that often.

One of the funny things is that, watching the shows on my pal's VCR made me believe that many of the wrestlers in that show didn't have to act like they were crazy --- they were genuinely crazy in real life. [Anybody who wants to be a pro wrestler with the pain and very low pay is somewhat crazy in my book.] But, being the mark that I was, they were all pretty nice without exception. They can turn the crazy-man persona on and off like a switch.

I had this great angle that I wanted to suggest to the guy who runs the fed, but I forgot what it was, and drove myself crazy. I remember Dave and I laughing at the angle when I first suggested it during a game of tennis. But we can't remember it. We were going to let them use the angle if they thought it was good or funny.

The problem with going behind the scenes is that it de-romanticizes wrestling to a certain degree. Back in '86 or so when I first realized that, no, pro wrestling is not real, that killed much of the excitement for a few years. But as I got older, I just enjoyed the spectacle and athleticism of grown men in tights beating the stuffing out of each other. I loved the feuds, the angles, etc. When you only know the wrestlers as they appear on TV, they seem much more believable. But when you meet them in person and you realize that they're not so big, or, that they're real people, etc, it is harder to suspend your disbelief when watching, say, Zombie Man take on his hated rival The Krushmaster, when you know that Zombie Man's name is Carl, he works construction during the week, and The Krushmaster is Richard, and he and Zombie Man were football teammates and are best friends in real life. It just makes seeing Krushmaster's slamming ZM on a ladder and then ramming his head into the ring post just a little less believable. The disillusionment isn't as drastic as when Neo takes the red pill from Morpheus, but it does kill a bit of the romance.

[BTW --- the wrestlers I spoke with there said that, being in the biz, a lot of the romance of wrestling died with them as well. When they watch the big name feds, they don't get into the storylines, but instead note that Wrestler X made some technical errors in that Irish Whip, or that Wrestler Y didn't take the bump properly.]

All in all, the day was a completely impromptu blast, and, just as nice, my car is clean. The heavyweight champ really got the hubcaps shiny too.


Blogger Sojourner said...

Wow, what a great story. I may add that I think "Pedantic Protestant" would make a great name for a wrestling manager.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 1:33:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes . . . sniff sniff. Ah, the glory days. Now it’s the UFC for me!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 3:00:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Ah, Jonathan must be done with his exams!

Did you pass?

As for the UFC, despite having grown up with pro wrestling, I don't have much of a stomach for violence or pain. I still can't watch LT sack Joe Theismann where JT's leg snapped in two. Ugh.

UFC strikes me as that sort of pain.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 4:10:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...


I'd have to be allowed to wear a mask!

Actually, I talked with one of the masked wrestlers after the match and he showed me the inside of his mask...I don't know how they breathe in those things.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 4:52:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

Passed 2, waiting to hear about last 2, tentative oral exam - December 6. Please continue to pray for me and have Pedantic Papist pray to Mary, ok?

Saturday, November 26, 2005 8:49:00 AM  

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