Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Good guys and bad guys

Like many other middle-aged men, I grew up watching old-school professional wrestling on our family black and white television set. It was a weekly ritual I really enjoyed beginning at a young age and continuing into my teenage years except, then, I watched on our color television set.

Reflecting so long ago, I now realize that watching these wrestling matches and getting to know the wrestlers was me moving along a make-believe mindscape that was part of my youth.  This make-believe mindscape probably began with either Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, next came Superman, and then Big Time Wrestling, Northern California style.

Unlike now, where World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) dominates professional wrestling nationally and internationally, in those days professional wrestling was regional in operation. 

"U.S. Champion" Ray Stevens
Little did I know as a boy that the U.S. champion named Ray Stevens was just one of many U.S. champions scattered across various regions of the United States.  It was something unbeknownst to me and, honestly, I’m glad my boyhood innocence wasn’t robbed by this reality detail.

My memories of watching professional wrestling not only included television but later in person at our Memorial Auditorium.  I remember the “rassling” matches were held every two weeks on Wednesday evenings and general admission was $1.50.  I would regularly attend with friends and cousins who, like me, enjoyed going; but I believe my passion was the greatest among all of them.  I also recall being at school the next day and constantly talking about the previous night’s wrestling matches with friends on the playground during class recess.  I couldn’t get enough of it no matter how hard I tried.

I have fond memories of all the wrestlers who were of two types; the good guys and the bad guys.  There were also character stereotypes that the promoters capitalized on by considering the local ethnicity of its audience, and relatively-fresh World War II memories for many.

Pepper Gomez
The “Mexican” wrestlers were always good guys and were regularly asked by the announcer after their matches to say a few words in Spanish for the audience.  

The “Japanese” and “German” wrestlers were always bad guy villains and could regularly be counted on to cheat, particularly when the referee wasn’t looking; and this was often.  

The “black” wrestlers, that’s what they were called in those days, always had hard heads and gave their opponents a head butt.

Reflecting on all my memories, I realize how the wrestling promoters who carefully planned these characters and the wrestling match outcomes understood psychology better than a Ph.D. psychologist being paid big dollars to tell us we’re all nuts.  

Watching these matches as a young boy in person gave me youthful anxiety, other high-intensity emotions and tremors that haven’t been replicated decades and decades later.

I’ll always remember this cherished era in my life with so many pleasant memories of all the wrestlers I would watch on television and up front and close in person.  

Just like so many people I must confront and deal with in my life nowadays, the great wrestlers of my youthful past were good guys and bad guys.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum


Machinehead said...

I have many fond memories of the same thing -- watching on Saturday mornings on my old black and white the "good guys" like Chief Jay Strongbow, Bruno Samartino, Pedro Morales, Ivan Putski, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and Bob Backlund vs. the likes of The Iron Sheik, Greg Valentine, Sgt. Slaughter and anyone Captain Lou Albano managed. Bob Backlund was one of my favorites and I still follow a hybrid of his workout routine today (a daily bout of ab wheel rollouts mixed with kettlebell swings, instead of the step-ups he endorsed).

Good times...

Pierini Fitness said...

Good yesteryear stuff for sure. All middle-aged men need make-believe time just like our youthful days. Thanks for stopping by John.