This is going to seem like an odd post- especially after a string of more lofty blog thoughts. Sorry, I am what I am. Never been one to put up a good front...not to mention I'm not preaching for the next three weeks so I have time to think about some other important stuff.
Back in my early teens I loved to watch professional "wrestling". The quote marks are to indicate my understanding that many "real" wrestlers (the kind that starve and spit to make weight, wear hideously tight uniforms, blather on about how wrestling is the most grueling sport anyone could participate in, and have cauliflower ears) are offended that pro wrestling calls itself wrestling. Anyways, back in the day (I grew up in the 80's), I enjoyed watching "old school" professional wrestling which still had some connection to "real" wrestling in that most of the participants came from the Greco Roman and Freestyle genres of wrestling before getting in to the world of pro wrestling that everyone knew was fixed and somewhat fake (strictly speaking, what pro wrestlers do is not "fake". The moves are hard to do and they hurt- yes, they are acting and being careful not to really hurt their opponent, but the impact of a suplex or a piledriver is not fake).
I enjoyed the old "NWA" with Ric Flair, the original "Four Horsemen", Dusty Rhodes, Jimmy Valiant, and others. The "WWF" began it's ascent in the 80's with the first "Wrestlemania" and the likes of Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper, Captain Lou Albano, Brutus Beefcake, Jake Roberts, Andre the Giant, and of course, Hulk Hogan. This was also the era when Brett Hart- my personal favorite of all time-began his climb to the top of the wrestling industry (Oh that dreaded day in Montreal !). The "AWA" was inferior to the other two major wrestling organizations, but they boasted the greatest tag team of all time- The Road Warriors. Ah...those were the days- No half naked girls, in fact, the only women who had anything to do with wrestling looked meaner than the male wrestlers (The Fabulous Moolah, for instance). Those were the glory years when there was virtually no steroid use (the early 80's at least), if there was, the users should have gotten their money back, there was a lot more pudge, stretch marks, and flab than monster biceps and six pack abs (see Dusty Rhodes, Abdullah the Butcher, Kamala, Captain Lou, the Samoans, the Moondogs, etc.). There was a sense in which a regular guy could relate with the wrestlers of old. Those were the days when there was little to no swearing and obscenities at a wrestling show. The worst thing you might see is the Iron Sheik spit on the American crowd and tell us how great Iran is while Jesse Ventura (before Minnesota thought he would be a good governor) defended him for doing so. This, of course would be followed by Sargent Slaughter slapping the cobra clutch on him to the delight of the patriotic crowd. Hulk Hogan (with all his cheeseyness) would bid little kids to play fair, say their prayers and eat their vitamins. Wow...how I miss those days of wrestling.
Back then, the wrestlers put up a humorous, but unified front about the "fakeness" of it all. There was a code of silence about the obvious scripted nature of the sport. I remember ABC reporter John Stossel asked "Dr. D" David Schultz if wrestling was fake back in the early 80's. Schultz open-hand slapped him twice (for real) saying something like "you think this is fake?"- classic old school wrestling way of defending their "sport".
Then, in the mid 90's it all changed. Vince McMahon was able to conquer the other wrestling organizations and become a monopoly of sorts. "World Wrestling Entertainment" was born and old school wrestling died a swift death. By putting "entertainment" in the organization's name, McMahon made a concession in order to advance his business. He conceded that wrestling was "fake" or more accurately, the outcomes of matches were predetermined. In return, being a form of entertainment instead of a legitimate sports competition, substances like steroids were not a problem, in fact, they became understood tools of the trade. Oh sure, McMahon talks about there being mandatory testing for steroids, but that's just a PR front. Now that wrestling is overtly in the "entertainment" genre, the scrutiny isn't as intense. Most people who still follow pro wrestling accept that steroids are what make their heroes look like disproportioned cartoon superheroes.
With this shift to the entertainment genre, McMahon introduced obscene language (and poster boy Steve Austin), seedy soap opera-like plots, gross and weird contests, half naked women "wrestlers" laced throughout the programs, and most disturbingly- a new breed of freak, 'roided up wrestler that you just knew wasn't going to live long if he kept injecting whatever it was that made him look like the circus sideshow he had become. Pro wrestling today is nothing like what it was. Only men (and a few women- see Chyna) willing to take lots of steroids and human growth concoctions or those morbidly overweight (check out Yokozuna's sad story) have a place in wrestling today. Gone are the average guys who were entertaining personalities (Piper, Honky Tonk Man, The Funks, Freebirds, etc). Clearly pro wrestling has become a dangerous circus freakshow filled with vice and obscenity. No matter what you think of old school wrastlin', it wasn't what it has now become.
Pro wrestling had it's share of tragedies over the years preceding the McMahon "entertainment" era, that's for sure. This new McMahon era of sex and steroids, however, is starting to litter the wrestling landscape with many victims at an alarming rate (Owen Hart, The British Bulldog, Rick Rude, Curt Henning, Brian Pillman, Eddie Guerro, to name a few). Just this past week Chris Benoit, a model example of a steroid-dependent wrestler, killed his wife and 7 year old son before taking his own life. Steroids are no excuse, but they are definitely a huge part of the reason he carried his violence to the degree he did. Dependence on and abuse of steroids are shown to cause wild mood swings (roid rage) and deep depression. We're talking powerful stuff. There are still details coming out about this tragic Benoit situation, but mark my words- steroids and the pressure to be superhuman-looking will be shown to be a huge part of why the Benoit family is now dead.
I'm not sure what value a post like this has, most likely none to those who aren't aware of who Nikolai Volkoff or Bruiser Brody were. For me, I wish the good old days, when pro wrestling wasn't fake (at least no one would admit it), were back. No more Junkyard Dog, Tully Blanchard, Paul Orndorff, Bob Orton, Ricky Steamboat, Don Muraco, King Kong Bundy...so sad.
I guess I'll go watch my Nacho Libre video again, after all, he did it for the orphans!