Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Size Wise

First thing I want to know about wrestlers is height and weight.  It used to be standard procedure, in introducing pro wrestlers at the startup of a bout, to state their heights and weights, their home towns, their titles (and former titles), and then ... in the largest voice possible ... their names.  Not so much anymore, though often you get two or three of these.  Such an intro was a little like the string of epic traits--genealogy, stature, famous triumphs--that introduces an Achilles, a Beowulf, or a Lancelot in poetry.  TV color commentators would remark on how five pounds and a couple of inches could be the deciding factors in a match's outcome.  Whole angles grew up around discrepancies in wrestlers' sizes--the David and Goliath match, for instance.  Today it's rare to hear the contestants' weights--even the exaggerated plus-twenty-pounds kayfabe weights--and almost unheard of to hear the heights.  Instead, we get entrance music,  frequently preceding a long diatribe on the microphone, expressing the wrestler's personal feelings about this, that, and the other, his gripes in general, and his beefs with other wrestlers.

Why do I care about height and weight?  Well, it's not because I favor large wrestlers over small ones--or vice versa.  Size matters little in my evaluation of men--not anymore--though once it mattered to me, I thought.  And I realize height and weight information can be construed as objectifying the men, like so much marbled beef on the butcher's block.  And, yeah, sure, that is objectifying, but not in a bad way--that is, the quantifying of muscle, bone, and fat in pounds and inches is never derisive (or praising), but rather simple hard data.  The measurement of the man adds to our (the audience's) sense of his physicality--a helpful complement to his obvious visual impact.   

My imagination veers towards synesthesia--more in the poetic than in the neurological sense--as my fantasies include heft, temperature, humidity, texture, solidity, and other similar sense details along with the usual notation of color, shape, and symmetry.  When I see a wrestler I like--the kind of wrestler I'd like to "book" for my next daydream, the kind I want to imagine being in the ring with--I want the stats that will help me imagine in realistic detail what it might feel like to run up against this dude, to feel the heat rise up off his body, or to bear his full weight coming down on me on the mats (the "me" in these instances being purely fictitious,  of course, my own height and weight trimmed or amplified to suit the fabricated scenario--and ability stretched, too, because I don't fool myself into thinking I would have a snowflake's chance in hell against an accomplished six-foot, 186-pound--my size--pro wrestler in reality).

TNA's classless X Division is all well and good.  I'm for anything that keeps light wrestlers from feeling inferior to heavy wrestlers.  Ring savvy, strength, and agility count for more than height and weight in the squared circle.  But knowing how big and heavy the wrestlers are adds dimension to our appreciation of the match.  Sure, sight and sound form the bulk of our perception--along with the kinetics (speed, balance, position) that video provides--but what of touch?  Surely, touch is a key component of our sensuous and sensual selves (as are, indeed, smell and taste)--and the size and starch of a man contribute immensely to our ability to imagine the force and repercussion of bodily contact with him.  

So, yeah, hearing the words "In this corner, at five-feet-ten-and-a-QUARTER inches, weighing in at one-HUNDRED-and-ninety-two pounds, from PARTS unknown, the former TRI-STATE heavyWEIGHT CHAMPion ...!!!" still gives me a bit of chub on the knob.

(Screen caps from this video on nwawildside's YouTube channel, featuring a bout last Wednesday between Patrick Bentley and Drew Delight.)

1 comment:

  1. That introduction with statistics used to be standar fare in the '50s and '60s. When the revival of TV wrestling started in the early '70s, it was something I really missed. The ritual had changed and not for the better. I think it lasted longer in the Southern organizations. I can remember thinking when I heard them that it could reinforce the visual to say that the match could be an even one with back and forth, or that it was likely to be one-sided.

    I think it's still common in the British Isles among organizations not closely linked to US groups and to some extent in Germany/Austria.



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