Saturday, September 10, 2011

Happy Days

This past week I was telling Jim, my colleague and office mate at the college where I teach, about how disappointed I was watching my first WrestleMania on a hi-def disk. You pretty much have to question the credentials of any wrestling blogger who has waited twenty-seven years to watch what's indisputably the quintessential annual event of pro wrestling--and then fast-forwarded through most of it, before finally giving up on it--too tedious, too grandiose, too sparkly--not enough grunting and sweating--or any kind of wrestling--was there even 100 minutes of wrestling in all the four-hour spectacle? And The Rock's long introduction felt like a funeral eulogy, only tricked out like the Nuremberg Rallies. I felt like I was watching Night of a Thousand motherfucking Stars--or a Hollywood Squares marathon. Well, sue me for impersonating a smart mark. Jim's response was "Wow, Joe, you really are old school, aren't you?"

That's it. That's me: "old school." Then this afternoon a frequent visitor to this blog, Mark, sent me some photos he'd found of the Brunetti "brothers," Guy Brunetti and Joe Brunetti (Joe Tangaro), remarking that images like these make him dreamy for a time machine, set for 1952. Me, too! I've said this sort of thing before--too many times perhaps--but the black-and-white kinescope images of broad-shouldered, hairy-chested wrestlers in woolen tights, grappling and groaning in front of a sold-out house of blue-collar gentlemen and ladies in ties and heels, charges me up in ways that Blu-Ray clarity of Snooki performing a "special-guest" body splash (set up like a ceremonial first pitch) cannot, even with John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler glistening on either side of her.

Naturally, I do appreciate the beauty of the modern wrestler--GQ handsome, more often than not, with a Joe Weider physique, underneath two quarts of baby oil. Very few of the 1950s wrestlers looked even half this buff and tan. Most of them--those that shone brightly in the golden era of TV wrestling--looked like they were a bit past their prime. So, yes, the eye candy of modern big-time wrestling is rewarding, even more so than a Steve Reeves-Kirk Morris double-feature at the old Star-Lite Drive-In, and for that I am immensely thankful. But what the old timers lacked in pulchritude, they made up for in drama, luxuriously slow, tight squeezes, skin (gasp!) touching skin, a modicum of skill in the actual sport of wrestling--and tense matches that lasted for 45 minutes, even longer, and remained too close to call until the final pin.

So is there a word for nostalgia for a time before one was born? As a lover of art and literature, I sympathize with Owen Wilson in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, longing to hang with Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, and Picasso--and as a lover of wrestling, I probably belong in the world of Brylcreem, Ernie Kovacs, Tiparillos, "the land of sky blue waters," and Cadillac tailfins. Thank heaven for the indies--performing in Moose Lodges for cab fare and a cheeseburger--and for underground wrestling in motels, basements, and garages. Without them, my lusts might find no relief at WWE.


  1. I found 3 matches of the Brunelli Brothers on Wrestling Emporium. Will let you know if they're worth seeing.

  2. What a great piece! I really enjoyed reading that, and strongly identify with what you say. It is the ability to place today's pro wrestling firmly in a context shaped by my youthful passion for 1970s (and now, thanks to YouTube, earlier) pro wrestling and wrestlers that contributes so much to my enjoyment of today's spectacle in the ring.



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