Monday, June 3, 2013

Golden Boy














"Golden Boy" Paul Christy, 5'10", 230#, from Hollywood, California, versus Pancho Rosario, 5'9", 230#, from Mexico City, Mexico, fighting in Chicago, Illinois, "the wrestling capital of the world." Christy's age at the time (22, according to the ring commentators) would place the match in 1961 or 1962. I was eight, probably, or nine. This match is then not exactly "before my time," but it is before the time I started watching pro wrestling on TV. 

Yet, in another sense, this is "my time" in wrestling, an era when bad guys cut corners, but good guys played fair and square ... then triumphed in the end. Justice reigned in this ring, if nowhere else on earth! The fans wore jackets and ties, or pillbox hats and stockings. Cameramen pulled in tight on the careful handwork of wrestling, the locked arm, the fingers yanking at hair or grabbing for the rope. Babyfaces looked like actual babies, big smooth babies, with pudgy dimpled flesh, Brylcreem pompadours, and rapt earnest expressions on their faces (almost blank) as they lent their opponents their undivided attention.

Heels looked craggy ... and louche, like waiters in a mob-owned night club. They were cowardly, deliberately landing close to the ropes so they could force a break if the face's grip was unbreakable. It was a time when, after intros, good guys extended a hand in a good show of sportsmanship, but bad guys turned their backs on it. Villains tried to win by hook or by crook, but the good guys clung to their opponent like rodeo cowboys riding a bull. Most wrestlers, good or evil, wore black, nondescript and indistinguishable trunks. It was a time, too, when good guys "woke" up the guy they had choked to sleep--after almost jerking the man's head off to knock him out.

This is a simple, manly drama--stoic in its attitude towards suffering--a fantasy of good keeping evil in a tight lock, under the eye of a grandfatherly ref beyond reproach. This is the era of pro wrestling I wish Hollywood would recreate--perhaps with the stark black-and-white realism of Raging Bull or the smoky noir romanticism of Sweet Smell of Success, with crisp, stolid dialogue by James Ellroy, underlined by relentless, gusty music reminiscent of Elmer Bernstein's score for The Man with the Golden Arm.

(Watch the first ten minutes of the match here ... and finished here.)

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