Grown-Up Wrestling

I will admit that I don't know why I'm drawn to the so-called golden age of wrestling, with wrestlers almost the age of my father. I will not admit to daddy issues, not that I know of any, but I wouldn't rule that explanation out as a remote possibility.

There's more to the attraction than just my assorted complexes, I'm sure. After all, it is called the "golden age" for a reason, obviously unrelated to my psychosexual development. I like the unpretentious style of these old matches preserved on gray-toned kinescopes. As I have said before, back then the focus was on wrestling, not promos, not posedowns, not complicated serial storylines. It was still a "sport" back then.

Unlike most fans of wrestling, I like the leisurely pace of the old stuff--the rhythmic repetition and the drawn-out holds. I like the fans dressing up in jackets and high heels to go to a wrestling show. I like the "innocence" of an age when something as simple as hair-pulling could excite the crowd to frenzied rage. I like imagining catch-as-catch-can wrestling as a "science."

For instance, this 1964 match (on YouTube here) pits Argentinian-born wrestler Gilbert LeDuc against the Terrifiant Bourreau de Béthune ("horrible executioner of Béthune," a city in the north of France), in flaming red mask and cape (we're told). In it, I see some other elements I love about the golden years: the detail work, for instance, the way LeDuc digs his knuckles into Le Bourreau's kneecap at one point--or makes a show of twisting the wrist as he traps the much larger masked heel in an armlock. Also, there's the utter wickedness of the bad guy, who, while three white-clad trainers attend to his opponent's injury, continues to stalk his prey and then cruelly targets the injury when the fight resumes. Most of the match is fought away from the ropes, as the two latch on to each other's limbs and work them in the center of the ring.

I would have preferred a different ending. I can't tell whether the injury that stops the match is real or kayfabe because back in the age when custom still forbade acknowledgment of catch wrestling's fakery, wrestlers didn't have to clown to assure concerned parents that none of the pain is real (which is as big a lie as that it all is real). In fact, wrestling back then was not especially for kids, as it is now, which gave the proceedings the mystique of adult entertainment. 

Back when adults had some mystique, of course, and weren't just aging children. And perhaps that too is a reason I love the old stuff. Experienced mature roughnecks kicking the shit out of each other: it's still pretty hot, in my opinion.


  1. A-fucking-men. There's something about the grayish tone to the black and white images, the grainy filming, and the action itself that is so raw it gets me going every time.

    I always thought it would be hot to film a match in black and white thru that kind of filter.

  2. Great idea, Cage. I'd like to see a respectful homage to old-school TV wrestling, complete with black-and-white photography, ref, corner men with white towels in hand, ladies in hats, men in ties, and slow menacing holds.

  3. I grew up watching these kinds of matches (it was the 1960s and Bruno Sammartino was my hero) so for me, THIS is what pro wrestling is all about.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts