Wednesday, August 20, 2008
BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN
Note: It may appear that what you are reading is a duplicate column, found on both of my websites (Perspectives on Wrestling and Richard Berger’s Point of View). Please be aware that the first three paragraphs are indeed identical. After that, they diverge into separate subjects. I view it as a quick and easy way to get the same point across without re-writing. Others may call it proof of laziness.
Hello to my friends everywhere…
I must apologize. I’ve not been updating both of the websites far longer than I ever would have anticipated. I want to thank those folks that took the time to send e-mail inquiring about the status of my health, both physically and mentally. It’s good to be able to say I’m doing reasonably well (okay, the mental aspects have always been questionable), and I sincerely appreciate the concern people have expressed. In general, things are not bad, and the fact is they could be a whole lot worse. So, there are no complaints from me.
Occasionally, situations of the personal variety will crop up unexpectedly. In some cases, they demand virtually all of one’s attention. Such was the case for yours truly. And while the difficulties appear to be resolved, the circumstances demanded most of my time and all of my patience. Trust me; nobody would have wanted to read anything I might have written during that period.
So, unless the loose ends aren’t secured as well as I’d like to believe they are, these sites will be updated more frequently. And yes, to the few that inquired, I’m still working on the book. An announcement will be made as it comes close to publication, hopefully before year’s end. But for now, let’s move forward.
As mentioned above, it’s been a very trying month or so. Along the way and without realizing it initially, I resorted to the one tried and true method that has always helped me cope when confronting a problem. I revived a habit that dates back to childhood. In those days, I took solace by digging up and indulging in some great old school professional wrestling. (Of course, such things as videotapes and DVDs didn’t exist a-way back in the Stone Age, AKA the 1950s; no, in those days, I would read, re-read and sometimes memorize stories from the wrestling magazines).
When it comes to pro wrestling in the 2000s, technology has given us options beyond written words and photographs. We can study actual events sharply and clearly, having the choice between normal or slow speed. In some cases, we have the option of listening to the original announcers or an alternate soundtrack. All the while, we repose on a comfy couch, getting away from our concerns for just a little while, enjoying it all with an unencumbered view on a 40” widescreen HDTV set, replete with surround sound. Whatever fond memories we may have of “life in the good old days,” they cannot begin to compare with today’s digital accomplishments.
So, after rooting around in my oversized and disorganized videotape collection, I chanced upon a couple of gems. The first appealed greatly to the old OLD school wrestling fan in me. Many years ago, some kindly soul sent a tape featuring complete matches from the ‘50s and ‘60s, the majority of which originated with the Fred Kohler promotion out of Chicago. For the most part, the audio/video quality was very good, and the black-and-white footage occasionally sparkled. The matches went like this:
1. (NWA Title) Hans Schmidt vs. Lou Thesz (Champion) - 2 out of 3 falls.
2. (NWA Title) Don Leo Jonathan vs. Lou Thesz (Champion) - 2 out of 3 falls.
3. (NWA Title) Gene Kiniski vs. Lou Thesz (Champion). This is the St. Louis match where Thesz dropped the belt to Kiniski. Highlights only, no audio.
4. Pat O’Connor vs. Bob Orton, Sr.
5. Dick the Bruiser vs. Bob Orton, Sr. (This was lots of fun. Both men were despised heels, and the crowd initially seemed unsure who to back as their favorite, if only for one night. Somewhere near the halfway point, they began cheering for Orton, which is the only time I ever saw him in the role of babyface. Man, they hated the Bruiser!)
6. Dick the Bruiser & Karl Karlson vs. Wilbur Snyder & Verne Gagne – 2 out of 3 falls.
7. The Legend of Bruno Sammartino (I haven’t seen this yet).
I couldn’t help being reminded of two very noticeable differences between wrestling then and now. All of these matches had two elements in common, no matter what decade they came from.
First, there was little in the way of high-flying and acrobatics. Sure, there was the occasional well-executed Flying Head Scissors or Drop Kick, but that was the extent of the aerial stuff.
The second visible difference was that there was nothing to be found that came close to what can only be termed “death-defying stunt work.” No chairs were used (except for sitting purposes) and there wasn’t a cheap shot to be seen. Also missing from the action were the repetitive and boring outside interference and ref bump spots. In other words, the game was an entirely different animal from another, simpler time.
None of the usual trappings found commonly in today’s modern promotions existed back then. At the risk of irritating the sports entertainment fans, I maintain that the industry was far the better for it. Most of what took place was on the mat, and given the route pro wrestling has taken in recent years, it was positively refreshing to watch.
How joyful! What a delight! These men practiced the art of telling stories and communicating to the fans through their actions and behavior instead of taking the easy route via excesses. By today’s standards, the heels would get a massive yawn from the fans for their trivial dastardly deeds. The holds and counter-holds the wrestlers applied appeared to be legitimate, at least by comparison. It was not too hard to believe the performances were those of an actual competition.
Next time around (and I promise it’ll be sooner rather than later), I’ll delve into the second gem I discovered in my search through the ‘Dusty Bin o’ Rasslin’ Vids’. For those keen to guess, here’s a hint: it’s of the recent-enough-to-know-the-wrestlers-involved-but-old-school-in-the-presentation variety.
And by the way … it’s nice to be back.