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March 18, 1973 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1973-03-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

SUN

RN N IG

I

~1

Number 78

Page Four

Sunday, March 18, 1973

Wrestling:

ivingth etre

at

Cobo

By CHARLES STEIN
It is as if all the people in bus sta-
tions across the country have come
together for a convention. The rum-
pled old men, the gum-chewing
whores with their painted faces and
bouffants, the greasers, the kids, the
freeks and the freaks.
They are all here. All 13,000 of
them. The faithful who have laid out
their hard-earned dollars, to join Da-
vid, Tor and me at Cobo Hall tonite
for an evening of big-time wrestling.
The talk is light and animated as
the fans file into the arena. A ter a
week of drudgery and pain, a night
at the matches with its guaranteed
hysteria, is a welcome relief. And to-
nite promises to be even better than
usual.
The popular Bobo Brazil and Fly-
ing Fred Curry will be here. Dory
Funk, the Texas star will do battle
with the evil Sheik. Four midgets

member of the faithful. "I told her
I'd read a write-up about her in the
newspaper. It was a real good ar-
ticle."
"My husband doesn't come with
me," Dee continues. "He likes base-
ball and hockey but he just doesn't
seem to like wrestling. Me, I don't
understand baseball or hockey, but I
understand wrestling."
"You know something else," she
says with a mischevious twinkle in
her eye, "I like the dirty guys the
best."
"Not the Sheik?" I ask her incred-
ulously.
"Are you kidding sonny?" He's my
boy."
Rooting for the villains is not al-
ways easy, however, according to Dee.
"Why one time, I was cheering for
the Sheik and the guy behind me
told me if I didn't stop, he'd let me
have it. Well I kept on yelling and

wrestler like the Sheik can earn as
much as $200,000 a year. Wrestling
matches cani fill Cobo Hall witbh
crowds of 13,000 week after week,
while basketball's Detroit P i s t o n s
barely draw 5,000.
These figures are truly incredible
given the fact that professional
wrestling for the most part, is as
phony as a three dollar bill. The blood
is fake, half the punches are missed
and wrestler's injured one night
come back to fight in another city
the following night sans injury.
So why do they come? Perhaps for
one thing, like Dee Flint, it is b-
cause they understand it. Wrestling
is designed to be easily understood.
The good guys are good, the bad guys
area bad and n'ere the twain shall
meet.
Heroes like Flying Fred Curry are
young, handsome, agile and, in the
great American tradition, believe in
the sanctity of fair play. Villians, on
the other hand, will stoop to any
means to gain the advantage. Biting,
kicking, poking the eyes - nothing
is too merciless for the villain to try.
While they span a wide range of
types, villains for the most part are
evil looking foreigners. All German
wrestlers for instance are Nazis. On
tonite's card Kurt Von Hess and
Karl Von Schotz represent the Third
Reich. They carry swagger sticks,
seig heil and goose step around the
ring. As Bob Dylan once put it, "You
don't need a weather man to see
whch way the wind blows."
Yet to write off wrestling as a
simple modern-day morality play is
to do it a great disservice. For in real-
ity it is more like well-orchestrated
theatre. The matches are arranged to
play upon the heartstrings of the
faithful.
Slowly building anger, frustration,
comic relief and catharsis in the eve-
ning's finale. These are the cues the
players send out to the audience and
it is the audience that is truly the
key to the show's success.
Unlike the passive sophisticated
entertainment of the highbrows,
wrestling demands an active involve-
ment on the part of the galleries.
Living theatre of .the purest sort.
"Get up you bum you're not hurt,"
yells Dee Flint.
"If you can't see hair being pulled,
you don't belong in the ring, ref!"
shouts the angry man in the blue
shirt.
The action is just underway and
the hardcore is at it all ready.
Screaming, laughing, cursing, at t h e
wrestlers and occasionally at o n e
another.
David, Tor and I are smiling, but
are not really a part of it at this
point. From our seats just a few feet
from the ring we can see the missed
punches and whispered directions.
The pot bellies and less than im-
pressive physiques of the wrestlers,
Scott Elmore and Tom Reesman are
doing little to heighten our enthus-;
iasm.
"These guys are in even worse
shape than I am," comments Tor. I
can only nod my head in agreement.
Lou Klein, another wrestler, pass-
es by the ring right in front of us.

another ingredient missing from the
legions of the faithful.
Intermission belongs to the kids.
Thousands of them are here tonite.
They rush up to the ring and pound
their fists on the canvas. "Hey, it's
really har.!" exclaims one. Others
hit companions in mock wrestling
style, perhaps hoping to be discover-
ed tonite.
Still ,others flock to the dressing
rooms where two harried flak-catch-
ers are trying their best to hold the
tide. With ony a flimsy curtain plus
their two bodies, the guards are hav-
ing a hard time keeping the mob
from charging the wrestlers.
The crowd is not kept waiting for
long, as a midget finally emerges
from the dressing room. Some ask
him for his autograph, others sim-
ply laugh. They all seem to think
that the trip backstage has been
worthwhile.
* * *
We are barely able to get back to
our seats before the main event of
the evening starts. Dory Funk, the
grizzly but likeable cowboy, against
the dreaded Sheik.
To the fans at Cobo, the Sheik is
everything that is evil. One loyalist
tells Tor he has come every other
week for the last five years just to
see the Sheik lose.
Th crowd's hatred of the Sheik is
eaalled by their hatred of his man-
aeer, the despicable Mr. Eddie
Creechman, a cut-throat business-
man type who paces the outside of
the ring hurling obscenities to the
fans.
The Sheik soon earns the fan's
wrath as he gouges Funk with a pen
he has concealed in his trunks. Blood
flows profusely from the cowboy's
face. "Is it real?" asks a spectator
behind us.
Such rational questions are drown-
ed 'out hv the din of the throng which
by this time has become almost deaf-
ening. The group at ringside is on
their feet trading obscenities with
Creechman. Their red faces look
ready to explode.
The pent ;ip' emotion has found
its outlet.
Suddenly a fan rushes from his
ringside seat and lunges for Creech-
man. The security guards manage to
control him after a fierce struggle.
"Is that guy for real, Tor?" I ask, no
longer so sure where the fantasy
leaves off.
Before he can answer a young man
behind us tears full speed for Creech-
man. The crazed look in his eyes, the
I V

I,

Villains, en the other hand, will stoop to any means to gain

the advantage. Biting, kicking,
merciless for the villain to try.
"He lcoks like my orthodontist," I
whisper. My smug cynicism draws a
chuckle from David, yet as we are
soon to find out, cynicism is not the
stuff from which real wrestler fans
are made.
They are too busy reacting to the
action in the ring to notice t h e s e
dramatic flaws. While the event at
center stage is slow at this point, the
interaction between the wrestlers
and fans is nevertheless beginning.
Elmore the villain drops to a knee
and begs Reesman, his slightly more
likable opponent, to spare him from
further punishment. Reesman, noble
fellow that he is, naturally complies.
Moments later the tables are turn-
ed and Reesman finds himself at the
mercy of his opponent. Elmore, how-
ever, apparently steps to the beat of
a different drummer, and gouges
Reesman in the eyes.
Elmore has violated the fans' sense
of fair play and everyone is outraged.
-"Atta boy Scott", shouts Dee Flint.
Well almost everyone.
* * *
Flying Fred Curry has been back-

"if you can't see hair being pulled, you don't belong in the ring
ref!" shouts the angry man in the blue shirt:

and four women will be pitted
against each other in a single match.
Clearly there is reason for excite-
ment.
For me the world of wrestling is
nothing new. Evenings in front of
the television set with matches from
Sunnyside Garden, New York and
occasional trips to the arena have
been familiar events of the past.
Admitting an interest in profes-
sional wrestling has won me few
friends in academic circles, but the
experience has generally been pleas-
ant. Wrestling has been a harmless
escape, occasionally exciting, always
amusing. There is no reason to expect
tonite to be any different.
Tor, my gargantuan colleague is a
true wrestling afficiando. He explains
the upcoming matches in detail with
but a glance at the official program-
Body Press magazine.
David, however, is a relative new-
comer to the sport. He seems some-
what amazed by the fantastic col-
lage of characters gathered around
us.
One of those characters is Dee
Flint-just like the city-she' chirps
in a delightful Southern drawl. With
her cheerful print, dress, matching
whistle - shaped earrings and grand-
motherly looks, Dee is not the kind
of person one would expect to find

finally he kicked me in the back. I
was hurt for over a week, but that
didn't stop me. I came back."
And the promoters of big-time
wrestling are glad she did. For people
like Dee who'd "pay ten dollars if
they had to" make wrestling a very
profitable enterprise. A top-notch

poking the eyes-nothing is too
ed into a corner by his unscrupulous
Nazi opponent Kurt Von Shotz. With
the help of his partner, Von Shotz
procedes to brutally work over the
popular star.
Unable to stand the sight, Curry's
partner, Luis Martinez rushes at the
two to stop the punishment. The re-
feree, however, stops Martinez and
leads him back to his corner, In the
meantime the forces of evil are left
unpunished.
"Turn around ref, they're cheat-
ing," screams a young girl, her face
livid with rage.
The referee, of course, is turned
around because he has been instruct-
ed to do so. I consider pointing this
out to the girl but something tells
me the effort would be futile.
The match ends in a draw despite
the fact that the good guys have, in
the eyes of the fans, proven themsel-
ves superior. The frustration is tre-
mendous. The anger in the eyes of
the young girl is mirrored in the
faces of most of her neighbors.
The engineers of tonite's perform-
ance have decided, however, that the
time to vent that frustration has not
yet arrived. Instead tempers are cool-
ed with what is designed to be a
pleasant bit of comedy. A Fellini
dream come true. Two women and
two midgets on each side.
Heather-Feather, one of Dee's
heros is involved in this one. Her
appearance is nothing less than
mind-boggling. Stuffed into a putrid
lavendar swimsuit is a monstrous 300
pound body. Her hair is decorated
with several garish red ribbons and
the face is young and adorned with
what looks like a painted smile.
Hepaher enter the no nell +n fn(
herself confronted with a 95 pound
onoonent. As she moves toward him,,
he slides between her legs and sinks
his teeth into her massive derriere.
"My god! This is grotesque," says
David, his face twisted with disgust.
Once again I find myself nod-
ding in agreement. There is truly
something obscene about the kind of
freak show we are watching. Refugees
frn ' orr' ,wom o h hfcnrp haar

Photography
by
David Margolick

r

fear in the faces of the guards and
the tears of his girlfriend leave little
doubt as to the seriousness of the
act.
The happy-go-lucky crowd is now
an ugly mob. Like bored Romans
cheering as the Christians were de-
voured they are beside themselves
with hate. What has begun as thea-
tre has become all too real.
Caught in the frenzy of the mo-
ment I sink to my chair pushing back
the rows of people who have inched
their way toward the ring. My smug
cvnicism has been shattered.
The laughter that has always
enme so easily is no longer here and
I'm at a loss to exnlain why?
Have the crowds grown uglier? Has
the wrer.tling become too realistic?
Or is it me?
Again I don't have time for an
answer. David is insisting we leave.
The reaction of the faithful has
sielrned him. The' stench of the
blood and the sweat has left a bitter
aftertaste in his mouth.
Tor wants to stay. You've taken it
too seriously he says. Sure it's ugly
but let's face it, it's only a show.
Still confused I say nothing. David
is the most nersuasive, however, so
ih threDvi.citon ,hon Afo rnmeh .

9

'. .. R Y k , i k .yG4 { ..i F 4 k.tiY
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