Sunday, November 15, 2015

WWE: A Staged Show

Englishmen of a certain age – mine – remember the nature of Saturday afternoon television three to four decades ago. Prior to 1982, there were just three channels, two of which showed nothing but sport during the prime weekend slot. Perhaps the word ‘sport’ is stretching the word’s definition, particularly between four and five o’clock on the sole ITV option. This hour, before the day’s football results were broadcast, was devoted to ‘professional wrestling’ – men of bizarre shapes and sizes, wearing either speedos or leotards, clunking heads, contorting limbs and generally knocking eight bells out of one another, lapped up by a baying audience. Everyone was knee-jerk partisan; there were great guys, rotten guys and no one really in between. Week after week, I loved it.

Discovering that the whole show was staged was a let-down on a par with learning the truth about Father Christmas. I had never realized that it was simply a pantomime: Laurel and Hardy with intent. (If you smile at the names Johnny Saint, Les Kellett, Kendo Nagasaki, Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, then you were there.)

Since then, wrestling has ‘evolved’. Now, one of my own sons is as transfixed as I was by the antics of wrestlers, most of today’s being North American. When cajoled to buy tickets (Figure 89.1) for a WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) event, therefore, I could hardly refuse.

Figure 89.1: WWE Live in Liverpool

Copyright © 2015 Echo Arena

Liverpool’s Echo Arena was sold out (Figure 89.2). There were many lads-with-dads, and not an insignificant number of the fairer sex, a good proportion of whom were probably well into their sixties. Proceedings were initiated by a flashy American girl in a sparkly dress, who gave the national anthem as thorough a pummelling as any of the wrestlers would dish out in the ring.

Figure 89.2: Act 1, Scene 1

Copyright © 2015 Paul Spradbery

The stage was set (Figure 89.3). To the sound of blaring techno-music, two pop-eyed meatheads made their way as menacingly as possible to the ring. Each was as wide as he was tall – an upside-down triangle with a head on top – and the (two-way) punishment began without delay. What amazed me as much as anything was the loudness of the bang when their bodies slammed onto the canvas (Figure 89.4) That said, perhaps there were microphones underneath. Staged and scripted the bouts might be, but no one could doubt that these showmen know how to take a good old-fashioned hammering.

Figure 89.3: No photography allowed – apparently.

Copyright © 2015 Paul Spradbery

Figure 89.4: A count of three

Copyright © 2015 Paul Spradbery

Next on stage was a trio of bearded rednecks who looked like extras from Deliverance. They set about their opponents without even waiting for the bell to sound. While two went at each other in the ring, another pair went to work outside it. I felt sorry for the poor referee, whose absurd task was to govern the chaos without hindering it (Figures 89.5 & 89.6).

Figure 89.5: Anywhere else, this would be both illegal and physically impossible.

Copyright © 2015 Paul Spradbery

Figure 89.6: Playing to the audience. Plus ça change ...

Copyright © 2015 Paul Spradbery

Most of the contestants seemed to have long hair, long beards or both. All the more to grab, I thought. After the rednecks came a trio of scary-but-sexy women, followed by some amazing gymnastics courtesy of a hyperactive guy called Kalisto, and a giant toddler who beat his opponent with a stick, then a chair, before the coup de grâce: spearing him, head first, through a wooden table. No wonder Punch and Judy shows have gone out of business.

The show ended at 8 p.m. ‘Mini-me’ had traded every blow and shouted himself hoarse (Figure 89.7).

Serves him right for passing the ‘11+’.

Well done, son xx

Figure 89.7: Easily the scariest duo in the arena

Copyright © 2015 Paul Spradbery 

Copyright © 2015 Paul Spradbery

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