Everything I Need to Know in Life I Learned from Professional Wrestling
In order to prepare for WrestleMania 26, We’ll be doing some stuff this week that relates to that guiltiest of pleasures: the “sport” of professional wrestling. And while I’ve made some vague attempts to justify my being a fan of this art form for a quarter century now, I thought that it might help my cause if I demonstrated some of the actual bits of knowledge I managed to obtain as a wrestling fan. Here are five areas of practical knowledge gleaned from just watching a bunch of oiled-up dudes in their underwear pretending to beat each other up:
Music. That song they play at graduations is called “Pomp and Circumstance”. Sure, I know that now, but at age eleven, when I was years off from even imagining myself graduating, I became familiar with Elgar’s piece through the entrance of “Macho Man” Randy Savage. It was the bagpipes that guided “Rowdy” Roddy Piper to ringside that allowed me to become familiar with “Scotland the Brave”. The British Bulldogs, both as a unit and Davey Boy Smith as a singles star, are the reason why I can identify “Rule Britannia” within a couple of notes. “Jesus Christ Superstar” is on my radar probably based solely on my admiration for “Superstar” Billy Graham. And to be honest with you, I became more interested in Jimi Hendrix when Hulk Hogan began coming out to “Voodoo Child” in his late 90’s run as a villain, and was propmted to get more in to Metallica thanks to Sting’s use of “Seek and Destroy” during the same era.
Anatomy. At one point in my life, body parts were just what they were. Only the simplest descriptions were all I knew about my own anatomy. But thanks almost entirely to the words of 1980s WWF announcer Gorilla Monsoon, my vocabularity of medical jargon increased exponentially. How else might I have learned that that little bump at the base of the skull was called an “external occipital protuberance”? Or that there was a bundle of nerves in my abdomen known as the “solar plexus”? Thanks to the late great Mr. Monsoon, I now know about metatarsals, the lateral meniscus, and the anterior cruciate ligament. I’m no doctor, but there are probably some out there these days who can credit Gorilla for helping them to get interested in the human anatomy enough to focus on it for a living.
Political Events. While I did have my fair share of jingoism shoved in my face thanks to the fact that G.I.Joe was among my most beloved toys, it was the sport of grappling that helped me to tune in to the different struggles going on around the world. When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, Iranian-born grappler The Iron Sheik rose to prominence as one of the business’s top villains. When the Cold War was reaching its apex during the Reagan Years, “Russian” wrestlers like Nikolai Volkoff, Ivan and Nikita Koloff, and Boris Zukhov were running roughshod all over the American heroes. When The first Gulf War broke out in 1991, former Real American Hero Sgt. Slaughter became the ultimate turncoat, aligning himself with General Adnan (a real-live Iraqi) and dethroning the Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Championship. Of course, while these evil foreign entities were always dominant, the good old USA always reigned triumphant in the end, just like in real life. Right?
Geography. My keen interest in geography can be attributed, at least in part, to professional wrestling. After all, when you hear a wrestler being billed from some fantastical sounding place like “Bucksnort, Tennessee” (the home of “Dirty White Boy” Tony Anthony), you can’t help but pull out an map to see if that’s a real place, right? Same goes for “Truth or Consequenses, New Mexico” (the home of “Cactus Jack” Manson, who went on to fame and fortune in the WWF/E as Mick Foley). And it wasn’t just the American ones, either: Whenever a wrestler hailed from some exotic foreign land, it was always the natural step for me to learn a little bit more about that place. I honestly probably learned 90% of what I know about Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and various other islands in the South Pacific due to the vast number of wrestling heroes and villains who hailed from there.
Actual sports. I never really followed “real” sports as a kid. Still don’t. I’ve always been a bit of a baseball fan, but I just don’t really get the whole sports megafan thing. But the occasional crossover into mainstream sports by pro wrestling is my basis for about half of what I know when it comes to real sports. The 20-man battle royale at Wrestlemania 2 was pretty much the only reason I knew who the hell Bill Fralic, Russ Francis, Jimbo Covert, or Harvey Martin were (I knew William “The Refridgerator” Perry, for obvious reasons, although him being a G.I.Joe character didn’t hurt). Despite his status as an all-pro and Hall of Famer, the name Lawrence Taylor meant nothing to me until he found himself in a bout of fisticuffs with bam Bam Bigelow in 1994. Same goes for Karl Malone, who may have been one of the top players over the course of three decades in basketball, but was introduced to me during his time as “Diamond” Dallas Page’s partner in their war with Hulk Hogan and Dennis Rodman (who I knew for obvious reasons). In recent years, it’s Floyd “Money” Mayweather who has crossed over into the world of WWE, which is the only reason in the world that I know a little bit about his career.
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