Men in tights

Last night was the birthday of Chris Elseware (of fame), who had decided on some alternative entertainment by way of celebration. As a result, I am now looking at a ticket stub for something which claimed to be “ALL-STAR WRESTLING”. Apologies in advance for the scare quotes through the rest of this post – there may be quite a few.

As a child of the 70s, I have vivid memories of being bored witless by the wrestling on Saturday afternoons on ITV that my nan used to watch. The merest mention of names like Giant Haystacks or Kendo Nagasaki can send me into shuddering reveries. Marcel Proust, eat your heart out.

I’m not going to try and give a faked-blow-by-faked-blow account of the evening, just the “highlights” (told you there’d be scare quotes). The general theme of the evening seemed to be one of national stereotypes and unbridled jingoism. English (never British) wrestlers are gentlemanly and always play by the rules. Americans are brash, arrogant and will cheat if they think they can get away with it. Canadians are much like Americans, except there seems to be the possibility of some deep-seated Commonwealth decency that their North American origins otherwise hide. Native Americans wear bad war paint and perform inept war dances. The first few bouts followed the same pattern; the Englishman leads initially, then the foreigner cheats while the ref isn’t looking. Finally, our boy fights back valiantly and wins in the majority of bouts.

My memories of TV wrestling itself were pretty dim (unlike the memories of being bored), so I wasn’t quite prepared for the level of fakery. It was a rare bout when drop kicks actually connected with their target (whether or not the purported recipient fell down was largely arbitrary), and bitchslaps were more in evidence than punches. Some bouts were rather better than others in terms of the level of ability on display, and I was left with a muddled impression that wrestling was somewhere between modern ballet, am-dram and pantomime: ballet for the athleticism, however slight; am-dram for the awful miming of pain, anger and so on; pantomime for the fact that the opponents spent more time inciting the audience than they did grappling. The audience were generally quite tame in their name-calling (lots of “break his leg/rip his arm off”), so we decided to be a little more inventive. In retrospect, our taunts of the “Canadian” were probably both a little unfair and quite bewildering to anyone who didn’t have a thorough grasp of Canadian popular culture; cries of “ne mangez pas la poutine, mon gros ami!” and “get back to Degrassi” elicited no noticeable response. Or maybe the “Canadian” just wasn’t very Canadian. We’ll never know.

The high-point (and possibly also the low-point) came in the final bout, a tag match. I’d complained to Chris in the interval that there was a depressing lack of Mexican masked wrestlers on the bill. Little did I know. The opponents of the noble English (sic) in the final bout were a “Mexican” masked wrestler (however skinny and pallid) and a stocky “German”. I had thought this would be the limit to my joy, but little did I realise what treats were in store. The first English wrestler was tall, fat, bearded and wore pink lycra leggings, furry boots, a cape and a selection of feather boas. Could the noble sport of wrestling ever have been more manly? How could they possibly top this? The answer was simple, and in retrospect obvious: with a dwarf.

At this point my brane failed to register much that subsequently happened. I recall a variety of implausible throws by the dwarf, possibly aided by his opponents helpfully jumping over his head. I recall some sort of unorthodox wrestling move which involved the big yin plastering his backside over his oppoenents faces (very, very manly). I recall the roar of the crowd as the big yin performed a very Basil Fawlty goose step around the ring, to the consternation of the “German”. I suspect that I sat there with my mouth open and a slack-jawed expression of bewilderment on my face for the best part of twenty minutes.

In conclusion, a good time was had by all. Chris spent the evening bouncing up and down shouting “wrassle!”, was in paroxysms of mirth as her slash-addled brain melted down, was heard to comment on the costumes and it even kept Dr. Nick’s attention. Apparently they’re in Fareham next month, god help us.

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