Offbeat Shenanigans #8 – Professional Wrestling or 60’s Beach Movies?

Kevin McElvaney


As a holdover from yesterday, when I had some trouble posting this: Happy Turkey Day to my American readers, Happy Tofurkey Day to my American readers who are also vegetarians, and, to everyone else…Happy Thursday! Even though itâ<80><99>s now Friday…ahem.

Iâ<80><99>ll be getting into todayâ<80><99>s topic, as usual, in a minute. First, itâ<80><99>s time for the Letter of the Week.

I think Raw has gone from having virtually no main-eventers to having too many, and all of them (HHH, Y2J, Orton, Shawn) are going to want a pop at the belt in the next few months! While it may be foolish to expect Vince to ‘hotshot’ the belt, as a fan I’m crying out for some variety at the very top – as much as I respect John Cena as a wrestler and an athlete (a drug-free one to boot!!), they kept the belt on him for far too long – it would be nice to see Trip and Jericho get short runs just to re-establish themselves as title-worthy competitors.

– Matt Wealls, Crewe, Chesire, UK

First of all, Matt…Happy belated Thursday! Thanks to the beauty of the internet, Mr. Wealls and I have been participating in a thrilling transatlantic correspondence, regarding our wrestling predictions for the upcoming months. I, of course, posted mine here last week, and one of them has already been proven wrong. (Thanks a lot, Kazarian!) Matt told me, in an earlier email, that he believed Orton would win at Survivor Series with HBKâ<80><99>s own superkick. While this isnâ<80><99>t what happened, Matt DID correctly predict that Orton would hold on to the title. He also called a Team Triple H victory over Team Umaga. Two out of three. You know what Meat Loaf says about that! Not bad, Matt.

Mr. Wealls has also predicted quite a few WWE Title changes in the coming months: Triple H wins at Armageddon, Orton takes it back at New Yearâ<80><99>s Revolution, Jericho wins it at the Royal Rumble and, finally, Orton begins his fifth WWE title reign in as many months at WrestleMania 24. While Iâ<80><99>ve already told Matt that I donâ<80><99>t think weâ<80><99>ll be seeing quite so many title switches in the next few months, I think heâ<80><99>s very wise as it pertains to what the main event scene will look like. Throw Jeff Hardy into the mix, and Iâ<80><99>d say itâ<80><99>s right on. Then again, thatâ<80><99>s just one reporterâ<80><99>s opinion.

â<80><9c>Professional Wrestling or 60’s Beach Movies?â<80>

Despite a hundred pounds in muscle mass, Iâ<80><99>m having a difficult time telling the difference between Batista and Frankie Avalon. Donâ<80><99>t follow me? Well, Iâ<80><99>d be dating myself here, if this genre of films wasnâ<80><99>t popular 20 years before I was born, but let me just say that WWE is starting to remind me, more and more, of the format for the old â<80><9c>beach movies.â<80> Only difference is, in WWE, might always makes right.

Confused? For those of you who donâ<80><99>t know, or need a reminder, beach films were tawdry, yet fun, movies about surfing, fighting, and making out in the sand – sometimes all in the same scene! You may have seen them parodied on Looney Tunes or, if youâ<80><99>re younger than that, Tiny Toons. Iâ<80><99>m not sure Baby Looney Tunes has done a spoof on the beach movie yet, but they inevitably will.

Anyway, the typical beach movie starred Frankie Avalon, as the muscle bound, handsome surfer, and Annette Funicello as the Torrie Wilson-type â<80><9c>diva.â<80> Frankie would play tweener in each of these films, and but heâ<80><99>d always come back around to being a heel or face at the end. Now what, exactly, does this have to do with wrestling? We’ll get to that.

Bodybuilding and professional wrestling have gone hand in hand for the past 25 to 30 years. Prior to that, youâ<80><99>d see fit, yet more average sized men, and big men with pot bellies and flabby (though strong) arms all over the place. There were some fantastic physiques – take, for example, Bruno Sammartino, who is still in amazing shape in his 70’s. Still, for every wrestler like â<80><9c>Superstarâ<80> Billy Graham or Hulk Hogan, youâ<80><99>d have guys like Dusty Rhodes, Dick Murdoch, and Junkyard Dog.

The documentary, Tough Guise, which was released in 1999, investigates perceived male toughness in the media, and it spends a good deal of time talking about pro wrestling. It juxtaposes clips of wrestlers of the 60’s and early 70’s with more modern competitors, like Goldberg. The film takes an interesting look at what effects big-bodied wrestlers might have on young boys watching them, and who want to look like them.

Kids emulating wrestling is too broad a topic to tackle in this column. What Iâ<80><99>m getting at is the internal pressure, felt by wrestlers of the â<80><9c>WWE eraâ<80> to maintain a large physique. We are led to believe, whether this is true or not, that the company wants â<80><9c>big guysâ<80> in its main events. Heck, you can even look at Rey Mysterio. Sure, heâ<80><99>s the smallest WWE champion of all time, in stature, but heâ<80><99>s also got twice the muscle mass of even the biggest cruiserweights. The question is, why do we need to see this?

Sure, wrestling fans are drawn toward great feats of strength. Iâ<80><99>ll even admit to being wowed by that occasional 500 pound guy finally being slammed. There are places for guys with big arms, strong legs, and freakish, Lesnar-esque necks. But should this really be a primary concern in presenting a wrestler? Spike Dudley practically made a gimmick out of having no build whatsoever, and look at how over he was with the fans. This is far from a shot at Spike…Iâ<80><99>m a huge fan of his, and I think heâ<80><99>s a credit to normal-sized people trying to make it in a big manâ<80><99>s world.

What weâ<80><99>re looking at, essentially, when we have a bunch of overly muscular guys brawling with each other, is a 1960’s beach movie. Such encounters are all about machismo, raging male hormones, and burly men exerting dominance over one another, purely for its own sake. Whatâ<80><99>s the point of such battles anymore? Why do we need to see two raging bulls going at each other when we all know in this â<80><9c>smarkâ<80> age of the sport that everything is choreographed? Itâ<80><99>s a show, and we want to be entertained.

Frankly, very few people care who is the biggest or strongest anymore. Need proof? Watch the Goldberg-Lesnar match (if you can call it that) from WrestleMania XX. Those two big â<80><9c>bears,â<80> as they are called by Jim Ross, tie up time after time, and no one cares. For an argument refuting my point, you could cite the Hogan-Warrior match from WrestleMania VI. Fans did, after all, go nuts for the â<80><9c>tests of strengthâ<80> in that match. Okay, thatâ<80><99>s fair…but wouldnâ<80><99>t it also be fair to say that fans got behind the characters of Hogan and Warrior, rather than their massive pythons / whatever Warrior called his arms? (Do I even want to know what he called them?)

Letâ<80><99>s face some simple facts. WWE and TNA are on the cusp of a Congressional controversy, and WWE, especially, has been contending with a lot of wrestler injuries. While itâ<80><99>s unfair to blame every incident on this, it is medically documented that bigger muscles are easier to tear. Why not start de-emphasizing size a little more? WWE seems to be making strides toward this, with the ECW title around CM Punkâ<80><99>s waist, and the return of Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels to the main event.

Jeff Hardy is next in line, and heâ<80><99>s beloved and talented enough to, perhaps, change the way we look at main eventers. Since this is WWE, and itâ<80><99>s becoming more and more like a beach movie, letâ<80><99>s use the plot of one to book Jeff Hardyâ<80><99>s descent to the top of the company. Hereâ<80><99>s the program, with significant debts to the first ever beach film, entitled, Beach Party. You might want to follow along on IMDB.com, or a similar site.

â<80><9c>The Professorâ<80> (Jeff Hardy) saves â<80><9c>Dee Deeâ<80> (Maria Kanellis) from a perverted â<80><9c>Eric Von Zipperâ<80> (Santino Marella). In the meantime, Dee Dee and Frankie Avalon (Triple H – the perfect beach bully) begin dating. But, amidst nights at home with The Game, watching The Best of Triple H on DVD, Maria develops feelings for Jeff. This leads to a conflict between Jeff and Trips which, of course, The Professor…I mean, Jeff, has to win. The audience goes home happy, and Jeff gets the girl, Maria. And the other girl – by which, I mean the WWE Title.

Ask me real nicely, and Iâ<80><99>ll reveal my â<80><9c>perfect planâ<80> to take this format to the Smackdown brand, robbing Batista of his World Heavyweight Title. It involves Brent Major, the plot to Beach Blanket Bingo, and a whole lot of suspension of disbelief.

Kevin McElvaney is also a contributing writer for Pro Wrestling Illustrated and The Wrestler. Send questions or comments to kjmcelvaney@yahoo.com.

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