Ringside Sermon: It’s A Carnival Life

Hi there, ho there happy readers. Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in America, happy Thursday to everyone else… Unless it’s Ramadan or something, I can’t very well be expected to know about every holiday. I had to check my computer calendar just to make sure it was Thursday.

It sure has been a busy week in the world of wrestling, or it might be, I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention to the news as much, as it’s almost impossible to find a good site for news that doesn’t assault you with pop-ups.

One story I have been following is the whole Bob Holly thing. There’s really two sides to this issue, there’s the “Renee had it coming, he got a ticket in Bob’s rent a car and really made life difficult for Holly, who did him a favor” and then there’s the “That’s Assault” side of the argument.

And you’d think that the “That’s Assault” side of things would rather trump any argument against it, because there’s really no such thing as “Justifiable Assault.”

But you’d be wrong.

But don’t worry; I’ll explain this to you, because I’m just that kind of guy.

You see, certain organizations have their own set of rules. Some are recognized, like “Military Law”, because as a soldier, you have fewer rights than a regular citizen. Or schools, for example, where your freedom of speech is curtailed (no cursing) and you’re not allowed to chew gum. Then there are some with their own set of rules that are unrecognized officially, but generally acknowledged, like for example the mob and their love of concrete shoes, or the internet wrestling community and our refusal to give Triple H his dues.

Then there’s professional wrestling, which is strange because it has a set of rules that are completely unknown to the majority of the outside world, including most of the “smark” community, including myself.

But I can tell you where the rules come from.

CARNIES! Those creepy, toothless people smoking while you ride the roller coaster that you’re almost positive is going to fall apart any minute.

What’s the connection? What are you talking about? Why did you yell carnies? Have you been drinking?

I know your questions children, and I’ll get to them.

You see, Professional Wrestling is in fact an evolutionary by-product of carnivals, from way back in the early nineteen hundreds.

Each carnival had their “wrestler”, or a professional fighter, what today we refer to as a shooter. Fit Finley and Meng (Uncle Tonga) are examples of this today. They’d go from town to town, and as part of the whole carnival experience, they’d accept challenges from audience members, for the sake of gambling (you pay a dollar, and if you win, you get twenty sort of thing).

Now, occasionally, rival “tough-men” would be encouraged to fight each other, with the crowd paying to see the contest, and the carnival organizing all the wagers.

But, and here comes the fun part. For there to be a winner, there would have to be loser, and that loser would probably have a hard time “winning” on the road over the next few weeks at least, which would cost him and his carnival valuable money.

So they decided to rig their contests, but only with each other, for a while, but someone soon noticed that the tough-man against tough-man contests brought in a ton more money than the regular audience challenges, which they then decided to phase out entirely.

Terms like “Mark” and “kayfabe” are all relics from the carnival days, which have endured in the business to this day.

Carnivals themselves are, of course, evolved from gypsies, which is why they have their own code of rules. Think a hundred or so years ago, there was no way to really police the internal happenings of a nomadic gypsy tribe, no local constable or police would be responsible for anything except telling them to move onto the next town. They had to develop their own rules, and they own means of enforcing them.

Since they were in fact “tribes”, their rules reflected their somewhat primitive social structure.

The business itself has evolved, but not so much as we like to think. They still travel from town to town, they still stay mostly together, rarely socializing outside their own circle, and they are largely considered social misfits (and they demonstrate this from time to time as well.)

Think about it, it was twenty years ago that they first revealed that wrestling was “fake”, so up until that point they were still scamming everyone in every town as best they could. And the things they do for “fun” can be completely abnormal… Ric Flair’s book is full of stories about what wrestlers do in their free time, including a time his wife came home to find Terry funk wearing nothing but his boot, his title belt and his cowboy hat chasing the dog around in the backyard with a knife between his teeth while her husband was passed out in a puddle of his own vomit in the kitchen. The babysitter was hiding in the closet, terrified.

Sid Vicious and Arn Anderson got into a fight with scissors in the UK (I think.) Jake the Snake Roberts, hell, I don’t even have to say anything more about Jake the Snake, we all know he’s abnormal. New Jack, with Justifiable Homicide, Sandman with the Barb Wire, Mick Foley, who’s a loving father that used to get slammed on thumbtacks and exploding two by fours to make his money. Jeff Hardy, who everyone can tell just by looking at him is waaaay strung out on something… Hulk Hogan, who’s first day on the job had his leg broken to make sure he had what it took to be in the business. Chyna, who went from “is she a man” to “Playboy Cover-girl” in the space of five years. These people, whether we love them or not, are freaks. Not all of them, some, like Dwayne Johnson and Shane Helms, Lance Storm or Matt Hardy, are normal, well adjusted individuals who can have a normal life outside of wrestling. Many others can’t, Jake the Snake again being used as a beyond perfect example.

They have their own rules, and they enforce them within the organization. This is changing, but not as quickly or drastically as everyone things.

Bob Holly wasn’t wrong, in the world of wrestling’s eyes, to assault Renee Dupris, he was “wrong” to do it in front of fans. It’s something that should have been handled backstage.

Let me give you an example, because it’s one of my favorite wrestling stories;

The Tag-Team “Public Enemy” was supposedly ushering in a new era of wrestling, with daring “hardcore” style and ties to the still sub-culture of rap music. They were, at least at first glance, cutting edge.

And so Vince hired them.

And they came in full of nothing but ego and shit, bragging about how important they were, how they were going to change everything about tag-wrestling, and how they were better than anyone else in the locker room.

This did not go over well, and they were fired.

But they weren’t ‘told’ they were fired, they found out about it during a match with Farooq and Bradshaw, the Acolytes, who were the unofficial leg-breakers for Vince at the time.

They didn’t find out because they were told.

They found out in a very, very physical fashion. They were beaten from one end of the ring to the other, stiff shots to the head and hard kicks…

This sounds like an extraordinary thing, but it’s not. This is the way business was, and is in a lot of ways, still done. It’s not very talked about because the people inside the industry didn’t see at as anything unusual, or worth talking about. They talked about Public Enemy getting fired, sure, and why, but the “how” of it was business as usual.

And that’s exactly the case with Bob Holly right now. Everyone knows that Bob Holly is “old school” in a lot of ways, he’s been in this business for a lot of years, he goes from town to town and he does his job, and he does it to the best of his ability. He looks good, and he’s more or less a model employee, he doesn’t tend to make waves, and he doesn’t make things difficult most of the time.

For example, when his arm got broken, Kurt Angle felt horrible, and Holly told him “It’s business, don’t worry about.”

So when Dupris crossed the line and didn’t show the respect Holly deserved, and even went so far as to screw him over as it relates to his insurance, Holly did what he’s learned to do within the business. He beat the crap out of the man. He didn’t “injure” him, he didn’t cost him his livelihood or put him on the shelf, he didn’t do anything permanent, because that’s against “The Code.” He did what he believed was the right thing to do, and a lot of people, inside the business and beyond it, agree.

The real problem is that Holly did it in front of fans, which goes against the “What happens on the road stays on the road” kind of rule. The fans were exposed the somewhat “seedy” underbelly of the business, and that’s not good for business because of the stockholders, who they’d rather weren’t exposed to or made aware of the fact that they are very much to this day a multi-million dollar carnival.


Peace and Love