Saturday, 20 November 2010

Back to Wrestling 1

Last night to the British Legion Centre to watch the pro-wrestling, or, more specifically, to see one of my current MA students in the ring - a poet-photographer-wrestler is a rare thing. I know Byron boxed but he never took on Giant Haystacks.

Big turn-out, the biggest I have yet seen in the area, so full they had to keep bringing extra chairs in. We took our friends N and A with us and a number of the students came along in support of our boy. We were fourth row back and found seats through arriving early. The raffle tickets come round, the pints are carried in.

The crowd for wrestling is generally what the US model (Gilbert and Kahl) label working class, working poor and underclass. They themselves put on a show, jeering, waving fists, occasionally making to attack wrestlers, in one or two cases advancing to the ring and possibly making attempts to hurt them. But it's a family audience, lots of children, lots of very overweight men and women, lots of remnant leather, biker and metal costume. Some of them are entirely passive. It doesn't matter much. The wrestlers' business is to generate heat, in other words, fierce partisanship. Cries of Break his arm! Do him! Who are ya?! Dirty Londoner! Go get him! Do it again! Fat bastard! are favourites. It is almost the point of wrestling to bring the crowd to a point when they are on their feet, shouting, exchanging threats and insults with the wrestlers.

But it is all fully formalised. The wrestlers don't touch the jeerers and the jeerers don't touch the wrestlers. Sometimes I am reminded of what Dostoevsky wrote about the Russian orthodox service, the service with rituals but the children running about, a mixture between order and anarchy. There is also the balance between the pantomime savagery and the essential mildness of temper. Of the savagery, a little more tomorrow. Late now. The Sebald finished. Some poems packed off. More work to come.


Poet in Residence said...

What a great time was had by all!

I haven't been to live wrestling for more years than I care to remember. Last time was at Fred Pontin's near Blackpool. I still recall some of the madcap scenes, the handbag flailing octogenarian, striving vainly to KO one of the wrestlers. There appeared the ubiquitous masked wrestler whose identity was never revealed for the mask almost came off although some angry fat guy in the crowd yell out that he'd bloody well remove it!

Judging by your wonderful account many of the traditional elements of Shakespearian theatre - except for rotten cabbages - teasing, jeers, laughter, blether, bravado.

I once saw Giant Haystacks climb into the back of a MkII Cortina. I couldn't believe it. It was like an illusion.

George S said...

Yes, it is a fairly traditional pattern, Gwilym. The place of the octogenarian was taken by a pained middle aged woman who terrifying proportions who would clearly have taken on a whole tag team.