By Evan Ginzburg, Columnist
Wrestling and its fandom have been quite interesting throughout the pandemic- I’m going to get into the good, the bad and the ugly of it all in this week’s column.
On the positive side, I am seeing a whole lot of interesting folk like Brian Solomon- former WWE Magazine editor doing Facebook Lives and really opening up about his experiences working with the world’s biggest wrestling promotion. Sometimes these impromptu or irregularly scheduled type sessions are far more interesting than obsessive wrestling podcasts where each and every match and angle on Raw, Smackdown, AEW and their respective pay per views need to be overanalyzed ad nauseum. I can learn more about the wrestling business in a half hour with a Brian Solomon than six months’ worth of most supposed experts pontificating on an utterly meaningless 3 hour RAW.
I am also seeing a lot of bargains for the wrestling merchandise buyers. Vendors now go online and do these rapid-fire sales live where they’ll show you a piece of memorabilia and you can find a gem at bargain basement prices. It also can be entertaining just to “see what’s out there” and what the going prices are for some of these decades’ old treasures.
Last week was a tough one for wrestling fans online, though. There were the Chris Benoit obsessives creepily celebrating his birthday on social media. “Happy birthday in Heaven, Chris” a few chimed in. Really?
Then, following the second season finale of Dark Side of the Ring there was a plethora of commentary and folk were not shy about sharing their thoughts.
Among them there were the corporate apologists en masse finding every reason to defend Vince’s callously continuing a show in a blood-stained ring while simultaneously attacking Martha Hart for not allowing Owen into the WWE Hall of Fame. Some were calling Dr. Hart, a humanitarian, every vile name in the book. And the capper to the week was the heartless playing pop psychologists, vilifying poor 22-year-old Japanese wrestler Hana Kimura for being “weak”, “selfish” and “a coward” after her suicide from alleged cyber-bullying. A wee bit of human empathy would be a wonderful thing for them to find.
Independent wrestling veteran David Starr has been making waves of late leading efforts to unionize wrestling talent in a similar way to other entertainment industries. Major media such as Newsweek have taken Starr seriously enough to interview him. Decades ago, Jesse Ventura tried the same and failed and the wrestlers on top who are making big money are sometimes the hardest to get on board, so let’s see just how far young Starr can take this.
Also, of note, wrestler Deonna Purrazzo raised a few eyebrows by questioning the safety of “empty arena wrestling” in the age of Corona Virus. She is one of the few who have publicly addressed this ongoing situation and concern.
So, instead of delving deeper into the mire, I am going to try something different here and just plain go the nostalgia route. Here’s the first of my five greatest wrestling memories of the 1970’s live- all at the mecca, Madison Square Garden:
June 26, 1974: I don’t think anyone in the 1970’s had seen anyone or anything quite like the bleached blonde “Fabulous” Valiant Brothers along with “Captain” Lou Albano. Their promos were stream of consciousness comedy improv where they riffed off of each other; Luscious Johnny and Handsome Jimmy along with the “guiding light” Lou would work themselves into such a frenzy that you just HAD to see them “get theirs” and inevitably they bled buckets in two out of three fall classics just as they did that very night against arch rivals Dean Ho and Tony Garea. To say the building shook would be an understatement. More 70’s MSG memories to come next week, kids.
Yours truly, along with West Coast based indie heel manager Buddy Sotello, have started a unique show, Wrestling & Everything Coast to Coast, where we have hour long interviews with unsung heroes of the wrestling industry. Wrestling historian Julian Rich says- “Any wrestling fan can connect on social media for blogs, results, opinions, and other thoughts and ideas about pro wrestling and other subjects. What distinguishes Evan and Buddy is how they are able to convey to their audience that pro wrestling is not just entertainment but an art form that is unique and worthy of consideration above and beyond what a fans sees on TV. I commend them for their efforts, knowledge and commitment to a world that is often misunderstood and criticized. I also appreciate that the show brings in other topics of pop culture. Keep on truckin’.”This weekend we’ll talk with noted referee Alfred Pasard, Jr. who survived being hospitalized with the Corona Virus. For our most recent episode with West Coast promoter Joshua Littell AKA Sir Samurai, click here:
Check out both 350 Days starring Bret Hart, Superstar Graham, and three dozen legends and Wrestling-Then & Now starring Killer Kowalski & Nikolai Volkoff both free on Amazon Prime. 350 Days is also available free on Tubi. You can check out the new 350 Days trailer here:
On June 14, 2020, from 4pm-10pm, FITE TV will be streaming Wrestling Bookmark’s “Covid-Con” free for fans in these trying times including headline wrestlers like Brutus Beefcake and Sid, as well as the author of the Nitro book, Guy Evans- plus many, many more. A new panel of names will stream every 45 minutes. What was called the first virtual wrestling convention back the first weekend of May is returning once again to give authors, historians and wrestlers alike the opportunity to discuss their projects and careers in a Q&A format powered by Facebook Live.
To ask questions yourself go to facebook.com/groups/
That’ll about do it folks. Catch you next week for Wrestling- Then & Now.
Evan Ginzburg is a contributor for The Gorilla Position. He was an Associate Producer on the movie The Wrestler and 350 Days starring Bret Hart and Superstar Billy Graham. He is a 30-year film, radio and TV veteran. Check out his Evan Ginzburg’s Old School Wrestling Memories page on Facebook. He can be reached on Twitter @evan_ginzburg or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.