Monday, October 28, 2013

the last book I ever read (David Shoemaker's The Squared Circle, excerpt one)

from The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling by David Shoemaker:

That period of wrestling in the 1920s—the higher-profile championship-level matches in particular—had its share of fixed bouts, sure, but they were in the service of a more fascinating reality. Mondt was hired by Sandow to be Lewis’s sparring partner and enforcer; he would take on opponents before they got in the ring with Lewis to make sure they were “worthy” foes, but in reality, Mondt—sometimes regarded as a better pure grappler than Lewis—would soften them up for his colleague. Perhaps it was the fatigue from this role as the heavy lifter in the outfit that led to him rethinking the whole thing, or maybe he was purely a futurist, which is how he’s usually painted. Regardless, Mondt could see what nobody else could, that the sports fans weren’t just tired of wrestling—they were oblivious to it. They couldn’t appreciate the minute maneuvers that made up a marathon heavyweight match. So Mondt conceived of a new style of wrestling that would combine classical Greco-Roman and freestyle catch wrestling with boxing and the sort of brawling that was popular on lumberyard campsites to birth a new hybrid that was wholly entertaining and, as such, the direct antecedent of what we know today as professional wrestling. Mondt created submission holds—some seemingly from thin air, many of which are still used today—that were meant to project out to an audience member thirty rows back. Moves, in other words, that were meant as much to impress onlookers as inflict agony on opponents. He also conceived of the idea of a touring show, in which a stable of wrestlers would travel together from town to town, mixing and matching opponents or just repeating matches, night after night. This would allow the promoters full control over the card and cut out the need for local fighters to be hired and wages negotiated at every venue. It would allow managers to set prices more definitively. And it would allow wrestlers to spar with comfortable partners, in bouts with predictable endings.

An implicit part of this new method was the fixed match. In order to appeal to the fans’ sense of drama and spectacle, the matches had to build powerfully to the endings, and the endings had to be fulfilling.

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