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Monday, October 24, 2016

THE POLITICAL PIN

I can find no record of any politician every becoming a professional wrestler. But more than a few baby-kissers have followed the reverse story line. Perhaps the most insightful description of Abraham Lincoln was delivered by 19 year old William Green, who, in the fall of 1831, described his 6' 4”, 185 pound co-worker this way: “He can outrun, out lift, out wrestle and throw down any man in Sangamon County.” Green clearly saw Lincoln's need to win respect. Then in the summer of 1832, Lincoln took on Lorenzo Dow (Hank) Thompson, a fellow volunteer in the Black Hawk Indian uprising. In their match Thompson “threw down” Lincoln: twice. It was the rail splitter's only defeat in 12 years as an amateur wrestler. And it was after that drubbing that Lincoln switched to the law and politics.
Gimmick - The character portrayed by a wrestler.
The most successful wrestler turned politician was probably James George Janos, who was a U.S. Navy Seal, then a professional wrestler using the “gimmick” of Jesse "The Body" Ventura (above), who then used that moniker to become a film actor and then the Governor of Minnesota – putting a lie to F. Scott Fitzgerald's contention there are no second acts in American lives. Twice. His careers highlight the similarities between politicians and professional wrestlers. Both are roles in melodramatic morality plays, based on reality. Both require dedication and concentration from performer and audience alike. And both roles can leave the performer bruised and bloodied, or even paralyzed.
Angle - A fictional story line which usually begins when one wrestler attacks another, which results in revenge.
Consider Jerry O'Neil “The King” Lawler, who holds 168 professional wrestling “championships”, and was most famous for pile driving comedian Andy Kaufman head first during their 1982 match in Memphis, Tennessee. Twice. Kaufman went to the hospital, and Lawler went back to wrestling professionals. Now, Memphis had avoided political drama since New Years Day, 1940, when Mayor Watkins Overton was replaced by Ed “Boss” Crump, who was sworn in at the train station during a snow storm, and who immediately resigned in favor of Vice Mayor Joe Boyle, who the next morning was replaced by the City Commissioners with Walter Chandler. Thus Memphis had four mayors in under 24 hours – something of a melodramatic record. “The King” Lawler offered Memphis a return to that sort of drama, but the voters rejected the idea. Twice. In 1999 Jerry Lawler captured just 11% of the vote for Mayor, and a decade later he won only 4% . And that was the end of of his political career.
Burial – The “worked” (faked) lowering of a popular wrestler, forcing him to lose in “squash” (short, one sided) matches, as punishment..
World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer, Robert Lee “Bob” Backlund (above), had a 30 year career in wrestling, all of it playing a bow-tie wearing white-bread hero, telling his few fans he was “sick and tired of you plebeians throwing garbage out the windows of your car.” It was not exactly a blood curdling war cry. His “Cross-face Chicken Wing” move won him championships. Twice. But by the late 1990's his WWF boss was urging him to become a “heel”, (a villain). When he refused, “I was told I wasn't worth marketing," So Bob decided to make the cross over to Congress, running in 2000 for the seat from Connecticut's 1st district (below), against the incumbent Democrat, John Larsen.  Who had never been a wrestler.
Mark – From the carnival term: a person who enjoys professional wrestling as if it were un-staged.
Most grapplers, making the shift from wrestling theater to political theater, choose to run as Republicans, for some reason. And in recent history, they have all failed. Bucklund won only 28% of the 211,000 plus votes cast in the district, losing 59,331 to 151, 932 for Larsen. After his loss, Bob Bucklund became a bail bondsman, and then opened Buckland Energy (above), delivering fuel oil. He says he is thinking about running for Governor, which may be just about the last thing the Connecticut Republican Party needs after suffering Linda McMahon. Twice.
Shoot Screwjob - when the finish is changed without informing the losing wrestler.
Linda (above) was a North Carolina tom boy. Straight out of high school she married Vince Edwards, whose father was co-owner of Capital Wrestling Corporation. While Vince learned the business, Linda put her B.A. in French to use, translating intellectual property contracts into English for a Washington, D.C. law firm. By 1976 the couple had hit hard times and was reduced to food stamps, until Vince put together a deal to buy a sports arena in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts. He filled it by starting a sports management company. In 1982 Linda and Vince bought Capital Wrestling, and changed its name to the World Wide Wrestling Federation. Within a decade they guided the industry into its “Golden Era”, with nationwide pay-per-view events, and marketing contracts for action figures of their “faces” and “heels” . Then in the 1990's financial over extension, “gas” (steroid) scandals, a series of sexual harassment lawsuits, and the infamous Montreal Shoot Screw job brought the empire to near collapse. It was Linda's adroit ancillary contracts which helped save the WWWF.
Sandbag - To make a throw much harder by letting your body go limp, which makes the attacker appear weak or unskilled.
In 2010 Linda McMahon announced her intention to spend $50 million of her own money on a run for a U.S. Senate seat. She beat out two Republican rivals in the primary, but lost the November election by 11%. The winning Democratic incumbent, Richard Blumenthal, spent less than $9 million. In 2012 Linda spent another $50 million trying to capture Connecticut’s other Senate seat. Her opponent this time, Democratic Representative Chris Murphy, spent just about $5.5 million. This time Linda lost by 12%. It is unclear if the underlying problem was being associated with professional wrestling, or being associated with the Republican Party. But afterward, Linda assured the Huffington Post that even after spending $100 million for no pin, she was satisfied. "I thoroughly enjoyed campaigning,” she said. And even a political fib can be charming when delivered in a sweet North Carolina drawl.
Blade - (N) The object used by wrestlers to cut themselves. (V) Cutting to get blood in their matches.
But maybe the most interesting transition from wrestling to politics has been made by the Japanese wrestler Skull Reaper A-ji, who practiced the Mexican lucha libre (free fighting) style. Luchadores (fighters) wear masks whose designs recall ancient Aztec animal-god traditions, and can become more than a costume element for the wearer. They appeal not just to furry fandom types, or anthropomorphic animal lovers.  According to psychiatrists and social psychologists, the mask produces “deindividuation”, which involves desensitization to pain, anger and fear, increased awareness of your surroundings, and an accompanying boost in self confidence.
Dusty Finish - In which the “face” (hero) appears to win a big match, but the decision is reversed by the ref. Refers to wrestler Dusty Rhodes, who booked many such finishes
Until 2004 Skull Reaper worked in the clothing industry – at what, I have no idea. That was the year he joined All Japan Pro Wrestling. He had his first match in September of 2005, at the Oita Event Hall, in front of 1,200 of his home town fans. But there does not seem to have been a follow up match, which may explain why on 24 February, 2013,  Skull Reaper stood for election to the Oita municipal council. Oita (above) is a fishing and manufacturing port of a half a million citizens, on the north coast of Japan's most southern main island, Kyushu. It is famous for its factories and its epicurean favorite, de fugu chiri – poisonous puffer fish liver.
Cheap Heat - The incitement of a negative crowd reaction
There were 55 candidates for the 43 available spots on the Oita counsel, so name recognition was important. And a name like “Skull Reaper” must have of stood out on that list, even in Japanese characters. The 44 year old blond headed masked “face” collected 2,828 votes, making him 40th, out of 43 new councilmen. But, on 6 March, 2013 a plenary meeting of the Oita council was held, and they overwhelmingly voted that Skull Reaper's mask violated the rule “A person entering the floor shall not wear articles such as a hat or cane.” He would not be the masked avenger of Oita
False finish - A pin fall attempt which is kicked out just before the referee counts to three, which builds crowd anticipation.
Refused entry in the council's first general meeting on 11 March, Skull Reaper told the press he was frustrated. “If I take my mask off, I’m an entirely different person. I will not take it off.” But time, and perhaps negative press coverage, changed his mind. And on 19 March, Skull Reaper was admitted into the Council Chambers, sans mask His name plate (below) still reads “Skull Reaper A-ji” because that was the identity the citizens voted for.
Highspot - A top-rope move, or a series of maneuvers perceived as dangerous.
And perhaps this sacrifice helped his wrestling career, because on 18 May, 2013, Skull Reaper finally got a second match, pinning Hideyoshi Kamitani, at the Asaukura Amagi Sport Center, in just 11:46. It almost makes me wonder if all politicians should be not required to wear masks to match their theatrical persona. 
Gold – A championship belt.
- 30 -

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