IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: Memorial Day
By Al Laiman
Jul 21, 2012 - 12:10:23 PM
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IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: 30 Thoughts... Memorial Day
Written May 30, 2011
I've been searching for this column for a long time. I wrote it back on the forums to propose an idea for professional wrestling that I think needs examination. I also have two skits I wrote up to support this idea, if anyone is interested. Do keep in mind they're a bit over a year out of date, but the idea is the same. Would love to hear what a new audience thinks of this.
Also, to give you context, this was shortly after the death of Macho Man.
In America today, the deaths of those who gave their lives for their country are remembered and celebrated... mostly by grilling and enjoying a day off in the sun. In the spirit of the day, however, I feel it only fitting to have a Memorial Day of my own.
I've been around wrestling for over a decade. One of the first things I can remember is the death of Owen Hart. I recall that saddening feeling of the ten bell salute that prologued the Owen Hart tribute show. Being new to wrestling at the time and not really understanding what the death of Owen Hart really meant to the business, I didn't really grasp the death of the situation until the RAW Tenth Anniversary a few years later and saw the show in the top RAW countdown.
There's something chilling about that bell echoing throughout a silent building. It only means one thing; for any other time that bell is being struck, it is faster and surrounded by the electricity in the crowd. But that long strike, clanging through the air as if it reverberates off the tears and memories of those witnessing the tribute, is an unmistakable sound with an even deeper meaning to those of us who have stepped in that ring.
When Umaga passed away, I remember the faces all being allowed to stand at ringside for the ten bell salute. Because kayfabe was apparently more important than paying tribute to a fallen brother, we had to watch it from the crow's nest. It may have only been a few hundred people as opposed to the 20,000 for such times as Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero, but the feeling is still the same. That coldness, the downright sorrow, for the fact that not only has another wrestler passed, but likely long before his time.
This year was especially hard for me, because unless circumstances change in a heartbeat, I will be unable to attend the tribute to my friend Larry Sweeney, which will take place in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania on June 18th. That breaks my heart more than any wrestler's death ever has, especially since he was not only a sensation in the ring, but a friend as well. But even without actually being present, that ten bell salute rang through my head for several days, even as I was giving an interview to promote the column and my website on the radio. It never leaves you.
I know that Randy Savage's death has struck a lot of you very close, and while I experienced none of Macho Man's career outside of the Slim Jim commercials and a mention in the movie Liar, Liar, I do feel your pain. The disturbing statistics of wrestler's deaths have to be dealt with and given credence at some point, for it's going to become even harder to get attached to our heroes when we know their time is short.
I've stood for too many ten bells, and something has to be done about it. Maybe the approach that less is indeed more finally needs to be delivered, as opposed to "let's keep adding more and more." Wrestlers spend a lot of their lives falling on that mat and being hit with weapons that while I never dabbled in the painkillers or other methods of numbing it, I certainly can empathize with why they do it. Hell, I never had to wrestle two nights in a row, let alone several on a continuous rolling schedule, yet after a long day of training and wrestling, I'd find myself gimping through the sore muscles and just wanting to lay down for a few days. Going out and wrestling the next day wasn't even an afterthought, so I certainly have a sliver of an idea of what exactly they're trying to numb. Adrenaline covers it up while in the ring, but it's rather hard to deal with after the crowd has gone home.
Is it not maybe time for an offseason? Do we as wrestling fans truly need 52 weeks of four shows a week, sometimes five when there's a Pay-Per-View? Is it possible that the over-saturation of the market may have hindered our enjoyment rather than enhanced it? Would we as fans really lose interest and abandon the product if there wasn't a new episode every single week, because I know other sports have such a hard time getting their fans to return after they go into the offseason...
Maybe it's time for the business to address this and give these guys some periods of time off throughout the year. Maybe we can sacrifice some of our fandom and learn to appreciate the product on the times where it's in season, instead of becoming numb to so much of it being available all the time. Personally, when I would travel to the Pittsburgh area for IWC once a month, I felt myself being more engrossed in those storylines because there was more time for anticipation, more times to let things build, and I had more appreciation for the ultimate payoffs when they did happen. I'm not saying the big time companies should revert to once a month, but if the television show truly does have seasons, could they not abandon their Lou Gehrig-esque quest of consecutive episodes for the sake of a few less young dead wrestlers?
On this Memorial Day, I not only remember the fallen of those who have died to protect us, but I think of those who have fallen entertaining us, or as a result of doing so. My overall fandom will never be the same after what happened to Larry Sweeney, but this business never leaves you. I'll always be there on Monday nights, no matter how many attempts they make to get me to stop watching. But perhaps that quality might be enhanced ten-fold if we weren't spoiled with it all the time.
For followers of Jaded Hope, if you haven't seen it yet, check out the best of Season 2 here. This week's new episode is posted at the top, as per usual: