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<nettime> Memorials and Wrestling
Nicholas C. D. Fry on Tue, 18 Sep 2001 11:31:00 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Memorials and Wrestling

Memorials and Wrestling

The largest gathering of the American public since the Memorial service at
New York's St Patrick's Cathedral, 16/09/01, (where around 5,000 appeared),
took place at the 'WWF Heat SmackDown' event somewhere around Houston/Texas.

I switched on my TV the night before last to the dazzling sight of a vast
stadium filled with people screaming and shouting. The mass were waving
banners and flags displaying nationalist messages, messages of violence
towards terrorism, messages of violence towards various characters in the
world of wrestling and messages of sympathy for the victims of the recent
terrorist attacks.

The host of the evening addressed the entire stadium from the ring. He gave
a speech that was frighteningly similar in content, pace and sentiment to
the recent speeches of President Bush: '...but the spirit... of our great
nation... will never be extinguished...', 'We will fight!', 'We will
fight!'. The American national Anthem was sung as a memorial and some of the
wrestlers could be seen fighting back the tears.

The little graphic icon in the bottom left hand corner of my screen changed
from 'SMACKDOWN' to 'RAW IS WAR' and the action promptly began. 'Stone Cold
Steve Olsten', wrestling champion of the Federation, took to the ring to
address the crowd. He paced around inside the ropes saying he was 'ashamed',
'ashamed of all the folks' in the stadium and 'ashamed of everyone at
home'... 'Boo... Boo... Boo..."; the calculated hysteria of a few thousand
people rose, murmuring like flab around the paternal dictum of the Mic.
Stone Cold Steve Olsten was ashamed of the people for wanting him to lose.

Soon after he was joined in the ring by another wrestler, Rob Van Damme.
Stone Cold made a stone cold stare and the two men proceeded to eyeball each
other with as much unerring menace as each could muster. The excitement in
the stadium was clearly mounting.

Stone Cold: "Who do you think you are...?" (uncomfortable silence)
Van Damme: "I'm Rob Van Damme..." (cheers from the crowd)
Stone Cold: "I don't like you" (crowd: boooooo...)

(another uncomfortable yet foreboding silence)

Van Damme: "I don't like you either"

The stage was set and the games began; Men in skin tight body suits began
hurling each other around the ring. One man started beating the other with a
fold up chair. Another did a running jump kick with both feet into the other
man's face whilst he was restrained by someone else. One fight ended up
outside the ring and the two men were staggering around beneath the multiple
and incessant flashing lights, kicking each other in the balls and punching
each other in the face. They both fell over exhausted, at which point the
champ, Stone Cold, appeared and threw one of the men down, off the edge of
the stage, thereby indicating his allegiance to the the other. Not so; he
miraculously found cause to throw the other man off the stage as well,
following which he proceeded to threaten the referee himself!! One of the
commentators pronounced the act as, 'Leadership by Ultimate example'.

Extraordinary acts of violence were played out; acts of violence that would,
in any real situation, cause serious disfigurement and lasting disablement,
not to mention incredible pain and suffering. However, no blood was shed. A
culture supporting such extraordinary entertainment can only be described in
ironic terms as one fanatically obsessed with violence yet fundamentally
phobic of the sight of its own blood.

How remarkable that two such polar social events, Memorial and Wrestling,
could find dignified exposure in the same comfortable occasion.

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