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American Wrestling's influence on interests and popular culture


garynysmon
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I was randomly watching a Youtube series on how US States got their shape and it got me thinking how wrestling must be the reason behind my lingering and weird fascination with aspects of America over the years. Yet I have no interest in American sports, never watched Saturday Night Live etc, and usually get a bit annoyed if picking up on people using creeping Americanisms in everyday language.

While some may prefer Japanese or European/UK stuff by now, I think it's fair to say that pretty much everyone that grew up in the early 90's, and beyond, was introduced to Pro Wrestling thanks to the big American promotions.

Like most my age I spent my school years obsessed with the WWF and America seemed to be the coolest place on earth.

As a result we were exposed to total Vince McMahon Americana, America the Beautiful and all that jazz, so it must have had some kind of an effect. Plus the exposure to US celebrities (or so they said, fuck knows if they were) and sporting figures, most of which meant absolutely bugger all to most people on this side of the Atlantic.

Looking back now it's crazy how much I knew back about state capitals and big cities of a country I'd never even visited, while I'd struggle to point out where most English counties were on a map.

That said, the older I've got the more I've realised how fucked up it is not having proper healthcare, gun laws that make the rest of the western world shake its head and a party of the left that would be right of centre in any European country. Nice place to visit on holiday, which I have, but I'd never want to live there.

But yet, there's something magical about Madison Square Garden and the like, and I'd do anything to be able to go back and attend some of those early Wrestlemanias in person and belt out the anthem with Macauley Culkin....

So how has American wrestling impacted your hobbies and outlook in other ways? Did you start getting into the NFL and obscure American TV shows as a result?

(This could just as easily be one for off-topic in fairness)

 

Edited by garynysmon
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I think up until the mid-90s in general, America was seen as something quite exotic, and also something that my parents' generation tutted at. A huge part of the appeal of getting Sky in the '90s was being able to watch American TV - I remember watching Jeopardy and other American game shows, NASCAR, and American Gladiators and them seeing big and cool and exciting just because they were American. I'm sure the WWF was part of that, and especially in terms of their TV just making America seem like everything was bigger and bolder - comparing World of Sport to '80s WWF TV, you're going to get that impression.

At the same time, my parents were always opposed to Trick or Treating at Halloween because they always thought it was "too American", and one of the only actual memories I have of the aforementioned American game show watching was me and my brother as kids in hysterics when a contestant faced with "what is a Union Jack?" replied, "is it a wrench?". 

I think it was that sense of America feeling like the biggest, shiniest place on Earth, somewhere foreign but still speaking English, and where almost every movie came from and now a huge influx of TV as well, that made people fascinated with it. The WWF may have been part of it, but not the be-all and end-all.

 

It was all the flag-waving Americana side of it that never sat right with me, before I was ever old enough to articulate why. I suppose I just found it all weird and it had no appeal to me as someone with no connection to those symbols. But I do think the romanticism and exoticism of the US took a hit towards the late '90s as the residing pop culture became much more Jerry Springer and whatnot, and the America of the public imagination was much closer to my parents' view of it as all very crass and loudmouthed. The resurgence of all-American patriotism and flag-shagging after 9/11 probably only served to turn the rest of the world more against America as it became louder and prouder about itself.

 

As for getting into American stuff as a result - I can't think of anything I explicitly got into because of the WWF, but they're the only reason I could name you any American sports teams or athletes, and the only reason I have even the vaguest idea of what cities are in what towns. I'm sure that's been a discussion on here before - American geography lessons by way of half-remembered wrestler hometowns. 

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My main sporting interest these days is American Football of the college variety, and my musical taste is primarily in the outlaw country sphere, both of which trace directly back to wrestling, and this in particular:

James Storm's first post AMW theme, which is a Jimmy Hart-esque (although not actually Jimmy's handiwork AFAIK) rip-off of this:

Discovering Shooter Jennings (who I now consider my favourite artist) led me to discover a whole raft of similar artists (listen to Hellbound Glory, y'all) and that's primarily what I listen to now.

Then, in 2009, I went to the US primarily to see 2 Shooter gigs (I also went to Raw & Smackdown when I was there) and at the 2nd of those gigs, a stranger down the front (who is now one of my best friends in the world) said "Hey... do y'all in England watch college football?" and an obsession was born.

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I can definitely relate to the humdrum of America's city geography being really drilled into me, too, because of Howard Finkel and Tony Chimel. The missus will still be flabbergasted every now and then when a quiz show is on in the background or some prompt comes up in a drama where I'm able to confidently confirm the fact that - say - Annville is in Pennsylvania, because it's where Steve Blackman is from.  

I was gutted to discover that Bitters, Arkansas isn't a real place though. There's probably half a thread just in this aspect of it alone. Much like referee personalities and a bunch of other fun little things, I don't really notice where most WWE superstars are from these days for the most part. Is it because they all live in Orlando, or just down to how unmemorable the ring announcers generally are? Because it was an important part of wrestling growing up. Everyone watched it in school, but to really prove your mettle you'd have to answer each others questions on where the guys were from. Along with their real names, of course. 

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I remember in Geography or Economics knowing that Wisconsin was famous for cheese & Idaho for spuds thanks to hearing it on wrestling. This was 2002 or 2003 before the internet was ubiquitous, and when someone asked how I knew that I said I heard it on That 70's Show instead of the truth, that I got it from that 'gay wrestling' that nobody watches anymore.

I suppose I liked Limp Bizkit & Kid Rock for a while thanks (!) to wrestling and I did once consider buying a Creed CD in HMV, but was afraid it would ruin my (zero) chance with the hot rocker lady working there I fancied/stared at on Saturday afternoons so chickened out.

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