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Ask Mr. Wrestling Science
by Marty Goldstein on 2001-08-11

Today I don my science cap to answer the queries of inquiring minds from the Moondog Manson website universe.

"Dear Mr. Science,

Golly, Dr. Marty Goldstein sure writes some interesting stories about the early days of TV wrestling. It's hard to believe he can remember all those obscure angles from the era of fuzzy reception roof antennae 3 channel black and white TV. What gives?

er, I forget my name right now"

Well, yes, it IS hard to believe, but it's true, oh, it's true, and it's all thanks to a part of our brains called the AMYGDALA.

EMOTION instills memory. The AMYGDALA is the area of the brain that has a marked boost of activity when strong emotion is evoked when witnessing and experiencing life, which forms a strong VIVID LONG TERM memory. However, emotion does not help TRIGGER memory, which is why flying into a roid rage when you can't find your keys doesn't help.

Imagine what life was like for the Marty's and Jim Cornettes of the world growing up so long ago in the 3 channel universe.

Societal norms were very conservative. In entertainment performances, sex and violence were subtle and often played out off screen. There were no video games or shooting games, we played board games and Cowboys and Indians. Ours was a world where imagination was the focus of our fun.

The way networks broadcast was also simpler and slower moving. CBS, NBC, and CBC telecast football, baseball and hockey on the premise that it was best to show the game from "the best seat in the house". In these cases, that meant the 50 yard line, behind home plate and centre ice. Distant. Instant replay was barely used, often only once immediately after a play, and slow-motion was very rare. Today the production values would be plain at best.

Pro wrestling was a SPORT. It was compelling. There were no pads, the camera was close to the ring, the shows were done live or live to tape in small, intimate TV studios. Individual voices could be heard cheering or catcalling. It was fun. And most importantly, we believed. Wrestling was considered adult entertainment. Children under 14 were not allowed to WWWF cards at Madison Square Garden, and women's matches were banned for years.

So in a world where very little action or violence was seen, and certainly not up close (which is why films like Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch or Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde were so shocking and controversial in the late 60's), wrestling made an impact right in your very living room, "up close and personal" as Howard Cosell used to say.

A lot is made of the pace of yesteryears TV shows. The emphasis was on building houses for the live arena cards, so hot matches and angles were rare. This is called the Dave Meltzer "annual AWA angle" theory.

When a Canadian, Billy Red Lyons, made the undefeated Dr. X submit to his own hold, the Figure Four Leg Lock, on AWA TV, that match formed a strong, VIVID memory. When Don Leo Jonathon posted Dr. Jerry Graham and blood flowed onto the studio floor at BCTV, with Ron Morier actually RAISING his voice, that formed a strong, vivid memory.

Jim Cornette had the same experience watching Dick the Bruiser clobber Beautiful Bobby Harmon, with Sam Menacker calling the action, on many of those same Saturdays. we were emotionally attached to the product. Also, our minds had not experienced the avalanche of imagery and stimulation of today's world. And also, the great interviews that followed the angles reinforced the importance of what had happened. My AMYGDALA had kicked into high gear, forming my fond TV wrestling memories for columns now. Cornette turned many of his memories into re-mounted angles in his Smoky Mountain promotion.

So the booking of that time worked. I remembered in elaborate detail on the playground, what had happened. But then I would suddenly remember forgotten homework left on the kitchen counter. Why is that?

When strong, vivid, long term memories are formed, relatively unimportant short term memories are pushed out of mind. That is why I would forget my homework. But a few fast lunchtime walks home to retrieve it in -30* weather did not always solve that character flaw.

After all, there was another AWA show to watch the next Saturday.

You are welcome. Now, where did I put my homework, Tina?

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Quotes from the boys: Moondog Manson says "Leatherface is by far the sickest man I have ever met in the ring, the moment he hits you in the head with that steal chair you here a creepy laugh come from under that hood.".
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