Monday, October 10, 2011

House of Nuts: Meeting the Crazies of Wrestling

Each year at this time I come to the same conclusion: pro wrestling is one giant Halloween party. Sure, since the 1980's that has become more and more true, but the industry has always had more than its share of colorful characters. Let's not forget that names like Pampero Firpo, The Sheik, and Abdullah the Butcher all originated more than 50 years ago!

Most wrestling fans would be lying if they told you that at least one of these outlandish, colorful, and many times untamed characters wasn't among their favorites. The matches that most of these men produce aren't exactly "Funk-Brisco classics," but I've always found that the happiest wrestling fans are those that can find enjoyment in all aspects of the sport. Like a connoisseur of music that appreciates the differences in genres, the best wrestling fans appreciate each and every style presented on a particular wrestling card.

Meeting these men can be an equally wild and crazy experience. What fan watching wrestling on a Saturday morning all of those years ago could ever imagine standing next to "The Ugandan Giant" Kamala or grappling with George "The Animal" Steele over just exactly whose friend "Mine" really is?

In actuality, many of these men who chewed anything from raw meat to turnbuckles are among the nicest and most down-to-earth gentlemen that you would ever want to meet. As one of the most memorable characters of 1980's WWF action, Steele barely spoke more than a handful of words. Although it was always the rumor of the schoolyard that "The Animal" actually taught school, it is not until you meet the man himself that you truly grasp the idea. And how about Kamala? The jungles of Uganda were actually the shrubs of Jerry Jarrett's backyard and the gibberish-speaking headhunter is in reality a well-spoken southern gentleman.

That isn't to say that meeting these men destroys the illusion. On the contrary, seeing just how gigantic Kamala actually is would probably surprise most fans. Other crazies of the ring such as Ox Baker barely change outside of the ring with growling, yelling, and even...singing.

Of my encounters with the various screwballs of the squared circle, it's one of the most recent that stands out like no other. Although he never actually had a match, fans of late '80s and early '90s WWF action will clearly remember Jameson. Beginning as a character on the short lived "Bobby Heenan Show" and later "managing" The Bushwhackers, Jameson was an unkempt poindexter who for the time was the go-to guy for comic relief in the World Wrestling Federation.

The man who portrayed Jameson, an actor by the name of John DiGiacomo, has made several wrestling convention appearances this year, most recently at Legends of the Ring in New Jersey. While some fans may question why a character such as his would appear at a wrestling convention, I've mentioned in previous entries that these shows always strive to book "fresh" guests to keep fan interest. Jameson fit that bill perfectly. Any fan who still had reservations about meeting a side "character" such as this was put at ease as soon as Jameson entered the room...and also put into stitches. Jameson's quirky antics were funnier in person than they were twenty years ago on Prime Time Wrestling. Just like George Steele and Mine or Kamala in his full makeup and costume, Jameson rekindled the magic of wrestling's zany best just one more time.

Still yet, there are some crazy characters of wrestling that shock the fans of today in another way. While many assumed that the "Wild Bull of the Pampas" Pampero Firpo was long gone, fans that attended the 2011 NWA Fanfest in Atlanta were proven very wrong. Although he looked quite different from his glory days from the 1950's through the 1970's, Firpo seemed as happy to meet the fans as they were to meet him. Equally as amusing was hearing his colleagues marvel at how shocking it was to see the wildman without his trademark hair and beard.

Though characters such as the Boogeyman still occasionally pop up today, the days of the truly crazy, offbeat, and zany in professional wrestling are all but gone. They'll be back. Fans will only be able to take so many cookiecutter overly muscled types before they're yearning for facepaint, bald heads, and back hair resembling a brillo pad.

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