By VINNIE BARTILUCCI
A&E is not exactly the channel you’d expect to see a show about pro wrestling, unless it’s a plot on an old episode of Columbo or something. But Sunday night they premiered one of the most informative and entertaining specials on the sport (for lack of a better term) on the air. I’ve gotten so sick of shocking expose shows: “FLASH!! wrestling is FAKE!” (well, duhhh…) and this was a welcome change of pace.
Steve Allen, who was an early wrestling commentator, narrated this history, from ancient Greece (which I assume he did not see personally) to the modern day Monday night cable battles. They spoke with almost everyone you could think of — Lou Thesz, Freddy Blassie, Jerry Lawler, and even Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff. Everyone spoke candidly about the industry, told some great stories and generally let people know that these are more than just cartoon characters — they are real people who work hard at what they do.
Several sociologists (a contractual necessity for a documentary) talked about how wrestling is a replacement for mythology, and it’s an example of how society entertains itself, but they never forgot the main point — it’s just FUN! One made the comparison to the decadent Roman Empire’s gladiatorial combats, and they made the brilliant point that yes, we watch similar events, but we know, and prefer them to be fake.
Kudos to A&E for all the people they tracked down and interviewed, as well as to the WWF and WCW for all the access cooperation they gave you. Getting these guys to “break kayfabe” (lingo for “admitting it’s fake”) is quite a feat, and top marks for not delivering a sub-par show in response.
The show will certainly be rebroadcast this weekend — Friday, May 1 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM EST, Saturday, May 2 1:00 AM – 3:00 AM EST — but it’s also available on tape at from the network at http://www.aande.com.