July 9, 2006
John R. Nocero
Bring Back Allentown
Describing the typical Monday night in my house is to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. You may not say it every day, but it is second nature, even if you haven’t said it since grade school. It’s 8:30 pm. I am either battling erratic rolls of the dice with my Legends of Wrestling card game or I am insatiably digesting the pages of the latest WWE Superstar biography, looking at the clock every 40 seconds or so.
My sultry red-headed spouse saunters through the living room at about 10 minutes til 9. She rolls her eyes at me for the next 10 minutes as I make lascivious remarks as to what I am going to do with any various piece of her anatomy. Just as I finally wear her down enough for me to get a whiff of her vanilla-scented body lotion (remember, I worked today, then lifted weights and haven’t showered), she’s doomed. She’s hearing the four words. She’ll hear them, this week, next week, next year, probably forever.
“Shut up, wrestling’s on.”
So I settle in for some rasslin’, drop the clicker on the table, put my feet up and get:
Hmm..I think to myself..current storylines I know. Do I enjoy the verbal juxtaposition as fans react to John Cena? Check. Did I cackle out loud as DX sprayed both the McMahons and Spirit Squad with poop. (oofah). Of course.
But it’s missing. Something’s missing. Like being in lifetime relationship: The love is there, it will always be there. Sometimes you feel burning lust, sometimes you feel, well, whatever about each other.
I want the lust back. I want Allentown.
“What’s Allentown, you say?” Without being overly flowery, Allentown took the intrigue inside an eight-year old boy and turned it into the passion of a 30-year old man.
I think it was listed as “Channel 8: Wrestling” in my ratty black and white television guide that everyone received in their local Saturday newspaper. I was the youngest of the group of about 12 boys I ran around with, and they were all crazy about this “wrestling.” I had no clue, so I watched with them, primarily to be accepted into the group.
My initial experiences are still just as vivid: A commentator’s desk sits high above the arena, almost out of place over rowdy fans and the ring sitting behind them. I find out later the men talking to me are Vince McMahon, in likely a wooly yellow blazer, and Pat Patterson. They welcome me to “All-Star Wrestling,” which takes place in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and the weekly home of the World Wrestling Federation.
They briefly cover who will appear over the next 60 minutes. Then we’re off to this week’s action. I wonder who the poor sap is standing in the upper left hand corner of the squared circle. It’s the same opponent each match, like has been dropped from the Acme assembly line: black boots, white trunks with generic stripe, abs full of too much of mom’s meatloaf. Then all of a sudden, the back door of what looks like a gymnasium opens, and some monstrously outrageous man bursts through like he owned the place. Both my jaw, and copious amounts of drool, hit the ground like a safe.
Didn’t matter who it was, the wilder the better would garner the most attention from me: The Missing Link with his weed-whacked hairstyle and painted face (I actually wondered then if dude walked around all day like that – imagine their surprise at the DMV); Captain Lou Albano – the man had man boobs and rubber bands dangling from his cheeks!; Mad Dog Buzz Sawyer, whose hyenic laugh I can hear in response when I jokingly bay at the moon with my son.
Memories, they are a plenty: the distinct smell of my grandmother’s kitchen as I was there watching the Wild Samoans win the WWF tag belts from Chief Jay and Jules Strongbow. She was making fried zucchini, something that I am sure I could’ve found in Sika’s afro; The awe I felt as some guy named Backlund, who I came to find out was WWF Champion Bob Backlund performed the Harvard Step Test, where he walked three stairs for 60 solid minutes. Then a couple weeks later, he does it again at ringside when some Marine Sergeant (um, that is Sgt. Slaughter, John) tosses him into the ring and whips him with a riding crop. Why won’t he fight back, I remember shouting at my TV.
Everything about The Magnificent Muraco was so cocky, yet so brilliant. Chewing gum as he destroyed some scrub, appearing perfect in Ray Ban sunglasses. I couldn’t wait to see him get his come-uppance. I came to discover that persona is what made him such an effective heel, wait, bad guy. I even hear catcalls from some other neighborhood boys who wanted to go play football with my gang one day and us replying, “we’ll play but later, we just want to see Snuka.”
I ate it up. Couldn’t get enough. Still can’t.
How did they get 5 matches and three interviews in only 60 minutes but they need two hours today for less than 30 minutes of actual wrestling? Why are names like Charlie Fulton or Israel Matia etched into my brain but I forget my sage college professor who probably handed out a life-lesson as I graduated senior college seminar?
Two words. No not “Suck it!” but lusty passion. The thrill of watching a Superfly leap from 1982 are the same feelings I get when the Yankees win a playoff game or I gain five pounds on my bench press. It defines me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So keep your sports entertainment, where today’s superstars talk about how great it is to work together like me with my hospital mates. Just give me the brief commercials of WWE 24/7, because Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch have just debuted, steamrolling a couple ham-and-eggars. I transfix my thoughts like “Wow, they’re good, but they would never beat (insert any mid-carder’s team name here).”
And don’t even get me started on Saturday morning .