Saturday, August 10, 2013

Memphis Heat – The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’

(Off the Top Rope) My first thought watching this spectacular documentary about the Memphis-centered pro wrestling scene in the 1960s and 1970s is that maybe all that talk about athletes and concussions and brain damage is less spot on than I thought, because Jerry Lawler, Jackie Fargo, Jimmy Valient, and Sputnik Monroe took more blows to the head than anyone, and they are so sharp now it’s ridiculous. My second thought involves rushes of memories of watching regional, low-budget pre-WWF wrestling as a kid and how utterly engaging and organic and spectacular it was despite lengthy 2 out of 3 falls matches lack of muscle tone, and a production vibe that felt like one of those local weathermen in a Dracula cape hosting monster movies shows. Or more specifically, like the low budget car dealer ads starring wrestling personalities that played during the Sunday morning broadcasts in Chicago. I recall one of my eye-openers to adulthood as a kid being the day after a huge Nature Boy Buddy Rogers match that had been hyped for weeks on All Star Wrestling I checked the Tribune and there were no results listed in the sports pages, despite this clearly being one of the biggest sporting events in the nation. But as we learn in Memphis Heat, those results might have been in the Memphis newspaper, because their wonderful broadcasts (we see plenty of excerpts of not just wrestling but the intervews and shenanigans that made their productions special) were some of the highest rated shows in the region. They sold out the Colliseum more times then Elvis we are remnded, and time after time this engaging film shows why not only the immensely talented, incredibly intelligent Lawler earned his “King” title, but how all these characters, from the bold Monroe (who refused to honor the city’s segregation policies) to the intense Valient (who really scared me as a kid) are true wrasslin’ royalty.

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