Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wrestling Six Packs: Patriotic Gimmicks

Photo Credit: WWE.com
Yesterday was Independence Day, in case this is the first time you've read this blog all day and live, say, in Kazakhstan or some other country where July 4th is just another day. But yeah, in America, it's a big deal. Since pro wrestling has become ingrained in American culture, of course several gimmicks within the artform have certain patriotic tinges. Here are six of my favorites.

1. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan

HOOOOOOOOOO! Ol' Hacksaw may be the most iconic embodiment of the Red, White and Blue. I've written about him at length before, so here's what I wrote in honor of his Hall of Fame induction:
Duggan was always a sentimental favorite of mine. Back when I first really got into wrestling, he was my second favorite guy behind Hulk Hogan, a guy whom today would probably have gotten a title run or two because of how over he was. Of course, Duggan was a hero of a long gone era, back when it was cool to be a patriot. Even for how jingoistic wrestling crowds still are and how well foreign heels still can get over, the all-American face has disappeared. Even if his gimmick was cheap and he acted like a borderline mental patient, Duggan's affable spirit and gung-ho, take no prisoners approach in the ring endeared him to several of the WWF's devoted fans, myself included.
And here's what I wrote about him last Fourth of July:
Was Duggan the best technical wrestler? Hell no. Was he the most handsome wrestler? No, he was as homely as a mule. However, he was resilient. He was tough. He never said die. He embodied America better than anyone else did. A blue-collar, flag-waving hero for all the kids to look up to. He made it proud to be an American. He fought Nikolai Volkoff and Iron Sheik. His flag waving made Communists everywhere shit their pants. When Ronald Reagan told Gorbechev to "tear down that wall", you know why Gorby complied? Reagan had Duggan standing right behind him. Jim Duggan's "HOOOOOOOOO!" haunted Fidel Castro's nightmares until the day his brain finally gave out. Any time China starts shit, Duggan heads over there with his 2x4 and reminds them why they'll never stand a chance, even though they outnumber us 4 to 1. So, let's hear it for America, July 4th and Hacksaw Jim Duggan, tough guy.
In short, fuck you, Hacksaw's the man.

2. The Great American Bash

The name of the event always conjured up images of summer. Cookouts, fireworks, the American flag. There's just such a tradition behind the name, even if the event had become "just another PPV" in its later years. I think there's a lot of potential for a special event here. I know the logistics of having PPV outdoors can be rough, but a cookout-themed event? Yeah, I'd go in a heartbeat.

3. The Lex Express

I extolled the virtues of the event that launched this bus-tour around the country earlier on today, so why wouldn't I list this? While Luger didn't exactly pan out for WWE as a top guy, I loved the Lex Express as a kid. So cheesy, but so fun at the same time. Plus, it's inspired the Flex Express today, so it gets a lot of replay value as well.

4. Kurt Angle

Angle made the American hero character archetype and flipped it on its head, playing up his persona so geekily that he got boos instead of the cheers that his forebears would have garnered. In the early days, Angle's character was so fresh and goofy that he was truly an innovator. It didn't hurt that his comedic delivery was on point.

5. Steve Austin

When you think Stone Cold, you generally don't imagine the Stars 'n Stripes. In fact, he generally embodies nihilism, selfishness and rampant recklessness. But for a hot second, he was the leader of an unlikely group of invaders into Canada to battle the Hart Foundation. Yes, Canadian Stampede, generally regarded as the best In Your House and one of the greatest overall PPVs ever, featured a 10-man main event that saw Austin defend America's honor, along with Goldust, Ken Shamrock and the Road Warriors, in the heart of Hart country, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He wasn't singing Lee Greenwood or draped in Old Glory, but on that day, Austin was a de facto patriot.

6. Tribute to the Troops

In a serious note, one of the best things WWE does each year is the Tribute to the Troops. It can be hip to forget the military or to bash them for the sins of the political fat cats who send them to war for their own personal gain, but the WWE never forgets these brave men and women. They actually are treated well all year long, gaining free entry into WWE events, but the best is when the company brings the action to them. It's a total fanservice show, but for these fans who may not be there to enjoy the show next year, well, it's well-deserved.

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