"How must I prepare, you must ask yourself: Should I jump off the tallest building in the world, should I lay on the lawn and let him run over me with lawnmowers, should I go to Africa and let it trouble me with raging elephants..." --ULTIMATE WARRIOR

"I don't know what he just said, but I think it sounded cool." --CHRIS JERICHO

Pro wrestling has like this reverse-Monet feel to it, immediately intelligible in the moment but lapse time and the premise falls apart. A match is something of an anti-narrative: a string of unrelated gestures, whose ending largely has nothing to do with the beginning or middle. This is where the comparisons to theater don't hold up, as does the supposedly implicit moral coding too, as the heel/face binary doesn't exactly let justice prevail. There is no accumulation of substantial fact, no substantial storyline to follow: There are only the moves, stylized to serve the character of the wrestler who performs them, though the moves themselves are self-reflexive, communicating outside the wrestler next to nada. Which is to say, style is not opposite substance here, nor even separate from it. In the ring, style IS substance.

I bring all this up because this fact, style = substance, was something my eight-year-old self intuitively understood when I watched the Ultimate Warrior go on his outlandish maniacal tangents when McMahon put the mic to him. Yet in the video above you got all these sideshow types--McMahon, Jim Ross, Mean Gene Okerlund, et al.--taking shots at the Warrior for not making any cumulative sense, i.e. fundamentally misunderstanding that Ultimate Warrior was taking the basic premise of pro wrestling and applying it to his interviews.

Keeping in mind how absurdly scripted national television is anymore, how even reality shows are given complex story arcs after smart and heavy edits, I have trouble understanding (a) how these interviews happened at all, (b) why McMahon allowed this to happen with such frequency, (c) what sort of top-down input/stern warnings Ultimate Warrior may have received from the writers or management types, considering that he really clearly said whatever the fuck he wanted, whenever he wanted, for as long as he needed to. Did he really have this much control over his character--who, as far as meta-characters goes in the WWF, Ultimate Warrior is my favorite, and possibly the best example of a WWF wrestler playing the character of a WWF wrestler. The Ultimate Warrior's meaning (substance) were wholly secondary to his delivery (style)--to the extent that if he had actual things he wanted to say, he ran the risk of drawing attention to the words themselves and away from the Ultimate Warriorness of how he spoke.

I like to think McMahon just trusted his instinct with Warrior, or let this one go for its obvious comedic value--and yet it seems like all these people heavily involved with the federation were just aggravated by Warrior. To an extent they had a right to be. This character, sorta like Doink, was high parody of pro wrestling's basic premise, though if you ask me, all that means is Warrior contained his own parody, and so was some kind of unironizable, undefeatable, truly ultimate symbol of himself.


Anonymous said...

I think what is more fascinating is the transformation from a mindfuck of neon, hairspray and muscles to a conservative, suit-wearing, internet bully legally named "WARRIOR," who makes inappropriate comments about "queering" in speeches and the death of Heath Ledger in his "Machete Blog."

Anonymous said...

I think what's even more fascinating is the transformation from the neon-tassled, face-painting mindfuck known as The Ultimate Warrior to the inappropriate-comment making, power-tie wearing internet bully known legally as WARRIOR.

Funny thing is, both men have an ongoing rivalry with Hulk Hogan.

Darko said...

Gold. Pure Gold.