Posted 26 October 2016 - 11:38 AM
Interesting listen, and I'm glad you spent a good amount of time on Mohammed Hasan cos personally I thought that whole debacle was not just a dark time for wrestling and the WWE, but America itself. You didn't get into the whole debate part of the angle with Lawler, but you've got to look back on that stuff and just cringe. Just horrible all around.
I had a couple of thoughts listening:
1. I was thinking about someone in wrestling history who embodies American values and fits the definition of "patriorism" you outlined on this show, and the answer I came up with was someone who isn't actually American: Bruno Sammartino.
What is more American than the Italian immigrant who grew up under Nazi oppression making his way to the bright lights of New York, and through a hard work ethic raised himself from the boot straps from the docks to world titles?
Bruno embraced American values properly, and fought off evil Nazis (Waldo von Erich), evil Japanese guys (Tanaka / Fuji), evil communists (Ivan Koloff), and even Greek guys turned rougue (Spiros Airon).
The whole story just seems very "American" to me, even if Bruno was never excpicitly flag waving about it.
2. Some of the political events / social contexts might need teasing out a bit more:
Mr Fuji (also not really Japanese by the way) was talked about a lot here, but I think there three distinct phases to him as a heel:
60s-70s: He's basically a carry over from World War 2. During this period it was stand for Japanese guys to be evil foreingers in USA and for Americans to be evil foreigners in Japan for obvious reasons. People in the crowds could still remember the war.
80s: When Fuji transitions to wearing the hat and cane, WWF were tapping into anxieties about Japanese big business taking over and putting American firms out of business. The influx of Tyota, Honda, Sony, Nintendo, Nikon, and dozens of other Japanese products during that period led to a big outcry about this. It's reflected in some of the more political music of the early-80s too. It's not just racism against "the sneaky Japanese", it was speaking -- I *guess* -- to genuine blue collar concerns that the Ford factory worker was gonna be out of a job because everyone is buying Japanese cars, etc.
90s: When Fuji goes into the robe, he's more ceremonial and part of the Yokozuna package as this fearsome Sumo monster. I don't think Yokozuna was tied especially to anything political, he was just a monster heel, and packaging him as a sumo with Fuji holding the Japanese flag made sense.
1979: This is when Great Arab Hussein transitions to Iron Sheik and it's right around the time of the Iranian revolution when Khomeni was saying "death to the great Satan USA", and thereafter of course Jimmy Carter's Iran hostrage crisis, which made Iron Sheik one of the hottest heels in history for a four or five year stretch there till about 85.
The Original Sheik / Skandor Akbar / Adnan Al-Kaisey: I think all of these guys to some extent spoke to American paranoia about being held hostage to oil prices by those damn A-rabs. Original Sheik is also a bit of a call-back to just old-fashioned orientialism / exoticism, there were a lot of wrestling Turks / Sultans in the 1920s and 30s right through to the 70s.
This is stretching things, but you could see Nikita Koloff turning to tag with Dusty in 87 as wrestling's recognition of perestroika.
I'll leave it there.