There must have been little to do some Saturday nights because no one with much of a bean would tune to WIIC to watch Studio Wrestling Exhibition for quality entertainment. The wrestling did not really fool anybody, did it? I mean if one guy can use a chair to clobber his opponents, why wouldn’t all the wrestlers take a chair into ring?
But of course, I did tune in. I saw Ringside Rosie the Pittsburgh woman with apparently no life aside from attending the weekly events. I saw the humiliation of Hall of Famer Pie Traynor hawking water heaters and plumbing fixtures. I saw the entertaining Bill Cardill who could straight-face with perfection as grown men with little to offer except loud mouth childish rants stepped to the microphone to boast of next week’s promised victory over Bruno Sammartino which of course would never happen. Cardill offered a credibly serious blow-by-blow of the events in and around the ring. He must have had the self-control of an iron-willed spy under fruitless interrogation. How could you not bust a gut dealing with such a canard?
When working with my high school debate partner in the fall of 1967, we were conducting an analysis of what had happened in the debate we lost earlier that day. SWE was playing quietly in the background. During a lull in the critique of our first affirmative speech, we watched the very end of the program and laughed at the announcement that “You must be 21 years of age to request tickets or attend.” It occurred to us that we, being only 17, might ask permission to attend the rehearsals instead. We wrote them for permission to attend the rehearsals Of course, in its reply letter, SWE insisted it was a contest of athletic skills. They would never admit to any rehearsals.
Many years later, while I was serving in the Army in Europe, I read the morning Stars and Stripes, a newspaper deigned for service personnel. In a day before CNN or the Today Show were offered to Americans serving overseas, Stars and Stripes did a good job of keeping you advised about happenings back home. A strike at the district where my wife’s aunt was teaching was updated regularly. The burning of Country’s BBQ in Columbus, Georgia (a tragedy of unspeakable scale for hungry Ft. Benning infantrymen) was outlined in painful detail. On one particular day there was a short article on a defense of a Pittsburgh professional wrestler who claimed his professionalism had been impugned. His defense, the article elaborated, was offered by my old debate partner. Apparently some people still believed that it was sport to wrestle while one party carried a hammer and the other stood haplessly by without a clue.