They used to print the television schedule for your local stations in the newspaper. (Let me back up for my younger readers: they used to print the news every day on thin sheets of rolled-up paper and deliver it to your doorstep.)
As a youngster, my favorite section of the newspaper — except for maybe the funny pages — was the TV listings. This was my ticket to the wonderful world of Pro Wrestling before there was on-line streaming, before DVRs, VCRs, and even before cable feeds. If I were home from school — especially on Saturdays when pro wrestling was most common — I would always browse the TV schedule in the newspaper searching for that one magical, arousing little 9-letter word.
When I found the Holy Grail — the word “Wrestling” in my local listings — I would memorize the time and channel. I did not want to forget to watch it! (This was when most households had only one TV so you had to be a bit pushy and very persistent if you wanted to watch something. Your dumb brother would rather watch some stupid crime drama or your parents might turn on the local news, uggghh.)
Frequently scanning the TV listings trained my brain to find the word “Wrestling” printed anywhere on a page, no matter how small and non-descript. The word would just pop out and reveal itself as if it had been highlighted.
To the left is a typical page of television listings from a 1970’s newspaper. There were only 7 channels available, so it was easy to print all the shows beginning every half hour of the day. Imagine how different life would be with only 7 channels of in-home entertainment…
Test your skill — see how long it takes you to locate the word “Wrestling”. Click the image if you need to enlarge it (which is likely if you were watching wrestling in the 70’s.) If you scanned the TV listings for the magic word as often as I did, it shouldn’t take you more than 10 seconds to find it. Here is the answer if your eyes, like mine, aren’t as sharp as they used to be…
My younger readers who grew up post-Internet may not realize how thirsty we felt back then, when our favorite show aired only a few times per week. Finding that sacred word — “Wrestling” — on the TV schedule was a promise and a tease, as triggering and sexually powerful as any pornographic word or phrase.
The little word was a promise of upcoming shirtless masculinity, of exciting, gratuitous violence, campy performances, gorgeous costumes and freaky masks, flexing muscles and nasty cheating that made our humdrum lives worth living. Finding that magic word in the newspaper made your heart skip a beat as you heard choirs of angels sing.
Below is another Word Search for you to test your skills, this time from the 1980s where you see more channels coming on-line. Pretend your neighborhood buddies had invited you to go play baseball at the old sandlot — what time would you need to be home by if you wanted to watch your favorite television show?
Here is the answer if you are perhaps a Millenial and did not have the patience to find it. You can see that other programs would be described in a little paragraph — a few sentences selling you on the show. Wrestling was never given this special treatment — the editors never wrote up who was in the Main Event or what wrestling holds would be used to torture the jobbers that week.
This lack of attention sent the message that Pro Wrestling was on the fringe, a naughty or shameful freak-show that they didn’t want to draw our attention to, but would broadcast nevertheless. This made Wrestling seem even more intriguing and appealing, a dirty secret nearly hidden in the TV listings.
I didn’t want any attention brought to this underground world or else the Do-Gooders might spoil it. I sure didn’t want anyone in my household to notice when it was televised to perhaps try to block me from watching it. So I was perfectly happy with a one-word title — “Wrestling” — it was all I needed and hopefully nobody else even noticed it.
Below is another page of television listings for you to word search, this time from a Saturday morning in the 1990’s after cable television became available and our selection of channels exploded. If you look closely enough, you will find that wrestling was actually televised twice on this day, representing the greater abundance we enjoyed once cable TV was invented. Note: the second wrestling program is not listed using the word “wrestling” so it may be harder to find. (Here is the answer if you can’t find either or both listings.)
So what is my point with this walk down classic television Memory Lane? I guess I want to reminisce about a simpler time, when pro wrestling content was extremely rare, and therefore much more desirable.
For fans of a certain age, I believe our obsession over the wealth and abundance of pro wrestling nowadays stems from the relatively impoverished conditions, when it came to wrestling, that we grew up in. It’s like when people who survived the Great Depression become hoarders.
Remember when you’d casually tune to a channel on which pro wrestling was going to appear next so you could act as if it just happened to come on by coincidence? Remember when you’d sit patiently listening to negative and derisive comments about wrestling from other family members, but you kept on watching your wrestling anyway because you loved it? I sure do.