Saturday, April 24, 2010

Deadspin's "Dead" Wrestler Of The Week: Yokozuna

Most people who follow blogs closely have probably heard of Gawker media. They are the pinnacle of blog popularity. One of the websites under them is Deadspin, which claims to deliver sports "without access, favor or discretion." They absolutely come through on that claim as their targets have ranged from the likes of Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez to Sean Salisbury and Steve Phillips. Anyway, I visit Deadspin for the sheer lulz and their often humorous take on sports. Plus, they have some excellent writers like Drew Margarey and Will Leitch. Anyway, a few weeks ago they started a weekly tribute to dead wrestlers. These columns have been absolutely great as they combine passion for wrestling, emotional attachment to the wrestlers along with some excellent writing. For this week. Deadspin took a glance at one of the most unique, but ultimately tragic wrestling career: Yokozuna.

Here is Deadspin's own description of it.

Every week, the Masked Man, Deadspin's pro wrestling correspondent, honors the sport's fallen and examines their legacies — famous and obscure alike. Today: Yokozuna, who died of a heart attack in 2000.

I will just do a teaser of sorts on here, if you want to read the rest of it, you should click right here

Pro wrestling has long been a land of giants, a playground for literally outsized men to act out metaphorically outsized tropes and storylines for the teleological gratification of the masses. Nevertheless, when a 500-pound man makes his way down the aisle, people stop to pay notice. Or, hey, maybe they're a little bit distracted at just that moment, as were announcers Vince McMahon and Curt Hennig when Yokozuna first set (bare) foot in the WWF ring — but once they noticed, they were suitably awed. Oozed McMahon: "Take a look at this! Take a look at the girth! Take a look at 505 pounds of Yokozuna! This man is huge!""

Led by longtime scoundrel manager Mr. Fuji, Yokozuna — nĂ© Rodney Anoa'i — was a behemoth even by the bloated standards of the WWF, for which a new plus-sized hire wasn't exactly a rare occurrence. But gargantuan wrestlers — be they tall, fat, over-muscled, or some combination of the three — never seem to lose their luster in the eyes of the wrestling audience. Or, more precisely, in the eyes of the McMahon and the other heirs of Barnum who run the shows and sign the paychecks.

From the earliest days of the sport, in every fairground or VA hall where a ring was erected and a crowd assembled, there were semi-athletic butterballs on hand to shock and awe the audience with their mind-boggling bulk, put on display like their carnival sideshow forebears. These men, though — from Haystacks Calhoun and Gorilla Monsoon to The One Man Gang and King Kong Bundy — didn't just suit up for the gawking. They whooped and jeered and, once the battle commenced, they punched and chopped and (usually at the end) fell down heavily upon their opponents, the spectacle of their king-sizedness now palpably painful and almost interactive. Still freaks in a sense, they'd nevertheless upped the ante considerably. They were now participants.

You can tell that the Masked Man is a huge wrestling fan. There is a reverence to his words when he talks about Yokozuna, I know that's exactly how I felt when I watched Yoko in a wrestling ring. This is one of sadder "Dead Wrestlers of the Week" since it chronicles Yoko's decline from the top of the business to very bottom just as his health diminished.

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