Induction: “Wrestling (It’s a Laugh)” – WrestleCrap, 1930s style

19 Submitted by on Thu, 02 June 2022, 22:20

Theatrical short, 1937

If there’s one thing I love to do on this site, it’s dig up old, old wrestling.

A Superman wrestling episode from 1952? A women’s wrestling movie from 1951?

Nah, I said old wrestling. Wrestling from back when Mae Young was a rookie. Wrestling from back when World War I wasn’t called that yet. 

It’s good fortune that wrestling footage is almost as old as film itself.

(True, wrestling had already been around for millennia before the motion picture camera, but until I can get some confirmation on Arrhichion of Phigalia forcing a tapout while dead, I’ll stick to its more modern variants, thank you very much)

Until today, the oldest piece of WrestleCrap to feature on this site was the 1938 film, Swing Your Lady, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan.

But thanks to one of our Patreon patrons, I’ve got my hands on something even older than that: the 1937 theatrical short, Wrestling (It’s a Laugh).

And not only is this film WrestleCrap, it’s, well, WrestleCrap. Sixty three years before this site hit the Internet’s airwaves, sportscaster Ted Husing put together wacky wrestling clips and provided snarky commentary. 

In a way, it’s cheating to induct someone else’s induction, but thanks to wrestling’s unofficial 85-year rule, this film is fair game. So let’s take a trip back to when every movie had a title card at the beginning…

….and when guys named “Adolph” could introduce themselves un-self-consciously.

“Hello everyone,” says the narrator. “This is Ted Husing looking into wrestling, which is rassling.”

No argument there. Wrestling is rassling, at least in the USA.

“It’s a laugh from Maine to California”, he says. Alaska and Hawaii wouldn’t be states for another two decades, so his geography is impeccable, too.

This is the high point of the commentary, however. After this, it’s just jokes about how the wrestlers are gay

…or need to wipe their feet…

…or have to move furniture for housewives.

Imagine doing a rolling Death Valley Driver, over the top rope, onto the ring apron, and landing on the floor, all in nineteen-freaking-thirty-seven, only for some smart-ass to dub it over with phony dialogue and a cymbal crash. This kind of disrespect would never happen in wrestling today (the apron having been discovered to be the hardest part of the ring).

The next bout doesn’t fare too much better. Two seconds in, and Ted thinks the two grapplers are making out.

Also notable is a pun he makes about one wrestler biting the other’s foot: 

“The referee says even a heel should respect a man’s sole.” Either this narrator is using insider terms, or wrestling’s jargon is simply 1930s slang that refuses to be updated.

Lost in all the yuks is this sick back suplex over the ropes:

As Ted has run out of material, he simply speeds up the rest of the match for some cheap zaniness.

The third match is a laugh riot, though, pitting two girls against each other. And by girls, I mean dames

— dames whom the commentator identifies only as “the blonde” and “the brunette”, “Blondie” and “Brownie”, or “the blonde moll” and “the dark dame”.

Do they belong in the home? “Brother, not in my home!” That’s not to say old Ted would like to take them out for a night on the town, either. “On second thought, those are two dames I’m not bothering to date up!”

When our narrator’s not weighing the pros and cons of dating up the wrestlers, he’s making jokes about perms and facials and complexions

…and, very occasionally, informing the viewer about some of the wrestling holds being applied. For instance, there’s the flying mare, which was all the rage in the women’s wrestling of the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.

When there’s finally something to giggle about (this top-rope bronco buster), Ted whiffs and jokes about having a sit-down. Damn Hays code.

With the film almost over, we’re only now getting to some actual wresting comedy.

First, there’s a blindfold battle royal. This one is noteworthy not just as an early example of a multi-man gimmick match…

…but also for the fists on poles that the referees carry, occasionally prodding the hooded musclemen to keep the action going. 

This good clean fun takes a bit of a turn when the winner of the match pantses an official. If Jerry Lawler were 85 years older and gay, he’d have had a field day watching this one.

The last match of the movie pits Baltimore’s own Jack Erickson against…

…himself. Somebody tag Jim Cornette — this guy is killing the business! 

Alas, it’s only 1937, so the best anyone can do is telegraph Cornette’s grandma.

While a sequel to Wrestling (It’s a Laugh) is not forthcoming, seeing as the original cast is all dead, that doesn’t mean we won’t see any more black-and-white classics here on WrestleCrap. In fact, as I type this, I have on my hard drive a wrestling short even older than this one – an animated one, at that!

And no, it’s not that Amos ’n’ Andy cartoon, unless one of our gracious Patreon supporters can ship me a forty foot pole.

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
19 Responses to "Induction: “Wrestling (It’s a Laugh)” – WrestleCrap, 1930s style"
  1. Jimbolian says:

    WOW. I’m shocked Wrestlecrap has actually been around for 85 years!

  2. Sean Bateman says:

    This makes the Edward Asner/Verne Gagne version of the Wrestler or No Holds Barred look like Citizen Kane

  3. Premier Blah says:

    Husing was one of the first sportscasters actually, bad comedy or otherwise. I wonder if he mentored a 80 year old Mike Check.

  4. Adam Smith says:

    Can we bring back the ref fist poles?

  5. Andrew Herlan says:

    Are you sure that’s not Jack Benny?

  6. Michael Hunt says:

    WrestleCrap: The Worst In Wrestling Since 1937. I still can’t believe The Fightin’ Nazi’s didn’t win the 1947 Gooker Award.

  7. cavalier24601 says:

    Somebody needs to add the top rope bronco buster to their moveset.

  8. Enhancement Talent 3 Mark II says:

    Great induction Art. If it’s old rasslin’ you enjoy, check out the W.C. Fields classic “Man on a Flying Trapeze.” There’s a short wrestling scene at the end with Tor Johnson vs Harry Ekezian. Release date 1935!

  9. Gusarooni says:

    Dude! How did you not see this! Check out that Twitter video at the 2 minute mark! The first ever DX Crotch Chop is professional wrestling history!

  10. thepwbposter says:

    After digging up more of wrestling back in the B.C. days I am more baffled they always wrestled nude but it was considered normal back then.

  11. Statistician says:

    STATISTICALLY…

    This is, as you state in the intro, the oldest piece of WrestleCrap ever featured. It’s a year older than Swing Your Lady, the previous holder, as well as being 47 years older than 1984 (which is the earliest year with 5 or more inductions, so I consider it the year the WrestleCrap era began in earnest).
    The word “heel” for contemptible person is first attested in 1914, which is older than you’d think, but it’s also younger than the first worked wrestling matches, so it’s uncertain which came first in this particular chicken-or-egg situation.
    Commentary on women’s wrestling did not change much between 1937 and… oh… even 2013. If the Code had allowed it, I’m sure Ted would have been barking about puppies.
    The display of a man wrestling himself predates the most famous example of this, Graham Chapman’s “Colin Bomber Harris” routine, which he developed during his college days in the 60s. It’s a legendary example of physical comedy, and naturally it appears in a lot of Monty Python supplementary works including their Hollywood Bowl show. Go search up “Colin Bomber Harris” on YouTube. You’ll love it.

    Join me next time for more statistics and useless information!

    • RD Reynolds says:

      I LOVE THESE STATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Dog Hands (Lee W.) says:

      Here comes Bomber now, circling round, looking for an opening. He’s wrestled himself many times in the past, this boy, so he knows practically all his own moves by now.

  12. Nicholas DeLarge says:

    It actually IS 1930s slang that’s never been updated. “Heel” was just an equivalent to where we would say “jerk” or “asshole”.

  13. Caden C. says:

    For MSTies out there, Ted Husing is the same announcer from the infamous short “Catching Trouble”.

  14. Ben says:

    All the original cast are dead? I didn’t even know they were sick!

  15. Steven S says:

    Just a clarification on the word “heel”. it wasn’t a wrestling term. A heel was tthe lowest of the low. The saying was “As low as a heel”, playing on the 2 meanings of the word low. Watch old Looney Tunes cartoons and every so often when a character has done something despicable that they regret, their head becomes a shoe’s heel – this is from this meaning. I am not sure when wrestling adopted it as meaning a bad guy, but it was a 19th century insult in many English-speaking countries, separate from the world of rasslin’.

  16. fanofstuff says:

    I love how he identifies the ladies as “The Blonde” and “The Brunette” ignoring the fact that the match is being filmed in black and white.

leave a comment