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