RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition who publishes zines & physical books & electronic books & music & photography & digital art & just generally whatever feels necessary to survive this deluded earth thru Rojonekku Word Fighting Arts survival systems (Version 69, establish 14 Feb 1973). Comments encouraged.

Wednesday, June 13

MOTYOTD: Rhodes vs. Flair (September 17, 1981)


The internal jihad of creative ambitions is Art vs. Commodity. The innate desire to make art has existed as long as humans have, and in fact many theorize is as close to that God nature as we can get in our existence, long before there were towns or cities or economies. The act of making commodity of art was later, after some of these so-called civilized steps had been taken collectively. I think about this a lot, especially when I undergo the task of writing a bunch of nonsense stream of conscious philosophisizing gibberish about something like professional wrestling for free on an open and ancient looking website, when the commodity thinkers (and thoughts planted into my own mind) tell me “you should be writing a book” or working at building some sort of *career* with whatever the fuck it is I do. Except I’m not compelled necessarily to do the things that such actions would require. I tend to read ridiculous nonsense, from throughout history, way more than I read novels, which are a relatively new genre if we’re thinking long-term. Ibn al-Arabi wasn’t writing novels, nor was Aristotle or Avicenna or Tu Fu or Santoka or and so on and so forth.
This relates to this project and tonight’s match because I chose the Wrestling Observer match of the year awards as a list to remark upon because Dave Meltzer has encouraged his year end awards to honor greatness in terms of the art of the theatrical fighting act, more than the commodity, although he gives mixed signals about this due to his penchant to speak so heavily about what draws and shit like that. But ultimately the goal seems to be the positive superlative “of the year” awards are supposed to go to excellent shit, not just something that sold a ton or generated more revenue. And being from the southern NWA territorial days, specifically the Mid Atlantic region (which I watched religiously at 12:00 pm on Saturday afternoons on channel 6 out of Richmond, and then would try to stay up late until like 12:30 on Saturday nights to catch World Wide Wrestling – their second hour of TV – on channel 13 out of Lynchburg), Ric Flair is the true God of this Professional Wrestling. There is no equal. None. I mean sure you can be a completely immersed wrestling dork and make well thought out arguments about how someone else might be better artist in the squared circle, and have valid examples to prove these arguments, perhaps not beyond reproach but well enough I ain’t gonna argue with you. But when it comes to taking that internal jihad of Art vs. Commodity, and becoming a master of both sides, yet somehow still being more of an amazing artist rather than just a commodity, nobody has excelled at that like he did.
The 1980s in professional wrestling were a philosophical battle itself, one that echoes my comparison to this internal jihad, because World Championship Wrestling was led more by that Art argument (in my opinion) as exemplified by Ric Flair. Meanwhile, the WWE was pure commodity, at least once Vince McMahon’s demented genius took over the program, complete with cartoons and cereal and music videos and well-known wrestling names repackaged as trademarks-filed new characters. This was exemplified by Hulk Hogan and Hulkamania, which was purely a marketing angle that was repetitively beaten over children’s heads as they grew up that eventually the marketing took hold and Hulkamania was real, in a manufactured sense. Ric Flair was Art, and Hulk Hogan was Commodity.
Thus, as commodity, you can easily find Hulk Hogan’s first WWE title victory over the Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden, both in owner hosted format with the WWE network, and also quickly bootlegged over and over in video formats online, where commodity is circulated as fast and free as possible.
Art, however, is harder to find. This 1981 victory by Ric Flair over Dusty Rhodes, as shown on TV in Greensboro, North Carolina, for his first NWA World title reign, I could not find in its entirety that easily. In fact, I gave up. Maybe it doesn’t exist. Maybe the WWE owns it and is sitting on it, which is weird in itself because it means Commodity has won the Art vs. Commodity jihad if actual art is possessed legally by an entity which had nothing to do with it in the first place, and then shelved to increase Commodified Value for some later point. That’s actually really sad.
Ric Flair did not become the greatest because of marketing. He traveled the Mid Atlantic region with unparalleled charisma, as Mid Atlantic champion (the first step), then U.S. Champion (the next step, and one that legitimized regional star as World title contender), and he did by criss-crossing the Carolinas and Virginia for years. He survived a plane wreck and came back more charismatic than ever, and his star kept growing and growing. Though a Minnesotan by birth, he put in the miles on the roads and the years in the region to become a naturalized Carolina man. (Not sure on his stance on waving his shirt around his head like a helicopter, though.)


The story behind this match is Rhodes already had signed a rematch with Harley Race, so he perhaps was looking ahead to that showdown. Flair was a heel in the Carolinas, and Rhodes a hero in Florida, so this took place in Kansas City, Missouri, which at that time with the territorial system, meant it was somewhat removed from immediate attention of local fans, so the good/bad dichotomy could be blurred just slightly enough for the live crowd, who were obviously pro-Rhodes, but not out of control like they would’ve been if this was a home match for either man. It is almost as if it were neutral ground for their characters at the time.
There, of course, is a long sequence where Flair has Rhodes clamped down in a Figure 4, and Rhodes does not surrender, does not get counted out, but his knees are weakened by the move. He finally reverses it, and Flair breaks, rushing out the ring for an early career version of his mad dash up to the top rope from outside the ring, but Rhodes catches him and goes for a suplex.


But Rhodes’ knees are too weak, and he crumbles underneath Flair’s weight, who lands on top for pinning position and gains his first ever World title reign, in a way at this neutral territory that is not outright bad or good for either man. The time stamp tells me this was a 20-minute match but that’s twenty minutes I’m not going to get easily inside this commodified internet.


The details of the art are lost for the highlights, the big moments. Even within the context of this piece, I’ve taken what was a 20-minute match condensed to a 3-minute video, and broke that down further to a bunch of words and a few five-second gifs. And to what end? Shouldn’t I have been working on a novel? Outlining a fake world instead of writing about a fake one from almost forty years ago? But what is the point of any of that? To make money by creating commodity from the words that shoot into my mind without thought? Who the fuck cares? Fuck novels and published books and projects with purpose that ends in some sort of bank deposit, which seem to be getting more and more meager anyways. Even the commodities have been chipped away, so that the worker gets less and less while the conduit through which these works are delivered gets more and more. In the Art vs. Commodity jihad, Commodity is winning super fucking hard right now, to the point that shitty Art seems amazing to us, and we throw around the word “genius” about every one-project wonder we accidentally stumble across on our social media feeds.
And while all this can be depressing if you get lost in meritocracy myths and believing that mark Sisyphus’s delusion that there is purpose to life, it also does not matter, because if I have a haiku event, and a small crowd of people are gathered to share their words, their own little literary snippets of self art, and I say something about how we shall all “whoo!” like Ric Flair, people from all walks of life know what the fuck I’m talking about. That is the essence of Flair, in a single syllable, and it has transcended commodity, and no person or entity can ever truly own it, despite all legal claims otherwise, and to Whoo! is to be free of all that bullshit. Fuck you commodification of all creative impulses, and fuck your claims of intellectual property colonizing every creative act since the beginning of American time. Whoo, motherfucker. Whoo.

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