Monday, May 18, 2015

Guest Column - James Mitchell on "Ufology as Pro Wrestling"

James Mitchell, aka James Vandenberg, The Sinister Minister, and Father James Mitchell

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a big fan of professional wrestling, and have been since I was a kid watching Leo Burke, The Cuban Assassin, Killer Karl Krupp, and the other legends of Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling on television here in Atlantic Canada. I even made a short documentary called "A Nite at the Opera" for the CBC years ago about a local indie promotion called Mainstream Wrestling based in riral Nova Scotia.

One of my favourite characters throughout the years was James Mitchell, a pro wrestling manager known by a number of aliases over his career, including James Vandenberg, The Sinister Minister, and Father James Mitchell. In real life, he James Mitchell, a cool guy who, as it turns out, is as much a fan of the paranormal subculture (from a skeptical point of view) as I am of pro wrestling. We became friends a few years ago via Facebook.

In the wake of the Roswell slides fiasco / con / hoax / brouhaha (take your pick), Mitchell sent me a note wherein he compared pro wrestling to ufology... which is something I once did on Radio Misterioso with Greg Bishop when we put on an ad hoc, off-the-top-of-our-heads ufological wrestling death match tournament that might be the funniest thing I will ever do.

Anyway, I asked James if I could post his observations, which I thought were spot on, and he kindly said yes. So without any further ado, let's get ready to rumble with James Mitchell on why ufology is a lot like pro wrestling!

Ufology as Pro Westling by James Mitchell

I sat back as an observer and was thoroughly entertained by the two year long Be Witness / Roswell Slides debacle. The other day my wife asked, "being that you have always said flying saucers, Bigfoot, ghosts, psychics etc., are all bullshit, why do I hear those subjects via podcasts every time I'm within ten feet of you and your computer? And what's the deal with those goddamned Roswell slides?"

Upon reflection, I had a "eureka" moment and explained to her that Ufology / paranormal drama has replaced professional wrestling as entertainment for me. The dynamics are very similar. 

The majority of the population doesn't give it the time of day and, for the most part, snickers and rolls their eyes about it. 

A small, yet vociferous minority ( the "marks") believe in it with religious fervor. They will even argue with an insider who tells them it's not real - They are the "tinfoil hat" crowd. 

There is also no shortage of what we carnies in the bump-and-groan-trade call "money marks". The money mark is someone with an open check book and zero understanding about the history and nature of the business or it's denizens. If they did, they would run for the hills rather than piss away their fortune. They become star struck because someone they have seen on TV is giving them the time of day and business advice. The dubious advice always includes the money mark featuring the grifter in a position of prominence and a fat payday.

The money mark is then put in the spotlight alongside their new "best friend" so he or she can distractedly gaze at their own reflection on TV or various social media platforms while they are being financially hornswaggled.

"This is new my friend Joe Blow who was abducted by aliens! Didn't you see him on Unsolved Mysteries? Or In Search Of back in 1978? He was on Ancient Aliens for fifteen seconds, too! He's FAMOUS! I'm going to finance the UFO Geek Symposium that he's planning! He says I'll quadruple my investment! I'll fly in and pay several of his colleagues who can't possibly be the filthy, lying, sociopaths everyone else says they are. After all, he vouches for them and he wouldn't lie to me, because I'm giving him top billing and top pay up front- in cash! That criminal record of his you saw online? He says it's DISINFORMATION!"

At the end of the day all money marks in wrestling or Ufology wind up learning the same lesson imparted upon the old lady who got talked into nursing an ailing viper that subsequently repaid her kindness with a fatal bite. "Lady," sneered the viper, "you knew I was a snake when you picked me up."

A slightly smaller crowd ("smart marks" or "smarks"), often much better educated and intelligent, is sort of fascinated by it from a sociological / psychological / watch the potential train wreck / entertainment point of view, and might spend spend a few bucks or even many hours of leisure time on it. They are not ashamed to say they follow it for various reasons. I suppose Jim Mosely and Greg Bishop would fit that characterization.

At the far end of the spectrum are those who are actively pissed off that folks would waste their time considering it for any reason, a la the James Randi crowd. It's all fake and not worthy of any serious thought. Therefore, anyone discussing it is beneath their contempt.

Then we have the cast of onscreen characters. The good guys, or "babyfaces" in pro wrestling parlance, that wave the flag of truth and righteousness within their fictional narrative. I put Kevin Randle, Nick Pope, and Richard Dolan in that pile.

"Heels" would be the usual suspects that are constantly peddling snake oil to the gullible and getting caught cheating by various means, yet somehow are able to repeat their nefarious deeds with no real sanctions of consequence. Massaun, Greer, Romanek, ad nauseam.

There is a subset of performers in Ufology that are analogous to what are referred to as "shooters" in pro wrestling. They have real world credentials. So long as they are in a position to get paid for furthering the fiction on their own terms without damaging their reputation beyond a wink and nudge from the knowing, they play into the story because their involvement lends an air of legitimacy. Some might even believe what they say. I would place Stan Friedman, J. Allen Hynek, and Edgar Mitchell in that category.

Finally, on the outer edges of the sub-culture we have the so called "dirt sheet" writers, ala Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer. They are particularly reviled by wrestlers and promoters alike because they report the facts, air dirty laundry when needed, and are not afraid to call "bullshit". That would be guys like yourself and Lance Moody. They "break kayfabe", "smarten up the marks", and often spoil the story before it unfolds with sober analysis. No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.

So from a wrestling booking standpoint, Roswell Slides fiasco was like a particularly bad WrestleMania PPV. Months of ballyhoo and build up about something that is not real to begin with and a big disappointment in it's ultimate presentation. There were highly charged, diametrically opposing promos from the white and black hats along with unflattering revelations of behind the scenes shenanigans, courtesy of truth seeking outside pundits.

Ultimately, the heel protégés of the "evil manager" Jaime Maussan - Carey, Schmidt, Dew, and Bragalia - were defeated by the forces of righteousness. As is always the custom after a big blow-off PPV, a couple of the defeated heels attempted to turn babyface and ask for forgiveness from the true believers, much like Sgt. Slaughter did after spending a year in cahoots with The Iron Sheik during the Desert Storm conflict. The evil manager then calls his former confederates liars and insists that the footage of any cheating or loss on the part of his stable has been doctored. The referee was in the babyface's pocket. He would have "gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids".

Then the cycle of chicanery starts all over again for another year. Only the main events change with slightly different line ups. The marks in the crowd will always hold up signs that say "DISCLOSURE" and chant "ROSWELL! ROSWELL! ROSWELL!", right on cue.

It's a ritual as comforting and predictable as the Catholic Mass for those who choose to suspend their disbelief.

At least that's how I perceive it.


Tom said...

Spot on analogy to Baby Face Dolan. Of course, he was pushed into the ring...I mean onstage.

Loki said...

Pauldur -

What a perfect, flawless, wonderful summary of 'the-story-so-far'! persuaded your fellow Nova Scotian, John Paul Tremblay, to play the role of 'James Mitchell'!!!

...I tremble in anticipation of David "Bubbles" (Mike Smith) Rudiak weighing in on the Smart DeBlur application to the Ramey Memo!

Comedy Gold!!!

Terry the Censor said...

> marks

Maussan has been on Twitter defending the alien ID of the Roswell slide figure. He has responded to our questions about his show (usually evasively). But yesterday I asked him about a report in a Mexican paper that his PPV had 2.5 MILLION subscribers. No response yet.

If that figure is correct, 2.5 million viewers at 19.99 pesos is about $3.3 million US.