As a kid in Nashville, I used to watch Championship Wrestling on Saturdays after the cartoons were over, or perhaps as a continuation of those cartoons. Although I lost interest as the years went on, I still pay a little attention to the broad outlines of this particular form of athletic entertainment. Part of this is because a former student of mine performs in the industry, part of it is because of its aspects of the traveling carnival, and part of it is because of the sheer goofiness of it all.
It’s this latter reason that brings me to today’s post. Appalachian Mountain Wrestling is a small promotion based in Mrs. M’s childhood region of Eastern Kentucky. One of their newest villains (“Heels” in the parlance, who are opposed by “faces”, in turn short for “babyface”) is 36-year-old Daniel Harnsberger, whose nom de mat is Dan Richards. His particular schtick, however, sets him apart from most other bad guys. Per the Washington Post:
He plays a smug liberal elitist who lectures the audience on political matters. His enemies are “Fox News maggots.” His fictional character hails from D.C. His wrestling shorts bear a donkey. He insults his fans’ Appalachian accents, correcting them — “Do you live in a holler? No, you live in a hollow.”
He even calls his finishing signature wrestling move the “Liberal Agenda.”
In one promo video, he wore a shirt patterned with dozens of photos of Hillary Clinton’s face, patched together in a strange collage, and he addressed AMW’s fans: “You people need to be reprogrammed. You continually vote against your own interests. You put people in Congress and the White House that aren’t going to help you. They’re not going to bring your jobs back.”
His handle? “The Progressive Liberal.”
Now of course, this sort of slagging of the audience is part of every heel’s repertoire, and we’ve seen forms of this particular flavor in Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase’s class warfare routine and the anti-Americanism of various “Russian” performers in the Cold War era. Richards’s updated political version, however, seems to have struck a nerve in these polarized times, drawing him notice from Deadspin and Sports Illustrated.
In some regards, this is emblematic of the ongoing Politicization of Everything (with interesting echoes of the folks who have complained about ESPN’s increasing interest in politics), and I generally see that as a bad thing. On the other hand, given my ever increasing despite for the political agon, the reduction of the process to whacked-out live-action cartoons may be entirely appropriate.
I’m just glad there’s now a pro wrestler for the Mad Dog. And we can only hope for someone to set up a match with a certain Mexican luchador.