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Big Tim Sylvia goes pro (wrestling)

9/13/2010

If you really want to grunt and sweat and make a job of it, you could draw some thin parallels between Tim Sylvia and Harlan McClintock, the fictional protagonist of Rod Serling's teleplay-turned-movie "Requiem for a Heavyweight." In both instances, the audience witnesses two former champions taking a precipitous fall from grace in prizefighting -- only to be turned out and suffer exaggerated falls in the witless world of professional wrestling.

McClintock was the more tragic figure: Burned by boxing, he suffered from a punch-drunk brain and few opportunities. Sylvia has no such condition (that anyone is aware of) and probably will make a nice stack of cash for a wrestling debut rumored to be against Josh Barnett at the end of the month in Japan. But isn't there some level of tragedy in the idea of a champion reduced to flailing around a ring?

Maybe. Maybe not. Wrestling in Japan is a somewhat more noble pursuit than it is in the States. I doubt Sylvia will be asked to eat dog food, as Ken Shamrock once did on World Wrestling Entertainment television, or sing a Frank Sinatra ballad in the manner David "Tank" Abbott warbled on World Championship Wrestling.

I wonder if this isn't a double standard: Audie Murphy fought in World War II, acted as bravely as any man ever has and went on to act on soundstages for Hollywood, even replicating his own war efforts on-screen at one point. And no one gave him any heat for it.

I suppose the difference is that Murphy put in his time, and any acting pursuits were seen as a victory lap. Pro wrestling, in contrast, is a demotion from actual competition. In a world full of movies that can capably present fictional action and where you can watch real fighting, it seems like an antique form of entertainment.

If you've always been an actor, great. If you're now feigning punches in a circus atmosphere when you were once best known for being a real athlete, it's more than a little disappointing.