One look at Georgette Krieger, and it's a case of melted heart. She is 78, all of 4-feet-10, perhaps 90 pounds, her shoulders stooped, her hair Grandma Gray. She is the sort of elderly lady to whom you would instantly give your seat on the bus - for fear of being booed by your fellow passengers if you didn't.
So what is Georgette Krieger doing prancing around Capital Centre on a snowy Saturday afternoon? Why is she shouting "Tanaka, you stink!" at a mostly-naked Japanese gentleman three times her size? Why does she answer in the earthiest possible way when an even larger fellow orders her to "Sit down, old lady"?
Because this is professional wrestling, silly. If you've ever been, you'd never ask.
Whatever went on at Capital Centre Saturday, it was clearly professional. One look at ticket stubs reading $6 would confirm that. But it wan't wrestling in the classic sense. Carefully choregraphed charades, perhaps. Fatuous farce, if you prefer.
But definitions matter not a whit to Georgett Krieger and the 1,000 or so Washington-area types who never miss one of the monthly "world championships."
"I just love it, that's all," Krieger says, ducking in an obviously practiced way as a body hurtles past her, having been heaved out of the ring by another. "This and my church. They're the only thing I've ever loved."
Unlike church, though, you get to talk back at the wrestling matches. And a wrestling crowd, even in oh-so-diplomatic Washington, is nothing not noisy. To scream the first thing that comes into your head is expected. To get excited is automatic.
"I've never seen anything like this," Mark Schulitz, an usher, was saying, a few minutes before things got going.
"They say we have at least one heart attack every time we have one of these. And these people are something. Last time, we had a guy shooting at the wrestles from up there with a peashooter.
"The one thing they always tell us is not to laugh. These people take it seriously."
So, from time to time, do the authorities.
In 1959, when weekly wrestling in Washington was an institution, a group of fans got so exercised over a fishy result in a "title bout" that they complained to President Eisenhower. He actually appointed a commission to study the complaint.
A year later, a group of Washington promters was investigated by a grand jury. Seems they had scheduled a series of bouts for 7:30 one night. Trouble was, they called the newspapers at 7 to give them the results of the matches. Just wanted the papers to have the results in time for first edition deadline, the promoters explained.
Nor is the U.S. the only country to experience wrestling difficulties. In 1958, Beigium banned professional wrestling from national television, calling it "a show unworthy of a civilized world."
Actually, though, professional wrestling is very moral. There is a good guy and a bad in every bout. Mr. Good is usually distinguished by blond hair, good looks and an air of great innocence. Mr. Bad is usually swarthy and scowiing - and he almost always carries a hidden, illegal instrument, the better to wreck his opponent's bone structure.
Everyone notices this infringement upon the rules except the referee, of course.By even he cannot ignore the Moral Sheiff of Washington Wrestling, Georgette Krieger. From her front-row seat, she spots all shenanigans, and she leaps to her feet, pounding the mat to get the referee's attention.
"In his shoe! In his shoe!" Krieger screams. "You big dumny! You cheater!" adds Krieger's sister and deputy, Blanche Malinowski, who is "only 79!"
Never once does it occur to either that all this is fake. "If that's what you think, you should stay home," declares Krieger. "If it wan't real, we wouldn't be here," adds her sister. One almost expects Santa Claus to be the headliner in the next match, pitted against the Phantom of the Opera.
As it is, there is an ethnic sterotype for everyone's taste.
Saturday, the bill included "Nicolai Volkoff of Russia." He looked pretty genuine in his basic-black trunks and bad-guy frown. But the cat was out of the bag when Krieger rose to offer him a pre-match kiss. "Nyet," he muttered, with Bronx accent.
For late movie addicits, there was Chief jay Stronghow, of Pawhuska, Okla. He looked at a bit like the well-meaning fellow who offers a peace-pipe to every cavalry officer who has come to negotiate a treaty. Inevitably, the Chief wore a headdress and did a war dance before applying mayhem to his opponent.
There were two japanese, one Italian, a Scandinavian, a Samoan, a Maltese and a black. And there was Ken Patern a Minnesota bleached-blond.
Krieger thought she had him pegged. As he came out for his bout, she offered him a pair of pink underpants.
Everyone laughed except Patera. Image to protect, you know. "Please don't hurt him, lady," urged John Kipper, a Capital Centre supervisor and Patera's bodyguard. "He's gotta wrestle." Even patera laughed at that.
Lena Werner of Glen Burnie disputes that wrestling is what goes on nowadays, however.
A 40-year veteran of the front row ("only missed three times"), Werner said the show "has become a lot of damn foolishness. In the old days, I saw real rassling."
John Gordon, 24, of Silver Spring, agreed. "I think it's pretty real, at least some of it," he said. "But it's better on TV."
Still, the liver version draws. Saturday's crowd was 9,250, according to the promoter, and even if that smelled by 2,000 or so, the corridors were jammed afterward with people who didn't want to leave.
In little knots, they were reliving every thrill: "Hey, the Chief really had him hurt, man" . . . "Wasn't that Russian something else?" . . . "Did you see the hit that Japanese guy gave him?"
But for Georgette Krieger and her "little sister," it was time to make tracks. In just three hours, the same gang would be going at it in yet another "world championship." The scene was to be Harrisonburg, Va. Leaving time for a snack and to get gas, "we should just make it," krieger said.