Thursday, November 27, 2014

Battler






The new Kieran Dunne reminds me of the young Kevin Sullivan or the young Dino Bravo. What happened to the apple-cheeked babyface, world renown for his jobbing skills, putting over such BG East greats as Troy Baker, Joshua Goodman, and Braden Charron, as well as a slew of lesser-knowns? His physical transformation has been gradual, over years--the beefing up part anyway--but seeing him now with acid-yellow hair styled a la Billy Idol or Bamm-Bamm Rubble (and squat brawny body stuffed into a Barbarella-metallic bikini) is a small shock all the same.

And the attitude! Kieran is now a bonafide punk, narcissistic, brutal, with a wide cowardly streak that pushes him to cut corners and fight dirty. To me he has never been sexier. I used to feel pity for the sweet-mannered boy everybody picked on, but now he's shaped himself into a preening bad-ass I want to see sprawled and unconscious on the ring floor or screaming a humiliating submission into the ears of some gorilla.

The gorilla in the soon-to-be-released Ringwars 23 is Jaguar. (Dunne-vs-Jaguar is already available as a VOD on The Arena @BGEAST.) Jag is a brawny, no-nonsense kind of bruiser, seemingly created to be Kieran's nemesis. When Kieran treats this opponent with open contempt, he is no doubt digging his own grave. Jaguar won't stand still for Dunne's disrespect, and his wrath is felt suddenly and with great force.

What I mainly like about this match is its old-school canvas-thumping rumpus: big, burly guys tossing each other around the mat like basketballs. Nothing the least bit sophisticated or twinkish about it. The peak roughhouse occurs after Jaguar dares to muss up Kieran's $100 haircut. Dunne retaliates in full-on demolition mode, with a hint of the swagger and flash I associate with the WWF "attitude era" or, further back, the take-no-prisoners approach of Southern wrestling in the 1970s.

The man-size bear hugs, low blows, and body slams culminate in a knock-you-the-fuck-out punch that puts the brakes on this feud. I love it. I was a lukewarm Kieran Dunne fan up to this contest. Now I can't wait for Dunne to cut loose even more.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Anniversary/Adversary









I'm surprised it's already been two years that Movimus has been up and running. The company's original site debuted on Thanksgiving Day 2012 with its first match: Travis Carter versus Jeff Jordan. I'd wager no online wrestling company has been in such a constant process of self-improvement these past two years, from upgrades in its video technology to development of its kick-ass roster. This past year the company started releasing downloads in optimum resolution 4 K. Today, it released a killer new contest featuring Mikey Hanlon, a returning veteran from the NHB-Battle days (whose catalog Movimus purchased and makes available again, thus preserving online wrestling history while launching its own product line). The company has also moved to a new, improved site: movim.us, which (shameless plug alert) includes a top 10 list of my favorite Movimus matches (so far).

Mainly, though, I'm excited because the sideburns are back! The company bats Mikey Hanlon's highly anticipated return out of the park by pitting the popular scrapper against meaty macho-poser Damien Rush in his Movimus debut. Throw 380 pounds of arrogant alpha-male muscle on the mat and the magic happens all by itself! If you get six minutes into this video and still don't have a boner, you haven't been eating enough oysters. 

Right off the bat, Damien swaggers up to get in Mikey's face, boasting, "Now you see me, you understand something very very clear: You ... have no chance, no chance at all." Mikey smirks, unwilling to take the new guy's over-the-top machismo seriously. "Over the top" because the guy looks like a composite of every Playgirl centerfold of the '70s. Mikey replies drily, "I've squashed bigger bugs." 

Rush snags Hanlon's arm and leg and drags him down, but Mikey flexes loose and springs back to his feet. The two lock up again, bumping foreheads. Damien gets another takedown but the soundwaves of their fleshy splat on the vinyl mat barely reach the microphone before Mikey's legs have ensnared his head and shoulders. 

For me the hottest parts of this match are the prolonged stalemates, which are plentiful. Body pressed to body. Limb locked on limb. Both wrestlers fighting fatigue as they struggle to reposition. This is and always has been the advantage of college-style and submission wrestling over arena pro wrestling: the long, sweaty clenches. Both wrestlers entangled, determined to win. After a figure-four choke cranks out the first tap-out (just past the video's midpoint), the momentum shifts. Rested and refreshed, the wrestlers are ready for battle again. The wrestling is more give and take, more frenzied, too.

It's great to see Mikey back on the mats, and Damien cuts a formidable figure, unlike any other wrestler currently on the Movimus roster. Almost certainly there will be a rematch between these two. I'd say Damien needs to square off against Max Anderson and Kevin Harris. And I'd like to see Mikey take on Doug Acre, Jimmy Reilly, and Dave Markus. Soon.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tough Old Birds in Black Trunks


On Sunday, I commented on the detail work Zack Sabre Jr. executes on his opponent Biff Busick. I would bet money that Zack learned the finger stretch and knee dig by watching pre-1980 television wrestling matches. 

When I was 16 and watching matches similar to this Bob Geigel and Cowboy Bob Ellis blowup in St. Louis (in two parts on YouTube, here and here), I liked the moves but thought the wrestlers were old and gross. (Both Bobs were in their forties when they fought this 1969 match, 16-21 years younger than I am today.) I wondered what it would be like to see young, buff athletes perform the same moves. 

Today I face the opposite problem: gorgeous bodies in the ring (especially in underground wrestling) but very little body contact. I wonder what it would be like to see these young, buff athletes perform the slow, grinding moves of the old-timers. With the exception of the brief shining moment of Kevin Von Erich 35 years ago, I still haven't seen a sustained convergence of pretty muscle and up-close and detailed grappling. 

If I had a wrestling promotion, I'd sit my young studs down in front of the TV set for two or three hours every Friday night to watch pre-"attitude era," pre-WWF, pre-Superstation wrestling. The old stuff wasn't perfect, but there's plenty the younger generation could learn about working an opponent from these matches, which packed erotic heat just by emphasizing the intensity of male aggression and not trying too hard to be overtly "sexy."

As a teenager I would spot somebody like the red-shirted rock'n'roller, arms crossed
 against the chest, and imagine him in the ring. Even now, I hope he was thinking,
"I'd sure like to try that hold on this yellow-shirted kid on my right."

Ellis works every inch of Geigel's arm, slowly, attentively, deliberately.

Arm bars and arm locks always bone me up, the longer and closer they are held the better.

If you watch the video, notice how long Geigel deliberates whether to punch Ellis in the kidneys.
He makes sure everybody in the house sees his reptile mind ticking away.

Geigel grabs Ellis's hair, holds it ... holds it ... and then he yanks.

Is that a bulge? I think that might be a bulge!

The arm bar is full-on sex when you pull the arm up against your warm body.

The slow, painful elbow dig to the back of Geigel's neck. Yes!!!

Eight-pack abs can take that punch and not feel a thing.
A round gut is just begging for that punch because it will SO feel it.

Some ethicists say that what you would do in secret determines your character.
In wrestling, what you do to an opponent on the ring apron determines
your character.

Always, always, always take advantage of the ropes.

Pretty sweet O-face, Cowboy.

Ellis grinds his knee into the side of Geigel's head.

Wrestling Arsenal is right about so many things, but especially
right about this one thing: nothing suggests the surrender of your
"man card" quite like having your "legs spread open like a two-bit hooker."

Geigel blocks the ref's view while he goes for a tight right jab to Ellis's face.

Get your man in a corner.

Again, always, always, always take advantage of the ropes.

Geigel presses his hairy body to Ellis's and yanks back the Cowboy's
curly hair at the same instant!

The side headlock reminds me of dorm room horseplay.
It just gets sexier the longer it is held.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Good and Evil


 

I fetishize comeuppance in wrestling because I'm obsessed with an ideal: perfect justice. I'm not convinced there is any justice in the real world, perfect or imperfect, but the idea is strong enough and good enough that it is, like equality, wisdom, and beauty, worth striving for. My idea of justice has been shaped by my religious upbringing, since forsaken (or as forsaken as any early childhood imprint can be forsaken), and by Hollywood, probably mostly Hollywood.

Pro wrestling often depicts a struggle between good and evil. Often this struggle is handled in a very broad and ham-fisted way: a Johnny Hero versus Doctor Evil setup, or David versus Goliath. I am able to enjoy these scenarios if they are  done well, either in the squared circle or on a Hollywood soundstage. But they seldom have a deep impact on me. For me the perfect scenario is this: 
Two wrestlers enter the ring as equals--equal in physical strength, size, and, preferably, beauty. Neither is already pegged as the good guy or the bad guy. The setup could be a sporting contest between two friends, two brothers, or two tag-team partners. Two lovers, even. However, in the course of the match one of the wrestlers realizes that he cannot win the match fairly, according to the rules of fair play. He makes a decision. He fights dirty. 
At first, he becomes opportunistic, seizing openings that occur by chance, rather than through his own skill. For instance, if his opponent slips accidentally, he doesn't stand back and let the man regain his footing before proceeding. Eventually, he regresses to low blows and other dirty tactics, creating his own opportunities to hurt and humiliate his opponent. 
In the end, though, good triumphs. If necessary, the opponent fights fire with fire, giving the emerging heel a taste of his own medicine. The absolute best outcome for me, however, is that the opponent wins fairly and squarely, despite all the dirty tricks being thrown at him. Perhaps the trickster becomes ensnared in his own trickery, or, better, the virtuous wrestler's strength and skill prove ultimately indomitable.
Pretty corny stuff, I know. But it sets my pants on fire.*

The "heel turn" interests me more than the "perpetual heel." For me, the perpetual heel is mostly comical, even (especially) the ones that cloak themselves with menace and the mystique of darkness (the Undertaker, for instance). The heel turn is something that can happen in any match, to any competitor, even one who has been "good" in previous matches and turns back to "good" in subsequent matches. This brings the wrestling character closer to my experience of real life--sometimes we play the babyface, sometimes the heel. Circumstances often direct the course we take from one life event to the next. Our actions are not consistent, much less consistently good or evil regardless of external conditions.










* Having said that, I would not want to give the impression that I would want every single match to follow this pattern. I'm quickly bored by routine. One gripe I have about pro wrestling (underground and above) is that it finds an angle that works and then runs it into the ground.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Evolve 35


To capture a match this thoroughly, Scott Finkelstein's camera shutter must click a dozen times a second. Finkelstein's website contains virtual fotonovelas of every match the photographer has covered. I haven't space for all 1628 of his shots of September's Evolve 35 in Brooklyn, but I want to show the three matches I would have considered giving up a toe to see. They are the last three matches of the event. (You can get lost in his inexhaustible maze of wrestling photos here.)







Biff Busick submits Zack Sabre Jr. In one corner we have hairy, manly, brutish Biff Busick, American. In the other we have smooth, boyish, yet sophisticated Zack Sabre Jr., English.  Zack specializes in detailed assaults--stiff side kicks to an opponent's ankles, agonizing finger stretches, slow elbow digs--combining the prolonged precision of Chinese torture with the morbid curiosity and fascinated sadism of idle schoolboys. Biff's approach is blunt, coarse, and catastrophic like dynamite and obviously, in this case, effective in subduing the hipster Brit and making him squeal.









Anthony Nese / Caleb Konley ("The Premiere Brand Athletes") beat the Bravado Brothers (Lance and Harlem) and AR Fox / Rich Swann. I'm happy to see that the muscle jocks took this one away from the arrogant and expressive brothers from North Carolina and the "ampliflying" acrobats Fox and Swann. Except for Nese, I've seen all these wrestlers live and in person. All have impressed me. State pride accounts for only part of my fondness for the Bravados. They are also cartoonishly agile and limber competitors, though often unlucky in the squared circle. Fox and Swann are amazing ring performers, fast, strong, and keenly intelligent, on paper the most likely winners of this match. But I'm happy that the gym bunnies took the victory. They're sexy and buff and more than that, charismatic wrestlers.








Ricochet pins Uhaa Nation. Ricochet has the hardest, roundest butt in wrestling. That should be enough to explain my interest in him. The rest of his body is chiseled to perfection too, topped with a face that beams movie-star handsomeness. He's a high flyer, not conducive to my erotic expectations of pro wrestling, but his moves exhibit such grace, energy, and force that I can't take my eyes off him. Uhaa, of course, represents an obstacle of mountainous proportions, all the better for Ricochet to spin around at dizzying speed and ultimately flatten his front-fender shoulders to the canvas. The match ends with a sportsmanlike hug between the contestants, something that always warms my heart not so much for the sportsmanship or homoerotic suggestiveness, oddly enough, but for memories of community theater and the intense feelings of camaraderie that follow a well-received show.

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