Friday, August 22, 2014

Knockoff Vuitton










"There's still a lot of things about this young man that I'm trying to figure out." So speaks a commentator at the WCWC Legacy Title Match that opens the August 9th broadcast (starting at the 7:00 mark here on YouTube). Since the young man in question is Ashton Vuitton, we can read the remark in several ways.

A huge fan of Ashton's muscles, I am trying to figure out a lot of things too. I'm fond of his gimmick: the vain, self-absorbed fashionista who goes "up to eleven" on gaydar. I'm even a little envious of his bodacious physique. However, I'm less a fan of his wrestling. There's not much wrestling, in fact. Mostly he cavorts. 

I like the gimmick all right, but even Gorgeous George and Ravishing Rick Rude got down and dirty in their matches, saving most of the shtick for their entrances and exits. (It's rare that I agree with ringside commentators, but one of them makes my point better than I can: he says Ashton looks like he thinks he might dirty himself by wrestling.) Throughout this match, Ashton plays up the fact that he is superior not just to his opponent but to pro wrestling itself. For me, this lack of commitment to the contest works against the gimmick's desired effect. 

I may root for his opponents (Big Duke, in this instance) to smack the pretty right off this guy, but since he doesn't seem to care about the outcome of the match or to work strenuously to win it, my pleasure in his downfall is somewhat diminished. The aloof nature of the performance also lessens the match's libidinal heat. When the crowd chants "Dukie's gonna kill you," Ashton registers almost nothing. He doesn't seem to care. In many ways he looks out of place in the squared circle like he was unexpectedly teleported from a Milan runway to this venue. That chant ought to grab me by the balls. But their taunts need a more deserving target. The physical and mental engagement of wrestling is what cranks me up. Aloofness from the ring action, the opponent, and the audience doesn't do it for me.

What I want Vuitton to be is a born sadist who happens to look fabulous in mink and skintight trunks, rather than a silly, shallow butterfly about to be crushed. That's not to say that I find the match unenjoyable, only that I sense a waste of erotic potential here. My enjoyment is less visceral. Instead, the pleasure is light and breezy--fun, but not hot. I pay attention to the spectacular facade and smile, rather than feeling shivers up my spine. I enjoy the sculptural beauty of Ashton's body (which is hot) and his brilliant clowning. That's quite a lot, after all. So if IceCapades was my kink, I'd be all over this.

To be clear, I'm not particularly concerned about the way the Vuitton persona toys with the gay gimmick--or vilifies homosexuality. I don't think it does the latter, not with this crowd anyway. (If anything, I find it not sexual enough--homo or hetero.) It's a joke--only a joke--everybody knows it, and the crowd gets off on it. That's good. In that sense it's a success. People are entertained. Still, I crave something more.

One homemade sign, "Vuitton is a knockoff," succinctly suggests both the fan's contempt for the preening muscleboy and insight to the fashion industry's snobbery that Ashton devilishly lampoons. It brings a smile to my face too. Still, I wish Vuitton would act more like a villain I can't wait to see Big Duke knock out.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Sport Parade


















The 1932 movie The Sport Parade climaxes during a pro wrestling match, just like I do.

Released before the Hays Code prohibited such things, it features rude double entendres, a glimpse of bare male buttocks (in a shower room scene near the beginning), a suggestive dance act at a Harlem night club, and a couple of (literally) limp-wristed homosexuals at ringside during the first of two complete wrasslin' matches in the sports drama.

Both matches porn me up as few 21st-century matches do. Each runs for nearly as long as a typical match on TV. That's pretty good, considering the entire film runs for just 64 minutes. (The photos above are taken only from the match at the end of the movie.) It seems to me that a good wrestling movie should be like a musical, only with wrestling matches replacing songs and dances. Now that would be entertainment!

Handsome Joel McCrea as Sandy Brown and William Gargan as his best friend Johnny Baker play star athletes at Dartmouth, where they are known as Baker-Brown, a smooth and unbeatable team in every collegiate sport, including wrestling (the one non-team sport the two participate in, apparently, and the one where Sandy is superior to Johnny).

So close are these two athletes that early in the film somebody cracks that they are like Romeo and Juliet. After graduation, Sandy signs on to a get-rich-quick scheme that separates him from Johnny, who entertained dreams of the two of them at adjoining desks as sports reporters one day.

Sandy gets fleeced by his manager and ends up with nothing. Johnny, however, finds work as a solitary sportswriter and quickly falls for a pretty illustrator (Marian Marsh as Irene) who works for the same newspaper.

Desperate for cash, Sandy pawns a gold football charm (identical to one held by Johnny) for ten dollars. Then, by accident, the two run into each other at a sporting event. Johnny spies the pawn ticket and realizes his old pal is in financial trouble, so he offers him work co-writing his-and-his columns about the sports world.

Here's where the complication sets in. Sandy falls for Johnny's girl unaware that Johnny likes her, and she falls for him too.

He takes her on a working date to a wrestling show (during which the aforementioned nelly stereotypes walk out, tired of watching "brutes"). After the show he runs into his old manager, who asks whether he might be interested in wrestling as a pro. Sandy declines, stating his opinion that the contests are not "on the level."

Later when he discovers that Johnny is in love with Irene too, he breaks up with her, not wanting to hurt his best friend, especially since Johnny had just pulled him out of the gutter. But while they are kissing goodbye, Johnny walks in on them. The two former buddies fight. Sandy wins, but leaves the newspaper gig and the girl to his old pal. 

To make ends meet, Sandy signs back on with his old manager and starts wrestling. Soon enough he is in line for a shot at the belt, but a bitter Johnny ridicules both him and the so-called "sport" in his newspaper column.

Irene has nothing to do with Johnny now because of the scuffle with Sandy and, more importantly, because she now realizes her heart belongs to Sandy. Plus there's the "bitter" thing, which makes Johnny a bit of a drag during this part of the movie.

Earlier, Johnny secretly redeemed the gold football charm Sandy had pawned, intending to give it back to him but he was prevented by, as he calls it, "outside interference" (i.e. Irene cockblocked him). In an act of passive aggression if I've ever seen one, he gives the charm to Irene to pass on to Sandy.

To prove her faith in her one true love, Irene makes an extraordinary wager with Johnny, telling him that if Sandy throws his championship shot (as Johnny predicts he will) she'll marry Johnny, whom she doesn't love. (Talk about passive aggressive.)

As it turns out, the crooked sports manager has indeed agreed to have Sandy lay down for the champion, Fritz Muller (played by former Latvian wrestling champion Ivan Linow). Sandy refuses to roll over for the champ, despite the promise of "big bucks." He vows to do his best to beat the champion in the ring ... fair and square, and for real.

Predictably he wins the long, sweaty, and action-packed match (nearly as expertly shot and edited as Scorsese's boxing scenes in Raging Bull), but in an interesting twist on the cliche, it's Johnny's shouts of encouragement (not Irene's) that ultimately spur Sandy to beat his crooked and sadistic opponent and win the championship.

Utilizing some contact moves from football, Sandy knocks Muller out of the ring for the 20 count, Johnny rushes to the ring and the old friends reunite, trading playful punches to the shoulder.

The film then cuts away to a closeup of the ringside commentator, who with considerable disgust reports that a girl is entering the ring too, and Sandy is kissing her. Fade to black. The End. (Funny that this kiss should happen off camera and be described for us by an obviously disapproving intermediary.) 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Shellacked








In back-to-back "Inside Scoop" vlogs on the UCW website, Eli Black challenged longtime foe Axel to one final battle, and Axel all but begged Eli to stop the shit-talk and come at him ... NOW. The result of this hubbub is UCW's latest release [#364], in which the company's top two stars and best wrestlers have a second go-around one on one. The result is a character-defining and history-making showdown.

The 33-minute match is everything I wanted it to be. Partly it reifies my personal ideal in wrestling fantasy: the male catfight--beyond fighting to win, to fighting to deface and destroy. Axel and Eli want less to submit the other guy than to fuck him up for good. It's never more a catfight than when the two have each other by the hair and tug and grimace like ninth-grade bitches after phys ed. (See the third picture above.)

And in oil, no less! Eli, who made "no oil wrestling" a proviso in his UCW contract, admits up front that it does "rile him up" (he knows because he violated the stipulation two months ago, in an oil match against Johnny Deep--but, then, who wouldn't cross a line for Johnny?). Besides, Eli likes the way the oil makes his washboard abs "sparkle." In a typical burst of ego, he asks Axel whether the thought of lean taut muscle slathered in olive oil turns him on. It's a tease and a taunt, as if these two bobcats weren't already poised to sink tooth and claw into each other.

This is a realization of the hypothetical match that's given UCW fans blueballs for over two years, ever since Eli first strutted onto Axel's mat like it was his own. The collision is spectacular and immensely satisfying, I must say. I loved every shimmering minute of it.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Standoff















An insanely entertaining opener to a thoroughly engrossing title match in June from Lutte NCW. Jesse Champagne, 5'9", 185#,  flaunts and flourishes his championship belt right in front of handsome Eddy ErDogan, 5'11", 195#. This is Eddy's third try at taking the belt off Jesse, and at the moment he is fired up and hungry. It's not a good time for Jesse to mess with the young buck's head.

Eddy highkicks Jesse before the bell sounds, before Jesse has time to doff his beautiful red robe. Then he marches the champ to all four corners of the ring, delivering a resounding beatdown at each corner. He tears open the lapels of the robe, backs Jesse to the ropes, and wales on the arrogant heel's chest.

The craven coward rolls under the bottom rope and out of the ring, seeking the comfort of his valet Mademoiselle Rachelle's arms. Eddy goes after him and slaps the shit out of him right in front of his woman. He yanks the robe off and starts braining Jessie against the metal barricades. 

Smooth, crowd-pleasing Eddy is owning the champ. And I'm in his corner even though I've never laid eyes on him before this match. Back in the ring Jesse springs an attack while Eddy is reentering the ring and, for his effort, gets balls full of Eddy's fist and a smack of Eddy's boot to the side of the head. An elbow drop has the champ pleading for mercy.

A bodyslam turns the tide but only for a second, and the give-and-take portion of the match takes over ... in and out of the ring. But too much time out of the ring robs the match of the closure I'm craving. The match ends with a double countout, disappointing, but then it takes five or six black-shirted security guys to pry these boys loose of each other. Not satisfied to walk away with belt still in hand, Jesse chomps down on Eddy's flesh, painting his mouth red with his challenger's blood. 

This match caught me totally by surprise and I loved every second of it, even tolerating the no-win ending. I'm especially impressed with young tough Eddy. ErDogan and Champagne prove what I already knew, that you don't have to be swole or cut like a hornet to steam up the room with pitch-perfect attitude and hot-as-firecrackers wrestling.

(Watch the match here on YouTube.)






Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back to School
















Vacation's over. Time to move back into professorial mode. It's been an eventful summer, stressful at times, but mostly wonderful beyond expectations. Over the past few days, I have been gradually transforming back into the phlegmatic grammarian and lover of classics I'm paid (not too well) to be. Monday I face the bright shiny faces again. Today and tomorrow are the worst part of the job--a series of meetings meant to get us "back into the swing of things," but actually they're PowerPoint-transmitted lobotomies. Thank my lucky stars there's been a friendly face to raise my spirits through the perilous trek.

Whether wrestling ... working out ... gorging carbs ... striking his Blue Steel look for the cameras ... hanging with pals Mikey Nicholls, Jonah Rock, and Zack Sabre Jr. ... showing off his gift for comic self-parody ... taking selfies ... but mainly wrestling, Shane Haste has been my six-foot-one, 220-pound animal guide. I have binged on his YouTube matches and faithfully attended to his every food-obsessed Tweet. And in a weeks-long lull in my enthusiasm for wrestling (temporary, I suspect), he has dependably raised my temperature and quickened my pulse. (And happily I'm not the only one with the fever.)

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