Saturday, September 24, 2016

How to Fight the Devil

Tyson the Hammer vs Johnny Deep, #491 (UCW)

Of course you have a right to your opinion, but I have always sensed a bit of the devil in Johnny Deep, now back at UCW after too long an absence. I have an eye for devilry and have long thought a wrestling promotion entirely free of it unworthy of my serious attention. (Faith-based pro wrestling, not even a blip on my radar.) Deep's newly acquired goatee is but one more sign of his satanic inclinations, not that he needed the prop ... the saucy twinkle in his eyes has always been proof enough for me. Anybody this pretty is sure to spell trouble. Adopting the principle that you have to fight fire with  fire, Hammer, of course, is the man for the job: you need somebody who will punch, twist, stretch, slam, choke, and bite the devil out of somebody. He and Johnny face off in a gritty, enthusiastically mean-spirited fray that is miles of give and take, grunt and groan, and glimmering, sloppy sweat, with no time wasted on talk ... or sportsmanship. Tyson is shaping up as one of the company's big draws. He's stronger, badder, and hotter in each new match, and Johnny finds him at the top of his game, which might mean very bad news for Johnny.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Eye Poppers

Vince vs Frank, Awesome August (PWP)

I'm all out of snark for this match. Perhaps my lust for Vince's smooth hard-tub belly has burned the last of it out of my system. For what it is, and let me remind readers it is not actual wrestling, this video hits the spot for me. The series of give and take holds, which I could swear are the same and in the same order in every recent PWP match, offers prolonged body contact, a surfeit of taut near-naked flesh pressed against taut near-naked flesh.

For me, the star of the show is Vince's torso, curvy and firm, encased in smooth olive skin that has seemingly never known a zit. Thanks to this, the non-wrestling-ness of the video is almost bearable. Frank is physically similar enough to Vince that the pairing touches on a subordinate fetish, namely brother vs brother tussles. The firm butt is a bonus, as is the aphrodisiac effect of French-speaking wrestlers. The models' cautious application of wrestling holds is a bit of a buzzkill, but it obviously is not fear of body contact. Post-match, Vince approaches Frank and bumps crotches with him--an offhanded and charming gesture that takes sportsmanship to new heights and kicks NFL's butt-patting to the curb.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

These Guys Will Wipe That Silly Smile Off Your Face

Sometime in the 1990s--I can't pinpoint the exact date--kayfabe died. Actually, the jig was up even earlier, sometime in the 1980s, maybe much earlier, when the fakery of wrestling became an open secret. Kayfabe was the sacred pact to pass a staged fight off as the real deal. In and of itself, the death of kayfabe should not have been a bad thing. After all, audiences know that movies and TV shows (even "reality TV") aren't real, and the entertainment and cultural value of these events is in no way diminished by that knowledge. But the death of kayfabe indirectly led to something that was good for business but bad for pro wrestling: the trivializing of wrestling.

I usually blame Vince McMahon, but, truth be told, I'm not sure who it was who decided that if the world must know that pro wrestling was rigged, then the world must no longer be allowed even to willingly suspend its disbelief in wrestling. From this standpoint, pro wrestling's only option was to make itself over as not just entertainment, but campy, silly, loud, and cartoonish drivel. Gradually (but it seemed sudden) the merchandise of wrestling became bigger than the wrestling. Wrestlers shed their basic black, white, and primary-color trunks for gaudy costumes made of what appeared to be discarded clown suits. Sensuous grappling moves gave way to high-flying acrobatics, Herschell Gordon Lewis-style gore, and mic-hogging histrionics. This was the birth of pro wrestling redesigned to appeal to people who don't really like wrestling--but who like to be dazzled by a seemingly endless parade of instant celebrities going through the pantomimed motions of wrestling.

The two good things that came out of this transformation were good money for many golden-era pros who had paid their dues, and sexier, better built wrestlers, whose bodies were spectacular enough to conceal the absence of intensity and compelling drama in the matches (except for three or four times a year, during over-produced big-dollar super-spectaculars). These bodies made glorious entrances, which sometimes lasted longer than the contest. Wrestling, what was left of it, was played as an endless succession of inside jokes and a chance to scream oneself hoarse at increasingly farfetched villains.

So the following images (images as old or older than I am) are a tribute to the impassive, no-nonsense wrestlers of the past (a few, very few, carry on the tradition in the present*). Many of them were committed disciples of wrestling, for all intents and purposes devoid of irony, who today mainly (maybe only) appeal to diehard fans of the genre. They kept alive the sideshow con, sensuality, and hypnotizing roughhouse of the pre-television sport.

* I'm thinking of Davey Richards and A.J. Styles, and old-school revivalists like Timothy Thatcher, Biff Busick, and Drew Gulak.

Sources: GoldenAge2008, Chicago Film Archives presents "Wrestling from Chicago," Vintage Films, and wrestlingfilms

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Dirty Daddy Meets the Super Villain

Guido Genatto vs KARN, Alpha-Males (Wrestler4Hire)

In a truly delicious match from 2016, W4H sates my hunger for iron-rich protein in what may be the evenest matchup for Genatto I have seen. KARN is gorgeous, sure, but he's also big and strong, with a definite talent for making opponents suffer. I wouldn't want to go so far as to say Genatto has met his match here--in my opinion, he can't be matched (but he can be beat--theoretically, at least)--but the KARN-Genatto pairing justifies the company's online hype: "The two hottest guys in wrestling today, there is simply no comparison." I love the epic-ness of this match, which is unadulterated wrestling, no posedowns, no story frame, no non-fight-related whoop-de-doo of any kind. Guido even dispenses with his usual opening harangue in the interest of getting down to business as quickly as possible. He locks up with KARN, instead of stalking from behind or using cheap tricks. It looks like both men are set on testing their mettle in a straightup asskicking contest that fills the video's 23 minutes. Grunts and growls outnumber taunts and calls for surrender. Escapes and reversals follow each other at a dizzying pace till one bad-ass is forced to tap out for the other.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Perez vs Roma

Al Perez vs Paul Roma, 15 January 1990, Madison Square Garden (WWF)

I could hear but not see the last few minutes of this contest on the LEGENDSKINGDOM channel*. I tried it out on two different browsers with the same results. But what there was to see is luscious. I always liked Roma (in red trunks), but Perez (in classic black) steals the show with his brutal energy and top-shelf heel attitude. There's just more to Al's performance. Paul paces through the match like an actor who has memorized his lines and blocking, and that's it. Al gives soul to every move. Each one seems spontaneous and motivated. I even like Perez's muscle better. It suits a pro wrestler, though Roma is closer to the ideal as a bodybuilder.

What Al does beautifully is work his man. A shot like this one has intensity, which I prefer to the high-energy off-the-ropes stuff, which I still admire, even enjoy, though it's basically sexless (01:38).

That knee to the handsome jawline: I feel it (01:44).

Paul elbows his way out of Al's grip. Al neither oversells nor undersells the pain (02:22).

Giving credit where credit is due, Paul's block and reversal are hot, in no small part due to the red spandex hugging his butt (02:54).

Again, Al gives me all the hurt I can stand (04:40).

Nice fall, Al. Eyes rolling, knees turned to jelly, and legs spread wide.

I get it, Paul. I want to jump him, too. Now get on top of that bad boy!

* This is the February cablecast of the match.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Chase Michaels vs Axel, #490 (UCW)

Chase goes rogue and Axel has to up his game to meet the challenge in UCW's latest release, a championship match and a significant character arc for both competitors. This match is everything for me because it veers from the cute and funny matches UCW has lately produced back towards the hard-edge, joint-popping mayhem that once was the company's bread and butter. This is the old working-class wrestling that first won me as a fan. I can't remember the last time Axel had this tough a fight, perhaps never--the guy has grit, resilience, and a savage core that takes even a forever fan like me by surprise. The other big news, of course, is that new fan favorite Chase has turned heel. Ambition overthrows good sense and sportsmanship as he decides that no assault is too vicious and no tactic too low so long as it gets him what he wants. What he wants now is to destroy Axel, and Axel must tough up to survive and counter the onslaught of illegal moves (or they would be illegal anywhere else but UCW) and needlessly cruel and reckless blows that Chase brings to the mat. To say more would jeopardize the many surprise turns that this mesmerizing battle takes as two physical equals, comparable in balls and determination, collide. Wow oh wow oh wow!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Fight Drama

Shane McCall vs. Rob Mullen, with Dex Sutton, Daddy's Bad Boys (BG East)

At times--and I've experienced these times a lot in 2016--I unpack my cache of older DVDs (first released as VHS tapes and 8mm films), the early stock of BG East, Can-Am, BG Enterprise, and other promotions, to revisit a world of wrestling less glamourous than the present but satisfyingly raw, rugged, and fight-centered. I have also started buying 1980s/90s matches I knew only from the flyers that arrived routinely by snail mail at my door, not yet having the ready cash to indulge as much as I would have liked. McCall vs Mullen, first released 22 years ago, is a case in point.

Two decades ago, Shane was prime fantasy material at my house. He's in peak shape here in his goatee period. The opening shot pans back from a closeup of his crotch to display the macho tough guy in black vest and armband and silky gray trunks, legs spread on the couch as he contemplates his biceps. Next to him, there's a framed photo of Sutton, shirtless, looking like an army drill sergeant, firm yet gentle as a muscle daddy should be. Without a hint of emotion, Shane turns the photo to face the wall.

Right about then, Rob enters, dressed in classic white shirt and jeans, with boots.  With carefully combed pompadour and lambchop sideburns, he's clearly the new boy. "Took you long enough," Shane snarls as the two circle each other on a conveniently placed mat. Mullen takes that as an invitation to start throwing punches and then rips off his shirt. Needless to say, McCall fights back. Even recognizing these gestures as well-worn conventions, I am taken in by the wrestlers' eagerness to rough each other up. It looks authentic and spontaneous, like the bully-jock faceoffs I used to watch behind the gym after school. I'm feeling this tussle in my pants immediately.

Rob submits Shane with a single-leg crab hold, then stands glowering down at him. McCall gets on his feet and throws Mullen up on his shoulder for some high-altitude punishment. He bashes the new guy up to the wall, then puts him in a rear naked choke, belly down to the mat. Rob escapes, and the two grapple some more, throwing an occasional gut punch for emphasis. The grunts and growls are almost as stimulating as the bare-chested visuals. Nothing about this fight seems choreographed, campy, or restrained. Nothing about it suggests the two are anything but unselfconsciously in this moment, tightly focused on each other's long-awaited bruising. This is oh so much more than an exhibition style series of wrestling holds. This is not a goof, not a comedy. This is fight drama!

By the time Daddy Dex shows up (in a patrol officer's uniform!), Rob and Shane have wrestled through several falls, giving and taking licks, and Shane is in the process of breaking Rob's back in a brutally neat torture rack. The wrestler freezes in place, holding his barely conscious burden, as Sutton walks up to McCall quietly and authoritatively and punches him in the gut, dropping both McCall and Mullen to the mat. Dex and Shane stare at each other as Rob grovels on the mat between them. Wordlessly, through eye contact, they appear to be plotting what to do with Mullen, the undercurrent suggesting (to me, anyway) that Shane is presenting Rob as some sort of offering to Daddy, like a cat dropping a dead mouse at its master's feet.

Shane strips the now unconscious Rob naked and offers to present him to Dex. The gesture is wordless but full of signifiers, conveyed mostly through steady eye contact. Daddy strips off his shirt, revealing a darkly hairy chest with a ring on the left nipple. He discards his belt and holster. A few mumbled grunts and gestures, and Shane bends Rob at the knees, crossing the two ankles, and holding them together under his crotch while yanking Rob's arms back and his upper body slightly off the mat. The presentation is as solemn and stylized as any religious ritual. Together they dress Mullen in black squarecuts and leather armband (matching Shane's). Dex forces Rob's face up to his iron-bolt biceps. He repeats the gesture with Shane, who sucks on the manly bulge like a teat.

Daddy forces the two suppliants to grovel at his feet and grope his muscles. Then he beats them. He joins the two in mutual armbars, elbow to elbow, head to head, demanding they say "I give" in unison. And he's not half-finished with them yet. This is the most stilted and unnatural part of the video, but as an initiation rite and bonding ceremony, it works. An ambiguous but sexually suggestive end of match, followed by a door slam,  makes way for a simple shot of Sutton's  hand gently yet firmly turning the framed photo aright.


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