Sunday, April 11, 2010

Of Bosses and Busters (DVD Review)



Received Beyond Wrestling's first DVD release, Of Bosses and Busters, just yesterday.  After months-long production delays stemming from a split between BW's creators, the finished product arrives right when my expectations for it were reaching unreachable heights.  (I bought my copy sometime last fall, as I recall.  I've been assured, however, that the next release, Gay Wrestling: We Did It for the Hits, is coming in a more timely fashion.)

The idea behind Beyond Wrestling's product is that we are watching the sort of matches only pro wrestlers are privy to--no civilians or marks in the house, a performance by pro wrestlers for an audience consisting of pro wrestlers.  The atmosphere is manic and mocking--the pros nudge and cheer their pals in the ring, getting the skill and riskiness of each spot, beyond any understanding a paying crowd could possibly bring to it.  Pumped up to perform their best for onlookers who know exactly what they're looking at, the wrestlers deliver one high-impact move after another, at a breakneck pace.

What we have here is a lot of the lucha- and puroresu-inspired high flying, not a whole lot of traditional catch wrestling moves and holds.  It's speedy, light, and fun, and the wrestlers have plenty of heart, along with love and respect for ring wrestling.  The kayfabe of heel and face is played totally tongue in cheek.  The crowd is with and into the action while at the same time jadedly oblique, rating the performers' skill and art with keen, appreciative eyes.  Watching these matches, with the rowdy, rude ringside banter, is a bit like watching Jackass, Antiques Roadshow, a celebrity roast at the New York Friars' Club, and Showtime at the Apollo, all rolled into a backyard wrestling show from the early '00s.


I am not a pro wrestler.  I am not even an especially smart mark.  I am a mid-middle-aged gay man whose particular kink is for a combination of wrestlers' physiques on generous display and the intensity of man-on-man aggression and domination.  What I like about such displays of butch bravura has little to do with insight to the showmanship.  Instead, they tap into my deep-seated childhood fantasies of handsome big brothers, jungle lords in loincloths, GIs cooped up in base barracks, effete cowardly villains (almost always characterized by Hollywood as "gay-ish"), brute justice, tough love, and the aura of sensuous heat that surrounds men of strength and action.  As I have confessed over and over on this blog, the prospect of hurting and getting hurt by a handsome adversary excites me in ways that are no doubt incompatible with Judeo-Christian values and enlightened politics.

With that in mind, you will find my brief remarks unsurprising:  (1) Chris Dickinson is sex on a platter next to T-bone steak and eight shots of tequila, (2) Zack Novack needs a noogie right now and I'm giving it to him, (3) more of these guys need to shop for gear where Dickinson gets his, and (4) could any group of grown-up straight men be any more fucking terrified of being perceived as gay?  (Sheesh, let it go, guys, let it go.)


Of Bosses and Busters is very likely the future of modern pro wrestling--or perhaps it marks the birth of an altogether new wrestling entertainment genre.   Its grainy photography suggests underground-ness and grit, but the footage is tightly edited, ensuring that we miss nothing that happens in the ring--a middle way between basement fights on YouTube and the technical professionalism of MTV's Wrestling Society X.  We get replays of some of the shots, and, as in the recently released EVOLVE 1, there's a commentary track you can switch on or off (the commentary is the usual breathless stuff, not as annoying as some of the shit you hear on TV, but a long ways from Gordon Solie or the Criterion Collection).

The real star here is the high quality of wrestling--wrestling as performance art--and for serious aficionados of pro wrestling this has got to be the equivalent of Sundance for movie lovers.  You'll want this DVD, if for no other reason but Chris Dickinson's tight black briefs, which are like a Happy Meal toy version of Tyler Black's.

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