Friday, August 20, 2010
Angle #8: Strap Match
Obviously we could argue over whether a strap match, aka a dog collar match, aka a Russian chain match, aka a Texas bullrope match, aka ... ad infinitum with the names, is a wrestling angle or a wrestling gimmick. I don't want to have that argument, and probably neither do you. (If we do disagree, we should just cuff ourselves together and duke it out--it would be more fun.) Because, like drawing-room comedies and Western showdowns, the strap match has definite narrative associations, I choose to see it as a kind of story or angle.
The 1963 movie From Russia With Love means a lot of different things to different people--but what it mainly means to me is Aliza Gur and Martine Beswick, binding their wrists to opposite ends of a gypsy scarf, wielding knives, and fighting to the death over their love for the same man. (The fight is not actually to the death. It gets interrupted, but what we get to see of it is still pretty hot.) The same year, I saw Tarzan's Three Challenges, with Jock Mahoney and Woody Strode tied together in another fight to the death--this time with no interruptions--the loser getting deep fried ... even hotter. These are probably not my first memories of strap matches, which were apparently huge in the movies and television shows of the 1960s, but they are two of the best. I vaguely recall play-fighting my best friend Robin, each of us holding an end of a white handkerchief, the loser being the one who let go of it first.
Why the strap in a strap match? Usually it's because one or both of the fighters do not want to fight--or because it is a supposedly traditional way of settling a dispute, as in the cinematic examples given above (Hollywood's versions of gypsy and imperial Thai life being sumptuously influenced by bondage fantasies). The strap prevents escape, but it also provides a handy weapon--for lashing, choking, and grinding.
My preference is for lightweight rope or chain, the less bulk the better. Twelve feet is a reasonable length, but no more than fifteen and no less than five, I would say.
As for the angle, I like the idea of a promotion setting up the strap match to rein in two wrestlers whose animosity towards each other threatens the very fabric of the organization--but whose previous meetings in the ring have ended in disqualifications. Because the strap makes for such a handy weapon, most strap matches have no DQs: it is strictly pin or submission or knockout ... or some kind of race for a desirable object dangling a few feet over a ladder.
The idea of two men bound together but at war with each other attracts me, I think, for the same reason that two brothers fighting (where the "ties" are merely metaphorical) is so sexy to me and others. It's a handy little metaphor for relationships in general, based on my experience. Probably the ideal story treatment would involve two hunks, strapped together, fighting over their love for a third hunk ... who very well might be dangling over a ladder, just waiting for the victor to climb up and seize him after knocking the rival out.