Monday, January 17, 2011

Can't Fight Fate

Postmodern 240-pixel cubism aside, this is a pretty freaky match.  Karagias's cornrows aside, this is a pretty freaky match.  And Mysterio's Joe Boxer-meets-Army Navy pants aside, this is (to quote Larry David) a pretty pretty pretty freaky match.  Ostensibly this is a title match, with Evan Karagias purportedly within an arm's reach of snatching the cruiserweight belt off Rey Mysterio Jr's waist.  Hm.  As if.

Still it is a compelling show, even knowing that, whatever pounding the "Outrageous" Evan appears to give to Rey, in the end Rey will exact a sudden and humiliating vengeance on the bouncy, Hasbro-molded body of Karagias.  With every arrogant miming of the outline of the belt's golden crest over his firm abs and well-shaped navel, Evan Karagias is digging the hole deeper for himself.

Greek tragedy isn't this chock full of fate.

One of the melodramatic features of pro wrestling I do love is the obliviousness of pretty-boy heels to their certain doom at the hands of unmistakable crowd favorites, preferably scions of revered wrestling legends, preferably high-flyers approximately 79% their size.  The narcissistic heels' puppy-like confidence would be almost exhilarating if it weren't for the hatchet dangling so obviously over their heads.  The fact that they are allowed to dominate a great percentage of the match only fuels our pity and fear and, in the end, our cruel laughter.


  1. I've got this match on video at home, probably from the original 1999 broadcast, and have practically memorized it. It's a masterpiece. Evan asks for it, and gets so cruelly rewarded. After all these years I still can't get enough of Evan, ever. -David

  2. Umm, actually Evan Karagias was the babyface in this match, and Rey was the heel. It was during Rey's brief and (in)famously terrible run as an unmasked luchadore in the last days of WCW (terrible because as anyone who follows lucha knows, the mask isn't just gear, it's a literal manifestation of power in a centuries long tradition. So, strip the mask, and the wrestler is literally powerless, permanently, even if he puts it back on. There are lucha marks who STILL haven't gotten over that whole thing 12 years later. Anyway...), and Rey was a member of an upstart faction called the Filthy Animals, grounded in a new motto of lying, cheating and stealing (victories or anything else--never let it be said Vince Russo, then booker for WCW, was afraid to bogart blatantly racist angles for comedic effect. Interestingly enough, Eddie Guerrero took that angle to WWE a few years later, and it went over huge. But that's another story...).

    Karagias, by contrast, was a face defined by not only not breaking "rules," but by being so green/innocent/naive as to be unaware that breaking rules was even an option--a character trait that led him to do things like dare to interfere when someone like Macho Man Randy Savage was about to punch one of his female valets (never let it be said Russo was above mining misogyny for comedic effect, either).

    Anyway, Karagias played the match by the rules and had one or two moments, but, Rey controlled most of the match and, naturally, ultimately won, via cheating. But, honestly, it's a bit of a stretch to say either wrestlers was heel or face since the Cruiserweight Championship was barely even a mid card title at WCW at the time. It was only filler, actually--itself becoming a bit of a running joke later that year when every single title match was interrupted by some bigger wrestler (everyone from Sid Vicious to Bret Hart), with the announcers always ruffing, "Geez, will these guys ever get to finish a match?"

    But here's a really deep thought: while it may have seemed Karagias was a "heel" because he had a hot body in the context of WCW, if he (or someone like him) was shifted to a gay pro wrestling context, his body would actually have made him an obvious babyface. It goes back to the core of the heel/face genesis: are fans likely to cheer or boo? Since most gay wrestling fans actually don't hate or resent a guy for having a hot body, especially if he's willing to show it off, most especially if he's inevitably going to catch a beating here or there from a resentful heel... thus, face. And it's not that there aren't good looking guys who aren't complete dicks. It's just that that variety of dickery is usually overcome by the obvious reality that instead of being "too good" to be polite, respectful and aware of everyone else, the sheer reality of a guy agreeing to step into a ring, nearly (sometimes fully) naked for the amusement of a gay audience inherently overrides that presumption. I say this only to point out the mercurial aspect of the heel/face dynamic. Shift the audience, shift the context of a wrestling match, and what's classic bad guy posturing in one ring is quintessential good guy in the other.

  3. Evan Karagias has always been one of my favorites and sold the pain better than anyone--those matches against Saturn, HHH, Savage (with the whipping), DDP...I was always nervous before his matches knowing he would get destroyed in some devious manner--that body, that face, that hair...the entier package...and then I met him a couple of years ago and that was an amazing experience! And still looks incredible!



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