This week I bought Cyberfights' DVD Vancouver Revenge for one reason: Tyler Black versus Davey Richards versus Scotty Mac. It was also on sale at Can-Am. I had some extra money from summer classes, so I was an easy mark. Though just released, this is a match from Black's younger years, pre-Ring of Honor--back when he was a beautiful, prancing heel--back when he was Tyler Black. It's a great little match. All three wrestlers look young, fresh, rowdy, fun, with barely a glimmer of the somber ring personae they would come to embody.
But I also got the opening match: Tyler Black and Marek Brave versus Cameron Mathews. Another little beauty. It's this match I want to talk about, because it does something kind of cool. It addresses homophobia, as directly as possible without naming it and without overtly identifying a gay character.
It's a two-on-one fight with Mathews defending himself against Brave and Black. At one point Marek gets behind the solitary and sexually ambiguous Cameron and grabs him around the ribcage. He squeezes, thrusting his crotch up hard against Cameron's round ass, and then lifts and drops, lifts and drops, drumming Cameron's boots to the mat in a rhythmic manner. Highly suggestive. Marek even wiggles his butt ecstatically for emphasis. Then, as he is apt to do, Cameron escapes and spins around to get behind Marek. He gives Marek a taste of his own medicine, and Marek screams, panic stricken. When Mathews releases Brave, concerned he might be doing the guy some serious damage, Marek runs for the ropes, breathlessly crying foul to the ref: "I don't know ... if I can be in a ring ... with a man ... who's gonna do something like THAT!" The same hold, mind you, he had just used. He exits the ring, bitterly complaining to the camera, "I can't believe he would do that to me ... to my precious ass, my precious ass."
From outside the ring Brave continues to help Black beat up Mathews, a bit more viciously now. At one point while Mathews' shoulders are on the ropes, Marek reaches around and pinches him on both his cheeks, cooing "Yeeeaaah," in a derisive parody of cutesy affection. The match turns into something different, now--a gay bashing. When Black squats on Mathews' back and pulls his shoulders up off the mat in a full nelson, Brave reenters the ring to pull Cameron's face up, eyes level with Marek's crotch, to mock him. Several things are psychologically right about this. The bashers outnumber the victim. They claim that the victim is victimizing THEM. At least one basher--the one most heated in his attack--is visibly turned on. The mockery barely conceals this cruel fact.
I remember the first time I saw the word "bash" in the context of gay wrestling. I did a double take. Back then the word still described a homophobic attack--to my way of thinking. The currently preferred word for this--"bullying"--strikes my ear as euphemistic, even somewhat attractive from the standpoint of fantasy. It took me a minute or two to get my head around the use of "bash" in the context of fun and gay-themed entertainment. But I did--though sometimes the word still makes me wince, having been the object (years ago) of a couple of actual bashings.
As a man who loves men, I look forward to the day when pro wrestling has openly gay and fully sexualized babyfaces, even alongside the well-worn gimmick of the flamboyant gay heel. It's more curious that there are not more "out and proud" heroes in gay-targeted pro-style wrestling--and, frankly, I wonder whether there's a market even among gay men for such figures. Our identities being individual and varied, we are suspicious of stereotypes and role models alike. But I think we may need some openly homophobic characters in the pro ranks--heels, whose bigotry the fans hiss the way they used to hate on the Million-Dollar Man for having his valet Virgil shine his $900 shoes and now hate on JBL for calling Mexicans lazy and referring to them as "these type of people." Perhaps wrestling is a tool for taking on social issues not so much by enforcing political correctness as by heaping ridicule and condemnation on the haters--and exposing their hypocrisy, ignorance, and self-loathing.
(Spoiler Ahead.) In their relentless and barely legal attacks, Tyler and Marek pay a lot of attention to Cameron's ass and crotch. Cameron's butt is a particular focus. But when they have Mathews in simultaneous nerve pinches and Mathews looks almost certain to submit, Cameron slugs them in their faces and flies into them both at once, cracking their skulls together, dropkicking Tyler out of the ring, and cornering Marek, climbing the ropes so his crotch is even with Marek's nose, and, with a splendid "This is for YOU!" delivers ten rock-hard punches to the heel's face. Tyler and Marek retaliate by grinding Cameron between them in a combination figure four and headscissors--but again Cameron powers out, and in the end it's just Brave and Mathews in the ring. Cameron busts Marek up good and rolls him up for the pin ... leaving Marek whining and peeling down his trunks to have Tyler check for bruises on his ass. That, my friends, is what I call quality entertainment!