I liked him best ten years ago as an earnest and reasonably modest hunk on Tough Enough, Season 3, but I could never bring myself to totally write him off as John Morrison, a larger-than-life caricature of rock-star glam on WWE. And if major cable-TV sports entertainment shies away from wrestling (you may recall that last spring Vince McMahon officially removed the word "wrestling" from WWE), Morrison, 6', 215#, found a workable second-best in parkour, the French art and science of moving rapidly, gracefully, and often astoundingly through, around, over, under, and in between obstacles. Known by many names over the last decade (Johnny Blaze/Nitro/Onyx/Spade/Superstar), Morrison exited WWE last month, but he is scheduled to headline the newly branded World Wrestling Fan Xperience this coming Saturday in Manila (lucky Bruno at Beefcakes of Wrestling!), reportedly under his birth name, John Hennigan, the name we first knew him by, in 2002.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
I watched Eli Black's sophomore match at Rock Hard Wrestling yesterday. At the startup, Black promises to put Alexi Ivanov's muscles to the test, and Ivanov dopily grins, under the impression apparently that three rounds with the mean-tempered Eli will be just another day in Gorky Park. For two or three seconds I was convinced that Black might go easy on the new guy, but in less than a minute the gangly Ivanov is stretched out on the mat, skin flushed and shiny with sweat, as Eli stands over him, glowering.
Eli has a thing about muscles, his muscles mainly, and maybe the Russian's nicely clipped pectorals are a provocation. He doesn't say. He assumes the attitude of master punisher, explaining key points in the art of dealing out hurt, profusely illustrated, as if he were going over questions in the back of the Florida Driver's Manual. Eli holds forth on his solid "core" as a trained professional MMA fighter, framing his tight abdominals between his two hands, illustratively--and then he slams into Alexi's midsection to prove that the tall rookie, nice as he is in other respects, does not have a solid core to speak of.
"I thought you were tougher than that," Eli states, matter of factly, not particularly disappointed because he has no qualms about trashing a guy who lies down and takes it. "Little girl," he badgers. "I don't know what the hell you came to the US for, man. Tell you what, though, while you're here, let's see how much pain you can endure." Black hangs Ivanov on the ropes like wet laundry. He grinds the man's adam's apple to the rope. Then he uses the new guy's kidney for a speed bag. "C'mon, scream!" Eli snaps at Alexi, irritated by the man's stoic air of imperturbability.
For my part I would like to see Ivanov put up more of a fight. He rouses now and then to deliver some payback to the hotshot American, but as you might expect, since this is Ivanov's debut match, we mostly get a squash job. Lovers of a one-sided match will lap this up, of course, and well they should. Not that there isn't plenty here for the rest of us to like, too--especially Black's constant stream of shit talking and his untiring effort to find a new part of his opponent to bruise. And Eli has a point--though he strikes me as the sort who could not give a rat's ass whether I see his point or not--that if Ivanov isn't going to put up a decent fight, the least he can do is scream his bloody lungs out.
Whether we're seeing a new talent being broken in or just plain broken remains to be seen. What is crystal clear is that Black--who played the punching bag for Jake Jenkins in his debut--is coming into his own as a star in his second showing at Rock Hard. He may be slim, but there's no "twink" in this tattooed roughneck. The man's a brute, twice the brute of three-quarters of the galoots in the major cable-TV promotions. Chalk that up to his MMA credentials or his nasty disposition, either way Eli's on a short track to superstardom. All it will take now is a racking head-to-head against somebody like Ethan Andrews, followed by a grudge-fueled rematch with Jenkins, win or lose, and Black's niche will be fixed in the pantheon of underground wrestling.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
I'm still hoping for a fat 2011 tax return to see the Arena's Christmas release, featuring Big Sexy and Dominic in domination mode, with new boys Tak and Octane tied up in knots and fairy-lights. Then earlier this month Tak brought along big brother, Impact, 6'1", 205#, exactly the kind of strapping man-boy that could make my knees go weak. And now Octane has his second bout in just weeks, this time against suave and cocky Z-Man in Bodybuilder Battle 53.
I can't keep up with all this!
Thunder's is launching what look like an exciting card and a refreshing new wave for 2012. Tak versus Octane and Impact versus Big Sexy strike me as logical (perhaps inevitable) next steps. And who knows what new match-ups and talent await in the wings!
Dory Funk, Jr., born 1941, 6'2", 240#, said of Jack Brisco, born 1941, 6', 234#, that he had the "best armdrag in professional wrestling," and Funk's the guy about to feel his shoulders smash the mat in the picture above, taken at a memorable match in Tokyo 38 years ago today.
Before I'd heard of Kevin Von Erich or found the joys of BG East and Can-Am, there was Brisco. There was a time, way back when, when just the word "Brisco" was enough to perk me up. "Brisco" and "Funk" together could send shivers down my spine.
All that was a long time ago. As late as 1968, I hated pro wrestling, or thought I did. My uncle watched it, and I remember thinking it was pretty white-trash of him. Well, he was white trash, but it wasn't wrestling's fault. I was white trash too, but didn't know it then. Then sometime before I turned nineteen--I don't know when--I had a change of heart, mediated by a couple of friends who were high-school athletes who talked me into stripping down to my white cotton briefs and wrestling with them on a rug or mattress on the floor.
This lasted for about seven years. I still have a chipped tooth to remind me of those years. All three of us were good Christian boys back then; one was a preacher's son. This preacher once caught me in bed with the other guy (not his son), and nothing was said about it by any of us. We all acted like nothing had happened and nobody had seen anything. My two friends stuck with Christ and conservative politics; the one followed his father's footsteps into the ministry, and the other coached sports at a Christian school. The three-way friendship did not end well, but it ended. I haven't seen either one of them in 35 years.
They knew wrestling them excited me, the more so the more naked we got. We talked about it. I told them I wasn't gay, and they were fine with the hard-on. Wrestling helped them relax. A good cool-down activity after working out. They introduced me to free weights. I was their goto guy when they wanted to tussle--day or night, dorm room or motel room or, eventually, apartment.
My friends married a couple of appropriately docile young women, and shortly thereafter we fell out of each other's lives. The details are still a little painful--the usual, betrayal and lies, the awkward and ineffective attempt at rapprochement. Though, for a couple of years, I'd get letters from one of the wives, whom I didn't know well at all, in which she'd tell me what X was up to and mention how much I still meant to him and invite me to visit them soon. I never responded.
Jack Brisco died almost two years ago: February 1, 2010. He and his matches (against the likes of the Funks, Greg Valentine, Harley Race, and so on) are still the standard by which I judge pro wrestling.
So this is what I wanted to say. I'm not sure why. Maybe I was feeling nostalgic. It happens more than I like. Or maybe I thought it was time to recap my story, vis-a-vis the subject of this blog. More likely, it was the picture of Brisco flipping Funk, bringing memories of things past like Proust's madeleine.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Simon Sermon and Tommy Too Much (The Exotic Ones) beat Jon and Trey Williams (The Washington Bullets) in Carrollton, Georgia, last Saturday in a heel-versus-heel match for Peachstate Wrestling Alliance. The Exotics sweated like pigs to get the job done and smeared their mascara in the process--but still smashed nuts and skulls to rise triumphant and fabulous at last.
Heel-versus-heel is pretty much how I like my pro wrestling: a nail-biter to the finish. Wrestlers who hit low, talk shit, and cop attitude, should have to face their equals now and then. I still think the styles should contrast, as here we get gay-club bad versus urban-street bad. But when bad goes up against bad, all bets are off, and the outcome is far from obvious.
Do I mind that the gay gimmick is always a heel gimmick? A little, I guess. I'd like to see a gay babyface, of course. I'd mind more if the gay gimmick were always a jobber gimmick. Simon and Tommy may dress like Malaysia Airlines stewardesses, but they're big and they hit hard.
What I would really like to see is a pro bout pitting gay villain against another gay villain. I've talked about male catfights elsewhere, and seriously it's something the pro world needs to pick up on. The Exotic Ones need a pair of spoiled, swishy twinks or gym bunnies to manhandle. Now that would be a show I would hate to miss!
(Photos by Harold Jay Taylor)
Friday, January 27, 2012
By the way, Mike is one of my Facebook friends, unrecognizably chubby now, married and remarried, more faithful to Chik-Fil-A and Jesus than I have been. We never communicate--poke, share, comment, or like. I hate his politics, and he hates mine. Facebook allows that sort of distant connectedness to old buddies. The distance is probably for the best, all things considered.
BG East is set to release its sixth in the Wet & Wild series as part of Catalog 91, and it's pretty terrific. Anything with Jake Jenkins is bound to be a cut above the rest, but his costars Reese Wells, Len Harder, and Christian Taylor are impressive, too. Both matches start with a fabricated fuss--Jake's mad at Christian for not helping him show off his backflip, and Reese inexplicably gives Len the cold shoulder. Things quickly escalate until there's nothing left to do but wrestle in the pool. Christian uses his height advantage to pull Jake out to the deep end. Jake decides grappling is not enough for him and throws a punch, and in no time the guys are trying to choke each other to death. Similarly, Reese decides that Len needs to be taught a lesson in respect, and before it's over, he's bodyslamming the guy into the pool ... multiple times.
As exciting as water wrestling is, with rubbery gooseflesh smoothing over other gooseflesh in a near-frictionless water world, it's hard to capture the action (or frottage) on camera. It helps when the fighters climb up on the tiles to trap their opponents in half-submerged headscissors--or, like Jenkins, to fly off the pool edge and dropkick Taylor, up to his waist in fresh chlorinated water. Even better, the guys leave the pool area to wrestle on dry land and mats, their trunks still soaked and their hair still dribbling droplets to their shoulders.
Not a whole lot to complain about when you get to see Jake Jenkins' wet, translucent gold bikini creeping up his ass cheeks, or Reese Wells, body glistening like a twilit vampire, choking Harder with a twisted beach towel. These are good times--perfect fantasy scenarios for long winter's nights and encouragement to drop the pounds gained over the holidays before spring springs upon us. Poolside wrestling captures the fun, playful roughhouse of men together, and BG East's latest entry to a tradition as old (at least) as the Athletic Model Guild will definitely get you wet and more than likely drive you wild, too.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Last fall, Eli Black made a big splash with his first Rock Hard Wrestling match, in fact his first experience ever in a wrestling ring. He faced Jake Jenkins, who has about fifteen pounds of muscle on the guy. Black got his expected initiatory whipping, with handsomely brutal Jake performing the honors. But even Jenkins' movie-star looks and crippling punishments could not eclipse Eli's star appeal for underground wrestling fans. His training in college wrestling and mixed martial arts experience in steel cages paid off, garnering notices for his debut on blogs and discussion boards. Not that he needs the attention, mind you. Eli keeps himself going on a steady diet of spunk and inflated ego. He's a force of nature, all right, like a cyclone, and you can sense that, just listening to him. Days before the release of his second Rock Hard match (versus Russian rookie Alexi Ivanov--out today), Black agreed to talk with me about his experiences at RHW and his goals. Black likes to speak his mind, all right, and if it generates a little heat, all the better for him.
Joe: First of all, thanks for agreeing to do this, and I wish you great success with this new release. So, tell me, what drew you to Rock Hard?
Eli: I was told by, um, an unnamed source that I should take my skill from MMA and college wrestling into the ring because there was some intense contenders in there, and if you know Eli Black, you know I love a challenge. I'll take anyone on. I do nothing but work at increasing my skills, and I felt Rock Hard best suited me. It has a great atmosphere. Great place to train.
Joe: What's it like being the new meat? Everybody treating you all right?
Eli: Everyone treats everyone the same. I don't care if I'm the new meat. Just means I'm fresh and ready to go and discard the old.
Joe: So, what's it like there?
Eli: Kinda every man for himself. ... Well, basically, everyone here is two-faced. You pal around backstage with someone. Your new best buddy trash-talks on another wrestler. Then he goes right to that wrestler and starts talking trash on the other wrestler he was just talking to. Not to mention any names, Jake Jenkins! [Laughs.] Douche bag. But the training facilities here are topnotch for me. They keep making my picture-perfect eight-pack abs and that amazing and stunning ass of mine tighter and harder for my next opponent. I work on my abs all day every day, doing sit-ups with a medicine ball to make them rock hard and tight. For my ass I just have to give props to God ... he blessed me with that pleaser.
Joe: Your debut match against Jenkins was killer. Very exciting. And you proved yourself a tough and durable fighter. Looking back at that match, what stands out for you?
Eli: I'm not talking about it. I tune it out. He caught me off guard and got lucky. End of story!
Joe: [Laughs.] Okay. So let's talk about your background. Were you always into sports?
Eli: I've wrestled my whole life. I was a state champion and college All-American and Junior Olympian. Then I trained in MMA, where I turned professional and had an amazing career there as well.
Joe: Tell me a little bit about your martial arts experience.
Eli: Well, like my wrestling, I've been doing it for a very long time with training in BJJ [Brazilian jujitsu] and boxing with pros! Pushing myself every day to perfect my skills so I will be the best, no matter what I do. And I'll destroy anyone in my path! If, by some magic, I do lose, it's not a big deal. Actually, in that case it's worse for you because I make my weaknesses my strengths ... from you. And I will be back for revenge in the most painful way I can imagine ... and I have a crazy mind. [Laughs.]
Joe: What's your favorite gear?
Eli: Def my trunks, the tighter the better, basically, a pair that shows off my perfect ass!
Joe: Do you have a signature hold or finisher?
Eli: Yes, I have two that are very special ... "The Shutdown" and "The Eli Black Special," as you've seen in my stellar match with Jake. You know, that little girl who got lucky in our match? The Shutdown was when I lifted him from his feet and flipped him over my head onto his back at the same time as I spun to a full mount to get strong control. The Eli Black Special is my finisher. It usually follows the Shutdown. After I full-mount the opponent, I'll ride high up to his face and rap my leg around his head and position the opponent's ... Jake Jenkins' ... face nice and deep into my record-breaking dick! Then I lock that mount into a reverse triangle, and they are forced to submit or face my cock being the last thing they see before they pass out from the strength of my thighs.
Joe: Is there anybody you model yourself after?
Joe: Is there anybody you model yourself after?
Eli: I am the best. End of story.
Joe: So is there anybody at Rock Hard you're itching to battle--or battle again?
Eli: Do you need to ask? Jake Jenkins! That pussy got lucky once. That shit's not happening again. Next fucking question! Stupid fucking question, Joe! ... Oh, and that new kid, Travis or whatever. I don't give a fuck. They're all pussies. I'll take em all. Why? Because I'm the best. Dumb ass!
Joe: Easy now, Eli.
Eli: Next question!
Joe: Okay. Let's go the other way on this. Is there anybody at Rock Hard you hope never to have to face in the ring?
Eli: [Laughs.] Don't make me throw you down in the ring! ... Honestly, myself. I tremble a little at my own amazing self! So, if it were possible, myself. Next question.
Joe: So just name a celebrity whose ass you think needs kicking?
Eli: I don't care. I'll kick anyone's ass. Next question!
Joe: Let's talk WWE, then. Who's your favorite wrestling superstar?
Eli: Me, when I get there! Role model from the past ... Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Eli: I'll beat anyone's ass in anything it is I do. If it's checkers or Chutes and Ladders, I'll crush you.
Joe: Earlier this month, you set your resolution for 2012 to become "King of Rock Hard Wrestling"? What's that going to take to achieve?
Eli: Destroying any and all threats and leaving no doubt I am the fucking champ!
Joe: Would you like to see Rock Hard put a championship title up for grabs?
Eli: Yes. But, again, if you ask me, they already have a champion ... and a trophy: Me! [Laughs.] If that ever does happen, though, I promise I will not REST until I hold that championship title. I'm not joking. It will be MINE!
Joe: Where do you see yourself and Rock Hard Wrestling being in 2017?
Eli: Owner. Running shit.
Joe: What's one thing an opponent does or says that will make you see red? Guaranteed.
Eli: Pulling my goddamned hair!
Joe: Do fans ever proposition you?
Eli: "Proposition"? What the hell does that mean? This ain't no English test. Don't use these big words, you smart ass! Don't make me whip your ass!
Joe: Come on, Eli, don't be a dick.