Loaded for Bear

Thunder's Arena celebrates the new year with a compilation of its best bear hugs of 2011 on Thunder TV. My personal favorite is Eric Fury, 5'7", 190#, versus Sledge, 5'8", 210# (pictured). These two don't take the bear hug as an excuse to bring the action to a paralyzed halt (as is too often the case) but keep the heated battle going, fierce as ever. Fury sweatily writhes, thrusts, and punches even while Sledge's powerful arms suspend him off the mat and grind him against his torso.

Still, an awfully close second to this match for me is Big Sexy versus Pee Wee (which I wrote about in the fall here), when Pee Wee (rather winsomely, I thought) says he wants Sexy to bear-hug him chest to chest. Mr Mike, who was behind the camera at the time, later said the exchange was entirely improvised and surprised him too. Contrary to what I might have expected, the bear hug can be no less captivating and strenuous a hold for being submitted to voluntarily.

If we shoot past the obvious thrill of tight and sustained body contact (no small thing for me, mind you), part of the mystique of the bear hug is its allusion to Hercules wrestling Antaeus, the mighty demigod who could not be out-grappled unless heaved clean off the ground. His mother (the earth goddess Gaia) would give him supernatural strength every time his foot touched soil, so he was virtually unbeatable. In the well-known myth Hercules manages to pull Antaeus free from the earth and crushes him to death through the sheer power of his bare arms.

The appeal of the bear hug has many facets: entrapment, domination, one-upmanship, pain, proximity, concentration, resilience, stamina, and tenacity. It's one of the most popular holds among wrestling fetishists because of its mimicry of lovemaking. As I suggested above, when the effect on the victim is paralysis, I find the bear hug a bit less interesting. Instead, I want to see squirming--and lots of it, reinforced with groans and sweat. And it's all the better, as far as I'm concerned, when the victim, like Eric Fury, still has a lot of fight left in him


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