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.