Great Beyond

Johnny Cockstrong, the name and the gimmick (i.e. using his cock as a weapon), is gayer than anything I find on gay wrestling sites--and, no offense intended to the man, but I'm assuming Mr. Cockstrong is straight. With a number of phallo-nymic moves (the "Cock-atiel," the "Pencil-Cock") JC has subdued his foes, one after the other, becoming Beyond Wrestling's number-one ranked wrestler, often by shoving his opponent's face into the front of his trunks before piledriving the man's (and sometimes woman's) head to the mat (the "Dickstroyer").

In Crises Precipitate Change, Beyond Wrestling's pay-for-view show on YouTube, AR Fox gamely battles the power of the cock (the kind of action, as promoter/commentator Denver Colorado proudly notes, "you can only see at Beyond Wrestling") with flashy moves of his own, none of which, however, directly involve genitalia. I haven't written about Beyond Wrestling since December, and a lot has happened since then: live shows, for one thing, surprising since the company's original mission was to stage shows for other professional wrestlers only (with DVDs and T-shirts for sale for us fans). YouTube's new rental service marks another innovation in the distribution of wrestling entertainment, and Beyond leads the pack in adopting this technology.

I often spend time on this blog talking about wrestling's past and especially the history of gay themes in mainstream pro wrestling and the history of gay underground wrestling. Beyond Wrestling points to wrestling's future--or a possible future, most definitely a way to move beyond WWE's clutch on the industry--and perhaps beyond pro wrestling's hetero-normative concepts of American masculinity, too. WWE turned wrestling into a mass-media and marketing phenomenon, providing a model for virtually every other wrestling promotion in the world ... except Beyond Wrestling, which over the past two years has busily constructed its own take on wrestling, emphasizing energy, daredevilry, and gonzo eccentricity, deliberately thinking (and working) outside the box. In Crises, the wrestlers embody many styles of wrestling from the campily comic to MMA-inspired stiffness, and exhibit a freedom of movement and storytelling in excess of what we find anywhere else. The wrestlers use the environment creatively--at one point here cleverly using a refrigerator to brain an opponent.

Ten matches feature eminently watchable performers like Cockstrong and Fox, along with Nick Talent and Mark Angel (collectively the team Academy of Anatomy), Drew Gulak, Anthony Stone, Pinkie Sanchez, Aaron Epic, Sugar Dunkerton, Darius Carter, Johnny Mangue, and others. Some of these guys I have mentioned before in these pages. They are wrestling's future--a synthesis of its carnival spirit with new levels of risk and exuberance. As with any experimentation, some of it works, some of it doesn't. It's the price one always has to pay for trying something different. Some of it reverts back to the early pre-TV sideshow days of wrestling, while other parts of it are so fresh one hardly has words to describe it.

For me the best parts of this show are the matches involving Cockstrong and Gulak, two pointedly different performers in terms of style. Cockstrong opens with his match against Fox, which he wins, but just barely. Halfway through the show he returns in a four-man elimination event, which ends in a showdown between JC and Anthony Stone. This time Cockstrong loses, amazing because Cockstrong almost never loses, hence his number-one ranking. Anthony, who has been trying to make a mark for himself at Beyond Wrestling, knocks out Johnny with a double-knee thrust to the face, a sudden, brutal turn of events, especially so because of Cockstrong's usual frat-boy air of randy frivolity. Then, in the next match, Anthony joins forces with the Academy of Anatomy to fight KOA (a syndicate of Aaron Epic, Pinkie Sanchez, and Sugar Dunkerton), and is hugely instrumental in that match's outcome, in the process creating what appears to be a rift between him and the Academy's habitual sorehead, Nick Talent.

If Cockstrong is right in his element at Beyond Wrestling, Drew Gulak can't catch a break. He has two matches at Crises, loses both of them, yet still rivets our attention. In the first he battles blond, buff, and evil Mark Angel (the other half, with Talent, of the Academy of Anatomy). Angel plays fast and loose with the rules, but Gulak doggedly and stoically fights straight-edge. It's not that Drew is unwilling to play as rough and brutal as the next guy. He just refuses to cut corners and thus leaves himself vulnerable to those (like Angel) who lack his scruples. Drew is even more impressive in his fight later against cocky loudmouth Darius Carter, who, as Colorado points out in his color commentary, "picked a fight with the wrong guy" in going against the deadly earnest Gulak. These are two smaller wrestlers, steely and short-tempered. As the battle mounts, Drew and Darius raise the intensity-level of the show to its peak. By all rights, this should be a big win for Gulak, facing an opponent who habitually overestimates his own abilities and who is (in size and fight) a near perfect match for Drew. To be as awesome a wrestler as he is, on anybody's terms, Drew seems singularly unlucky at pulling a win that night.

The other matches have a lot to recommend them, too, but I find Cockstrong and Gulak especially interesting. Cockstrong makes me laugh and shake my head in amazement, but Gulak has the sort of romantic intensity we don't see a lot of in pro wrestling anymore, where everything is razzle-dazzle showmanship and bigger-than-life caricature. Silliness and tantrum-throwing are the norm. By contrast, Gulak seems almost poetic in his passion for his matches. He is an earnest loner who has too much respect for the art and science of catch wrestling to sell it out. His austerity and passion are, well, broodingly sexy and elevate the contest to a ritual test of personal integrity. Beyond Wrestling has room to accommodate both these styles, and that is why I like the boldly tightrope-walking promotion as much as I do.


  1. Drew Gulak is one of the most talented guys in the business today. He's the real deal.


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