Saturday, June 2, 2012


The most frequent charge levied against former UCW champion James the Never Give Up Kid was that, unlike more charismatic wrestlers like Axel and Joker,  and more recently Joey Cantrell and Eli Black, he never shed his big plasticky MMA pants to show off his legs. In pro wrestling in general, and all the more so in underground wrestling targeting a gay male audience, a certain amount of exhibitionism is not just expected but required. The pro wrestler--that is, the wrestler who hopes to fill seats or sell videos--has to operate on the principal that the audience (i.e. the customer) is always right--it's business, hence the word "pro." 

But I'm not sure that success in wrestling depends entirely on the scantiness of the gear. There is, apart from the visibility of skin, a necessity to feel free in one's body and have no qualms about contact between one's body and an opponent's. I would argue that a wrestler can be covered from scalp to toenails and still exert in the manner and force of his thrusts, squeezes, tackles, and grasps a freedom of movement and contact that is exciting and invigorating for viewers. Perhaps on this point, as in many others, I am out of step with other gay wrestling fans. Let me reconfirm, then, that I, too, love flesh ... and muscle, and sweat, and a reasonable amount of body hair on display. My point is that we find superheroes like Spiderman and Superman no less sexy because we can't see their nipples, navels, and armpits. Yet in the manner they wear their spandex, we sense confidence, vigor, and even a bit of arrogance. James has the confidence and vigor. What we see much less of is the arrogance.

James lacked arrogance even while he was UCW champion. His reserve--whatever its cause--contributed to a certain lack of interest in his matches at times, for me at least ... unless, of course, he was wrestling somebody who possessed the magnetic ego that he lacked. Yet before he won the championship, his predecessor Axel named him as the most worthy successor to the title. The thing is, James had and still has chops as a mat wrestler. He takes risks. Big risks. He does not scrimp on the hurt he puts on an opponent, and he does a good job of expressing agony when it is the opponent who has the upper hand.

Now that he is no longer champion, having recently lost the title to Corporal Punishment, perhaps James can loosen up and find his groove. His match with XanJey [197] shows a lot of promise. It's fast paced and strenuous, but neither fighter entirely carries the match in the sense of a singer selling a song or an actor carrying a scene. The roughhouse is there, but not so much the heart. At one point XanJey reaches down James's baggy trunks and drags him around the mat by his cock and balls. But, maybe it's just me, there's not enough sex in it ... and not enough violence. The two fight as if they were performing an exhibition match at an open house at the dojo. There's the usual gut-punching and choking, but something seems to be missing. The men don't appear to have a reason to fight. There's punch, but not a lot of emotion in the punch.

The technique is definitely there. James's moves are perhaps the best the company saw before the recent advent of Cantrell and Black. For wrestlers, a lot can be learned from studying the ways James manipulates an opponent. But many (if not most) wrestling fans are not wrestlers. Most of us appreciate the science of grappling only abstractly. What we respond to are the dramatic and picturesque aspects of the contest. Perhaps James is a wrestlers' wrestler, whereas somebody like Joker, for instance, is a fans' wrestler. Disciplined technique as opposed to raw instinct. James's low key approach to underground wrestling inspires respect, even awe, but it does not always heat up the blood. To some extent, I'm saying he runs the other extreme from WWE, which is all show and hardly any grappling science. Of the two, James has picked the right direction, but still I'd like to see him swing just a tad more towards showmanship, too. 

What I really like about James, and to some extent XanJey, is the earnestness of his wrestling. Integrity, too, carries a certain clout, even at times a strong erotic charge. Few wrestlers are as dogged in their discipline, as serious in their pursuit of a pinfall, as James. He's a good-looking young man, who has decided, for whatever reasons, not to exploit his looks or his body, but to sell himself strictly according to his skills. The skills are impressive. So are his concentration and focus. Watch him and see. If he withholds a certain amount of himself from the fans, it's his business and his alone. But it's a calculated risk. By focusing so much on the choreography of the fight, and not playing the fans' emotions, he risks impressing mostly other wrestlers and only the smartest of marks. If he overestimates fans' interest in and respect for the martial arts in and of themselves, he may continue as a journeyman wrestler for years. Guys like James, deadpan technicians whose love of the sport is largely mathematic,  have been the backbone of wrestling for decades. So the pants are, yeah, hideous. There are worse things.

1 comment:

  1. A gr8 series of pictures with a comprehensive coverage. Thx for posting!



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