I liked Austin Cooper from the moment I first saw him. But his match with Kid Karisma, in Wrestler Spotlight: Austin Cooper, impressed me, really impressed me, with his ability to execute and sell elaborate pro-wrestling moves with grace, conviction, and force. Yesterday BG East released Babyface Brawl 2, available also as part of Summer Sizzlers 3, in which Coop brings the magic again, this time with Cameron Matthews, another wrestler who's taken a turn towards greatness in the past year.
The intensity of the rivalry between Coop and Cam is palpable from the beginning. They look each other up and down, without saying a word, and then enter the ring, with identical flips over the top rope. Cameron conveys nothing of the sweet, easygoing jobber of his early BGE bouts. He's a cold, hard legend in his own right now, with a chiseled physique and a defiant steeliness in his approach to Austin. "You ready?" he asks Coop in his best Clint Eastwood voice, clipped and throaty. "Born ready," Austin replies, pacing all the while like a panther in a cage. This match is steaming my glasses even before it starts.
Coop is more compactly built than Matthews, who has a swimmer's build, long waist and long legs. Coop looks more classically gladiatorial, muscular shoulders, thick and solid thighs, and hawklike eyes that narrow to a pinpoint. The two wrestlers circle each other warily and lock up. Cam makes a quick and easy start, slamming Austin to the canvas. Austin springs back with a trio of bodyslams and a dropkick that hurls Matthews to the corner ropes. It's a boilerplate opener, but executed with style and heart. Things get hairier fast. The pace quickens. The plot thickens.
What's intriguing for me about the Babyface Brawl series, which Cam inaugurated two years ago in a match with Alexi Adamov, is the sight of two strong, beautiful men pitting themselves against each other. There is no obvious top or bottom, heel or jobber, veteran or rookie. The dramatic potential centers on the two wrestlers' jockeying for position just as the spectacle centers on their stunning physiques. Soon enough, Austin establishes himself as the badass. He hurls Cameron out of the ring. Cam lands hard against the concrete block wall. Winded and a bit shaken, Matthews calls for a timeout. Austin, however, dives over the ropes into the man. "No timeout." Then he chokes him on the middle rope.
It looks like Coop is claiming the role of heel, delegating Cameron to his usual role of sacrificial lamb. Not so, though. Just when Matthews looks most vulnerable, we find out he's playing possum. He wants Austin to underestimate his resilience. Nobody's going to roll over and play dead for the other guy in this fight. Cameron and Austin brawl with conviction. It's a fight to the finish, not a morality play. Each one goes for the low blow, as circumstances demand. They'll do whatever it takes to win, and what it takes, apparently, is sweat, grit, and dirty tricks. The boys uncork what looks like years of pent-up rage. They cash in every ounce of hostility they've ever felt and make their opponent the repository for every bone they've had to pick with anyone. It's a joy to watch.
I like both these guys, but my heart's with Cooper here. He's the one with the killer glint in his eyes. The less experienced of the two, he's the one who has more to prove. With his Abercrombie & Fitch body and golden looks, he's easily discountable as just another fitness model grimacing and thrashing about, pretending to be a wrestler. If that's all he was, I'd like him still. The guy is supremely fuckable. But that's not all he is. In February he told me,
In high school I wrestled from sophomore to senior year. I was a horrible wrestler my first year and ... being such a competitive person ... I was determined to come back and make a name for myself, and I feel as if I can say I successfully did that by the time of my senior year by being the captain of the team and earning the MVP award.Austin's drive and determination to excel are what stand out for me in his work at BG East. Guys as good looking as he have made careers in underground wrestling by just posing for their videos' cover art. They sleepwalk through their matches, fully confident that their fans will be satisfied so long as some hairy heel stretches them out for the camera like a shopkeeper displaying a particularly fine bolt of silk. And they're right, of course. I've bought matches just for the packaging. But Austin knocks me out because he pushes harder and reaches further. (Much like Cameron, too, in this respect.) I'm sure the man likes selling videos, but Coop aims for more than that. He doesn't just do the same shtick over and over again. He gets better. He tries out new shit. This guy actually watches wrestling. He studies it. He pushes through his limits to find out what he's capable of. He surprises me. That's really it, I guess: his capacity to take me by surprise. I can watch his muscles flex and shimmer all day, but his dynamism and can-do attitude are what draw me to his character as a wrestler and a man.
This match is a star in the crown of the Summer Sizzlers series, now as big a part of the season as Pepsi, Speedos, and caiparinhas. Fans of Cam and Coop will definitely want to catch this one. Fans of good pro-style wrestling, too. It's an instant classic. Consider this an unqualified recommendation.