Sunday, August 26, 2012

Everything Is Permitted










Want to see a fantastic 44-minute wrestling show for free? It's right here, the first four matches of Beyond Wrestling's "Swamp Sessions," no charge. Enjoy. You can thank me for it later. I should warn you, it's not for everyone. But see for yourself. Don't take my word for it.

Now more than ever, Beyond Wrestling reminds me of the old days of wrestling. It's that fresh. Contradiction in terms? Maybe. But it's the wrestlers' energy and intensity that remind me of the old days--I'm thinking "pre-1980," thereabouts. These guys look and act like they're inventing wrestling with each new match. It's as if televised wrestling did not exist before 2009.

The wrestlers offer a fusion of NWA-heyday grunt-n-sweat, aerial derring-do (actually not so much of this in these matches--and truthfully I don't miss it), sideshow characters, MMA, and early 21st-century backyard wrestling. Over the years BW has attracted badasses like Dave Cole and Chris Dickinson, novelty acts like Johnny Cockstrong and Mr. Touchdown (aka Mark Angel), and adroit technicians like Anthony Stone and Drew Gulak. The show here teems with irreverence, good sportsmanship, bad attitudes, and devotion to the traditions of pro wrestling. Again with the contradictions! (I can't stop myself.) And Denver Colorado's commentary gushes and educates, hyping the importance of each player who enters the ring and cluing us in to the nuances of his style and favorite moves, with glimpses into career highlights, too.

The show starts off with a tag team match: Sugar Dunkerton and Aaron Epic facing J.T. Dunn and Mark Shurman. Then Mr. Touchdown, at his surliest, looking 100% Ivan Drago now, goes after little Johnny Miyagi before tearing into (literally "tearing") the ref. Hell, once you beat up the ref--and an audience full of pro wrestlers lifts not one finger to aid and assist--you're in a world of chaos, anarchy, and disorder: "Nothing is true; all is permitted" (Hassan i Sabbah, by way of Friedrich Nietzsche and William S. Burroughs). Picking up on this theme, the third match gives us the debut of Rory Mondo against the weirdly alien machismo of Biff Busick. You might expect the more experienced Biff to initiate the newcomer with a few cuffs and a little ritualistic humiliation. But Mondo has other plans. Tying things up at the end in my personal favorite match of the four, BW's resident trainer Brian Fury goes after Jaka (formerly known as Johnny Mangue). This is a stout-bellied wrestler match--pushing all my nostalgia buttons--firing my temporal lobe back to the old Dory Funk and Jack Brisco matches that saturated my earliest pro wrestling fantasies. But it's Funk and Brisco inflected by UFC.

For me, Beyond Wrestling is to independent wrestling what UCW-Wrestling is to underground wrestling. A brassy upstart that hasn't yet discovered a rut to fall into, but seems endlessly fascinated by its talent's potential and the immense volume of stuff that hasn't been tried out yet by most wrestling promotions. Luckily it hits more times than it misses. Beyond Wrestling neither spreads itself too thin in aimless experimentalism nor plods through the familiar paces that now define "pro wrestling." It thrives on the unexpected as well as its talent's conflicting personal styles and erratic career trajectories, which is why it won't be for everyone. It offers a workshop approach to pro wrestling, where anything is worth trying once, so long as you're willing to sell the experiment with vigor and heart. 

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