Sunday, September 2, 2012

England Swings

For some reason it took a full month, but I got the Blu Ray disks I ordered from Preston City Wrestling (in the UK) and am happy to report that the first of them, PCW vs PBW 28.10.11, plays beautifully on my nothing-fancy US-coded Vizio player, though the Sony player (even cheaper than the Vizio--don't ask why I have two Blu Ray players*) had problems with it. The show fully justifies my praise of British wrestling a few days ago: energetic, intense, acrobatically astounding, and sexy as fuck**. 

This show, shot in often dazzling hi-def almost a year ago, pits Preston City's wrestlers against the talent at Premier British Wrestling. The best matches--or at any rate my favorite--play up the not-especially-friendly rivalry between the two promotions, and the show starts off with a bang with a six-man elimination match, featuring, among others, CJ Banks, on both promotions' rosters, and Martin Kirby, Davey Blaze, and Bubblegum of PCW, all four of these guys wrestlers I have the deepest respect for. This type of bout is not among my favorites, usually way too busy, with improvised narrative threads that go nowhere and a failure of the wrestlers to commit to whomever they are currently trying to bust up. But I had no problem following this match, whose plot is as detailed and yet compelling as an episode of Downton Abbey--but very, very, very, very different in every other aspect. Kirby dominates as the scientific wrestler par excellence, singlehandedly eliminating most of the competition, while Banks lurks in the shadows, stealth-attacking the wounded that Kirby leaves in his wake. Blaze puts up the toughest defense against both Kirby and Banks, while Bubblegum cowers under the ring, waiting to take on whatever exhausted champion remains at the end. With characterizations this deeply etched in the first two or three minutes of the bout (without, I want to add, a commentator or long opening tirades to exposit the wrestlers' motivations and backstories), I felt fully involved in all the character arcs at once. The four wrestlers I have singled out are not the pretty boys that usually hold my attention, but they are fit, bold, teeming with ability derived from good instincts and years of hard training and work. Sexy as fucking hell as far as I'm concerned. Every time one of these guys entered the ring, especially to face each other, I felt like my balls had just taken a whack. Amazing! And this is the opener!

I am also excited about the match between El Ligero and Noam Dar. Introduced as PCW vs PBW, in fact both wrestlers belong to both promotions. Both are lightweight fighters, around 175 pounds, and both are jaw-droppingly amazing ring technicians, as I knew even before seeing this pairing but have never seen more fully in evidence. They know how to work a crowd (which is as rowdy a bunch as I've seen); Dar "represents" PBW; therefore, he's the heel for these fans. It's a submission match, which promises stiff action for both wrestlers, and I couldn't be more happy about seeing these two attractive and well-built men in the squared circle in singles competition. Ligero comes on fast and strong, and Dar plays the evasive coward who must now and then be chased down and forced to take his medicine. (I have always loved this angle.) Once the action gets started (and it starts pretty quickly), we get the kind of "genuine" mat wrestling I preached about when I wrote about Dar-versus-Sabre this past week. It's like the wrestlers save the bulk of the scripted stuff for the end and start the bout with some solid lockups, scissors, and leg holds, expertly and unfalteringly applied, with the topmost goal being to maximize the opponent's pain. Not a second passes that I wasn't aware that these guys had not merely gone to modeling school and drama camp but really knew their way around a wrestling mat. And I have to say that I've seen X-rated nude oil wrestling that's taken longer to make my fly pinch. The finisher (oh so agonizing and such a surprise) is one I want etched in my memory for my next wrestling fantasy.

I was also stoked to view the main event on my large TV screen, a grudge match between beefy Lionheart and sinewy studmuffin Kris Travis. This is the match that sold me on buying this title because I had seen it before on my laptop's small screen (on YouTube, I think) and it was tasty.  Even though (boo) this episode starts with Lionheart, the heel, grabbing a mike to badmouth (PCW) and rant about what he's going to do to Kris (I could have used subtitles, to be honest), once the match gets rolling, it rolls. The crowd loves Travis, who looks like a mod Tarzan in bubblegum pink squarecuts that can barely conceal the pert, firm curves of his buttocks. He throws himself onto Lionheart, tackling him to the mat and firing about twenty right-hand punches before the man knows what hit him. The two roll over each other, slugging away, till Lionheart slips under the bottom rope to clear his head. But Kris is right behind him, aiming two businesslike punches to the heel's mouth before banging his forehead to the ring post. This is the most "American" of the evening's matches, but it sizzles like nobody's done this sort of thing before on either side of the Atlantic. The crowd chants,"Fuck him up," and Travis is nothing if not a crowd-pleaser. The slugfest tours through the crowd to the nosebleed seats (and here I had thought the expression referred to altitude). I don't care why these two blokes don't like each other, but I sure am glad they can't settle their differences like proper gentlemen. Kris goes in search of weapons (not my favorite bit of business in any match--I never find it convincing), which unintentionally gives Lionheart the time and space to recover from the assault. The fans vacate their seats in a hurry, as the two seem to prefer to deal out their blows atop the cold concrete. This is a "last man standing" fight, but I suppose a good many of the spectators had naively thought that they at least would be exempt from the mayhem. Lionheart is a bit bigger than Kris, but I was totally convinced that Travis could hold his own against him (love that expression: "hold his own against him") and possibly even triumph. Thumbtacks get thrown on the mat, and matters turn decidedly German fast. This is what I find unconvincing, every time, but fortunately there are no staple guns or nunchuks to be found. And I won't spoil the end, but I will say that an out-of-left-field show of sportsmanship closes the match--and it kinda works on a this-is-how-real-men-settle-things level, though by that time I'm ready to slip away to my room for some "me time."  

Everyone of these guys is somebody I would like to lure into a dark alley for some fight-club action, and everyone of them would know how to rip my ears off and stick them up my nostrils. The photography is good, but I don't think conditions were ideal for the hi-def treatment. While the long (full ring) shots are dark, the ringside cameras catch everything I want to see, and brightly. Even at ringside, the focus comes and goes. Nothing is lost, really, and the effect is even pretty "arty," though I think it results from the camera's autofocus, not late nights spent watching Julian Schnabel movies. For North Americans, the main reason to get the Blu Ray would be if the regular DVDs are not region-free. If they are Region 0, then save some shillings and go for basic DVD--but definitely go for it: this is already one of my "desert island" wrestling disks.

* Okay, I'll tell you. For a while there I thought the Vizio (a gift from a generous friend) wasn't working, when in fact all it needed was a software update, apparently. Rather than face a situation where my generous friend would find out that her gift was not working properly so soon after presenting it to me, I bought the cheapest player I could find on Amazon, only to discover that some disks play better on some models than on others. You probably knew that already, technology-savvy people that you are, but I had to find out through trial and error.

** Now that mainstream wrestling routinely puts its talent into skimpy, skintight trunks and wrestlers prolong the skin-on-skin contact that comes with a wrestler's strenuously working his opponent, I have to wonder where gay-targeted underground wrestling will have to turn next. It's almost like the situation where I live, where the LGBT community is smaller than in huge metropolitan areas and the local bars here are so diverse and LGBT-friendly that the gay-only bars and clubs are closing their doors due to disuse. Of course, there's already cock and even squirting in some gay wrestling videos, but the majority get by on just showing off lots of beautiful muscle, but more and more beautiful muscle, in spectacular display, is becoming commonplace even at WWE, ROH, and TNA Impact. Can the little gay indies continue to compete? Fuck, I hope so. I don't want to live in a world without BG East, Can-Am, Thunder's Arena, UCW-Wrestling, Rock Hard, and all the other terrific online venues (insert your unmentioned favorite here). 

The photos above were taken by Tony Knox. They are not screen captures (obviously not my screen captures, if you've ever seen my handiwork).

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