Southern Living

You probably already know that NewPro Wrestling is BG East's straight-acting sister company. Under its auspices, we get catch-as-catch-can wrestling from the UK and North America, on DVD or VOD, without the "gay-oriented" warning or the need to assure anyone we're of legal age. I've been a fan for a while, a paying customer in the VHS days well before I knew it had anything to do with BGE, discovering its Lads of the Ring series, featuring British wrestlers, either shortly before or shortly after its numbered series of US independents, the latest (DVD upcoming) being NewPro 20.

NewPro releases are rarer than BGE releases. We're lucky to get one a year. "Lucky" is the operative word, because it is a terrific series, especially for those of us who find wrestling erotic even when it's not supposed to be. 

NewPro 20, like many of its predecessors, gives us a good taste of independent pro wrestling as it happens in the Deep South, where the sleeper hold is still in fashion; where hot-tempered babyfaces sometimes turn on each other; where biting, hair-pulling, and face-clawing are not just the sport of heels; where chops are loud enough to be felt and groans realistic enough to break your heart; where a sunburn that outlines tanktop straps is as good as a salon tan, and teeth as crooked and hominy-colored as God made them; and where a couple of young rookies in the ring still know how to make a whole row of sixteen-year-old preachers' daughters squeal till their panties are wet.

I enjoyed all five matches on this disk, especially the last three, which I'd like to focus some attention on. Kevin Weatherby and Steve Stiles are fairly typical of the new crop of Southern old-school-style wrestlers. Practically speaking, there are no moral ambiguities in the South. The heels are evil, and the babyfaces angelic. If a babyface resorts to a low blow now and then, the fans know he has justifiable reasons. You don't give a copperhead an even break. Weatherby is the heel. If the magenta trunks don't give him away, their snaky shimmer certainly does. And Stiles could not be more decently boy-next-door if he tried. He looks like he listens to soft country and doesn't go honky-tonking on a night before a church meeting. Kevin, on the other hand, looks like he was probably raised by hippies from up North. This is the sort of give-and-take match I am constantly singing the praises of. All we need to know about these guys is made crystal clear during their time in the ring. Well matched, it's possible this fight could go either way. On the one hand, Weatherby looks a bit scrawnier than Stiles. On the other hand, he's got a lot more fight in him than the rather laid-back good ole boy Steve, or so it seems. But then it takes a few minutes for Weatherby to rile Stiles up, and then we start to see we got a real fight on our hands!

The fourth match features Drew Haskins and Zach Daniels. We met both wrestlers first in NewPro 19. These two doughboys perfectly set each other off. Even in size and BMI, both young men look ready to be plopped into a pot of  boiling chicken broth and peas. Drew is the honey-tanned good guy, and Zach is a pasty-skinned heel in red. If you have never considered giving doughboys a look, I suggest you start with these guys. They're what all the fuss is about. They are not the trim gym-built physique models you may be accustomed to, their brawn built on beer and red meat and hauling the heavy stuff at work. But they just might slug and grunt their way into your heart. Their sturdy bodies can dish up and take a lot of pounding, and it's a kick to watch. Zach is the meaner and the nastier of the two, but it's not as if Drew has scruples about trapping an opponent in an armlock and then biting his fingers just to make the guy scream. Good times!

The main event is a tag-team contest, featuring heavyweight bad boys Hot Like Lava (Shaun Banks and Cru Jones) going up against a couple of featherweight babyfaces, Flyin' Ryan and Gavin Reigns. Banks and Jones are flashy old-school villains, who act like the world's their oyster and dress like they're Dolly Parton's drag-queen nephews. I've been a huge fan of Shaun's since NewPro's Bar Battles 1, long long ago, when he was a modest and painfully awkward 6'2" rookie with the bod of a west Georgia demigod. He called himself Sean Wildfire back then. Sean/Shaun was the wrestler who hooked me on NewPro in the first place, and I followed his career as faithfully as my budget allowed, including his stunning appearance in the UK, wearing skintight metallic gold briefs in Lads of the Ring 7 ... yum. Now, he's hardly recognizable as the jungle-cat-print-wearing egomaniac who'll take any cowardly cheap shot he can to win a match quick and easy. Quite as remarkable as his transformation is how utterly convincing he was and is in both roles.

Banks' and Jones' opponents represent the now not so new school of acrobatic wrestling. Gavin appeared in NewPro 19, but it was Ryan who made a huge impression on me in NewPro 18 (against Steve Stiles). Something about Ryan's midsection and thighs make me wish I were 40 pounds lighter and 40 years younger. The guy's beautifully fit, not too much in the pecs and biceps department, but, otherwise, hard muscle where it counts in wrestling. And his looks and demeanor are perfect for a Southern babyface: one part skateboarder, one part church youth director, and one part up-and-coming NASCAR driver. Unlike HLL, who are a smooth, well-oiled pummeling machine, Gavin and Ryan are new to each other as tag partners, causing some awkwardness in their defense against the flamboyant veterans and a little friction between each other. It all makes for great drama in the Tennessee Williams meets Ric Flair world of Southern rasslin' and NewPro.


  1. You nailed this one right on the head - and that "Dolly Parton's drag queen nephews" line made me LOL for real. From the beginning, our goal for NewPro was to provide pro fans a heaping, flavorful sampling of the fascinating and rather peculiar regionality of the business without having to travel to find it. Your reaction is precisely what he have always hoped to elicit.

    Kid Leopard

    Kid Leopard

  2. From what I saw in the trailers the real strength of this franchise is the wonderfully heelish heels. They not only display appropriately vicious moves, even better they follow up. I don't know how often I've watched a heel work and I say to myself that that was a good move but he has an opportunity to complete a sequence and he fails to use it.

    The weakest point is the general level of fitness, which is uneven. I just saw one clip in which a guy of mediocre fitness, but not fat, actually showed belly jiggle!


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