Stop the presses. I had planned to devote the blog to a different topic this morning--something in reference to both Greek classical literature and my personal recollections of an underwear match from my college years, then a list of my twelve favorite brands of spandex. But that was before I discovered that there's a clear one hour, four minute, and 56 second video of Jack Brisco, 6', 234#, fighting in Japan against Dory Funk Jr., 6'2", 240#. That discovery took precedence over anything else I might have to say about wrestling. It is like the Higgs boson of this blog.
On January 29, 1974, I was 20, and Jack Brisco was 33 and in the best shape he would be in for the rest of his life. He was at the top of his game as a wrestler, holding the NWA world heavyweight championship belt. His biggest rivals at the time were the Funk brothers, Terry and Dory Jr. In 1974 he had not yet done the two things in his life that I find hardest to forgive him for. He was two years away from discovering and promoting the career of the future Hulk Hogan. And he was ten years away from convincing the other shareholders in Georgia Championship Wrestling to sell out to Vince McMahon. Which is to say that this match preserves a legacy Brisco himself would later do much to dismantle. Yet had he gone even further by personally ensuring that Mike Bennett, Adam Cole, and Steven Walters would never be born, I could forgive everything so long as he also gave pro wrestling this match in Japan!
This 65-minute grunt-and-groan classic is the sort of thing you don't see anymore. Probably, most fans, especially young fans, would find a match that lasts this long, without any ladders, barbed wire, fireworks, breakable folding tables, or aerialist leaps off the top ropes, boring. I do not. Quite the opposite, in fact, I find most of the post-1974 innovations in mainstream American pro wrestling boring. Early in this match, Brisco holds Dory in an armbar for five full minutes. Dory breaks it for five seconds, and Brisco reapplies it and holds it for yet another full minute. That is six minutes of the only heaven officially recognized by Ringside at Skull Island. That's about twice the length of some WWE matches in their entirety! A third of the way through the match, Brisco holds Dory in a headlock for over three minutes. Twenty-two minutes into this contest, both wrestlers are soaked in sweat--in preparation, no doubt, for the carnival of bearhugs soon to come. Minute by minute, as I watched this match, my enthusiasm for it grew.
Until watching this video last night, I had either forgot or never knew that it was Jack Brisco who made me fall in love with armbars, side headlocks, and figure-four leglocks. But it was him and nobody else. And, to my mind, this match offers the best, probably the only, explanation why. It would be hard to overstate how much this match represents to me. At this moment if I had to pick a match--any match I have ever seen in my life--to be placed in my pyramid, along with my weeping slave boys, perfumes, and preserved meats, to enjoy over the eons of my afterlife till creation ends, Brisco-versus-Funk in January of 1974 would have to be the one. Call that hyperbole, if you like, maybe you're right, and, fickle as I am, I'll be gushing over something else before the week is out, but just remember that this gushing review just saved you from reading about why Homer's Patrocles reminds me of this guy I used to wrestle in my dorm room. (Another day for that, perhaps.)