Thursday, July 10, 2014

Post-Hollywood Blonds









I'm going back to the beginning of 1994. It wasn't a good year for me personally, worsening as the year wore on. It wasn't a good year for pro wrestling either, not yet the abysm the Attitude Era was to initiate, but far far far from its glory years, when it was defined by loosely aligned regional promotions and had not yet been dealt the soul-implosion of its 1980s "success" (money-wise its golden era, but artistically its first dark age, of a succession of even darker ages till 2007*). As is so often the case with these things, it was, in contrast, a high point in the gay underground wrestling scene, particularly at BG East, BG Enterprise, and Can-Am. And 1994 was the year the dimpled smile of Alex Wright ("Das Wunderkind") first graced WCW, before fans' inbred (literally inbred) xenophobia forced him to become the Euro-trashy Berlyn.

This match (you can watch it here on YouTube)--a climactic feud between former partners in the last incarnation of the Hollywood Blonds** (who originated in the 1970s with Buddy Roberts and Jerry Brown)--is so full of guilty pleasures I doubt I will have time to name them all in a single posting. This is Steve before he was "Stone Cold," and Brian before he was a "Loose Cannon." But before I describe the "pleasures," let me address the aspects that are just plain unvarnished guilt. Chief among them would be the fact that this entire match is predicated on the "idea" that the loser will be forced to wear a chicken mask. Let that point sink in for a bit. Those of you who are more whimsical than I, who may not take pro wrestling to be the profound ritual that I do, may have no problem accepting a chicken mask angle. That's good, good for you, because even writing "chicken mask angle" practically tears my soul apart.

But now for the guilty pleasures. First, it's blond versus blond, specifically curly mullet blond (Brian Pillman) versus rapidly thinning cowboy blond (Steve Austin), with the latter constantly yanking at Brian's ever-resilient curls until finally the tables are turned and it's Steve's palomino-colored locks getting pulled. More generally, it's the hero (Pillman) getting the bad end of a buttkicking--note the way the cameras zoom in on his beautifully agonized face repeatedly--but then suddenly, gloriously, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat to serve up the comeuppance that Steve so richly deserves. (Brian's victory is not the end of the story. Steve and the phony-baloney Colonel Parker foist the chicken head upon our hero anyway, until pre-Goldust Dustin Rhodes chases them from the ring.)

Next, it's the bodies. Steve's golden body was not yet as pumped as it was to be two or three years later (along with his pumped-up persona, with the insanely catchy "Austin 3:16" meme), but it was smooth, strong, and bountiful: Stretch Armstrong sprung to life! What it lacked in sexy bulges it made up for in unblemished durability. It was one of those bodies I wanted to hurl myself against. And apple-faced Brian Pillman in 1994 still got me hard--despite (or because of?) my suspicion that his incongruously hard pecs were implants. Real or fake, I wanted to grab those tits. And I wanted to yank that hair--and, yes, I probably wanted to be punished for it too. Just plain crazy towards the end of his life, Brian was then a sexily ebullient force of nature, sugar-coated righteousness, perhaps the best babyface hero of the 1990s.

Then, it's the little touches I like: Austin's fleeing the ring to avoid Pillman at the start, the cheesy but surprisingly satisfying crotch-to-the-turnbuckle punishment, the merciless villain on his knees before the hero, now pleading for mercy instead of his well-deserved punishment, and Steve's cool arrogance as he glances back at the ring, which he has just been forced to evacuate. I have somewhat ambivalent feelings about each of these things, but the bottom line is that ultimately they do put a smile on my face. Why? Because of the energy with which Steve and Brian play them out, because of the kind of poetic justice that real life presents too rarely, and because of the irresistible feeling that these guys were heroically bucking against authority and struggling to imbue a deteriorating spectacle*** with their youth and energy.


* Why 2007? It was the year of the great experiment: MTV's Wrestling Society X, a noble failure that nevertheless indicated that an alternative course for pro wrestling was possible, merging the raucous energy of backyard and basement wrestling and rock 'n' roll with some of the not quite putrid elements of professional wrestling. It was the year when ROH started hitting its stride, merging US wrestling with some of the vibrant traditions of Japan and Mexico.

** I have so far been unable to accept the spelling "blondes" in reference to male-identified men.

*** I am ranting, I know. In what sense exactly was pro wrestling "deteriorating"? I'd say it was deteriorating in the sense that, in order to make the big money, promoters were diluting the old spectacle of a couple of meaty guys grinding away on each other with ingredients that would appeal to the broader public with no taste for wrestling (sort of the way the more popular fish are the less fishy-tasting): acrobatics, standup comedy, pyrotechnics, narcissism, heteronormativity, and daytime-drama-inspired narrative arcs--not least of all, by downplaying themes of honor, fair play, and stamina and making pro wrestling purely a money game, an allegory for corporate power-grabbing, and an allout shill for toys and T-shirts.

2 comments:

  1. Brian Pullman was one of those wrestlers I expectantly hoped to see every week. He was so gorgeous, his physique so hot! But his matches often disappointed me. I wanted singles matches. He frequently had a partner. I wanted long matches so I had more time to drool. His were usually over too quickly. Unrealistically, I wanted him to always win. The scripts actually had him lose. The choreographers were cads and simpletons.

    But I'll go look to see what I can find on YouTube!

    Will this post this time?

    ReplyDelete

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