Notes on a Classic: The Wrestle Club
Yeah, I bought this video ... twice ... once on VHS in 1997, then again on DVD a few years ago, mainly because of the hot guy on the cover (Mitch as he's called in the film). I had a love-hate relationship with Greenwood/Cooper's stuff, ultra-softcore porn of naked guys frolicking next to Hawaiian waterfalls and walking off into the sunset. The fine production values invited endless replay at video bars, lots of slow soft fades and jazzy 80s-style electronica, like the music you hear when you're on hold with a credit card company. The "good taste" was stifling, but the models looked terrific.
So when G/C (a division of Alluvial Entertainment), in the wake of Chuck Palahniuk's successful novel Fight Club (1996), came up with The Wrestle Club, I knew what to expect. It wasn't going to have the risky, transgressive tone of the novel, much less the sporting randiness of Naked Kombat, not yet a twinkle in Kink.com's eye. No way. But it would have a nice crew of naked young male models (two of them identified as straight, not one of them as gay or bi--ah, the 1990s, not asking and not telling!) ... and wrestling. Nude playful roughhouse appeared in other G/C releases, but only once before as the central focus (1995's Wrestle).
The setup, narrated by a guy named Brett, is that he and Mitch started the club while in college, initially just the two of them and in underwear until, in a stroke of genius, "we went primal like in ancient Greece." Membership quickly grew to six: Brett, Mitch, Steve (a wild-man drummer in a band, we're told), Hector (a high-school wrestler with a drive to win), Kyle (the married guy, blond, who sports a spiffy 90s-style pop-star haircut, perfect for his name), and Gabe (a Marine, though he looks more like a junior executive, dashing, bald, smooth, and mahogany brown). The turn-ons for me were hairy roughneck-looking Steve and, of course, Mitch, with a sunset tattoo on his left shoulder--the missing link between my then-current heartthrob Michael Bergin and my next fantasy man Josh Wald.
Apart from the obvious (they're nude and their bodies are pressing together) the homoeroticism is played down. The narration only offers hints and teases, as when Brett explains wrestling's appeal:
You see, a lot of the time wrestling boils down to just getting on top of a guy and dominating him. Then you wear your man down until he gets so frustrated he can't keep fighting. Then when you go for the pin it's like you're doing him a favor, you know, to put him out of his misery.
Supposedly, the guys get together for a tournament, the prize being a cold bottle of Wrestler's Arm Beer from Liverpool. (Is this beer real? I don't know. I couldn't find it on the Internet, but it makes me thirsty.) The matches look authentic enough, but played in slow motion with erratic, often scrambled jump cuts in editing, they lack continuity of any kind. So there's not much drama or involvement in the procession of matches. Often it's difficult to tell who won. Given the variety of sites available to gay and bi wrestling fans today, there's no point to The Wrestle Club, only seventeen years old and already a quaint nostalgia piece without much punch. But it looks pretty, if pretty is what you mainly want, 48 minutes of eye candy with the candy at least doing what I like best: getting down on the mat naked and grappling.
Photos (top to bottom): Steve vs Gabe; Kyle vs Hector; Steve vs Kyle (Mitch looking on); Steve vs Kyle again (Brett blowing the whistle); Kyle vs Steve (Mitch looking on); Steve vs Kyle.