Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Insidious Black Dragon

     I had never experienced such an overwhelming sense of imminent peril--of a sinister presence--as oppressed me at that moment. The very atmosphere ... was impregnated with Eastern devilry; it loaded the air like some evil perfume. And then, through the silence, cut a throbbing scream--the scream of a woman in direst fear.
So runs a passage in The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu (1913) by Sax Rohmer, the first book in a pulp-fiction series following the exploits of an Asian master-criminal. The shadowy figure no doubt derives from Sherlock Holmes's Moriarty, but Rohmer projects British colonialist guilt on him, portraying him as a fantasy figure of Far Eastern inscrutability, perversion, and sickly glamour. (In movies the role's been played by an odd array of character actors: Warner Oland, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Peter Sellers, and Nicolas Cage, among others.)

I was a sucker for this sort of thing as a kid ... and still am. Apart from its broad racist strokes in drawing character, the imagery, the erotic subtexts, and the purple prose inspire my decadent imagination even now in this blog. (An early fight story of mine was a twist on Rohmer's ersatz exoticism: "The Lair of Carlo de la Paz", later republished in Muscle Men: Rock Hard Gay Erotica [2010], available at Amazon and, perhaps, on the remaindered book table at your local LGBT bookshop.)

And, of course, pro wrestling has a history of this stereotype too. In its latest release, UCW-Wrestling brings back its own Fu Manchu-like villain, the variously embodied but uniformly masked Black Dragon. For UCW fans, it takes only a second or two to recognize which wrestler is taking his turn behind the red-and-black dragon mask. That's part of the fun of the gimmick.

The latest incarnation* is, in my opinion, the best one yet ... and the best Black Dragon fight to date, as he's taken on by Axel (once a Black Dragon himself). Axel counts as 50 percent of why this match works. He might be UCW's version of the principled, high-minded, and always gentlemanly Denis Nayland Smith. (Initially, the Dragon mistakes long-limbed Axel for Godzilla! And that accent!)

For my two cents, UCW could camp this series up through the stratosphere. It could be the Rocky Horror of underground wrestling. Dress up the cinderblock garage like an opium den and we'd be halfway there. For now, though, if you're looking for a fun, yet action-packed (and, yes, mildly racist) wrestling scenario, you can't do better than this one. And if you've never seen a Black Dragon match, I would suggest this one as a good place to start.

* In the tradition of pulp mysteries I'll use an anagram to hint at the masked man's possible identity: "RIP Qur'an Hen." Now pull out your Scrabble board and solve the mystery ... until the next Black Dragon arises!

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