Golden age wrestling borrows the hyper-expressivity of the silent screen to broadcast the agony, heroism, and Sadean thrills of catch wrestling. This 1960 match from Paris illustrates the point beautifully. Spanish wrestler Quasimodo shaves his head to magnify the Gothic bumps and crags of his face and skull. His contorted body language owes something to Murnau's Nosferatu, just as Gilbert LeDuc's balletic athleticism and whimsical escapes borrow from Douglas Fairbanks's swashbuckler energy. Even the ref gesticulates and over-emotes like Richard Barthelmess on an ice floe. These guys were playing to the cheap seats, and it's ridiculously wonderful.

The match's scenario could not be better suited to my tastes. Quasimodo is relentless in his punishments of LeDuc's body. He works every tendon of the South American hero's body, playing it like a pianist pounding out Rachmaninoff. The crowd loves hating this villain's guts. When LeDuc has finally taken enough, he turns on the hunchback. At the 7:50 mark, he rocks Quasimodo with a volley of solid right hooks. At 18:25, he marks a high point in the battle by reversing a piledriver and following up with more roundhouse punches. Another piledriver and a bodyslam seal the deal with a surprise pinfall, at which point I get a chubby. With enough melodramatic intensity and maximal body contact, a fight doesn't need cover-boy models and eight-pack abs to scratch my itch. Not that great looks ever made me less interested in a really good fight either.


  1. I think that is one thing I miss about wrestling from the past, men who looked like real men. Middle aged, slightly paunchy but muscular, hairier.


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