When He Was Gold
In 1982 Kevin Von Erich and I were both in our twenties, still golden, practically brand spanking new. Kevin was four years younger and, needless to say, considerably more golden than I. Hell, even King Kong Bundy was only 25 at the time, though he was huge, with not a hair on him, not even eyebrows (casualties of his feud with the Von Erich family).
No doubt none of it was as perfect as I remember it, but it was a damn sight better than the crap video we now have to show for that era. Happily, despite the to-be-expected flaws of VHS, this video (on YouTube here, via the Chad Brinkley channel, something of shrine to the Von Erichs and their foes) may offer the brightest, clearest view of the young KVE I have seen since 1982.
Apart from the video technology and, of course, trickle-down economics and AIDS, it was all good back then. What made it so good? Offhand, I can think of five good reasons:
- Kevin's yellow trunks were made of material that clung to the contours of the body, hugging the bulges loosely, like a girl's silk panties. There was no hard rubber cup to shield the crotch. The material did not cling like an inflexible wetsuit. The trunks moved with him, but with a motion of their own.
- Kevin was at his perfect size and weight then, still slim waisted, with powerful shoulders and thighs whose muscle contractions were visible from the back row. He was energetic and cocky, hungry for success, not yet the drugged and jaded celebrity wrestler he later would become. The Prince Valiant haircut fit him like a charm, vaguely reminiscent of 1970s gay porn god Peter Berlin.
- Kevin's iron claw and Bundy's bear hug were part of an era when pro wrestlers got close and tight, without fear of its looking "too gay." They got in close and tight and stayed that way until the ref pried them apart. The corner maulings, with Kevin nimbly climbing Bundy's massive body like a rock formation, are so much hotter than a high-flying vault over the top ropes. Give me friction over gymnastics any day.
- And, as a result, the camera could pull in tight for closeups, long, sustained closeups that catch each grimace and sneer. We viewers could practically feel like we were stuck in between the squirming, heaving bodies--and it was (for some of us) better than sex.
- A gross injustice ends the match, but who can deny the heroism that precedes it? Kevin with his chest thrust out and fists clenched is Beowulf, Tarzan, Bruce Lee, and Michelangelo's David all rolled into one. Something happened--and I won't get into all that now--that robbed American pro wrestling of that heroism, replacing it with smirking irony, whiny and emotionally stunted boy-men, and antiheroic combinations of "people's hero" and "heel."