Friday, January 31, 2014

Gimme Jimmy









I instantly became a Jimmy Reilly fan after Jimmy's first match at Movimus. Catching wind of my new infatuation, the company sent me some additional still shots of Jimmy, which I then shared with you guys. A while later, I got a short video, totally unexpected, in which Jimmy gives me a personal shout-out and a private peek at his flexed muscles. I kept that to myself. It was, I reasoned, meant for my eyes only. I could hardly wait to see what would come my way next! 

Now, seven weeks and some days after his debut, Jimmy, 5'10", 190#, faces his second challenge in the person of Aron Stokes, 6', 164#, a familiar face, but new to Movimus, experienced in both competition and video wrestling. After watching Jimmy get trounced by the bigger and more experienced Brock Hammer, I'm happy to see him matched this time against someone in his weight class. The matchup gives me the chance to watch Reilly kick some butt, which he does. He takes Aron at the end of a strenuous first round, a victory that's somewhat blunted when Aron very quickly submits him in the second. Then, as if Jimmy, Aron, and Movimus had been reading my mail, the two fighters split the next two rounds, as well. These guys are like thisclose. 

It's a smartly shot video. Movimus has begun using two cameras to shoot each match, so the video cuts between two perspectives of the match, catching it from different angles and proximities, with some trick editing like slow motion (used sparingly) to give the action a touch of expressionism now and then. The montage thrusts viewers into the motion and emotion of grappling.

The last two minutes of the fifth and final round is a genuine nailbiter. "Genuine" as in unchoreographed submission wrestling, but again it's almost like Movimus has been reading my mind as well as my mail, somehow squeezing in my three favorite wrestling holds in a touch-and-go climax, with neither man the clear favorite till the last half-second. A prolonged armbar looks like it's going to do the trick. Then there's a seemingly impossible reversal that leads to a writhing headscissors. But the finisher is (and I have to love this) a sudden, intense, even murderous side headlock, which forces a frantic tap-out.

As Stay Puft put it in his Inner Jobber review of this match yesterday, "There's certainly no shame in losing here, and the winner definitely has to work for it!" This is very good work on the part of both wrestlers, a worthy debut for Aron and a vindication of my initial hunch that Jimmy is a new star in the making.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Yamato vs Kondo












At the beginning of last year, Hiroshi Yamato, 5'10", 180#, put his All Japan World Junior Heavyweight belt on the line to fight challenger Shuji Kondo, 5'8", 220#, at the time AJPW All-Asia Tag Team Champion. The crowd adores Yamato, all the more so after he survives Kondo's dastardly DDT on the hardwood floor surrounding the ring (at the 11:30 point in this video). Even with assistance, Yamato is barely able to get back in the ring. The ref tries to hold Kondo back, to give Yamato a second to shake the cobwebs out of his head, but the skunk-haired man-boulder contemptuously shoves the ref aside and goes in for the kill. Even dazed, however, Yamato is stronger and more resilient than Kondo thinks, making him harder to put down than expected. Later, a slug-out atop the corner ropes might lead you to suspect that Kondo won't be satisfied with anything less than Yamato's decapitation in another brutal attempt at defeating and destroying the champ. Crowd energy intensifies dramatically in the final five minutes of this eighteen-minute battle. An epic finish leaves both wrestlers on their backs in complete exhaustion, as the sound system blares the heart-racing roar of taiko drums.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Circle of Men Destined to Incandescence














Probing the steamy baths, fleeing the tempting angel and his deceptive tortures, you suddenly come upon a scene of startling beauty: in a dreamy whirl, your eyes feast in turn on the vision of dozens of fierce, brawny fellows, alone or grouped together, hands clasped as if sealing a peace treaty; weight-lifters with flexed, bulging muscles; strapping, mustachioed lads, arms akimbo, lusty pectorals, radiating a glow from their leather breeches and foursquare physique. Their robust bodies, untamed features, and close-knit bonds are emblems of a vigorous faith; their musical and athletic exercises, of deeply spiritual forms of existence. When they jump up and walk round the arena where they perform, they kiss the fingertips of their right hand and skim the floor with them in a gesture of humility, pick up the boards lining the edge, and set them out by their feet, so as to encircle their leader. Facedown, legs as far apart as possible and arms open wide clinging to the ends of the boards, they execute a series of push-ups, raising their torsos, flexing their muscles, bodies undulating in an imitation of the ebb and flow of waves, the gentle ripple of marine currents. Sinuous, quivering, they seem to swim and glide on the subtle lightness of the air. Their leader encourages them by wiggling like a spirochete as he  counts his helicoidal contractions and calls on Allah and the Holy Imams for their help. Only then will you spot the master's seat of honor, concealed in the shadow beyond the clusters of light converging on the arena of delights; perched in his pulpit, drum on lap, both hands beating out the exuberant rhythm, he adapts to the patterns of the chant, marks the beginning and end of each exercise, rings the bell with exquisite timing and verve. His remarkable talent stimulates, galvanizes the strength of the athletes, enraptured by hearing his epic tales, prayers to the Prophet, and delicate mystical poems. Are you dreaming, still dreaming? Are the giants armed with hefty, oblong wooden maces that they rest in the crook of their shoulders raw recruits waiting for you to give the signal to begin? When you see them simultaneously lift the maces and describe full circles around shoulder blades, ribs, and chest, is your vision real? Does the imposing appearance of the mace-bearers, transformed into heroes of a sumptuous pack of cards, reflect a material, concrete image, or is it a product of an imagination dazzled by the nakedness of its uncertain, ill-defined status? Have these glorious kings of clubs with taut biceps and muscles of iron surged out of a secret, refulgent world, like beings or characters in dreams, suddenly and beautifully made flesh? Ecstasy, rapture, jubilation, joy, awareness of having reached your level, your share of immanent enjoyment and glory without your spirit even considering the possibility of better things! Didn't Ibn Arabi once say that, if it were not so, heaven would not be a blissful resting place but a mansion of pain and bitter disillusion? You sharpen your gaze, catch the apotheosis of the arena, that perfect ring, shape and tenor of your dual reward and punishment. Do the dervishes with the grace of slender distaffs, cutting cross-shaped silhouettes, spinning like tops or fans, possess the gift of tangibility and consistency? What fragile illusion or chimera do the athletes evoke as they tremble from head to toe, airy shrubs swaying in the breeze or the shimmering surface of a liquid stirred by a gentle breeze? When they raise their arms and their bodies flicker like pointed tongues of fire in the magic, circular space, do you still belong to the world of your body or are you experiencing a theophany, released forever from the creatures and snares of sensuousness? Drawn to the arena, illumined by the bright, intense spotlights, you admire, will forever admire the strapping lads fervently measuring the temper of their strength, each entwined in the limbs of his rival, nimbly wriggling an arm free. Sweet as the chains of love, sings the master, are each turn and hold in the fight; / to cling to his opponent according to the rules / is pure bliss. But you are ablaze, ablaze with them, wreathed too in their garland of flames, burning, consumed from head to foot, a creature of fire, immersed in the circle of men destined to incandescence, willing victims of their own vehemence and passion! The lack of pain takes you by surprise and, whirling in the diaphanous arena, oh divine epiphany, you will gently feel the sadness within the punishment and your own self fade and die.
The photos, from various sources, depict dervishes and Turkish wrestlers over the past seven or eight years. The text is from the surrealistic novel Quarantine by Juan Goytisolo (translated by Peter Bush), published in Spanish in 1991. The novel portrays a visit to the afterlife, combining elements of Dante's Divine Comedy (which, as I giddily point out to students in my World Lit class, alludes to oil wrestling in one key passage), the legend of the Prophet Muhammad's heavenly ascent, and the teachings of the 12th-century Sufi mystic Ibn Al-'Arabi--not a book for everybody, certainly, but transcendent in some of its breathlessly long paragraphs.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Yes / Um, Not So Much

Inveterate list maker that I am, I am at least realistically modest about the significance of the lists I make. We each have our own tastes, and I have no delusions of being a taste-maker or trendsetter, neither of which is a goal I shoot for anyway. What's more, my tastes routinely change, as I have admitted again and again in these pages. What tickles my fancy today is not usually the same fancy tickler of a year ago, or even a month or two ago. There are a few constants--which I call "personal classics"--such as my abiding idolatry of Kevin Von Erich, Paul Perris, the side headlock, and armbar--but for the most part I don't crave the same style of wrestling every day any more than I crave steak and potatoes three meals a day every day. Also, there are always exceptions, even to the items I list below. What is my compulsion to make lists of this sort? I don't know. Ask Freud. As I see it, list-making is my version of doing crosswords or knitting scarves. It occupies my idle time. It also gives me an inventory of my passions and aversions, and in that way it helps me understand my fascination with wrestling a bit better, which is a goal I do shoot for in this blog.


YES!

Corner beat-downs, because something in me likes to see one roughneck trap another roughneck in the corner and give him a bruising. The appeal is basically the crush of male bodies against each other and the intense focus of the manhandler's attention on the man being ruinously manhandled. The corner ten-count has the added appeal of elevating the dominant wrestler so that his cock is about level with the victim's mouth. 

UM, NOT SO MUCH

Moonsaults, because if I want to see high-flying I'll watch Sandy Duncan in Peter Pan. I actually love acrobats and acrobatics quite a lot. They're what I like most in circuses, and anytime a Chinese acrobatic troup is in town, I try to get tickets. But in wrestling, not so much. I think my problem is that the high-flying stuff, as visually impressive as it can be, cannot match the appeal of close physical contact in grappling, which, in my mind, it only serves to interrupt.


YES!

Hair-yanking, because when I was an adolescent, a yank to the hair signaled the start of a good-time fight with me and my mates (no, I'm not just being Britentious here--I've always liked the word "mate" to describe a "pal," my favorite of the American synonyms). I also like the "cat fight" aspect of hair-pulling. On this point, the lady wrestlers outshine the guy wrestlers--that, and boot stomps to the pussy, to which (I'm sorry, gentlemen) stomps to the cock can only palely compare as theatre.

UM, NOT SO MUCH

Nipple-twisting, because it doesn't do a thing for me. God bless you, though, if it works for you. Me, not so much.  Like sex while showering, it's one of those things that "on paper" would appear to slow-lick my balls all night, but that in reality never work for me. It just looks funny to me, like the twister is trying to adjust the twistee's volume or something. Also (true personal trauma) when I had to twist a guy's nipples in a play* once (always selective in the roles I accept), I did it wrong, and the director had to take me aside for remedial instruction. I felt humiliated that I could not properly twist a tit.



YES!

Sweat, because it's slick and shiny and because by the time you're covered in it your heart is banging against your rib cage like a rabid ape and every nerve ending feels like it has a light sunburn. It adds highlights to the curves of the body. It makes the body into a kitschy object of art, like a glazed figurine.

UM, NOT SO MUCH

Blood, because it masks the flesh rather than enhances it, because if I'm squeamish about piercings and flu shots I'm sure as hell not going to warm up to blading.

(To be continued ...)

* In 1987 I acted in two plays in rotation, The Normal Heart and As Is, fundraisers for AIDS charities. My work got my picture in the local newspaper and, a week later, a pink slip from the university where I was then employed without tenure. Adding to the mess, my costar (and friend) in As Is, a dance instructor and member of the city's ballet company, died about a month later of complications related to AIDS. Not one of my good years, not one of humankind's good years either.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dinosaur vs Iceberg










Perhaps in celebration of Quinn Harper's birthday (today), UCW-Wrestling released a new "Mighty Quinn" match just ahead of the weekend, in which Quinn takes on Isaiah ("Ice") Burg, whose first match late last summer is memorable because the usually so-nice Axel not only treated the rookie like dog shit but then later, when Burg put up more fight than originally expected, took a big old bite out of the man's foot! If don't-be-a-bully Axel treated Burg in this degrading manner, what sort of disrespect can "Ice" expect from Quinn, whose malevolence famously knows no bounds? (I have watched the entire video and can attest to the fact that Quinn finds a way to go Axel's humiliating insult one or two steps further. Oh my! Oh my!)

Quinn, like Eli before him, infuses every contest with balls-to-the-wall intensity and, like Joker before him, straightjacket-level insanity. A nice enough guy to chat with on the street, but put Quinn on a mat and he becomes this brilliant, zany cartoon bird that bounces his opponents around like they're made of flubber and then, at some point in the match, anally violates them with his freshly licked thumb--top that for a signature move, Stone Cold! Built compact and strong, Quinn knows his shit as a grappler and remains one of the most dependably entertaining (and boundary-pushing) talents on the UCW roster.

"I'm not an asshole like everybody seems to think I am," Quinn assures Isaiah, by way of introduction and with an overplayed composure that any psychologist worth his salt will tell you practically spells out C-R-A-Z-Y in billboard letters. "I'm a sportsman," he says. "It's what I do." He extends his hand like a diplomat greeting a visiting dignitary. Burg refuses his hand, saying, "With all due respect, I don't even belong in a ring with a dinosaur like you." You gotta hand it to the new guy: big balls, big balls, big balls. Harper respects that, no stranger to the idea of having a chip on the shoulder. He extends his hand again, urging him to accept the gesture if not out of respect for him personally, then "for the fans." Burg eyes the camera (us fans) and, with a skeptical shrug of the shoulders, says, "For the fans," and takes Quinn's hand. And (yep you guessed it) POW! a barefoot kick to the Ice Burg's cubes.

So begins a 28-minute match, as cheap, dirty, low-class, and vulgar as any UCW fan could hope for. The "dinosaur" chips away at Ice's ego with an orchestrated assault that includes camel clutches, chokes, ear-biting (you heard me), stomps, chicken-wings, and nelsons, all squeezed into three minutes. And then Burg strikes back. He works Harper over for a minute, but Quinn is quick to reassert his dominance, obviously rankled over the earlier "old man" crack. Burg gets three more minutes of Harper's undivided attention (and a finger bitten too).

As in his first match against Axel, Isaiah proves he's got the spinach to make quick and stunning comebacks from seemingly impossible binds. The guy is dynamite, and although obviously UCW is going to make him pay his dues before anybody lets this guy take the limelight, it seems fairly clear that, when the time is right, Burg has the heart and the nasty edge needed to steal that spot for himself. Whether he's got the level of crazy and/or charm that makes for UCW stardom remains to be seen. He's bigger than the typical UCW wrestler, but the company now has some bigger men under contract (young guys like Billy Gunn and CJ Devastation) who in the coming months might make tasty competition for this self-assured newcomer.

In the meantime, happy birthday, Mighty Quinn--and leave some Ice Burg so the rest of the gang can have some too.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Notes on a Classic: Rochelle versus Donovan at BG East's Wrestlefest 2







The tiny crowd boos Patrick Donovan as he makes his entrance at the start of BG East's Wrestlefest 2. He nonchalantly goes to his corner, his aristocratic face brimming with self-regard, clearly not giving a rat's ass what the inbreds at ringside think of him. Ring announcer Kurt Eriksen then calls in the fan favorite, young Brad Rochelle, working a black leather jacket on top of striped, candy-colored trunks. The crowd welcomes him warmly, one part hometown hero, one part boy next door.

The bell sounds, and the opponents circle, Brad stepping lively. Patrick looks at him as if uncomprehending, as if he can't quite fathom why The Boss would pit him against a pretty college-boy nobody. Brad stares back, eyes steady, confident in his preparation, sure of himself. "C'mon, Brad," somebody cheers from ringside. Brad initiates the lockup, but Patrick hip-tosses him to the mat. Brad's up in a flash and repays in kind. The enthusiasm in the room suddenly surges like an expectant geyser.

Donovan knocks Rochelle's ankle out from under him. Brad gets up and plows into Patrick, pushing him to the bottom rope. Then he breaks clean. Things are heating up. A solitary voice calls out encouragingly, "Let's go, Brad." Patrick extends his arm for a handshake. Brad slaps the proffered hand away. Donovan's gesture looks hollow, more patronizing than sportsmanlike. Besides, Rochelle's not in the ring to make a friend.

They lock up collar and elbow.  Donovan pushes Rochelle back a step. They circle, their torsos twisting. Patrick wrenches Brad's arm, prompting one appreciative onlooker to shout "Nice!" Patrick whips the arm savagely up and down, tearing at Brad's shoulder joint. Brad grimaces and grunts. Another arm wrench. Brad clutches his shoulder with his free hand. Another wrench flips him to his back.

Patrick tugs him back to his feet by the sore arm and again twists it over his head. Patrick throws his right leg over the arm and rests his butt against Brad's shoulder. He holds the arm up between his thighs like a giant erection. Then he flips down to the mat, bracing one white boot against Brad's chin and the other against his ribs. Brad writhes in agony. Brad's fans call out encouragement, fearful he might soon tap out. "That all you got?" Donovan jeers, the classic insult to top off the injury.

Manfully, Brad steers himself up to his feet but fails to break loose of Patrick's armbar. Donovan yanks him back to the canvas. The tiny crowd bristles with expectation. Patrick's so sure of himself that he begins a running monologue, pushing Brad to give up. Every muscle in Brad's body is tense. Brad grabs at the white boot at his neck, but the pain is too great as Patrick amplifies the paralyzing pressure.

Brad tries again, grabbing the toe of the boot and twisting it away from his face. He rolls his upper body up across Patrick's legs and snags the heel in a side headlock. Patrick slams his arm to the mat, nose smashed up against Brad's interlocked fists. Brad rears his shoulders back and tightens the lock.

Patrick's eyes roll up in his head. The crowd cheers. Patrick gets a leg up on Brad's thigh and tries to roll over on top. A fan shouts, "C'mon, Brad, work it!"  But Patrick pulls his head free and immediately twists Brad's left arm up in a chicken-wing. The fans boo.

Patrick leans on Brad's back, his crotch up against the seat of Brad's striped trunks, shoving the college boy's face to the mat under the bottom rope. Brad pushes himself up by his one free arm. "There you go, Brad!" a fan calls out. Fearing a loss of leverage, Patrick pulls Brad up to his feet and delivers yet another punishing arm wrench. Then he tries to break the arm by savagely chopping it three times against his own shoulder. He lands Brad with an arm-drag flip.

Patrick reasserts the armbar and then pulls Brad up for another harrowing wrench, but ... suddenly he feels the blunt force of Brad's fist to his sternum. The crowd noise intensifies as Brad unceremoniously slaps Patrick's back against the turnbuckle. He charges in with a stomp to the blond's chest. He grabs his head and delivers two knee-jabs to the heel's midsection.

With Patrick's arms hooked over the top ropes, Brad pulls the man forward by the front of his white Speedo and slugs him in the gut again. Something mighty satisfying about the sound of Donovan's UGHs. They seem to rise up from his scrotum. The crowd is crazy for them.

Brad thoroughly tenderizes the stuck-up bully against the corner. Corner work is one of my hot buttons, and Brad damn near wears this fan's button down to a nub. Bea-u-ti-ful! Patrick dangles on the ropes like wet laundry. He has no choice but to take whatever vengeance Brad chooses to heap on him. Memory of Patrick's reckless sadism is still too fresh, so there's no chance of his abject misery eliciting even one drop of compassion.

The hoity-toity big-shot is getting only what he's got coming to him, and I do suspect I see a chubby taking shape in those pristinely white trunks of his. Brad whips him over to the opposite corner, where the heel flips over and lands upside down, white boots caught on the top ropes.

Brad rushes in with a boot stomp that very nearly connects with Patrick's groin. Another stomp, black sole squarely against Patrick's navel. This is too much fun! Brad kneels, his thighs bracketing Patrick's face, and slams punch after punch to Donovan's welt-pinkened white belly. "Harder!" the crowd yells.

Brad punches and tangles Patrick's legs around the middle rope, his butt now on Donovan's chest. "Got him now!" a fan hollers. Brad stands and drives one knee down on Patrick's balls and then lifts the other leg so that the balls now bear Rochelle's full 190 pounds. Patrick goes all carp-mouthed and bug-eyed. Hoots and whistles from the crowd.

An elbow drop to Patrick's chest ... then Brad pulls the man's legs off the ropes and rolls back for a pinfall, the backs of his knees pressing Patrick's armpits and shoulders to the canvas. Patrick's got a great closeup view of his own crotch right now. "Crank it! Crank it!" the crowd demands, and Rochelle happily meets the demand. "I give I give I give I give," Donovan pleads, and Rochelle, gentleman that he is, lets him go. The bell sounds for the end of the round.

Brad can't resist giving the loser a contemptuous slap across the face. Enraged, Patrick rolls over, pulling up Brad's legs and resting his butt on Brad's face. From this vantage, Patrick goes for the cheapest of all cheap shots: twisting his victim's unprotected nuts. Boos and hisses from the crowd. By this point, the fans wouldn't mind if Rochelle out-and-out slaughtered Donovan on the spot, choking the blond weasel with his bare hands. But Brad's in no position to slaughter anybody. Not yet!

"Give it up!" Donovan commands. Brad's thighs flex and quiver as he struggles to power out of the hold. He can't. "Hang in there," the fans are encouraging. But no dice! Rochelle concedes, and the bell sounds for the second time in two minutes, signaling the end of Round 2.

What? You think there won't be a Round 3? You think it won't kick ass one hundred and fifty thousand ways? You think Rochelle won't be tossing Donovan around like a rag doll? You think both wrestlers won't be slippery with sweat before it's over? You think Brad won't dish up a truly cum-worthy comeuppance on Patrick before propping him up so each fan can take a poke at the once great but now fallen Patrick Donovan? Think again.

A few days ago I told Kid Leopard at BG East that this match in particular is "a personal benchmark of what I like in a match": two well-matched antagonists, an arrogant heel who oversteps himself and winds up on the hurting end of a beatdown because of it, a handsome and righteous executor of justice, lots of prolonged body work on the mat and against the ropes, sweat, muscle, and a vocal and appreciative crowd 100 percent into the action! One of the company's best matches (among oh so many great matches).



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