Sunday, November 30, 2014

U-S-A!


















I didn't know my last name was "unusual" till at some point in grade school I was asked where it came from. I asked my father, and with a certain note of finality he told me it was "American." Later, I found out it was German. The family had immigrated to America in the last decade of the nineteenth century, settling in Wisconsin and North Dakota. My father was born in a German-speaking community and didn't learn English until first grade.

By the time I knew him, he had forgot almost all his German--or so he claimed. When I later told my father I was considering taking a German language class in school, he said, "Definitely not." My father spent almost thirty years in the Army and Air Force to erase his German-ness. He was eager to halt any notions that I was anything but an American.

My connection to my three-quarter German-ness (my mother was half-German, half-French) was always ambivalent. I'm proud of a heritage I know almost nothing about, but also repelled by the stereotype. In Hollywood, "German" pretty much equates with "villain," for good historical reasons. That in itself wasn't my problem. I rather liked Hollywood villains. They had panache. Not so much German villains, however, who were typically cowardly and contemptible. 

In pro wrestling, the onus is even bigger, so when Jim recommended a 2013 FTW match featuring a six-foot-five German heel called Josef von Schmidt, who enters the ring in a gas mask, alongside a bottle-blond trainee (called "Little Schmidt"), I was intrigued. I was even more intrigued by his all-American challenger, Braydon Knight, and it certainly didn't hurt that both wrestlers entered the ring already sweating.

Knight starts the crowd chanting "U-S-A!" to which Schmidt responds like a vampire suddenly faced with a crucifix. He's a huge brute of a man, and he tells the fans they've never seen a champion like him before. Meanwhile, Knight is chomping at the bit to light into this monster.

The challenger starts off strong, probably not a good sign, given the usual trajectory of championship matches in pro wrestling--but, damn, he is hot and juicy to look at. I especially like the way he presses the champ up against the corner ropes with his full bodyweight. After some rousing give and take, a German suplex at the 08:30 mark turns the advantage decisively to Schmidt, who then hangs the hero on the ropes like wet laundry, letting his punk sidekick take a turn at him too. (The interfering lookalike valet-or-whatever is the kind of gimmick that never fails to porn me up, especially when it's time for payback.)

Knight breaks the champ's balls in a smooth reversal right after the 13:00 mark. Some solid followup work stirs hope that the belt will change hands soon. Amid the hoots and catcalls the chant of "U-S-A!" picks up again. Either Knight puts away the nasty German now or never! 

Schmidt's on his knees cravenly pleading for mercy. Knight heaves the big guy up on his shoulders and smashes him to the mat ... too close to the ropes, though, because Little Schmidt reaches in and hooks the champ's leg over the bottom rope and the ref calls for a break. The crowd calls bullshit. Knight stands, giving the punk a look that sends shivers down my pants. Then he pulls the squirt up to the ring apron by his hair and delivers a hard-knuckle sandwich to his face.

The last three minutes I'll leave for any interested readers to experience on their own. Watch the whole match on YouTube here. And, DankeschönJim, any more of these you find, be sure to shoot them my way!






Saturday, November 29, 2014

Seeing Red











In the setup to UCW's latest match [#381], Quinn Harper confronts Eli Black about Eli's decision to dump Quinn as tag team partner and replace him with protege and trainee Vincent Stone. The result is an impromptu challenge, with Quinn making a strange alliance with sworn enemy Axel to take on Black and Stone.

The match begins with a dazzling display of coordinated assaults that play out like water ballet or a Busby Berkeley routine. Choreography then gives way to the usual rules of tag team competition, regularly interrupted (as might be expected) by double teaming and chaotic all-four-men-in brawls. With no ref in sight, anything can happen. Axel and Eli seem to have a particular beef to settle, and Quinn specially targets his young, doomed-looking replacement, Vincent.

Reviewing his previous match, I described Eli Black as "poised" and "sunny," and the guy, who never lacked charisma, continues to be positively radiant here. And he seems to bring out the best in the others as well. Axel, especially, looks far more commanding and tough than I've seen him before, having at last come up with a convincing sneer.

Quinn and Axel make a smooth transition from nemeses to allies, quickly forming one of the most effective teams in UCW history. Eli seems to realize his mistake by the match's midpoint. Vincent can't hold his own against experienced pros like Quinn and Axel, thus leaving all the heavy lifting to Eli. Eli's deviousness and ruthlessness may or may not be enough to take on the double threat of his opponents.

Expect some surprises, some teasing glimpses of butt cheeks, treachery, suspense-drenched tag-ins (and near tag-ins), and hard body blows. It's a good one, not to be missed.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Heart of Pro Wrestling


















Jim has a pretty good bead on my tastes in wrestling matches. He sent me the link to this 21-minute riot on YouTube, adding, "This one is a real standout, and it's also one I think you'll particularly enjoy given some of your recent blogs. It's a hot, hot match between two hot, hot wrestlers that is sure to push several of your buttons, and it's really well shot with one camera. Great stuff." That's three more hots than needed to get me to check out a fight, in case you're interested.

Wrestlers' bodies don't come any hotter than Shawn Spears's. Six-foot-three, 235#, he is a colossus in the ring with a deceptively docile face that gives away none of his intentions. In 2013 he challenged Neo Wrestling Federation champ Tyson Dux, 5'10", 200#, on the Ontario side of Niagara Falls. Unlike Spears, Dux is a flashy bigmouth (in pink, no less) with a weaselly manager who sticks his nose into this match and pays for it.

Tyson is terrific at stoking the crowd's ire. I like what Jim says about Dux:
Dux has always turned my crank, too. Found an online interview with him that a student did in which he tells his story and reveals that he drives a semi 12 hours a day--relatively local hauls that always allow him to return home to his family each night. He talks about how hard it is to train and to teach wrestling at a local "academy" and wrestle on the weekends. He really loves what he does. Guys like him really are the heart of pro wrestling, I think. They do it because they love it, and that puts them on a high level of hot.
I agree completely. Hungry passion in the ring beats "big show" professionalism every time.

So which of my buttons got pushed? First, the big guy button. Second, the button for strong thick waistlines, direct opposite the waspish washboards currently in vogue. Third, there's the heel manager at last "getting his" button. Fourth, the button for fine sadistic detail--the way Spears so carefully places Dux's hand on the mat before stomping on it, the way Dux pulls Spears up by the ears and then continues crushing them in his clenched fists, the way Dux puts his mouth right on Spears's ear to shout into it (screen shot #6, above). Fifth, the give and take button. Sixth, the sweat button. Seventh, the hatred so deep and engrained that the two wrestlers can't keep their hands off each other, that button. Eighth, the ringside slug-out button. Ninth, the jaw-dropping feat of strength button--the way Spears hauls both Dux and his manager Jay Moore on his shoulders. Tenth, the corner beatdown button. Eleventh, the strongly contrasting psychologies button, Twelfth, the button for prolonged intertwining of bodies under any pretext. Thirteen, the both-wrestlers-down button. Fourteen, the stalled count-out button--the way Tyson rolls in and out of the ring to stop the count-out, the way Shawn commands the ref not to count Tyson out because he wants to beat the guy, not have the match end in a draw. And, fifteen, the button for commentators who tell me, "These two guys do NOT like one another." And the animal gesticulations button (chest thumping, roaring, etc.), sixteen.

(And I'm pretty sure they used two cameras, Jim.)


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Battler






The new Kieran Dunne reminds me of the young Kevin Sullivan or the young Dino Bravo. What happened to the apple-cheeked babyface, world renown for his jobbing skills, putting over such BG East greats as Troy Baker, Joshua Goodman, and Braden Charron, as well as a slew of lesser-knowns? His physical transformation has been gradual, over years--the beefing up part anyway--but seeing him now with acid-yellow hair styled a la Billy Idol or Bamm-Bamm Rubble (and squat brawny body stuffed into a Barbarella-metallic bikini) is a small shock all the same.

And the attitude! Kieran is now a bonafide punk, narcissistic, brutal, with a wide cowardly streak that pushes him to cut corners and fight dirty. To me he has never been sexier. I used to feel pity for the sweet-mannered boy everybody picked on, but now he's shaped himself into a preening bad-ass I want to see sprawled and unconscious on the ring floor or screaming a humiliating submission into the ears of some gorilla.

The gorilla in the soon-to-be-released Ringwars 23 is Jaguar. (Dunne-vs-Jaguar is already available as a VOD on The Arena @BGEAST.) Jag is a brawny, no-nonsense kind of bruiser, seemingly created to be Kieran's nemesis. When Kieran treats this opponent with open contempt, he is no doubt digging his own grave. Jaguar won't stand still for Dunne's disrespect, and his wrath is felt suddenly and with great force.

What I mainly like about this match is its old-school canvas-thumping rumpus: big, burly guys tossing each other around the mat like basketballs. Nothing the least bit sophisticated or twinkish about it. The peak roughhouse occurs after Jaguar dares to muss up Kieran's $100 haircut. Dunne retaliates in full-on demolition mode, with a hint of the swagger and flash I associate with the WWF "attitude era" or, further back, the take-no-prisoners approach of Southern wrestling in the 1970s.

The man-size bear hugs, low blows, and body slams culminate in a knock-you-the-fuck-out punch that puts the brakes on this feud. I love it. I was a lukewarm Kieran Dunne fan up to this contest. Now I can't wait for Dunne to cut loose even more.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Anniversary/Adversary









I'm surprised it's already been two years that Movimus has been up and running. The company's original site debuted on Thanksgiving Day 2012 with its first match: Travis Carter versus Jeff Jordan. I'd wager no online wrestling company has been in such a constant process of self-improvement these past two years, from upgrades in its video technology to development of its kick-ass roster. This past year the company started releasing downloads in optimum resolution 4 K. Today, it released a killer new contest featuring Mikey Hanlon, a returning veteran from the NHB-Battle days (whose catalog Movimus purchased and makes available again, thus preserving online wrestling history while launching its own product line). The company has also moved to a new, improved site: movim.us, which (shameless plug alert) includes a top 10 list of my favorite Movimus matches (so far).

Mainly, though, I'm excited because the sideburns are back! The company bats Mikey Hanlon's highly anticipated return out of the park by pitting the popular scrapper against meaty macho-poser Damien Rush in his Movimus debut. Throw 380 pounds of arrogant alpha-male muscle on the mat and the magic happens all by itself! If you get six minutes into this video and still don't have a boner, you haven't been eating enough oysters. 

Right off the bat, Damien swaggers up to get in Mikey's face, boasting, "Now you see me, you understand something very very clear: You ... have no chance, no chance at all." Mikey smirks, unwilling to take the new guy's over-the-top machismo seriously. "Over the top" because the guy looks like a composite of every Playgirl centerfold of the '70s. Mikey replies drily, "I've squashed bigger bugs." 

Rush snags Hanlon's arm and leg and drags him down, but Mikey flexes loose and springs back to his feet. The two lock up again, bumping foreheads. Damien gets another takedown but the soundwaves of their fleshy splat on the vinyl mat barely reach the microphone before Mikey's legs have ensnared his head and shoulders. 

For me the hottest parts of this match are the prolonged stalemates, which are plentiful. Body pressed to body. Limb locked on limb. Both wrestlers fighting fatigue as they struggle to reposition. This is and always has been the advantage of college-style and submission wrestling over arena pro wrestling: the long, sweaty clenches. Both wrestlers entangled, determined to win. After a figure-four choke cranks out the first tap-out (just past the video's midpoint), the momentum shifts. Rested and refreshed, the wrestlers are ready for battle again. The wrestling is more give and take, more frenzied, too.

It's great to see Mikey back on the mats, and Damien cuts a formidable figure, unlike any other wrestler currently on the Movimus roster. Almost certainly there will be a rematch between these two. I'd say Damien needs to square off against Max Anderson and Kevin Harris. And I'd like to see Mikey take on Doug Acre, Jimmy Reilly, and Dave Markus. Soon.


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