Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gunner versus The Shark

I almost swallowed my tongue when I got to see Gunner in the flesh a few years ago. The man is built to impress. So is his challenger in this match from last year: Chris Andrews, who stains his hero image with a heel turn in the first quarter of the contest.

Everything is gentlemanly sportsmanship until, feeling humiliated in front of his home crowd, Chris drives his boot into Gunner's midsection, mere seconds after Gunner has magnanimously demonstrated his respect for the blond beefcake. Chris makes matters worse by amplifying the viciousness of his attacks on the TNA superstar.

The fans love Gunner, especially when, in a predictable but no less thrilling turnaround, Chris pushes him one step too far and the rage-stoked North Carolinian plows into him, exactly the juicy comeuppance I had hoped for. In the end, a forgiving Gunner reconciles with the local hero, who was, after all, only having an uncharacteristic "bad" spell.

Watching a Goliath-versus-Goliath match like this one brings to mind all those cheesy wonderful Hercules movies I saw (in theaters!) as a kid back in the 1960s. The bump of colossal bodies is like no other bump in the world. I only wish that when these big guys knocked each other over they would at least spare a few minutes for some real mat wrestling before resuming the noisy chopping, stopping, smashing, and roaring that are expected of them*.

* ... and that I like, too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chain Chain Chain

I typically don't like chain matches. And I'm not sure what I think about the rules of this particular contest (winner is the guy who tags all four corners of the ring). But I do like blond-on-blond wrestling, especially if we're talking long hair. I like Jeff Jarrett here in 1989 at his blondest and prettiest. (It's a WCCW match against Buddy Roberts, thanks to the inexhaustible Ray D.) Especially I like Jeff's tights, which look like he melted a dozen red Wham-O superballs all over his butt and legs. Tights can be very sexy. Sure, they hide the legs, but they rub against the legs too, and they stretch and cling. (Face it. Robin Hood, Hamlet, Superman, and Rudolf Nureyev were on to something.) And I got a chuckle out of the silly twist at the end of the match.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Juvey Confidential

Thanks to Sean Connery in Thunderball and Robert Conrad on The Wild Wild West, men in their thirties have been my ideal since I was thirteen. One of my great disappointments when I reached my thirties was that most of the other thirty-somethings were chasing after twenty-somethings. Now that I've reached the age of senior discounts and compliments qualified with the phrase "for your age," I still typically like men in their prime, ages 30 to 40 best.

That's not to say that I'm immune to the attractions of younger men, but as a teacher of 18-20-year-olds for thirty years now, I have seen a lot of dewy youths up close--and more often than not (yes, there are exceptions, quite a few) I'm charmed until they open their mouths and say something jejune and immature, killing the effect. For the most part, my interests in that area remain "teacherly" and chaste. I'm interested in their minds, not their faces and bodies. The usual exceptions are men in the military ... and guys who look like juvenile delinquents from the '50s.

On the whole, I prefer punks to twinks. That attraction goes even further back than my interest in thirty-somethings. In kindergarten I saw a busload of kids disembark and use our school's playground while we tykes were supposed to be napping. The woman in charge told me to get back to my pallet and stop staring at the boys and girls in the playground. She told me that they were "bad" children who had to attend school separate from us well-behaved children. To this day I don't know what she meant by that. All I can say was at that instant the boys on the monkey bars suddenly turned mysterious and desirable in my eyes. From that moment on, I wanted a big brother who was a juvenile delinquent.

I was a weird kid who grew up to be a weird adult, fascinated by Hollywood villains and wrestling heels. The usual clean-cut and boyish twinks of underground wrestling usually interest me less than rough trade like Doug Brandon, Marky Mark Oxner, Jonah Richards, Josh Steel, and, most recently, Marco at Thunders Arena. These young men with their knowing wiseguy smirks and louche attitudes enchant me, and I love watching them wrestle.

In 2004 the Athletic Model Guild released a compilation of old, silent 8mm retro-smut called The Wild Ones! recently rereleased as Hoodlums, Sailors & Other Bad Boys (minus "Delicate Convict"). Twenty short narrative films and posing sessions with hoodlums and other troublemakers wrestling, shadowboxing, and striking poses with small firearms, chains, motorcycles, cigarette machines, urinals, and shivs. The story films have titles like "Strip Poker," "Cellmates," "Delicate Convict" (with the mischievously angelic Jim Paris as the new juvey who turns out to be not as delicate as he looks), "Street Fight," and "Boys in Prison." 

"Sailor and the B-Girl" is, for me, the most memorable of the group. I saw it first in the late '80s or early '90s and never forgot it, which is unusual because it deals with transvestism, a subject of minimal interest to me. The fascination is, in part, the fact that it's shot on location at the Satellite and the Explorer, actual L.A. bars, giving the film a stronger than usual sense of time and place and realistically seedy atmosphere. When the sailor discovers that the B-girl is a he-girl, a rip-and-strip fight breaks out. It's one of the best and longest fights AMG ever staged, and the B-girl is surprisingly tough ... and hot.  Halfway through the brawl, the two stop and have a refreshing brew, then resume tearing into each other. In the end, stripped to their undies, the victor carries the loser out of the bar, presumably to someplace private.

The significant 20th-century artists influenced by the AMG style and Physique Pictorial, photographer Bob Mizer's magazine, are many. Here are some of them: Kenneth Anger, Francis Bacon, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, David Hockney, Mike Kelley, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jack Pierson, Herb Ritts, Andy Warhol, John Waters, and Bruce Weber.

Cop Brad Allen subdues hood Rick Spencer in "The Booking of a Hood" (1963)

Dale Hall and Eddie Stevens as "Cellmates" (1961)

The cellmates play rough

"Sailor and the B-Girl" (1965)

Real-life brothers (and real-life bad boys) Rick Spencer (Sailor) and Joe Spencer (B-Girl)

B-Girl on top, as the two grapple on an unpadded hardwood floor

Joe on top

Rick choking Joe

The thief (Angel Lopez) gets away with it ... and takes off with the biker's leather jacket too in "Motorcycle Thief" (1958), where De Sica's neorealism meets AMG beefcake

Jim Paris in "Delicate Convict" (released in 1964, years after production)

Paris dominates fellow convicts

Paris later continued his career in physique photography as the photographer
Bob Saputo garrotes George Savage in "Street Fight" (The imagery resembles Bruce Weber's work for the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs)

Doug Scott looking for a fight in "42nd Street Hood" (1962)

Doug forces cop Rick Spencer to strip at gunpoint

A stickup?

Bill Simons as "The Convict" (1961)

Bill Simons ... wow! Very Herb Ritts.

John Davidson shadowboxes in a posing strap (1965)--a Marine, he reportedly died in service shortly after this shoot, at age 20

Avery Heath in a Hockneyesque shot in 1973.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

All Good Fun

Bruce Ballard rubs his superior Rock Hard Wrestling experience in Blake Keller's face, naming the basic parts of the wrestling ring--ropes, turnbuckles, mat--as if the new hire had never seen a ring, much less wrestled in one. Six-foot-two Blake listens good-naturedly and then shoots back with cracks like "Don't get short with me"--like five-eleven is short?

Bruce is on the cusp of cute and gorgeous, with a wide aw-shucks grin straight from Mayberry and a rock-hard physique from Mount Olympus. Blake is strapping, fit, and ready to rumble. He lacks Bruce's finesse, but he makes up for it with the raw, no-nonsense force of somebody who gives poundings that still smart a month later.

The match is right out of the official RHW recipe book: collar-and-elbow lockup leading to boot-stomping, then one or two suplexes followed with your choice of elbow drop or kneeing, then (in any order) a medley of bearhug, chinlock, back and torso stretch, and not strictly legal use of the ring ropes. Reverse and repeat. Sprinkle liberally with extra boot-stomping and ab-punching to taste, turn up the heat and simmer till skin is flushed and shiny.

It's not so much the recipe, though, as the freshness of the ingredients. Where does Rock Hard find these big boys? Is there a brochure? In five years RHW has introduced and polished the talents of some of the brightest stars of underground wrestling. In addition to being one fine specimen of fleshliciousness, Bruce Ballard knows how to command attention, my attention, with a combination of arrogant swagger and contempt for his opponent's pain, topped with a dollop of good, clean fun.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Adrenaline Rush

The Movimus rematch between Mikey Hanlon and Damien Rush is 20 minutes of grueling, sopping wet struggle leading to a submission at its midpoint. The remainder of the match decides whether the wrestlers deadlock or ultimately prove which of them is the better man. 

Mikey and Damien first squared off in November, leaving unfinished business that the rematch proposes to finish. There's plenty of trash talk to get things started, but the glib one-ups diminish as the two realize what obstacles they're up against. 

Mikey gives up about thirty pounds to Damien. Like all Movimus matches, this one is openweight with no referee or points system in place, and Mikey has fought big guys before and won on sheer tenacity and knowhow. But mass and weight make a difference in wrestling, and he's two or three weight classes below Damien by submission wrestling standards.

Damien's body mass is mostly an advantage, but it has its downside too. One, he is taller than his opponent with a higher center of gravity, thus, unfortunately, less stability. Damien spends a lot of time hunkering down, which, given his height, limits speed and pliancy. He lurches a bit too, but a big guy can lurch in a way as to turn his weight and bulk into a bludgeon.

As usual at Movimus, camerawork and video quality are strong points, the 4K resolution deepening color and making skin tones almost palpable. Not so much the audio, which leaves most of the repartee muffled.  Not the biggest fan of smack-talk, I didn't feel the loss as strongly as some wrestling fans might. Even so, there's not much point in mouthing off if no one can understand it. Short of miking the guys or overdubbing, neither of which seems practical to me, I can't see a solution to the problem. Real wrestling, which Movimus and the guys deliver, is not conducive to aural clarity. Choreographed fights are, but Movimus specializes in (to cite its home page) "absolutely no-holds-barred submission wrestling." You want repartee, go see a Noel Coward play.


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