Billy Catanzaro vs Gilbert Cesca (Fédération Française de Catch Professionnel)
If I could afford one of those custom matches I keep reading about, I’d request that two of the best wrestlers available re-create this 30-minute wrestling contest, move by exquisite move. Lots of scissors and headlocks here, lots of writhing and grunting in the other man’s grip, lots of detailed attention to the wrenching of each other's ankles and necks, almost as if this 1960 match in France had been designed expressly with my boner in mind. Even when locked into each other so tight that it looks like the ref may have to pry them apart, there is movement: panting, instinctive and convulsive attempts at escape, and subtle, almost undetectable efforts to inflict pain. Billy Catanzaro and Gilbert Cesca build the story gradually, gracefully, with a stage director's instinct for plotting. A gentlemanly competition at first, the sportsmanship goes south as punches get thrown. Catanzaro and Cesca lock into each other and slowly wear each other down to an almost primal state of consciousness before closing the deal with a flurry of gasps and moans and a neat 69-shaped pin.
Jonny Firestorm vs Frankie Flave, Ultra Fight Seven (BG East)
Each one of the matches in this posting has seared itself into my imagination, enabling me to replay portions of them in exact detail from memory without outside assistance. Ultra Fight Seven, perhaps my favorite BG East ring match ever, is preeminent in this respect. Typing this, I can visualize Jonny's diaphragm heaving and falling as he bends Frankie Flave in half no less vividly than if I were watching it now on my TV. Though usually paired up in big-vs-little matches, with impressive results every time, the Jonny I love best is the fighter taking on an opponent his own size. Flave not only closely matches Firestorm in height and weight but also exhibits, like Jonny, a whole lot of ring savvy. But Jonny is the one true star here, and for my money his star never shone more brightly than it does in this contest, where slow, methodical mat work dominates, especially tasty in those moments when Firestorm concentrates intently on working Flave’s pressure points--as intently and focused as Jeremy Renner defusing a bomb.
Mark Lander vs Danny Shaydaki (Lets Wrestle)
I like things simple. Two intense and never-say-die wrestlers on a mat in a garage works fine for me. No introductions, no shit talk, no acrobatic high-flying, just wrestling ... long, languorous and exquisitely arduous holds. The intensity of Mark Lander's concentration on his opponents is thrilling. As I’ve noted before, Danny’s suffering here at Lander’s hands (and thighs!) resembles nothing so much as Renaissance paintings of martyrs: at one point his hands are clasped at his chin, eyes shut, mouth ecstatically agape. My preference is usually for meatier wrestlers, but I think that's because skinny wrestlers lean towards showoffy acrobatics and speedy exchanges involving minimal body contact. Mark is an exception as he's a master of the slow, drawn-out submission. He is the only wrestler from the Lets Wrestle site (which closed in 2006) who spawned a cult ... and one of the handful of wrestlers anywhere who deserve one. He also wrestled once as JayJay Young (versus his brother Ben) at NHB-Wrestling (now also defunct, but the video is still available for download at Movimus).