Sunday, January 31, 2016

Inoki vs Brisco

Not a hurricanrana, not a moonsault to be seen in this 1971 match in Japan, pitting future NJPW founder Antonio Inoki (28, 6'3", 240#) against Jack Brisco (29, 6', 234#), who was then a rising star in the NWA. It all must seem terribly plodding now to anyone under 50. Even I am struck by the slow pace, though it reminds me of why pro wrestling first caught on with me: the prolonged and grinding man-to-man body contact I could find nowhere else. It represented a form of masculine engagement that is both intimate and aggressive. It resonated with my young proto-gay self, still entrenched in fundamentalist religion and consternated self-loathing.

I would have to play hurricanrana and moonsault video in super slow motion for it to have a tenth of the sensual tug I get from these GIFs, which are themselves abbreviations of the 33-minute struggle. If you can stand the wait, the slow-burn action does build and accelerate ... in jolts and stammers ... climaxing in a panicked tapout finish. (Not even porn, no porn I know of, has such Boléro-like foreplay.) But the endpoint of each acceleration is yet another locking together of human bodies, an impossible knot of muscle and bone, accompanied by gasps and moans that the Japanese commentators and fans never drown out.

I have used the analogy before, but this, like other matches that crawl under my skin, is like raw film footage of wild animal survival. The way Brisco lunges after Inoki is predatory, like a lion determinedly tearing away at a zebra, never stopping till the victim has no more will to resist, so savage, so exhilarating and frightening at the same time it's like a hard punch to the chest. I don't get chills like these from 21st-century wrestling, some of which I enjoy immensely. The new lords of the ring are better built, better looking. There are more varied and fantastical characters. But the action is also a tiny bit studied, ironic, theatrical, and sanitized. It no longer feels like I am watching something dangerous and real (and of course I'm not, not real anyway, nor was I in the early '70s). The new, vitamin-enriched wrestling has no ... bite.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Markus vs Karamazoff

“The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.” 
 Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Life is a constant struggle, and so is Movimus. In the company's latest release, Dave Markus and Ivan Karamazoff grapple for 25 minutes, with one submission at the very end. I have been a mark for Markus from his first match a year and a half ago, and though I'd like him to gain 30 or so pounds, the relatively new Karamazoff has a hipster-meets-Quaker look that makes me warm to him on first sight, not to mention the man's tenacity in combat against the somewhat heavier and more solidly packed Dave. This is Ivan's 5th match at Movimus, Dave's 19th. Both men obviously have trained. They are not just horsing around.

Unlike pro wrestling, a match like this one can't be analyzed as drama. A breakdown of the plot, such as it is, yields only struggle-struggle-struggle-struggle-struggle-dominance. No arc, no exposition (unless warm-up shots count), no crisis beyond the fact that there are two opponents, tension building in tiny, quiet increments, a hundred minuscule turning points, and a long-delayed tap-out finish. 

Karamazoff and Markus alike maintain the equanimity of chess players from beginning to end. You get no sense of their emotions beyond determination and perseverance. What you do get is chess players' patience and strategy. Every move has a meaning--but a strategic not symbolic one. Nothing is as elemental or as engrossing as two men wrestling, really wrestling. There is no posturing. There are no cheap shots and quick pay-offs. The struggle is the thing, beautiful and hypnotizing.

This is a fine match, one of the better products of a company that has produced many fine matches. It's also the first Movimus match shot in 2016, filmed four days ago on Tuesday, so fresh from the mat you can almost feel the body heat.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Gabriel vs Rhodes

Justin Gabriel vs Cody Rhodes, WWE (2012-2013)

Full Disclosure: I know nothing about what I'm sharing with you today because I don't watch WWE as a rule, but I cannot deprive myself of a fight between Cody Rhodes (6'1", 227#) and Justin Gabriel (6'1", 213#). Multiple fights, because apparently they had a feud four years ago. Everybody else knew this four years ago, I know.

I had to watch. I am weak. And what steam-presses my trousers has to go on this blog. I'm sorry.

First, we see Justin rushing to the ring to rescue 4'4" Hornswoggle, whom Rhodes is unjustifiably picking on. For the heated slugout at ringside I am literally dying. The good parts of the rest of the impromptu match follow: Justin slugging Cody in the corner (very artistic the way the camera zooms in for the punch), Justin slinging Cody over his shoulders (now if only the camera would zoom in on the crotch), and Cody pinning Justin.

By the way, and I know this isn't the best place to say this, but I just thought of it, if I seem to be overworking the GIF thing, I can explain. I'm using a fairly ancient MacBook that I will replace as soon as I can afford to. At this point in its long and eventful life, my laptop sometimes does things but not others. For instance, now I can make GIFs but cannot crop screen caps to make them presentable on my blog. Now I have to crop photos on my phone, which is a pain. For a while, I couldn't make color adjustments to photos. I can do that now, though. The machine's capacities come and go. So now, I'm making GIFs for the same reason a dog licks his balls: Because I can.

One week later, Cody kills Justin again, preceded by some high-flying shit I don't care for. (Besides, the video quality is disappointing: the detailed still up top is better: Cody's incredible back, Justin's incredible thighs--also I've always been fond of Gabriel's cheeseburger-friendly abdomen.)

Sixteen months later, the two meet again in singles competition. A struggle atop the corner ropes is one of the few instances when I tolerate wrestlers' feet being anywhere but on the mat (another instance is fisticuffs outside the ring). More high-flying shit ensues: I can deal with that since it leads to an ultra-wiggly two-count and Cody bloodies his nose in the process of hurling through space--or, to be more exact, landing. Again Cody kicks Justin's ass, this time aiming it towards the camera.

I'm old enough to be turned on by Cody Rhodes sporting the '70s clone look in the WWE Main Event rematch five days later. Justin Gabriel looks confident, following a series of wins that WWE helpfully recaps for us as the wrestlers idle in their respective corners. Cody tries to put the kibosh on Justin's strong kickoff with a tight neck lock that Gabriel ingeniously escapes. The finale is, alas for Gabriel fans, all too familiar.

Except for a few spots, all of them addressed in this posting, the wrestling itself impresses me but does not excite me. They might have just as easily juggled lit torches. So long as they were still in tight, low-hugging trunks, I would have been entertained. Whether it's nostalgia or the prolonged body contact, it's still old-school grunt-n-groan grappling that punches my particular ticket. Not even Japanese and Mexican strong styles, which never fail to wow me with their aggressiveness, get me as wet as a couple of sweaty daddies with hard prominent bellies heaving down on each other for uncountable minutes at a time, their limbs so intertwined you'd swear they won't be able to disentangle themselves.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Let's See What You Got

My first time watching one of Thunders' ring matches: Bucky versus Talon in Ring Wars 13.  I'd say it's a cross between exactly what I expected and better than I expected. As expected, the emphasis is on muscle and playtime, just like the majority of the Arena's rec-room mat matches. I didn't expect heavy drama, and there was none. I expected good-natured one-upmanship and posing, and got both. The surprise was that the guys knew the moves. I expected horseplay and got real pro wrestling.

Chinlocks, hair pulling, fishhooks, rear naked chokes, corner stomp-downs, claw holds, working the ropes, and a Boston crab submission at the end. And it's a great give-and-take match with neither man being a sure bet as victor. Bucky and Talon are evenly matched opponents ... in build anyway ... more or less. Bodybuilding is Thunders' unofficial religion, so it's no surprise that the fight erupts over a question of which man has the better bod. The new guy Bucky comes with ring experience. Feeling territorial about the squared circle, he badgers Talon and shows off his pro expertise, punctuating a quick initial command of his opponent with a Ric Flair style Woo! Big surprise, though, Talon fights back so competently, with a penchant for fighting dirty, that Bucky tries to flee the ring. Only Talon won't let him.

Eventually Bucky turns the tide back to his favor, with a bang, but can he keep it up? Not for me to say. What fans need to know is these guys look like pro wrestlers and work like pro wrestlers, but in typical Thunders Arena style with a sly, knowing wink at the camera from time to time (figuratively speaking). The 18-minute match is light and fun, with old-school moves polished up and brought back to life in the company's house style of goofball hijinks. It's all designed to deflate bloated egos and wow easy marks like me. Business as usual at the Arena. Fine camerawork, too!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Shropshire Lads

Damian Dunne vs Drew Parker, Shropshire Wrestling Alliance, British Lions 2014

I support the old saying "the devil's in the details." Damian's wrench to Drew's shoulder, resting his knee against the boy's face, the finger work, these are the marks of a heel with exquisite instincts.

And when the good guy gives you a taste of your own medicine, you coldcock the stupid bitch in the jaw.

Muscle and movie-star looks are terrific, but they're icing on the cake. What really matters in professional wrestling is a combination of moves, attitude, timing, and unflinching commitment to the moment. All the more so when you're a heel.

For me all this is even better when opponents are well matched in size, weight, physique, and know-how.

Babyfaces need to sell, sell, sell, sell the moves, their righteous indignation, the pain, down to the almost imperceptible body spasm. And when the time is ripe, they need to turn this fucker around--even if it's just for a temporary "hope spot"--the more spectacular the reversal, the better.

Clean, perfect technique must triumph over meanness and brute force at least once in the course of the battle, and the finish must be sudden, orgasmic, and almost out of nowhere: my rule, my credo, my fifteen quid for the souvenir T-shirt.

The two faced off again in Shrewsbury on Friday, January 15th. See still photos of that match here on the VII Underground page on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Armstrong vs Veasey

Brad Armstrong versus Dale Veasey, Georgia Championship Wrestling (1984)
(view the rest of the match here)

Brad and Dale show us how pro wrestling is done. You begin by being total stud muffins with thighs as big as Harleys and backs like bumper cars. Then you invest in hair product and a pair of sleek nylon trunks (Brad's are oxblood, Dale's, baby blue). Boots and kneepads, too.

You start a match by feeling each other out. This requires body contact, which lets you gauge the other wrestler's strength vis–à–vis your own and set up the rhythm of the ensuing struggle. A collar and elbow and an exchange of body slams and armlocks are usually enough to test the waters. Jesse Ventura said, "Wrestling is ballet with violence." Swapping a little hurt initiates the dance.

Then you tear into each other. Having discovered your opponent has no weak spots coming into battle, you proceed to create some, like the way Veasey attacks Armstrong's knee, or the way Armstrong works Veasey's elbow, tenaciously like a dog on a bone. Afterwards, Dale gives that arm an occasional flick just to kill the tingles. Three minutes into the action and both our boys are covered in sweat.

A match that begins with a gentlemanly handshake can escalate (or devolve, if you please) into dirty fighting. Good thing there's a ref on board. Otherwise, who knows the damage Dale could have done Brad's hair! All traces of sportsmanship fade as the fight reaches a bestial level, lion versus bear, running on raw instincts. Veasey's bearhug illustrates the fighters' exhaustion and rage. It comes less than a minute before the fleet and masterful pinfall--always an orgasmic moment at my house.


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