The Grey Scale
Lino Di Santo vs Horst Hoffman
The manly rituals of old-school pro wrestling intrigue me, beginning with the ref patting the contestants down. I don't mind knowing that pro wrestling is rigged, but I miss wrestlers and refs acting (convincingly acting) as if it weren't, as if something really were at stake. I have heard enough mic rants, and I have seen enough "weightlessness" in the ring, bodies flying or tossed about as if they were made of cellophane and goose down. I want to see thick, heaving men struggling to unbalance each other. I want to be immersed in a cloud of cigar smoke in a dark arena smelling of sweaty trunks and Old Spice. I have a fake nostalgia for a wrestling past I never knew. This is the pro wrestling my uncles watched on televisions with antennas.
I want to see wrestlers wrestling who have little or no shared history. I want their minutes in the ring to be their whole lives together, though, speaking poetically, stretching to eternity. Athletes doing their job, entertaining the masses without apparently giving a good god-damn whether they're liked or not. I want wrestling to be about wrestling, not merchandise, not the hostile takeovers of phoney-baloney coalitions, not contracts or briefcases full of cash. I want body slams, not character arcs. I want pinfalls, not goofball interference and DQs. I want the overwhelming majority of the match to be fought in the center of the ring. I want black trunks and black boots. I want skin, not ladders, tables, chairs, and thumbtacks.
I love both, but if I had to choose, I prefer sexy wrestling to sexy wrestlers. I want there to be local heroes and shady guys from parts unknown. I want the wrestlers' names, home towns, and weights announced before the opening bell sounds. I want singles matches that last an hour or longer. I want the wrestlers' to wear themselves out against each other so that in the end they're "fighting on instincts alone." I want tempers to rise in the course of the long struggle, as frustrations and moral weakness force presumed gentlemen to cut corners and break the rules. I want good men to turn into bad men, and brave men to turn into cowards, so that their eventual comeuppance is not only well deserved but also, in some small way, redemptive.
The match took place in 1961 in France. As best as I can determine both wrestlers are over six feet tall and weigh over 230 pounds. Lino has the hairy chest and darker trunks. It is an incredible fight. The GIFs (which I could have gone even crazier over than I did) only hint at the excellence of these two men and their epic battle.