Thursday, April 7, 2016
One Fall Match
Verne Gagne vs Red Bastien, (Chicago Wrestling)
I'm foggy on the Red Bastien bio. Until a week ago I assumed the 6'2" red-haired grappler was from Australia. He was born in North Dakota, and according to Internet sources he debuted in 1956 at age 25, even though LegacyOfWrestling.com lists a "Red Bastien" on the Chicago Wrestling cards as early as 1950, when Red was 19. A high-school athlete competing in swimming and football, he first broke into carnival wrestling, taking on local roughnecks. Weighing much less than 200 pounds in the 1950s, Bastien was an unusual physical specimen for American pro wrestling at the time.
My guess is this match (against one of his trainers, the great and hairy Verne Gagne) is right around 1956 since from where I sit, Red looks no more than 25. I'd believe the guy is 19, quite frankly. But he works his way around Gagne beautifully--and indeed the whole damn match is beautiful. In black and white their bodies stand out against the white ring floor so that even with a distant elevated camera we get a clear sense of the action. I love the way Gagne (five years older, and outweighing Red by about 35 pounds) works him, going after those lithe swimmer's legs, and I love the way Bastien sells the hell out of it and keeps coming back, not even for a second losing heart. And what a gorgeous finish!
Three cheers for the Chicago Film Archives!