The cash-cow called Vegas Battles churns out three new challengers for Steel: newcomer White Tiger, a Filipino bodybuilder; the eponymous Scrappy; and Eagle, Steel's equal in weight, fight, beauty, and moxie. The troop explores new locations in the self-proclaimed Fight Capital of the World, bringing together classicism and swank in some of the best wrestling pairings yet.
Steel vs White Tiger, Vegas Battles 03 (Thunder's Arena)
The video starts with an interview in which the very personable newby shares his interests in physical culture and jujitsu and explains his name, the "Tiger" part honoring his Asian heritage, the "White" part acknowledging the strands of white in his otherwise jet-black hair. "Wisdom," he explains succinctly, smiling. The Tiger also happens to be Steel's training partner from a few years ago, so the two have history. Later, Steel points out that Tiger is considerably smaller than he (5'5", 160#, to Steel's 5'9", 200#), but praises his old pal, saying, "Dynamite comes in small packages," before he suddenly remembers he should be talking smack.
Shortly before the 6:00 mark, the two get on their knees and grapple, in the time-honored warmup exercise of jujitsu fighters. For me the sexiest part of Thunder's Arena, sexier than even the all-you-can-eat muscle buffet, is the moments of bonafide grappling, which happily play a part, even though small at times, in most of the company's product. In VB03, honest-to-god submission wrestling takes center stage, with Steel and Tiger engaging in straight-up and sportsmanlike competition--no body slams, no hair-pulling, no ball-socking--just rolling and squeezing back and forth all the way to the final handshake. Tiger holds his own with the bigger guy, but Steel reigns supreme for most of the contest, showing an ease of command and a knowhow of holds that add grit to the city of glitz.
Steel vs Scrappy, Vegas Battles 04 (Thunder's Arena)
A luscious shot of Steel stretched out in an opulent Vegas penthouse opens this video. Steel asks viewers, "Ready for a tour?" He gets up and nods towards the grand piano before striking a single-biceps pose that the camera laps up like milk. With a smirk, he adds, "You guys didn't think I was talking about the room, did you?" Arms, chest, abs, iliac furrow, thighs, it's quite an impressive spread. He then carries it all outside to flaunt it in the bright Nevada sunlight.
The fight starts about seven minutes into the video. Steel chides a sunbathing Scrappy for not cleaning up his mess in the dining area. And by "his" I mean Steel's. Scrappy resents being treated like the hired help and pushes back. Maybe not the smartest of moves, but he isn't named Scrappy for nothing. The bodybuilder shoves the kid to one knee, squeezing him in a standing headscissors. Then he lifts him in a gargantuan bear hug, squeezing Scrappy dry like a tube of Crest before pinning him on one of the cushioned lounge chairs.
The duo moves swiftly to the pool, where Steel clotheslines Scrappy, launching him into an aquamarine splash. Impressively, Scrappy is able to snapmare the arrogant bully into the water too, and the two wrestle amid the churning waves. I've seen this before in the first two installments of the Vegas series, but, for me, swimming-pool wrestling has not got old for me yet. I have memories of a couple of summers working at a summer camp to give me all the sense details I need to complete the fantasy.
As usual for pool battles, the side headlock is the hold of choice. Once again, I have no complaints. I consider the side headlock--standing, kneeling, reclining, or waist-deep in wet--one of my all-time favorite wrestling holds. Bear hugs and poolside head scissors provide some variety, along with several fleeting underwater shots--fun and enticing, but Thunderball they are not.
May I add, as a side note, that while Scrappy and I may have nothing else in common, we share the habit of biting our lower lip when we wrestle. A bad habit, as my dorm mates used to warn me right before smacking my chin and making me bite myself.
Posing and putt-putt golfing amid neoclassical statues of water nymphs put Steel and Eagle in the mood to issue challenges. They take the fight to a conveniently available pink (is it magenta?) wrestling mat, where Steel's pal White Tiger looks on noncommittally (apparently), and then, of course, to the pool. This is my favorite of the Vegas Battles series (so far -- please tell me there will be more) because it is a truly herculean struggle between two well-matched and easily pissed-off rivals. Up to now Steel has taken on smaller guys in Vegas. I like them too, but Eagle is as swole as Steel and has a good chance of knocking the chip off Steel's shoulder.
The give and take is exactly right for me. I could dispense with the prologue--except for the magnificent shot (see above) of Steel and Eagle posing side by side, which beautifully establishes a heroic tone, only to be squandered by the putt-putt silliness that follows. (I will say, however, that if I could be assured that Steel and Eagle would be there in speedos, I'd put miniature golf back on my things-to-do list.) The match is at its zenith during the bear hugs, with the collar and elbow lockups coming in at a close second. Of course, as already stated, anytime side headlocks are brought into the picture, I am one happy guy.
The ending is decisive--a chokeout in three and half feet deep water--but the match as a whole suggests there is more to come, possibly involving White Tiger. I'd be more than happy to see Steel and Eagle go at it a second, third, fourth time. In Vegas, in Florida, anywhere.