Riley vs Benjamin

Rudeboy Riley vs Shelton Benjamin, Hit the Lights (Warriors of Wrestling)

In this title defense from last year, Shelton challenges Rudeboy's right to the W.O.W. heavyweight belt. Rudeboy makes a strong physical defense, visceral and unexpectedly honorable, but Shelton, in a break between wrestling in Japan and reenlisting with WWE, is big, hard, and tough, and he seriously wants that belt.

Both gentlemen sell the hell out of this fight. This is basically a two-character drama. Everything hinges on these wrestlers' abilities not only to exhibit high-energy athletic prowess but also to express the agony, tension, and complexity of the role each is playing. In the end, interference from Jason Karloff makes the drama even more complex, unusual because such an intrusion usually defuses tension and derails everything accomplished in the preceding minutes, but in this case Jason's appearance serves to bring the crisis for both wrestlers (especially Riley) to a head.

That crisis is more than just winning. It's winning in "the right way." The still shots do not capture the full drama and psychological detail the wrestlers bring to the spots, or the eroticism (especially at midpoint, when Riley and Benjamin are grappling on the mat and slamming each other in the ring corners). The scissorshold pictured above is what caught my attention. The skin-to-skin struggle continues past the point when most wrestlers pull away in a no-homo break. Such self-consciousness is usually inconsistent with the action and disruptive to the story's inner coherence. By contrast, Shelton and Rudeboy are too caught up in the fight to care what somebody might think of them. This is focus--and it's what generates all kinds of heat in pro wrestling


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