Shane McCall vs. Rob Mullen, with Dex Sutton, Daddy's Bad Boys (BG East)
At times--and I've experienced these times a lot in 2016--I unpack my cache of older DVDs (first released as VHS tapes and 8mm films), the early stock of BG East, Can-Am, BG Enterprise, and other promotions, to revisit a world of wrestling less glamourous than the present but satisfyingly raw, rugged, and fight-centered. I have also started buying 1980s/90s matches I knew only from the flyers that arrived routinely by snail mail at my door, not yet having the ready cash to indulge as much as I would have liked. McCall vs Mullen, first released 22 years ago, is a case in point.
Two decades ago, Shane was prime fantasy material at my house. He's in peak shape here in his goatee period. The opening shot pans back from a closeup of his crotch to display the macho tough guy in black vest and armband and silky gray trunks, legs spread on the couch as he contemplates his biceps. Next to him, there's a framed photo of Sutton, shirtless, looking like an army drill sergeant, firm yet gentle as a muscle daddy should be. Without a hint of emotion, Shane turns the photo to face the wall.
Right about then, Rob enters, dressed in classic white shirt and jeans, with boots. With carefully combed pompadour and lambchop sideburns, he's clearly the new boy. "Took you long enough," Shane snarls as the two circle each other on a conveniently placed mat. Mullen takes that as an invitation to start throwing punches and then rips off his shirt. Needless to say, McCall fights back. Even recognizing these gestures as well-worn conventions, I am taken in by the wrestlers' eagerness to rough each other up. It looks authentic and spontaneous, like the bully-jock faceoffs I used to watch behind the gym after school. I'm feeling this tussle in my pants immediately.
Rob submits Shane with a single-leg crab hold, then stands glowering down at him. McCall gets on his feet and throws Mullen up on his shoulder for some high-altitude punishment. He bashes the new guy up to the wall, then puts him in a rear naked choke, belly down to the mat. Rob escapes, and the two grapple some more, throwing an occasional gut punch for emphasis. The grunts and growls are almost as stimulating as the bare-chested visuals. Nothing about this fight seems choreographed, campy, or restrained. Nothing about it suggests the two are anything but unselfconsciously in this moment, tightly focused on each other's long-awaited bruising. This is oh so much more than an exhibition style series of wrestling holds. This is not a goof, not a comedy. This is fight drama!
By the time Daddy Dex shows up (in a patrol officer's uniform!), Rob and Shane have wrestled through several falls, giving and taking licks, and Shane is in the process of breaking Rob's back in a brutally neat torture rack. The wrestler freezes in place, holding his barely conscious burden, as Sutton walks up to McCall quietly and authoritatively and punches him in the gut, dropping both McCall and Mullen to the mat. Dex and Shane stare at each other as Rob grovels on the mat between them. Wordlessly, through eye contact, they appear to be plotting what to do with Mullen, the undercurrent suggesting (to me, anyway) that Shane is presenting Rob as some sort of offering to Daddy, like a cat dropping a dead mouse at its master's feet.
Shane strips the now unconscious Rob naked and offers to present him to Dex. The gesture is wordless but full of signifiers, conveyed mostly through steady eye contact. Daddy strips off his shirt, revealing a darkly hairy chest with a ring on the left nipple. He discards his belt and holster. A few mumbled grunts and gestures, and Shane bends Rob at the knees, crossing the two ankles, and holding them together under his crotch while yanking Rob's arms back and his upper body slightly off the mat. The presentation is as solemn and stylized as any religious ritual. Together they dress Mullen in black squarecuts and leather armband (matching Shane's). Dex forces Rob's face up to his iron-bolt biceps. He repeats the gesture with Shane, who sucks on the manly bulge like a teat.
Daddy forces the two suppliants to grovel at his feet and grope his muscles. Then he beats them. He joins the two in mutual armbars, elbow to elbow, head to head, demanding they say "I give" in unison. And he's not half-finished with them yet. This is the most stilted and unnatural part of the video, but as an initiation rite and bonding ceremony, it works. An ambiguous but sexually suggestive end of match, followed by a door slam, makes way for a simple shot of Sutton's hand gently yet firmly turning the framed photo aright.