Monday, October 31, 2016

Up and Comers











James Ryan vs Patrick Scott, 9 July 2016 (CWF Mid-Atlantic Wrestling)

My vision of the mainstreaming of gay (or, at any rate, gay-affected) pro wrestling appears to be taking seed even here in the Helms-haunted, bible-believing, toilet-segregated South. Witness this not quite three-minute match from last summer.

I refer specifically to the clubby hair styling, titivated pink gear, and Ryan's smoochy farewell Mwah! to the fans at ringside. You used to find slender lads like this only at BG East ... or UK wrestling.

None of it openly declares whom these guys sleep with, but all of it speaks to the gayification of wrestling spectacle for the general public. It doesn't go as far as I would take it*, perhaps, but it's a giant leap from AJ Styles and the Hardy Boyz, whose roots are also in the Tar Heel State.

Six-foot-five, 185-pound James ("The Original") hails from nearby Greensboro and made his pro debut last year. Both James and Patrick usually appear as tag team partners, James with his trainer LaBron Kazone (as LaBron James), "Pretty" Patrick Scott with Patrick Shelley (as the Patrick Pain Parade).

* Or rather it takes it in a slightly different direction. As I've stated many times, usually I prefer muscle bears to twinks with less high flying and more sustained body contact.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Jeetu









Jeetu Pahalwan vs Aabid Pahalwan

In two minutes, this 2011 contest captures the spectacle and energy of kushti. It's a battle of youth vs experience, with young Jeetu not only withstanding Aabid's unwarranted aggressiveness but in the end controlling and subduing his larger opponent. Amazing the throng of spectators, Jeetu executes an exciting 6-second turnabout with spider-like agility, and big and strong Aabid is down and out.

I have no more details on this match than those the brief description ansuia1974 provides. On Jeetu himself, I highly recommend the excellent KUSHTI Traditional Indian Wrestling blog and, for more beautiful photos,  Deepak Ansuia's blog dedicated to Jeetu (in Hindi).








Saturday, October 29, 2016

Wild Wild Wes










Wes Richards vs Chad Daniels, Wild Wild Wes (Rock Hard Wrestling)

Here's a fine new match from Rock Hard Wrestling with a bit more grit than usual, thanks to two dynamic and vicious wrestlers. The chemistry between the newish Wes and blond favorite Chad is palpable from the start. I like the taller, meatier guy, Chad, and have said so in past posts. The wiry Wes brings an energy to the ring that may remind some fans of Eli Black--and I can't write it all off to the hawk-like nose and tattoos. The guy brings sass and energy to what is just his third RHW match, yet Chad is unimpressed.

Both guys offer a tough fight, favoring chokes, punches, body slams, and sharp elbow thrusts that dig to the bone. The match runs for three rounds, which holds significance for RHW fans: each wrestler wins at least once, so the action is give and take. Neither man totally dominates any one round, which is not unusual at Rock Hard, but the holds and assaults are more coherent than some of the company's older matches, which I have criticized for lacking credible transitions between individual spots. I don't see the variety of tactics and holds that I find in other matches, other promotions, or other fighters, but Chad and Wes make the most of what they have, and though I noticed, I didn't mind the repetition of the handful of techniques they employ.

The Rock Hard site labels Wes as an "outlaw," "loner," and "rebel"; the words suit his look and attitude just fine. Elsewhere I have compared Chad to the now inactive Josh Steel, and for me the association persists. Like Steel, Chad exudes a cocky insouciance I connect with beach culture--the unselfconscious posing of the surfer, lifeguard, and all-night partier. The dramatic clash in personal styles gives this 25-minute battle its punch.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Splatwurst







Pascal Spalter vs Pete Bouncer, GWF Courage, Episode 2, 7 October 2016 (German Wrestling Federation)

I'm spending Christmas in Berlin this year. That's the plan, anyway. I've already spent my summer-school pay for tickets to a couple of operas on Christmas Day and the day after (La Bohème and Aida) and a couple of edgier concerts earlier (Against Me! and something else at a super trendy nightclub the doorman won't let me in unless I have a ticket for something, and I just have to get into this club). I looked for wrestling shows that fit my timeframe, but it looks like the last 2016 wrestling show in Berlin is about two weeks before I arrive. So much for my bucket list item of seeing a wrestling show in a language I don't understand.

And so much for getting to see six-foot-three Pete Bouncer up close. I can't believe it's been four years since I first blogged on Bouncer and over two years since I last mentioned him. Time flies--trust me, kids, it zooms! Pete's still in excellent shape, having packed on some extra muscle, yet not too much. He's still letting Spalter push him around, though. Bouncer gets in some close counts in this incredibly brief match, but Spalter is a tank (6'3" and 310#). Brave Bouncer gets a Berlin version of a Tiananmen Square moment, and that's just about it.







Thursday, October 27, 2016

Joey











Joey King vs Scrappy, Mat Wars 74 (Thunder's Arena)

In his first Thunder's match outside the squared circle, smilin' Joey King shows that he doesn't need ropes and turnbuckles to make life miserable for hapless Scrappy, the young Kentucky rookie who might well be rethinking his decision to join the Arena roster. Joey basically hand-delivers potential hope spots to Scrappy throughout the mostly one-sided match, possibly craving some semblance of an even fight, possibly seeking only to further humiliate the kid, but within seconds Scrappy finds himself chin deep in pain again. The brawny and hairy-chested pro can't help but dominate. He's especially fine at ring-inspired holds like side headlocks, bear hugs, Boston crabs, and several holds I don't know what to call. I've got to hand it to the aptly named Scrappy, though: he's ready to go toe to toe with any other wrestler, regardless of size, strength, or experience. I imagine he thinks that's the only way to learn the game, and Joey has a fun time teaching him lesson upon agonizing lesson.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The First Gay Superstar



Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE, by Pat Patterson with Bertrand Hebert. ECW Press, 2016.

Pat Patterson grew up as Pierre Clermont in an impoverished section of Montreal, his Catholic family so poor they dared not waste the last sliver of soap and could not afford a dessert fancier than molasses. Untalented in the sports his brother excelled in, he started hanging out around the traveling circuses and talent shows, clearly smitten by the show-biz bug. A ticket to a wrestling show, a gift from his mother, introduced him to the world that would be his own. Pro wrestling was all new to young Pierre because his family had no television set. Buddy Rogers, who appeared in that show, made an indelible impression, spurring the youngster to earn extra pocket money so he could attend more shows.
Good guys versus bad guys: I was hooked.
His toe in the door was a job selling hot dogs, from which he was fired when he agreed to let one of the wrestlers dump the dogs on his head as part of the act.


When he later entered the wrestling ring as a rookie, he patterned himself after his idol, Killer Kowalski. The photos in this breezily written autobiography depict a surprisingly handsome young man, square jaw, full lips, 5'10", 190 pounds, and it appears he's not exaggerating when he says,
Everything came easily to me. 
The way Patterson tells it, in a light conversational style, having learned English from The Price Is Right and other American TV shows, his young days in wrestling were joyous and full of pranks. He introduces the subject of his homosexuality without a lot of fuss or fanfare:
As long as I took five- and ten-dollar payoffs without complaining, the promoters couldn't have cared less. There were even a few other wrestlers who were gay.
Still his private life was, given the times,  a secret from the outside world. His first (and lasting) love was a handsome Italian-American worker in a slaughterhouse outside Boston. As this romance warmed up, so did Pat's ring career, thanks to the helping hand of Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon, who booked him across the country in Portland. This was 1962. His new boyfriend helped pay for his flight. Patterson says,
In a sense I was relieved that my relationship with Louie was being put on hold. We were getting really close, but I was afraid of my feelings for him. [...] What I didn't know yet is that true love can conquer anything, even distance.
After Pat had spent a month and a half in Oregon, Louie left his job and home, so the two could live together. (They remained together for 36 years, until Louis died in 1998.) Mad Dog didn't like it at first, fearing the possible consequences at a time when discrimination was a widely accepted part of American life, but soon Vachon befriended Louis, too, eventually insisting that he come to all Pat's shows (Louie later became part of the act, playing the pretty boy's "manservant").
It is surprising that in the world of wrestling, where you might expect all those macho guys to be homophobic, that it was never an issue -- at least not in my case.
The book is full of wrestling stories featuring Golden Era stars familiar to lovers of early TV wrestling history, and it paints a vivid portrait of a committed gay relationship in North America before and after Stonewall. His story, however, is not all sweetness and light. There is loss, and there is real-life violent opposition from fans (mostly for Pat the heel, not the gay man) and from other wrestlers who knew he was gay and hated him for it.
[Y]ou develop a thick skin in this business. But you never get used to being belittled for who you are.
The business of wrestling was changing, too, turbulent shifts in promotions, and Pat is a frontline witness to these changes. Some of them parallel the upheavals in American culture in the late sixties, early seventies. Pat's keen eye (even if, for understandable reasons, a little biased in favor of the McMahon family's impact on professional wrestling) saw it all, and he relates it with the equanimity of a man of experience now in his mid-seventies.

Patterson's career spans the last half of Golden Era wrestling, the regional rivalries and their eventual conglomeration, and the emergence of a new style of sports entertainment and wrestling superstars, culminating in The Rock, whom Pat once bounced on his knee and later mentored. His hijinks with Andre the Giant, Ray Stevens, and others are  recorded with fondness and humor. On a more serious note, he gives his side of the sexual harassment charges (involving Roddy Piper and others).

The book is a quick read. I read through the 258 pages on a Sunday afternoon. It's generous in spirit, upbeat for the most part; there's nothing sensationalistic, gossipy, or bitter about it. I was drawn to read it because I have a signed 8x10 of Patterson framed and hung in my hallway, between two other autographed photos of bi and gay wrestlers Orlando Jordan and Darren Young. With a foreword by Vince McMahon and blurbs from Triple H, Chris Jericho, and Bret Hart, as well as Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, the book is pitched to both wrestling fans and the LGBTQ community--and should be of particular interest to readers, like me, who proudly share both identities.


Pat Patterson vs Antonio Pugliesi (1968)

Pat Patterson vs Ted DiBiasi (1979)

Pat Patterson vs Ivan Koloff (1983)


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Where's the Streetwise Hercules to Fight the Rising Odds?


Hear my prayer, Bonnie Tyler, incline thine ear.

Previously in this blog, on a few occasions, I have shared my boyhood dream of being a villain. The closest I actually got was community-college English professor, which, in the eyes of my students, was an overshoot. When I was nine, my favorite actors were Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Vincent Price. Later, as I entered adolescence, they were Robert Shaw (after I saw From Russia with Love), Michael Dunn (Dr. Loveless on The Wild Wild West), and Bruce Dern (in just about anything). More generally, I empathized with the lions and ivory hunters in Tarzan movies and anyone who spoke with a European (or effeminate) accent and cradled a cat in his arms in Hollywood.

However, in pro wrestling, I liked the good guys: Verne Gagne, Jack Brisco, Tony Atlas, Kevin and Kerry Von Erich. I can't explain the U-turn. The heels fascinated me, too, but the heroes were my fantasy figures. My heroes did not always have to win, but I was thrilled when they did and felt somewhat empty inside when they lost. In the olden days of TV wrestling, when a hero fell,  I could at least comfort myself that soon he would make the dirty heel pay tenfold for the present injustice.

When I started this blog, I was surprised to find that most gay and bi wrestling fans prefer the heels. I get it, I even feel it, but on a purely intellectual level I sometimes think we're embracing our old bullies out of a sense of sexual guilt or at least we are validating their claim that we were "asking for it" all along. (My sadomasochistic hang-up, not yours.) The sites that cater to fans like me do, in general, favor the heel over the babyface. In fact, for most other fans the word babyface is synonymous with jobber (typically implying "he who must be destroyed"). But my heart (or some other organ) is still drawn to virtuous beauties like Paul Perris, Troy Baker, Justin Pierce, and so on. I loved the matches they won. In my fantasies, I revised the matches they lost.

Why don't the gay sites have heroes anymore? Well, some of them do. There's Marco at Thunder's Arena, who's mostly a good guy, and he wins most of his matches against rivals who are far less honorable and talented. So what if he takes sadistic pleasure in delivering up justice? So do I. There's Axel at UCW, who is the company's two-time champion and an enemy of bullies. There's Krush at Krushco, whose opponents are sometimes thinly disguised stand-ins for oppressors of the gay community (e.g., Stan Torum). Then there's Biff Farrell at BG East, but except for his outdoor mat match versus Van Skyler (my favorite Biff video to date), he has been the company's semiofficial wrestling dummy.

For me, the whole point of heels in pro wrestling is their ultimate comeuppance at the hands of square-jawed and burly heroes. I love comeuppance, I shoot off to it, but comeuppance rarely figures into the action on gay sites. And the good guys who triumph almost always turn into heels in the process. The ever-suffering (and hot) good guy is a Christ figure of online pro wrestling, and BG East is the Oberammergau Passion Play of suffering innocents. To be fair, there was, not too long ago, Brad Rochelle's triumphant one-shot against Kid Leopard, but matches like that have been exceptions to the rule.


Biff Farrell with a big-brother-shows-some-tough-love attitude

Biff Farrell vs Chet Chastain, Babyface Brawl 4 (BG East)

I can't say for sure whether Biff is a good wrestler. He did handle himself well against Skyler in a mat match, but perhaps he's not cut out for ring wrestling. He has the looks of a squared-circle hero. He's an all-American type: typically meaning, back in the pre-Obama world, young, white, no tats, no scars, no facial hair. Biff's body is super-heroic, almost Herculean. He has a winsome aw-shucks-ma smile, and he seems to like to play rough. He's exactly what I've been waiting for, but so far he has done nothing to save Metropolis from the bad guys.

In Babyface Brawl 4, Biff squares off against someone I never pegged as a babyface, for some reason. He's nice looking and well built in a Spider-Man sort of way. Most of his opponents have been much bigger than he. He looks like a guy who'd have a wry (read: mean) sense of humor that I personally would enjoy. In the ring, though, he's a bit of a weasel with his goatee and indelible smirk, and I've never much minded when he's had his ass handed to him by Guido or Dolph. And I entered BB4, hoping to see the squarely-built Biff wipe the smirk off his face once and for all.

The challenger's entrance and mouthy banter confirm my estimation of the guy. A test of strength bears out my idea of Biff as the better man. Biff approaches the upcoming fight with gusto, something I associate with most heroes. He likes to play rough, and he wants to win--and he deserves this win:  anywhere else he would have already carried home a trunk full of trophies and belts*. 

Still I'm a little worried because BGE often favors the little guys, and indeed this opponent is wiry and resourceful enough to pose a challenge. But he's not strong enough to keep Biff from muscling loose from a full nelson, and that right there says a lot. And Chet's reaction is true to weasel form: a sucker kick low on the abs. That gives him an edge, but he loses it two minutes later when Biff shows him how a full nelson's supposed to work.

A figure-four leglock proves too much for Chet, who yelps, "No, no, get off me, no no no seriously, get the fuck off ... please please please get off." Decent guy that Biff is, he releases, without even demanding a submission in return. He doesn't want to hurt the guy. He just wants a fair win. Aaand of course Chet kicks him again, a little lower on the midsection this time, calling Biff a "dumb fuck" for being so easily suckered. It's hard for me to disagree with Chet on this one, but my fingers are still crossed that the weasel is digging his own grave.

For the next four minutes Chet shows Biff none of the mercy that Biff showed him. I love the give and take in this match, even the injustice, because if Chet is indeed doomed, I want him fully to deserve every last ounce of hell that he'll soon be put through. As much as I want Biff to triumph, I don't want to see another squash job, even at a weasel's expense. Punishing Biff for his gullibility is fair enough. The guy needs to recognize a heel when he sees one and not fall for his tricks. What I'm hoping for is a coming-of-age moment for Biff, where he wises up, tears this little skunk apart, and fulfills his heroic potential.

But here we are, about a third of the way through this 28-minute brawl. It's a damn good fight, and Biff looks fantastic as ever, even better than he did in his last release. But to avoid unintended spoilers, I dare go no further in my blow-by-blow. Is this the birth of a hero I'm hoping for? or confirmation that Biff is fated to be a perpetual jobber at BG East, good looking, strong as an ox, but inexplicably ineffectual? or will Biff turn heel, realizing that only heels succeed in the real world? or is he a suffering, self-sacrificing hero, bearing the injustices of the world on his body? or will Biff and Chet kiss and make up, forming a tag team? I know the answer. Some of you know the answer. The rest will have to pay up the usual $49 to find out.









*BGE doesn't have a trophy or belt anymore, but Biff was honored with a Wrestler Spotlight recently, though he was squashed in all three matches.





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