Wrestling joins competitiveness with intimacy and the spectacle of male power with the spectacle of male vulnerability. This, in a nutshell, is what draws me to it. Wrestling is best on the mat (or on an old mattress, for that matter). A raised ring and ring ropes enhance the theatrical aspect of wrestling, but more often than not they distract from the clenches and grunting struggle that comprise real wrestling.


Dean Bly vs Jax Holland, Rec Room Battles 32 (NHB-Battle)

Jax Holland (in red, 21, 6'1", 204#) and Dean Bly (in green and black, 18, 6'1", 179#) wrestled each other twice in 2010. In Rec Room Battles 32, Bly takes on the bigger, stronger, more experienced Holland in what even the teen expects to be a doomed effort. But he has the spirit and courage of a true wrestler, preferring tough competition to easy glory. And when a match is unscripted and both competitors have plenty of heart, surprising things can happen.

The match is more give and take than anyone could have expected. Dean is tough, and despite his sense of impending doom, he gives everything he's got in this 24-minute fight (not counting the opening stretches). The two lock up, on their feet pushing and pulling for about 20 seconds before Dean gets Jax down on the mat. This is probably not the way Jax thought this fight would begin. The teen clamps on a headlock and spins the big guy in a circle. Holland tries to roll out, but Bly is on him like a tick. Holland kicks up, catching Bly's head between his thighs, exerting pressure, and even then Dean is slow to release.

Jax's headscissors and firm armbar look unbeatable, but Dean doesn't give up. Either Jax releases, for some reason, or Dean, by some miracle, breaks loose almost effortlessly. Bly quickly repositions, and the two struggle to gain some kind of hold on each other, effectively blocking each other for 40 seconds or so. Then Bly gets a headlock on Holland, who, after a struggle, thrusts out and climbs onto the teen's back. It's slow going, but Jax gets a headlock on Dean, briefly. Then Dean peels Holland's arms off and escapes. He's recaptured with frustrating speed.

Two minutes later, about a third of the way through the video and after one of the most grueling scuffles I've ever seen, Dean wins the first fall by submission. Jax looks not just exhausted but stunned. When he gets to his feet, he has a stony expression on his face. He clearly intends not to let what just happened happen again. He proceeds to cut off his opponent's oxygen in an extremely tight headlock, but Dean breaks free and the two fight hand to hand, chest to chest, like a couple of movie cowboys from the 1950s. Dean and Jax both are getting testy now, frustrated at being so evenly matched. At one point, the teenager has Holland pinned on his side and digs his chin into the guy's upper ribs for added effect.

The guys get more vicious as they start to tire out. The last half of this match is monumental, heroic, and sweaty as fuck. These guys go past what would be the breaking point for most other wrestlers. Dean gains his second tap-out with a headscissors hold. Ten more minutes of battling ensues, as the wrestlers test their own and each other's limits. Ultimately, young Dean wins all three falls, and not one of them is easy or boring.

RRB32 is an epic benchmark battle.

Jax Holland vs Dean Bly, Battling Bodies 15 (NHB-Battle)

Jax demanded a rematch, and a few months later, it happened. Can Dean achieve the impossible twice in a row? He takes an early lead here. He dives in low, grabbing Holland around the knees, and takes him down to the mat. Jax squeezes him in a crushing minute-long headlock from which Dean is lucky to escape with ears intact. But once free, Bly climbs right back on top of his opponent and the two engage in a battle of wits and brawn for the next 13 minutes.

Bly gets a lock on Holland's neck and shoulder and won't let go. After Jax powers out of Dean's grasp, the teen is on fire with confidence and perhaps hubris. Again he takes the guy down. Jax twists around but finds there's no place to move without Bly clinging to him like a wetsuit. Bly is fearless, stalking Holland like a predator, his eyes locked on his opponent, studying every eye flicker for signals of the big man's next move. Jax keeps going for headlocks, no doubt hoping to wear his opponent out. It's a smart tactic, as it turns out, but it takes Dean longer to wear out than Jax might have hoped. Nine minutes into the battle, Jax at last shakes the teen's confidence by snapping him into a hard choke and bodyscissors combo, forcing a panicked tap-out. Minutes later, he follows up with another choke, this time leaving Bly dry-heaving at the edge of the mat.

The armlock (two screen shots up) happens just three minutes before the end of the video. It pretty much tells the rest of the story. Jax wins all three falls, redeeming the losses in RRB32.


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