Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sabre Style

Zack Sabre Jr. vs Marty Scurll, Pro Wrestling World Cup '17, 21 March 2017 (What Culture Pro Wrestling)

It seems no exaggeration to say that Zack Sabre Jr. has been spending the last dozen years creating a wholly new style of professional wrestling. If I only knew the science and art of pro wrestling a bit better, I might be able to describe it adequately. At best I can approximate, based on impressions hard to find words for. It seems firmly based on the British wrestling tradition, out of which the flashier American tradition grew in the early twentieth century and all but supplanted later. To the sporting and gentlemanly spectacle of UK wrestling, Sabre introduced elements of the even flashier wrestling styles of Japan--strong-style slaps and soccer kicks, catapults, and Tiger suplexes, plus Mexican-flavored arm drags and hurricanranas, the latter overused of late but always fresh when performed by Zack. More than the moves, though, Zack brings a personal mythology to wrestling, much like the authentic luchadors of the mid-twentieth century--that is, he is more than just a hero to his fans--he is an incarnation of something I suspect there's no word for yet.

Small gestures, like the way he presses the back of Marty Scurll's hand to his forehead (in the third GIF above), give a ceremonial flavor to Sabre's ring style. I don't have a clue what they signify, but they effectively raise the tenor of the match above the run-of-the-mill hijinks we have seen thousands of times before. The rest of his mystique derives from his silky smooth transitions from hold to hold. They are almost too awesome. Speedy, graceful, surely choreographed but seemingly not--they are either truly in the moment or amazing impersonations of off-the-cuff expedients. Some of them look as if they're played in reverse, like a video of a dog running backwards. This is not even my taste in wrestling, which leans heavily towards basic grunt-n-groan grappling and slugfests, but I find it mesmerizing. No doubt Sabre's good looks are a big factor, but they are far from the only factor. The man has a distinctive style that rises above gimmick or persona. Chaplinesque, Seussian, more Cirque du Soleil than WWE, Sabre-ism is a thing. What exactly I cannot yet say.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Thornton vs Marsh

Case "CT" Thornton vs Jaden Marsh (Movimus)

Jaden has about twelve pounds and a low center of gravity in his favor, but can he take CT? I already knew that CT is a good wrestler, seldom defeated under any of his aliases, so I'm not surprised that Jaden finds it next to impossible to make much headway against him. I could also add that Jaden has the home turf advantage, if such a thing exists in the world of submission wrestling, Thornton being about eight states and three time zones west of his usual digs. 

CT's wiry but strong build serves him well in navigating around his opponent, but his impressive skillset is what gives him most of his edge. The guy's background in the mixed martial arts no doubt gives him stamina and speed, though he remains strictly within the usual bounds of grappling in this 20-minute two-fall battle. An accomplished wrestler himself, Jaden is sure he can handle CT, though being well acquainted with Thornton's previous matches,  I'm surprised anyone could seriously be that confident of a win against the guy.

Jaden puts up a good enough fight, but CT forces him to play defense the whole way. The online description of the match emphasizes that the wrestlers took no breaks during the match and grapple for the full time. (The video starts with about five minutes of stretches and warmups.) It's an exhausting struggle for both athletes. Jaden uses his strength and weight to fend off CT's relentless attacks. The strategy for both wrestlers appears to be to wear the other guy down and then move in for the proverbial kill.

At times the match resembles calf-roping as much as it does wrestling. Lean, determined Thornton wraps Jaden up in his long limbs but struggles to squeeze a submission out of the guy. Happily, the contest does not end in a draw, but a decisive win is a long time coming.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dynamite on the Mat

Beast vs Kid Dynamite, Mat Wars 75 (Thunder's Arena)

Kid Dynamite (5'8", 210#) follows up his ring debut on territory more familiar to the Greco-Roman wrestling champion: a mat. His recent experiences in the squared circle have apparently left a mark. In Mat Wars 75, he mixes some wrestling theater into his knowledge of holds and takedowns. He needs all the ammunition he can get, taking on hairy-chested Beast (5'8", 225#), who, as his name implies, is one tough customer. But then so is Dynamite.

I like how the camera angle in the third shot above gives the fans almost a Beast's-eye view of Dynamite's hold. More than his match against Eagle, this match shows off the rookie's dexterity and knowhow as a grappler. The stats indicate the wrestlers are equal in height, with Beast holding a 15-pound edge, yet somehow I went into this match imagining that Beast's physical advantage was much greater. Perhaps it's the chin scruff and chest hair that tilted the scales further for me. Dynamite's look is more sculpted, but Beast looks like a goddamn wrecking ball.

As in his debut, Kid Dynamite proves he is anything but a pushover. His beard may be meticulously trimmed, but he has the body and soul of a brute -- even more, a brute who's willing to pull some fast ones to improve his chances against an opponent as daunting as Beast is. This is a terrific match with Dynamite again exhibiting a high level of comfort in front of the camera and in the Arena. In fact, I'm impressed that all the newcomers at Thunder's over the past couple of years brim with confidence from their first moment on camera, without the deer-in-headlights look of the rookies of yesteryear.

Beast is a piece of work. I'm an avid fan of his look and style. He looks like one of the larger-than-life creations of Japanese illustrator Tagame Gengoroh. I associate Beast more with ring wrestling, but he is a splendid mat grappler too, as evident in the way he puts Dynamite through his paces here. His blunt but genial butchness won me over the first time I saw him in action, and this match is an especially sweet platform for bringing his macho appeal front and center. Ditto for the Kid.

Monday, March 27, 2017

UCW Finally Brings Nero a Man to Fight

Nero Angelo vs Tyler Austin, Match 523 (UCW)

For me personally, the key thing about UCW's Match 523 is the way Nero and Tyler work each other's body. That, my friends, is a thing of beauty, evident in both the bold strokes and the fine details. The match marks the personal best for both of these men and counts as one of the finest videos in the company's history.

Nero does most of the heavy lifting here, yet the match is largely give and take, with superb manhandling by both wrestlers from beginning to end, but most especially in the latter half. The pairing of Nero and Tyler was inevitable and, on my part, eagerly anticipated. Austin's body begs to be touched just as his hair begs to be tousled and pulled, and nobody performs those tasks with more verve than Angelo. Austin also has the best pair of legs at UCW, and the finesse with which he weaponizes them in this match, both in the traditional scissors holds and as tools to contain and control Angelo's body, inspires my envy (I simultaneously want legs like these and want these specific legs in my grip--see, for instance, the first two screen captures above).

From the beginning, hairy-chested Nero appreciates Tyler's value as a competitor, saying, "They finally brought me a man to fight!" No carnivore has eyed a piece of meat with more enthusiasm. Seeing two grown men, with some heft to them, squaring off against each other in the UCW fight space is a rare treat. And Nero works those honey-tan legs no less than they work him over. In an opening test of strength, forehead to forehead, the two are equals, straining, groaning, unmovable objects of mutual resistance. The prolonged standstill excites and frustrates. Tyler breaks it off and wraps arms around Nero, dragging him down to the mat for some actual wrestling.

The wrestling here is great. There are the to-be-expected company insignia--against-the-wall gut-punching and tit-twisting--but there is mostly honest-to-goodness wrestling by a couple of well-matched guys who are not only photogenic performers but also serious athletes and competitors.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dynamite in the Ring

Kid Dynamite vs Eagle, Ring Wars 37 (Thunder's Arena)

Thunder's Arena's latest find, Kid Dynamite (5'8", 210#), challenges Eagle (5'11", 200#) in the squared circle and proves that his muscle is not just for show. It's a closer fight than most newcomers can pull off, but the Kid, who seemingly divides his time between the free weights and the barber's chair, needs nobody to show him the ropes, so evidently he's spending some of his time on the mats as well. The promos tout him as a state Greco-Roman wrestling champion, and that's borne out by his magnificent performance here.  

Dynamite promises to be a goldmine for the company, which has been batting a thousand for the past year, year and a half, introducing the hottest new strongmen to be found in underground wrestling -- or let's just say wrestling, period. I am more than impressed. I am astounded by how often Thunder's discovers talents like this -- a dozen or so in just a couple of years. And Eagle -- incomparably beautiful and rugged as hell -- what a masterpiece is this guy! Those eyes, those thighs, those shoulders!

The great thing about a good give-and-take match like this one is that at various points my imagination is free to let my favorite win, even if he actually loses in the end. This 22-minute war gives both Eagle and Dynamite plenty of shining moments of total merciless mastery -- on the mat, against the corner ropes, and strung through the ropes. Both are cocky as fuck and really need to get cut down to size. In the end one of them gets a taste of cold hard reality, while the other reigns supreme -- for now, anyway. As expressive as the two battlers, the camera swoops in for tight close-ups of pain and triumph. Wrestling action like this keeps my heart pounding. It's a superb debut for Kid Dynamite and an essential chapter in Eagle's war saga.


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