Bass Notes

In a match that still counts as one of my desert-island picks, a close-quarters contest in BG East's Motel Madness 1, Bass Wallace wrestles Chuck "Flying Tiger" Collins. Collins and Wallace take to the ring in BG Enterprise's Arena 21 (shot about 20 years ago on VHS tape, now on DVD from Can-Am), two matches each, but not against each other. Chuck wrestles John Borsos and John St James in the disk's first and last bouts. Bass wrestles Frank Harris and Derrick James in Bouts 4 and 5. Chuck cuts loose and goes the full-on pro route in both his matches. Bass wrestles competition style, on the mat, making no use at all of the surrounding ropes and turnbuckles.

Only just recently did I see these matches. I knew of them, of course, and I had wondered what Bass might do in a pro-style ring. I can't say I'm disappointed that he does the same thing here that he does on wrestling mats and motel mattresses. One of underground wrestling's least showy wrestlers, Bass concentrates on grappling and submission moves to dominate his opponents. No theatrics, no pose-off, not much by way of talk at all. At his most exhibitionist, Bass gets a slight crooked smile that communicates only that he knows that what he's about to do is wicked but that he intends to do it anyway. In the holds and moves of wrestling he is demonstrative enough for twenty moonsaults or twenty center-of-the-ring promos. You know what Bass Wallace is about in the way he presses his body up against his opponent's and in his relaxed but determined expression when he's got an opponent trapped, kicking and thrashing, in a scissors hold. The man loves to wrestle, and it shows, however tacitly.

As spectacle, wrestling benefits from some drama, however, and his best match in Arena 21 is against Derrick James. Derrick's almost constant moans, retches, and grunts amplify Bass's pure and understated technique. Bass "sells" hardly at all, but Derrick suffers vigorously. Like Chuck Collins, Derrick has a lean, hairy torso, and abject misery sets it off nicely. Bass is in his best shape here, but he's not the gym-toned hunk we've grown accustomed to in more recent underground wrestling. I like his hairy legs and Ricky Nelson pout. His is the unselfconscious body of a man who likes to compete and to exert himself physically, but has little to no interest in striking poses. In the less-is-more school of wrestling performance, Bass Wallace shows how much heat a quietly confident poker face can generate when combined with deft and efficient strategy.


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