Notes on a Classic: BG Enterprise's Hollywood Muscleboy Wrestling 9

Cliff Conlin is a legend at BG Enterprise, BG East, and Can-Am, yet he fits none of the stereotypes of a gay wrestling phenomenon. He was not meticulously chiseled in physique. He didn't  overtly "sex up" his matches. Even all these years after his last video match, his immense popularity seems to be due to his rugged good looks, his sturdy build, and mostly his willingness to go as tough and mean as the situation and his testosterone level dictated. He could be a hero or a heel; either way, he threw his heart into it. BG Enterprise's Hollywood Muscleboy Wrestling 9 showcases Cliff in six matches, some of them squash jobs, some of them close calls for the moody roughneck with the cowlicky hair. In all of them he is the dominant force, peevish, irresistible, cruel, and focused.

In the first, Cliff dominates Jacob Lord, a tightly built multiethnic bottle-blond, whose redeeming quality--and it is considerable--is that he loudly vocalizes his agony--it too is considerable, thanks to Cliff--and wildly gesticulates like no other wrestler on the card. If you're going to job for Cliff Conlin, Jacob's method is the way to go. He thrusts, claws, squeals, yelps, twists, and pleads, and he does these things incessantly. In time, you start hoping that Conlin puts him the fuck out of his misery so you don't have to listen to it anymore, which hope, in itself, makes for a guilty complicity in Cliff's total dismantling of a wrestler 25 pounds lighter than he is.

In the second match, Cliff faces a tough opponent. Tyson Johnson is a mean motherfucker who bears down on Cliff relentlessly for about 90 percent of the match. From the start it looks like Tyson means to not only win but also permanently damage his foe. The guy armbars like he intends to snap Cliff's arm off at the shoulder and swing it around his head like a club. What I love about Cliff is that, if you want to play it that way, he goes all hit-you-in-the-face-with-your-amputated-arm right back at you. Tough motherfucker, that Cliff, if that's how you want to go at it. Just when things get as hairy as you can imagine them getting, Tyson grabs a strap, like the sash on judo gi, and wraps it three times around Cliff's neck and starts hanging from it like it's a rope swing and Conlin's neck is the tree branch. Even now you can't write Cliff off, though. In the kind of miracle turnaround I love, miraculous yet believable, Cliff smacks Tyson face down to the canvas for some of his specially saved-up whoop-ass. "Cheatin' bastard," he tells him, "you wanna see cheatin'?" Tyson gets some extra to take home with him, no doubt limping the whole way.

Match number three finds Cliff in a give-and-take match (almost) with Frank Harris. Frank, a smaller but ferociously ambitious wrestler, catches Cliff off-guard and gains an unexpected early advantage on the big guy. He comes on like the proverbial gangbusters, and it looks like this is going to be a big embarrassing loss for Cliff. Not going to happen, but Frank has the heart to make you believe it could. Like Tyson, he uses a strap to strangle Cliff, almost forgivable in this instance, considering the size difference between the fighters, weakening his opponent till he can crank a Boston crab tap-out from him. It's a humiliating first-round defeat for Cliff. But he doesn't make the same mistake twice. In Round 2, he keeps his guard up and uses his superior weight and mat skills to make Frank sorry he even imagined he could stand up to this vindictive alpha male. The second round closes as Cliff stomach-claws Harris into an excruciating submission. Then he stands, glowering down at his writhing opponent. After such a strenuous second round, it's almost too bad for Frank that he has to suffer through a third round, too. But rules are rules. Clearly, Cliff is the man, and all that's left to do in the last round is shatter whatever's left of Frank's self-respect and prove, as if proof were actually needed, that Round 2 was not a fluke, but Round 1 definitely was.

Match four is another one-sided squash, with Cliff taking River Phoenix-wannabe Cooper Ramsey apart. For some reason, this squash job does the trick for me. It could be the sharp contrast in styles, Cliff, a thickly built no-nonsense grappler, and Cooper, a tall slender greenhorn with a trendy (circa EMF's "Unbelievable") haircut and not much by way of ring skills. But Cliff knows how to work long hair, and by the end of this match Cooper probably wishes he had a crewcut. From the beginning there's no chance for Cooper. From the moment he's in the ring with Cliff, it's obvious he's hopelessly outclassed. All that remains is for Cliff to scrub the mat with this guy, which he does with more gusto and attention to detail than the competition level calls for. He does most of the work. Cooper's involuntary reflexes do the rest. Again, there's something to admire about Cliff in this. He could just sit on this kid and call it a day, but he goes the extra distance to make sure Cooper feels 100 percent like he's been properly put through a meat-grinder--and he has. Cliff wrestles Cooper like he needs to prove himself against this guy, even though he doesn't, and the expended effort tells us just how professional Cliff is as a ring artist--or maybe how much some small, ordinarily inconsequential thing about Cooper is enough to fire Cliff up into exterminator mode.

Technically the best match of the set is the fifth, Cliff versus Dane Tanner. This is the evenest contest on the disk and the true "main event." Tanner is a genuine muscle boy, finely-hewn torso and thighs, with the sort of bland square-jawed handsomeness I associate with AMG models of the mid-1950s. He also knows how to handle himself in a fight and succeeds in holding his own against Cliff for most of the match. Cliff savors the challenge, targeting the man's arms to wear him down, making sure he clobbers the man's head with enough routine random force as to sustain a mild sedative effect. Obviously he enjoys twisting a grade-A physique like Dane's into knots too.

Every chance Dane gets, he goes right for Cliff's jugular, seeing his best hope of victory in knocking the big guy out. He chokes Cliff on the bottom rope, but Cliff wrestles his way on top of him and starts choking him. Defensively, he rakes his fingers across Cliff's eyes, but this offers only a momentary reprieve and, worse, incites the bigger wrestler's fury. Dane gets the bad end of the stick for a long time, before heaving Cliff over his shoulder and out of the ring. Then he pulls Cliff back through the ropes by his hair, softens him up with an elbow drop and jab to the ribs, and proceeds to work over Conlin's right arm. But not for long. Cliff reverses and ratchets up a first-round win.

Round 2 is even more give-and-take than the first, with Dane giving a lot more than he has to take. It sets up a terrific Round 3, which decides the whole match. Dane senses a window of opportunity and throws himself into capitalizing on it. Cliff responds to the challenge in an all-out effort to destroy the muscle boy, pounding him like a dusty rug. It's not an easy win. Dane's body is not just for show. It's resilient and tough. An airplane spin creates enough discombobulation to throw the odds in Cliff's favor and segues neatly to a vertebrae-bending standing submission.

The sixth match, a bonus, is shorter than the rest, a straight-edge college-style wrestling contest with Ron Burrell. Both wrestlers know their stuff, but Cliff has a weight advantage that tips the scales (literally). More than anything it's a demonstration of Cliff's mat credentials. Even playing by the rulebook, Cliff is an irresistible force.

Half these guys never stepped foot in the BG ring again after Cliff Conlin rearranged their physiques for them, which only testifies to Conlin's status as the company's weed-whacker. Losing to Cliff didn't mean you were a shit wrestler, but it probably made you think twice before signing another release form. The conditioning of Cliff's body varied dramatically over his career. In most of the matches of HMW9, he is in peak condition, agile, speedy, and strong. His shoulders and thighs are awesome, and his hairy chest is in pointed defiance to the norm of the day, which was waxy smoothness. Conlin was himself a classic--and the six matches on this release cover the bases of what made him great.


  1. I got off on Cliff Conlin precisely because, as you noted, he was not an unusually muscular or extravagant wrestler, but looked like some hot dudes I knew at college, and allowed me to explore the fantasy of those good-looking, everyday jocks on campus stepping into the ring in some speedos and boots and throwing a few pro moves on me. He was just anonymous or generic enough to permit me to place a few similar-looking studs who were my buddies in his wrestling persona.

  2. Does anybody know Cliff Conlin's REAL name? I wonder if he's still into erotic wrestling...and maybe even gay porn?


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