How to Handle a Hairy Brute

Pat O'Connor vs Ivan Rasputin, 15 January 1954 (Chicago Wrestling)

I'm sorry, dear readers, but my fixation on pre-1970s ring wrestling shows no signs of going away. I realize it's hard on you innocent bystanders. But I like what I like. A match like this one is just so much more fleshy and arduous than what I see in 95 percent of 21st-century matches. Even on their feet, the opponents are in nearly constant physical contact. And what these golden oldies lack in speed, they make up for in grandeur.

New Zealander Pat O'Connor (29, 6', 228#) looks like the meaty leading men of early golden era Hollywood, robust guys like George O'Brien, Bruce Cabot, and Richard Arlen, who made their marks pre-talkies, when big, bold gestures were called for, but who were eventually replaced by suave tuxedo-wearers like William Powell, Clark Gable, and Cary Grant, guys who could smooth-talk their ways out of a tight fix.

O'Connor's brutish adversary, Ivan Rasputin (41, 245#), unequivocally villainous, is a type of wrestling heel too seldom seen anymore.  From his ring name to his hairy shoulders, Rasputin is bad news for O'Connor. He's more than a foe. He's a geographical obstacle. Such a heel demands more than the usual amount of stamina and force to bring down. Smack talk and parkour would never get the job done.

And "over the top" won't even begin to describe this contest's Wagnerian moves. Every gesture is magnified for the sake of back row ticketholders. What's not to love about O'Connor's slow head-scissors face-drag of Ivan across the canvas or Rasputin's prolonged Russian bear hug on Pat? And you won't find a trace of irony anywhere in the 18-minute battle. Of course, it's all fake, every bit of it, but you can't tell it from the faces of these wrestlers ... or the fans.


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