"The true beauty of pro wrestling," he writes, "lies not in the strength and stamina of the winner, but in the frailty, vulnerability, and suffering of the loser." The ironic twist is that so many of us want to see our favorite wrestler suffer. Hell, I'd venture to guess 99.9% of the readers of this blog get wildly aroused to see our favorite wrestler suffer! Wrestling Arsenal argues that the sight of the suffering hero stirs the most profound pathos. Our sympathies and identification with the sufferer are boiled down to the most potent essence of humanity as we watch the vulnerability of one man laid out so completely, without the least pretense of dignity left to him.
I like this deconstruction of the iconic moment of a wrestler's suffering. It strikes a chord in me. It also makes me think about the additional element that causes a drastic drop in my blood pressure: the victor gazing down upon the suffering loser. I think all the same elements apply that Wrestling Arsenal describes. And I think that there's also an element of profound intimacy in that exchange between the two battlers that speaks directly to the inherent homoeroticism of wrestling.
When Jack Guerin climbed into the ring with Joshua Goodman (that's Mr. Joshua to you!), he had a grin that stretched from ear to ear. He was a young, hard, eager rookie. Seriously sweet pecs and thick shoulders. Ominously, he'd not done his homework, though. He didn't really know who Mr. Joshua was. He didn't know what Mr. Joshua was capable of. He didn't know that 15 minutes later, he'd find himself flat on his stomach in the middle of the ring, completely dazed and nearly delirious. And the key thing that young Jack didn't know was that Mr. Joshua was standing overtop of him, his feet straddling Jack's torso, staring down at the young buck's muscled back. There's an element of self-congratulations about the victor's gaze upon his beaten, defenseless opponent. He's appreciating his handiwork. He's admiring the effect of his labors played out so explicitly on the suffering body of his once-invincible challenger. Of course, Mr. Joshua is also just waiting for poor Jack to crawl back up to his hands and knees so that he can drop his ass down punishingly into the small of Jack's back, sending him crashing back to the mat (and then needing to adjust his massive package for his effort). But before that, there's something almost more intimate about Mr. Joshua's fixed gaze on upon his outmatched opponent suffering beneath him than any physical contact exchanged between the two.
I haven't yet seen the classic battle between Dante Rosetti and Davey Dee from Fantasymen 13, but I confess that I've been nursing a growing infatuation with Dante lately. The sight of Davey smiling down so malevolently as Dante is flat on his back in the center of the ring is an entire novel of story telling in one photo. Okay, set aside (if you can) the distracting sight of Davey's cock so clearly outlined beneath the taut, shiny fabric of his white tights. And once you've managed to tear your eyes away from both men's stunning physiques, take another look at Davey's face. With his head cocked slightly to the side, he's soaking in Dante's defenseless. With his hands planted domineeringly on his narrow hips, Davey is simply delighting in the physical vulnerability of his gorgeous opponent. Even though I haven't seen the match, I can tell with absolute certainty that the the gorgeous dark Italian that climbed into the ring with such a sense of inevitability about his victory couldn't have imagined he'd be flattened and helpless soon enough. Whatever these two got up to in the ring (or out of the ring, for that matter), this pleased, assessing gaze that Davey gives his beaten hunk just seems astonishingly intimate to me.
My last case in point comes from one of the all time great mat battles in my book. Mitch Colby, the then owner of my favorite homoerotic wrestling pornboy title, faced off against the timeless physique and constantly growing mat savvy of BG East veteran Patrick Donovan. These two stunning hunks compare stats before the match starts. Mitch has an extra inch of height and a couple handfuls of pounds over Patrick, but both coldly calculating studs agree that they're evenly matched on paper. When the scramble begins, it turns out that they're evenly matched in practice, as well. The submissions fly fast and furious. Both boys are twisted and crushed to the point that it makes me wince just to watch it. They both fight a little dirty, taking unnecessary advantage, refusing to break on submissions, resorting to crotch claws to steal the wind from each other's sails. When Patrick suggests a bearhug challenge, both long, tall slabs of beef are soaked in sweat and put on gorgeous display as they take turns willingly suffering in each other's arms. Back and forth, back and forth, you begin to wonder if either of these boys will manage to build the momentum to finally derail his tenacious opponent.
But in the end, Mitch conquers like the reigning champ he was. Patrick is lying in pools of both boys' sweat, flat on his back, pretty much oblivious to the world in the exhausted haze Mitch left him in. Mitch flexes and preens. He throws his own little victory party as he celebrates while Patrick slowly writhes on the mat with Mitch's foot planted alternatingly on his ass and then crushing his crotch. And then Mitch takes up that familiar position, his feet straddling Patrick's ridiculously narrow waist as he stares down long and hard at the fallen gladiator. Patrick's instantly inadequate orange thong barely does the job of reigning in the veteran's swollen moneymaker. True enough, Mitch pretty quickly connects all the dots going through your mind and mine by dropping to his hand and knees, grinding his own pouch into Patrick's, pinning the loser's wrists over his head, and tasting the sweet taste of victory. But I swear to you, that moment that Mitch is hovering, gazing down at his beaten man, that's the most intimate moment of this match in my mind, as Mitch simply witnesses up close what Wrestling Arsenal calls "the vulnerability, frailty, and suffering of the loser."
Power and vulnerability. Strength and weakness. Dominance and submission. Victory and defeat. It's the combination of these elements that write the wrestling stories that grab hold of us. I keep watching not for the sight of one man's hand raised in victory, but for that erotic telling of the story of a relationship, of power against power and the slow turning of power into vulnerability.