Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Case for a Face

Red-white-and-blue junior Captain Americas as pretty, pumped, and competitive as babyfaces can be: Jake Jenkins and Austin Cooper
All in the same day a couple of days ago, SP at Inner Jobber posted a by-the-numbers "how to be a fantasy wrestling jobber (like Curtis Thompson)" post, and Joe at Ringside at Skull Island posted a "you might be a heel if..." list of distinguishing characteristics of the heel set, and I briefly mentioned my guilty pleasure of watching a babyface hero defeat an evil doer in the ring.  I think there's less said than should be about professional wrestlers who fall neither into the doomed to be exploited category or the devious exploiters category.  Since SP and Joe did such thoughtful treatments of jobbers and heels, I decided to try to do a little more justice on behalf of that oft-maligned class of homoerotic wrestlers: the face.

I've got a longstanding crush on handsome hero Mitch Colby.
I say oft-maligned because I think to be compelled to pull for the handsome hero is frequently portrayed as gullible.  To boost for the "good guy," the hard worker, the play-by-the rules, sincere competitor is frequently equated with naiveté.  Guys into the conquering and suffering of a pretty boy may ache for their jobbers, and guys into domination and humiliation dished out by a villain will pull for their heels.  I have a long, long record of working up a head of steam for plenty of jobbers and plenty of heels.  But call me gullible and naive, because (not always, but definitely sometimes) nothing will crank on my chain as convincingly as an all-in babyface (or just "face") beauty using brains and brawn to overcome treachery and deceit.

Gorgeous face Denny Cartier is all skill, stamina, and strength on the mat.
I venture into this territory with eyes open.  I've seen the equivalent of doctoral dissertations written on parsing out opinions about what and who qualifies to be classified as a babyface wrestler.  I'd bet money someone will let me know where I got it wrong by the time I finish this post.  And I love that about us.  We're the aroused, gorgeous gay nerds of professional wrestling.  We care way too much, leading us to quibble and at times even squabble about what is, let's face it, minutiae and trivia.  We openly defy orthodoxies on one hand (e.g., celebrating the fierce, butch, dangerously strong and masculine gay man), while on the other hand bitterly defend other orthodoxies (e.g., heaping contempt on the commenter who describes your favorite jobber as a face, or vice versa).  Despite the apparent perception of others that I consider myself an expert, I offer this as nothing more than my personal system for classifying that distinctive breed of wrestler-for-pay who is not the villain, and he's not the wrestler who seems eternally destined to lose beautifully.  But rather, he's the heroic athlete determined to defeat his opponents with skill, stamina, and strength, and sometimes, he even succeeds.

Fiercely pretty babyface tagteam Zack Coleman and Brian Barnes.
Like babies themselves, I can't think of anyone ugly who I'd classify as a babyface wrestler.  Granted, "ugly" is entirely subjective, but inclusion criteria for babyface wrestlers (as far as I'm concerned), include a strong, chiseled chin, gorgeous, piercing (often blue) eyes, and a gym-toned body with beautiful skin.  The parameters are flexible to accommodate an assortment of tastes (eye of the beholder and all), but something obviously beautiful seems a prerequisite.  A babyface seems to, by definition, be attractive in a conventional sense.  It's not like particularly homoerotic wrestling is well-populated with men who fail to meet basic standards of physical attractiveness, but those especially handsome Clark Kent-esque boys tend to get checks in my personal tally of elements that add up to the essential ingredients of a compelling face.  Necessary but not sufficient criteria to be a babyface, it seems to me, is eye-catching beauty.  

Alexi Adamov strives valiantly to honestly overcome notorious Aryx Quinn's dirty tricks.
Further inclusion criteria for me include that babyface wrestlers tend to stick to the straight and narrow when faced with (as they frequently are) an underhanded, dirty, no-good heel.  Here's where it comes in handy to have powerful muscles and innate athleticism (again, necessary but not sufficient characteristics of faces - plenty of heels and jobbers have beautiful muscles and obvious athleticism).  When faced with cheating and trickery, the Pearl Harbor before the bell rings, the hair pull, the crotch blow, the foreign object, the refusal to break a hold when the action hits the ropes, the babyface hero grimaces, shakes his head ("kids these days") and reinvests his faith in his thousands of hours of gym time and, hopefully, substantive experience and wrestling skills.  An occasional venture into a retributive low blow not-withstanding (particularly in homoerotic wrestling), the face places his confidence in the superiority of his physique, his mental preparation, his wrestling prowess, and the sincerity of his heart.  In a post-modern world, faces can get away with a lot more rule bending and still be objects of heroic adoration, of course.  They can most definitely lose their temper, open a can of unnecessarily rough whoop-ass, ravage an opponent momentarily in a rage.  But in the morality tales of homoerotic wrestling, if I see a handsome stud tend toward the exercise of self-restraint and appear to intentionally decline to take shortcuts, I check off another box in the face checklist.

Who's got whom? Babyface hearthrob Brad Rochelle battles babyface heartthrob Jeff Phoenix
That's not to say a babyface can only be seen in matches against heels, of course.  He can most definitely wrestle another babyface or a jobber, by all means.  Sometimes, he may be less easily identified in those settings, but nevertheless he perseveres in the certainty that he is the "better man" which will lead to his victory (as opposed to the heel who sees his victory, by whatever means, as the evidence that he's the better man).  A babyface v babyface battle can be a particularly compelling thing of beauty.  Two hard, hardworking studs who've been convinced by accolades and past victories that they are destined to succeed can generate intensely satisfying and homoerotically charged wrestling entertainment.  The allure of the thrill of competition (which I argue is an essential element of what turns me on about the drama of homoerotic wrestling) can be most poignant and compelling for me when it's face v face, beauty v beauty, power v power.  These are matches in which tit-for-tat wrestling often makes me smile, as athletes play a game of HORSE, showing off their skills and strength in a one-upsmanship format.  Like knights in armor of old, they charge upright into one another with a typically unspoken assumption that purity of heart will add weight to the scales of justice, and the outcome is less about the delectable doings inside the ropes as it is about who wanted it more as demonstrated by preparation, training, and hard work before they entered the ring.

Classic babyface Christopher Bruce shocks and awes perennially supine Rio Garza
I also like the drama of a babyface v jobber match, though again, I think this can confuse folks who equate a serious mauling as the exclusive domain of a heel.  By my way of thinking, a babyface is generally convinced in the superiority of his training, conditioning, and strength, so there's most definitely still a story to tell when he encounters a pretty slice of heaven with a track record for getting crushed and humiliated.  He wrestles because he has faith in the premise that if he is the better man, he will win.  Dangling a jobber in front of his face, particularly a tasty, pretty, unknowingly vulnerable jobber, merely offers him the opportunity to collect evidence to confirm what he already knew: all of his hard work destines him to conquer an unworthy opponent.  A jobber's job is that much more crucial in a babyface v jobber match, because his suffering must rise from being outmatched and outwitted above board.  There's not likely a low blow or a nipple-twist to explain what threw the jobber off his game, so the two must dance the intricate dance of decisive, convincing combat.  A jobber must beat like a wave upon the sand against the superior strength of body and spirit, only slowly to ebb in will and perseverance in the face of the innate dominance of the finely tuned babyface offense.  Not an ounce less agony, not a smidge less suffering is required than if the jobber took a fist to the scrotum and had his face forced into a heel's swelling crotch.  This tale is just a tad more subtle but no less tantalizing and tempting for my tastes, for the drama of a jobber slowly crumbling beneath a face.

Heel rising Morgan Cruise drops gorgeous giant Diego Diaz with a shocking low blow
Finally, I'd like to make a case for holding these archetypes in pro wrestling lightly when it comes to homoerotic fare.  While I'm sure I'll get crap for getting it wrong (won't be the first time... to get crap or to get it wrong), I'll also suggest that so far, there isn't a homoerotic wrestling company producing a through-story with quite the consistency of a weekly mainstream pro wrestling serial in which these archetypes were birthed in live wrestling and televised wrestling entertainment decades ago (probably centuries, really).  Character development takes time and consistency that I think is particularly challenging in the catch-as-catch-can world of the homoerotic wrestling industry.  While there are notable exceptions, such as the highly entertaining through-story that Alex recently posted about regarding the crushing humiliation of fan-favorite face Brad Rochelle until Brad pulled off a sweetly satisfying heel turn in the middle of the Contract series, a chaptered story building motivation and a story arc is a rare element in homoerotic wrestling.  And therefore a face, jobber, or heel may be built or broken within the confines of a given match.  I find this type of story telling more intense, though inherently more difficult to latch onto favorite characters over time (because characters may play multiple roles in seemingly out-of-order sequences).  In other words, my favorite industry highlights that a face (or a jobber or a heel) is not who a wrestler is, but what a wrestler does.  The sum total of a storied career in pro wrestling for gay eyes likely demonstrates that "one man in his time plays many parts."

Gorgeous babyface Justin Pierce puts the hurt on gorgeous babyface Tommy Tara
In his last post, Alex proposed a new Contract (or Contract-like-series) to chart another rare chaptered story of homoerotic wrestling drama.  I love that idea.  I'd also add my dream of an honest-to-god serial homoerotic pro wrestling story, released as a "season," witnessing the rise and fall of wrestling hopefuls, the tensions and betrayals, the shocking humiliations and victories-against-the-well-established-odds... alliances made, loyalties tested, egos crushed, losers showing up again owned and operated by the man who bested them... roaring testimonials, sweat-soaked post-match interviews, an explicitly named grudge, a quest for vengeance.  There are some nice tropes and devices of classic mainstream pro wrestling that I think have yet to be fully translated into an explicitly homoerotic context.  I'm sure it would require an entirely different production, likely including prohibitive amounts of scheduling, investment, and choreography.  But seriously, I'd pay a premium for that, particularly with an explicitly homoerotic angle.  Some more suspense, a story arc, a chance to tune in repeatedly to be compelled by a favorite face, heel or jobber... surely there's a significant market for that.

Babyface beauty Cameron Matthews heeled by Kid Vicious
So I started by making a case for a face, which I still stand by enthusiastically.  Heroes battling for good, winning valiantly, losing in soul-crushing, despair-inducing humiliation... fuck, I love that guy.  But I'd love him even more in a context in which I could watch his character grow and change, in which his motivation is more explicit, contrasts drawn more starkly, perhaps his heel turn that much more shocking because he'd convinced me of his utter trust that right will ultimately overcome might.  I'm sure it's a pipe dream, but it's still a dream that makes my blood pulse harder.

5 comments:

  1. "...a face (or a jobber or a heel) is not who a wrestler is, but what a wrestler does."

    Perfectly put, Bard! The fact that a wrestler doesn't have to be the designated jobber/heel/face in every match makes it more unpredictable, and fun. (Predictability is okay sometimes, of course.) Jobber vs. jobber: Suddenly, neither one's really the jobber, and they get to do stuff you usually don't see them do. (Or, one turns out to be a heel or a face, and the other turns out to be an uber-jobber.)

    But I agree that continuity does make it work better. ("He was so sweet last time, why is he suddenly being such a prick?")

    Yay, homoerotic wrestling serial with character growth and development! Somebody Kickstart that bitch's ass!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just can't not mention the Bitch, can you?

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    Replies
    1. You know what's in the next catalogue, don't you?

      Delete

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