The Give and Take

At some point I lost track of Wrestling Arsenal’s fine blog, but I just found it again. He has a nice, smart take on wrestling, and he’s got a fun sense of humor. Wrestling Arsenal’s post yesterday, for example, offers an insightful examination of the suffering wrestling hunk.

“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.

2 thoughts on “The Give and Take

  1. Wrestle Arsenal is actually the site that got me into the online Internet blogging scene. He has a wonderful gallery posted, and I love reading his articles on the issues. I bring this up because he did a three part posting of an old essay about the nature of wrestling and how it differs from many other sports. In particular, how the purpose of wrestling is to over expose the dominance, suffering, and defeat of the loser in order to raise the victor higher.It was a interesting essay, back from the 50s if I recall, and of course there were lots of sexy pictures to go along with it. That's beside the point though. What I'm saying is that you can very much tell that essay influenced how he blogs and his latest post shows a bit of that in it.Ultimately I agree with both of you on the topic, but for me I find the best parts are:1. When the Face is being put on display being completely humiliated with no hope of escape.2. When the Face is stripped and locked into a full display submission while the Heel has yet to lose his trunks.3. And of course the finishing move that breaks the victim.To go along with you though, I feel that these moments are very intimate. Some type of special bond that can only be appreciated by the torturer and victim, know what I mean? It makes me wonder if it is akin to the types of feeling between lovers? Regardless of the case, there is definitely some homo-eroticism there, and I'm sure even in Pro-Wrestling on TV, the experience is there for the wrestlers as well as the crowd.One last thing on that topic. Recently I watch Bret Hart's documentary on his experience with the WWF. Something he said stuck out to me, well lots of things did, but this on in particular. Vince wanted to end his career, which was having his own finisher the Sharp Shooter applied to him at a PPV event, tapping out, and losing his Title as his final match. Bret Hart described this as Vince wanting to Rape Bret's character as his final act, and your as well as Wrestle Arsenal's blog on this topic reminded me of Bret's words.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comments, SM! I want to echo particularly your additional point #2. There's something profoundly erotic about the point at which a Face is stripped and completely vulnerable juxtaposed with the Heel still in his trunks and glaring down with a hungry grin. And I definitely know what you mean about the "bond" between the beater and the beaten in those domineering wrestling moments, almost like a lover looking down on his partner who's putting up no defenses, no pretenses, just ready to take what his top-lover is ready to give.Your last point is really profound. The "rape" motif deserves a lot more attention and deconstruction, in my mind. I think homoerotic wrestling ought to do some soul searching (consumers and producers of the products alike) on where we stand and what we're saying about rape both as metaphor and as a literal plot device. I've gone on record saying that I resist it. It tends to play into homophobia and internalized homophobia, I feel. In the WWF context, I read Bret Hart's comment much more as a homophobic commentary than anything else… the worst possible degradation he can imagine being having Vince McMahon shove his cock up his ass. I'm probably reading this more one dimensionally than I should, though.

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