A few months ago, I sent an email to Bard asking if perhaps he would like to be interviewed for his website. To see if we could get a deeper glimpse into the man who has provided us with such great blogging material since 2009. A way for him to express himself in an entirely new way – where perhaps he is not totally in control. An innocuous request, which I thought might pique Bard’s interest. It did. – AH.
AH: You have been blogging since 2009, and you’re still going strong. Congratulations! What do you think has been the secret to your success and longevity?
Bard: Thanks, AH. My focus and productivity with Neverland has waxed and waned in the nearly 6 years I’ve been blogging. I think the biggest factor in my longevity is that this is a labor of love. Homoerotic wrestling is honestly something I enjoy immensely. I’m thinking about and talking about it a lot, so putting some of those thoughts into print for the blog doesn’t feel exactly like work. I also think that I’ve kept churning out posts by switching things up every so often. From my “what turned me gay” series to “name that ass” games and wrestler interviews, I’ve tried to keep things fresh and fun for me. Hopefully that comes across to readers, and hopefully it’s fun for them, as well.
AH: You keeping your blog fresh and fun definitely comes across to me, and I hope to all your other readers as well. I have especially enjoyed when you have had polls included in your posts. Do you have a favorite recurring post that you’ve enjoyed the most?
Bard: I’m glad it’s stayed fresh for readers. Particularly early on, I really didn’t know who my audience was, and even still, I’m not always sure how my stuff is received. So it’s nice to hear when it’s clicking for folks. One of the series that I think I enjoyed more than anyone else did was the “Guess that…” games. It started with “Guess that Ass,” but there were also some “Guess that Tat” and “Guess that Cock” episodes. I love puzzles, so putting those together was probably way more fun for me than for readers. I think my other favorite recurring series was the “What Turned Me Gay” sequence I did in the first couple of years of blogging. It was autobiographical and an honest examination of what I’ve found erotic over the years, with a heavy hit of social commentary and sarcasm. If I had to sum up my blog in one sentence,that would probably be the sentence.
AH: When you are watching a match that you plan on reviewing, what is the process that you go through?
Bard: Well, first of all, I grab the lube. But, that’s probably not what you meant. I sit down with my iPad in front of me and push play. I typically watch for purely descriptive stuff to start with. What are they wearing? What’s the setting? Then I spend some time listening closely. Regular readers know what a sucker I am for compelling dialogue in the ring, so I listen for the story that the wrestlers tell when they first encounter each other. Are they appreciating each other’s physiques? Are they trash talking? How do they make sense of this familiar moment when two ripped hunks climb into a ring and throw everything they’ve got at beating and dominating one another? What’s in it for them: ego strokes, erotic attraction, an honest lust for competition? I try to take notes on the the highlights of the action, particularly the parts that impress or surprise me. But, sooner or later, inevitably, I put the iPad down and pull out that lube. It’s an extremely rare homoerotic wrestling match that doesn’t make me need to get off if I spend enough time watching it.
AH: I think I need to be invited to a viewing party at Bard’s house! I’ll bring the lube! I tend to look over pictures and see if there are moves that grab my attention. Gear is definitely a big plus in my book, too. I go back and forth on the dialogue; sometimes I think it enhances a match, sometimes I think it hinders it. Is there one type of match that is your “default” for watching, or does it depend on the mood? Seems like you’re big into the muscle worshiping and eroticism of matches more than the moves/wrestlers themselves
Bard: Fascinating that your impression is that I’m less into the moves and wrestlers and more into eroticism! I wouldn’t necessarily have said that. For example, I’m like a dog with a bone when it comes to an OTK backbreaker, or to a hot wrestler getting trapped in the ropes. A flying dropkick, relatively rare in homoerotic wrestling circles, is a sensational turn on for me. My moods swing me toward ring matches more often that mat matches, so the ring would probably be a “default” setting for me. My moods also tilt me toward matches with some back and forth momentum and at least a pretense of competitiveness about it. So, while I occasionally get a hankering for a sweet, crushing, humiliating squash, a competitive match would be my default setting for what I’m typically looking for. All that said, I get bored pretty fast on a complete diet of relatively straightforward, G-rated wrestling with no explicit and very little implicit erotic content. I can tune into mainstream pro for that. So even if it doesn’t have nudity or making out or fuck stakes involved, I’m very partial to wrestling that gives at least a nod to the homoerotic sensibilities of our audience.
AH: Perhaps my impression was on purpose, Bard….to get a rise out of you! You’ll never know! My go-to move for any match is any variation on the sleeper. Pass the lube if that occurs. You mentioned mainstream pro wrestling; to the best of my knowledge, you’ve never mentioned any pro wrestlers/pro wrestling on your blog. Is that again because of your audience, or is it because like you say in the about me portion of your blog, “devoted to contemplating in excruciating detail the world of homoerotic wrestling”?
Bard: You provocateur! I heartily approve. Early on in my blogging I talked about my complicated relationship with mainstream pro wrestling. I’ve posted about my major, youthful crush on muscle hunk Billy Jack Haynes in my “What Turned Me Gay” series. And I think I have some early posts about the classic vintage Brit pro Keith Hawarth. And, hell, the banner for Neverland is the fantasyman himself, Tommy Zenk. But I grew disenchanted with watching contemporary mainstream pro over a decade ago when it kept striking me as blatantly homophobic. Throughout most of my blogging, I’ve enjoyed reading other bloggers who keep their eyes on straight up pro, like Beefcake’s of Wrestling, Ringside at Skull Island and Inner Jobber. But I find wrestling explicitly for gay eyes to be just as entertaining, more titillating, and much less of a moral dilemma to enjoy, so I spend most of my viewing and blogging time on the more gay-forward homoerotic wrestling companies.
AH: I’m sorry. Obviously I didn’t do my research. Since you mentioned other bloggers there have many multiple blogs and bloggers on the subject of homoerotic and underground wrestling pop up in the ensuing years since 2009. How do you feel about that?
Bard: Hell, I forget half of what I’ve written, so I certainly don’t expect anyone else to have my entire 6 years of blogging memorized. I think it’s fabulous that there are a number of homoerotic wrestling blogs. The old Rants, Roids & Wrestling blog was just shutting down as I was starting up. I loved the artwork and storytelling there. Joe started Ringside at Skull Island about 6 months before my blog, and I’ve always enjoyed Joe’s take on the scene. And of course Wrestling Arsenal is a classic that’s been around forever and has a fantastic, unique voice and angle all his own. There have been times when I’ve been just about to post something when I discover someone else (usually Joe) has already reviewed it, said it, asked it. But honestly, I think it’s fantastic that there are several voices out there, a lot of different perspectives and tastes reflecting much more of the diversity of homoerotic wrestling than any one of us could by ourselves.
AH: What do you think of wrestlers having more of a Social Media presence than ever before?
Bard: I think it’s the future of entertainment of any kind, including the homoerotic wrestling business. Pro wrestling is as much driven by personality as it is by athleticism or hot bodies. We have more access to interact with and know about the people in our lives, and social media has given us the opportunity to build the illusion that public personalities are “people in our lives.” So, anonymous guys with hot bodies showing up in a ring, wrestling with more or less skill, and then disappearing from view is much less compelling these days than wrestlers turning us on in action and then populating our Twitter and Facebook feeds with photos and attitude and the illusion that their professional character is part of our social network. Wrestlers like Ty Alexander, Kayden Keller, Ethan Andrews and Cameron Matthews have done great work at the sell in and out of the ring. I know fans enjoy seeing them in social media, and I strongly suspect that those who exploit that fan experience beyond the confines of a particular wrestling product will only literally sell more products. And have you seen the number of photos that Ty posts of his ass!? Fuck, that guy is working it with a vengeance!
AH: True. There have been plenty of wrestlers, through all of the homoerotic sites that have been “one and done” – they have the great bodies, but if the personality is not there or they don’t sell for the camera and draw the audience in, they are not featured again. It does give us a kind of “behind the scenes” look at some wrestlers. However, don’t you also think that there could also be some fatigue with specific wrestlers who appear over and over again combined with their increasing online presence?
Bard: My thinking has evolved on that question over my time blogging. Early on, I was pretty harsh on wrestlers who seemed to show up everywhere at the same time. I took some swipes at Cameron Matthews and Rio Garza a few years ago when both of them were showing up in simultaneous new releases across two, sometimes three different companies, sometimes even wrestling the same opponents across promotions. I still think that repackaging the same match-ups across promotions is bad for consumers, and my hunch is that there’s probably some corporate intrigue about the choice of a producer to tape and release copycat matches at the same time. Like, what’s the wisdom of releasing at the same time Rio and Jobe wrestling each other in the ring in two different matches? But I think instant downloads and social media are sensitizing us to a faster pace of information and exposure to wrestlers. And, frankly, I’ve simply found myself charmed and titillated by popular wrestlers like Cameron, Jonny, Drake and Ethan inhabiting multiple platforms, giving us long-form text, photos, and videos alongside of snapshot status updates to construct 3-dimensional characters in and out of the ring. Getting more access to these sensational wrestling characters has actually increased my anticipation and excitement for their new releases. There may be fan-fatigue for some wrestling consumers, but these days I see multi-platform promotion for wrestlers to be compelling. Now if we could just get Drake to update his fucking blog [laughing].
AH: Haha, there you go bashing Drake again. Can’t you leave the poor guy alone? Are you trying to get fans to sympathize with poor Drake? I didn’t want to name names earlier (cough Austin/Frey cough) about showing up across different companies and multiple matches a month, but hey, he must be doing something right in the eyes of the people producing and shelling out the products. And he is not the only one. It does seem to make it harder for a rookie to get noticed and make a lasting impression, although I have to say that 2015 was a particularly strong year for them (at least for me.) with Chet, Biff, Van Skyler, etc.
Bard: I do like the increased social media presence of some of the wrestlers you mentioned, although like new releases, they are updated rather infrequently. I think that actually works in their favor, as it keeps the audience salivating until there is a new post, a new video, new pictures.
AH: Since we’re talking about wrestlers populating social media, what are your thoughts on all the bloggers talking about homoerotic wrestling
Bard: Oh, can’t forget Austin Cooper! His heel work at BG East in particular is crazy good. But regarding other bloggers, I have tons of respect and take a lot of enjoyment in all of them. There was a period where I was diligently reading everybody and intentionally cross promoting other blogs, but I just ran out of time to stay on top of that. I still visit Beefcakes of Wrestling several times a week to check the mainstream pros I ought to be looking up on Youtube. I check in on Ringside frequently, now that Joe’s back at it again, particularly for a glimpse at some of the promotions that I don’t really follow. Alex is always sensational, and his work at The Cave is a great mix of sensational writing and inspiring reviews. I think each of the bloggers with an eye on homoerotic wrestling have unique perspectives, different things that draw their attention or spark their interest. And that’s what I like about blogging as a format. It lets us step inside someone else’s head for a moment and recognize the arousing and provocative things that we may not see on our own.
AH: Seems like each blog has a corner of the homoerotic wrestling scene all to themselves. I love it when multiple bloggers discuss and dissect the same match as it leads to differing views and makes me want to watch the match again trying to hopefully see it through a new lens. Before finding all of these blogs, I never thought that all of these posts would be so arousing!! I just thought the videos and pictures would turn me on. Glad to be proven wrong. So you have your avatar on your blog that shows off that chest and gives a glimpse of your abs. You’ve let your audience into your mind – but you have left the rest of your body and self, vague. Is that intentional on your part?
Bard: When I started blogging, I didn’t have a clear picture of exactly what I wanted the blog to be. But I did feel committed to make it relatively confessional as a gay man strongly turned on by wrestling. With an interest in a frank discussion of eroticism, I decided that I’d feel freer to be blunt and honest about my sexual turn-ons if I were relatively anonymous otherwise. One of the greatest things about blogging has been hearing from guys who say, “I’ve had the same experiences, but thought I must be the only one!” But I don’t know if I’d ever have had the balls to dig down to those moments of homoerotic confessional truth, to talk about some of those things that many of us experience but may seldom discuss with friends and family that don’t get it, if I thought that my mom or my boss might stumble across my words. These days, I think of that avatar I use like a wrestling mask in the pro ring. There’s something that it hides, but there’s something that it frees to be seen, to be more open and passionately me as well. And, quite honestly, over time I’ve discovered that there are some relatively unhinged people in the webosphere who take all of this way, way too seriously, who I really wouldn’t want to know me in any more detail than what I share on the blog.
AH: Very well said. I was quite late to the game in finding homoerotic wrestling sites and blogs dedicated to it. But once I did, I had that “Aha” moment, where I was like I am not the only one who likes this stuff! And we thank you for digging down deep, through your anonymity, to bring us your fresh take on these subjects that so strongly turn you on. I hope this interview does not provoke any unhinged people out there to search either of us out.
Bard: Some guys are extremely… passionate… about their opinions about homoerotic wrestling. It’s a fine line between passionate/playful and unhinged, but there is a line, I think.
AH: Rock Hard dabbled in luche style masks I believe once in their history (although it was obvious who the combatants were) and BG East has had masked wrestlers as well. Do you ever watch lucha wrestling videos on youtbube or know that history, or were you just using the wrestling mask as a metaphor to prove your point?
Bard: I am familiar with lucha wrestling and some of the standard parts of the lucha mystique as it relates to masks and unmasking. Mostly, I was speaking metaphorically, though.
AH: So, 2016 is a momentous year. We have a Presidential election as well as the Olympics. Who would you put on the Mount Rushmore of homoerotic wrestling?
Bard: Yowza, that’s a challenging question. Coincidentally I traveled to Mr. Rushmore just last summer. I found it oddly underwhelming. But if I were to select 4 faces to get carved into stone as pivotal people in homoerotic history, I’d definitely start with Kid Leopard. I think BG East has been uniquely shaped by his vision and commitment to homoerotic wrestling, and I think BG East has, in turn, uniquely shaped the entire industry. Honestly, I think if anyone else’s face was carved next to him, Kid Leopard’s visage would pummel him. Who else is as iconic? Maybe Ron Sexton of Can-Am. I have no idea what he looks like, though, so I’m not sure if anyone would recognize him. But I think of him as, perhaps more than anyone else, bringing together the two worlds of wrestling and porn in ways that completely laid the groundwork for the likes of Naked Kombat. If pressed, I think perhaps a third face to carve into the Mr. Rushmore of homoerotic wrestling might be Steve Sterling. Bodybuilders in homoerotic wrestling are a mainstay these days, but I think of Steve as one of the first, if not the first, legitimate, incredibly muscled, competition bodybuilders to bring serious, aesthetic, massive physiques into the homoerotic wrestling fan’s immediate gaze. As for a fourth “founding father,” I’m sort of stumped. I think I’ll put Scott Williams’ face in that final spot. Not because he fundamentally shaped the industry at all. Just because I think he’s fucking handsome as hell, and I’d pay the price of admission to get to see that sensational jawline literally carved in stone.
AH: Shit, I am getting into my car and driving directly to your Mt Rushmore of homoerotic wrestling! Where do you think this art form goes from here? There has definitely been an evolution, one you know better than me, about homoerotic wrestling. Now, you don’t need to wait a period of time for that “package” to arrive in the mail – you can instantly stream/download a match from just about any wrestler, any promotion, at any moment (and get a shock when you get your credit card statement too). Mr. Firestorm has dabbled in newer matches (with the google-glasses bird’s eye view, and his choose your own adventure style match against your personal friend Drake); do you think that is the way to go – where it seems the audience has more of a say in what goes on in matches, or should we leave it to the people behind the scenes who have crafted gold into our memories for so long
Bard: I think there’s value added in both consumer directed products as well as the fare that established wrestling producers know how to put together so well. The custom and fan-choice matches scratch that great, postmodern itch of breaking down some of the barriers between viewers and the action, which I think is sensational. It’s also why I love behind the scenes glimpses and the online presence of some homoerotic wrestling personalities these days. It pokes holes in that wall that divides the passive viewing fan from the extremely active, intense, visceral nature of wrestling. However, 9 times out of 10, I’d let Kid Leopard pick a sexy hot pairing for a sweaty, high flying, low down ring match drama and be confident I’d be 100% entertained. I love the unexpected. I love to be surprised and shocked by how a match turns or by the depths to which wrestlers will go to dominate. So I certainly wouldn’t want everything to be a Chinese menu of homoerotic wrestling choices. Some producers have a fantastic eye and taste for this that takes me places I’d never know that I need to go.
AH: Once again Bard, fantastic analysis; That’s the great thing about this subject and others like it – it’s so open for discussion and debate. Do you have any last rumblings and grumblings you’d like to share that perhaps you haven’t yet voiced in your blog yet?
Bard: I think the only other thing I’d pontificate about today is one that many readers have heard before from me and from others. I regularly get comments to my blog with pointed, often personal, frequently crass criticisms of wrestlers. Most often the ones that really trigger me are the personal attacks on wrestlers’ bodies, like someone is too fat, too skinny, too ugly, too whatever and so somehow deserves disrespect. On the one hand, I’m at the front of the line when it comes to loving and leaning into the fantasy of professional wrestling. When wrestlers belittle each other and heap trash talking contempt upon one another’s physiques and appearance, I can understand why fans would turn to social media and comment logs to participate in the same sort of posturing. However, as many can probably attest to, I do my best to censor those types of comments out of the comment pages on my blog. I know this pisses some readers off. But I just have to say, again here today, that this practice of trashing wrestlers with personal attacks feels a lot like me inviting a whole bunch of friends over, and having one of the guests in my own home trashing and attacking another of my guests. I know you’ve got your opinions, and I know many of you aren’t shy about expressing the highly critical ones. But no. Not in my house. Not aimed at my friends.
Because that’s what’s happened as I’ve been blogging over the years. I’ve had the great privilege of meeting many of the wrestlers who I’m completely infatuated with. And it’s a mind fuck to actually sit down and talk with a stud puppy who, perhaps just the day before, I was pounding out a screaming climax to while watching him wrestle on my screen. And while I have zero problem getting off again and again to the wrestling work of these hunks I’ve got to meet in person, I just can’t behave as if these wrestlers are somehow not real people who deserve common human decency and respect. A few of them I’m particularly privileged to count among my friends, and I take that seriously. So not liking a match they’re in, or offering the critique about something they wear, or what you wish they’d done to a particular opponent is fantastic by me. But body shaming them, or calling them losers, or questioning their intelligence, or assessing them as worthless is crossing a line.
So, like I said, readers have heard this from me before, but in closing, I’d just say it again. Keep it classy. This little corner of the world inhabited by gay guys with a particular thing for getting off on wrestling is probably bigger than most of us might have originally thought it was, but we shouldn’t take for granted the balls it takes for wrestlers to strip down, gear up, and put their bodies on the line for this community of ours. I know for a fact that there are homoerotic wrestlers who have been shamed and punished when they’ve had friends, family or coworkers discover they’ve wrestled for a gay audience. That’s shitty. But the last thing they should also face is that very audience shaming or harassing them out of petty cattiness.
Anyway, I officially step back off my soap box and thank you, AH, for turning the tables on me and interviewing me for a change. It was a fascinating experience to be on the other side of the questions!
AH: No, thank you very much, Bard. The honor was all mine, and thank you for agreeing to do this!