Category Archives: Wrestling

Cheese on Toast vs Real Groove / A Play-by-Play

Last night two of the least famous people ever to ‘celebrity’ soundclash met at the Sale St CDJs. The crowd went mild as Cheese on Toast‘s Andrew ‘Biggie Balls’ Tidball met Real Groove’s Duncan ‘Just regular sized balls’ Greive for one hour of song-for-song battling. Just so no one’s under any illusions about the magnitude of this event, it’s me, Duncan Greive writing this. No one else would be remotely interested in covering it, so I’m having to be both participant and ‘journalist’ on this one, which surely isn’t too much of a conflict of interest?

I’d spent most of yesterday trying to use fotoflexer to graft a poo onto a piece of cheese on toast. The result was truly awful, but pleased me no end:

Turd on Toast

Unfortunately this meant I had severely limited my time to actually get music together  to defeat my opponent. He’d been heckling me via email about how he’d already DJed for seven hours this week (which I wrote off as big-talking but turned out to actually be true), and so was clearly match-fit, while the closest thing I’d done to DJing in the last month was messing with an iPod at my saturday poker game. Which just isn’t the same. Continue reading

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On a Saturday Night in the Waikato

In the end, it lived up to its billing. Two men met in the ring, and conspired to let the talk become action. That it was over in scarcely more then a round, and rendered much of the pre-bout prognostication moot – none of that mattered so much as the sheer brutal truth rendered in Tua’s blows.

But as much as the fight itself confounded and lived up to expectations, the entire process was a perfect piece of modern boxing lore. In a lot of ways that was down to pitch perfect promotion. David Higgins was, for the most part, a shadowy figure in the lead up to the fight. He was quoted in the papers, interviewed on the radio… he was very present in the build up. But for most he lacked a physical presence until he appeared in front of a nation just prior to his main event.

05102009198

His arrival on screen was perhaps the biggest revelation of the entire card. Certainly bigger than Tua’s demoltion of Cameron, which was a possibility in the back of the mind of even the most ardent Cameron supporters, who had surely factored into their considerations the eventual outcome. I mean, how could that skinny, nervy looking 29-year-old be responsible for all this, right? But it fits perfectly with contemporary boxing’s quasi-sporting theatre of the absurd that the main event was the entire spectacle itself, and its most shocking moment the unveiling of the promoter, rather than the actual fight. Which is to say that the tumultuous build up, the volume of which eventually engulfed the nation, far outpaced the pugilistic quality of what was sold. Continue reading

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DeadBall At The Movies: Bigger Stronger Faster*

Greg Valentino biceps

This is Gregg Valentino, and I’m sure you won’t argue with his assertion that he has the world’s biggest biceps. He’s part of the cast of last year’s acclaimed documentary Bigger, Faster, Stronger*, a group of people who vary in musculature but cumulatively make a pretty powerful case that, bacne aside, steroids are one of the most harmless substances to be demonised in the War on Drugs.

Directed by Chris Bell, a former writer for the WWE and part of a trio of steroid using brothers, the film is a quiet marvel, putting its director front-and-centre a la Michael Moore, but never once stooping to polemicism of the latter, and as a result his film is far more effective.

Which is not to say that it lacks for raw entertainment. Valentino is a freak of nature, of that there’s no doubt, but he’s also funny and surprisingly self-aware: “Do you think girls look at me and go ‘oh my God, that’s hot!”. He’s not alone either. The film is predominantly composed of talking heads and vintage film footage, and is wildly successful on both counts.

The clips are pretty amazing. Particularly Ben Affleck pre-fame from an HBO show called Lifestories: families in Crisis, hamming it to the hilt as a ‘roid raging high school football player.

Acting, readers. It is an art form. But the clips, including plenty of classic Hogan, Schwarzenegger and Stallone, are only window dressing to the ‘roided up acolytes, rogue medics and self-serving politicos (expected: W, the Governator. Less so:  Biden) who make capital out of the issue.

As Bell points out, steroids aren’t in the top 150 substances for drug-related hospital admissions (below vitamin C), yet are in the same law enforcement class in the US as crystal meth, courtesy of the proven-fallacious ‘roid rage scare of the late ’80s. This was the same era and climate that produced Tipper Gore’s PRMC, and three Republican-controlled houses were on a criminalising-anything-to-protect-the-children frenzy. So as a result, a whole bunch of little dudes (seriously, it’s an issue in the doco) who wanted big guns became default crims.

There’s plenty of great comedy amongst the serious issues. Gold’s Gym and Westside Barbell, the epicentres of ’80s and ’00s musculature respectively, are pretty much bottomless pits of weird laughs, especially Louie Simmons, the king of powerlifting (like weightlifting but with no drug testing!) and a lifelong steroid user, and congressman Henry Waxman is the ultimate political stooge, all moustaches and ‘who, me?’ smiles.

Maybe the best part of the movie, though, is the way it shines a light on America’s cultural complicity in the plight of the Bell family and the wider gym rat community’s obsession with size. A professor stacks up the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s versions of the GI Joe action figure, and you watch its physique evolve from lean and purposeful to The Ultimate Warrior. It’s a pretty irresistible argument that an unnaturally muscled form became the definitive masculine American archetype, and Bell makes it with aplomb.

And then he hits cheating, nailing it even better. Interspersed with shots of the Bushes Jr and Sr railing against the treasonous athletes, and Maria Shriver interviewing the cancerous and nearly dead defensive linesman Lyle Alzado, he points out the dichotomy between America’s win-at-all-costs philosophy and the sanctimonious approach to drugs.

There are some fantastic quotes along the way, when his subjects talk about about performance enhancing drugs in combat: “In sports, you should play fair. In war, you shouldn’t play fair at all” and adult entertainment:  “we’re in the porn business. There’s not a lot of morals to begin with.” All that sorta pales into insignificance when you see actual living cows (gene doping looks like the final frontier on this set) which look like this:

Cow muscles

“The very thought of losing is hateful to Americans,” says one of Bell’s incredible subjects, and he’s right. Think about the fact the draw has no history in any of the big four American sports, and the way the relentless focus on the American Dream has meant the curdling nightmares of those left outside of welfare and healthcare can be set aside. There are revealing interviews with Ben Johnson, who (correctly) posits that since everyone was cheating, why should he be ashamed, and Carl Lewis, who circles and obfuscates and ends up looking a damn fool.

In the end, the great thing about Bigger, Faster, Stronger* (the asterisk is for every record breaker or hall of famer who’s tested positive) is that it draws no conclusions. It barely even suggests you draw your own. It’s as much entertainment as it is journalism. Bell just wants you to think about some subjects which maybe don’t get a lot of real, serious air in sports. Idols and heroism, villains and failure, sportsmanship and politics. It ends just asking you to think, and the true poignancy has only come beyond the end of the film.

Late last year Mike ‘Mad Dog’ Bell, the younger brother of the director and probably the subject on camera the most in Bigger, Faster, Stronger*, died in a Cosa Mesa rehab centre (SEE CORRECTION IN THE COMMENTS BELOW). He left behind kids and a wife and an indelible imprint on anyone who sees the film. It doesn’t change anything, but something about his quest makes this documentary all the more keenly felt. You should watch it.

– Duncan

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A Giant Among Men

Andre the Giant

Those words, scrawled in a childlike hand between the oaklike legs of Jean Ferré, are actually at the low end of his fighting weights. Ferré was discovered and re-named by Vincent J McMahon (father to the current WWE head), who dubbed him André the Giant, a title that would allow the world to understand and respect his scale.

He wrestled up to 340 times a year, swiftly becoming the biggest draw in the sport, prior to the Wrestlemania and all that it spawned, and eventually grew to more than 500 lbs. But it was never his weight or his height that was the issue, but the bewitching combination of the two. He suffered from acromegaly, a rare condition which causes the body to create too much growth hormone, but in his case it meant that rather than being lanky and disproportionate like most seven footers, he was instead a bear of a man, with wrists larger than most men’s ankles. In his teens he played rugby (imagine seeing the above packing down in a scrum!) in his native France, before a chance meeting flipped him to wrestling.

The rest is history: one of the breakout stars of the WWF at its peak, the holder of the WWF Championship and the first inductee into its Hall of Fame, along with an acting career, most notably as Fezzik in The Princess Bride and an untimely death in 1993. He became a genuine multi-media superstar in the ’80s, when his Herculean stature matched up to a decade which celebrated freakishness more ardently than any other.

In the 1976, though, professional show wrestling was still brushing off carnival dirt, and remained a passionately regionalised phenomenon, without much in the way of national stars to unify its fanbase. So any gimmick it could use to get on network TV was fair game. Which explains why when promoters put together a bill to settle, once-and-for-all, whether boxing or wrestling was the superior fighting discipline, the wrestlers practically bit the pugilist’s hands off to get in the ring.

It doesn’t even begin to explain why Muhammad Ali, at the height of his fame, and still a pretty reasonable sort of a a boxer, would face up to Japanese superstar Alberto Inoki, though given his legenedary ability to chew through money, there were probably a few million good reasons. That fight (which I’ll post below) was pretty bizarre, as Ali just danced around ‘canvas back’ Inoki until it ended in a tie. André the Giant’s though, was good old-fashioned wrestling pandemonium.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozRTSSaP6p4%5D

I love that he fought Chuck Wepner, the guy who inspired Rocky, who his own manager describes as “the kind of guy who would probably fighht a gorilla or a kangaroo, if the money was right.” And that the perilous sense of order was totally destroyed by Gorilla Monsoon’s intervention following Wepner’s ejection from the ring.

It’s just such a fantastically ridiculous concept, pairing a scripted, nominally no-holds-barred show sport with the strict, coded discipline of boxing. And the way the Giant does these fake headbutts, which Wepner doesn’t know how to respond to, and other wrestling moves that he sorta half plays along with. I guess the chief attarction of this whole thing is the sense of hucksterism. This seems like the last, triumphant gasp of snake oil salesman and the PT Barnum approach to showbusiness, when it still teetered on the brink of the total chaos. As great as Wrestlemania was, it succeeded precisely because it was as tightly scripted as this worldwide (Ali’s bout was in Tokyo) wrestling-vs-boxing event was shambolic.

The ongoing unsuccessful atempts to organise a league vs union match (with mixed rules or otherwise) suggest that modern sporting bodies have far too much control over their respective brands to ever allow such a spectacle to take place. Ultimately, that’s probably a good thing, and neither of these bouts are remotely worthwhile as sports. But the very fact they exist makes me oddly, inexplicably happy, with one superstar at the start of his run, another toward the end, meeting via satellite in this unlikely ringbound farce.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29qI1GyhDeg%5D

– Duncan

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