Dreaming of Moondog Spot…

Last night my friend Tony Shenton (founder of Hot Ash NY) braved the oncoming storm to share pizza and our backlog of wrestling/ultimate fighting tapes. I showed Tony the Tank Abbot compilation thornyc tivoed for me. I want to climb all over Tank but his narration of matches is somewhere between hilarious and excruciating. We didn’t make it all the way through. Tony popped in his latest Japanese wrestling tape that promised an “anal explosion” match. It turned out to be mostly a snooze fest, which is odd because previous tapes he’s gotten from the same source have been full of bizarre mayhem: exploding barbed wire matches, weird hard core challenges, lots of Terry Funk, etc. The only moment of interest in this was one set-up where a crew of heels dragged a sack into the ring, opening it to reveal a bound, pantsless salaryman with a ball gag, who they proceeded to scream abuse at and then piss on. After they left the ring, he ran through the arena to some back offices followed by cameras while loudly bawling. The “AE” match was iffy: we saw a set up where a babyface demonstrated what he was going to do to his opponent by shoving bottle rockets first into a mannequin’s butt and then into a winter melon. Of course, during the match the tables were turned: it was the face who got handcuffed onto a ringpost, had his pants ripped off and then had to endure his sneering nemesis placing the squib between his cheeks. The problem with this sort of gimmick is that you can’t simultaneously make it work and put it over: in order for everything to get properly situated he had to not squirm around at all or look like he was trying to get out of it. (I think that just sitting there while a guy stuffs explosives in your crack when you’ve just been pile-drivering him moments before can officially be called breaking character.) The eventual explosion was, unfortunately, underwhelming (and really, how many of us have been down that road before). The rest was viewed on fast forward. Then we switched over to one of my fave possessions: “Wrestling’s Country Boys” an 80’s vintage WWF tape showcasing Hillbilly Jim and his extended family: Uncle Elmer and Cousin Junior. Was this great wrestling? no. Was it superior softcore bearporn? Yes, and again YES. The highpoint for me is a match between Cousin Junior and Moondog Spot, with Jim and Elmer on the sidelines. Every time I watch it I keep hoping that this time they’ll just stop the match and commence the group grope. Finally Tony enticed me to put on Backyard Wrestling 5 – the craziest. Watching these tapes must be like what it was like to be in the original audience for Mondo Cane. They are both appalling and addictive. You get the image of thousands of teenage boys setting each other on fire, leaping off garages onto tables, smashing each other’s faces into boards covered with thumbtacks, stapling dollar bills to each other’s heads while listening to Insane Clown Posse. I said to Tony afterwards that I thought it was the male version of girls who are “cutters”. Some times you’ll see one juggalo who has a demented sense of humor, sometimes one seems like a genuine sociopath in training. Mostly you end up feeling that we are beyond thunderdome. The backyard stuff makes the WWF look bucolic and staid. It reminds me of they way people were genuinely scared of punk the first time around.
Through out all of this we were chomping on pizza ( sausage pepperoni and mushroom) and smoking cigars. Tony is contemplating moving to Jersey City. I think he feels completely frustrated with the way things have gone for Hot Ash lately. The city and state’s anti smoking laws have made it pretty much impossible to have cigar play parties in NYC without risking thousands of dollars in fines. And he also suffers from something I see in many organizers – the negative feedback loop of burnout. There is never enough support or momentum. And as the initiator becomes spread thinner and thinner, they see fewer and fewer rewards in continuing. It makes it very hard to know how to offer support or to move the situation forward. I think an official hiatus while he relocates might do him a world of good.

And that’s why my website isn’t any closer to being up.

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  1. If ever a post needed pickshurs, this one was it. Remind me to give you that tutorial on adding pictures to LJ posts. In the meantime, for your faithful readers:





  2. Christians and Lions

    Somewhere between WWE and the backyard wrestling you describe, falls the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling show I saw in Milwaukee some years back.

    Picture this: You walk through the doors of your average Knights of Columbus, making note of the cheesy gold-framed print of the Pope as you walk into a line of heshers carrying an assortment of dangerous looking objects for “The BYO Weapons Match” that night. This list of weapons includes an electric guitar, a tricycle, some burnt-out four foot long flourescent lights and a real pine tree wrapped in barbed wire. You enter the ceremony space, dazzled by the gigantic ring and surprisingly low ceilings. After some ho-hum (and highly homophobic) “babyface gets beat down” matches, you’re treated to an exhibition featuring the immortal Mae Young (she’ll be standing beside Cher after the apocalypse). The eight year-old next to you shouts, “Hey Mae! What was Noah like?!” Mae is “beaten” senseless by a 300 lb man and is partially disrobed at times. This eventually gives way to the main event, said “Weapons Match”, now that the audience’s bloodlust has been sufficiently primed by $1.50 cups of beer. You cheer as the guitar is splintered across the back of the heel, the barbed wire Christmas Tree massaged over the groin of the hero and the flourescent lights reduced to glittering shrapnel. By match’s end the heel’s back is a tanned canvas of blood and glass confetti.

    The next day we went back to Chicago, where we were staying, and happened to go into the video store below my friend’s apartment. Inside, one of the grapplers was working behind the counter; I believe his name was Johnny Futura. In documentaries these guys are always fairly pulped after the match, but Mr. Futura seemed none the worse for wear. Outstanding drugs I guess.

    I’ll have to relate my Tijuana Lucha Libre experience some time…are you a fan?

  3. Re: Christians and Lions

    I – worship – Mae – Young.
    A friend of Tony’s is a wrestler in one of the smaller midwestern outfits and says that she and The Fabulous Moola are a long time couple, and that if you try to go easy on Mae in a match she will beat the crap out of you.
    Your description sounds like what most wrestling still is – a branch of carny. Most guys are paid 40 bucks a match, if they’re lucky. I still remember my joy at seeing a smaller outfit wrestle in Poughkipsie in the late Seventies: an 80 year old woman was on her feet in front of me, screaming “Rip his head off!!!”.
    I love lucha – but it has gotten so baroque that I can only watch it in bemused silence. Every match seems to involve teams of eight guys, with at least one obligatory little person on each side. I can’t keep any of it straight, not that I suppose it really matters.

  4. Re: Christians and Lions

    I’m most fascinated by touch in the Lucha matches; I recall several cases in the exhibition I saw where teammates would fondle each other lightly during a lull in the action. Embraces followed by belly grinding or back rubbing, occasional brief pecks on the cheeks or even lips. Since my Spanish is so fragmented, I was unable to discern what this gesturing meant. It seemed like an intimidation move and it certainly got applied to the opponent…

    I have a whole backstory about getting into the match I saw in Tijuana, which involves the venue being oversold and busting in with an angry mob, but I don’t have time to adequately recount that now. I will say my favorite contest that night was the main event, a fight between an established masked veteran and a long-haired upstart. Of course, the veteran’s identity was on the line, as was the young buck’s locks, a familiar lucha premise. If beaten, one’s mask would be shed for all time, or the other’s head would be shaved. Very serious. The young guy lost and buzzed his own scalp (an improvement if you ask me), tossing the remains to the crowd. You could just tell it was going to be talked about in town for weeks after.

  5. Re: Christians and Lions

    I – worship – Mae – Young.
    A friend of Tony’s is a wrestler in one of the smaller midwestern outfits and says that she and The Fabulous Moola are a long time couple, and that if you try to go easy on Mae in a match she will beat the crap out of you.
    Your description sounds like what most wrestling still is – a branch of carny. Most guys are paid 40 bucks a match, if they’re lucky. I still remember my joy at seeing a smaller outfit wrestle in Poughkipsie in the late Seventies: an 80 year old woman was on her feet in front of me, screaming “Rip his head off!!!”.
    I love lucha – but it has gotten so baroque that I can only watch it in bemused silence. Every match seems to involve teams of eight guys, with at least one obligatory little person on each side. I can’t keep any of it straight, not that I suppose it really matters.

  6. Always the editor…

    Except that it really should read,
    BUT YOUR MOONSHINE HAS MADE THE CHICKENS
    AT THE PLANT PLUMB CRAZY!!!

    I do like the pixelated corncob pipe, though….

  7. …and Moondog Rex…

    In a better universe than this, Nayland would be head of programming at ESPN.

    We have a local promoter who stage events at school gyms, armories, and bars with most of the talent getting maybe 50 bucks a night, and driving to the matches at their own expense. What it lacks in production values, it makes up for in enthusiasm — from the rasslers and from the audience. My favorite event of all time from this group was a “Dog Food Match” between the two guys pictured, David Renegade and Vader Jr. After being beaten senseless, Renegade was handcuffed to the ringpost by Vader and his manager, then beaten and kicked some more while they forcefed him a large can of Alpo.

  8. Re: …and Moondog Rex…

    “In a better universe than this, Nayland would be head of programming at ESPN.”
    I’m not so sure that it would be better, since mostly we’d be watching wrestling, competitive eating and LOTS of curling (my favorite televised sport) – oh I guess I would keep the ultimate strongman competition stuff too.

    I love that you got Jeff an autograph from the guy who was forced to eat the dog food rather than the victor!

    So let me see: Progressive gay theater, stellar BBQ and independant wrestling – why aren’t I on the plane down to see you guys?

  9. Re: …and Moondog Rex…

    “In a better universe than this, Nayland would be head of programming at ESPN.”
    I’m not so sure that it would be better, since mostly we’d be watching wrestling, competitive eating and LOTS of curling (my favorite televised sport) – oh I guess I would keep the ultimate strongman competition stuff too.

    I love that you got Jeff an autograph from the guy who was forced to eat the dog food rather than the victor!

    So let me see: Progressive gay theater, stellar BBQ and independant wrestling – why aren’t I on the plane down to see you guys?

  10. Re: …and Moondog Rex…

    “…mostly we’d be watching wrestling, competitive eating and LOTS of curling (my favorite televised sport) – oh I guess I would keep the ultimate strongman competition stuff too.”
    and The Brak Show?

    “I love that you got Jeff an autograph from the guy who was forced to eat the dog food rather than the victor!”
    In a sense, they were BOTH winners.

    “So let me see: Progressive gay theater, stellar BBQ and independant wrestling – why aren’t I on the plane down to see you guys?”
    Reason #1:
    Nearest Krispy Kreme is 30 miles away.

    Reason #2:
    Scary rumor that Gollum has been sighted down here…

    …devouring young children

    …and trying to steal the Ring
    back from Frodo…

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