Toronto
5 min

I’ll tumble for ya

Believe it or not, sex isn't the only reason to wrestle

SOMETHING PRIMAL. Central Spa wrestlers bust their moves. Credit: Joshua Meles

On their knees, the two naked men face one another. Swaying and pushing each other, they glare intently into one another’s eyes and eventually tumble to the tarp-covered mat. They grunt and pant as they roll around. As their strained and glistening bodies intertwine, their manoeuvres resemble an aggressive groping.



A man wearing a towel circles them, taking pictures. Before the match, he had advised the opponents that he’ll obscure their faces before posting the photos on the web. Other men – some naked, some in towels – occasionally rub themselves, awaiting their own battle call.



It’s a typical night at the Central Spa, home to the Toronto Wrestling Party on Fridays. As many as 20 men congregate for an erotic night of roughhousing and whatever else may come of it.



In his book The Arena Of Masculinity, University Of Toronto prof Brian Pronger draws links between gay men and sports. The appeal of wrestling in particular is wrapped up in its machismo. “The aggressive grabbing and hurling to the mat, the straining and grunting, are perfect signs of masculinity.”



For many gay men, wrestling ties together sport and sex for a buzz they can’t get in non-contact sports such as baseball, or sports that cover-up the flesh like football and hockey.



“It’s just so much fun,” says Rob Miller, a smile spreading across his goateed face.



Miller, 42, is a good example of how wrestling lies at the intersection between the interest of gay men in tough, testosterone-filled activities and the interest of not-so-gay-identified men in homoerotic activities. Miller was married with children for years, but his interest in other men, and particularly wrestling, was still a part of his life.



“For me, it started with the occasional push to my neighbour while shovelling snow and a weighty shove to the shoulder when joking with a friend,” he reflects. “It’s really very, very primal.”



It became more serious about 15 years ago. Unbeknownst to his wife, he began wrestling through an underground gay-oriented wrestling club called the World Wide Wrestling Directory, which linked men across North America. A hard-copy catalogue full of members’ descriptions and contact information circulated among members, allowing men to meet for a match when travelling. Though his interest may have been at least partly sexual, Miller was able to justify it as a pastime that did not breach his marital vows.



“When it is in the confine of sport, physical touch is acceptable,” says Miller. “Wrestling gives you a comfort level with actually touching another’s body, having to grab his arm or grab his leg or whatever.”



Miller eventually met his match when he wrestled burly Bob Blackmore. It was love at first fight. Six weeks later, Miller left his wife. “Rob and Bob” have been together ever since.



For Blackmore, 44, high-school wrestling confirmed his sexuality.



“There were times when I had to fake a sore knee and hobble off the mat partly bent-over to conceal my erection,” says Blackmore.



To provide other gay men with a safe space where they can feel comfortable wrestling without the pressure or expectation of sex, the couple started the Toronto Wrestling Club, which focusses on connecting local wrestlers who are gay, gay-curious or gay-supportive. This erases the anxiety of wrestling a straight man who may have hang-ups about wrestling a fag. Launched in 1993, the club has met weekly at community centres across the city and at Blackmore and Miller’s own home.



Sex isn’t a main ingredient of the Toronto Wrestling Club, which emphasizes sport for sport’s sake. Men in the club have come out or formed relationships, but it doesn’t promote itself as a sex or dating service.



Still, wrestling can so easily be seen as foreplay, perhaps more for the spectators than the wrestlers. As Pronger states: “When one wrestles intensely, the muscles get precedence over the penis for the supply of blood.” With hard muscles yet soft dicks, the wrestler’s brute defence mechanism supersedes his sex drive… for the moment.



Unlike the Toronto Wrestling Club, the Toronto Wrestling Party at Central Spa encourages wrestlers to accompany their main course wrestling match with some sexual dessert. During an evening at the party, wrestlers disappear and reappear, taking advantage of the bathhouse’s private rooms. The moaning and groaning coming from them can equal the moaning and groaning coming from the mat.



Wrestlers can also advertise for partners on websites like Takedownwrestling.com and Vangar.com where more than 70 profiles feature Torontonians.



For some men who otherwise live straight lives, wrestling is better than bars and bathhouses as a way to connect. Karl (who asked that his full name not be used for this story) lives in Alberta with his wife and children. Though his family doesn’t know it, he considers himself bisexual and when in Toronto secretly attends Central Spa’s Friday nights, which he heard about on the web.



“It’s more of an outlet for great stress and sexual relief for me,” Karl says. “If you are up against someone fit and attractive, it can be a turn-on for sure.”



Though Miller emphasizes the athleticism, even he admits there is a sexual aspect.



“If you slow the pace down, and enjoy the pace, then it can be very sexual and very arousing.” As foreplay, he’ll wrestle Blackmore in oil, spending up to an hour preparing, covering the floor in a tarp and sealing the edges just for 15 minutes of intense stimulation before they end up having sex.



Miller and Blackmore are monogamous and complain that it’s sometimes hard to find other gay wrestlers who want to keep the contact nonsexual.



For some, wrestling is a form of role-playing: the dominant winner and the submissive loser. When wrestling Miller, Blackmore prefers the former but he still likes to switch it up. Losing can be a good thing.



“It is nice to be overpowered sometimes,” says Blackmore. “To see the enjoyment on his face when he beats me – that’s nice, too.”



Forms of wrestling range from the common submission style – practised by the Toronto Wrestling Party and Toronto Wrestling Club, where the match concludes when one surrenders due to the discomfort of a hold – to the risky Sambo, which involves kicking, punching and throwing one another.



Despite the activity’s aggression, wrestling requires mutual trust to respect limits and obey established rules. Miller still recalls his brush with death at the hands of an opponent he did not know well. After several minutes of submission wrestling, Miller found himself in a sleeper hold with his adversary’s arms locked around his neck and head. Miller knew he could not wriggle out of the hold. He tapped twice, the universal sign of surrender. No release. Another two taps. No release. Blackmore was watching and made a move to stop the hold when finally the aggressor released Miller, who was gasping for air. He wonders to this day what might have happened if Blackmore had not come to his rescue.



Where you wrestle can be as important as who you wrestle, especially if you don’t want to get your Harvest House furniture all sweaty. One Central Spa wrestler rents hotel rooms, moving all the furniture to the periphery for a make-shift wrestling space. The Central Spa itself has a dedicated wrestling room.



For Blackmore and Miller, finding a place to wrestle is no problem – they have a ring in their basement. A 12-foot-by- 12-foot room features a wall- to-wall collegiate wrestling ring and musty aroma which takes you back to your high school locker-room.



As in the mainstream, gay wrestling is also a spectator sport. Barry David, president of On Top Productions, produces erotic gay videos of men grappling before groping.



“I get calls regularly from customers who love watching the strain of the muscle, the sweat rolling off their backs and then the icing on the cake – the sex between two soaking men – without necessarily breaking a sweat themselves.”



David has been producing videos for seven years and says he has sold more than 36,000. Though live events are less explicit than an On Top video, they also have their gay fans.



“If you ever see a picture of amateur wrestling,” Blackmore explains, “you have the mothers usually in the front row, then there are piles of guys in little groups. Now it may be a bunch of guys reliving their pasts or, more likely, it is a bunch of fags coming down to see what is going on.”



* The Toronto Wrestling Party takes place Friday nights from 7pm to 11pm at Central Spa (1610 Dundas St W). For more information, call (416) 588-6191 or e-mail Wrestleboi_toronto@hotmail.com.



* For more info about the Toronto Wrestling Club, e-mail Robwrestle@aol.com.