I was surprised to find an old video from 1980 featuring Gino Hernandez as a long-haired blond — a rare look for him. That platinum blond hair matched with his pastel pink trunks and pink boots presents Gino as the primping, flamboyant sissy-Heel, a common archetype of evil corruption when men were exploring their feminine sides in the late 1970’s.
His hetero-manly, traditionally masculine opponent is Kevin von Erich. Kevin is wearing wrestling boots, also a rare sight. I actually prefer Kevin in boots instead of bare feet, although I realize I’m in the minority on that opinion. In 1980, both second-generation wrestlers in this match were age 23 — very early in their careers and still sorting out their looks and gimmicks.
What struck me most about this classic match, making me want to write about it, was the stark lighting. The single spotlight, shining down from above, makes the wrestlers’ skin glow like they’re paranormal beings.
And the dark shadows cast by their muscles, assess, and other curves add drama and definition. Kevin’s rippling back is especially stellar in this lighting.
The way pro wrestling is lit (for an ideal presentation on camera) is by suspending a square truss, larger than the ring, about 20 feet above. The truss supports at least 8 to 12 spotlights which eliminate all shadows, as if a dozen setting suns are surrounding the ring.
For example, compare this Armbar lit up in the modern fashion to the Old Timey presentation of Kevin’s hold, above. This sideways illumination from multiple angles bathes their bodies in light, eliminating any shadows so we can see every grimace, scowl, and cringe on their faces, and every square inch of their exposed flesh.
Nothing is hidden from our gaze, with their bodies and trunks clearly displayed like specimen under the microscope for our visual inspection.
But this Kevin-vs-Gino match is performed under a harsh overhead light, blasting straight down on them for maximum drama. This is the ideal lighting for a house show rather than for television, with the contrast between light and dark allowing the folks way in the back of the arena to make out what’s happening. Their facial expressions can’t be seen by most people in the audience anyway, so their bodies tell the story.
As Kevin’s body is twisted beautifully over the ropes, even the back of the house can make out his big pecs in high relief and his washboard abs made visible by the shadow cast by each bulge.
After Gino takes control, Kevin suffers some nice punishment, including this pretty Suplex. The stark old-school lighting, the light and shadow makes this match look and feel more like a brutal fight than a fake rasslin’ exhibition. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to this old video– because it reminds me of the old low-budget wrestling programs I grew up on which absolutely drove me wild with wonder and curiosity.
Note how the light colored trunks worn by both men (with Kevin in washed-out yellow and Gino in pink) are made to disappear under the stark illunination, as if they’re both naked. Maybe THIS is why I’m digging this match!
Gino is made to look like a clown after missing this Splash in the corner, collapsing on the mat and humping it like a dog in heat. This may be the very first time these young foes met in the ring, and we don’t get to see the finish.
That’s OK — they would go to battle many times over their careers, with Gino serving as the devious stalker, bully, and creep to Kevin’s heroic Good Boy persona. And Gino would be degraded repeatedly in this manner, humiliating himself to put over the dominant Von Erich boys to the delight of their screaming fans.