The Strife of Riley, 2 of 7

Continuing our review of the systematic destruction and emasculation of Alex Riley, here is a review of his match from the 2.13.13 episode of WWE NXT.

This will be a grudge match against Corey Graves, who had attacked poor Alex in the ring for no reason weeks before.  Alex had just wrestled a tough Tag Team Tournament match and was exhausted and helpless. Graves snuck up behind him and locked him in the dreaded Thirteenth Step leglock.

We can tell from the intense look on Riley’s face that he is bent on revenge, determined to Man Up and make his attacker suffer for hurting him and making him look like a submissive little bitch.

Corey Graves saunters to the ring with a deadly glare in his eyes, giving off an I Don’t Give Two Fucks vibe.  The Bad Boy gimmick works well for Graves.

There is something dirty or corrupt about Graves with his stained denim vest, cold expression, and tattoos all over his arms and hands.  He looks like he could be an underground fighter, the type who might use a broken bottle in the fight, or spit on his victim after he wins.

His fists have the words “Stay Down” tattooed on them, which he delights in showing to the camera to threaten and intimidate the fans watching at home.

As with any good pro wrestling match, the story lies in the contrast between the men.  Riley is clean cut and muscular, the quarterback, the classic Hometown Hero.  Graves portrays the anti-establishment stoner in his jeans, the suspenders hanging loose.

One of the commentators quotes Graves as having said: “Alex Riley was the kind of guy who played football in high school while I was making out with his girlfriend underneath the bleachers.”

This quote depicts Riley as the sincere but clueless jock, and Graves as the sadistic snake-in-the-grass.

The quote also places the two wrestlers in a love triangle — both of them after the same female.  One theory says that love triangles are about the relationship formed between the two men, both doing to the female what they wish they could do to one another.  The female is just an object of exchange between the men.

So the quotation eroticises the match, making Graves seem like a sexual predator trying to take advantage of Riley.  We see Graves on his knees, pleading with Riley, further depicting his predatory nature.

Graves is also depicted as an addict (either a drug addict and/or maybe a sex addict) in recovery.  His lean physique and torn jeans make him resemble a homeless heroin addict.  His finishing hold, the “Thirteenth Step,” is a reference to the Twelve Step programs that help addicts kick their habits.

Maybe Graves is also addicted to pain and sadistic punishment.  When he slaps on his leglock, his face becomes twisted into a mask of delight mixed with determination.  The intent of his ecstatic expression is to show that Graves is getting a charge out of the pain he is causing.

Speaking of pain, Riley has now shifted into jobber gear, allowing the smaller man to gain the upper hand and dominate him.

Riley is fouled by the dirty addict, choked out with the tattooed arm around his neck.  When one wrestler is clearly much stronger and more muscular than the other, an Equalizer is needed to explain how the weaker man could plausibly dominate the stronger man.

The Equalizer in this match is this breath-taking choke hold which would drain any man of his power.  The other Equalizer is the dreaded Thirteenth Step hold as well — but we’ll get to that.

Graves makes it look like he’s doing a lot worse to Riley than just Headlocking him!

Riley’s body is clearly more buff, bulging and powerful, more packed with muscle.  He is therefore the masculine ideal — strong and hard.  However, we watch him week after week being defeated and punished by smaller men.

When a hard-body gets beaten down, we question whether all his working out and training was really worth it.  The muscle-man is made to look like a fool, wasting his time building up his masculine strength only to be throttled by some drug addict like Corey Graves.

The purpose of the Muscle Squash match — the reason they depict big Alex Riley being owned and destroyed — is to remind us of the sham of masculinity.  Clearly our manliness, our displays of invincibility and incorruptibility, are nothing more than performances we put on for each other.  Alex Riley’s destruction reminds us that all men are vulnerable, subject to suffering, defeat, and humiliation.  It is now time for the death blow — Riley’s final humiliation.  He experiences the Thirteenth Step, the exact same leglock that ruined him the last time Graves felt like hurting him.  His ass on display, Riley immediately begins slapping the mat in agony (but Graves maintains the hold.)

In the lingo of recovering addicts, the term “Thirteenth Step” has a specific meaning.  It refers to an addict who is far along in recovery who makes sexual advances toward someone new in the program.  The “Thirteenth Stepper” takes advantage of the newbie who really shouldn’t be in a romantic relationship so early in recovery.  It is a dick move, totally merciless.  The Thirteenth Stepper is a sexual predator who does not care that those sexual advances could ruin the more vulnerable person, destroy a marriage, and even send the victim to an early grave.

So the application of the “Thirteenth Step” by Corey Graves again depicts him as a sexual predator based on this definition of the term, as if he is making an inappropriate pass at Alex Riley (the victim).  Riley is in fact ruined by the Thirteenth Step — his career in the dumps — just as a recovering addict’s life is ruined when sexual advances are made during the fragile early days of recovery.

Graves understands that the fans don’t want to simply watch Riley tap out — we want to see him utterly degraded and owned.  So Graves keeps the painful hold locked on well after Riley has submitted, ignoring the ref and the clanging of the ring bell.  NXT uses this trope often, and it gets me worked up every time — I guess I’m easy.

Is there any limit to the pain and agony Alex Riley can endure?  Is there any limit to the humiliation they will heap on him before, presumably, eventually releasing him as they have done to numerous muscle-jobbers like him over the years?  I don’t honestly know where the systematic destruction of Alex Riley is leading, but I am sure enjoying the ride…

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One Response to The Strife of Riley, 2 of 7

  1. Stay Puft says:

    Alex Riley is just so…RRGGHH!! What great GIF’s: The ass shot! The crotch shot! And I love how floppy his hair is getting.

    I only hope they don’t let him go, like they did with Trent Barreta. Stupid WWE.