Heterosexual Life Mates

Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin were the Tag Team known as the Motor City Machine Guns (MCMG).  I say “were” (past tense) because the team broke up in May when Alex Shelley left TNA (which caused some fans to cry.)

You see, these guys weren’t the biggest or strongest tag team, nor the most handsome, but where they truly excelled (and won the hearts of the fans) was in their presentation of brotherly love, their mutual affection for one another.

The Machine Guns were downright unapologetic and unashamed about their homosocial bond.  They specialized in Public Displays of Affection.  Alex Shelley said about his partner: “Not only is he my tag team partner and my heterosexual life mate, he’s also my favorite wrestler!”  Awww.

“Heterosexual life mate” must be a new term for Bromance.  Pro wrestling teaches men that the power of a Tag Team is derived from the Homosocial Bond — the strength of the relationship between the two partners and their ability to work together.  Shelley and Sabin were able to defeat much larger men, we were shown, because they worked so well in tandem, their synergy and cohesion (their brotherly love) empowered them.

The message of Tag Team wrestling is that the homosocial bond between men is unbeatable, thus encouraging other males to pursue, and gain power through, male-male relationships.

Prior to MCMG, any two partners that displayed too much hugging and embracing, that loved on each other too frequently in the ring, were branded as sissies, fairies, or disgusting sodomizers, and therefore automatically vilified by the crowd.  One way to gain cheap heat was to give your partner a cuddle and pat on the ass.

Sabin and Shelley revolutionized Tag Team wrestling because they blatantly displayed frequent male-on-male affection and physical contact but remained beloved and supported by the fans.

Has society become less homophobic and more tolerant of male-male intimacy?  Or were these two little guys so darn cute, so impossibly out-matched by the competition, that they were given a Pass, permitted to express their mutual love without being Gay Bashed?

I think MCMG succeeded in presenting their relationship in a positive light that was tolerable (even enviable) to the fans, rather than being seen as a seedy sexual perversion.  The two men seemed a bit like mis-fits, a little nerdy and childish in their enthusiasm, somewhat under-sized, too obsessed with video games and wrestling rather than with money and women.

Therefore, for these two odd-balls to find each other and vibe off each other was seen as a beautiful thing — a form of true love (albeit a brotherly love rather than romantic love).  Many of the wrestling fans in the audience, who perhaps feel like mis-fits themselves, who may wish they could find a life partner and soul mate (either male or female) are envious of the beautiful Bromance enjoyed by MCMG.  The fans therefore supported, rather than mocked, this bond.

The Motor City Machine Guns (with no female valet or girlfriends in sight) played up their ambiguous sexual relationship, pushing the gay envelope by falling on each other in compromising positions, or holding and patting each other much longer than socially acceptable.  They acted gayer than some of the floats at the Pride Parade, and they got away with it!

But their queer antics came off as comical, purely tongue-in-cheek.  It seemed as if they were lampooning the classic Baby-Face Tag Teams who titillated the fans with subtle displays of affection back in the 1980’s.  They exaggerated the physical contact to make their point — that pro wrestling fans do in fact support and enjoy watching ambiguously gay Tag Teams, their homo-phobic chants and slurs notwithstanding.

Or perhaps their homo-erotic play-acting is meant to point out the ridiculous Gay Panic and homophobic prejudices of the audience, as if they’re asking the crowd:  “What are you people so horrified about?  Who cares if two dudes embrace?  Why attack a guy for loving on his Bro?”

MCMG taught the audience that two men can hug without catching AIDS, perhaps without being sexually attracted to each other at all.  They demonstrated that it is possible for straight men to be affectionate with other males, no harm, no foul.

So I think MCMG made it a little more acceptable for two men to be friends, to enjoy being together without being attacked or placed Under Suspicion.  They taught us that there is no shame in liking and respecting another dude and letting the world know about it.  So thanks guys, great work!

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