They should tie
our ankles both together.
to one another.
If a stranger should ask you,
you can tell him I’m your brother.
Lean into me, press real hard.
I got no good reasons left
not to let down my guard.
I love your kiss,
but it’s going to come
down to this:
You and me and a high balcony,
and professional wrestling on pay-per-view.
Windows and light,
and the radio blaring all night,
and the truth slowly dawning
on me and then on you.”
The Mountain Goats – “You & Me & a High Balcony”
All things considered, Valentine’s Day is quite a strange holiday. Originating as a feast day commemorating several Christian martyrs by the name of Valentine, since Chaucer and the 14th century the holiday has grown into a more general, secular celebration of love unofficially recognized around the world. While its detractors may describe it as a soulless capitalistic ploy to squeeze more and more money out of the proletariat or as a reinforcement of heteronormative monogamy, for many people it is simply a time set aside to evidence and celebrate our love for one another. In this, the dreaded Thinkpiece Era, many articles and blog posts are written every year describing and debating various facets of the holiday. I’m sure you’ll be delighted to learn that this is one of those articles. Sort of. I have to tie it into wrestling, after all.
I love Dustin and Greg a lot. Like, A LOT, you guys. They’re probably my favorite thing in wrestling today. You might know them as Chuck Taylor and Trent?, or as the tag team Best Friends, or as those Poppin’ Dogs, Talkin’ Hogs guys. As their team name would suggest, they’re close friends, good pals, best buds. Wrestling, a backward, uncaring, carny business with well over 100 years of treacherous history, is a selfish sport through and through. Rarely, in wrestling, do we find true friendships that last the ages, connections that grow deeper and stronger with every passing day, relationships that we, as viewers, can aspire to have. Dustin and Greg don’t quite have that kind of relationship, but it’s one I love all the same.
The reasons why I love them are simple and threefold: 1. they’re funny together, 2. they’re cute together, and 3. they’re pretty gay together. Now, it’s important to note that I have no knowledge regarding the sexual orientation or gender identity of either of these people. This is certainly not an attempt to out either of them and should not be misconstrued as such. Instead, this is simply an analysis of the relationship between these two people as wrestlers, as performers, and perhaps as real human beings.
Over the last 15 years or so, shoot interviews have become more and more popular, a phenomenon built on the back of increasingly profitable forms of video distribution as well as the modern wrestling fan’s growing desire to know what things are like behind the curtain. During that time, wrestling friendships have been a popular subject of such interviews, ranging from the likes of CM Punk and his bonds with Samoa Joe and Colt Cabana to Kevin Steen and his rotating cast of pals to my dear Best Friends. Since 2014, Dustin and Greg have filmed 14 shoot interviews together, in which they invite fellow wrestlers on and have a chat about banal topics ranging from their dads to how they wipe in the bathroom. With well over 24 hours of footage available, their Poppin’ Dogs, Talkin’ Hogs series makes up the bulk of Dustin and Greg’s on-screen time together (outweighing their match time as a team by several orders of magnitude), and for that reason, it’s where most of my love for them as a couple comes from.
Whether it’s loads of physical interaction ranging from outright cuddling to kissing in the ring to holding hands in public, coy jokes, or whispers of lewd acts in foreign hotel rooms, these videos are chock full of displays of affection between these two, all of them endearing and adorable even if they’re not explicitly romantic. In the wonderful CHINA video, as Greg shows Dustin a picture of a cute dog on his phone, Larry Dallas describes the Best Friends, saying “they seem like soulmates”. Based on what I’ve seen of them together, I’d have to agree.
Sadly, wrestling itself certainly does not have anything close to a good track record when it comes to LGBT peoples and relationships. Reductive and ridiculed gimmicks such as the duo of Billy & Chuck only scratch the surface of decades of not-so-hidden homophobia. Openly gay wrestlers are few and far between, with on-screen LGBT representation even rarer. Despite being the source of such delight and fulfillment in the lives of so many both in and out of the ring, professional wrestling time and again proves itself to be a business by and for abhorrent and hateful people.
But when I see people like Dustin and Greg, I have some hope. Maybe they’re not gay themselves. Likely they’re not. It has not been made our business to know. But their awkward, earnest fumblings remind me of who I was not that long ago, a scared young kid worried about the things I was feeling and who would find out about it. They chuckle, embarrassed, when they realize that they’ve been curled up together in public. They joke about how hard it is to date girls. They explore the streets of strange cities together. They film each other in quiet, private moments. These are things I’ve done with the people I’ve loved as we fell headlong into that most frightening and exhilarating unknown. These are my people. They feel how I feel.
Representation is important. Whole wars have been fought over it. While it’s hard for me to argue that two ostensibly straight white men holding hands sometimes is representative of gay people the world over, I can’t help but feel that their presence is a small victory contributing to a greater change, especially in an industry such as professional wrestling. It’s a clichéd statement to be sure, but if just one person can more easily find peace within oneself because of two dorks hugging each other in a ring in Reseda, maybe it was all worth it.
The relationship between Dustin and Greg has strained over the years as their careers move in different directions and as fate plays itself out. Sometimes people aren’t meant to end up together. I doubt these two will. But still, in their brief moments together, they seemed happy. Really, genuinely happy, the kind of happiness that comes from honest, open love. That happiness has brought me so much joy and so much hope these last few years. On this Valentine’s Day, I hope you can find some of your own.