Michael Watson’s The Wrestlers: Polaroid Portraits 2015-2018 collects a bunch of Polaroids (or, really, Impossible Project black frame black & whites) of amateur wrestlers, shot backstage at various events in Chicago and the Midwest, California, and Florida, in costume/character and more relaxed. I helped to kickstarter it back in January 2018, and it arrived in my hot little hands back in April.
It’s a fun one, for sure.
Many of the wrestlers work the amateur circuit around the Midwest—and I need to find some underground amateur wrestling events to check out, totally and for sure—but some have moved on to the pro-am and even Big Time. For example, back in late February 2018, over a nice sushi dinner in Cariari, Costa Rica, I saw ‘Johnny Wrestling’ Johnny Gargano (p. 98) lose to Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, and so to find him in The Wrestlers, especially since that bout vs. Cien was the first bit of pro wrestling I’d seen in, what, nearly 20 years? was thrilling.
The wrestlers sometimes look caught off guard, or like they’re not sure what’s going on, or “would you just get on with it?”, but most appear to relish the opportunity to pose with their trademark expression or gesture, whether it’s screaming, flexing, looking coy or innocent, making some kind of karate-esque motion, or chugging a PBR tallboy. The whole thing is so much fun, I can’t even.
The book is nice and compact, just about the perfect size for the full-size reproductions inside. A forward from Elliot Imes begins the book, framing the project and giving some background, but the pictures are the real stars, and I find myself laughing out loud each time I flip through this great little book.
Overall, The Wrestlers gets 4.5 glorious stars.
Check out Watson’s Instagram for more Wrestling fun, and The Wrestlers is available on his BigCartel, and it’s so worth picking up. He also has some pins and zines and t-shirts, so get to it! I haven’t had this much fun with a photobook since… I don’t know when.