Molly Belle: Gunn Club: The Evolution of Ass

The story of Ass begins how many stories often do, with a simple dream.

I’m unsure how much of that dream involved professional wrestling at a young age for the patriarch of Ass, but I imagine like an ass has a tendency to do, it grew over time. Wrestling in parts of what has now become FIVE decades, Billy Gunn long ago cemented his legacy in the arena of life he chose to pursue. Longevity isn’t a foreign concept in wrestling, as we are all too well aware, but what is foreign is at the high level in which this man has continued to perform late into his fifties. How? I can’t say with certainty what they are putting in the Ass feed at the Ass Ranch, but I have it on good authority that their well-water has a direct link to the fountain of youth.

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Seriously though, his impact on the business and on the roster of All Elite Wrestling cannot be truly understood. Though months ago he and his sons started down a path of tomfoolery and violence, the one-of-a-kind smiles they wear fail to mask their all to apparent joy to be doing what they are doing – together, as a family. Desiring nothing more than to be taken seriously as a group, and for young Colten and Austin Ass, as a tag team, they turned their backs on the fans and on their friends, instead focusing on the task at hand – winning and being recognized and rewarded appropriately for doing so.

Before the heel turn though. Before the sass. Before the egos. Before it all, there was what endeared us to the Gunn Club in the first place. I’ll ask an honest question, and you can answer it however you like. How does All Elite Wrestling get through the worst of the pandemic shows without any Ass? We sat home wondering what was to become of this new and exciting promotion so early in its existence. As the pandemic grew scarier and more unpredictable, and as we watched on seeing no crowds and hearing no noise, save for the ring shaking and ref counting, an uneasy feeling in the pits of our stomachs grew inside many of us.

I’m in no way trying to downplay how serious the pandemic was at the start and how scary it remains to this very day, but in the context of the wrestling world alone, I knew early on that our little engine that could – All Elite Wrestling – was going to be just fine. Why was that you might ask?

Because soon enough, Billy Gunn was there dancing in the ring with Aubrey Edwards, riling her just slightly enough to laugh about, and flashing a reassuring smile we had all known for decades. Within that smile, I felt a sense of pride for a company and for matches he held a responsibility toward, however large or small. I felt a sense of complete and genuine joy for a business he had given his life for. I felt a sense of assurance radiate through the television screen. It might seem silly, but he made me feel better at a time when things were not well just about anywhere in the world, and I’ll never forget that.

At the same time Billy was doing his thing, both behind the scenes and in the ring, his youngest son Austin began to lift us up as well. Without an audience, wrestling loses its biggest star. So many questions can’t be asked or answered without an arena full of people to respond. So many stories can fall short without the shock of a surprise or the roar of a return. Without live fans, wrestling can oftentimes fall flat. In the early days of a brand-new company, this could have spelled disaster.

Enter Austin Gunn, the youngest Ass. What he did at ringside during the most precarious months of the early pandemic AEW shows was nothing short of incredible. He became the audience when there wasn’t one. He somehow channeled all of us at home wishing we could be with them live, and he projected back into the world we all love so much, as much energy and excitement as one human being could possibly be capable of projecting. As he did, so many others followed, and before long, while we still missed thousands of screaming fans every week, we no longer were missing an audience and our stories could be told as they were meant to be once more.

Colten, the oldest of the Ass offspring, followed soon after and the formidable duo we now know was formed in truth. It was early days, and there was still much to learn and training to be done, but with Colten by his side, the writing on the wall was glowing. If they had even a shred of their father’s hustle, work ethic, energy, and heart, we’d all be in for quite the treat. It turns out, not only do they share their father’s ridiculously contagious smile – they share the rest as well. Even as heels, they warm my heart.

What I love most about these three men though – above all – is their joint commitment to ride this wave together for as long as they can. I can’t imagine what it must be like for Billy to walk to the ring with his sons or to look to the corner for a hot tag and see Rod and Todd…err…Austin and Colten…standing there waiting with hands outstretched and smiles shining brightly. It must be surreal every single time. Conversely, for the boys, I wonder if they thought in their wildest dreams that they’d be able to share a stage such as this – on national TV no less – with their father. It’s a wild world. It pays to dream y’all, and it pays even more to work hard.

With their future in All Elite Wrestling more solidified with every match, Colten and Austin impress with their professionalism, knowledge of the business, and ambition outside of the ring as well. It’s not a surprise considering their lineage, but it remains impressive, especially in an industry that can eat people alive no matter the last name. Austin is a talented musician and stars in the new E! Network show, Relatively Famous: Ranch Rules, both boys are college educated, and when not seen on AEW television, they can be found crashing V-Logs across the wrestling world.

A famous coworker of Ass, Bryan Danielson, is fond of calling us wrestling fans “fickle.” He’s not wrong. We have opinions, and we are usually not quiet about them. It’s difficult to follow in such heralded footsteps as their crotch-chopping, ass-shaking, outlaw father. It’s even more difficult to do so and forge your own path instead of simply following that which was paved before you. Austin and Colten have an opportunity to help define not just the next generation of Ass, but also the next generation of professional wrestling as well. I’m sure glad I get to watch them do just that.

So, while their current schtick it to spew their overconfidence and holier-than-thou attitudes on all of us every chance they get, don’t forget the times when they did everything that they could to keep AEW – and professional wrestling – relevant and thriving when they didn’t have to. Remember the smiles. Relish the dances. Snicker at both the hidden and the not so hidden D-X chops. Dry your eyes as you appreciate the gratitude in each of the six eyes of Ass anytime that they grace your screen. In a way, they’ll always be babyfaces to me.

On second thought…

Just kidding! It’s honestly been torture not saying it sooner…

LONG LIVE THE #ASSBOYS!!

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