The Anglo Luchador
For most of The Anglo Luchador’s run in PRIME so far, as short as it has been, he’s been lucky. He’d only been to the hospital once, for his pre-employment physical. Hoyt and Duke Williams and their monster of an acolyte, the former John Kennedy Royko, made a second visit necessary. When he was last seen by the general audience, he had been stomped, “flogged,” and given the first quarter of a stigmata correct to the paintings and sculptures of the crucified Christ – the real one, not the apostate walking around getting Richard Parker’s heart all aflutter – but not historically accurate. Lucky for the old luchador, the Williamses had more of a flair for the artistic; he might be dead if they had got him in the wrist with their pointy stick. A funny thing happened between the ambulance ride and his transfer to triage at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. The other three quarters of the stigmata opened up. Doctors couldn’t explain it; the old luchador was under direct supervision either by the ACE Network cameras during that frightful flogging or by paramedics, doctors, nurses, and family members, which at this point was just his brother Mikey. Tamara and the kids haven’t made a trip to Vegas yet at the old luchador’s request.
And thus it was his brother walking into the hospital room where the crumpled heap of a man lay in shambles that marked the beginning of this little snippet into the life of the man the gods tasked with saving lucha libre in the States. Clearly hiding something in the inside of his coat, Mikey crept into the room, which was occupied not just with his brother, but a doctor again asking the now semi-lucid old luchador questions he’d already answered under the twilight of heavy painkillers.
“Are you sure he only drove the cane into one hand?” the doctor asked, as if asking the same question over and over would produce a different result. One couldn’t blame him, however. People just don’t bleed spontaneously, especially in the same areas as the crucified messiah of the Christian religion.
“Look doc,” the old luchador replied, “everything went black after he shoved the cane in my left hand. Ask all the paramedics. My right hand was fine until the ambulance made that hard turn off the 15. My feet didn’t start gushing until the nurses went to put socks on them after taking off my boots. The footage is there to see, and people other than me know the rest of the story.”
“I just can’t explain it.”
“Yeah, join the club. I’ve experienced things that if I told you, you would think I was on hard drugs. You’re gonna have to take it on faith.”
The doctor shook his head. “I can’t do that, but for now, I’ll let you rest.”
The doc left the room, passing Mikey like a ship in the night without noticing him. The younger brother skulked astride the bed and sat in the chair adjacent. The old luchador looked to make sure no one else was in the room.
“Did you bring it?”
Mikey slowly opened his coat and pulled out a can of Tecate. “Yeah, but I still don’t think this is a good idea, bruh.”
“Mike,” the older brother answered, “I tirelessly mocked two redneck fundies and their impervious pet minotaur on social media until we got a match booked for Culture Shock. I’m not a stranger to bad ideas.”
Mikey shook his head. “Well, if you start shakin’ or whatever, don’t tell ‘em it was me that brung you the beer. Say it was, I dunno, Homeless Eddie.”
The old luchador chuckled. “We’re not teenagers anymore. Don’t worry about it. Thanks.”
Mikey left the room as quietly as he entered it. The old luchador looked upon his can of beer and remarked “I’m earning this Tecate,” before cracking it open. He took a sip, and the room got eerily dark. Suddenly, a golden spotlight shone on the door to his hospital room. A choir of angels sang a mellifluously soothing melody as rose petals magically appeared on the floor. Into the room strode magnificently, in his silver boots, long tights, and iconic mask, El Padre de Lucha Libre, star of Mexican cinema, El Santo.
“El Santo? Is that really you? Are you the ghost come to visit me and show me the light?”
“No, solo le estoy haciendo un favor a este cabrón.”
Just like that, Santo disappeared into the haze. Through the silver mist left behind by the legendary patriarch of the art walked another titan of the industry. His name was El Guapo Grande.
“Oh wow, El Guapo Grande? That’s also cool, but why did you fake me out with Santo?”
The legendary luchador replied, “He owed me a favor after I got him out of trouble with some rogue Franciscan monks who tried siccing Padre Pio in a Gundam on him.”
The old luchador’s expression was as blank as the whiteboard underneath his television.
“I didn’t expect you to understand.”
“Well,” The Anglo Luchador replied, “that’s not all I don’t understand. I’ve been visited by two dead luchadores and a manifestation of myself from long past. You… you’re not dead yet.”
“Si, señor, I am still alive and well. However, I can walk both worlds, as many of the most elite and sainted luchadores can.”
“Like Hoyt Williams.”
Guapo’s eyes sunk, and he lowered his head. “Yes and no. Yes, in that he can somehow walk both worlds, but he has not been granted his ability by the gods of lucha libre. I sense something more sinister.”
“Well yeah, he skinned Mictlantecuhtli and made a mask of his hide. Are you going to tell me how to overcome that?”
Guapo shook his head. “I am not here to give you cheat codes, señor, but to guide you on how best to steer the course ahead of you. I know not how this Hoyt Williams straddles worlds, but I do know how you, El Luchador Anglo, can best tackle the world, the big picture.”
“I guess that makes sense,” the old luchador replied. “I just don’t know how I can do what the gods ask of me if you have this invincible freak roaming around using stolen Aztec godflesh.”
“I see the creep of doubt come into you. Tell me, what did you before your match with Garbage Bag Johnny have in common with Brandon Youngblood before his match with you? What did you before the Pier Six Battle Royale you won have in common with El Sombrerero Loco, wagering his hat before his lucha de apuesta where he took the ears of Liebre de Marzo? Or with the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team?”
The old luchador took a slug of his beer and shrugged his shoulders.
“You really don’t know, do you, señor?”
“I mean, we all won our matches, duh. Winners, I know, I have to win.”
The lucha master slowly closed his eyes and slowly shook his head again. “You are not looking at things from a far enough vantage. Big picture.”
The old luchador looked at his visitor like he was still down a pint of blood, which he probably was at this point.
“Amigo… they all believed in themselves.”
The Anglo Luchador’s eyes grew wide, and in his drug-induced delirium, he started belly laughing like he was in the crowd for Eddie Murphy’s Delirious in 1983. “What in the wide world of sports kind of Disney bullshit is that? Oh my god, your gods must think I’m some roasted cauliflower dipshit. Oh man, no, seriously though, what’s the angle here?”
Guapo looked at him stone-faced, dead serious. “Do you think this is a joke, señor?”
The old luchador snapped back, “Do you think I’m a joke? You’re giving me advice that a concerned parent gives their kid in a schmaltzy sports movie that makes The Mighty Ducks look like Young Bloods and Young Bloods look like On the Waterfront. Believe in yourself. Holy shit, I’m switching to Belgian abbey ales if this is the capper on what you got.”
Guapo’s expression turned deadly pale. “Fine, if you want to fail at your mission, go ahead. I hope you enjoy hospital beds, because you will not escape them. The beatings you’ll take will be far more severe than this one. Enjoy missing your children grow up.”
The ghost started to dematerialize before the old luchador’s face turned from dismissive to quizzical to resigned. “Okay, fine. FINE. I’ll hear you out. God.”
Guapo stopped his disintegrating exit and let out another sigh. “You misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I don’t know whether it’s deliberate or not, but regardless, this is no cheap telenovela storytelling. You can believe in yourself and lose; the righteous and confident lose all the time.”
The old luchador took another slug from his beer and mouthed “ok” as the astral projection continued his soliloquy.
“However, one thing is for certain. If you don’t believe in yourself, or more importantly, if you are devoid of conviction, how can you expect to win anything? You know this firsthand.”
“Why does every one of you bring up my past? Can’t I leave that dead and buried?”
“No, no, the past is the only adequate predictor of the future in the absence of any other factors.”
“Did you pass through Pfefferman on the way here too?”
“Señor, don’t assume us to be dumb because we all got into wrestling.”
The Anglo Luchador rolled his eyes, but the astral projection continued on.
“In the past, when you got into funks, blaming everyone but yourself for your strings of losses, do you know why you continued down these swoons?”
Guapo shook his head. “No, it is because you lost conviction, focus. One loss began a downward roll of the pebble until it cascaded into a landslide. You didn’t believe you could do it, and so you didn’t do it.” The apparition nodded and continued, “You may believe in yourself and lose a match, but you can never lack that conviction and predictably succeed at attaining your goals.”
The Anglo Luchador nodded, appearing to be absorbing the message being relayed to him. He adjusted himself to sit more upright in his bed, wincing at his Christlike wounds dragging across various surfaces to get him there.
“I think I’m starting to get it. I’m still struggling to find out what exactly I need to believe in to drive a wedge into this Balaam’s armor though. Like…” his voice trailed off a bit.
“I know. Mictlantecuhtli is not so easily tamed or felled. One square meter of his hide was said to have protected the great Cuauhtémoc during the siege of Tenochtitlan. Only the bravest, or in the case of Hoyt, the most craven and duplicitous of warriors have been known to best the God of Death.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “But we did not choose you simply because you bear the mask or feebly appropriate our culture. Just as we remind you of you at your lowest, we know what you can accomplish at your peak.”
The old luchador was still not used to the kind words laid at his ability, even after hearing them from his opponents thus far. The mind is a tortuous fortress that holds onto the negative like prisoners of war and lets the positive flow freely out like calls for surrender. Maybe it was the blood loss, perhaps the painkillers or the lingering shock or even the beer. In his loopy-brained stupor, the old luchador began shedding tears.
Guapo mutedly laughed to himself. “You act like we flatter you.”
“I’m just… I get this from my mother. She’s emotional too.”
“I know, I know, but you cannot dwell in this moment too long or else you will get lost. You need to find a way to justify our belief in you to defeat this foe, especially in your ravaged state.”
“I know. It’s hard for me right now because, well…” the old luchador gestures to the astral projection broadly at his own body, bandaged and bloodied in a hospital bed. “Culture Shock isn’t for another two weeks. There’s gotta be more than one way to skin a god… right?”
Guapo gutturally laughed and clapped. “Now that’s the spirit. Keep that exact phrase in mind as you look ahead. I will take my leave of you now. I think you will be ready sooner than you realize.”
The old luchador had one more question for Guapo before he left. “One last thing, why didn’t the gods wait until now to send Dr. Raptor to visit me? Being that this is a hospital and all…”
“Well, señor, we didn’t know you’d be in the hospital at this point. The afterlife is magic, but we cannot see the future.”
“Makes sense,” the old luchador replied as he shuttled back into a more supine position as Guapo faded into the aether.
Three days have passed. Sunrise Hospital discharged The Anglo Luchador with prescriptions for antiseptic bandages, painkillers, and with a medical clearance for competing at Culture Shock. The doctors said the stigmata should heal within a week, and he already noticed thick scabs forming with the changing of his bandages. He exited his house, got into his shitty green Explorer, and mounted his cell phone on the dash. He put on his lucha mask and then clicked on his camera app. He sighed as he put it into selfie mode and started recording video.
“Good morning, PRIMEates. It’s a lovely day in the greater Philadelphia area. The sun is rising, the birds are annoying the shit out of anyone who wants to sleep in, and I have a date with an indestructible nerd moron whose handler successfully colonized the lucha libre afterlife. Can you believe this guy? Hoyt Williams?”
The old luchador shook his head.
“More like a homeless version of the Buddy Christ. I’ve seen better plastic surgery on the Gabor sisters. That reference might be a little to old for some of our viewers at home. Regardless.”
He took a deep breath and held it for 15 seconds before exhaling.
“There are a lot of people out there who think I’m walking into my death at Culture Shock. That’s fine. Let them think what they want to think. It’s probably Dick Parker or some neckbeard who is fused to his seat at the MGM Grand like someone on My 600-Pound Life grafted to their toilet seat starting those rumors anyway. Is John Boy tough? Yeah. Does he hit like a ton of bricks? Yeah. I felt it firsthand. And Hoyt jabbed my hand so hard my other hand and both feet started bleeding. That shit is crazier than if James Varga was even allowed in the Almasy, let alone if he won it.”
He turns to look out the window momentarily before affixing his focus to his phone-camera.
“All I hear from this camp is ‘Cheap Mask this’ and ‘I haven’t pooped since the Reagan administration and I’m cranky that’ and I’m supposed to think these wannabe Christo-fascists can kill me? Look, John Boy hits hard, and both Williamses and their book-holding jackass on the outside know how to play a numbers game, but you gotta try harder than that to kill me. I stared down Dan Ryan and lived to tell about it, Dan Ryan, the guy whose cardboard cutout causes hushed tones to propagate around the locker room. There’s no one, god or mortal, who hits harder than that guy. I know from experience. But you’ll have to forgive me if you don’t like my wanton dropping of names.”
He lets out a little snort.
“The point is that I jammed a Game Genie into the cartridge port of this console called life, and I punched in the code for infinite lives. If you think it’ll be as easy as scooping me off a carpet, throwing me down a ramp, and jamming a creepy cane through my hand again, you’re going to find yourself hiring Rudy Giuliani to help you stop the steal after Bolamba raises my hand in victory. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. Actually, scratch that.”
His face lit up.
“I know exactly how I’m going to do it. I’ll be damned if I tell you on a YouTube promo video, but I’ve always liked playing the game ‘How to keep an idiot in suspense.’ Instead this time, it’s four idiots with the combined brainpower that falls short of the walnut-sized supplemental brain in a stegosaurus’ tail. Quadruple the pleasure, octuple the fun, baby. Friday, April 1, at Culture Shock, I don’t need no Personal Jesus. In fact, I am going to blaspheme so hard, the Pharisees are going to want to have me nailed to the cross. I already got the wounds to show for it though. You can’t crucify a sinner twice, and John Boy, you’re going to feel a nasty case of double jeopardy when your post-death mask record falls to 0-2. Catch you on the flipside, dickwads.”
He pressed stop on the video, removed his lucha mask, and revved up the ignition. His final destination for the morning was, where else, the Thomas Holme Apartments to rendezvous with his brother, who was already waiting outside of his building’s main door.
“Yooo bro, good to see that beer didn’t kill ya.”
“Ha, I told you I knew what I was doing. Now, did you get my text from the other day?”
“Yeah. I did. I got them cones all set up in the driveway for agility drills and my bud from the Judge track team is gonna come over and do sprint training. You really think this is gonna work tho?”
“No, I don’t think it’ll work,” the old luchador said wryly. “I believe it’s going to work, without fail.”
Mikey chuckled at his brother, and they walked off to start their morning training.