The Anglo Luchador
A dark locker room in the Grand Garden Arena. It’s near midnight. The crowds from PRIME ReVival 9 have all but dispersed, either to their homes, their hotel suites, or the casino floor. The wrestlers have mostly left too. Many of them still have suites in the hotel. Some, like Randall and Calico, bought houses. Some took red-eye flights to their commuter bases. The Anglo Luchador was still in a darkened locker room, slumped, seated in a steel folding chair. There’d been no attempt of undoing his mask. His button-down shirt was ruined, every button missing, now in the dustpans of the janitorial staff. His pants were split in the crotch and not from thighs which had become less thunderous than they were the first time he appeared in PRIME, at a news conference in the Studio Ballroom, the same place Balaam dragged his body, tongue-numbed from foolishly and hubristically consuming IcyHot. The same place where his brain short-circuited hours before, the place where his crushing loneliness became crystalized reality.
In his mind, there was no doubt he deserved this alienation.
The bottle of mezcal he’d started drinking at around quarter-after eight, when his stump speech ended with him elbow-dropping a suit jacket and storming to a locker room, had one sip left in it, same as it was for a longer time than one might expect for someone trying to fuel a self-effacing fire with 110 proof distillate of the maguey cactus.
“SHE SEEMS TO HAVE AN INVISIBLE TOUCH…”
His cellphone went off again. Was it Bolamba? His brother? Genesis played off and on every quarter hour or so since he went into seclusion. It’s not like they had to search to find him, he thought. Then again, the locker room vacated by the eGG Bandits after their proceedings on the show were finished was never an inviting place. Bobby Dean made sure of that. The old luchador, however, grew up in a house with four brothers. His nostrils were battle-tested. Even if they weren’t, his mind was still fixated on penance anyway. The smells wafting off the body of the Good Ol’ Boy from Honalee are much more excruciating to bear than any punishment from a Catholic priest anyway.
True penance and forgiveness are not gotten by works alone. Speaking to himself in a mirror only renewed his focus momentarily, but the pawing and clawing of questions tearing at his fragile curtain of a psyche kept him from moving forward. Fuck Walt Disney, by the by. You can’t truly move forward until you know where you’ve been anyway. Where has The Anglo Luchador been? He asked himself that question and found the only answer was to retrace his steps.
The first stop was the Studio Ballroom. The cleaning crew got rid of the buttons from his vest and any evidence that he’d been there outside of the stage setup. The MGM Grand Casino and Hotel never sleeps, much like Vegas itself. He could still see the outlines of the attendees in his mind’s eye: Baron von Blackberry, Miss Maverick, the B-Team, that infernal seal. His mind drifted further into the past, the same location, Roderick McRatrick trying his hand at grift, Rezin asking if you could get high off “IcyHots,” Ria Nightshade.
“Am I one of your sins?”
He shirked away from image replaying in his head, and then it wandered to a social media website. Jabber. Hoyt Williams. The utter hubris of picking a fight with a lunatic in an arena of instant back and forth repartee, especially one whose acumen on interviews preceded him.
Not like I haven’t bitten off more than I could chew before, he thought to himself.
Although Hoyt’s tenure around these parts came during a time when The Anglo Luchador was Jerichoholic Anonymous, toiling in lands heretofore foreign to the circles in which PRIME laid central, capital to, he wasn’t much different from those with acrid tongues with whom the steel, or silver if you ask around his peers, of his own tongue could match. Troy Windham, Joey Melton, Shawn Hart. To call this kind of wrestler a dime a dozen would be false. For every Windham, there were a dozen of “Your Hero” Sebastian Dodd, arrogant and self-aggrandizing on the microphone but who couldn’t put an aglet through one of the eyes on his boots when the bell sounded. History repeats itself in the cruelest ways, but the lingering shroud of doubt as déjà vu never stung him as much as the times he never showed up.
As if through serendipity, his text alarm jolted him alert as his mind drifted to New Year’s Eve, 2008. Empire Pro Wrestling Aggression 40. Jerichoholic Anonymous vs. Larry Tact, a painful memory of an effort that was invisible. The old luchador could barely even remember if he showed up for the match at all. All he could remember involved hard Irish whips to his limp body into the corner. Tact parading around the ring like he was on top of the world. A fisherman’s suplex snapped gracefully into a layout neckbreaker. Tact held his hand high afterwards, but all he was doing was picking clean a carcass devoured before by one Sean Stevens. Everything circled back to Triple X, who had beaten The Anglo Luchador for the Empire Pro World Championship the show before in a brutal steel cage match. Mind, body, and soul demolished as he rolled on towards another battle, too soon after a World Championship reign ended without a single successful defense. Par for the course for him. He was easy pickings for Tact, who brutalized, tactilized a victory over him even, with relative ease.
The number on the text alarm was different from the sea of notifications from Mikey and Timo. It was a 725-area code, a number from which he has received notifications but never saved, one of the PRIME office’s clerical workers.
“REVIVAL 10 BOOKING ALERT – The Anglo Luchador vs. Larry Tact.”
Son of a bitch. That thought could’ve been a response to the stimulus of his match announcement intersecting with thoughts of one of his biggest regrets, something in his control, or it could have been for the fact that he was no longer standing, that he, his nearly killed bottle of mezcal, and the stink lines emanating from his body from a night of sweating, drinking, and marinating in the aromas endemic to the eGG Bandit locker room had found themselves slumped in the corner of the Studio Ballroom. He checked his phone.
10:12 AM Pacific Time, June 4.
He fell the fuck asleep at work.
The old luchador stood up with his bottle in one hand, shirtless and disoriented, and he made his way to the door. Casino patrons were not used to seeing someone losing their shirt literally. Figuratively, yes, but as much work as he’d done getting himself in shape, he still had a dad-bod thing going on. Melvin Beauregard received more than a few complaints from his bosses about masked wrestlers scaring the paying customers that day for sure. The thing about smelling like someone who’d spent the whole night drinking is that people don’t want to get into close proximity to you. On a scale of zero to 100, with 100 being Garbage Bag Johnny on a hot day, The Anglo Luchador was a solid 85. Well, the live Garbage Bag Johnny at least. The dead, older one? That one pegs the scale. Anyway, his 24-floor ride to his suite was peaceful enough that he continued mentally retracing his steps. Empire Pro wasn’t far enough back. There was nothing of substance for him to meditate upon in A1E. The less he thought about that place, the better. Lucha tours were his pressure valve, perhaps the reason why lucha libre felt natural to him and he to it.
It was always going back to Bloody Japan Grappling Arts.
The door slammed shut behind him from the momentum of a careless release at its widest. He put the bottle down on the table by the door and staggered to the bedroom, pirouetting like the world’s least coordinated prima ballerina and flopping on a bed that had not been made since round two of the Almasy Invitational. Like the gates at the front of Jurassic Park, his mind opened to floods of broken memories and corrupted thoughts dancing across his temporal lobes. They all funneled into a cattle chute leading directly to one moment in time.
Pom Shinjoku screamed at the top of her lungs, a kendo stick in one hand and a lighter in the other. She was going to have her flaming “sword” like she promised. One of her opponents that evening was Shoko Nabigata, a hard-hitting rival from Pom’s class at wrestling school. Shoko saw the lighter and grabbed the first object she could grab pawing blindly behind her. It was a baseball bat, wound tightly with a double helix of barbed wire vining down its length. In a moment of pure, unadulterated self-defense, Shoko swung the bat. In the follow-through, she slipped, probably on the blood that had drenched the canvas by this point in the bloody tag match. Her swing went wide. She was aiming for Pom’s hands, or her shoulders, or even just the kendo stick. Instead, she caught her eye, quite literally.
The last thing Pom’s tag partner remembered before everything shuttled into murky, panicked haze was the blood-curdling scream his partner had unleashed, holding her eye, blood seeping through her fingers like sludge from a poorly vented pipe ready to burst from overpressure. Jerichoholic Anonymous knew that his partner’s career was over. He knew he’d probably never come back to BJGA at this point. Helplessness enveloped him like grain in a silo. The next thing he remembered was waking up in his hotel room with a bottle of Suntory next to him, not a drop left in its reservoir.
“I can’t fuckin’ believe he’s got me out HERE.”
The Nevada desert is a cliché location for clandestine meetings, but no man nor beast not equipped for scorching temperatures and unfettered exposure from the Sun’s ultraviolet rays dares venture out onto that parched earth for anything other than transit, ill-advised training exercises like the one Baron von Blackberry exposed his ne’er-do-well charges to weeks prior, or shady transactions. The Anglo Luchador liked to think he was a more artistically inclined soul, but deep down, he knew he’d have done the same thing. He’s just a wrestler. Wrestlers are, after all, the most hackneyed motherfuckers on the planet. They like to say what they do is art, but the only art that the partake upon happens in the ring, in contortions and leverage and violence and escape. You can flunk out of acting school and succeed in this business out of the ring for a reason. It’s all secondary to what the people really came to see: violence, bloodshed, acrobatics, fighting like you didn’t see in shitholes like The Asylum or in crooked boxing rings or in even more oppressively down bad octagons like in Ultimate Fighting. The imagination needed to succeed in this industry didn’t exactly have to do a Fosbury flop over a high bar.
If he were selling psilocybin mushrooms to someone desperate to use them in a harebrained attempt unlock something in his brain that just didn’t add up. Instead, he’s the mark. The seller? Was there even a question.
“HEY,” Rezin, getting out of the passenger’s side of a pristine ocean blue Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan, chirped. “You’re not a narc, Mr. Anonymous, are you? BY LAW, you have to tell me if you’re a policeman or else it’s FUCKIN’ ENTRAPMENT.”
“Ugh, I assure you, I’m not fuzz,” he replied. “Who’s the Alexander Skårsgard wannabe who gave you a lift to soccer practice?”
Olvir Arsvinnar was unaffected by the sardonic barb and approached from the driver’s side with his hand outstretched.
“You must be, what, Jerichoholic?” the affable Viking-looking titan asked. “I’m pals with Jimmy! Jimmy Donovan! Back in my wilder days, we used to dominate many a butt.”
“I haven’t gone by that name in years,” the old luchador remarked, “But I heard stories of you. None of them all that flattering. Jimmy’s a big fuckin’ pervert you know.”
“That’s what I liked about him,” remarked Olvir, looking over his shoulder to see what the Goat Bastard was doing. “You know, you smell just like my friend over here.”
“It’s been a long… how the fuck long has it been? What day is today?”
“The Day of Sól, goddess of the Sun, my good sir!”
“Jesus fuck,” the old luchador spat under his breath, interrupted by a EUREKA-like shouting exclamation from his would-be pusher.
“I got ‘em,” the Escape Artist shouted. “Here you go, that’ll be… uh, hey Ollie, how much we chargin’ for these?”
The old luchador stepped forward, chucking a roll of hundos at Rezin. “Call it merchandise, service, and gratuity.”
Rezin caught the wad of bills, at least a thousand there, maybe more. He was too stoned to get a right count. He perked his head up.
“Hey, was the IcyHots not doin’ it for you anymore?”
The Anglo Luchador stopped in his tracks and slumped his shoulders. The sigh he let out from his throat and mouth could be heard in North Henderson.
“These better get me good and trippy.”
“Oh, they will! I know a thing or two about the sciences, Mr. Anonymous.”
As the old luchador walked off, he could hear snippets of Rezin’s and Olvir’s conversation. He thought he heard the former Butt Dominator ask if he thought that Anonymous fellow was impressed with his hybrid minivan, but he was too focused on other things to care.
Hours had passed. He stared at the bag of psilocybin in front of him, hesitant to what he was going to see when he took them. This wasn’t hesitation over The Incident, a hushed-tone event he cryptically refers to from time to time on Jabber. That was a whole… thing in and of itself. The last time he took shrooms, he was in Japan. The clarity he felt unnerved him so much so that he chose another vice for the purposes of self-medication, the gleam of which twinkled in the reflected light from outside his suite window off the still unfinished bottle of mezcal sitting now on the desk where he had made his confession nights before. The obsession driving him mad told him to take it and see what was on the other side of the wreckage and debris of beer cans and liquor bottles on the other side.
His mind’s eye opened what happened after the bat struck Pom in the eye. What came next was not intense regret and self-realization. That image dissipated like a falsified memory of a horcrux in the mind of a character from a TERF scumbag’s masturbatory girlboss wizard fantasy dripping with antisemitism and ethnic pandering. Jerichoholic Anonymous didn’t look into his hands like an elseworlds wrestler in facepaint and enough stanzolol to give a gorilla heart failure. He grabbed the barbed wire bat with vitriol and magma in his eyes. He wound up like a member of the Gashouse Gang in that Bugs Bunny baseball short, aiming directly at Shoko’s eye. An eye for an eye leaves the world blind, but don’t tell that to someone who just saw his best friend’s vision get halfway annihilated. Before he could uncoil a swing that would make Sadaharu Oh stand in awe, the fourth principal in the match, Dragon Matsumoto, a portly fellow with enough scars on his belly to qualify for a Purple Heart if he stood in front of Lyndon Baines Johnson at his drunkest, tackled him through the ropes, out of the ring, into a pyramid of C-4 explosive. Both men had to do their best stop, drop, and shut ‘em down, open up shop. By the time the smoke cleared, the referee had called for the first and only match stoppage in BJGA history.
It was the hospital room in Osaka where the clarity cut sharpest. Doctor already signed his discharge papers after an overnight stay for monitoring. First degree burns – he got off relatively scot-free compared to his tag partner. He wanted to visit her right there, but another one of his colleagues came in the room. Kept pushing these shrooms, said they were magic. Helped him with his brain fog after tours where he’d taken too many point-blank weapons shots to the side and back of his head. Why not? He ate one and went downstairs to the lobby. It hit him right about when he got on the bus.
The clarity. It shone so bright it hurt his brain, a recoil reflex as if that organ could look directly into the sun. It played over and over in his head, not just the action of trying to claim an eye as a trophy, but the desire. He wanted to hurt Shoko. It didn’t matter if her assault was an accident. Deathmatches are deathmatches, but there was still a code. You didn’t really try to kill your opponent. You didn’t hit them in their genitals. You certainly didn’t try to rob them of their senses. It was an accident, but you try telling that to someone who had not and still does not have the ability to read minds in the moment. He savored that feeling until the psilocybin high wore off. When he realized that he’d been too deep in his own subconscious – and that he’d been on the same bus running the same route for four hours – he frantically grabbed the pull handle for the next stop, ran into the next liquor store, and bought a bottle of Suntory whiskey.
Research in the role of psychedelics in cognitive therapy has shown psilocybin may be therapeutic to those with CTE. The old luchador could have told you that when he was still young. He peered into a memory with razor sharp clarity, and this time, he didn’t recoil. He saw his path forward. He rose up from his bed. He showered. He changed his clothes. He fired up Jabber to let everyone know he was safe. And then he called Timo Bolamba.
“Hey, I… yeah, I know, it was a dick move, but… listen, can you listen? I wanted to talk to you because you’ve been there before… what you don’t think because I wasn’t here that I couldn’t find out? Look, I know, I fucked up, but… yeah, I don’t blame you. Go ahead, come over and slug me. Get it out of your system… I’m not… I’m trying to tell you why I went off grid.”
There was a pregnant silence.
“I have the stipulation for my match with Ria… yeah, I know. Can’t play favorites. I need to talk to someone… yeah, I know about Tact. I know acutely well about Tact. In fact, I owe him a receipt… yeah, it’s from the past. There’s no statute of limitations on receipts in this industry. You know that… how long? Thirteen years. It’ll get my blood pumping, that’s for damn sure.”
The conversation didn’t last much longer than that. It had been a long four days, necessary. Sleep that had eluded him ever since the Balaam match at Culture Shock finally came to him.
“Am I one of your sins?”
The familiar refrain of dreamscape Ria Lockhart once again beckoned. This time, Ria Nightshade wasn’t there to slice his throat. The Anglo Luchador held a bat wrapped in a double-helix of barbed wire.
“No, my sweet child,” he replied. “You’re not one of my sins anymore. Now, you’re my penance.”
He swung the bat right at Lockhart’s eye. The dreamscape became pitch black like a starless night. The obsessive haywire of the Anglo Luchador’s brain had finally subsided. He was finally in control, terrible, cold, conscienceless control.