The Anglo Luchador
Winning hurts. They say the best analgesic is the thrill of victory, and in a more halcyon day, The Anglo Luchador might have agreed. Of course, in the days of yore, his ligaments were more elastic. His musculature was better maintained. He hadn’t taken too many shots to the head yet. Therapy of endorphins and serotonin and whatever other hormones the body produced for positive physical reaction was enough to keep the ice baths and over the counter liniments at a bare minimum. When you haven’t been doing things like “wrestling” or “minimally exercising” for ten years-plus, the effects from total exertion tend to worsen exponentially.
IcyHot was but one avenue of therapy for the old luchador. Thanks to his aches and creaks, no pharmacy within a two-mile radius of the MGM Grand contained even a travel-sized container of the goop, feeding rumors that he had been eating it in addition to applying it topically. Of course, the unforced error of trying to make a joke about it unprovoked in the company Jabber to an audience of smart-asses and/or Drax the Destroyer-level aptitudes for sarcasm didn’t help matters. It wasn’t his only therapeutic measure, nor was it his preferred one.
You see, the old luchador loved Mexican lagers. Some people drink a Corona on Cinco de Mayo, squeezing a lime into the bottle and acting like it was the most authentic shit since they ordered the chorizo at Chipotle. The old luchador hated those people, the ones who made it impossible to find a case of Modelo Negro the last two weeks of April and who’d leave a majority of the bottles undrunk until they arbitrarily decided the beers were “skunked” sometime around Halloween. Fucking hipsters, stick to your Aperol spritzes and quadruple IPAs more bitter than the former Jerichoholic Anonymous was for weeks after losing the A1E World Championship in his first defense.
Whether it was his furnished suite at the MGM Grand for when he was in Vegas to promote PRIME or wrestle, thanks to one Melvin Beauregard, or at his home all the way across the country in the Delaware Valley, his fridge was always stocked with various Mexican lagers. He didn’t have a predilection against one single brand, not even the tourist beer Corona. Different moods called for different beers. He preferred Modelo Negro, which was like if his local stalwart, Yuengling, tasted good instead of bad, but Corona, Modelo Extra, Tecate, even the American microbrew El Sully from 21st Amendment did the trick if the mood suited him.
The first thing he did when he got back to his suite was strip to his underwear and apply IcyHot to every square inch of his body that he wasn’t think of, uh, touching later on for sensual reasons. The second thing he did was reach into his fridge and blindly pull out a beer. He didn’t care which one he grabbed, as long as he grabbed one. He felt the neck of a bottle and grasped it, yanking it out with one hand and reaching for the bottle opener on his keys with the other. He collapsed in the tub so as not to get ointment on the bedsheets. Mr. Beauregard had warned him any ruined linens would come out of his salary, and casinos do not scrimp on that kind of thing, not with all the money they collect from eager “donors.” As he collapsed in the tub, he caught a glimpse of the bottle before he shut his eyes. Corona. Slightly bitter, crisp as hell, refreshing all the same. He pressed the bottleneck to his lips, making a tight enough seal to get most of the beer in his mouth, but not so much that a little trickle couldn’t make its way down his chin onto his chest, a microrefreshment after a sprint under the hottest lights that felt like it took forever.
When he opened his eyes again, the old luchador gazed, not upon his belly or the shower curtain or even the tiling. It startled him enough that he shoved himself back, almost cracking his head against the faucet. In front of him, in all his spectral glory, was the motherfucking Ghost of Stan Chera.
His head was balder than the tires of the cars he used to travel in to get to his first bookings way back on the indies in 1998. His upper body was decked out in a pinstripe jacket with a neatly pressed tie and white button-down shirt, while his bottom half… well, his bottom half was a formless wisp, like how most people imagine a generic ghost. The old luchador’s face went pale, his eyes dilated. He wondered if the beer he bought had somehow been victim of a disgruntled employee leaving a special hallucinogenic present on his final day.
“This can’t be real,” the old luchador said thinking whatever it was in the room couldn’t hear him. He was wrong.
“Oh, I assure you, it is real,” the apparition replied. “I am the harbinger ghost, the one who is here to get you ready for the long and arduous road ahead.”
“Wait, why is Stan Chera, the former chairman of Crown Holdings and the most notable victim of COVID-19 who was revealed to the world through the last President’s paranoid ramblings, my own personal Jacob Marley?”
“Well, first,” the ghost replied, “I’m not really Stan Chera. I took this form to play to certain sensibilities, heighten mood, that sort of…”
“Did you really hang out with Trump? Did how much coke could he snort in his prime? Were you in the Epstein black book too? I gotta know…”
“I’m not Stan Chera. I’m just taking his form so you can feel the same urgency to perform in this tournament and in PRIME in general as you did when you first felt the urge to come back. Please stop asking me. This isn’t a one-to-one parody, legal under the Fair Use Act of 1976, of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I’m not here to warn you about the chains forged in life yadda yadda yadda.”
“Then who are you?”
“Just the first in a series of emissaries from the Lucha Libre Gods.”
“Lucha Libre Gods? That seems off. Aren’t most Mexican luchadores Catholic? They frown on this kind of thing.”
The ghost shook his wispy head. “I’m gonna level with you. The more ancient people had it more correct than all those monotheists from the Eastern Mediterranean and Arabian Peninsula. There is no God, capital G, but there are gods, as in plural. In fact, there are multiple pantheons. I just happen to work for the Lucha Libre one.”
The old luchador gave one of those looks that could best be described as one Tim Robinson uses to convey confusion or disbelief on I Think You Should Leave.
“You look like the Tim Robinson character that was just asked to go to a meeting while you were eating a hot dog for lunch,” said the ghost.
“You get Netflix in the afterlife?”
“Oh yeah, we get everything up there, even Quibi, which is also a ghost now. It’s the afterlife. The laws of man do not apply to us.”
The ghost and the old luchador just looked at each other knowingly. Then the old wrestler asked, “why me? Surely, they don’t care about one gringo working in a direct-to-streaming fed in Las Vegas.”
“They care about you the most, to be honest,” the ghost replied, eyes growing softer like a young girl remembering her passed mother. “You see, things in Mexico are going pretty smooth.”
“I heard someone threw a cinderblock at another wrestler for real.”
“I mean, for Mexico, that’s normal. You should know that. How many times a fan try to stab you with a broken Pacifico bottle in your tours down there?”
“Twice, which isn’t that many, but it’s weird that it happened two times.”
“Exactly. They know Mexico’s fine. It’s lucha libre in America they’re worried about.”
“Why? I mean, people love lucha up here!”
“No, they don’t. They love bastardized aesthetics. To them, it’s all cultural appropriation of the worst kind! They think Nacho Libre is respectable media! They booed the lucha match at the latest big indie show on Manhattan!”
“But I’m a gringo doing lucha mixed with whatever joshi and puroresu I absorbed while tape trading. I’m not the guy you’re looking for.”
The ghost sighed. “If you weren’t the guy, they wouldn’t have sent me. Look, you’re not El Santo. You’re not even El Rey del Azteca or Pantera Blanco II or Mephistopheles Infernal. However, it’s not like you’re some lucha tourist. You’ve been down in the mother country. You ran the gamut from Arena Mexico all the way down to that flotilla they put a ring on off the west coast of the Yucatan.”
“That shithole wasn’t even on the tourist side. Like, three people came.”
“That’s the point! You put in the work. Sure, you went to Japan too and worked in the American companies, but they recognize you as one of your own. It’s for that reason that it’s up to you to help save the profile of lucha libre in America.”
“That’s a real tall order. The office doesn’t wanna stock my merch yet because they don’t know if I’m in it for the long haul. I feel like I got hit by a truck doing a midcard, first-round tournament match.”
“Which you won.”
“Yeah, but I mean, that’s not the important part here…”
“There’s nothing more important in wrestling than winning, mi amigo.”
“There is, but…”
“No, winners make their legacy. Losers become memes or subjects of funny gifs on Twitter that are met with trolling. Don’t think I didn’t see the thing that brought you back here.”
The old luchador closed his eyes again and slinked further down in the tub, coming to the stark realization that the ghost had cut into his soul.
“Fans remember the winners,” the ghost reiterated. “That’s what gains respect. Winning matches, capturing championships, shaving off the hairs on the heads of your most hated rivals. You build your legacy through the blood you spill, and that blood is not just your own.”
“Fine, fine. So what do I have to do to reclaim the rich tradition of lucha libre? Do I have to help a kid break a pinata or something?”
The ghost started to glow red and grow three times his size. “THAT’S GRINGO TALK! WERE YOU NOT LISTENING TO A SINGLE…”
“Chill out, ghosty man. I’m fucking with you. That’s what I do, remember?”
“Yeah, anyway, what do I need to do?”
“Win matches. Consistently. You need to make the people, be they your peers or the people who shove into the arena every night, respect you. Beating Redding is a good start.”
“Okay, so you’re saying you found some weaknesses in that match? Do I have to turn into one of those Ivan A. Trainenbang-type wrestlers who didn’t have personality that I made fun of all the time?”
“Oh hell no. I’m not talking about in the moment. You do have a history, you know.”
The color drained from the old luchador’s unmasked face. Things started coming back to him, things he thought that he left in his past. He knew what the ghost meant without him having to verbalize it, and all the good feelings that were helping, and failing, to keep his aches and pains at bay dissipated in the air like the winnings of one of the adrenaline junkies downstairs whose heater came to an abrupt halt. His knees and elbows cranked the dull throbbing up to burning jabbing. He couldn’t even enjoy his beer.
“You shot yourself in the foot quite a bit, hermano. If you act a certain way here, in PRIME, I’m afraid the spirit of lucha libre in the States will go down the drain, much like the beer you just dropped is right now.”
“You do have more in the fridge, right?”
“Yeah, but that means I gotta get out of the tub. Do you want one?”
“I’m a ghost, you dipshit.”
“…so yes? I dunno, being a dead messenger boy seems rough.”
The spirit rolled his eyes. “You’re deflecting now. There are some clear ‘you’ problems that may not have been fully resolved by the sheer passage of time. The gods just want to make sure they don’t rear their ugly heads again.”
“I see. So, are you going to be the one to go over them with me, or are we borrowing again from Dickens?”
“No, and kinda-sorta. Fair use, but it might be more than three. The Lucha Libre Gods want to be thorough with this, you know.”
“That’s the first time anyone in lucha management was thorough with anything.”
“Hey, the gods have their reasoning for not screwing around with promoters. They just don’t tell me.”
“Probably because I heard Konnan once put Quetzalcoatl in the Tequila Sunrise.”
“That’s only partially true.”
“Are you going to tell me what part?”
“No. And that is where I must depart, dear Anglo Luchador. Good luck. Your next visitor will come the next time you open up a different kind of Mexican lager.”
“Okay. Uh, thanks?”
With that, the spirit dissipated into the air. The old luchador sat up in the tub, feeling the IcyHot had finally dried enough for him to sit somewhere else in the hotel suite. He picked up his phone, scrolled down to “Tamara,” and hit the red call button. “Honey, you’ll never guess what just happened… I was visited by the ghost of Stan Chera… no, I’m not doing hard drugs, you just have to listen… yes, there are Lucha Libre Gods and they want me to win this tournament… well, you don’t have to patronize me like that… yes, I love you too and I promise, I am not using nor will I use DMT while out here… bye.”
He slumped a little in his chair, still throbbing, but his mind had stopped its doom cycle at least. He remembered that most of his first post-match beer was on its way into a local Las Vegas Valley Water District wastewater facility. He looked this time, pondering whether he wanted another deep conversation about his own personal flaws with a ghost who may or may not shift shapes into dead real estate magnates. He also might have had in his mind that he wanted to ask Stan Chera a few more questions. He grabbed two Coronas, sat at the kitchenette table in his suite, popped the lids on both of them, and put one of them adjacent to the seat where he was settled.
“C’mon, you son of a bitch…”
But no ghost had appeared. It was one ghost per type of beer after all, and the Chera-form ghost really did say his peace. Dang.
“So, I really have to save lucha libre in America, huh? And against a fuckin’ legend like Garbage Bag Johnny to start? Can I do it? I really wanna know what these gods see in me,” the old luchador said to no one in particular. He furrowed his brow and remembered back, this time, not to the bad times, not to the locker room fights or the times promoters told him they weren’t going to take a guy named “Jerichoholic Anonymous” or times when he acted out because someone told him that funny business wasn’t a draw, no matter how many matches he won, no matter how many snowflakes Dave Meltzer gave him in his newsletter. This time, he thought back to the good times, the World Title wins, the time he and Canadian Hitman went to Dudleyville, the win in the Pier Six Brawl battle royale, the times the crowd cheered for him when he stood victorious, the first time he stepped foot into the CSWA Arena in Greensboro. The endorphins started flooding back, the serotonin pumping like Arrogance out of the atomizer on the Saturday morning syndicated wrestling programs of his youth.
“I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna save lucha libre in America. No bum is gonna stand in my way, even if that bum won the fuckin’ Dual Halo once. Let’s fucking go.”
He put the bottle of beer to his mouth and drank as much as the small aperture would allow him in one pass. This is why he mostly preferred cans to bottles, but Corona is one of those beers that doesn’t taste right in a can. When he came down, he saw the other bottle was empty.
“You son of a bitch, ghosts do drink,” the old luchador muttered to himself as he smiled for the first time since the ref raised his hand after hitting a new finisher for the first time. He pulled out his phone and opened Twitter to see right in front of him a crudely Photoshopped picture of his masked face over Winnie the Pooh’s head with the jar of honey replaced by a container of IcyHot. Those bastards, the rumors leaked out from the PRIME Jabber to social media at large.
“I’m going to need to learn how to use Photoshop. Can’t keep up with kids nowadays with my sharp wit alone.”
He closed his phone, finished his beer, and finally took his boxer briefs on to get a shower after the most exercise he’d gotten in over a decade.