The Anglo Luchador
“Just like Miami yeah fucking Miami YEAH sharks circling for the feeding…”
Laura Jane Grace’s own misgivings about a city that was bound to be underwater in half-a-century were somewhat poetic. Tom’s Spotify shuffle hitting on the opening track to Against Me!’s Searching for a Former Clarity was just the cherry on top of a shit sundae of what had been an interminably long stretch of vacillation between self-reflection and the indulgence of pure id. Miami would be the site of High Octane Wrestling’s latest episode of CHAOS. The last episode, in Tampa, saw him, the Anglo fuckin’ Luchador himself, buy a front row ticket at great cost from the secondary market – as much animosity as there is between PRIME and HOW, one cannot deny the Red company wasn’t a hot ticket – with the express purpose of interjecting himself. He was successful in all facets. He landed a physical salvo on Jace Parker Davidson. He evaded the EPU, HOW’s crack security force. He hit his Uber driver in perfect stride, opening the door and hopping in the back of the Chevy Traverse that came to pick him up at the Yuengling Center just as it had slowed down to a pre-stop crawl, and doing it all after having been waylaid after his grueling first defense of the Intense Championship the night before.
Why didn’t he feel like a success though?
Let’s rewind, shall we?
July 12, a random café in Las Vegas, NV
“Only two categories of people can remove a mask like that from the head of the possessed. The first is the one who placed it there. That category is narrower, obviously.”
“And the second?”
“A tecnico, true to their heart.”
“Lady, you’re barkin’ up the wrong tree. I’m rotten.”
The “lady,” for those who don’t remember, is Mictecacihuatl, consort of Mictlantehcutli, guardian of the Aztec realm of the dead. The rotten one is The Anglo Luchador. Self-loathing is a powerful drug, one that takes a long time to kick. Friends and family can tell him he’s not rotten. Ethereal goddesses of death can do the same. If one isn’t on board with his own abilities, well, it just ain’t happening. His struggle at recognizing whether he was a morally upright or ethically challenged person weighed heavily on his mind through all he’d been through. It colored every interaction he had, and his rogue’s gallery, which if the narrative can be completely honest here needed no help in increasing, started to tower over him in his mind’s eye. All starting with…
(or, more accurately, the intern for The Glue Factory)
His finger hovered over the “log out” button on his phone. The Jabber app was almost always running on it. Outside of maybe only Timo Bolamba and Vickie Hall, whose message spamming was the impetus for a rate limit being placed on the app, he was the internal social media platform’s most prolific user. And here he was, about to log off. The rudos on the roster would say that The Glue Factory got under his skin too much. They might be right. Losing to Phil Atken still stuck in his craw. Who cares if no one had beaten Atken yet, and the Humble Proprietor was the Universal Heavyweight Champion of PRIME? The moment a wrestler settles for good enough is when he resigns himself to fade away to oblivion.
The problem is, Atken doesn’t run his Jabber account. An intern does. It’s not a secret. Asking an old man to operate social media is probably a recipe for disaster anyway. As sharp as Atken is, his intern is just as quick with incision. Imagine being owned by a college student online. Actually, it’s not as bad as you might think. Kids are ruthless these days. In fact, they always have been.
Truth be told, it wasn’t the content of the Jabs that got to Tom here. He’s been owned by far greater with comebacks showing a greater l’esprit de l’escalier before. It wasn’t even the fact that people with whom he thought he’d had rapport were showing sympathy for someone in The Glue Factory, the megalithic entity bent on swallowing up anyone who wasn’t willing to bend a knee at their twisted vision for the future in PRIME.
He was picking on an intern.
“Intern” these days is such a loaded term, but even at the most lucrative companies on the planet, the word “intern” means “cheap labor” at best. There was no way Atken was compensating him fairly, even if his job would only have been “using the in-house social media to annoy people.” And here The Anglo Luchador was, big man, big tough strong man looking to hit people and be hit with weapons in the ring, picking on a kid trying to get money to pay for his books at school. Right is right, and wrong is nobody, his mother always said. At that moment, Tom felt like nobody.
He smashed the logout button, sitting on his bed at the MGM Grand in a fugue state. It wasn’t until Ria Lockhart called him that he awoke out of it, which only broke him into a stammering mess of gibberish-laden clauses, asking himself if he was good enough with a flustered and bewildered friend of his on the other side of the line. As he collected himself, the thoughts seeped in with more clarity. Tecnicos do not seek revenge; they seek justice. What justice was it to mock a kid on social media, even one who pushed his buttons? What justice was it to make up accusations of worker malfeasance, even in a joking manner, the way he did?
He didn’t feel like a good person at that moment. He felt like drinking. A lot.
Luckily for him, Jonathan Rhine made plans with him and a gaggle of others on the roster earlier to head out for a night out on the town! Among the throng was…
(or, more pointedly, The Dastardly Bastard)
A nameless bar on a random street in a town more sleepless than New York City. Las Vegas was not want for places for people to blow off steam. Rhine had his own problems to worry about, but the only cure for a problem is a solution. The solution to a bad time is a good time. The usual suspects gathered, and uncharacteristically, Tom was the last one to get there. Generally, if merriment was afoot, he was among the first to arrive. His mood had shifted. To be honest, he hadn’t been in a good mood since before Culture Shock. It was just one psychotic break after another. But at least he didn’t dissociate and allow a psychotic vestige of his past come to the forefront and attack every single one of his friends in the company on social media.
Speaking of which, the first guest to greet him was Timo Bolamba!
“Uso!” Timo greeted.
“Hey… uh, can we head over by the coat closet? I have something I want to give you.”
Timo looked at him perplexed.
“Well, I have something for you that I think you’d like…”
They went over near the coat closet and…
The old luchador’s right fist connected with the head referee’s jaw. It wasn’t a knockout blow, like one might find at the end of his Drizzlemaker. Tom wanted to make a point, not knock his friend out. Timo held his jaw with a look of shock that morphed into resigned acceptance.
“I deserved that.”
Tom wasn’t shocked at first, remembering how Timo greeted him before Great American Nightmare. It was a receipt, for sure, and one Timo accepted for his churlish behavior on Jabber as The Dastardly Bastard.
“Anyway,” he continued, “I have something for you.”
He pulled a package wrapped in silver foil from a cooler bag he’d been carrying, marked with a telltale cheesemonger logo that read “OBEY.” The word was written below a caricature of a gangly man, the late Andre the Cheese Man from Le Fromage Gigantesque in Grenoble. Gorgonzola dolce, the old luchador’s favorite bleu cheese. His shoulders slumped.
“What Tom,” Timo asked. “You don’t like it?”
“No, I’m touched. I really am. I wish I could take that punch back…”
Timo knew he had it coming. There was no question in his mind that the antics he pulled while The Dastardly Bastard was in control on his jet were out of line. But this isn’t a Timo Bolamba story. It’s an Anglo Luchador one. Tecnicos do not seek revenge; they seek justice. This is a running theme, sure. But you must understand something about Thomas FX Battaglia, The Anglo Luchador. He is not mentally stable, nor has he ever been. He’s got pure “O,” ADHD, and years of taking chairshots and head-drops have left him with enough CTE to exacerbate those conditions to peak. If he gets it in his head that he’s not meeting up to a standard, there is no tug of war. There is only the mud.
“I told you I had it coming.”
Silence. Awkward silence for a few moments before the luchador spoke up again.
“C’mon, uce. They’re all probably wondering where we went.”
Let’s jump forward a few days in time now.
August 23, a penthouse office at the Hughes Center, Las Vegas, NV
“I’m going to hate myself for saying this, because it truly is a cesspool,” the Queen of the Ring herself, Lindsay Troy said, “but if you want to build your brand, especially for this World Series of Wrestling you signed up for, it’d be best if you got yourself Twitter.”
The Anglo Luchador sat in the luxurious office of the PRIME CEO with its well-appointed bar for when various PRIME wrestlers get into trouble (not just for Jared Sykes duty, mind you; the luchador has been a pain in her side from time to time too), the trophies and titles from an ongoing career among the greatest in wrestling, and a heavy bag with a full body printout of Rezin affixed to it for more primal aggressions.
“I don’t know about that. I barely do well with Jabber, and the last time I was on Twitter, well, uhh, it’s why I’m here.”
“Look,” she lifted her head up from looking at various reports and papers on her desk, “You’re one of our most prolific Jabber users. You’re the straw that keeps that drink stirring, and I think that’d be a good asset to have on the outside. Plus, since Melvin made sure we have to be a part of it, you can help build the PWA brand.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, already having downloaded the app onto his phone. “Follow back?”
“I’ll take that as a maybe.”
“You know, Tom, you’ve been a real headcase lately. Are you sure there isn’t anything you want to talk about? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’re back, but you’ve been acting really erratic lately.”
“You say this as if Jared and Coral don’t test your patience every other week.”
“First off, I expect it from them. Second, I trust Justine to be the adult. Third, I know you. You’re not Jared Sykes or Coral Avalon or GREAT SCOTT or any other wrestler whose job it is to be esoterically weird. I’ve known you for two decades, enough time to know when you’re not right.”
A tense silence displaced the air like a noxious miasma.
“Look, I’m trying to get right, okay?”
The furrow on her brow did not relent. There was no mistrust at the intent; rather it was the ability to get right that she thought her old friend had a loose grip on.
“I believe you. Anyway, I’m glad we had this chat. If there isn’t anything else, I’ve got to run security numbers by Wade and Dam in five.”
“No sweat, thanks for your time, Queen.”
She rolled her eyes as the old luchador left the office and fired off his first tweet.
“Ah, this should be great, maybe I won’t get myself into trouble on here this time around.”
Jace Parker Davidson
(otherwise known henceforth as Bart Harley Jarvis)
August 25, the Yuengling Center, Tampa, FL
“Well, that happened.”
The “that” in question was surprising Jace Parker Davidson after his loss on HOW Chaos. The incident in question was a direct result of The Anglo Luchador getting himself in trouble on Twitter Dot Com, like he expressly said he wouldn’t. It was all Garry Ray-Ray Nelson’s fault anyway for tagging Davidson unprovoked, or maybe it was the fault of the man Tom started calling “Bart Harley Jarvis,” a reference to the cult Netflix comedy smash I Think You Should Leave. He started it, after all. Everything else was a chain reaction, from the volley of @-replies back and forth to the challenge to his longtime agent, Steve Del Vecchia, securing him front row seats at HOW Chaos to make his move. From a certain point of view, everything The Anglo Luchador did between the first tweet and this moment, where he found himself running in full sprint from the HOW security force, the EPU.
The phrase “from a certain point of view” is a loaded one. Just ask a Star Wars fan, especially one who is firmly in the camp of “The Jedi were all duplicitous liars, and I’m glad George Lucas wrote them to flame out spectacularly.” From a certain point of view, Tom was justified. From his own point of view, would a tecnico really fan flames that much to the point where a cold war was no longer justified? Would they have provoked a man after losing a match in his home promotion and then run off after they had gotten the upper hand? He was a successful guerrilla, but was he justified? His mind raced faster than he did between his seat and the Uber he had on standby since he first decided to double up his masks and pull the most ridiculous ruse ever devised in this universe at least.
Adrenaline kept his legs moving in perpetual motion, but by the time he hit the back of his sport-utility ride back to the airport, he felt the weight of them turning to stone. A more burdensome weight started to form on his shoulders, the telltale psychosomatic sign that he was feeling guilty about something. His impulsiveness was always getting the better of him, but he made a career out of spontaneity rather than calculation. Being a “cerebral assassin” was boring anyway, and he always felt a certain revulsion with that set of words, as if another part of him in another part of the multiverse had gross hatred for someone who went by that nickname. Need a hint on what? Just ask Anna Daniels.
As he thought about what he did, he felt less and less sure about the major task at his hand. The Mask of Malice had to be taken from John Kennedy Royko, Jr. Hoyt Williams’ theft had to be undone. But was he honorable enough a man to do it? How many true tecnicos spread themselves as thinly as Tom did anyway? Lindsay was right. His behavior was erratic because he had too many things on his brain. Jabber. The Intense Championship. Larry Tact. Phil Atken and his intern. Hoyt Williams. Balaam. Jace Parker Davidson. The Dastardly Bastard. Taco Bell. ACE Network. The PWA. WarmCold. Class action lawsuits. Roderick McRatrick. The chatter in his brain was ceaseless, but he’d undone so many knots that tying every loose end up became an impossible challenge that had to be completed.
September 4, a soundstage in Philadelphia
“Good work, Tom,” said Steve Del Vecchia, agent to the stars. “Compared to some of my other clients, you’re a dream.”
“Yeah, compare me to that meathead Chick Grillbreast and I’m supposed not to take it like damning with faint praise?”
“Fugheddaboutit,” the agent said in his best old Italian guy voice. “Listen, that promo is gonna get them mooks down in High Octane really salivatin’ over you getting there. You sure you wanna do this at The Best Arena?”
“Positive,” the luchador replied. “When have I ever run from the grind?”
“Good man. Listen, I’m gonna go to Tony Luke’s an’ get a chicken Italiano. You comin’?”
“Nah, I got some business to take care of.”
Steve the agent nodded and left. The old luchador pulled his phone out of his pocket and flicked to one of his oldest continual contacts.
“Here goes nothing.”
It took him a few minutes to get the words of what he wanted to relay to his confidence man of a frenemy, but he settled on, “heard you got some masks other than this Tupi jawn you showed me. What’s the deal?”
He felt the hopelessness ball in the pit of his stomach like a black hole collapsing into spacetime itself, pulling the very fabric of reality in with no prayer for escape.
“All hope has been abandoned like bodies drifting into the ocean…”