The Anglo Luchador
Goodness that cannot be shared with the entire world is not goodness at all but decadence. One could forgive a critic if they thought The Anglo Luchador in his home life lived in antithetical fashion to his most deeply held but sparingly shared political beliefs. His wife was a stock windfall or a government “loan” away from leveling up out of the petit bourgeoisie. Perfection is for gods though. If he lived his life close enough to the margins, was generous enough, lived the example of men he’d mostly secretly admired in his life – Lenin, Trotsky, Marx, Engels – he could find a way to balance the richness in his life. It’s why he offered to host a PRIME Friendsgiving. It’s why he made more than enough food to go around so he could welcome in the local homeless communities whose governments forsook them at bare minimum. It’s why he stood in a kitchen fewer than 24 hours after unknown assailants beat him to a bloody pulp.
There were several guests that Tom expected to be there who showed up. Timo Bolamba ate too much manicotti during the prima course. Italian Thanksgiving started with pasta or it wasn’t Italian Thanksgiving. Anna Daniels enjoyed her platter despite having an angry Tower of Babel in her immediate future. The other notable guest was more of a surprise.
Almost as much of a surprise to the old luchador as when he was announced as his tag partner at ReVival 20.
There wasn’t much that would keep Ivan Stanislav in the United States any longer than was necessary. Certainly not when he planned on leaving. It was routine by now. Once The Russian Bear was finished at a ReVival, he left. Why bother waiting any longer backstage? It wasn’t as if anyone wanted to deal with him, nor did he want to deal with anyone else.
Ivan went through the several stages of reconciling the fact he would have to team with The Anglo Luchador the night of ReV 19 and into the next day. First he was angry to team with him, then happy to know three fools would be stuck in a ring with him, and then frustrated at the heavy handedness of Lindsay Troy, and finally he decided he would leave America as soon as possible.
He had stared out the window of his executive bus as it made its way to the airport. How was he supposed to make this work? He had said as much to Alexei, who sat across from him. And yet, it was Ruslan who broke the impasse in Ivan’s mind.
“Did he not say he was holding his silly Friendsgiving tonight?”
The mere thought of such a gathering made the cranky Ivan Stanislav even more grouchy. He nearly spit out the words as he glanced over at Ruslan.
“Turn bus around. We are staying in America a little longer.”
“You two come here to mock the excess, or you just wanna tell me my cooking stinks?”
Alexei and Ivan stood in the doorway of the catering hall well after everyone had left. The old luchador remained as the lone sentinel, washing what little in the way of non-disposable cookware as necessitated. Ivan scanned the aftermath of the feast. His face read like that of a person going to the dentist: extreme displeasure and discomfort. Ruslan was stone-faced as he stared straight at the luchador. If either of them were going to give him the satisfaction of his joke, neither would allow it.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, guys,” the Intense Champion continued, “but if you’re looking for leftovers, you missed the train. Timo’s dropping them off to the local homeless shelter as we speak.”
The duo looked at one another for but a moment and the awkward silence hung in the hall. Despite the distance between the Russian’s and the luchador, tension still cut through the sweet smells of the previous dinner. The Russian Bear did not move as he inhaled through his nostrils and let his heavy voice carry across the room, “We have a match, luchador, against two idiots. I want to make sure there will be no chicanery on your part.” Ruslan nodded coldly next to his comrade.
The luchador took his right hand, stretching his fingers out, and rubbed his temples while looking down, the kind of gesture one makes when they’re at their wit’s end.
“You think I’m thrilled with this pairing? The first time we interacted on Jabber, you threw my hospitality in my face. It’s gotten worse ever since then. But believe you me, Big Bear, I still have ringing in my ears after the beating I got last night.”
He winced as he arched his neck up to meet Stanislav right in his eyes.
“I have one focus in mind, and that’s giving Wingtips all the justice he and his unwilling associate here are owed, since no one in the office believes me that he was behind the attack on me. In my humble opinion, it’s you who shouldn’t be getting in my way.”
As The Anglo Luchador neared Stanislav, Ruslan turned on his heel and walked off to the side. He inclined his head at a hanging, cardboard turkey that dangled from a light fixture and tilted his head to the side. It was the kind of look a confused canine would give to something similar.
For Ivan’s part, he didn’t move, but just stared down at the luchador. He crossed his arms over his chest and shifted his jaw in his mouth, “I have been paired in stranger combinations than this, it is something I can work with. You want to smash Tony Gamble, this is fine. I want to annihilate the bird man. He had audacity to insult me… that is enough for a good thrashing.”
Ivan cleared his throat slowly as he considered the rest of the Intense Champion’s words. He waved his hand slightly from his crossed arm, “I do not wish to get into our first and subsequent meetings. They are immaterial right now. I was on way to airport to leave America and go back home, and thought it prudent to stop by. You take that for what it is worth.”
To the side, Alexei reached up on his toes and poked the cardboard turkey cautiously. It swayed.
Ivan seemed to relax after getting out his piece. He unfurled his arms and took a step backwards and looked over at the tables which were covered and still possessed flecks of food and debris from the feast. He turned his back to the luchador and walked to a table and brushed the crumbs to the floor. He didn’t look at him, “You really did have a feast for your friends. You really did give leftovers to homeless.” He sucked on his teeth.
It wasn’t a question for the luchador. Ivan was talking to himself. As suddenly as the two had appeared, Ivan and Alexei turned with no farewell… and were gone.The luchador stood alone in the hall again, bittersweet feelings welling in his jellies. This was the closest thing to a compliment Ivan had paid him since arriving in PRIME.
“Asylum” is not a synonym for “Lyceum.” Timo never meant for his gym to be a venue for debate. That didn’t stop Tom from accosting his friend with some thoughts.
“The reason why there isn’t a strong left in the Western world is because we care too much.”
“Okay,” replied Timo, scratching his head, wondering why Tom was waxing political in between drilling arm drags with some trainees. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Why not?” he answered Timo’s question with another question breathlessly as he kipped up taking a sloppy arm drag from the scrawniest of the three beanpoles he was training. “Don’t you agree anyway? The right doesn’t care about granularity. They’ll band together and worry about their differences until everyone in their path is dead.”
The largest trainee was up next, already anticipating throwing one on the luchador before he’d even started running the ropes.
“The fuck are you doing? You telegraph it that early next time, I’m going to kick your elbow and make you do another 20 laps.”
The luchador shook his head.
“What does any of this have to do with arm drags, uce?”
It wasn’t the first time Tom’s train of thought would leave Timo confused. Probably wouldn’t be the last either.
“It doesn’t. I just have a lot on my mind, y’know?”
The last trainee squared up, and the luchador charged at him expecting to be arm dragged to the canvas. At the last second, the student pulled back, sending Tom careening chest first into the ropes. He stumbled backwards drunkenly while all three students laughed uproariously.
“You fuckers!” he shouted as he turned around. “Go run 30 laps around the fucking gym.”
Each one of the students with a look as if Tom had just kicked all three of their puppies in short succession marched in procession out of the ring and began jogging along the boundary under the watchful gaze of the mural on the surrounding walls.
“Kids, I give them free lessons, and they think I’m a joke. Why do I feel like more people think I’m a joke now than when I was an honest-to-god fuck-up when I broke in?”
“I don’t know,” replied PRIME’s head official, “But I still want to know where this political discourse is coming from.”
Tom wiped the sweat from his brow.
“Don’t you think the world would be better if leftists weren’t constantly in-fighting over the most granular of details? Like, what if Stalin and Trotsky were on the same page after Lenin’s death?”
Timo rolled his eyes and sighed.
“This isn’t about unity among the left wing, is it?”
The old luchador shot his friend a nasty look.
“Don’t look at me like that. You’re an easy book to read sometimes.”
Tom staggered back and fell into the corner.
“Why’s it gotta be so hard? I know he’s not a good guy, but we have commonality. I’m just… tired. I want someone to recognize…”
“Hold up there, Tom, I’m gonna stop you there. You don’t want someone to recognize you because people already do. I do. Your sons do. Anna Daniels. Youngblood, Nova, Ria, the fans, wrestling media, Rhine.”
Timo hopped up on the apron and stepped into the ring.
“You don’t want someone to recognize you. You want everyone to recognize you, and I might be a splash of cold water in your face, but that’s impossible.”
Tom slumped down a little further. Timo continued.
“Why is Ivan’s validation so important to you anyway?”
“Tell me you’re not starstruck by him.”
“It’s not Ivan’s validation I’m looking for. Or maybe getting his is just practice for the guy whose validation I really want.”
“Oh…” Timo trailed off before collecting himself again. “Well, all I can say is if you can get through to Ivan, maybe you can get through to the other person too.”
Timo hopped out of the ring to go get himself a smoothie. The fog in the Intense Champion’s brain clouded his innervisions. He needed clarity. He texted a number he got from PRIME’s ersatz HR department (no Mike McGee in sight, for the record).
“Ivan, when are you in Vegas again? We need to talk. In person.”
“To think that lunkhead calls himself a communist…” Alexei Ruslan said as he sat on a bench next to the old, worn wrestling ring where Ivan Stanislav trained. Soviet propaganda posters hung from the walls, and the fluorescent lights hummed their tune. Next to Alexei sat the accordion-like turkey he had swiped from the hall where they had met The Anglo Luchador.
His eyes snapped up to the ring where he saw his hulking comrade training with former Russian olympic hopeful Volodin Horodonetziano. How did one train Ivan? Horodonetziano took a 2×4 and swung it, as hard as he could, across the broad back of The Russian Bear. It exploded into kindling along with the other fragments of suicidal lumber which now littered the ring.
“Come now Volodin! You can do better than that!” Ivan barked as a piece of wood flew out of the ring and over Alexei’s head. Ruslan didn’t bat an eye. Stanislav leaned over the ropes, which sagged as be bent forward, and stared at Ruslan, “How is Luchador to know what communism even is? There may be American communists, but are there truly communist Americans?”
Ruslan shrugged his shoulders. He poked the pilfered turkey, “Perhaps if they are Trotskyists.”
The forty-something Volodin climbed out of the ring in search of more lumber. Stanislav paid him no mind as he pushed some of the shattered wood pieces out of the ring with his boot, “You think we can trust him, Alexei Gregorovich?”
“Eh, he is principled in his own confused way. Always trying to make nice. Always trying to be accepted by everyone. It speaks to deep rooted and well documented insecurity.”
Ivan checked his fingernails idly, “He wants justice for sneak attack, and believes Tony Gamble and thugs are responsible.” Ivan mused to himself, “He probably knew he could not handle this situation on his own. Probably begged Troy to tag with me for help.”
“Just like when Comrade Stalin, in his benevolent wisdom, pulled America and her allies from certain doom against that bastard Hitler, eh?”
Historical context always helped frame Ivan’s mind and this caused a lightbulb to go off. World War II still had relevance to him and his thinking, and this was no different. “He would not be strangest person I tagged with.” He held the PCW Tag Titles with Orpheus Grant, a large African American with gold teeth and PAIN tattooed across his stomach, or even Tyler Nelson. Ivan’s expression softened. Or Tempest.
Ruslan stood and brought his hands behind his back. He paced, “Here is my thinking: we pull him out of fire and help him with Gamble…”
Ivan interjected and watched his friend pace from on high, “I annihilated Gamble twenty years ago… this should not be hard…”
Alexei continued, “…and you get to stomp that rude idiot Knightengale as well. I always thought putting him through wall was too nice of you. Then, perhaps having the Luchador as a would-be ally of sorts could pay dividends? If anything, we are closer to someone who we can crush if we need to?”
Even if he was a Trotskyist, ideologically Ivan could not deny that Luchador was probably the closest thing to an ally in PRIME, outside of his countrymen. The donation of food in that hall resonated with him. Maybe there was more to The Luchador than self-affirmation? It brought back a memory of himself and Tempest…
You see, Tempest had discussed donating food to homeless American’s on their first Thanksgiving, but Ivan had reservations. But after…
Ivan had stood up as he remembered the story and failed to hear the “whoosh” that preceded the board as it crashed across the back of his head and burst into splinters. It ripped the memory from Ivan’s psyche and fully annihilated his train of thought. He grit his teeth and turned to see Horodonetziano sheepishly holding what was left of his 2×4. Ivan grinned, “That was a good one Volodin! But not good enough!” He snatched up his training partner.
There was screaming in the ring as Ivan’s raucous laughter rang out. Ruslan shook his head, but a buzzing in his coat pocket drew his attention to his phone..
“Hm? Yes, it is clear to come through. Send it.” A text message, accompanied by a DYAAHAAHAA!! notification sound, came through almost immediately. He lifted an eyebrow as he read the message. In the ring, Volodin was lifted in a military press by Ivan. “Praporshchik!” Alexei called out.
Ivan dropped him nonchalantly, “Eh?”
Ruslan waggled his phone in Ivan’s direction, “Luchador wants to talk.”
Ivan’s face turned grim as he shifted his jaw and he gripped his suspenders.
“Yalta it is.”
The Las Vegas sunset painted the sky above The Asylum in stunning reds and yellows. A city of excess did not befit an austere communist, but even though Timo spared no expense on his gym’s amenities, it was by far the most spartan location Tom could think of that would be agreeable to his unlikely tag team partner. He stood on the stoop at the entryway. The gym wasn’t closed, but it wasn’t exactly open either. The neighborhood was quiet, enough for two men as ideologically opposed as they could be while standing firmly to the left of Mike Gravel’s gravesite to hash out their differences. A nondescript executive bus pulled up. From the driver’s seat emerged Alexei Ruslan. From the passenger’s door, Ivan Stanislav.
“Luchador, this had better be important,” remarked an unimpressed Alexei.
Tom descended from the top of the stairs down to the street to greet the mammoth Russian national.
“Okay, so I know you like to talk, Praporshchik Stanislav, but I think you need to hear me out, because I have a lot to say.”
Alexei opened his mouth, but the Bear placed his paw on his friend’s shoulder and nodded. With a sigh, his shoulders deflated.
“Thanks, Ivan. Anyway, I want to make a pitch, but I need to tell you the story of two men who should have known better, and what two stubborn wrestlers can learn from them.”
Ivan furrowed his brow. The luchador continued.
“Once there was a great man named Vladimir. He toppled a monarchy and brought the most revolutionary teachings into glorious reality. However, his brain failed him three times. After the third stroke, Comrade Vladimir fell into eternal sleep. His top lieutenants couldn’t be any different. One was named Leon. His hair was as crazy as the ideas he pitched. He thought of a world on fire, the chains of capital burning en masse. He spoke of permanent revolution and a strong, independent Comintern.”
Alexei went to speak up, but in the grand paradox of his own existence, the luchador halted his fire to shoot him a glare icier than February in Arkhangelsk.
“The other one was Josef, a true man of steel as his chosen surname suggested. He was pragmatic and ruthless, a calculating perfectionist if you will. Communism couldn’t broach past the icy boundaries of the Soviet Union until the fires inside were quelled. The millions of class traitors who met his bullets or worked in his gulags will attest to that. He believed in socialism in one state before expanding that state.”
“Luchador,” interrupted Alexei, “what are you getting at?”
“Well, these two men let pride get the better of them, and it ended up with Josef’s men putting the broad side of an ice axe in Leon’s head. But what if they hadn’t let ideological differences get in their way? What if Leon had seen the merit in securing a mass as vast and diverse as the Motherland? What if Josef had relented in his paranoia and seen the merits of widespread evangelism even before he filled his gulags?”
“I suspect, Thomas,” Ivan spoke up gruffly, “You speak of Comrades Trotsky and Stalin no longer.”
“No, Praporshchik Stanislav. I am not. I don’t agree with all of your methods. What you did to Nick Stuart, reprehensible. Your blindness towards country has you supporting a right wing madman, not a glorious comrade of Stalin’s stature. But your heart is in the right place. If we are to beat the scoundrels on the other side of the ring, we can’t be caught up in the details. Our hearts beat more in sync than you realize. We can learn from the example of Leon and Josef, not just their triumphs, but their mistakes.”
Tom walked up past Alexei to get right at the massive chest of the Russian Bear, staring up to look him in the eye.
“Let us meet somewhere between our citadels at a place that will allow us to crush Gamble and Knightengale.”
Ivan digested his words and his face was stony. Ruslan, like some rabid attack dog, seemed poised to speak, but waited for all the same. Finally, and perhaps shockingly, Stanislav let out his bark of a laugh.
“Well, it seems you have won us over, if temporarily, Luchador,” Alexei acquiesced. “So now that we have an accord, I think we ought talk strategy?”
“Way ahead of you on that one, although I am not entirely sure how to bring this up since I’m sure neither of you read American comics.”
The Russians shook their heads.
“Okay, thought so. In that case, let’s go inside the gym. I want to tell you about something called ‘The Fastball Special.’”
The three men climbed the steps to The Asylum to prepare to share what goodness they could with the PRIME faithful.