The Anglo Luchador
Larry, the one thing I want you to remember through all of this is that I wanted this match.
Tuesday afternoon, mid-August. Most men Thomas FX Battaglia’s age had jobs that put them at desks or on construction sites. Pro wrestlers are not like most other men. If they’re lucky, they find a gig like PRIME, well-paying, benefit-laden, one night of work every two weeks. If their fortune isn’t as provident, well, let’s just say the term “house show” becomes a reason for too many trips to the doctor’s office. Thus, the man known professionally as The Anglo Luchador did not have to pretend to manipulate Excel or carry a load of bricks. He sat on his microfiber sectional sofa, eyes affixed to a powered-off television, with a bottle of Modelo Negro leaning up against his khaki shorts. The suburban sprawl of Chester County lacked a certain bustle of the city. The only sounds were those emanating from his wife, Tamara. His sons were both out of the house, as young boys ought to be on a hot summer day.
Tamara for years “wore the pants” of the family, to use an anachronistic and sexist term. Tom didn’t mind one bit. For half-a-decade, a tortuous labyrinth of wrestling dates in arenas as far and wide as Korakuen Hall in Tokyo to Peace and Friendship Stadium in Athens took a toll on his body, one that prevented him from doing arduous labor, at least in the immediate aftermath of his injury. His lack of higher education shut him out of office work outside of the odd wrestling promotion that wanted him backstage and had the means and proximity to home to do it. Empire Pro graciously kept him on the payroll, enough time for Tamara to enter the healthcare industry and rise up the ranks to her lofty executive position. Once they closed, he was ready to enjoy retired life.
The viewers of A1E Television and EPW Aggression knew her as Lollipop. Her signature trait was always eating at least three times what her eventual husband would have in front of him in any promotional segment at any one of Guy Fieri’s three Ds. It wasn’t a gimmick. Her metabolism was always off the charts with thyroid scans coming back normal. Her hunger for things to do at work was just as voracious. It wasn’t that she necessarily enjoyed medical billing or other clerical tasks within a high-level R&D company. Maybe it was being around wrestlers for so many years, but her ambition was insatiable. She had to make it to the top. By August 2022, she had become the Executive Vice President for Sales, just about as high as one could ascend without having “Chief” next to their name.
When they were on the road with each other, they were inseparable without being insufferable like that couple. It’s hard to compare in words. They always had more intimacy than, say, Randall Knox and Calico Rose, but there wasn’t naked obsequiousness like you’d see from the Halls, god rest their annoying souls. They’d relish all the time they got to spend in their efficiency above Lorenzo’s Pizza on South Street between shows. Rarely, if ever, would they not see each other for more than a day at a time. The “young love” portion of their relationship lasted for years. It wasn’t until she was hunting a career, chasing a high that her husband got to chase for years in the ring, that they started to morph into what they were today.
To be frank, Tom never begrudged her the opportunity. Their chosen careers were different animals. He was a wrestler, quite a popular and talented one at that. Companies afforded him certain liberties, ones not available to the world of Big Pharma. There were no valets for sales reps and office managers and even executives. Even if there were, someone had to take care of the boys they reared and raised at home.
He took another slug from the bottle, as bitter as it was. There’s no difference in the molecular structure, but the Tuesday afternoon beer tastes far different than the Friday night one, even if it’s the same lot, same batch, same case, same storage conditions. The connotations were different, and through magic or psychosomatic effect on the taste buds, the reason one drinks at a certain time has a direct effect on the flavor. Drinking on a Friday night comes with a sense of relief at worst. At best, it is the embarkation of freedom from a weekly grind, be it in a rat race or a wrestling ring. Drinking on a Tuesday afternoon? You’re one of three things.
The first is on vacation, and as much as one might pretend, Malvern, PA is not Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The second is alcoholism, and the third is alcoholism’s close relative, depression. Many people have argued over whether Tom’s drinking habits constituted the former, but he felt the hammer of the latter in new and exciting ways after he thought he’d be done with what was piercing his brain after making the roughest amends possible with Ria Lockhart at The Nightmare. Rather than take one more sip of his mentally skunked beer, he blurted out the intrusive thought on his mind to his wife, working at her desk in their first-floor office space.
“I’m a bad husband, aren’t I?”
The first time we faced off, I didn’t want any match. Sean Stevens and I went to hell and back inside a steel cage. To the victor go the spoils. He got a schedule befitting a World Champion. I got my carcass thrown to the wolves. In this case, Larry, you were the wolves. You picked my bones clean. We went over that part already, promotionally speaking, the last time we faced off. The second time, I didn’t ask for you. Sometimes, you call down the thunder, and the gods answer. Other times, the gods make their edict, and you live with it.
By the way, don’t let Lindsay Troy know I called her a god. Her ego is gargantuan enough already.
I found my reasons to get in there and smack you around a little bit, sure. But you weren’t first on my list. You were collateral damage. I guess that made us even from our first meeting, huh?
But I went too far.
“I’m sorry,” she yelled from the office, “I don’t have time for that right now. I have to collect evidence in my case against Edwards.”
“Edwards,” he muttered to himself as he tried to crumple the beer in his hand until he realized it was a glass bottle and not a can. “But I’m serious, it’s been on my mind for too long and…”
She got up from her desk and moved into the living room.
“What’s this all about, Tom?” she asked frankly. “Why would I think you’re a bad husband? We’ve been married for what, 15 years now?”
“You don’t think that there’s something missing?” he sighed with the last inflection. “We rarely talk anymore, about the things we used to have deep conversations. It’s all just day-to-day shit around the house, how the kids are doing, dinner, Edwards.”
“Edwards,” she muttered with malice under her breath, crumpling a piece of paper in her hands as she imagined the proxy was his head.
“And I put the blame on that solely on my shoulders,” he continued. “You were the one providing for the family all these years. My wrestling, it didn’t get us into this goddamn lovely house or fund my thousand-dollar-a-year brisket habit. I need to…”
“Marriage is a partnership, Tom,” she interrupted. “The only reason wrestling didn’t put us here was because we were happy living a bohemian life, two young adults, free to move around the world as we wanted. We only needed a place to sleep when we weren’t on the road. Wrestling gave us that, and I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.”
She wiped a tear from her eye.
“But I saw what it did to your body, working all those dates, almost non-stop, and for what? That shitbag Marcus Westcott to push you around when you had an icebag on your knee? Dan Ryan putting you in a cage a week after you won the title against the best wrestler in the fucking world? I wanted better for you.”
“That doesn’t excuse what this marriage has become though,” he said, putting the beer bottle down on the coffee table. “I could have done better.”
“What’s this really about, hun? Someone at PRIME become the new Beast?”
“Oh no, no, Lindsay is pretty much the one running the show, no complaints there for the most part, even if our egos clash a little bit.”
“So what is it then?”
“I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you.”
You may not believe it, but I do have a conscience. I spent years indulging in so many of my basest desires that watching the world with the eyes of a rudo that I realized the opposite of what I did was probably correct. As much as I want try and walk the straight and narrow, there are times when I fall off like Dorothy trying to balance herself on that fence in The Wizard of Oz. Balanced on the biggest wave. Race towards an early grave. You know the reference.
I took a swing at you with a weapon in a match where that kind of stuff was not copacetic. You weren’t expecting it. It wasn’t fair. Yeah, life isn’t fair. You know all about that since in the interim between our mutual tenures in Empire and now in PRIME, you’ve reaped the benefit of that gap in equity, haven’t you? Big Mr. CEO, big boy pants and all. There are some in the political circles in which I run who’ll say no tactic against capital is unfair, but this isn’t Wall Street, is it? As long as you and I are wrestlers, if I’m the guy I say I am… if I’m the guy I need to be, then we should both have an equal footing, shouldn’t we?
That’s why I want this match, Larry. That’s why I called you out at ReV 11. I want you to have the weapon in your hand too. I want you to see where it’s coming from, and I want you to know that I don’t need to gash you while the referee isn’t looking to beat you. It won’t scare you, because you took the bravado you had those years ago and kept it close to your heart like it was a locket with your wife’s picture in it.
But it should.
“Sometimes it scares me when you say things like that,” she continued. “Head trauma is serious, and you telling me about talking beans and dead luchadores. I know you’re a lot of things, but a liar isn’t one of them.”
She took her hands off her hips and sat next to her husband, putting her arm around his slumped shoulders.
“I don’t need to know the details to know something is bothering you,” she continued. “I’m sorry about it. Just, I get caught up in everything, and the kids are both entering that phase where they don’t care about us anymore…”
“See, you’re the one reaching out. Only because I whined at you.” He set the beer down on the coffee table. “There are times I feel like I’m just a big child…”
“I’m saying this only because I love you,” she said curtly, “but shut the fuck up.”
His eyes grew wide.
“For years, you stayed in the background of your own life all so you could support me as I went out and fought my way up the corporate ladder. You kept the house running. If the roles were reversed, what would you think?”
“Well, I probably would’ve piledriven Edwards through a table years ago.”
They both clench their fists at the mere mention of Tam’s work nemesis and grunt “EDWARDS!!!” while looking to the ceiling.
“But seriously, babe,” she continued, “Do you really think you’d be looking at me with the same contempt you look at yourself?”
“I mean, no,” he said, oblivious to her implication.
“So why do you think you’re so rotten? Seriously, the kids notice. I notice. Even the Babbits next door notice, and they’re borderline shut-ins!”
“It’s weird,” he trailed off momentarily, composing himself to try and untangle the complicated feelings inside him to relate to another human. “I jumped back in thinking things would be picking up where they left off, but there I was in the MGM Grand, and you weren’t there, and that’s where the spiral began. Next thing I knew, I was in Vegas for Mother’s Day instead of with you and the kids. We were drifting apart.”
“That was going to happen if you ever went back to wrestling while I was still working. That’s not the question I ever had. The only one I’ve ever thought of asking you was ‘Do you still want me?’”
That’s why I wanted this match, Larry. There are things in life that you need, and people pretend they take precedence over what you want, but isn’t it more important to desire something than to scrape by? That’s the mark of a life well lived anyway. Some people don’t have that luxury. They have to scrape by to survive.
You and I are privileged. We can chase our desires. I know what mine are. I want to show that you can be an elite wrestler in 2022 without taking shortcuts, without conning an impressionable youth from another country to hold the rope away from their opponent, without taking their animal companion’s sweet headphones and smashing them on their opponent’s head. It’s clear. It’s personal.
What is it that you want though, Larry Tact?
“I never stopped wanting you, babe,” he said, eyes watering. “I am just scared to death of how to handle the changes. I haven’t handled them so far, and it eats me.”
“That’s because you’re looking at them from the view of Jerichoholic Anonymous, hun.” She positioned herself on the sectional as to look in his eyes. “You’re not that person anymore. You’re The Anglo Luchador.”
A single tear rolled down his face, but a smile formed on his lips, slight as it turned out to be.
“So we don’t have the fun we used to have on the road with each other,” she continued. “And I think you’re doing a good job growing as a wrestler and as a person from your olden days. Like when you told me you approached Anna Daniels? And it wasn’t to sneak attack her or yell at her for whatever grievance you thought you might have had? That’s real change, hun.”
Do you really want to “end the career” of a guy who was on his way out anyway? Cut the shit, Larry. This performative charade, if you wanted Dusk out of PRIME, all you had to do was leave him alone at ReV 11 and let him say his peace. But you didn’t. Why? What do you want out of it? Are you really on a righteous crusade to shut someone up who you feel is out of touch? Or are you full of shit like our new Universal Champion?
That’s the difference between you and me, Larry, between me and Atken, between me and every other two-bit grifter in this company inventing a grievance. I’m honest about what I want. When I say that I need to prove something to myself by making sure you see the barbed wire 2×4 coming? I mean it. You, conversely, walk the line trying to justify the worst kind of grudge, the one you invent in your own head. You made up a guy and decided Craig fit the mold no matter how hard that square peg you whittled did not fit in the round hole you needed it to.
You want fantasy, Larry. You want magic, dark magic. Life and wrestling don’t work that way.
“Why doesn’t it feel like anything’s changed for the better though?”
“Because,” she answered, “change doesn’t happen magically. I mean, do you know how many times I considered saying ‘fuck it all’ and pushing you back into a job that you weren’t ready to go back to? Being a woman in corporate America is rough. Being a pro wrestler anywhere is rough. Being an adult?”
“Yeah. You have to adjust. I just needed to know you had my back,” she said with a smile. “And I always thought, no, knew that you did. That’s how you get through change.”
“So you have my back?”
“Of course I do, hun,” she said playfully. “Even if it’ll never be like it was back then, as long as we make a new normal, one that has room in our lives for both of us, we’ll be okay. And you’ll get to where you need to get and maybe stay there for more than a couple of weeks, huh?”
Tom giggled and took a sip of his beer. Like magic, it tasted far more refreshing and less acrid on his tongue than it did when he started.
“C’mon,” she said. “Let’s go make some pancakes. I could eat.”
“Are you sure we have enough Bisquick mix in the pantry for your standard three dozen?”
“Hey. Shut up.”
“I’m just teasing anyway,” he said with a laugh. “But don’t you have work?”
“Babe, I’m the executive vice president at a major pharmaceutical corporation.”
“You’re right. You never have work to do.”
She smacked him on the shoulder as they walked into their kitchen to have a midday snack.
Friday, August 26, I defend the Intense Championship for the first time. I don’t intend on losing, Larry Tact. You will have objections to it, I’m sure. They’ll come with bravado and with enthusiasm. But they will come from a void in your soul, a place where you want everything yet not know how to differentiate the things you want no matter how much light you shed on it.
I am wrestling you because I want it. I am going to defeat you because I want to. You have something to say about that? Good. Look inward and find a reason, any reason why you should be able to deny me what I want. Chances are, just like the reason you delayed a man’s retirement, they’ll be harder to find than your friend Cesar.