The Anglo Luchador
“Yo, you draggin’ a cuppa cinder blocks behind ya ass? Catch up!”
The sun barely has cracked behind the row of townhomes on Holme Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. Well, you might call them townhomes. To The Anglo Luchador and his little brother, Mikey, they’re rowhomes. That’s beside the point though. Mikey strode ahead of his older brother in the winter chill that a Northeastern US February morning entails. Wearing a midnight green Eagles hoodie, black mesh basketball shorts, and Jordans with high top socks, the uniform of the Philly white boy, Mikey was at least five rowhomes ahead of his brother, the now quarterfinalist in the Seymour Almasy Memorial Tournament for PRIME’s Universal Championship.
“How you expect to collect that bounty on Youngblood if you can’t even keep up wit’ me?” he sneered faux-mockingly. The years on his face make him look as old as his older brother. The old luchador was the oldest of five kids. Mikey was second-youngest. Years of hard drug use and mental breakdown aged him badly. His older brother was there for him every step of the way. Now it was Mikey’s duty to return the favor.
“Youngblood’s a BEAST, bro.”
The old luchador stopped and bent over, gasping for air like he just surfaced from an unscheduled, nonconsensual dive in the deep waters.
“You don’t think I know that? Ever since I saw his name on the bracket…”
He exhaled the last gasp of the Kirby-sized inhale before he talked.
“I know man,” Mikey interjected. “That’s why we out here. I saw you those first two matches, good technique, but’cha need ya cardio up if you wanna last with Youngblood.”
The old luchador got a dryly wry grin on his face. “What if I don’t wanna last that long?”
“Ey, if you wanna bank all your shit on getting a quick jawn on him, be my guest. But I doubt you’se gonna get him with the flash pin.”
The old luchador’s expression dropped as he started moving his feet again at a glacial pace. He was billed at 211 pounds, but the weight was kayfabe down to the last ounce. He checked in at 230 at his physical to get into PRIME, but the marketing staff agreed that was too hefty for someone with his reputation and history. A lot of things in marketing are kayfabed to hell anyway. Smoke and mirrors. Whatever you can get the fans to believe about a wrestler will fly. Anything they don’t buy they will call you out on. It’s a rough give-and-take cycle, but not nearly as rough as the five-mile jaunt around the cracking sidewalks and the asphalt streets pockmarked with potholes that are the bane of anyone with a car in this weirdo metropolis.
The brothers finally reached the end of their goal run, which was also their route’s beginning, in front of the Thomas Holme Apartments, where Mikey spent his days when he wasn’t contracting or doing side jobs for extra money. Well, Mikey got there a good 10 minutes before big bro finally huffed and wheezed his way, sweat soaking the pits and chest of his PRIME-logo hooded sweatshirt. The old luchador collapsed in partial-comedic exaggeration on the hood of his forest green Ford Explorer.
“Stop it,” his little brother said in his classic nasal Philly drawl, “You ain’t that beat up.”
“Mike, I’ve been out of the game for a good long time. It’s hard to get back into shape.”
“Fuck you,” he said with a laugh. “Garbage Bag Johnny ain’t no fuckin’ scrub, man. You beat him. Alex Redding, maybe that was always a dub, but that was ya first match back. Don’t gimme none ‘a this horseshit that you ain’t got it. How much of it is an act?”
A smirk formed on the old luchador’s lips, and he let out a soft, nasal chuckle. He shook his head and said, “same time next week?”
Through incredulous eyes, Mikey snapped back, “next week? When you goin’ back to Vegas? I want you here tomorrow, buh.”
“Tomorrow? C’mon, I…”
“Tam said she’s workin’ from home all dis week, buh. Getcha ass back here so we can cram it in. You ain’t got no time to be lollygaggin’. Brandon fuckin’ Youngblood.”
“Yeah, I know. I know,” the old luchador said as he shuffled into his car to get back to his suburban home.
The boys were both at school by now, both ensconced in whatever lecture the teachers at Ridley Lake Middle School had prepared for them at 9:30 in the morning. Tamara was on a work call trying to smooth over a price discrepancy in cobalt-chromium stents received and the stainless steel ones they paid for. The Anglo Luchador only ever partook in adult beverages before noon at bachelor parties or in his younger days, when he used to fight hangovers with the hair of the xolo what bit him. However, there were extenuating circumstances after going on a five-miler with his younger and cardiovascularly healthier brother. It would not be a crime to crack open a brewski at the tail end of the breakfast rush.
CRASH, the fridge door wasn’t quiet. FWOOSH, neither was the pop top on the aluminum can. Then, a less natural noise, rumbling and plastic reshaping of linoleum floor. The old luchador looked at the can of beer he grabbed. Modelo Especial.
“Ah fuck, here we go again.”
The floor of his finished kitchen rose up under the melded, fluorescent light of the tubes over his backsplash giving it eerie glow. The figure took shape in human form, with the tiles and grout changing form into a labcoat, black tights with red silhouettes of hypodermic needles, red boots, bronzed skin, and a lizard-scale embossed mask with a felt imprint of a doctor’s head mirror on it. The apparition was none other than legendary ‘70s and ‘80s luchador Dr. Raptor, Jr., who wasted no time before dispensing his own pleasantries.
“Ah, you must be The Anglo Luchador. Nice digs. Stan told me you enjoy the finer things in life.”
“Stan? I thought he said he wasn’t Stan Chera.”
“Oh, well, he’s not, but that’s the form you know him as, and you can’t pronounce his real name unless I kick you in the groin and pour methyl-ethyl ketone on your tongue.”
“Yeah, I know…”
Just then, a feminine voice interrupted their conversation.
“What was that noise in there?” Tamara asked. “You didn’t set up a bowling alley in the kitchen again, did you?”
“No,” her husband answered, “I’m just conversing with the ghost of late, legendary luchador Dr. Raptor, Jr. because I cracked open a Mexican lager.”
“Oh, okay, make sure he cleans up any ectoplasm before he leaves, thanks.”
“That’s not ectoplasm, that’s IcyHot.”
She didn’t answer that one.
The Jurassic predator-slash-general practice physician nodded when he knew the conversation was ready to resume. “So, do you know why I’m here?”
“I assume you’re going to give me insight on how I need to save lucha libre? That is my stated mission from the gods, correct?”
“Correct, muchacho, that is. And this insight has to do with these…”
Dr. Raptor, Jr. pulled up the old luchador’s block-letter “I GAVE SEAN STEVENS RUGBURN” t-shirt and grabbed one of his lovehandles.
“I saw you on your run today,” the Predator Doctor told to The Anglo Luchador. “Your ass, she was dragging, as you gringos say.”
The old luchador’s posture slumped, and he sighed. “So you’re here to fat-shame me, huh.”
The Doctor’s eyes turned stone-gazed. If he were a Gorgon, Brandon Youngblood would be getting a bye into the semifinals right now.
“Even though I did go through seven years of medical school just so I could get into my character, I am not here to peddle the quack sci…”
The Anglo Luchador interrupted. “Wait, wait, wait, you went to medical school? Were you trying to be a doctor?”
“No, senor, I was just trying really to feel my character…”
“Holy shit. How many other luchadores went full Daniel Day-Lewis on their characters?”
“That’s not the point.”
The old luchador gave his best Medusa stare back at the apparition.
“THAT’S NOT THE POINT.”
“Alright, alright, then what is the point.”
“Senor, I have seen you in the ring. Your technique is still stunning after all these years, but I see you in the hotel after the show. Ice baths for longer than the human body should endure. Enough IcyHot to start embarrassing rumor mongering. This is not, as they say, sustainable.”
The old luchador stared back at the ghost in his kitchen, both with a defiant gleam in his eyes and with the urge to rub his back as close to where the injury that retired him from Empire Pro as he could reach.
“Senor Youngblood, he is the prime of PRIME.”
The old luchador winced away in frustration. “I know, I KNOW. Everyone keeps telling me that he’s the pinnacle, building him up in my mind, telling me I’m too fat a load to even be in the same vicinity as him.”
Dr. Raptor chuckled and shook his head. “No, mi amigo, no one has told you you’re too fat a load. Have you forgotten already your roots? Have you been poisoned so much by this American version of pro wrestling that you think it’s your weight or body shape that puts you behind?”
The old luchador shot a pensive look back at the ghost.
“I mean, this same company you work for. Have you seen ‘Beautiful’ Bobby Dean?”
“Yeah, you have a point. Although I think I’ve only ever gotten a good look at him while he was riding shotgun on a forklift. Somehow, there was a chocolate fountain?”
“I know it’s unbelievable, but he’s quite successful here. Now remember there are three Bobby Deans in Mexico to every Dan Ryan. And even more old men, older than you, who look like they’re more ready for mai tais in Boca Raton than risking their hair at Arena Mexico. I don’t grab your flab because I don’t like it. I grab it because it represents something.”
“Laziness! You called Lindsay Troy over a gif on Twitter. But what did you do to prepare?”
The expression on his face told the entire story.
“You cannot save lucha libre in the States if you run out of gas midmatch. You can’t counter a submission if your muscles are weak. Anyone can get in shape unless they have a glandular condition or some kind of muscular dystrophy. I saw it a lot in my residency at Hospital General de Ciudad Mexico.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, this is fucking me up. Did you wear the dinosaur mask while you were making rounds? Did you take paleobiology courses too?”
“You’re not seeing the forest, only the trees. Focus!”
“Alright, alright. So I gotta get my wind? In two weeks?”
Dinosaur, MD shook his head. “It’s not results. It’s process. Hermano, you can’t see results right away, but you can build habits. It’s all about finding the will. Do you have the will?”
The old luchador started to nod haphazardly, much to the visible chagrin of Dr. Raptor, Jr.
“Don’t patronize me, muchacho. You cannot tell me now if you have the will. It is something you must prove to yourself. The fate of lucha libre in this country cannot rest on a man’s shoulders who cannot carry it.”
“I’m starting to think the gods of lucha libre are dicks.”
“Oh, they are. Just because my masters lack decorum doesn’t mean they aren’t correct though. What if I were to show you two visions, one each of a possible future?”
“I’d say you’d be covered under the Fair Use Act of 1976.”
Dr. Raptor rolled his eyes and opened up a wormhole showing a man in a lucha mask not unlike the one that The Anglo Luchador wears when at the arena. The man was seated on the floor at the foot of a bed, knees bent, arms wrapped around them. At his feet, an empty box with the words “Bobby Dean’s Bundt Cake, DO NOT TOUCH” written on them in sharpie, crumbs trailing, several empty bottles of well-caliber tequila, and divorce papers. Laying on the bed was a copy of the Wrestling Observer newsletter with the headline “The Anglo Luchador Is a Jobber Now, Also, He Eats IcyHot.”
The current, in-the-present Anglo Luchador looked upon this vision and shirked back with a visceral, violent convulsion of his casually dressed body. “Spirit, no. Show me no more of this vision!”
“Okay, muchacho, I figured it’d only take a glimpse to make it stick.”
“You’ve never read A Christmas Carol, have you?”
“How could I? I was too busy bouncing between wrestling in a dinosaur mask and doing rounds at the hospital, also in a dinosaur mask.”
“Fair play, but still…”
“This was the vision of you after the mission broke you. You refused to get better, and the shame spiral destroyed your life, all because you didn’t take one thing seriously. Also, I’m pretty sure in a few minutes, you’re going to have a myocardial infarction.”
“You said it was enough BEFORE that tidbit?”
“Sorry, I had to rub it in. Anyway, here’s the next vision…”
The next vision showed The Anglo Luchador, running stride for stride with his brother Mikey. He was wearing a championship belt that read “Campeonato de Mundial de Autoridad de Lucha Libre de Baja California” and a silk sash with the words “Most Five Star Matches According To Dave Meltzer in the WON in 2022 and 2023.” The old luchador did not look much different than he did outside the vision.
“Wow, I do not look different at all.”
“That’s the point, mi amigo. You don’t have to go all Hernando Baranquilla…”
“Oh, he’s the Jenny Craig of Mexico. But what I’m saying is you just need to be able to hang with the perros grandes of PRIME, guys like Youngblood, Nova, Anna Daniels, the big hitters. You hang around enough…”
“…and I’ll find an opening to use their own momentum against them.”
“Correcto, muchacho. And now, this is where I must take my leave.”
“So soon? I thought maybe you could meet my wife, prove that I’m not batshit fucking insane?”
“Mi amigo, meeting me will not prove to anyone you’re not loco. You have to have a screw loose to be a pro wrestler. Adios.”
With that, the spirit collapsed back into the floor like a high-rise building imploding back to the good earth. The Anglo Luchador’s kitchen looked all the same as it had before he stopped in to get himself a liquid replenishment. Just then, his wife’s voice rang from the other room.
“Hon, the boys have a half-day today. Are you done talking to that ghost?”
“Good, can you pick them up from school? I promised them Wendy’s for lunch, and I’m on the phone with a rude jerk from a hospital in Boston who thinks the EKG meter we sold them doesn’t work.”
The Anglo Luchador backed his shitty Ford Explorer into a parking spot at the McDade Boulevard Planet Fitness and emerged in sweatpants and a different shirt, a “Super Bowl XXXIV Champion Tennessee Titans” one that he commandeered from a shipment headed for Costa Rica. He stepped in, scanned his little keycard, and stood in front of the full body mirror. Inhaling deep the sweaty, stanky air of the gym, he muttered to himself “Gotta get my wind back. How do I do it?”
Just then, a lightbulb went off over his head. It was the Lunk Alarm; some juicehead had just thrown down the barbells after completing his set. The idea came to him at that moment of pure coincidence.
“I need to do a training montage.”
Inexplicably, synth-heavy, up-tempo music started blaring in the background, as if only the old luchador and any other omniscient observer gazing upon him at this very moment could hear him. The scene jump cut first to him doing biceps curls, then again to him on the shoulder press, then again to the hip adductor and then to the hip abductor. Finally, the screen jumping stopped with an instantaneous cut to him on the rowing machine, doing a single rep. He wiped the sweat from his brow, looking satisfied at the work he had done. Suddenly, he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was the shift manager.
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to do more than one rep at each machine that you go to.”
“Why? I was in a training montage. You’re not supposed to linger on one single task.”
“Look man, I don’t know what hell you’re talking about. Just, if you come to my gym, don’t be an asshole, okay?”
The old luchador got to his feet, wiped down the rowing machine, and then a forlorn look swept over his face like the black of night over the landscape on a time-lapse video. The realization invaded his head, kicking down the door and pointing at his inner monologue like it was Elian Gonzalez.
“I guess I’m getting up at the asscrack of dawn again.”
The dulcet tones of DVDA “Now You’re A Man” blared from the old luchador’s cell phone, which he’d been accustomed to using as an alarm clock in addition to a gateway to social media, an argument solver, a calculator, a caffeination middleman, and, least importantly, a telephone. The time on it read 3:30 AM. Tamara jolted awake too, if only for a second before she went back to sleep muttering something about castrating a guy named Edwards. He left his bedroom, scrolled his contacts, and then pressed “call.”
“Hey, Mikey… yeah, can you hold off on your run for just about 15 minutes… yeah, I’ll be there in 45.”
The scene was similar to what it was the day before. Mikey was again trotting towards the main walkway into his apartment building, sweat lightly dampening his lovingly worn Philadelphia Eagles hoodie. Similarly, his older brother was lagging behind. Sweat still soaked through his PRIME logo hoodie. However, something changed. He didn’t run slouched over. He lagged only five minutes behind his lil’ bro at most. He had a spring in his step, even if he was still no more worse for wear than he was the day before. Mikey turned around to greet his brother.
“I’m proud-a you, buh.”
“Why? I’m still slow as hell, and I’m wetter than Gianna Michaels on the Bang Bus.”
“You fuckin’ slob.”
Mikey laughed as he playfully shoved his big bro on the shoulder.
“I’m proud-a you cuz you came back out and you didn’t treat this like a chore.”
“Yeah, well, I got a wakeup call.”
“Yeah buh, that’s what’s up. Though I dunno if you’re gonna be in shape to take Youngblood.”
“Look man…” his voice trailed off. Mikey looked taken aback.
“I’m sorry I…”
“Nah, Mike, it’s not your fault. It’s just, we all put Youngblood on this pedestal, and he’s deserved it, right? I mean, I’m the guy who got pantsed in a match, and he did my old finisher better than I ever did it. But, like… maybe he’s human, just like me, right? You listened to the podcast…”
“Yeah, he was real brave.”
“Yeah, but that’s the point. He has to be brave sometimes. He can bleed. And it’s noble and honorable but it also shows he’s not the Leviathan. I may not be where I need to be yet, but I only need three seconds. Any human being is vulnerable for three seconds at any given time.”
“Yeah, you ain’t wrong. I know you can do it. Bring that jawn home.”
The old luchador laughed and nodded. “Same time tomorrow?”
“Yeah buh. Same time tomorrow. Let’s fuckin’ go, aight?”
The brothers embraced, and Mikey turned to go into his building to get ready for his day job. His big brother lingered for a moment before getting into his shitty Ford Explorer to head home.