The Anglo Luchador
We all like to make jokes about glue in PRIME. It’s chic because it’s the only defense we have against them, it seems. No one can beat them, especially now that they added Hayes Hanlon. Given the personalities involved, it should be a house of cards. Winning assuages a lot of tension, but all of them have bought in for reasons some find incomprehensible. What is it about Cecilworth Farthington that inspires loyalty? It’s not the outward charisma or the empathy. Head’s always in the phone, no cares in the world except his bank account. But there’s something he provides that doesn’t matter what fiber constitutes his being.
The Glueminati provides sanctuary.
“You know, Mike,” Tom said as he wheeled his brother through the foyer of Paoli Hospital, finally discharged after weeks of recuperation from the vicious attack Paxton Ray levied on him. “The offer still stands.”
“What’s that, buh? I dunno if you know, but I been in and out of sleep for the last like two months? I don’t remember a whole lot.”
“Staying at my house.”
Diner patrons in New Jersey could hear Mike’s groan at that answer.
“C’mon, Mike. You know you’ve got a lot of recuperating to do, and living alone is going to provide challenges, both physical and, well, I don’t know how to put this lightly…”
Tom stopped dead in his tracks.
“You don’t gotta sugarcoat it, buh. I know bein’ alone an’ in pain all the time is gonna make the needle ‘n spoon seem real attractive. But I just can’t.”
“It’s psychological, y’know? I nearly died on your front lawn, buh. I don’t wanna spend every fuckin’ day of my life there.”
Tom drooped his head. Mike was right, obviously.
“I ain’t feel safe there, buh,” Mike continued. “I mean, do you feel safe?”
Sanctuary for backstabbers is not noble, obviously. The group is full of them. Sixty percent of the active wrestler members got there by betraying someone, good people. Decent men. But it’s still more than what I have right now. My wife loves me, and my kids haven’t started their teenage rebellion phases yet. I could have everything I want in terms of people I see every day of my life. But that doesn’t equal safety, not the kind of safety that an oversexed drug abuser, an idiot, a single-minded powerbomb golem, a disaffected reptilian neck collector, and Ceece, the most maladjusted of them all if you can believe it, have.
I’m increasingly isolated in this locker room with my enemies emboldened. Pleasant and Ray both invaded my personal space. I have no idea what Dusk’s kid wants outside of some blanket grudge she has against the tecnicos here for not being authentically heroic enough, but she’s amassed an army anyway. My foes know I can’t be everywhere, and my weak points might as well have giant, neon-lit statues pointing at them.
This is what I have lived with every day of my life since the drone footage aired, and it has gotten stronger and stronger with each passing moment.
“I’m guessing Mikey didn’t accept our offer?”
Tom didn’t even remove his PRIME-logo windbreaker before fielding that question from his wife.
“Nah. He said he doesn’t feel safe enough here.”
Tam’s face softened, almost melting in anticipation of the admission she was about to make.
“Truth is, neither do I.”
Tom closed his eyes as he removed his jacket.
“I mean, you got the shit kicked out of you AGAIN at UltraViolence. People keep targeting you. And even if the whole locker room didn’t know where you lived thanks to what the other two losers did to us, you don’t think she’d get our address from her father?”
Anger, hate, frustration, fear, all those tasty negative emotions that color a good wrestler but vex a normal family man, bubbled within Tom at that moment, the same when he stood face to face with The Winds of Change at ReVival 36. Just as he didn’t want to give Sid a reason to powerbomb him through a wall, covering him in propaganda posters featuring a comedically well-endowed Universal Champion, he wasn’t about to lose it on the one person in his life who loved him because she chose to love him, not because she felt familial obligations to do so.
Instead, he hung his jacket up on the hook next to the door, plopped violently on the couch, and put his hand to his head, thumb on his temple and the rest of his fingers clutching the front of his skull.
“What if they hurt the kids? I don’t like to judge a book by its cover, but they shithoused you and look like the kind of people who’d do the same to anyone else no matter who they are, how old, whatever.”
“I don’t know,” he muttered, almost inaudibly.
“What was that…”
“I SAID I DON’T KNOW.”
Tam was taken aback by the tone of his voice. Tom caught himself immediately, his cheeks flushed.
“I, I’m sorry. I just…”
Tam cleared her throat.
“You’re lucky, damn lucky that you’ve built up so much goodwill in the years before you decided to go back to wrestling. Because all of this…”
She waved her hands around in the air to indicate the consequences of all his actions in the last 22 months, as if they hung invisibly in the air but were corporeal no less.
“…is starting to get me to my breaking point. I know you’ve had the shit beaten out of you, and I know you are dealing with a lot at work, but you don’t think I haven’t been? I mean…”
“I get it.”
“Do you. though? Having to deal with work, with Edwards, with the kids? And you’re not around as much? AND you cause so much more with your antics? I get it too. I really do. But all of this is just too much sometimes.”
His expression had not changed since he sat down. Stone-faced. A statue. He spoke up.
“So what now then?”
“Think. Think before you act. For the love of whatever god you are worshiping this week.”
Tom got up from his seat and turned towards the kitchen.
“Let me get a drink then. I’ll think of a way then.”
“Okay. Might as well pour one for me too. We can do this…”
Before she could say “together,” Tom cut her off.
“No. You’re absolutely right. It’s my fault, all of it. I got us into it. I need to get us out of it. You’ve been through enough.”
He shuffled into the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of mezcal but no glass, and trudged upstairs to his office.
Of course a group modeled after adhesive would have such a tightly knit security blanket surrounding them. Glue binds ties better than anything that doesn’t involve atomic bonds. Lord knows no one wants to see Joe Fontaine attempting nuclear fusion. It makes all the sense in the world that the leader is a world-class grappler as well. You Britons and your holds and counterholds, the fluidity of the chain wrestling, how easily the masters can be halfway into wrenching the elbow before their victims know the wrist has been lassoed and sprained. Personally, I love watching it. I am not a fan of being caught in it.
To provide sanctuary for wrestlers, as motley and disparate a crew as they might seem from the outside, the leader should, no, must be able to command their respect with his talents. All the shit the prior generations say about leadership is a lie. Ceece could not care any less than he does now about loyalty. He pays more attention to whatever it is on his phone than he does to what Joe is doing any given moment, which is how you get him buying a chinchilla to represent a lizard. And that’s on the less severe end of the consequences of his inebriated pilot of a brain navigating his meat-mech through life.
They accept the sanctuary he provides because he’s unfuckwithable. How do you go against that? The man doesn’t lose because he knows counters to moves that haven’t been invented yet. It’s been six months. The only person who put his shoulders to the mat was a petulant fuckface who took his ball and went home to his pirate millionaire grandfather when he couldn’t beat Youngblood. Meanwhile, the only reason Ceece hasn’t blazed the same trail to the Uni that the glue-crusted salt of an old fuck still close to him did last year was because he simply hasn’t wanted to. I talked about mountains a lot this year, and if Youngblood is Everest, Farthington is K2. What chance does a guy like me, who can’t fucking buy a win in 2023, have against the Financier?
For starters, I don’t think I have too much left to lose, to be quite honest.
The bottle was virgin when Tom brought it upstairs. It had been an hour, and all that remained in it was a swig or two. He sat splayed, head thrown back, on his office’s loveseat, thinking of solutions to his problem. His home was no longer his castle, and every solution felt detestable. The easiest-sounding one was hiring private security, but both he and Tam hated cops. What did they think the rental versions would do for them? Probably get them entangled in a wrongful-death lawsuit at best. Home security systems didn’t protect against drone surveillance, and Paxton was able to put his brother in the hospital in the time between his broaching the property and the arrival of the police. There’s not much difference between Tam calling the cops and an automated system doing it in that scenario.
The nuclear option was moving.
They’d built a nice life for themselves in Chester County. A big house with a big backyard which Tom himself did enough work to raise the property values by ten percent at least. Where else could Zo practice his shooting while Tam tended to her azaleas and Vinny could be an amateur entomologist. The quick answer was “several places in the suburbs,” but no home on the market could satisfy the same itch for him that his current home would, not without putting the same work in again at a different location, only with an older and more broken body. Besides, the kids had friends here. There were roots.
He lifted his head slowly and looked around the office at all the pictures hanging on the wall, the candid shots with his peers, professional jobs of him in the ring holding belts and trophies, movie posters signed by both El Santo and Blue Demon. There was one picture that caught his attention the most, a faded photograph from 1999 of Tom, not The Anglo Luchador, but Tom Battaglia, in a purple singlet, white headgear and boots, standing with other kids on the parquet floor of his high school’s gymnasium.
The team photograph of the Roman Catholic High School wrestling team for 1998-99, his junior year.
Professionally, that is. I have a shit-ton to lose personally, but that’s the thing about my year so far. The lines between personal and professional have slowly eroded to the point where my family is in danger. There’s no more sanctuary, no more safety. A man’s home is not his castle anymore. Part of that is because I lost everything I could lose in the locker room. I didn’t survive the first show of the year with my Intense Championship. My friends all have their own issues that I wasn’t there for because I had my own. People I thought would be allies either turned out to have things to say when they thought I couldn’t hear them or they bluntly sold their partners out to, well, join the Glue Guys. Funny how the latter did the thing to the former. But I digress.
A huge reason why people think they can fuck with my family is because they feel they can get away with it. Pleasant didn’t ultimately, sure. I kicked his ass in San Diego, but you spy on a man and his family that much and you can walk the next day? In his mind, he won. Yeah, the inverse might have happened in Chicago, although I question how sincere Paxton Ray is with his apology world tour. Whatever. I’m not assuming things anymore. The point is, I played his game and lost, and now he feels emboldened. Rock bottom isn’t just a wrestling move from another universe that Anna Daniels told me about over beers one night.
If people want to talk about how cliche that is, fine, but it’s a cliche for a reason. What better place to shock the world than in a tournament for the next shot at the big lug with the title? Against the virtually unsullied Financier of the Glue Factory? They put us in the main event because we’re both huge names, but I’m not going to lie. Everyone’s expecting this to be another ELO-building notch on Ceece’s belt. And that’s fine. Let them expect what they want.
The best way to undo glue is with solvent, and I just happen to know the best one to counter this particular brand of adhesive. Hint, it’s from Mexico.
Wrestling in high school was a compromise between him and his father. Tom wanted desperately to start wrestling school, but stubborn old dad didn’t want him to go train in the style he wanted. The deal was he had to try out for and make the wrestling team at Roman before he could go train at the school he wanted to, Boricua Academia de Lucha Libre. The elder Lorenzo’s thought was that the more grounded amateur style would blunt his taste for lucha and send him down a different path, either one more like his own professional career or one that might spur him to the same glories that men like Lou Banach, Kevin Jackson, and Kurt Angle achieved in the Olympics.
Tom made the team his junior year, but he wasn’t any Brandon Youngblood. How could he be? High school was the first time he’d even tried the amateur art. Although he’d watched his father’s grappling techniques closely, none of them translated from the garish, flashy pro style in the elevated squared circle to the more traditional sportsman’s trade practiced on the mats. He learned enough to be middling at best. He spent more time in the embrace of his opponents than he did in that of the opposite sex that year.
Additionally, to his father’s chagrin, amateur wrestling only whetted his taste for lucha. Part of Lorenzo’s ignorance towards the national sport of Mexico was thinking it only consisted of the flip, flop, and fly that he barely paid attention to in matches he only half-watched. Tom’s consumption was whole-hog. He knew that the grappling, the fluid, almost rhythmic motions and counters, was the bread-and-butter. He wasn’t good at amateur grappling at first, but by the end of his junior year, he started using some unorthodox methods, ones that had the referees vexed over their legality. Sometimes, he got pins. Other times, the refs docked him points. He applied what he was watching from technical masters like Justicio and El Guapo Grande to what he was doing on the mat, emulating the things he loved. It was a coin-flip he would happily wager on with each meet.
He didn’t go out his senior year for the team, and his father let him train with Pedro Santamaria after school and on weekends. He found a sanctuary within the sacred and ancient art of Aztec wrestling. Reminiscing upon that felt good, warm, a different kind of warm than what the mezcal made him feel. If only he could feel that again, personally or professionally.
Wheels started turning in his head. The kind that some online might call “galaxy brain” in how unorthodox they were, but they made sense. He correlated what made him feel safe to the people who made it possible: Pedro, his father, his coach. Then he realized what other people had in common with them, like his mother, his brother Mike.
They were all in the city.
Hell, Tom had spent more time in Philly in the last two years than he had at home in the suburbs, especially given how much time he and his family spent in their secret apartment on South Street tending to Nora and Melissa.
In short, at that moment, moving no longer felt like a nuclear option.
Yeah, when I toured England in the old days, before they discovered Japanese tapes and tried to be the next gaijin across the ring from the aces of IPN or Bang!, the grapplers would give me some trouble. But the thing about it was the trouble never lasted because if there was anything those prim and proper Britons hated more than seasoning their food, it was dealing with what they viewed as peasant bastardization of their preferred sport. All I had to do was counter them with some dirty grappling, and they were off-balance enough that they had zero answer for the flying stuff. Or the suplexes. Or the Karelin Driver.
I’m not saying Ceece’s a random bloke barely above replacement, and his glue is tough for sure. Even the best solvents aren’t universal. Half of winning is visualizing that you can do it. There are enough people out there who refuse to see any result except for “Farthington over with The Tarp.” If I’m one of them, I might as well only show up to go full LEROY JENKINS into the King locker room and extract as many pounds of flesh from those fuckfaced cowards as I can before they pummel me five-on-one into another trip to the ER. But I see a future – a believable future at that – where I win.
That’s where I start to build myself back up, where I start accumulating things in this locker room that I can lose again. What a world where precarity is an asset, huh? But that’s the whole thing about sanctuary that makes it valuable. It’s full of things that can evaporate in an instant, and you fight, you claw, you cover it all in glue to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s why a guy like Ceece can surround himself with backstabbers and lowlives and mercenaries, because their talents are valuable to him.
I’m not looking to break the Glueminati, at least just yet. After I pin Ceece to the mat on October 20, he’s not going to see his minions scatter to the wind. That’s going to take someone with a grudge and some Roger Rabbit-strength Dip to do. I have a lot of hate in my heart, but not a lot of it is for the Glue guys. I’m just looking to slice off a little credibility. With a win over Ceece, I get to be the first person who isn’t too soft to run with the big boys in blue to pin him. That puts respect on my name. And then I have something to lose again. It’s little, but it’s enough for me to get back on a path to having a place here where I feel I belong.
He rumbled down the stairs, echoing his stampede through the high-ceilinged space in his living room. With an empty bottle in his hand, he charged into his wife’s first-floor office. The ruckus disturbed her own sober meditation. She threw her head back, startled, and exhaled.
“Babe, I got a question for you,” he breathlessly asked his wife. She responded with a curiously furrowed brow and a muted nod.
“How do you feel about moving back into the city?”
Silence. She pondered it for a beat before turning to look her husband dead in the eye. She smiled wide, and her nod grew more vigorous as if it was the best thing her husband suggested in a long, long time.
“Yeah, I think it’s time for a fresh start.”
He looked puzzled, expecting a lot more resistance to the suggestion.
She nodded again.
“Yeah, for real. Besides, the city’s always been home to you, not all this. Maybe it’s the sanctuary we all need.”