The Anglo Luchador
“Dark have been my dreams of late.”
“You know, bruh, you don’t need to be so dramatic,” Mikey said in his thick Northeast Philadelphia drawl.
The Anglo Luchador’s bloodshot eyes cast an even blearier prism through which his brain’s navigation center would have than normal to view the path in front of him for his now routine morning runs through the labyrinthine streets of the Far Northeast with their twin houses, expansive lawns, and store signage with subtitles in the Cyrillic alphabet. The aftermath of Culture Shock left him in good spirits. Work smarter, not harder. The silly front he would put up on camera belied what many people in the wrestling journalism industry had pointed out over years and years of his career, that he was one of the craftiest men to step foot in a ring. Being crafty, however, doesn’t mitigate the bruising and swelling that comes when you finally do get caught.
His chops and strikes landing like feathers on concrete didn’t bother him in the moment because a good fight-or-flight reflex doesn’t leave you enough time for philosophical debates on the integrity of what takes place in a wrestling ring. The way he popped up after the match with Balaam maybe belied how he was feeling. Adrenaline is a hell of a drug; so is divine providence. The old luchador wasn’t even sure what made him pop up. The high he got from the win and the freedom to drink his favorite adult beverages without lectures was enough. It started to dissipate slowly but surely in the aftermath.
Pom Academy, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. April 14, 2022.
“The answer is no.”
The visit had gone well up until the point where the old luchador asked Pom Shinjoku, joshi legend and den mother for one of the few schools in Japan that didn’t reach slimy tentacles around impressionable female talent and force them to do things like gravure, high-pressure idol careers, or ersatz prostitution for high-ranking members of the Japanese Diet or other governing bodies. Forged in the fires of Bloody Japan Grappling Arts as one of the best, if not the best wrestler full-time in that company, Pom was on her way to a legendarium the likes that few wrestlers outside of maybe Kin Hiroshi or Inoue Doi would achieve in Japan or America until a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat found its mark true enough to rob her of sight out of her left eye. Most of the wrestling culture in Japan held her as an anomaly, a flash in the pan. Those in the know respected her above all else for her teaching, her kindness, and her protection.
That’s why when the old luchador asked if she would drop everything and come back to America with her, she had to answer firmly while restraining any annoyance or feelings of patronization that might have poisoned her response.
“It’s just…” his voice trailed off with a bated sigh. Twenty years apart after being the most game-changing duo in BJGA and Pom could still read his mind. She knew what he was going to say. The old luchador in his younger days thrived in his tours in the grimier aspects of the puroresu scene. He only ever lost matches to her. She only ever lost to him. When they teamed together, the only thing keeping the office from giving them a shot at the Tag Team Championships was that his tours never lent him enough time to stay and make a home there. His reputation in BJGA gave him legitimacy that he would never have in his career again outside of spurts here or there.
“I know what you’re going to say, Thomas-san,” she tacked onto the ellipsis that he had left dangling in the air. “Don’t patronize me. I may only have one eye, but I can still skeletonize you faster than a school of piranhas can with a cow.”
“You always know where to stick the blade in,” he replied with the same juxtaposed whimsy in his voice as he heard in hers.
“You just flew all the way out here to treat me like some talisman though,” she replied. “You had to expect that response, right?”
The old luchador shook his head almost mournfully before looking up at the bloodstained trophy sitting behind Pom’s office chair and desk. The Shogun Warfare Tournament Trophy she won in 2001, over him in the finals. Both of their blood smeared and dried on the golden cup.
“I’ve just never been better than when I’ve had you around to push me,” he said with a tinge of melancholy in his voice. “I think I need that now more than ever.”
Pom shot her longtime friend a look a sitcom mom would throw at her ne’er-do-well son learning a lesson. “Did you think me being there would magically make your punches hurt that lummox? I don’t just watch you on PRIME, although you are the reason I did start watching it.” She paused. “You’ll find a way. That’s what you do. You’ve never needed me.”
“No buts,” she said with a giggle. “Since you’re here, you wanna hit up the teppanyaki like we used to after shows? I know this place that serves the best octopus.”
“I’d love to, but I gotta get back,” he said, voice splashed with regret like the fur coat of an aristocrat running afoul of an environmentalist with red paint and an itchy trigger finger. “I just had to try. But I mean, if Shoko doesn’t mind, I can come back for a more leisurely visit.”
“Ha, Shoko was never jealous of you anyway. And we split a long time ago. She and I…”
“I get it. I get it.” He paused. “There are reasons why things don’t work out. I’m sorry, Pom.”
She grinned and looked down at her desk. “It’s alright. Safe trip home, Thomas-san.”
“Cheap mask. Cheap mask.”
The old luchador looked around his surroundings, smoky and hard to see. He recognized Hoyt Williams’ voice though, that raspy, Southern baritone with a twang that would be charming if he were Garth Brooks. Hoyt Williams is no Garth Brooks. The words kept echoing until they manifested into the blood-dripping font popular with old grindhouse movies. The “cheap mask” words coalesced and joined together, moving across the dreamscape in non-Newtonian stride, climbing like beans into the shape of a shadowy hulk.
He reached out his arm, longer than physically possible, like Reed Richards if he were imbued with the alien symbiote instead of Peter Parker. His meaty hand closed in claustrophobically, asphyxiation on its seemingly independently sentient palm. The old luchador reached for the IcyHot and rubbed it on his neck to escape again, but when the fingers clasped around his neck, he could not budge a nanometer. He pulled the jar close to him. It was Gorilla Glue. Gasping, wheezing, hoping for one last breath to keep him lucid and able to fight, he yelped one last time.
“Hey, would you keep it down?”
The old luchador bolted awake. The fresh horror of enclosed breathlessness had given way to an even fresher horror of a transpacific flight. He looked out his window to see a wide sheet of azure way down below. To his left sat a man with greasy, neck-length hair, wire-framed glasses, oily complexion, knockoff beats, a Chromebook, a pungent odor, and a faded, stretched Angelo Deville t-shirt. The old luchador gave a muffled “huh” before getting yet another snarky rejoinder.
“I said keep it down, you ignoramus. I’m trying to watch these matches for my blog project, a critical revisiting of the career of James Varga.”
“You know, James Varga? He was much maligned by the SMARKS, but I’m watching his matches, and people like that moron Tillinghast got him wrong.”
The old luchador shook his head. “Varga, like, you know his rep, right…”
“Um, yes, he was too real for people like the morons in PRIME. You hear they’re back now?”
The old luchador, afforded the luxury of being lucha maskless (but not COVID maskless) on flights, stifled his disgust for a moment. “Oh yeah. Big fan?”
“NO!” the nerd exclaimed, “at least not anymore. Wow, you know what, pop quiz, and you have to answer because you RUDELY interrupted.”
The old luchador sighed.
“Who are your top five PRIME Universal Champions ever?”
“Nova, Tchu, Lindz, Tsonda, and Youngblood,” he answered, expecting wrath from the pimply traveler next to him for that last one. He was only half right.
“WRONG!” he snapped back, “it’s Deville five times. You’re one of those ‘woke’ wrestling fans. You probably thought that dipshit Anglo Luchador guy was right to be happy winning a match by countout.”
While that stung, he couldn’t let on why.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have James Varga BRILLIANCE to get back to.”
“Yeah, whatever dude, take a shower.”
“What did you just say?”
The old luchador smirked. “Nothing. And Deville’s in hell.”
“Jerk,” the nerd said before lifting his sweaty asscheek up and aiming a fart in the old luchador’s direction. The smell permeated through his mask and nearly had him vomiting.
Fighting For Nora Foundation Easter Fundraiser and New Orleans Down Home Dinner, The Diamond Room, Las Vegas, NV. April 16, 2022. Original excerpt from the chronicles of Jonathan Rhine’s and Paxton Ray’s adaptation of Pygmalion.
Stuffing the sandwich in his mouth, Paxton [nodded]. “Bet the Intense Title matches don’t have countouts. Musta felt kinda lame to win that way against the big fuck, huh.”
The old luchador [was] taken slightly aback.
ReVival 6, MGM Garden Grand Arena, Las Vegas, NV. April 22, 2022. Originally aired on the ACE Network.
“You sit on your high horse and talk about ‘moralistic responsibility,’” said Hoyt Williams, “yet where are you on that Timo Ten Count controversy? Where are you on Timo and Anglo having dinner together like the Seinfeld crew at the diner? Where are you on the religious oppression I have faced since returning to PRIME? I’m appalled. I spoke today with PRIME’s archivist, and he agreed with me that Anglo’s win will forever be in the record books with an asterisk.”
He awoke in a dark gray landscape, skulls littering the ground. Around him, jet black plumes, like in a lava lamp. His hands were taped up, dipped in glue and shards of glass, Taipei Deathmatch Style. The lava lamp blobs once again, like before, slowly molded and hardened into the shape of the former John Kennedy Royko.
Like the voice of God, Hoyt’s gravelly redneck snarl rained down from the heavens atop the old luchador in the abyss. “Go ahead, Cheap Mask. Hit him with your best shot. One free one.”
Sweat began to well up behind his mask until it started gushing out of the eye- and mouth-holes. His muscles tensed up as he reached back in bullet time. His glue-glass covered fist arched back as if loaded by a spring and then burst forward in an instantaneous flash, blasting up dust and debris around the middle of Balaam’s chest. As he pulled back his fist, he saw a dent where his target’s sternum was, in the shape of his jagged fist, and just as soon as the impression finished setting, it began elastically to form back into place in the shape of a perfectly formed boundary of pectoral muscles with the tops of his six pack. He stepped back, in abject horror. The monster stalked over him, growing in height by inches with each step forward. All the luchador could do was scream…
Luchador residence, Malvern, PA. April 23, 2022.
“Mooooom, Dad’s having a bad dream again!” Lorenzo called down to his mother, who was, as she was almost by default, on the phone.
“Zo, I can’t right now,” she hollered up the stairs, almost breathless. “I need to finish getting this restraining order against Edwards in place or else I’ll have to continue going into the office and seeing his stupid face and smelling his stupid halitosis breath.”
The old luchador’s elder son turned back to his dad. “You alright, pops? Maybe you should see, like, a sleep psychologist or something?”
“Can a sleep psychologist help with a monster who doesn’t feel pain and yet dishes it out indiscriminately?”
“I really think you’re overselling this shit, dad.”
“First off, you’re not old enough to curse in front of me,” he said in his most Ward Cleaver-inflected voice. “Second, I assure you, I am not.”
“I still think you should go see someone.”
“I’m gonna go run with your uncle tomorrow.”
Back to the Present.
“Besides, what’s that from anyway?” Mikey asked inquisitively with a real sense of curiosity. His post-rehab life doesn’t leave him time for idle consumption of media. “Zelda or Lord of the Rings?”
The old luchador laughed while attempting to keep stride. “The Two Towers, actually. Theoden King says it to Gandalf, but I could understand if it sounds like some shit from the Great Deku Tree.”
“Yeah, man, been awhile since I seen them jawns,” he said, indulging in every single linguistic stereotype of a nasal-voiced Philadelphian white man covered in tattoos and wearing shorts in 45-degree weather. “But these dreams, what they about?”
“You know, the soulless monster controlled by the batshit cult leader trying to kill me…” he trailed off both vocally and in his stride.
“Oh, that guy. Yeah,” his brother replied. “So that why you flew out to Japan?”
“You don’t understand,” the old luchador said between gasps for air. “I can’t hurt this guy. I thought I’d be okay with the smart shit, but fuck! There’s no finality in a countout, especially on a guy like this.” He fell onto one knee, the weight of the words he put on his own shoulders becoming unbearable. “A countout is what you try for in the middle of one of those grueling round robins in Japan. There has been borderline slander going on between us. Hell, I shit in a box and mailed it to Hoyt.”
“So why ain’tchu fightin’ him at the Pee-Pee-Vee then? Why this Nightshade lady?” he asked, prodding his brother. “You ain’t duckin’ him, huh?”
“Heh,” as he rose to his feet again. “She’s feisty, been at my throat on Jabber a lot. But it’s not ducking. I can’t go rushing headlong into another war against John Boy the Annihilator and do the same shit over and over. It’s a neverending feedback loop. Nothing of value gets gained. I have to find a way to put a dent in his armor.”
“So you’re doin’ this shit to level up? I don’t get it. How’s fightin’ her at da big show or callin’ out guys above your paygrade like Randy gonna help you beat Balaam?”
“You’re really hungry for exposition, aren’t you, bro?”
“Nah man, I just wanna understand,” Mikey replied. “How do you think… oh no.”
“What?” the old luchador asked with trepidation in his voice.
“You’re tryna replace Pom.” He laughed to himself. “Holy shit, how ain’t I seen this before? Bruh, this ain’t healthy.”
The old luchador stopped dead in his tracks again. “Mike, I’m living in constant fear of a mutated Christian death cult that invades my brain every time I go to sleep. NOTHING about this is healthy. I gotta try everything.”
The old luchador has probably gone through more PRIME-logo hooded sweatshirts since starting his jogging routine with Mikey. This sweatshirt was ruined. I mean, it smelled like a hockey bag at the end of an arduous season. He took the hoodie off and tossed it in the back of his shitty green Ford Explorer, revealing a shirt that says “Nathan Filmix Recipe Club: Est. 2022” on it. He put on his lucha mask, put his cellphone on the holder on his dashboard, and pressed record.
“Randall Knox, number one contender for the Universal Championship. Some people think I’m out of my gourd for challenging you. Others think this match should probably headline Colossus. Lots of people in between. The things you realize when you take up politics as a mantel is the court of public opinion rarely lines up with what your models suggest, even if you get correlations that look like they form straight lines. But I know you don’t give a shit about perception. I thought I didn’t either, but that’s not exactly borne out, to be quite honest.
“But that doesn’t answer the question why I would lay down the friendly gauntlet to you, one of my closest allies here in PRIME so far. The answer is simple. Iron sharpens iron, Randall. You’re on top of the company right now, and your position bears that out. You lost your shot in the Almasy on an offensive move that you executed, and the next show, you came out and you punched your ticket. You’re a top dog here.
“That’s the thing though. I too want to be a top dog here. To be a top dog, you gotta beat the top dogs, right? If I wanted to go and accrue victories, I’d have sought out one of these podunk feds and beaten up on jabronis who could barely walk and chew gum at the same time. I did not choose to make my comeback at the Scumlord Wrestling Federation. I called Lindsay Troy and chose PRIME. If I didn’t hit Garbage Bag Johnny and Brandon Youngblood in the Almasy, if I didn’t tilt at grotesque, possibly Satanic windmills like John Boy, and if I didn’t go looking for fights with Impulse, then what the hell am I doing here? You get that, right?
“Randall, there’s no hate here. There’s no underlying reason why I should want to crack you upside the head with a steel chair while Jimmy Turnbull’s back is turned. But we can be friends now. I can joke around with Cally on Jabber after. When the bell rings, we’re enemies, even if it’s only out of necessity. It’s ritual warfare, and I’m only trying to keep the sun shining on my ass. That’s hard for me right now, because if you haven’t noticed, I have three hundred fifty pounds of EVERLASTING NIGHT trying to end my life under the direction of a psychotic asshole who thinks he’s Jesus Christ. My life hangs on a tenuous balance. I need this to prop me up on that tightrope so that I can get to the other side, where you sit comfortably. Then maybe, we can run this back if you beat Youngblood, or, Huitzilopochtli forbid, Cancer Jiles at Great American Nightmare. I’m not afraid of repetition, as long as that repetition builds muscle memory. For now though, I’ll have to give you a reminder of why I’m here.”
He pressed the stop button on his cellphone and started the car. He thought to himself whether it was a good idea to spread himself so thinly, but it beat the alternative. Idle hands were the devil’s playthings, and boredom always made him sleepy. At that point in time, there were a trillion things he’d rather do than go back to sleep.