The Anglo Luchador
The Anglo Luchador jolted awake. The West Coast spring night grew dark since he was last awake, riding shotgun in Timo Bolamba’s 1977 jet black Pontiac Trans Am. The seats were not made for snoozing, but the old luchador had no choice in the matter. Sleep for him comes when it comes in moments of quiet reflection. There is no better time for that than the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. The drive on I-15 through the rugged California mountains into the flat and arid Nevada desert will induce sleep on even the crankiest and most colicky of babies. The last thing he remembered before passing out was the kitschy desert faux-retro bullshit architecture of Barstow. The only thing worse than that shithole of a city was what awaited him on the other side of slumber.
“Are you okay, bud?” Bolamba asked without taking his eyes from the dark highway in front of him, his 1970s headlights illuminating enough road in front of him to keep him from running afoul of slow truckers or the odd roadrunner, chased by a mad scientist coyote or otherwise.
“I am now,” the old luchador.
“I hate to be a nag,” PRIME’s senior referee said, “but maybe the sleep psychologist thing isn’t the worst idea. I mean, you’re actively putting off going to bed. What can be so horrific that you’re running yourself ragged?”
“Well, I am in the middle of a campaign,” he replied. “I just fired the people making my campaign materials. I have a lot of legwork to do and…”
“You’re dodging the questions, friend.” Timo took his eyes off the road for one moment to look at his friend. “Tom, why do these dreams haunt you so much?”
“Why does it bug you so much? I mean, I took Impulse to the limit.”
“And you could have beaten him,” Timo replied. “But you were distracted all the way through it. I’m a referee. I’m supposed to be impartial, right?”
“Of course, man,” the old luchador replied. “And that’s why I feel so bad about going overboard with the pilot and getting us in trouble with…”
“Friend,” Timo interrupted, “It wasn’t your fault alone. We were in it together. The ACE Network actually liked us, but we both got carried away. And the actor they got to play Elon Musk was terrible anyway.”
“Yeah, but you hate the guy,” the old luchador chuckled, still groggy from his nightmare nap. “You should want him to be terrible.”
“This is getting off-track,” Timo replied. “You’re spiraling, and it’s not healthy.”
The old luchador slumped in his seat. He mumbled, “Nothing in my life is healthy.”
“And that’s why I care. Friends care about each other,” he replied, catching what the luchador didn’t intend for him to hear. “And I’m your friend, right?”
“Oh yeah,” the old luchador said, raising his eyebrow and squinting his eyes. “That’s always been a tricky proposition with me.”
Timo’s look grew concerned.
“I mean,” the luchador continued, “People don’t tend to stick around me for long times, outside of my wife.”
“If I can speak frankly,” Timo said while clearing his throat, “I have known you not as long as some people that you seem to think you’ve chased away. What I see is a driven wrestler, a witty spirit, and someone who allows his flaws to consume him at times. Not that that’s a bad thing. You could be a sociopath like Jiles.”
The old luchador did the old Alonzo Mourning “that’s not good… okay maybe it’s not bad” shake and nod.
“For what it’s worth,” Timo continued, “these problems you think you have, at least the ones that you see inward of yourself, you can only fix them by reflecting on yourself. Figuring out what’s wrong. At least you can talk to the people who don’t stick around.”
“I’ve lost touch with a lot of them,” he replied.
“I mean, hard problems require hard work,” retorted Timo. “I’m the head referee here in PRIME. I have to deal with an entire rogue’s gallery. But I have the gym with Tembler. And I do these workouts with you and Jared and anyone else who wants them. And you and me had this pilot. They’re all fulfilling in their own ways. The point is, I think I’m in the best spot I can be right now. That took a lot of work.”
“I just feel overwhelmed right now,” the old luchador sighed. “It’s all on me too. I just don’t know how much I have left in me right now.”
“Well, all I can say is, you’d better perk up.” Timo’s face went totally blank. “Phil Atken is on your schedule this week.”
“Fuck. The booking sheet went out already?” Tom rubbed his temples. “Fuck my life.”
“For a guy who called out the number one contender to the Universal Championship without any fear of loss, this is quite the shockingly defeatist attitude.”
“I’m in a weird headspace right now, man,” the old luchador replied. “Like, yeah, under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t beat me down that I lost to a guy like Knox. Or someone like Youngblood way back when.”
The old luchador slinked in his seat a little more before continuing.
“But it’s just been deflating ever since the Youngblood match. Like… the Balaam match was a nice merlot at the time, but now it’s vinegar. And then Knox, just, I didn’t come here to be the guy who gutted it out. Atken is one of these guys that people joke about being dead in a ditch or a glue merchant and not a wrestler, but he’s dangerous, especially where I am right now.”
“And you’re afraid you can’t get your head right before you face him,” Timo took his best stab at predicting the train of thought.
“It would be one thing if it was like, I don’t know, Redding. Or even Jiles or Bathory. But there’s this indignity. Like, I feel like there’s this specter hovering over me, that ‘I’m not supposed to be here,’ and the indignity of it all is being euthanized and then turned into a boutique glue with a trendy name. I didn’t come back to go out like Stan Chera.”
“I think you made that abundantly clear, good brother,” Timo said with a chuckle.
The old luchador cracked a minuscule smile, the first time maybe since after Culture Shock, “But the ghosts keep running after me, and there are so many of them, like, right out of the brain of Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. I feel like I’ve backslid so much.”
“I don’t know if you will get right, even in a couple of weeks,” Timo started on, “but I have this feeling that you can. The first part might be trying to sleep more than a few winks when your body won’t let you stay awake anymore.”
“Hard problems require hard work, huh?”
Timo chuckled as he passed yet another 18-wheeler going 55 in a 70.
The old luchador continued, “If my old teacher heard I was trying hard work by sleeping, he might put me in Ixnextli’s Lament.”
The old luchador yawned and trailed off, “You don’t wanna know…” He nodded off to the sound of the hum of the engine of Timo Bolamba’s favorite car.
When The Anglo Luchador’s eyes opened, he was no longer in Timo’s car. Or on I-15. Or even in the state of Nevada. He was on a canoe floating down a misty river. The scenery was drained of all color. The thick fog ahead of him began to give way, revealing the river’s path through a majestic canyon. ON either side of the pass were statues, like the Argonath in Lord of the Rings. Instead of the great kings of Gondor, one side held a statue of Hoyt Williams in full Catholic clergyman raiment. On the other, the scarred and flogged body of Balaam, casting a pall as if he were the Eye of Sauron itself. The old luchador braced himself for yet another unwinnable battle.
As he passed through the canyon, the river dried up. The canoe morphed into a motorized cart, like the kind you find on a golf course, but with no canopy. He was in the backseat with a shadowy driver in front. Materializing next to him was Pom Shinjoku.
“Selfish,” she said, words as cold as the December winds descending from the great mountain at the center of the Land of the White Heron. “User.”
The old luchador recoiled from the words, not noticing that the cart was on a collision course with the Shogun Warfare Tournament trophy. As the motorized little vehicle put-put-puttered into the brass trophy, the scene around him shattered, everything around him disintegrating into grotesquely simplistic triangles like a 16-bit Star Fox game. The setting around him became blinding, as if under the oppressive gleam of a trillion fluorescent light tubes, energized for illumination instead of detached for maximum bloodshed. Out of the glow, two figures began to form in front of the luchador.
“Why did you abandon us?” in an accent denoting the speaker was from the working-class sections of London. Liquid Snake, not the celebrated twink from Metal Gear Solid, but the A1E wrestler with whom the old luchador shared camaraderie.
“You ditched us.” The thick New York accent revealed the lovable loser brawler with whom the old luchador also palled around with in A1E, Mikey F’n W. Their lamentations made his skin stand up on edge, as if he were undergoing a metamorphosis into a reptilian creature with scales. He remembered En Fuego, the spiraling after he suffered a few tough losses, and ghosting men with whom he tried jump-starting a run to the top of the company with, men who might have his back. When they couldn’t be relied upon for that anymore…
The figures forming out of the bright backlight went supernova. The extreme luminescence burned the old luchador’s eyes for a moment, and when he was able to see again, a host of shadowy figured circled their proverbial wagons around him, towering over him, glowering upon him like they were angry parents, their gazes fixed on a child who wouldn’t stop misbehaving. Their shadowy figures with red eyes began taking form. James Irish. Dan Ryan. Lindsay Troy. Rocko Daymon. The Canadian Hitman. Their eyes burned him, speaking nothing aloud but sending their complaints directly into his mind. He fell to his knees, hands clutching his head. After an interminable number of seconds ticked off the clock, the cacophony in his head quieted down.
He slowly rose to his feet, and in the gray aftermath his persecution circle sublimating around him, one figure stands in front of him.
Phil Atken’s first victim in PRIME stood before him, eyeballs jet black. He raised his hand to point at the old luchador.
“Where were you when I was sent to The Glue Factory?”
The old luchador’s eyes went wide.
“Am I only of note to you when you want me to attend your stupid, shitty press conferences?”
“But I, I, the boombox!”
“That was easy. Where were you when things were hard?”
The Anglo Luchador stood up and approached Dusk, but as soon as he got to where he stood, he started to blow away, dust in the wind. What remained was a jar of glue, The Glue Factory’s artisanal logo on it. The product was called “The Adhesive Luchador.” He picked up the jar and turned it around. “Ingredient list: your sins.”
“Am I one of your sins?”
The old luchador turned around to find Ria Lockhart standing behind him, the yin to Ria Nightshade’s yang. He approached his erstwhile opponent for Great American Nightmare when in a static blink, she disappeared and Nightshade instantly popped behind him, switchblade held at his throat. As soon as she blinked in, she blinked out, Lockhart reappearing in front of him.
“I am not she, Tom. Don’t make the same mis…”
The Anglo Luchador jolted awake by the hard braking on Timo’s Trans Am. It wasn’t anything the Samoan Silencer did. His car was just imbued with such raw horsepower that even tapping the brakes could cause a jolt.
“We’re back at the MGM Grand,” said the senior referee. “I’m glad you were able to sleep. Was it restful?”
“Does a bear shit on a toilet?” groggily replied the old luchador.
“Depends. Are we talking a real bear or GREAT BEAR?”
“Good observation. I am pretty sure if GREAT BEAR has learned to wear Beats by Dre headphones and appreciate EDM, he can shit on a toilet.”
“You were laboring though,” Timo said, concerned for his friend. “But you did stay asleep.”
“You said it,” the old luchador said, stretching as he rose from the Trans Am, “Gotta put in the hard work.”
“What did you see there anyway, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Well,” the old luchador said with another smile forming on his lips, “Dusk cursed me out.”
Timo started laughing hysterically. “That’s how you know it was a dream.”
The scene shifted to the promotional area in the Grand Garden Arena. The Anglo Luchador strode to the staging area wearing jeans, a shirt with “CANCER JILES DRINKS MAYONNAISE” printed in block letters across the chest, and of course, his lucha mask. The camera started rolling.
“The Glue Factory. Interesting conceit. Very ‘2001 DVDVR forums’ of you guys to do the Lord’s work and prune the world of all these old fogeys taking up space on the top and blocking the young, hungry talent. Part of it is projection, methinks. I mean I remember you, Phil, from back in the days of that Craig Miles-run joint that we’re not allowed to mention here. I’m not here to call out hypocrisy though. In a way, we’re all hypocrites to some degree. But where’s your faith? Are you doing this because you’re so concerned that the young guys aren’t getting a fair shake, or is this making up for all the time you were in a ditch?
“Let me tell you, Phil, the future in this company is now. Cici Ryan doesn’t need you. Hayes Hanlon certainly doesn’t need you. Nate Colton doesn’t need you, and in fact, it’s crazy that within a couple of shows of his pro career, he’s got someone who needs him. Paxton Ray has got Jon Rhine, but even if he didn’t, well he’d be better off punching blindly into the night than rolling with you. So, what is your endgame then? If you wanted to help Tapioca Puddings, you wouldn’t go after an inspirational story like Dusk; you’d have picked a more… deserving target. That’s what I’m trying so hard to wrap my head around, and I can’t do it, not now. You know my plight. Everyone in this company does. I have no time to be turned into glue. I have no time to deal with you and your giant mute buddy.
“But the world does not stop because you decided it should until you get your stuff figured out. We were always destined to battle, Phil. I’m on the wrong side of 40. I may have been gone from the industry for a decade, but I have a name, a reputation, and in the eyes of those who couldn’t figure out what the hell context is if they had Ben Stein giving them all the details on loop, a sense of entitlement. That was going to put us at loggerheads sooner rather than later, right? It just so happens that the folks making the matches were proactive about it, or more pointedly, they forced me to be proactive about meeting it head on.
“I’m not shying away from the fact that I’m at my wit’s end here. On top of the mammoth psychopath and his not-so-godly handler stalking me and the stab princess I made a date with at the pay-per-view, I have to make sure an entire campaign goes right so that challenge I made has some stakes behind it. But believe you me, I’ve been known to do some of my best work with my back against the wall. I’m not trying to find out how the glue is made. In fact, maybe I’ll just take some of yours to see if I can glue the pieces of my life that are falling apart right now back together. God closes a door and opens a window, after all.”
“Cut… that was good. Thanks,” said the production assistant in charge of filming these promo gimmicks. “This is a lot better of a setup than the cellphone on the dash in your car, don’t you agree?”
The old luchador smirked and slightly nodded as he pulled his cellphone from his pocket. Flicking through his contacts, he landed upon the one on his mind.
His finger levitated over the text button for a good minute before he winced and put it away. He put his phone back into his pocket and walked off towards the building exit.