The Anglo Luchador
“Hey… you, guy in the mask. Over here.”
The masked individual didn’t hear the command from the tired production assistant, who had been directing traffic all day behind the scenes at the MGM Grand. Wrestlers are a quirky breed, to say the least. Egos as big as Olympus Mons with brains the size of hydrogen atoms. He was no different, although he’d never admit otherwise on either account. Maybe booksmarts were once his thing, long before the head-drops and the sleepless nights on hotel beds that a wrestler could afford. Expense accounts are for sales at medical instrumentation companies, not dipshits who willingly fall on their backs 200 nights a year if they’re lucky.
Truth be told, it was the years away from the ring that did the biggest number on his brain. CTE is a piece of cake compared to ennui. It started out rehabbing from an injury. Then Tamara got pregnant. Then she got pregnant again a year later. They weren’t even trying that time. Lorenzo and Vincenzo took a lot of time, and Tamara didn’t wanna spend her life known as “Lollipop,” the pigtailed valet who was the innocent, wholesome yang to his sardonic and sometimes vitriolic yin. She got a job in sales and the expense account that came with it. And she traveled the country, selling dental implants and high-end imaging systems until she got sick and tired of the Hampton Inns her bosses could afford and demanded a promotion. She got it, even though she still doesn’t make as much as Edwards down the hall despite the fact she had four months seniority and did at least 20 percent more work than he does. If this were still Empire Pro Wrestling, this is the point where our hero would look into the camera and give a wry look about this trenchant insight. But it’s not.
He became a stay-at-home father, the kind that online Nazis call beta soy cucks between replying to Andy Ngo and autoerotically asphyxiating to Lara Croft’s low-res polygon bosom. He loves his kids, sure, but the challenges of making sure they didn’t give each other shiners or eat too many Goldfish before dinner weren’t the same as climbing to the top rope and throwing both feet at Chip Friendly or eating the extended arm of a charging Sean Stevens. These are names still embedded in his head, though they, like most all of his former peers, have become lost to history, like he was. Better remembered though, that’s for sure. He tried telling himself that it only mattered if his boys remembered him. And they did, every day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner at least.
Ennui leads to dangerous things though. The time passed between diaper changes and feedings at first and that increased as his boys got more and more independent and could actually start doing the chores he gave himself as he idled around the house. No more hours-long sessions at the gym, no more mat training with his brothers or comrades, no more long hours in front of the camera trying to think of the perfect ding on some jabroni who thought he was King Shit because he won the EUWC Very British Championship or whatever belt they thought was better than what EPW offered at the time. It was easier on his body. Knees never stopped creaking, but over time, they were less audible. His back healed up nicely after he tore his latissimus dorsi. Why he couldn’t break his neck or have to have a couple of vertebrae fused like a normal wrestler, he didn’t know. The brain fog from the concussions lessened too. Lorenzo was in 7th grade now, and he could help his son with algebra.
“Hey, dickwad, you’re the 25th of you freaks I had to wrangle to get to your media availability! You’re actually on the big stage! C’mon!”
He finally looked up from his phone, but you couldn’t really blame him. His phone, or at least the app on his phone he was looking at, was the biggest reason why he was back. All that free time that I mentioned above? Yeah, he spent most of it on Twitter. Few people knew who he was here, the benefit of being masked and gimmicked while in the ring. Besides, he wanted a new challenge, not to sail off an old name, but to become a big swinging dick on social media for good takes and trenchant commentary. After 12 years of posting almost non-stop, he accrued a grand total of 267 followers, at least a third of them a rotating cast of porn bots. He followed something like 1,100 people, most of them in the wrestling industry. He tried not to bother old friends on something as impersonal as a bird website with a character limit, but the thing about that was he was equally as shitty at keeping up with them on more personal channels too. All in all, he was forgotten. At first, it felt like a mission accomplished. He could have opinions and not have people bother him. Even if he wanted people to bother him, but for different reasons than they would have if they knew.
But then one day, it happened. Someone remembered him, his past life. They didn’t know it was him though, but he knew.
@VintageRassleGIFs: Check out this classic, the Karelin Driver from none other than Jerichoholic Anonymous! pic.twitter.com/28722389728962387
@TrevorTroll: (replying to @VintageRassleGIFs): Scraping the bottom of the barrel, huh? Didn’t he go out like Stan Chera?
Stan Chera. Stan Chera?!? STAN FUCKING CHERA?!?!! Someone dropped the Trump COVID scare reference on him. The first time he’d seen reference to himself in probably a decade on that site, and it was referring to him going out like a fucking chump.
“Come to bed, honey,” Tamara said from midway down the stairs at 2 AM.
“I can’t sleep. I’m so mad. STAN CHERA.”
“I know, honey. But it’s just a dude on the Internet.”
“Forget it. Goodnight.”
The next day, Tamara found him at the kitchen table with the largest mug in the house filled with coffee.
“I’m over it,” he said to her without prompt. She gave him a side eye.
“You didn’t Irish up that coffee, did you?”
“No, and we don’t use the I-word in this house.”
She figured that the Simpsons reference was probably the biggest sign he was telling the truth, but his moping around the house for the next week signaled to her that he probably forced that one like a Carson Wentz wobbler into triple coverage. The kids noticed too. Lorenzo complained the sandwich his dad packed had mayo on it instead of dijon mustard. He sent Vincenzo to school with an autographed picture of Jorma Taccone instead of his sandwich. Dad was fighting a bout of depressive malaise, one that the boys had never seen and one Tamara hadn’t seen since A1E slapped him with a restraining order when he tried to visit the arena one week.
That Friday, he shuttled into bed later again, but Tamara was not asleep.
“I know what’s bothering you,” she said sternly.
“If you mean my sciatica, you’re right. I need to use the TENS unit more…”
“No, you dingus. You miss it.”
“Miss what? Baseball playoffs? Of course I do, football season doesn’t get good until…”
“Don’t be coy with me, mister. I always knew you missed it, but Stan Chera…”
“Don’t mention that fucking name again. God.”
“But you know what I mean.”
“I thought we discussed it already. You’ve got a career, and it, along with residuals from FWrestling Network and my eBay resell gimmick, can support our family so I can take care of it. I’m doing…”
“…not what you want to do.” She looked at him with eyes only a wife of nearly two decades can look at her husband.
“I got to do what I wanted. Now I have to take care of the kids…”
“Both of whom are in middle school now. I see you around the house, even more so now that COVID has had us working from home. You’re on Twitter more than anything. You have so much free time, and it’s wrecking your shit.”
“A long time ago, I fell in love with a professional wrestler. It was great. I saw the world, I got to be famous, and somehow, I got one of the ones who’s just an introverted weirdo and not an aggro sociopath out of it. I still love the guy you are now, even if he’s the opposite of a pro wrestler, and if you’re not lying out of your teeth when you say you don’t miss it, that’s fine.”
“Let me finish, okay? But because I love you, I’m not about to sit here and see you miserable.”
He looked with a face showing genuine surprise for the first time in what seemed like forever. It didn’t last long. His brow furrowed a bit when he answered, “but the kids…”
“Like I said, they’re both in middle school. I’m working from home now anyway, and I have enough pull where I can extend it as much as I want.”
“What if Edwards…”
“I’ll rip his nuts off.”
He giggled as he turned over and shut his lamp off. As he clutched his pillow, he muttered one last line to his wife. “We could always have another kid.”
She audibly groaned. “If you reverse that vasectomy, I’ll rip your nuts off.”
The next day, he looked down at his phone. Her number was still in the phone. He didn’t make a habit of deleting numbers of people he left on good terms with. Dan Ryan, still there. Nova, he hadn’t called in 10 years, but he had no reason to think the number had switched. Even Seymour Almasy’s number was still in there. He was a sentimental guy, overly so for a pro wrestler. He thought about Seymour a lot when he heard, regretted not going to the funeral too. He was afraid of being called a shitty friend, but yet he still had everyone’s numbers in his phone like he was going to go fishing for bookings at any time now. After a year away, he felt like a coward. After five years away, the inertia kept him from pressing the “call” button or even bringing up anyone’s name for a text.
After five minutes of staring at her name, wagging his finger over the phone receiver-shaped button, he said to himself “fuck it.”
LINDSAY TROY | CALL | TEXT | DELETE
He chose the first option. “Hello? Yeah, it works now, fuck off, haha…. No I’m fine, yeah, kids are both growing up so… oh yeah, Tam’s doing great. She’s EVP now. In charge of the whole Eastern Seaboard and Quebec… hey, listen… there’s a reason for… look I’m sorry I haven’t called, okay? I’m a jackass, but I promise I… no way, PRIME? That’s still around? Reboot… you’re in charge? Fuckin’ A do you need a… oh, OH. Sure, have them call me at…”
He couldn’t believe it. He stared at his phone after he hung up, just the same way he was staring at it at the MGM Grand with the impatient production assistant haranguing him. Well, haranguing was a strong word. He was tuning the poor guy out. He finally looked up.
“Oh, sorry. I was just lost in my own head, y’know? It’s been awhile since…”
The production assistant cut him off, “look, I don’t care, I just need you to get to the podium, okay? You gotta talk to the press, you’re on the big stage, not just one of the YouTube shots.”
“Okay, okay, thanks.”
The limited vision from his lucha mask was jarring. He hadn’t worn it regularly since, oh wow, over a decade. What he could see below was a suit, snazzy, black with gray pinstripes but about three sizes larger than his heyday. Gone was the six-pack of abs. He had a belly, some skin hanging off his arms that you couldn’t see unless he took his jacket and shirt off. That wouldn’t happen until ReVival anyway. He was shorter of breath, and not because of the mask either. Nothing about it felt like the old days. He wasn’t sure if that was okay with him yet. He was really doing it, but was he making the right call? What if they ask hard questions about A1E or about why he took so long or, shit, did he remember to take his Lexapro? Fuck. Who is Alexander Redding anyway? Does he know more about me than I do him? Is he actually doing homework and not winging it? Shit shit SHIT.
The chatter in his mind was too much. He shook his head and hurriedly peeked his head out of the curtain. Suddenly, a wave of calm swept over him like high tide taking a shoddily constructed sandcastle back out to sea. He stepped all the way through and saw all the journalists, fewer than he was used to seeing, but all responsibly socially distanced. The big ones were all there – Meltzer, Sapp, Savinovich. It was the first normal thing he felt in over a decade, and it all came back, like he was riding a bike. He walked up to the podium, tapped each microphone, and finally, it hit him. He didn’t just want to be there. He needed to be there. He looked down at the center microphone, and trained his eyes up.
“You might know me from a different name, a different time. But I have an announcement to make.
“I am The Anglo Luchador, and I am here because I am NOT going out like Stan Chera.”