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Which means “It’s all a big joke”
Eyes open. I felt like I’d been hit by a train. When I groggily sat back up staring at my hands, I can’t help but wonder what had gone wrong. I reached under my tight fitting Mexican-style mask to find what could conservatively be described as the Grand goddamn Canyon in the back of my skull. My hand came back into my view bloody. No surprise. Of course getting my skull cracked open with a piece of wood wasn’t exactly my best laid plan for the evening, it wasn’t unexpected either. It was what the people wanted, and it was freakin’ compelling. What wasn’t part of the plan was me getting knocked out cold, but my opponent wasn’t exactly a master of hand-eye coordination. My vision started to come back into focus and I could see him standing in the ring, arguing with the referee about the match. You see in professional wrestling there’s pretty much three kinds of guys. There’s the guys who don’t hurt you, but everything they do looks unconvincing. Then, there are the guys who know how to make it look a lot more painful than it really is. The last group is the guys who would be in the first group but they decide they’d rather just actually hurt you than take the risk. Guess which one this guy fell into. Lucky for me, he rescued the match by drawing the fans’ attention away from the fact that I was legitimately knocked out. He saw me stirring and climbed out of the ring, putting me in a headlock, close to him so only I could hear his voice, his strong Irish accent made me wonder if he’d ever been out of Ireland outside of performing at our shows. “Y’allright there then, Quinn? Took a nasty friggin spill, man.” “Yeah yeah, Roddy, I’m alright. I think we need to wrap it up though.” “Fuckin’ right, I need a smoke. And you need a damn doctor.” I grunted in response, and he knew what to do. Say what you will about Roderick Brookes, my opponent for the evening. He might be an uncoordinated gorilla but he is a professional gorilla, and probably one of the biggest names in wrestling as well. A win over him would skyrocket my career, but this is wrestling, not NASA. We don’t do rockets. I broke his hold but he made me pay with an uppercut that made my jaw crunch and my ears ring. That last hit clouded my mind and put me on autopilot. I didn’t feel like I was the one who got rolled into the ring and stood up as Roddy followed half a step behind me. It wasn’t me who got lifted up onto his shoulders before being driven headfirst into his knee, for his patented finisher. And I know I wasn’t the guy who got carried backstage on a stretcher as the crowd screamed in fury, because I was watching it all happen from somewhere else.
I heard the EMTs shouting in German all around me. I don’t speak German. Panicking EMTs were shouting as they loaded me into the ambulance. Your ability to wrestle was determined by your ability not to panic or black out. I blacked out.
I woke up staring into blackness. Did that last blow to the head leave me blind? I heard a mechanical whirring and clicking and saw light slowly growing from the bottom of my vision as they slid me out of the MRI Machine. The nurse spoke English but the Doctor did not, leaving me to get my information second hand. Apparently, I was suffered a Grade III concussion, which is like getting ‘A’ on your “head cracked open” report card. Apparently, according to the Doctor Adolf Whats-his-face-enstein, I was lucky there was an ambulance on hand because if I’d gone on wrestling undiagnosed I was likely I would be dead in a week. There was no risk of that with “real” sports, he added. When he saw my face flush with anger after the nurse translated his words, he was surprised, like I’d just began defending the existence of Santa Clause. “Es ist alles ein grosser witz ist es nicht?” The nurse translated, “It’s all a big joke, isn’t it?” I rose from the cold metal backing of the MRI machine and walked out of the room. I wasn’t supposed to leave the hospital for a week, but I didn’t care anymore. I had a promo to consider no time to have my suffering belittled by Dr. Quackenstein. Actually I think his real name was Metzger. German for butcher. So it’s just as bad, really. It was a long drive back to my Hotel room, made longer by intermittent periods of stopping to throw up. Concussions will do that to you. Maybe I should’ve stayed in the hospital. But I had a debut promo to write for my first televised appearance. A promo is a televised segment where a wrestler or manager gets a microphone, either in the ring or backstage, and basically has to make himself look good, his opponent look bad, or the move along whatever story he was taking part in. More often than not a wrestler is judged largely on what he can bring to his character through these segments. I was bent over, staring into the bile stained snow next to my rented subcompact when I first truly began to think about what my first appearance on television was going to be like. I thought of all the things I would say to sell my character to the fans as someone they really could hate. In the real world I was Quinn DeLarge, independent wrestling “star” and to my parents, English major and college dropout. But to the mainstream wrestling world I was going to make my debut as Alex Quinn, evil zealot and god-of-his-own-religion. He believed that the only way for humanity to be saved was for him to personally beat and torture every human on earth. Kind of a reverse Jesus thing.
Of course envisioning the words you’re going to say and actually making them sound consistent with the image you’re trying to create aren’t the same thing. Anyone can write a good segment, but having the intangible qualities to make your character believable are what make the difference between failure and success. I only had four days to recover before it was time to film the promo that would introduce me to the world. I could only hope I wasn’t going to screw it up, because screw-ups have one fate. Losing. All the time. It’s a fate worse than death for a wrestler. It’s called “jobbing”. If you’re a jobber, you’re the guy who the big names beat in a few seconds to look strong. Nobody wants to be that guy. A few days later, I’d find out if this was going to be my fate.
---The camera fades in to view the man who the fans will soon come to know as Alex Quinn. He sits, brooding, against in the corner against two walls of large cold stones that look old enough to have known a thousand years of degradation. He looks up at the camera after a moment of staring at the floor and addresses it. “Filth and degradation fill this evil world and corrupt all but the purest of hearts. And in a place like this, evil can taint even those who swear to uphold what is just and right in the world.”
I watched my video begin on the TV, realizing millions of people could be watching my speech at that very moment. I hoped I wasn’t too high-brow for the typical fan, but at the same time I was confident that I’d have the smart fans’ attention. Smart fans or “smarks” were your typical 18-24’s that watch wrestling, don’t care if it’s “fake” and recognize good writing and storylines. They were my favorite kind of fans, even if they could be brutally critical of anything put in front of them. It’s the “marks” that are the problem with the wrestling industry. It’s marks that put no-talent freaks of nature with no charisma in top positions because they love their T-shirts. Marks are killing wrestling slowly. “This is where men are punished for their sins but as I can tell you better than any man ever could that the crimes that men commit are deserving of more than earthly punishment. Men who are driven by their lust and greed, or desperation. Men who know nothing more than animal instinct and a desire to hurt others. Mortal punishment will not satisfy them. Mortal punishment cannot sate their twisted souls' disgusting desires. But you certainly must be asking yourself, how can I truly understand the darkness that lies in the hearts of men. It is quite simple.” Quinn stands, maintaining his calm facade, as he we zoom out to reveal the grey bricks are actually the walls of a prison, and Quinn is in a small, cold, cell with only a cot and a toilet.
It was surreal watching the video. I barely remembered it, since we were forced to film it before I was able to recover from my concussion. Watching it over again, I realized I’d been too wordy, though I guess it fit my character. Still, as I sat in the locker room watching my video on the small television, I couldn’t help but smile. I made it to the national spotlight with a character of my own creation. I wasn’t handed off a stupid gimmick character like so many “indy stars” before me. I wasn’t going to be Bob The Builder or Grognak the Barbarian. I was going to be my own character. In mainstream wrestling, this is pretty rare. “Attica, New York. Home of what is arguably the most well known correctional facility in the United States. The Attica Correctional facility, besides being cited by every self righteous self-serving political protestor for their own ends, it was quite simply hell on earth. Many of the most evil and tainted souls were meant to receive their just punishments. But instead society chose to lock these men up, feeding and clothing them, freeing them of all responsibility for their actions in the outside world. I suppose it is only logical that when Man attempts to create hell on earth, he would fail and instead create a safe haven for the most evil souls this planet has to offer.” I really liked this line, and my delivery of it emphasized my character’s belief in capital punishment for just about any crime. He detested the prison system and the explanation for why would add a dimension to the character that I though wasn’t really seen much in wrestling. “It was my own flesh and blood that protected this place. The woman whose body carried me for nine months was the guardian of this facility. And it was here that she was violated by the very corruption that she was sworn to protect the world from. “ My actual mother, a retired English teacher, probably wasn’t going to appreciate that bit. She definitely was NOT a prison guard or a rape victim. “Even while being "punished", the evil that resides in this facility taints even those who are sworn to protect it. And that is all the proof I need that mortal punishment is this world's greatest failure.” This was the sum of my character, I felt like every promo had to have one defining line or idea for the character. This was it. I felt pride welling up inside me as I felt like I hit all the right notes. “And when you are unable to punish the wicked with mortal weapons, it's time you find some immortal ones. A righteous infliction of retribution, manifested by an appropriate agent. I am that agent. I have been chosen by a higher power to bring immortal punishment to the wicked. I will purify the worthy and I will destroy the wicked. So I am coming to Pro Wrestling Warriors, a place rife with sin, selfishness, and evil. And I will inflict the most painful of punishments upon the souls of those who would corrupt the good and bring them to their knees. And then they can change their ways and hope for my mercy. Or I will end them. Stephen Blacksmith, you
are the first. Purity or Oblivion. Mercy or Murder. Live or Die. Make your choice.”
About three of those lines were blatantly ripped off from movies. I hadn’t done it intentionally, but that could cause me some trouble later. Otherwise, I guess I pulled it off a good religious zealot, because I heard a familiar voice from the next locker room. “Holy shit, Dean did ya hear this guy on the mic?” Roderick came over from the other locker room with his good friend and frequent opponent Dean Anderson not far behind. Roderick Brookes, whose errant swinging put me in the hospital, was a somewhat tall, pale, Irish redhead, kinda doughy and not at all in good shape. But behind the flab was some serious power and deceptive stamina considering how much he smoked. His fat and smoking habit should’ve made the things he does in the ring impossible, but he’d put on some of the best matches the fans had ever seen. Quite a few were with Dean. Dean, much better known by his ring name Darius Falcon, was the physically the opposite of Roderick in many ways. He was somewhat shorter and in excellent shape with a solid head of shoulder length jet black hair. Dean had been in the wrestling business much longer than Roderick had, but they had so much chemistry in the ring you’d think they’d both had decades of experience. The two seemed to ooze pure hatred for each other in the ring ever since they first met in what was Roderick’s debut. In real life, they were good friends as well as driving forces in getting new guys like myself into the spotlight. They both wore huge grins as they congratulated me on “making it” and putting on what they considered to be an excellent segment. Of course the actual words Roderick used were mostly “Fuckin’ great” “Badass” and a lot of other hyperbole, but Dean was more subdued. He coached me on my interview skills through a lot of my early independent wrestling career and seemed satisfied with the results. He shook my hand and nodded, which felt to me like even greater praise than Roderick’s rave review. I sat and laced up my boots. My match was up next and concussion or not, I wasn’t going to disappoint my friends. ---
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