The Last Wrestling Match
I feel thunder in my veins, yet my bones ache. My skin is the parchment on which I’ve written so many epics; so many matches with so many legends. That part of my brain that says “that’s enough, you have to stop” was something I managed to control a long time ago. My body doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the business. It belongs to the fans. It belongs to the ring.
Things have changed over the years. When it came to the wrestling business, we all lived in this dream-like state where nothing bad would ever happen to it. The business waxed and waned, we told ourselves. Technology and tastes change, but theatre is forever. You can watch a real fight, you can fight on a computer game, but wrestling is forever. The pomp and circumstance, the impact of a slam, top rope feats of derring do- it can’t be replicated.
The basketball court the promoter rented out didn’t let the talent use the changing rooms. I’m changing in the dark corridors, the innards of the beast. I tie my boots on and adjust my mask. Twenty years and I’ve still got the same gimmick. The fans pay to see it, though, and the nostalgia is a rush. When the mask slips over my face, I enter into the wrestling world with full force. I begin to believe in myself, and believe in the me I’ve created.
The promoter shuffles over to me. We haven’t gotten along in the past. When sales went down, my share went down. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, but always get paid. He says that I’ve got five minutes to prepare. And I do.
I begin to stretch: my neck, my shoulders, my triceps. The old familiar neck injury- a botched powerbomb back in ‘28- rears its head again. I ignore it, pass it over. My body is a motor, I think. It makes some weird noises from time to time, but you know she’s still got it. It’s the click of a screw loose or the whirr of a loose bearing, but the whole thing is still holding together.
Focus. Forget the injuries. Triceps, chest, calves and thighs and ankles. I’m ready. My heart is pumping.
“Come on, Tigre!” shouts the promoter, ushering me towards the curtain. My eyes water up- they always do- and I try and hold it back. My heart begins to rise to the occasion, but not with nervousness, but with the feeling of a homecoming. Of a reckoning with destiny. My mind doubles back in its tracks, laughing at my own self-importance. I batter down the hatches. I am Tigre.
I push back the curtain and my senses are overwhelmed by the reception. The crowd’s cheers and boos hit me like a strong gust of wind, the speakers blaring my music (illegally downloaded, of course) from the old speakers, grumbling at the over-emphasised bass. In the ring already is my opponent- an old rival in storyline, an old friend in real life- and we know it’s time.
I pose on the turnbuckle and roll into the ring, and for a moment I feel more alive than I ever have; the injuries were nothing, and I’ve become something far greater than ever before. And then the bell rings, and the familiar dance begins again, and slowly my body begins to complain and whine at the old stresses of the one-sided relationship we have.
There was no need for words. Our bodies moved in synchronisation, the instruments of our art. The only downside of being in the business for me was that any relationship outside the ring didn’t feel the same as a connection you made with your favourite match-up; the absolute trust and investiture in another human being to bring the best out of you, to not hurt you, and to make every ounce of pain and exertion mean something.
I saw it said when I was younger than seeing experienced talent end up going back down to small crowds was a sad sight, but it doesn’t seem that way when you’re in the ring. A crowd is a crowd. It’s always a sea of faces when you’re being thrown onto your back or you’re flying out of the ring. It’s always noise and passion or rapt attention. Their adoration for my heroism echoes in my mind, telling me to keep going, despite the pain.
My rival is on his back, and I ascend to the top of the turnbuckle, the crowd’s expectation and reverence at the oncoming spectacle carrying me like Icarus towards the sun: the high risk to my body, with the perceived high reward about to be reaped. I cast myself from the top turnbuckle with no fear, tucking my legs in towards my chest and then springing them outwards, my full wingspan engulfing my rival as the mat takes us in. I cover his body, and his shoulders are down on the mat, and the referee begins to count.
My rival is as still as a statue. He does not kick out.
The referee holds my arm as my music blares again from the speakers, but the crowd do not cheer. They mutter conspiratorially.
I look back at my rival, and his pale visage greets me, his eyes staring wildly into the crowd.
After years of fighting, our feud has finally ended.