THIS IS A FICTIONAL PIECE WHEREBY LARGE PORTIONS ARE FABRICATED FOR NARRATIVE EFFECT. THE CHARACTERS ARE 100% FICTIONAL AND THE EVENTS AND DIALOGUE ARE USED TO CONVEY MY OWN PERSONAL AND INTERNAL EXPERIENCES LEADING UP TO AND FOLLOWING THE END OF MY WRESTLING JOURNEY AS A RESULT OF CIRCUMSTANCES BEYOND MY CONTROL OR ANYONE ELSE’S.
The parts of this piece which are showing the character’s internal narrative conflict, and are meant to be read as side-narrative.
The summer hell-idays. Here I am, a miserable thirteen-years-old, eyes caked with thick, black ‘nobody understands me’ eyeliner and hair dyed the loudest shade of ‘I’m not like other girls’ that I could find.
I gaze, unfocused out of the window as the sun glistens down onto the pavement. The ice-cream van is doing its rounds, playing some insufferable nursery rhyme with the kids on the street chasing after it. I am in the middle of watching the Welcome to the Black Parade music video on Kerrang! This is important because it is my utmost intention to marry the frontman, Gerard Way, any day now, and I wouldn’t want him to think that I didn’t appreciate his work. As I become utterly transfixed, lost in my rendition of the lyrics, my cousin emerges and steals the remote.
Naturally, this ends in a gladiatorial style battle
which I lose. He changes the channel and on the screen before me, I see… a wedding… INSIDE A WRESTLING RING. I roll my eyes.
It is all very lovely, if perhaps a tad unconventional. The bride is wearing a gorgeous, floral, lace, white gown and she and the groom exchange a series of truly heartfelt vows.
But there is a twist. The ceremony comes to an abrupt halt. The arena falls silent. The bride explains to her fiancé and a crowd full of fans that it is not his proposal that she would be honouring tonight, but rather a proposal from The Chairman of the Board to become the company’s new General Manager. She skips gleefully back up the aisle, discarding her bouquet and leaving her fiancé behind as he proceeds to smash to pieces everything in his immediate eyeline.
November 13, 2015
After three years of begging and pleading with two thoroughly unconvinced parents, I am headed to my first live wrestling event. WWE have come to town. First? Neville versus Stardust. Everything falls silent and a wind chime effect is played through the arena, Stardust’s music begins to play and his entrance to the ring is a spectacle in itself. The arena is illuminated with yellow light, he is dressed in a black and yellow costume and his face is coated in yellow body paint with stars painted over his eyes in black paint and with black lips. He raises his hands, cupping them together, a half star painted on each and presents them above his head theatrically. Neville is the more acrobatic of the two, he flips and flies through the air to pick up the win with his signature move, The Red Arrow.
Tag team match next, Fandango and Damien Sandow versus Adam Rose and Heath Slater. The rules state only two men may be in the ring at any given time and thus must tag in their partner should they wish to take over. Fandango bests Slater with a roll-up finish.
Next, King Barrett versus Jack Swagger versus champion Alberto Del Rio for the WWE United States championship in a triple threat match, Barrett in his home country but still playing the heel, Alberto wins and retains his title with an arm bar on Swagger.
Women’s tag match follows, Naomi and Sasha Banks versus Becky Lynch and NXT women’s champion Bayley, the crowd picks up with the hot tag to Becky who wins via arm bar.
Finally, it is time for the main event, a no holds barred match between Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt. With the biggest crowd pop of the night for babyface Reigns, he spears Bray through a chair to pick up the win. VICTORIOUS.
September 15, 2017
The day it all began.
How do you tell your mother, who sat by your bedside with bated breath as you had brain surgery and endless hours of physio to ease the complementary side effect of cerebral palsy that you’re about to become…a wrestler?
“So, guess where I’ve been! Learning how to suicide dive… just like Lita did before she broke her neck” “Mum…I know that you worry about wrestling considering that Nia Jax just broke Becky Lynch’s whole face because she forgot to pull that right hook, but… – “ “Remember that time Mankind fell 20 feet from Hell in a Cell? That’s what I do now!”
Conveniently enough, I attend a university which necessitated a 70-mile relocation from the quaint, safe village where I was raised.
There’s something quite liberating about moving away from home and living under your own roof, particularly when you’re blessed with a left sided hemiplegia as a result of cyst removal surgery on your brain and you’re the resident liability. Redefinition was on the imminent horizon. New city. New people. Nobody to ask, “should you really be doing that?”
No more will I be the delicate one. The careful one. Its time to see what I’m really capable of. Go big or go home.
I stand outside the gym for around five minutes. It is a mundane abundance of grey concrete. An ordinary building which facilitates the most extraordinary of ventures. I spark my final cigarette, a promise that I had made with myself the day I concocted this insane aspiration. I close my eyes for a moment with every inhalation, endeavouring to fathom what lies in wait. With every second that passes, I envisage the hours spent in front of the television with utter adoration for this very sport to which I hold so dearly.
As I walk in a thousand shards cascade through my chest. Unrelenting. With closed eyes I envisage egos that exude through upward turned noses. Of course, in reality this is not the case, but the brain works in unusual ways, doesn’t it? The hum of casual conversation dulled to murmur. I am incongruous. This is not my world. I venture on through to the gym, in a haze of sweat and protein powder and bodies colliding. In his smile though, I find solace. We exchange pleasantries.
“Is there anything we need to know before you start?” he asks.
And so, the journey begins.
I am completely still. Motionless. Stunned by what stands before me. The squared circle. 14X14 of steel beams and wooden planks, layered with foam padding and a cover of canvass. Three ropes extend the perimeter, with small a portion of the mat extending underneath and beyond them. This outer area is called the ring apron, comfortingly referred to as ‘the hardest part of the ring’. The ropes themselves consist of cables coated in rubber and tape, their strength supported and maintained by turnbuckles in all four corners of the ring, which hang from steel ring posts.
“Okay”, says Coach, “do you have any experience with wrestling at all?”
Besides watching it on TV and copying every single move that they quite clearly advertise you should absolutely NOT try at home?
“Right, we’re going to start off with what we call running the ropes.” He begins to demonstrate, moving, slowly at first, from one end of the ring to the opposite end, clinging on to the ropes, using them to catapult himself into a run, turning sharply into the ropes on the other side, and repeat and repeat and repeat to gain momentum. His movement is graceful, elegant, beautiful even.
Next? Naturally, it’s time to go against every basic human instinct you have and proceed to the bumps. “The most important skill you need as a wrestler is learning how to fall properly”, he says. “Just stand up straight, bend your knees, tuck your chin to your chest and then… “ he demonstrates, throwing himself backwards swiftly, hitting the mat with colossal impact. His arms shoot out to the sides and are the first thing to make contact with the mat, breaking his fall flawlessly. Great. Easy. Just like that. I’m way in over my head here. First attempt. Not great. I… fall backwards clumsily, gracelessly, not committing. “That’s okay”, he says, “give it a few more tries.” I stumble to my feet. The second attempt brings no joy. By this point rationality no longer exists and I am overwhelmed solely by frustration. “AGAIN” I growl.
AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN.
“RIGHT.” I turn to face him, red faced, he looks back at me with a pitied expression. “ONE MORE TIME.” He raises his eyebrows and gives a smile. Perhaps it is astonishment at my dedication, perhaps it is complete and utter hopelessness for the untrainable lump in front of him.
And that was the one…
“PERFECT!” He shouts.
I cup my hands over my mouth. My first perfect bump. I should commemorate this on a tea towel and a post card.
Now it’s time for rolls. This reminds me of the times I’d play on the fields as a child, forward rolls, backward rolls, corner-to-corner rolls and so this is something I pick up quite quickly, or so I tell myself.
By the end of the session I have a fundamental grasp of the basics, again, so I tell myself. And I practice and I practice, and I practice. Twice a week, every week. I’m hungry and I am utterly, utterly enamoured with this business. I begin to develop my wrestling persona, Roxy Matthews. She is, in essence, everything that I wish I was. No fear. Hard as nails. And she can damn well give the men a run for their money, thank you very much. I start to become her. Her confidence becomes my confidence. And it is awesome. I go to training, then I come home and watch wrestling until the sun goes down, I listen, I learn, I copy. I live and breathe it.
December 5, 2017
The day that would be etched into my brain deeper than any cranial drill could reach.
I fly down the street, the earth barely conscious, the sky ablaze in sunlight inferno as waves of crimson, coral and blush collide and clash fiercely above me. Fresh with devotion, fresh with enthusiasm and a touch of I’m gonna prove you all wrong. Not spite- victory. Surmounting the odds. Climbing the mountain.
(Or, some other tired, overused metaphor. Who am I kidding? Myself? Perhaps.)
By now, I know the drill. I walk in, greet the lady at reception, we share a smile, I
trip, run up the stairs and greet coach. It is customary in the professional wrestling industry to greet one’s colleagues with a handshake. I extend my hand and he reciprocates. It is a mark of mutual respect. I like that. Especially considering that, at this point in time, I am wholly undeserving of such an accolade from an industry veteran. I don’t deserve to be here. I shouldn’t be here. I literally have cerebral palsy who am I kidding? I had to have physio so that I could walk for fuck sake and now I’m a fucking wrestler? Go the fuck home.
The only way I’m going to get through this is with a chip on my shoulder. I saunter to the ring like the rated ‘R’ superstar, Edge, making his big return as #29 in the 2010 Royal Rumble.
Again, by now, I know the drill. I roll, rather gracelessly, into the ring. I begin to run from rope to rope, colliding into them each time with all the force I can muster
and getting rope burn on my neck because I am five feet tall and the top rope is, rather inconveniently, situated just above my shoulder blades. This does nothing to remedy my overwhelming sense of incongruity.
Coach joins me in the ring. We slowly begin working on into the international. We lock up, I take his wrist, I move to a hammerlock, then a headlock, he gives me a boost into the ropes, I am catapulted forward. By this point the adrenaline takes over and I know that I am in way over my head, I start to move far too quickly and
C R A S H
Everything goes dark and momentarily, reality fades.
Coach is looking down at me but now there are one…two…three…four of him.
The boy with the glasses comes rushing down the stairs.
I wake up in hospital. They tell me I need an M-R-I-know this does not end well for me. The truth is coming out today.
The rest of the day is a blur until I arrive home. I find myself lying in bed, battered and bruised. Physically, I am wide awake although reality feels a million miles away. I am floating. The room is spinning, and everything is dream-like. The boy with the glasses in sat on a desk chair adjacent to my bed, which, occasionally, he gets up from to pace back and forth around the room before sitting back down. He is tense, on edge, and I am frightened. Not of injury, not of what happened, and not of him, but of what he is about to say. When he notices that I am slowly returning back to the present, to the room, to my thoughts, he clears his throat and once again becomes restless and uneasy. When I am somewhat able to make sense of the situation I find myself in, my face becomes hot and turns an alarming crimson. He starts to stutter.
“Hey, h-h-how are you feeling?” He asks, smiling falsely. It is almost pitiful.
I pride myself on maintaining dignity even when finding myself in the most undignified of circumstances.
“Fantastic. Never better.”
Once again, he smiles falsely.
“I, err, I’ve just spoken to coach and, err-“
Everything he says after that does not compute. I make no secret in that I have a strong proclivity for denial. But this is different. It is as if the words are flying past me, refusing to be comprehended.
“I had no choice” he pleads.
“When we were at the hospital and they…they told us about your brain…why didn’t you say anything? You shouldn’t be wrestling when you’ve had-“
He is stunned silent in realization. The penny didn’t just drop, it traversed the equator and crossed down several continents.
I raise my eyebrows.
“You knew you wouldn’t be allowed to train if you’d told us, didn’t you?”
I can tell he wants to be angry with me. He really wants to be angry with me. But he sees the hopelessness, the loss, the grief, the devastation in my eyes and just…can’t. I think I’d prefer it if he were angry. Then I could get angry back. Then I could bury all of the other emotions I am feeling. Bury them deep. But he isn’t. Or at least, he pities me too much to show it. He takes my left hand into his and with his right he strokes my hair, softly, soothingly. This was it. This was one of those moments where you feel your heart turn to glass and slowly crack. And then it splinters, and it shatters, and you whole world comes crashing down. I have never cried like this in my life. It is almost as if my body is trying to mirror what my mind is going through. The pain in my chest is agonising as it tightens with each gasp for air. It soon becomes that painful, unbearable, silent crying. I cannot speak a word. I rest my head on his chest. I am unsure how long this lasts. Time, like everything else becomes a blur.
It is instinct at this point, as it would be for every child, to call their mother. But of course, I can’t. Where would I even start? So, I keep it to myself. The people that already know are the only people who need to know, and the only people who will ever know.
The boy with the glasses stays with me that night. He sleeps on the floor, next to my bed, holding my hand as I sob myself into unconsciousness. I am grateful not to be alone. But it just makes things harder when he leaves in the morning. Because then I am alone. Alone with the realisation that the entire future that I had laid out for myself would now never be fulfilled. Alone with the infinite and relentless what-ifs. Alone with what will soon become just a memory. Just another anecdote.