This is what no one is supposed to see: behind the curtains, the Wrestling Heavyweight Champion has a worried expression. He’s terrified of people seeing him worried.
The Backstage is supposed to be the wrestlers’ sanctuary away from their bloodthirsty fans. Cameras, theoretically, (previously) are only to be placed at the arena. But wrestling now has become such a tawdry primetime soap opera. To glean as much drama as possible — fodder for the audience — the cameras follow the wrestlers everywhere. You wouldn’t know which barbaric wrestler will jump the Heavyweight Champion while he’s at the crapper. And that gets good ratings.
Right now, he’s right by the empty area behind the entrance curtains. Lucky for him, somewhat, as the only spotlight available there just dimly lights the side profile of his consternated expression. His middle-aged body paces in circles, mirroring the movement of the cogs in his brain.
“Should I, or should I not?” he asks, consulting a pale apparition standing stoically a stone’s throw away from him.
This 20,000-seat arena has air conditioning, but by golly, the carbon dioxide breathed out by the sea of humanity in it has made the air stuffier than the inside of a storeroom when a business executive fornicates with his secretary. Add that to the fact that right now, The Outcast is “invading” the ring.
Needless to say, the arena is set to go on fayyah.
While some are for him, though more against, every person there hangs on to every word he says. Love him or hate him, his charismatic nature summons every single drop of energy, every spectrum of emotion, and every bit of passion from every fibre of their being. The sold-out crowd is electrified.
“Aren’t you tired of the Champion’s bullshit?” asks The Outsider. He puts on an annoying baby-talk voice when mentioning the Heavyweight Champion.
The rednecks in the crowd, still staunchly supporting the incumbent, scream back, “Hell no, ah ain’t!”
This is followed by expletives thrown at The Outsider, notably sexual slurs and homophobic chants.
However, the ones sitting in the front row – the more well-to-do and consequently, the “smarter” fans – they stand behind The Outsider (no pun intended). What they lack in numbers, they make up for with their to-the-nth-degree support for him. Their loudness is so infectious, that slowly more and more of the younger rednecks start turning their backs on the Heavyweight Champion.
“Aren’t you tired?” he screams again at the top of his lungs, just to engage with his supporters and piss off his detractors.
“Hell no, ah ain’t!”
“Go home, queer!”
“’tsider takes it up his ass! Doo-dah, doo dah! ‘tsider takes it up his ass! Doo-dah-doo-dah-day!”
And the majority of the crowd – the rednecks – continue singing this offensive remix of Camptown Ladies for a couple more minutes. The Outsider just stands on the ring’s bottom rope, mildly bouncing his body up and down like he’s on a mattress, and waits for his hecklers to calm their own teats.
The crowd, somehow simultaneously, stops to catch their breath. The arena’s atmosphere suddenly quiets, like the inside of a tunnel closed due to flood.
The Outsider flashes his charming smile, like he’s saying, Had your fun, assholes?
“Good God Almighty, as God is my witness, this crowd is explosive!” barks the right-handed commentator, though he fancies himself to be ambidextrous. “They can’t wait to see the Heavyweight Champion crush The Outsider at Gory Entertainment and excommunicate him for good!”
His broadcast colleague, an unabashed leftie, retorts, “Shut up, you stooge.”
As if taking cue of the two commentators’ banter, The Outsider shifts his speech to promoting Gory Entertainment. Specifically, his match against the Heavyweight Champion that will headline the pay-per-view.
“Well, I don’t know about you,” he begins conversationally, “but I personally can’t wait for Gory Entertainment. This, the 13th edition of Gory Entertainment, will be a lucky 13 for me, for you, for us.”
He makes eye contact with a spectator in the front row. He leaves the ring without interrupting his gaze, before coming to stand right in front of the fan. “I’m going to win the Heavyweight Championship for you,” he says softly. But his delivery is crisp, befitting a demagogue’s oratory skills.
“I’m going to win it for you, I’m going to win it for you, I’m going to win it for you,” The Outsider says to random spectators, pointing to a different fan every time he repeats the line. His voice gets louder as he gets more excited.
“I’m going to win it for you! You! You! You! You!” his voice rises to a full-on scream as his index finger erratically points to any random head he saw.
The crowd goes bananas, before The Outsider proceeds to make a solemn vow that he will rename himself “The People’s Champion” when – not if – he defeats the kingpin.
“Okay, go now.” Backstage, the white apparition finally gives the green light to the red-faced Heavyweight Champion.
“Showtime,” he whispers to himself. The championship belt strap kisses the floor as he grips the other end. The security guards pull the curtains to the side, and the TV producer presses play for the champ’s entrance song.
Doesn’t matter whether the crowd’s ready or not. The champ’s coming out.
The past Heavyweight Champions have never faced a foe as formidable as The Outsider. His natural aura and loquaciousness have enraptured many a wrestling fan, despite his being portrayed as a heel, a rule-breaker, the company’s bête noire.
Like the current Heavyweight Champion, The Outsider knew the feeling of having a big thorn proverbially shoved into a bodily orifice – aside from allegedly knowing the feeling of literally inserting blunt objects. This was a rumour disseminated by a former champion, and was here to stay like that Bob the Builder tattoo inked during a drunken night in Bangkok.
He was pegged to be the champion many moons ago. That was back when he did not carry a paunch, when his hair was full-on jet black, and when he had yet to suffer a back injury.
He would have been a great champion, as this “arena invasion” segment showed. This was one personality that could talk you into departing with your hard-earned cash at will. Regardless of your opinion of him, he could make you pay to see him kick some ass, or get his ass kicked.
The rumour of The Outsider’s predilection for men cost him the fast-track to championship. A man, in a wrestling insider’s mind, should be a man. Nonetheless, even if all the wrestling fans had been behind him, the megalomaniac former champion had used his veto power, causingThe Outsider to be fired.
A champion has a lot of power to wield.
The Outsider had seen what a champion can do, and had been obsessed with getting the belt ever since.
It took him 15 years to get the opportunity to vie for the Heavyweight Championship. But 15 years was just too long; his youth and vitality had become folklore and his mind wasn’t as sharp as it used to be. Many have speculated that if he somehow choked at Gory Entertainment XIII, it would be his final opportunity to clinch the Heavyweight Championship.
Besides, by the time the pay-per-view took place, he’d already have at least one foot in the grave. A match as big as this one, between a champion and a cult-like challenger, would take place only at Gory Entertainment; a pay-per-view held once every four or five years.
Many had already predicted The Outsider to win, because in this sensationalistic “sport” of professional wrestling, your knowledge on the holds and moves are totally irrelevant.
At the end of the day, the winner would be determined by his popularity. If you sold tickets, you’d be the face of the company.
That theme song of The Apprentice, the one with a black Motown group singing Moneymoneymoneymoooney, Money! – now the Heavyweight Champion’s entrance music — plays through the arena. If these fans realise that a wrestler’s entrance song is a summary of his character and not merely a catchy tune, they would realise that this is one rapacious mothafucka who ideally, is the real heel.
Nonetheless, getting deaf from a song about money seems to make these rednecks even more excited.
The Heavyweight Champion stands on the stage. Worried face no more, he has on a huge smile and smoke from the pyro rising behind his gelatinous body. It’s all part of the show, baby.
“The champ is here! And the crowd is going crazy!” the right-handed commentator screams into the headset.
“And look what the cat dragged in,” his colleague chimes in, unimpressed.
The camera then zooms to the white creature. Like a snowman, she is unmistakably white, round and cold. There is not the smallest hint of a smile from her lips. She is like the puppet master; as she nods, the Heavyweight Champion raises the microphone to his mouth.
“Are you done pouring the Kool Aid? Are you done poisoning the people’s minds with your lies?” the champion asks. He doesn’t expect an answer from The Outsider, so he continues talking.
“You claim to be one with the people. You think you know how to give the fans a bang for their buck; you wanna wrestle! That’s noble and all, boy, but you can’t even tell the difference between a wristlock and a wristwatch. You are a horrible wrestler, and at Gory Entertainment, I am going to OUT-WRESTLE you and break your back again!”
The rednecks love the monologue. Their hero has spoken.
“Oh, speaking of which, champ; when is Gory Entertainment?”
The arena goes silent again. They want to make sure they get the answer right.
The white creature raises her fat arm. She tries to wrap it across the Heavyweight Champion’s back, but it is not long enough. She settles on rubbing his back to get his attention. The other arm, the one with a $40,000 Birkin handbag hanging from her shoulder, motions for the champ to get nearer.
He bends down slightly and nears his ears to her lips. The air at that level smells €12,000 more expensive, mixed as it is with Annick Goutal emanating from her cold, white pudge. She says something to the Heavyweight Champion. Inaudible to the audience, but it ought to be good, as the champ smiles in response.
“I’ll get back to that. But first, I am going to give the fans what they truly want,” he tells his nemesis. He raises his index finger, either to say wait, or that he’s number one or that his fans are all in one group.
“OHMYGOOOD! LOOK AT THAT!” the right-handed commentator screams, which was his job.
Money starts raining down from the arena’s ceiling. The rednecks rally to grab as many notes as they can.
“I am giving back money, THEIR money! This is what the fans want!” The champion shoots his theory to The Outsider, smug. The latter is not impressed. He knows the total sum of the cascading cash wouldn’t even pay for half the Birkins in the white creature’s closet.
“They want wrestling,” he says laconically.
“Money,” the Heavyweight Champion responds in kind.
“You’re an idiot. And nobody likes you,” The Outsider slaps down the insult like a 10-year-old.
The Heavyweight Champion, worried of his popularity slipping, is immediately piqued.
Off-mic, he screams “Motherfucker!” as he charges to the ring. The white creature tries to stop him, knowing the move could make him more unpopular. And if he lost, where would she get the money to buy more Birkins? That is one serious issue!
As he runs, he exerts his carte blanche as the champion and motions for the security guards to join him. They slide through the bottom of the three ropes, jumping back to their feet when they enter the ring.
Without giving The Outsider any time to speak his piece, the Heavyweight Champion and the guards proceed to beat the shit out of the company’s bête noire. The rednecks cheer them on. Justice has been served, in their minds.
But the front row audience and some of the younger rednecks start getting angry seeing their hero being savagely attacked. In a flash, they jump over the barricade to fight with the guards.
The Outsider lies motionless in the ring. The left-handed commentator voices his concern, he might have broken his back again.
The paramedics have to brave through the riot to take The Outsider out on a stretcher. As the brawl continues, the right-handed commentator signs off for the night. But not before he, too, displays a modicum of disgust at the Heavyweight Champion for starting a group beatdown.
Back in the dressing room, The Outsider gets up from the stretcher, like Jesus resurrected. He laughs with the paramedics and high-fives the one standing closest to him.
“We’ve got him. We’ve got him. He’s going down,” he says to the paramedic.
At the end of the day, it is the most liked wrestler who will win the Heavyweight Championship.
Image by WordsManifest for ISSUE Magazine
Kamarul Anwar writes because he’s not cut out for Harimau Malaya.