Thursday, 16 July 2009

At the Ambassadors (Wrestling 2)

Larry Magnolia has poured himself into his gold suit. Mal Gallicott is snarling in his leopard skin lapels. And what does Larry say? He is pointing at the gaffa tape on the mat.

You want tawdry, ladies and gentlemen? we give you tawdry.

You could dance, you could go out for a decent meal, or drive out into the country in search of an appropriate fairground, looking for the acrid taste of raw nostalgia. And you could find it. It doesn’t have to be real. Nostalgia is happiness at the edge of language, a tip-of-the-tongue elusive flavour. You could even find it here if that was what you wanted. Nostalgia as tawdriness worked into a glossy routine. It’s not what they want though. Not exactly. What they want, what they have become addicted to, is truth, and truth precisely in this guise.

A boy in a white mouse outfit runs about the room. He has a slight paunch and a long ratty tail. A man at one of the tables pretends to pick fights with him: the mouse hides behind pillars or flaps at him with his little hands.

An elderly man three chairs down, his face impassive, immobile. A couple opposite with the same statuesque stillness. They’re dotted here and there. Their faces have slipped and settled.

The wrestlers have entered the ring. The first has a sweet, effeminate softness in his body. He is known as Boy. He is neither particularly tall nor particularly wide. His wears his hair mullett style. He looks like a boy on the market, nothing more, but he plays hero in a Union Jack costume. The softness and ordinariness is what Larry Magnolia is picking at. But the irony is more complex than he knows. It’s there in the costume. We are Brits, the costume says. We are not enormous yankee myths projected onto glossy limbs nor are we Braveheart leading a bunch of brittle vainglorious Scots. But just in case you’re thinking you can mess with us, we carry this smelly old linament bottle full of irony, and should it come to that, we’ll smash your fucking face in with it.

His opponent for tonight, the heel of the contest, is Todd ‘Skull’ Harte, nineteen stone and rising. Skull wears black and has a small but engaging repertoire of sneers: the sneer contemptuous, the sneer threatening, the sneer puzzled for when he’s thrown, the sneer twinkling for when he has inflicted some pain on his opponent and the sneer jovial which quickly shades off into the sneer ironic that undermines the rest.

And I tell you what. It frightens me, says Larry Magnolia.

Nineteen stone Skull and twelve stone Boy are father and son.

Father charges at son. Throws him once, throws him twice. Suplex. Suplex. Quick, like that. Holds him in a standing headlock, then applies a double wristlock and head scissors. You don’t want to hurt your lad too much. Throws him again. The Boy goes hard on his back. The round consists entirely of Skull playing rag doll with him. So does the next. If you were coming for the first time you’d wonder how it is that the Boy survives, especially as he has already been thrown out of the ring twice. But when you get used to the rhythm of the thing, you see there is less contact than you imagine. The choreography is fine. You get a body slam and the arms go down hard to make a wonderful boom that makes you think your vertebrae have just impacted with your sacrum so you’re fused forever, you and the mat below you,. But give it a head shaking three or four seconds and you’re up delivering a forearm smash or a flying mare or smashing your opponent’s head against the ropes. Your timing has to be right.

By the third round things have changed. The Boy spins away from his father, leaps over him, rolls under his legs, bounces off the rope and tips him over, so both his shoulders are touching the ground. That’s one fall to The Boy.

Hero: one, villain: nil.

Perhaps the twist in the proceedings has come a little early for you? Myself, I don’t think it’s too bad. In fact there’s nothing shamefully below par here, not by today’s standards anyway. The moves are good, the timing’s pretty well on the spot. As for the plot, the narrative if you like, it has a certain flow and tension.

The girls in the audience fist the air. One middle aged man at a table takes Skull’s side and encourages him, but Skull loses this one because the story demands it. He returns to the dressing room. The fat man slinks back, a whale moving through the water which divides before him.

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