PRO WRESTLING: SELLING VIOLENT LIES SINCE 1918!
Pro wrestling is crime fiction: realism and histrionics blended into a cocktail of suspense, violence, absurdity and pathos that lies to you. And that’s just in the ring. Behind the scenes. “The Business,” as pro wrestlers call their trade, is a world of backstabs, class warfare, abysmal racial and sexist legacies, dirty tricks, drug abuse, big money and lowlifes, godlike highs and gutter grave lows, and, at its worst, involves real violence, suicides, and the tragically low life expectancy bought with steroid-injected hearts. And for the fans, the distinction between lies and truth blur as much as one of Ripley’s identities. Did Mick Foley really fall from the top of a sixteen-foot-high steel cage, through a breakaway announce table, and bite through his cheek? Yes. Are the matches scripted? Yes, which makes Foley’s stunt even crazier. Have real fights broken out in the ring? Yes, but it’s as rare as a fair fight in real life. And pro wrestling can be downright philosophical: was Randy Mario Poffo real, but “Macho Man” Randy Savage fake? Well, which one died to save us from The Rapture in 2012? Hint: whoever it was, it wasn’t the Raisin Balls Hulk Hogan!
In the ring, on the road, and in the minds of fans, pro wrestling seethes with grimy verisimilitude. And that’s why this issue of The Big Click is dedicated to pro wrestling: a real combat art that became boring, reinvented itself in the early twentieth century as a fixed fight to create more drama and bigger paydays, and became a global entertainment phenomenon with thousands of skeletons in millions of locker rooms.
ONE … Trent Zelazny shows us the working class horror of the squared circle in “Parts Unknown”
… TWO … Shannon Giglio dives into the mad world of fandom in “The Ballad of Caprisha Marlin.”
… THREE!!! Special bonus story about the carney roots and racism of the traveling wrestling shows of the past from our own Nick Mamatas (currently training his son in the carney combat arts at the Forbidden City of Wrestling in Central Asia). “Work, Hook, Shoot, Rip,” is reprinted here and originally published in the anthology Nightmare Carnival, edited by Ellen Datlow.
But enough bluster. Dim the lights, cue my theme song, and let’s call it in the ring. DING! DING! DING!