Alright. Okay. Deep breath...okay. Wait...okay, I think I'm ready to tell you about what I did last night. One more deep breath. Are you ready? Seriously. I hope you're ready to read this blog for the next 4 hours because I just didn't know when to stop on this one. Get ready.
Finally. Finally. I finally got it together and went and saw some live wrestling. After about three years of faithful Friday Night Smackdown watching, and being a huge fan of Larry Sweeney for the last four years, it feels unbelievable and very lazy to me that I've never been to a live show. I thrive on live shit. I feel that I don't fully know a band until I see them live. And as much as I don't give an eff about sports, there's absolutely nothing like being at a live baseball game - specifically at Wrigley Field. So why hadn't I seen live wrestling until now? Maybe I just wasn't ready. Maybe I was unprepared for the greatness. Maybe I was waiting for just the right moment...
Well, that moment came last night, Saturday, January 31st, 2009, in Chicago Ridge, Illinois. Ring of Honor brought it. It, of course, being a lot of muscle, a lot of tight pants/tights, blood, sweat, tans, bad haircuts, ridiculousness, hilarity, and a strange kind of beauty that I never thought I'd find in, of all things, wrestling. I won't get in to the details of what happened in each individual match - somebody has already taken care of that here. Instead, I'll tell you about what I found lovely and hilarious. Also, I forgot my camera again, so I'm just going to places pictures of Larry sporadically throughout this blog. Dudes, it's my blog. I do what I want. Eat it.
First of all, I have to admit, I was kind of nervous. This was a totally new experience for me. Here I am, a big Bando Music Nerd, going to see live wrestling for the first time ever. I had so many questions. How early should we get there? What does one wear to this sort of event? What does one even call this? I had a lengthy discussion with BFF Sarah about how I should not call it a "performance" or "concert," and how the breaks were probably not called "orchestral intermissions," and that maybe I should not sit and applaud politely after the "performers concluded the night's entertainment." And I probably shouldn't watch through one of those monocle things. This was no orchestra concert. I had a lot to learn.
Just as an aside, here is Larry Sweeney's trading card. Just so you know what we're dealing with here.
Back to last night. I went with my brother Emil and his girlfriend Mladenka. As it turns out, Mladenka is a huge wrestling fan. She told me about how she and her cousin, when they first came to the U.S., would sit and watch wrestling and eat chips and bananas (10 a day for some reason) and not do anything else, ever. Now that's dedication. Despite her vast experience, none of us really knew what to expect; we figured we'd sit back and absorb it all and just let the crowd carry us along.
The first match started and my mouth was immediately on the ground. This shit was crazy. Grown ass men, dressed up in little outfits and greasy hair, throwing each other around like rag dolls...the intensity was enormous. As Emil said later in the night, it was as if there was nothing in the entire world that made these guys as angry as this individual match. This match meant the world to them. There was no greater anger that existed anywhere in the world than the anger between these two men. And next week, when they're fighting somebody different, that match will mean the world, and that anger will grow, and everything will just be greater and more magnificent. Fantastic.
We spent the first two lineups laughing hysterically and cheering and "OH!-ing" along with everybody. A couple of matches in though, the initial hilarity faded away and we grew quieter and watched, in awe, what I can honestly call the amazing talent and artfulness of these wrestlers. No, I'm serious. I sat back in my chair, shaking my head, as blood dripped down these men's faces and marveled in the wonder that is professional wrestling. I leaned over to Emil and Mladenka and referred to it all as an art. How could I have missed out on this for as long as I have? I now know that there is no sound in the world like the sound of a man getting hit with a metal chair. Not one.
The dedication in this sport is insane. Dedication to the physicality, the character, the dirty hair...it's all or nothing with these guys. There was this one wrestler called Grizzly Redwood. I feel like I don't even have to say anything else about him; the name says it all. But I'll go on anyhow. This guy's beard was easily 5 inches long, or wide, or deep. I don't know what you'd call it. It was giant. The best part about it though was that he was sort of tiny, which may have made his beard look larger. He was put up against this guy who looked like a giant next to him, and he won! I love it when the little guy wins. Awesome. Then there was the match between the foreigners. There was an English guy named Nigel McGuiness who had the Eurotrash look down pretty well, and there was El Generico, whose theme song was "Olé!" and whose persona was a stereotypical Mexican wrestler - mask and all. This guy was definitely one of my favorites, especially since I love love love this other wrestler, Rey Mysterio, who I watch on Friday Night Smackdown, and the mask slightly reminded me of him. Why is it so weirdly hot when a guy is so close to my own height? Anyhow, the Foreigner Battle was pretty fantastic. I think that, deep down, some people in the crowd didn't want either of these guys to win. They wanted America to win, man! USA! USA! USA!
The audience was hilarious. There had to be over 800 people in that field house. That's right, it was in a field house. These people knew all the wrestlers and loved to chant, antagonize, provoke, and throw streamers. Think The Simpsons crowd scenes. You know how they sort of turn into an angry mob in a split second and join in on whatever chant is happening at that moment, no matter what it is? Yeah, that was the field house last night. The guys behind us (at least one of whom went to high school with Emil and I, interestingly enough) were screaming for basically the entire night, taunting and cheering and making fun of the wrestlers who appeared in the movie The Wrestler (i.e. "Where's your Golden Globe?" "Can you introduce me to Marisa Tomei?" and such and such). There was this one wrestler, Claudio Castagnoli, who kept trying to talk into a microphone, and every time he opened his mouth, the whole audience would yell "Hey!" so he couldn't talk. This happened no less than 15 times. During the match, when the ref would do the usual counting, instead of yelling "One! Two!" they all yelled "Hey! Hey!" Claudio was very mad. Oh audience, you slay me. Bullies, you are. Hilarious bullies.
The main even of the night was, as we loyal wrestling fans like to call it, the CAGED COLLISION!!! Whooo!! Spring Break 2000!!! Yeah! Party. During an intermission (that's right, it was called an intermission, Sarah!), they set up the steel cage, which was basically chain link fencing all the way around the ring. Here's a visual of what Larry Sweeney might have looked like, inside this cage:
Photo courtesy of Larry Sweeney
This was where Sweet n' Sour Inc. would be pitted against some other guys who I don't care about. Let's get that straight. In my mind, it was Larry and like 85 other sort of scary-looking muscle-y men. I don't care who any of the others were. Maybe I will in time, when I attend a billion more of these events, but for now, I don't.
Here's what Larry, as the manager of Sweet n' Sour Inc., might look like, dressed all classy, at Ring of Honor:
Photos courtesy of Larry Sweeney
And here is a video of Larry Sweeney being classy, as usual:
Larry wasn't actually wrestling, but he definitely got involved, yelling douchebaggy comments at his own team, criticizing, mocking...it was beautiful. By the way, he was stylin' in a yellow dress shirt with a brown vest and pants and very fancy shoes. Nicely done, Larry. When his team lost, however, Larry couldn't take it. He got in the ring and started yelling at Bobby Dempsey, who had basically just stood there watching the whole giant sausage fest that was the steel cage match (seriously - ten guys jumping around an area that couldn't have been bigger than 20' by 20'. Total Sausage Fest). Larry slapped Bobby across the face, and that set off the rest of the team who, apparently, had had enough of Larry's abusive, asshole-y managerial skills. They then proceeded to help Bobby beat the shit out of Larry. Larry was thrown up against the side of the cage not once, not twice, but three or four times, all on different sides, so the entire audience could see. They were very thorough. The held him back while Bobby punched him repeatedly and threw his entire body at him. Larry got beat down, man, and we watched the whole thing, hands over mouths, wide-eyed, and honestly, pretty damn entertained. When it was all over and done, his own team left him laying in the ring, bleeding and miserable, and the match was over. Jesus christ.
Here's what he might have looked like on a different night:
Photo courtesy of Larry Sweeney
And here is a picture from the Ring of Honor website of a bloody Bobby Dempsey holding Larry Sweeney over his head at the end of the match.
Photo Courtesy of Ring of Honor
After this was all over, we kind of didn't know what to do with ourselves so we drove along Harlem Ave. for awhile until we got to one of those 24-hour Family Restaurants called The View. The sign used the same font/design as the show The View. Weird. We got some food and processed the night. Since I'd forgotten my camera, here's a phone picture of what we ordered:
Yeah, it's what it looks like. I got a club sandwich, Mladenka got a chicken kebab (there were two rings of pineapple on the rice for some reason), and Emil got a belgian waffle with whipped cream and bananas. We are awesome. Also, Emil got a giant mug of hot chocolate that was served with a giant scoop of whipped cream and a straw. His incredulous comment: I've never drank hot chocolate out of a straw...and I love it!
I'd say we did it up last night. Thanks, Ring of Honor.
On a more personal note, I do have to write about this because I woke up the next morning feeling really unsettled and not really sure what to do with myself. I have to say this: there is something very, very terrible about seeing somebody you love get the shit kicked out of them, even if it isn't real. Duh. But really, as we were leaving, Mladenka was all quiet and concerned about Larry and all the blood, and I made a little bit of fun, of course. "Um, it's fake, remember? You've been watching wrestling for years! Come on!" And I later tried to explain to she and Emil that I don't think I totally believed it was Alex in there...it was Larry Sweeney, the guy I've seen on youtube and laughed at and been amazed by for all these years. It's the guy on the playing card on my refrigerator. It's Sweet n' Sour Larry Sweeney! That's why it was entertaining. That's why it was hilarious. But later on, thinking about it all and reliving parts of it in my mind, I was terrified. Seeing him laying on the floor, with blood all over the back of his head, matted in his hair, literally being carried out of the ring by two or three guys...I think it was just too much for me.
I laid awake for hours last night, and after sleeping eventually, fitfully, I woke up with my head and heart aching. I don't think I'd be able to handle this very often...I'm probably too sensitive right now...
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