Monday, February 2, 2009

Ring of Honor: How Could I Not Write An Entire Novel?

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'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, 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 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...


SophisticatedBrew said...

yeah i don't know if i'd ever "get" wrestling but i'm proud of you for going outside of your dorkestra/comfort zone.
seeing someone getting hurt IS upsetting, and i think your sensitivity is important. but it's nice you went to support a friend.

Emily said...

wow. that's all just wow.

I think I would feel the same way - thrilled and delighted, but with a delayed hit of sick and freaked out. Maybe I'm just up too late and tired, but I'm finding something very poignant in that cycle of emotions. Thanks for sharing it.

Also, when you're in Chicago next, let me know!. I don't know if I'd be up for wrestling, but I would be up for just abut anything else!

syb said...

thanks for writing about this. I don't see myself ever enjoying wrestling on this level, but i am fascinated by the life of Mr. Sweeney.

about it being hard seeing him beat up, even "on stage," I totally get you. when JP was in Of Mice and Men as Lennie, it was really hard for me to see the (really good) show more than once, because he spent so much of it in pain, confused, sad, etc. oh yeah, that and he got shot in the head at the final moment of the show. so rough. even turning my head and closing my eyes didn't help me feel calm about my husband being killed on stage.

Sara Ashes said...

1. El Generico sounds amazing.

2. Who knew that Mladenka was a wrestling fan??

3. I think the only thing that would have made your amazing post-wrestling meal more amazing would have been a ceasar salad. Or maybe some matzo ball soup.

Sara Ashes said...

oh! and guacamole. you guys definitely needed some guacamole!

Reem Tara said...

Hello, psychic sister, I also had a cup of minestrone soup and Mladenka had a salad!! SISTERS!

Swoon Queen said...

um, I kinda wish I would have been there instead of some crazy ass dance club where 35 transvestite hookers got arrested as I was leaving.

But! I did get kissed by a cute guy. Who only dates "Asian women--OR white women with big breasts." yeah, classy.

Anyway, it sounds like you had the proper induction to wrestling! way to rock! I heart your blog.

The Pirate Queen said...

Thanks for this, lady. It is pretty intense. Really seeing him in the photos was a bit unsettling for me. And I know it's different, but I have no idea what to do with a culture that watches mixed martial arts/ultimate fighting.

I totally used to worship Hulk Hogan and my brother and I loved to watch WWF as kids (a fact I bet you never knew). It was so much less bloody than this is though, and the drama was really fun. We enjoyed all of the character stuff that went into the build up: costume, entry, music, and all.

As a side note, syb, thanks for ruining Of Mice and Men for everyone. . . (that would suck to watch that, too)

The Pirate Queen said...

As a strange quirk, the word verification thingy to post a comment just made me write "defan" to post that. Strange huh?

Reem Tara said...

Like, I'm De Fan? Hilarious. PQ and syb, it's weird isn't it? Like...okay dude, you're funny and all, but wipe that fucking blood off your face or I'm going to have an ulcer. Weird...

ChibiDiablo said...

This was truly the greatest thing I have ever read.

The Lam said...

Larry Sweeney is quite an amazing man. I enjoyed your post. Cheers.

Reem Tara said...

Wow...are you two last guys real live wrestlers?? I'm in love. Heart heart heart.

Mladenka said...

Reem, well done! You said it, just the way I thought. Awesome night!!!
I will never forget how worried I was for Larry.

Emil said...

To all of you wrestling naysayers: give it a try next time Larry Sweeney, Inc. roles into town. I never watched wrestling growing up, and I was into GI Joe, Star Wars, and all of that other "manly" little boy stuff...but I hated wrestling. And I literally have never watched it for more than five minutes on TV my whole life. Saturday night allowed me to see what I've been missing out on all these years.

The night started off with hysterical laughing (mostly because people were chanting for a guy named Sugarfoot), but then we became shocked and terrified at the brilliance of the show only ten feet away from us. Larry Sweeney's motto summed up the whole evening: "Fuck it. I love it."

So next time: less naysaying, and more HEY!-saying (especially when Claudio fights)

Reem Tara said...

Whoa...Emil and Mladenka both comment within a few minutes of each other! Emil, take it easy, you magnificent bastard. You're nearly showing me up on my own blog, what with your brilliant wordings...

Tara said...

Reem you are magical and spectacular.

jx said...

wow - i'm so behind on this. nicely done, reem. i don't know that i would get emotional about something i know is fake. but it sounds like if i went to a wrestling match, i may surprise myself. so how fake is it? how much actual pain is involved? none? and the blood is fake i presume? i'm a virgin to all this. let me know when you go to another match.

Bea said...

EVeryone loves this post! You are going to get us all hooked on wrestling, but for your more sobering closing paragraph. Sometimes art can make you nauseous, though, I mean, sometimes that's the point of it all. Sometimes it's all about defiling what has been so carefully preserved for years, all that decency and propriety. You make wrestling sound like punk rawk, Reem, and I think that's beautiful.

Drew619 said...

Hey. Welcome to the wrestling fan circle. I'm a co-worker of Gwen Goos. I read your article and I definitely see you as a writer in a magazine or something someday. I have been a fan of wrestling since I was five, so I know how you feel about being concerned about your friend. They keep saying that it is fake. The matched is planned, but it is not fake. Anyway, I hope your friend is alright.

As for your comments about wrestling being like art, thank you for that comment. Many people see wrestling and see guys beating each other to death. I myself see guys telling a story of good vs evil. Anyway, I am glad you got into wrestling and you should definitely catch a WWE show when it comes close to where you live. WWE shows are the best and the music and fireworks are great, as well as the wrestlers. Also recommend seeing a few things on youtube. Good luck to you.