Dreams of giants… in Lycra
And it should be stated right here and now that I know next to n o t h i n g about wrestling and to some degree at least I think the less I know the better; what follows is definitely an outsider’s view of the whole sha-bang…
I first encountered this band of masked heroes and miscreants years before, before The Double R Club was even a reality, while they still plied their bone-breaking, tendon-tearing trade at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. Up until then I had been, shall we say, a wrestling skeptic; which would be putting it kindly. As a child I had loved the old World Of Sport days of British wrestling, with Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks and the like; my favourite always being the mysterious Kendo Nagasaki:
But soon British wrestling seemed to have utterly vanished and as I grew older all there seemed to be was American wrestling, which I perceived as a little too… ‘hair-metal’ for me; too many mullets and other seeming 80s throwbacks and soft rock influences. My antipathy probably has a lot to do with the musical and stylistic associations I made with it, plus my bloody nephew being so keen on it and torturing us every Christmas with the latest bloody wrestling game for whatever consul was the thing of the moment. Also, at the time wrestling itself seemed to be, at least to an outsider, in something of a conflict with itself, the whole concept of it being ‘fake’ or not fake, what seemed like a fear that admitting one stance, or sticking to the other, could prove disastrous for the whole genre.
The Mexican Lucha Libre style of wrestling, however, had always had very different and stranger connotations to me (visually at least, I had never actually witnessed any) perhaps as an unconscious connection to the masked Nagasaki-san of yore. Something about it seemed to heighten the whole art form, to give a nod to its comic book / larger than life reality and render it instantly more attractive. The first time I can recall the image of a Luchador really having an impact on me was on the picture disc version of the live Foetus Corruptus double LP Rife:
Hear a little taster of the record here.
The image was violent, cartoonish and O.T.T. (not unlike the music contained on the record) and instantly appealed. Still it felt strangely exotic and not like anything I would ever experience, let alone partake in.
So anyhoo… years later, Rose Thorne and I were persuaded, by unholy cabaret temptress Lydia Darling, to attend Lucha Britannia. And I have to say, I was blown away. The second I witnessed Lucha Britannia live, any question of wrestling being ‘fake’ or ‘real’ was rendered immediately irrelevant, in fact to even ask the question was to miss the point e n t i r e l y . When the luchadors hit that canvas, and they do hit it h a r d , that’s real and t h a t , you realise when you’re there, is what matters and is what it’s all about. The pure dazzling nature of the spectacle, the diverse, bizarre and absurd characters, the undeniable athletic skill on display and the palpable air of tension of real physical jeopardy (yes, you heard me, real) is like no other theatrical event (yes, you heard me, theatrical) I’ve ever seen and I cannot recommend it highly enough. You’ll have a fucking blast, you’ll laugh, you’ll scream, you may get a very large man in very small pants landing on you from a great height; and you’ll love every second of it.
pic by Tom Medwell
So when, some time later, The Double R began, and I was asked first to co-host / commentate, and then to host / commentate Lucha Britannia, I was honoured but quite, quite nervous; these people took this shit seriously, worked hard at it and who was I? Some overly made-up ponce in a sparkly jacket. It’s true it was something of a shift of gears from the job I do at the Double R, less verbosity was required and more… I suppose the word might be ‘shoutiness’, more goading the crowd into a frenzy (which they always seem happy to provide) but I slowly got the hang of it and the rest, as they say, is history… Let me tell you, stepping into that ring for the first time was quite an experience…
And while I don’t necessarily feel that I need to shoehorn a ‘Lynchian‘ angle in to this entry to suit the blog’s remit, there is, I think, a connection (albeit a little tenuous) to be made. It lies, of course, in the ambiguity of what is real and what is unreal and in the idea that both realities can, in a sense, exist simultaneously. In wrestling, apparently, they refer to this concept as Kayfabe.
pic by Haste Malaise
Kayfabe appears to me, an outsider, to be a cunning (and it must be said less sinister) adaptation of Orwell’s doublethink, a way of perceiving and accepting two contrasting truths simultaneously. I’m sure it is possible to attend a wrestling match clinging to only one of these realities, it’s ‘real’ or it’s ‘fake’, yet whichever you cling to, you will be missing out on what it is to truly appreciate wrestling; the complete experience, I think, requires Kayfabe: b o t h realities.
Additionally, there seems something innate about Lucha Libre that, to me, most ‘regular’ wrestling doesn’t have. The very fact that the Luchadors are wearing masks speaks directly to the concept of Kayfabe, takes us out of the real and puts another layer of artifice that makes the unreal easier to buy into. Masked, the luchadors become more than men, they are a kind of hyper-men (watch me avoid the obvious Übermensch reference!) who exist both in the real world and the hyper-real world of the ring. This, I believe, is the strange mystery at the heart of it all and a great part of wrestling’s enduring fascination, not to mention Lucha Libre and Lucha Britannia’s ace in the hole.
pic by Haste Malaise