Wrestling with Alienation
So I go up to Dutch in the hotel bar after the show and tell him I want to lose the title, ASAP.
Naturally he thinks I’m joking and turns back to the double vodka he just ordered. Sure, a wrestling title’s just a prop in a TV storyline, but it’s still an honor. The equivalent of star billing.
“I’m not kidding, Dutch,” I insist. “I saw Ricky yesterday.”
He isn’t amused. “Ricky” is Rick King, the highest-drawing world champ in company history until he disappeared six months ago. After an appropriate mourning period, Dutch slapped together a tournament, the Rick King Memorial Tournament, and put the belt on me. Killer ratings, too. I could never draw the crowds Ricky did, but Dutch figured I’d do until he could build up a credible challenger to beat me.
Dutch doesn’t like me making jokes about Ricky.
“He showed up in my hotel room,” I explain, feeling like the dumbest guy ever bred. Dutch thinks I’m on something, and he is pissed, because one of the reasons he trusted me with the belt was my pristine, and scandal-proof, bloodstream.
“I’m not looking forward to elaborating on this, Dutch, so promise me you’ll hear me out.” I take a deep breath and blurt it out.
“Ricky told me he was kidnapped by aliens.” Dutch doesn’t even twitch an eyelid, just keeps shooting me that toxic glare of his. “He figured it out right away. It was partly the instantaneous teleportation, partly the stark white prison cell he found himself in, but mostly it was the detainees filling the opposite bank of cells, specifically, their unusual quantities of limbs and their violations of radial and bilateral symmetry.
“Well, that’s how he put it. You know he’s a Yale man.
“Anyway, Ricky noticed two things. First, every so often, guards, no better-looking than the inmates, came and took away two prisoners, and, shortly thereafter, brought one of them back. Second, one, and only one, of his possessions had accompanied him, the championship belt. That’s why it wasn’t with the rest of his stuff, Dutch. Ricky added these circumstances up, and realized that what he’d thought was the humming of engines was really crowd noise, filtered through countless layers of, well, whatever UFO bulkheads are made of.
“Ricky studied the occupants of the other cells and noticed that, diabolical as they appeared, each was hideous in its own way. He figured it must be one being per planet, and he was Earth’s representative. It made sense when he considered the years of TV signals that had radiated into space, all showing him besting his foes and wearing that gold belt embossed with WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT WRESTLING CHAMPION. The only part that strained credulity was that intelligent beings had apparently thought our storylines and match choreography were legit.
“Don’t look at me that way, Dutch, that’s what he said.
“Well, when the guards finally came for him, he tried to explain, but they either couldn’t understand him or didn’t care. They shoved him out into an enormous arena whose floor and walls were already stained with blood of every hue. Big video screens everywhere, and seemingly infinite grandstands receding up into the dark, filled with all kinds of aliens raising all kinds of hell. Weird-looking cameras every ten feet.
“Ricky had observed the winners living to fight another day. The fate of the losers remained a mystery. Ricky’s a logical guy, and he saw one logical course of action: fight to win.
“And he did. They stuck him in there against some blue shaggy yeti-looking character, and Ricky wore himself out beating on the guy, looking for a vulnerable spot. He finally got in a lucky genital shot, and it was nowhere near where you’d expect.
“Afterward, he sat in his cell, nursing his wounds, and concluded that the straightforward approach couldn’t work forever. He regarded the menagerie in the other cells, each creature a distinctive product of its native environment. Ricky’s only chance was to exploit what made him unique. His potential opponents sported all manner of natural weapons: horns, spikes, tentacles, fangs. But only Ricky possessed an Ivy League biology degree.
“Against insectoid opponents, he dragged the combat out as long as he could, counting on their inefficient oxygen diffusion to do them in. For amphibian opponents, he used grappling techniques, seizing them in complicated holds and letting the constant dermal stimulation dehydrate them. For beings who lacked eye structures, he covered himself with blood from the prior combats, to fool their olfactory senses, and hugged the walls so the crowd noise masked his movements.
“I don’t really understand this stuff either, Dutch, but he wrote that part down for me. Here, see? And it’s not important, anyway. The point is, he won. The whole enchilada.”
Dutch interrupted me to theorize, reasonably, that I’ve flipped my lid. He was determined to humor me, though. “Where’s Ricky now?”, he asked.
“Well, he’s kind of a celebrity, you know, out there.” I point upward. “But not his own man, by any stretch. He had trouble just getting permission to come back long enough to tell me what happened. Still, he has it pretty good, all things considered. As champion, he only has to fight in the final round of each tournament.
“You know, like in Karate Kid Part III.”
By now Dutch is sizing me up for a straitjacket, but at least he accepted that I believe what I’m saying. His last-ditch strategy for restoring my sanity is to poke a hole in my story. “So if Ricky’s tenure as galactic champ is ongoing,” reasons Dutch, “why should I ditch my title? They wouldn’t need a second earthling, so I’m in no danger, right?”
“Ricky came back to warn me. Apparently they want to change the format, freshen things up.” This, Dutch understood. As entertainment, wrestling, real or fake, gets stale easily.
“For the next tournament, they’re switching to tag-teams.” And I drained Dutch’s untouched vodka in one swallow.
Desmond Warzel is the author of more than two dozen short stories in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. His work has appeared in a number of periodicals, including Abyss & Apex and Shroud, and in anthologies such as Night Terrors (Blood Bound Books) and Timelines (Northern Frights Publishing). He lives and writes in northwestern Pennsylvania. He’s been a wrestling fan since 1986 and doesn’t care who knows it.