The 1st of December saw the release of Wrestle Maniacs, a top-notch wrestling-themed short story collection edited by Adam Howe – the author of the highly recommended Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet and Tijuana Donkey Showdown.
Wrestle Maniacs includes my brand new story Real Americans, a standalone piece that also forms an unexpected epilogue to my existing wrestling noir online short story series, which will (hopefully) be collected and published as The Good Book in 2018.
In these stories, unhinged wrestling promoter Frank ‘Fingerfuck’ Flanagan – the owner of the infamous Testament Wrestling Alliance – rules his territory with an iron fist, and his personal road to hell is paved with dead wrestlers.
Real Americans takes place some eight years after the events of The Good Book, and follows the investigation of a brutal murder that sucks in the few surviving figures from Fingerfuck Flanagan’s unstable wrestling stable.
After drawing a line under my own wrestling series earlier this year, I was initially wary of revisiting my old stomping ground, but Real Americans was a hell of a lot of fun to write, and is (hopefully!) far funnier than the stories that preceded it.
Over at my Dirty Books blog, I’m in the process of interviewing my fellow Wrestle Maniacs (Adam Howe, James Newman, Eryk Pruitt, Ed Kurtz, Hector Acosta, Joseph Hirsch, Duncan P. Bradshaw, David James Keaton, Gabino Iglesias, Patrick Lacey and Jason Parent), regarding their stories – and their own wrestling memories. As such, I think it’s only fair to share a few thoughts on my own relationship with sports entertainment…
I grew up in a small English town in the 1980s, and my first (indecent) exposure to wrestling was via the defiantly un-glamourous duo of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks – a morbidly obese pair of mortal enemies who waddled across my boxy TV screen on Saturday afternoons.
(Years later, when I was in the lucrative employment of Torbay Council, an ex-wrestler used to sleep in one of the shelters on Paignton sea front. I forget his name, but apparently he used to be a big deal and wrestle against Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks back in the day. He used to wake up soaked in his own piss every morning, and the council had to hose down the shelter before the holiday-makers arrived. I had to run interference – scaring off kids who were throwing coins and flicking lit matches at him.)
After witnessing the underwhelming spectacle of Big Daddy (Shirley Crabtree to his family and friends) going through the motions, experiencing Vince McMahon’s WWF for the first time was a mind-blowing experience. Swollen muscles, bouffant hair, dangerously tight spandex: this was what was missing from my suburban childhood!
I struggle to recall the first ever WWF match that I watched, but I definitely remember renting 1989’s Hulk Hogan vehicle No Holds Barred from the South Pacific video shop, and then watching 1991’s Suburban Commando (twice) at a bizarre makeshift cinema at the English Riviera Centre a couple of years later.
The event that got me hooked, however, was definitely the WWF’s Battle Royal at the Albert Hall VHS from 1991, which I spent my pocket money on at the late, lamented Paignton branch of Woolworths. The London-based event was conceived as a push for a Davey Boy Smith – the British Bulldog – whose surging WWF popularity coincided with the recent arrival of wrestling on Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Sports channel in the UK. (Spoiler alert: Bulldog beat The Barbarian in 10:07 at the Albert Hall event, and then won the 20-man Battle Royal after upending a post-Tugboat Fred ‘Typhoon’ Ottman in the headline match!)
With Hogan, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior and Bret Hart not making the trip over to the UK, the Bulldog was allowed to take centre stage (although the event was supposedly Ric Flair’s WWF debut, trivia fans!). With his meaty frame, braided hair and brusque Northern accent, the British Bulldog was an appealingly plausible home-grown alternative to exotic, balding middle-aged Americans like Hulk Hogan, and this event kick-started an obsessive relationship with early ‘90s wrestling – WCW included.
In truth, my own interest in wrestling died long before Davey Boy Smith did – I checked out in around 1995 – but I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting my pubescent passions in recent years, as I have put this series of wrestling stories together. I’ve also filled in a lot of gaps in my post-1995 wrestling awareness, although that initial era remains my clear favourite.
Anyway, you can check out my earlier wrestling noir stories here (note: I’ll be removing these links in the near-future, as I prepare the collection for publication), and then buy a copy of Wrestle Maniacs to see how the saga ends!