It had been a surprisingly warm February when his Dad presented him with two tickets to Wrestlerama’s Inferno event, causing the Kid, a mere 8 years old, to lose control and run screaming around the house with joy. Wrestlerama was the big thing in wrestling, with a vast menagerie of colourful characters who beat each other up in the name of good and bad. Inferno was their main show, and it was coming to England as part of a World Tour. And now, finally, the Kid was going to be there too.
He had been a huge wrestling fan since he was old enough to look at a TV screen. One day he caught a brief glimpse of two men in bright trunks throwing themselves around a square ring tied together with three red, white and blue ropes. His parents had been channel hopping, but once the Kid saw the action they had no choice but to stop and watch.
It sucked him in immediately. While at first he didn’t understand the intricacies of the stories, he recognised the good guys and the bad guys, and got excited by the thrill of the action that would take place. Big, burly men would smash, while smaller, more lithe athletes would use their speed to surprise. The Kid drank it all in and became more and more addicted as the years went on. He asked, and occasionally got, all the merchandise he could write down; T-shirts, action figures, videos and even comic books. The Kid owned them all and one of his proudest moments was unveiling his Killer Konrad T-shirt in the playground to impressed gasps.
Killer Konrad was one of his favourite wrestlers. He was a stocky, crew-cutted brawler who would pick up his opponents and slam them down to pin them. No-nonsense and tough, but always fought for the side of good. As well as him, the Kid loved the cowboy tag team of the Jenner Brothers, the scary Damien D’Ath and all-American hero JJ Cutter.
But as his Dad showed him the tickets for the Inferno event, the Kid saw his most favourite wrestler embossed on them: El Diablo, a Mexican luchador who’s highflying antics left the Kid’s jaw on the floor. Watching him bedecked in a Gold and Cream costume complete with a mask hiding his true identity was almost exhausting. The Kid would be in awe as he struggled to keep up with the variety of moves and attacks El Diablo would unleash upon his opponents.
The Kid hugged his Dad tightly. He expressed his gratitude so much, that his voice was hoarse before he went to bed the night before the event. After changing into his PJ’s and brushing his teeth, his Dad tucked him in and ruffled his hair. He warned him that if he got too excited he’d end up staying awake, and fall asleep during all the matches. But the Kid was determined. He shook his head and vowed he would conk out as soon as his head would hit the pillow. His Dad just shook his head with a smile and kissed him on the cheek, wishing him sweet dreams and warning him of an early start.
Sure enough, as soon as the Kid’s head hit the pillow… he was wide awake. He seemed to toss and turn for hours before finally finding himself in the ring, standing between El Diablo and the villainous Grand Titan, a mountain beast of a man. He was in referee’s stripes, and was watching as both men collided in the centre of the ring. He watched blow after blow strike down on El Diablo, listening to the commentary unfold deep within the darkness surrounding them.
“By God! How is El Diablo gonna get out of this one Paul?”
“Put simply, he isn’t! He’s in 7 shades of Hell right now!”
The Kid watched as Grand Titan lifted El Diablo high up above his 7 feet frame, and threw him far out past the ring ropes.
“There is no way, guaranteed, he’s surviving that one!”
“Somebody tell the ref to end this thing! Right now!”
The Kid saw himself standing there, paralysed as Grand Titan turned his attention to him and signalled for his finishing manoeuvre, the Titan Slam. The Kid could barely move as the giant began stalking him, slowly getting closer and closer until…
Until the crowd roared again and the Kid watched as El Diablo soared out of the darkness and landed with both feet onto Grand Titan’s back.
“I cannot believe my eyes! El Diablo has hit Grand Titan with a stunning double dropkick!”
The Kid watched as Grand Titan fell and El Diablo jumped on top for the pin. He hit the mat three times and then the crowd roared again, El Diablo popping up and waving his arms. As the Kid stood there, he saw El Diablo turn to him and approach. As the masked luchador offered his hand, the Kid heard his Dad’s voice.
“Come on Kid, time to wake up.”
It was the morning of the event, and his Dad lifted the Kid’s groggy body from the bed and carried him down the stairs to the cereal and cartoons that awaited him.
It seemed like forever until the moment came where the Kid was strapped into the back of his Dad’s car, ready to leave for the Wrestlerama show. He watched impatiently as his Dad quickly headed back to the front door to say goodbye to his Mum, before heading back and jumping in the front seat. He turned back to the Kid and asked him if he was excited. The Kid nodded so much his neck began to hurt after.
They drove past houses and fields, through bigger roads and motorways, before they reached the big buildings that represented the City. The Kid craned his head, desperate to see if they were at their destination yet, his restraint fading fast the closer they got. It was only a few minutes later when the Kid looked out and saw the familiar giant arc of the Stadium where Wrestlerama Inferno was taking place. He squealed with glee, which earned a chuckle from Dad.
The Kid had never seen so many people in one place as they walked the short way to the arena section of the Stadium. They were all Wrestlerama fans as well, dressed in a uniform of bright T-shirts showcasing their favourite past and present wrestlers. The Kid recalled seeing people wearing the image of such greats as Cort Maverick and King Hurt, as well as the cool designs exhibiting the likes of Konrad and, of course, El Diablo.
Once they arrived at the arena there were queues so long the Kid began to worry that they’d never get in. That they had come so close but ultimately be turned away at the door, no doubt by the scary Grand Titan himself. He expressed these fears to his Dad, who simply laughed and claimed if that were the case, he’d take on Grand Titan himself.
The Kid thought this was stupid, as Grand Titan would destroy his Dad.
As they waited though, slowly the queue got closer and closer to the door, until eventually they were inside. The Kid gasped as he looked at all the banners displaying his favourite superstars, larger-than-life characters who were blown up to God-like proportions on posters hanging from the ceiling. He gripped his Dad’s hand as he led him through the crowds, eventually getting to a thicker crowd of people all huddled up. His Dad lifted him up and showed the Kid where he’d taken him: the merchandise stand. He looked at his Dad, who told him he could have anything he wanted. Without even blinking, the Kid chose:
A T-shirt, with El Diablo jumping through the sky on it, and a replica gold and cream mask. Just like his hero.
Dad was more boring, just getting a program which he let the Kid read. Inside were all the stars, their stats and achievements thus far. The Kid regaled his Dad about how El Diablo had won the Light Heavyweight title from Damien D’ath, and was now looking to challenge for the World Title. He had just one obstacle.
Dad looked at his watch and told the Kid that the show would be starting soon. He picked up the Kid and carried him through to the main arena. It was everything the Kid had imagined, seats stretching up to the sky, circling a ring that looked 5 times as big as it did on TV. The Kid looked up at those who were sat in the high seats, so far away that any wrestlers would look like ants to them. For a moment the Kid was worried he would miss all the action, but his excitement grew more steadily as his Dad took him past each row of seats, until he was so close to the front he could leap over the barrier and tag team with the superstars himself.
A half hour passed, with the Kid talking nonstop about the history and stories so far. Dad listened intently, before pointing out the large screen where the wrestlers entrance was now on. The Kid was dumbstruck as highlight reels played, showing the amazing action he had seen on TV every week. And then just as he thought he couldn’t get any more exhilarated, the lights went down and the show began.
For the Kid, it was almost all a blur. Pyro exploded so loud it made the Kid jump, reaching over to find his Dad already holding him. Then when the wrestlers came out the Kid couldn’t believe how MASSIVE they were. They were as tall as trees and twice as thick in some cases. Killer Konrad, The Jenner Brothers, JJ Cutter, even a surprise appearance from Cort Maverick which got the crowd roaring with approval.
Then, at one stage, the Kid heard words which made him feel cold. Maverick, acting as the “booker” that night, said he was making the match everyone wanted to see.
“Tonight, to decide who’ll face champion Johnny Patten for the World Title, El Diablo…” The Kid cheered along with crowd at the mention of his name. “… will face… Grand Titan!”
The Kid suddenly felt scared. He was shaking when his Dad put a hand on him and asked if he wanted to jump on his shoulders.
Sitting high up on his Dad, the world didn’t seem so scary. The Kid was now at the wrestlers height, and felt confident enough to take on the world. He nearly fell off though when he heard the familiar Latin rock guitar of El Diablo’s entrance.
There he was, exploding high in the air from the ground, pointing to the fans and running at such a speed the Kid thought it impossible. He was noticeably smaller than the rest of the wrestlers he had seen, but moved at a pace that made him seem invisible. The Kid watched as El Diablo leaped onto the turnbuckle, and motioned to all the fans cheering and chanting his name, the Kid included. He felt so buzzed that he almost didn’t hear the CRASH of Grand Titan’s music start.
As El Diablo warmed up in the ring, the Kid watched in stunned silence as Grand Titan walked slowly down the aisle. He wasn’t just huge, he was the size of a house. His Dad, a strapping man himself, was a dwarf compared to Grand Titan, and the Kid suddenly found himself very frightened again.
He didn’t want to watch when the bell rang, and Grand Titan began clubbing away at El Diablo, not giving a moment to run away. It was painful for the Kid to watch, reminding him of his dream where El Diablo was thrown about the ring like a rag doll. But just as Grand Titan was in control, he made a mistake and El Diablo slipped between his legs. The Kid watched in fervent glee as El Diablo hit swift kicks at the back of Grand Titan’s knees, until he was down at his level. Then, the Kid almost wet himself with excitement as El Diablo ran at the opposite turnbuckle, seemed to glide across the ropes and leap off with a somersault over Grand Titan’s head, grabbing his neck and hitting the sweetest neck-breaker the Kid had ever seen.
But it wasn’t over yet. The Kid watched in anticipation as El Diablo went for a cover, and Grand Titan managed to throw him off at the 2 count. The audience around him seemed to “ooh” in agreement, and the Kid began to wonder if El Diablo was strong enough to take down the giant Titan.
El Diablo hit a few more kicks and elbows, before climbing the turnbuckle to launch one of his patented aerial assaults. The Kid was grinning hard as he watched El Diablo fly off… and land straight in Grand Titan’s waiting arms. The Titan threw the luchador down on his knees once, twice, three times. Each successful blow reverberating through the Kid. He held on tight to his Dad’s head as he sat on his shoulders, fingers digging deep into his Dad’s scalp.
Titan started another crunching volley of clotheslines and slams, El Diablo becoming more and more limp with every successive fall to the mat. The Kid didn’t know it, but tears were beginning to form in his eyes as he watched his hero be decimated at every turn. And then, the horror truly hit home. Grand Titan signalled for the Titan Slam. It was all over.
One of the Kid’s hands hovered near his face, ready to cover his eyes as El Diablo would be slammed violently to the hard, uncaring mat. He didn’t want to see it, but couldn’t look away. He watched as Titan picked El Diablo up, the Mexican superstar barely able to stand, and thrust him up high into a press slam. The end was coming, and the Kid winced.
But then something happened, something so fast the Kid couldn’t quite believe it. El Diablo pulled himself against one of Grand Titan’s thick arms, swung round and wrapped his legs around the beasts head, spun round more for momentum and threw the giant to the floor with a devastating move known as a hurricanrana. The Kid couldn’t quite believe it as he watched El Diablo stagger to his feet, look to the crowd, and point to the sky. The Kid was almost deafening himself with screams of joy as he saw El Diablo climb the turnbuckle, motion again to the skies, and fly off with a twisting corkscrew moonsault that seemed to defy gravity with each turn of El Diablo’s body. He landed hard on Grand Titan, hooked his leg, and pinned him for the 1… 2… 3.
The place erupted, and no-one cheered louder than the Kid.
El Diablo celebrated in the ring, throwing his arms up in victory while his fast-paced music played. Soon, he left the ring and began high-fiving the fans next to the barrier. The Kid watched as his hero got closer, and closer, until he was eventually mere feet away from the Kid. For a moment, he watched as El Diablo walked past him, looked out pointing to the crowd, pointed at the Kid, and gave him a thumbs up. As El Diablo kept walking the crowd, the Kid felt himself bawling, not because he was sad, but because he was so happy. His Dad hoisted him off his shoulders and gave him a big hug. The Kid couldn’t say thank you enough.
The rest of the show hardly mattered, but the Kid loved it all the same. After the main event and another “bonus match” featuring Killer Konrad team with Cort Maverick, the announcers told the crowd the show was over for now, but will be back next year and to get their tickets early. The Kid looked at his dad, his expression hidden by his replica mask. Dad just smiled and said maybe.
Outside, the air was cooler as night had descended over the City. The massive amount of people spilled out of the arena and headed towards their homes and transport, with the Kid and his Dad part of them. However, instead of going to where the car was, Dad was directing the Kid to the side of the arena. The Kid looked up and saw that his Dad had a mischievous look in his eye.
He noticed a few other fans had gathered to where his Dad was taking him, all brandishing notepads and pens. It took a moment before the Kid realized he was now at the wrestlers entrance, where they got into the arena.
They waited for a while before the first, low-card wrestlers emerged from the door. The fans around them, including the Kid’s Dad, asked for autographs and some of the wrestlers duly obliged. Dad was using the program as a makeshift autograph book, and each wrestler was finding his profile and jotting down his signature. As each wrestler came out, their fame and stature grew. The Jenner Brothers, Damien D’Ath, even the terrifying Grand Titan emerged and gave his signature to the Kid’s Dad. The Kid was shocked to see Grand Titan’s hand was as big as his Dad’s head. It was intimidating and even more so when Grand Titan saw the Kid in his El Diablo mask and growled.
But then, El Diablo himself appeared. The fans around him clambered for his autograph and the Mexican luchador obliged, scribbling his name across whatever they offered him. The Kid’s Dad though, instead of offering his program picked up the Kid and held him before El Diablo. He shouted out that the Kid was a big fan, and El Diablo stopped and stood before them.
The Kid couldn’t believe it when El Diablo held his hand out for a high five. The Kid obliged, and then watched as his Dad gave El Diablo a pen, and his hero signed the program, and then his mask. The pen tickled as it tracked across his head before El Diablo gave the pen back. Then the amazing happened for the Kid as El Diablo leaned in to talk to him.
“You’re my hero…” the Kid whispered, his voice cracking with emotion.
“Gracias Amigo. Your Papi bring you tonight?”
The kid nodded, his lips trembling too much to talk.
“Then your Papi, he’s the real hero eh?”
El Diablo stood up again, and offered one final thumbs up for the Kid before heading towards a waiting car. As the Kid watched him vanish into the night, he turned round into his Dad’s arms and gave him the biggest squeeze he could muster.
And now, the Kid was the Man.
He always remembered that memory of meeting El Diablo fondly, and would tell his own kid’s how amazing it was to be standing in the presence of not only a real superstar, but a real superhero. The Man would show them his signed mask, and tell them that El Diablo went on to win the World Title a number of times, and continue being the best until injuries got the better of him. The Man’s kids weren’t as interested in wrestling as much as him; the stories were too silly and characters not that interesting. But they watched the occasional main event and pay-per-view.
But the fondest part of the memory for the Man, the bit that he loved telling his kids most of all, were the ones that involved his Dad, their Granddad. He was gone now, taken while the Man was still a Kid. But with that memory of the wrestling, and all the other good ones that he held close to his heart, he would never be completely gone. The Man would remember those times, and feel the emotion well up as he thought about when he was ringside with his hero, his Dad.
(Ringside with the Kid is from Filmic Cuts 2: Luchador Monkey Crisis, which is available now on Kindle & Paperback.)