Tradition

 
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[The view provided by a handheld digital camera is nothing that screams out “big budget”, but it gets the job done in the fly-by-night world of independent pro wrestling. It is through that crystal clear yet amateurish portal that we open our little ditty with a shot of a brightly colored luchadore mask. The mask in question – a fluorescent yellow with a giant orange sun on the forehead – is pulled down over a white Styrofoam head.]

[A voice begins to speak. It is low and almost dull sounding in its quality, and it should be noted that it speaks without the slightest trace of an accent.]

Let’s talk for a second about tradition.

In Mexico, it is traditional for wrestlers to wear masks. It is a part of the culture of Mexican wrestling, or “lucha libre” if you prefer, and has been for decades. A mask is part of a wrestler’s identity. It is part of his personality. In time, it becomes part of his very soul. In Mexico, the mask is sacred.

The mask you see here belonged to the legendary Alpha Dawn. I wrestled him on many occasions over the last decade. He has beaten me every time, although that does not make him particularly special. What does make him special are his incredible aerial skills, his complete and utter lack of regard for his own body, and of course… his mask.

This mask.

[The handheld camera pans left, switching from the blinding yellow of the Alpha Dawn, to a new mask, also resting on a Styrofoam mannequin head. This one is purple, with gold and green swirls entwined all around and a myriad of sparkling silver stars sprinkled throughout.]

Now this, this belonged to an old friend of mine – Octavio Mystique. Back in the day – *way* back in the day – we would eat together, train together, ride to shows together, and oh yeah, we’d lose together. He went by the name of El Matador back then. But that was before he returned to his roots – returned to Mexico – and became something he could be proud of. Today he is a big star.

[Pause.]

I’m happy for him.

[Once again a pan left, this time revealing a silver mask with two yellow lightning bolts fanning out from either side and scaling back towards the back of the head. A cyclone-like swirl is one either side as well.]

Recognize this one? If you’ve followed Mexican wrestling at all, you will. The great Phantasm.  He’s won more titles than I have matches, which is really more impressive than it sounds, given my record. In addition, he’s won more matches where his mask was on the line than anyone in history.

You see, the mask is such an important part of the Mexican way, that wrestlers – at the peak of a feud – will put their masks on the line. Sometimes it will be mask-versus-mask, sometimes mask-versus-hair, or perhaps mask-versus-title.  Whatever the stipulation, the point is that to lose one’s mask… to be forced to remove your mask and wrestle unhooded, is to suffer the ultimate shame.  Losing your mask is like losing your soul. It is such a serious and sacred tradition that there are many young Mexican wrestlers who won’t wear a mask for fear that they are not yet good enough to keep it.

Phantasm… he has never lost his. He most likely never will. He is too prideful and too talented to ever be shamed in that way.

[The unsteady hand of the operator moves again, now settling on a black mask with smoky gray circles around the eyes and temples. The nose and mouth portions are completely exposed, giving the whole thing the look of a burned skull. An inverted red cross is imprinted on the forehead, just between the eyes.]

In all of history, there is perhaps no more feared mask than this one – the mask of LocoMotive. In addition to being completely suicidal and fearless in and out of the ring, he is the man who is known as the “Soultaker”, because of the number of masks he has taken in mask-versus-masks matches. The number is rumored to be well over fifty, although time and legend have probably exaggerated that number. Either way, he is the Grim Reaper of Mexican wrestling and he is someone not to be trifled with.

[Pan again. This time we land on a mask that looks quite out of place when compared to the sleek, stylish models we had seen previously. It is a golden-yellow, with an extremely hideous monkey face stretching from the brow ridge back over the skull and a spider’s web creeping around from the nape of the neck to the jaw-line. It is the type of mask where the mouth portion remains open, allowing the chin to be exposed.]

This mask? This is mine. This is the mask of Spider Monkey.

[There is an awkward pause while we focus on this bizarre looking piece of ring attire.]

It’s a piece of shit.

It’s ugly, it’s stupid, it’s childish. Only a complete and utter tool would wear something that makes them look that retarded.

Which is *precisely* why I wear it.

You see, those other masks… those were masks of greatness. They represented the great tradition of Mexican wrestling. They were worn with pride and dignity by men much better equipped to represent that great wrestling heritage than I. Which quite frankly is fine by me, cuz I think tradition sucks.

Yeah, I’ve been wrestling down in Mexico for a number of years now, but before that I was up in the states – back at *home* – wrestling my ass off and getting nowhere. I sat back and watched while a bunch of untalented dicks with Mr. Olympia physiques and catchy slogans got made into stars while I had to spend my nights looking up at the lights.  Because you see, apparently I sucked. In fact, there are those who would stay that I still suck. That all my years of working hard and trying my damndest to improve haven’t amounted to a damn thing.

They’re probably right.

I’ve failed before and odds are I’m gonna fail this time too. You heard the phrase, “you can’t teach and old dog new tricks”? Well guess what? This dog has fleas.  So yeah, I’m most likely doomed to failure even as we speak. Which takes us back to the mask…

[We zoom in ever-so-slightly on the yellow monstrosity.]

Spider Monkey. A stupid name for a loser of a wrestler. How fitting.

You see, I’m about ready to piss all over this tradition. A mask is a symbol of the man? Yeah right. This mask is a symbol of losing; of failure. And I’m gonna wear this mask… this ugly, freakish, god awful mask, for as long as it takes until I can stand up and say that I’ve become somebody in this sport. Hell, I’ll probably end up buried in it. Because while it may be a shame for those boys down south of the border to lose theirs, it’s shame that’s put me *in* mine. You see, the way I see it, I don’t deserve to show my face. I’ve lost the right to wrestle as myself, so I’ve got to put on this ridiculous piece of crap and show the world just how *big* of a loser I’ve become.

And maybe – someday – if I manage to actually beat somebody decent; to actually string together a couple of wins against guys who aren’t fresh out of wrestling school or decades past their prime; well then maybe I’ll be able to peel this disgusting thing off and turn my back on the past forever.

Until then, I’ll wear it.

Until then, I’ll be Spider Monkey. The guy everyone thinks they can – hell, they *should* – beat.  And all you jerks who’ve been calling me a joke for my whole career… well feel free to use me as your punchline just a little longer.  My pride is your doormat. Go ahead.

That goes for you too “Bullet” Brian Buchanon. You want to make a name for yourself in DWS? Allow me to be your stepping stone. Just don’t expect anybody to be impressed, least of all me. Everybody knows that if you beat me this week, it was to be expected. It won’t be a measure of jack shit in the eyes of your peers.

But then again…

[Slowly the camera begins to zoom out, soon bringing the entire row of masks into the same picture.]

…If I somehow manage – miracle of miracles – to beat you…

Well maybe – just maybe – there’ll be something to be said for all this tradition crap after all.

[Pause.]

And perhaps then the monkey will be on *your* back… instead of mine.

[Cut the feed.]

 
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