Ballots and Body Slams

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No
question about it. This was going to be THE big match of the TV
wrestling season. The One Party Wrestling Federation (OPWF) was
going all out to promote the Battle of the Beltway.

In
this “sport”, every move, grunt and body slam is carefully scripted
and choreographed. No room for spontaneity or surprises here, and
that was especially true for the current OPWF champion and his challenger.

The
Masked Mediocrity used to be known as “Junior”, as his father of
the same name once held the New World Order Wrestling Association
(NWOWA) title before losing it in a battle royal to Runty Ross and
Hilbilly Willie. Junior prefers to be called “M”, and his championship
belt was a controversial one.

Nature
Boy (Hilbilly Willie’s former tag team partner) had M pinned for
eight seconds during their championship match. As usual, the clueless
referee missed the action. That gave M’s tag team partner Darth
Cheney a chance to sneak into the ring and kick Nature Boy in the
head.

M
belted the dazed Nature Boy with his famed Key West Cruncher and
followed with a Miami Masher. After an impressive pile driver, M
pinned his opponent and won the OPWF belt amidst thunderous boos
and curses from Nature Boy’s fans.

An
angry Nature Boy refused to accept the results, and his constant
whining killed any hope he had of rising in the OPWF galaxy of wrestling
stars.

“Go
along with the script or get out,” said Ed Slimebag, who ran the
OPWF in partnership with his identical twin brother Fred. Everyone
agreed that the brothers were alike in virtually every way. Everyone,
that is, except the Slimebag twins.

“I’m
a conservative. Ed’s a pinko liberal,” declared Fred.

“Conservative?
You’re a right-wing extremist!” screamed Ed.

The
brothers were dressed in identical custom-tailored charcoal gray
suits, starched white shirts, red ties and black Gucci shoes.

“Ed
and I are very different,” Fred insisted. “Look at the ties. Mine
has white dots. Ed’s has little diamonds.”

“I
drive a Lexus. Fred has a BMW. We are different!”, Ed agreed.

When
it came to business, the twins were in total agreement. All opposition,
rivals or alternatives to the OPWF monopoly were to be crushed.
The similar personalities of the Slimebag brothers were often compared
to Al Capone on a bad day.

Excitement
was in the air at the plush OPWF headquarters. Ed and Fred were
about to meet with M and his challenger, the Boston Brahmin. It
was time to script their winner-take-all match, and nobody could
concoct a convincing plot like the Slimebag brothers.

The
Brahmin lived up to his name. An aloof, arrogant cold fish, it took
the considerable promotional talents of Ed and Fred to turn the
New Englander into a championship contender. BB had one asset that
appealed to wrestling fans.

His
wife – better known as Ms. Moneybags – was often seen during matches.
Accompanied by a burly guard who carried a large canvas sack of
$1 bills, Ms. Moneybags would reach into the stash and toss currency
to the crowd. She sometimes slipped a $10 or $20 into the bag, which
was enough to cause the fans to engage in some brawling of their
own.

“Aren’t
the lower classes amusing?,” Ms. Moneybags would laugh and smirk
as she watched dozens of people chase the $1s that she tossed.

What
was amazing about the Brahmin’s rise to the championship match was
his lack of a discernible persona. Was he a hero or a heel? Every
top wrestler was either a good guy or a rat. The Bostonian provided
no clues.

“The
fans see me as a noble warrior,” he intoned. “Others think of me
as a dark villain. Some say I’m a complex mix of moves and techniques.
Actually, I’m all of the above.”

“Will
ya quit flip flopping?”, screamed an exasperated Ed, who was the
Brahmin’s agent. Fred handles the same duties for M, who also had
an identity problem.

“I’m
a compassionate conqueror,” he declared. “I hunt down evildoers
in a ruthless and merciful way.” Those mixed messages didn’t deter
the Masked Mediocrity’s hardcore fans, whose slavish devotion to
their hero seemed way out of proportion to his abilities.

The
combatants and their entourages sat at opposite ends of a conference
room. The Slimebag twins were running this show, and Ed and Fred
barked out the plot in rapid-fire bursts.

“Listen
up. This is gonna be a cage match!”

“Why
a cage match?”, asked the Brahmin. “I look better in a regular ring.”

“I’ll
tell you why, Brahmin,” Ed replied. “It’s not to keep you and M
confined. We know you guys will follow the script. The cage is there
to keep the riffraff out.”

“You
mean the fans?”, M asked.

“Who
cares about the fans?”, Fred snarled. “I’m talking about the party
crashers – Badnarik, Peroutka and that pest Nader.” All in the room
obediently hissed at the mention of those names.

“We
may be opponents, but M and I both agree that those horrid creatures
should be banned from the arena!”, declared the Brahmin in a four-star
hissy fit. M nodded vigorously in agreement.

“They’re
all nuts,” Ed growled. “Those three want clean, fair wrestling matches
without the OPWF. That’ll never happen as long as Fred and I are
around!”

Ed
returned to the script for the big event.

“It’s
gonna be a best of three falls thriller!”, he shouted. “They’ll
be talking about this match for decades! Any questions?”

The
vain Brahmin didn’t like this idea. A long match meant his hair
could get mussed. “Do we really need to wrestle that long? Why isn’t
this a typical one-fall match?”, he whimpered.

“Don’t
you know anything about this sport, Brahmin?”, Fred snarled. “Three
falls means a lot more pay-per-view and cable TV money for all of
us! Since I’m your agent, M, I’ll break the bad news to you.”

“What
it is, Fred?”

“You’re
gonna lose the first fall to the Brahmin, and you’ll look bad doing
it.”

Since
he grew up in a wrestling family and knew how the game worked, M
didn’t overreact to the occasional loss with the same sanctimonious
indignation as the Brahmin.

“Tell
me about it, Fred. You and Ed have always put on a good show. I’ll
go along with it.”

“Here’s
round one, M. The Brahmin attacks you from the back as you’re waving
to the fans before the bell rings. You battle back, land a few Key
West Crushers and even toss him into the turnbuckles once, but the
Brahmin still pounds you hard.”

Eager
to make it look good, M adds a twist to the plot.

“I
wear a white mask because I’m supposed to be a hero,” M said. “There’s
another important reason to wrestle masked. I can hide a lot of
fake blood capsules in there. The fans go crazy when I bleed on
the white mask. Give me a few shots on top of the head, Brahmin.
They’ll go wild when the capsules burst.”

Ed
takes over and gives the Brahmin his instructions.

“Put
a blood capsule in one of your nostrils. When M smacks you in the
nose, I want it to gush all over your face.”

The
narcissistic Brahmin nearly jumps out of his seat.

“I’ll
have you know that the Boston Brahmin NEVER bleeds!”, he screamed.
“Bleeding is so. . .undignified.”

Ed
has no tolerance for dissent. He grabs the Brahmin by the collar
and reads him the riot act.

“So
you don’t like blood capsules? Listen up, you prissy poser. I can
always create another contender. I’ll give you something without
blood capsules, Brahmin. I’ve been wanting to stage a co-ed match
with Mad Dog Molly for months. You can wrestle her.”

Mad
Dog Molly was the terror of the OPWF. No opponent escaped her claws,
bites, brass knuckles and eye gouges. Molly refused all fake blood
products, as she drew plenty of the real thing. Many fans suspected
her marriage to Hilbilly Willie was nothing but show, but Ed and
Fred insisted on keeping that part of the plot.

The
thought of dealing with Molly caused BB to become much more cooperative.

“If
the champion can plant a dozen blood capsules in his mask, I can
certainly have one as well,” he said. “It’s for the fans.”

Being
independently wealthy, Ms. Moneybags always felt free to speak her
mind, and she did.

“Scripted
punches, plots! This is totally phony!”, she screamed, storming
out to a waiting limo.

“Wrestling
ain’t phony!”, Fred responded. “We’ve got the most genuine looking
synthetic blood capsules in the business!”

Ed
brought the meeting back to order.

“Make
it a long first round, guys,” he said. “It helps the ratings. Pretty
Boy Edwards is gonna sneak into the ring and bash M with a folding
chair, then the Brahmin will pin him.”

“I
thought this was a cage match,” M said. “How does Pretty Boy get
in and hit me?”

“This
is wrestling. If we want someone in the cage, they’ll get in.”

“What
about round two?”, asked the Brahmin.

“Shut
up! I’m not done with round one yet. Darth, you run into the ring,
smack Pretty Boy in the head and throw him through the metal cage.”

Edwards
didn’t like that idea.

“He’s
gonna throw me through steel fencing? I’ll be in the hospital for
a month!”

It
was Fred’s turn to speak.

“One
section of the cage is plastic mesh spray painted to look like the
real thing,” he said. “It’ll shatter when you hit it. Land on the
padding outside the ring, and you won’t feel a thing. Darth has
done this one a dozen times. He always makes it look good.”

Darth
gave his younger “opponent” some advice.

“When
you hit the ground, give ‘em some of that screaming and whining
you do so well,” he suggested. “Call me all kinds of names, threaten
to sue me, the whole act.”

“Sound
like a sleazy lawyer, Pretty Boy,” Ed said.

“Sleazy
lawyer? You’re being redundant,” Fred remarked.

There
was more brawling before the second round.

“Make
sure your back is turned towards the Brahmin’s corner, Darth,” Fred
said. “Beer Barrel O’Keefe will sneak in the ring and hit you with
a whiskey bottle. That’ll be the end of the night for you.”

“It
certainly will,” Darth said. “They’ll be picking glass out of my
head for a week.”

Fred
quietly reached down, grabbed a hidden object and struck Darth with
lightning speed. Cheney rolled over expecting to be drenched in
his own blood, but not a drop was spilled.

“That’s
the bottle Beer Barrel’s gonna use,” Fred said. The specially made
plastic prop had shattered into dozens of pieces.

It
was no surprise that the Slimebag twins inserted Ted “Beer Barrel”
O’Keefe into the plot. The hard-drinking grappler was a long-time
tag team partner with the Brahmin. As the Boston Stranglers, the
duo dominated the East Coast Demopublican Wrestling Association
(ECDWA) for years. The ECDWA was one of a number of supposedly “independent”
regional groups that were totally dominated by the One Party Wrestling
Federation.

“Now
the cage is broken,” Ed told both sides. “That means it’ll take
a long time to remove the debris and set up the ring without a cage
for round two. This is where the marketing and merchandising department
takes over. After having screamed their lungs out, the fans will
be hungry. Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Domino’s have all bought time
during the break, and they’re paying prime rates.”

The
ads were just a small part of the take on this event.

“The
break will be one long home-shopping program with some clips from
round one,” Fred explained. “We’ll be pushing white masks autographed
by M, replica Brahmin wrestling trunks, $1 bills signed by Ms. Moneybags,
T-shirts, dolls, booze bottles autographed by Beer Barrel, DVDs
of the match, you name it. The Red Chinese sweatshops are working
overtime to make all the stuff.”

As
usual, the participants were reminded to do what they were told.

“If
everyone involved sticks to the script and puts on a good show,
we’ll all make a pile of dough!”, Fred said.

“Now
for Round 2,” Ed began. “Put on a clean white mask and go very light
on the blood capsules, M. You’re going to win this one. It’s your
round.”

Mindful
of the fans, M makes a suggestion to his opponent.

“Hey,
Brahmin! Let’s show them some fancy moves! Why don’t we give ‘em
some of the stuff we learned at the Skull & Bones Wrestling
Academy?”

Fred
goes ballistic at the mention of the secret school for TV wrestling’s
hand-picked elite.

“You
NEVER talk about that place in public!”, he roared. “No one’s supposed
to know about Skull & Bones! Say it again, and you’ll be wrestling
on the North Dakota circuit!” A chastised M goes silent.

Ed
resumes laying out the script.

“Since
we’re back to a normal ring, you’ll each have an ally in your corner.
Beer Barrel will be with the Brahmin. The Terminator will be in
M’s corner.”

It
was another shrewd moved by the Slimebag twins. The Terminator dominated
the California Republicrat Association for Professional Wrestling
(CRAP). His stern Teutonic image and ability to play to the cameras
could only help boost the ratings.

“Like
I said before, you’re winning the round, M,” Ed continued. “You’ll
land most of the punches and kicks, but the Brahmin grabs your arm
and tosses you into his corner about 12 minutes after the bell goes
off. That’s when Beer Barrel pulls a rope out of his trunks and
chokes you.”

Fred
picks up the plot.

“Land
some good punches while M is choking, Brahmin, but that’s not the
main thing,” Fred said. “You start trying to pull M’s mask off and
reveal his identity just before the Terminator comes over and clobbers
Beer Barrel.”

The
thought of a powerful blow from the Terminator made the Brahmin
wince. In a rare moment of concern for others, he spoke up.

“I
hope the Terminator doesn’t smash you too hard, partner,” he said
to O’Keefe. Beer Barrel let out a hearty laugh.

“The
Terminator barks like a rottweiler, but he bites like a toy poodle,”
chuckled the veteran of the ring. “Besides, do you think he’d even
lay a scratch on dear old Uncle Ted? He’s a good nephew and loyal
to the OPWF. The Terminator will clip me on the jaw, and I’ll go
down like I’ve been crushed.”

“Nobody
knows how to take a dive like Beer Barrel,” joked Ed, referring
to O’Keefe’s many drunken falls. The whole room laughed.

Fred
wraps up the plot for round two.

“Once
Beer Barrel quits choking you, M, you go crazy on the Brahmin,”
he ordered. “He tried to take your mask. That’s the ultimate insult
to a wrestler. Pound him and toss him around the ring, then jump
from the top rope and pin him.”

“You
don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and you don’t mess
around with M,” Cheney said, paraphrasing the old Jim Croce hit
song.

No
one had to tell M how important his mask was. While the two wrestlers
were being portrayed as heated opponents, the truth was that they
had a great deal in common. If M’s mask came off, the fans just
might see the truth.

The
Brahmin flashed a rare smile.

“Superb!
Excellent plot, gentlemen!”, he said. “Each of the valiant wrestlers
has won one fall going into the decisive third round. The obvious
conclusion is that a bruised, battered Boston Brahmin bounces back
and bravely defeats the Masked Mediocrity to claim the OPWF championship
belt.”

M
definitely had other ideas.

“Not
so fast, Brahmin,” he said. “This is my belt. No one takes the OPWF
title from me that easy.”

The
Brahmin and M went for each other’s throats, and for once it wasn’t
fake. Ed and Fred pulled their clients apart.

“Save
it for the match!”, Fred shouted.

Beer
Barrel asked the question that everyone wanted answered.

“So
who’s going to win the Battle of the Beltway?”, he said.

“We’re
still working on that,” Ed replied. “Come back here November 2,
and we’ll let you know.”

October
25, 2004

Al
Doyle [send him mail]
has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine staff writer and freelancer
since 1983. He won’t allow his children to attend government schools.

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