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Ballots and Body Slams

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

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