So, I helped a buddy put together his first pro wrestling show (just minor help like you know, booking all the wrestlers, the announcer, the cameraman, having the FUCKING AWESOME poster by the amazing Kody Wynne made, literally getting every single person in the audience to attend, summoning the eminent Larry Goodman to do a review, providing rides, and filming as well as promoting the hell out of it over the very short three or four days I was allowed); so yeah, where was I? Oh yeah, minor help. Anyway, every aspect that had my fingerprints on it from the selection of the wrestlers to the announcer and so on were great. Every aspect that didn’t have my fingerprints on it — like the owner and his buddy working multiple gimmicks while trying to also run lights and exposing themselves as non-wrestlers (and that’s being kind) — was ridiculous.
Oh, and I almost forgot: I also talked my friend Matt Myers into doing it. Matt is a very gifted actor, playwright, all-around entertainer, and currently a ginger which I’m pointing out for no reason whatsoever; he’s also a part-time pro wrestler that can “make shit shine” as they say and he’s always been incredibly generous in helping to train others, sharing thoughts on how to improve things and did I mention he makes shit shine?
Well, there’s a limit to everything. The show was what it was; the workrate of the actual workers (Stitch, Kidd Fresh, AC Mack, Theory, Gil Quest, etc.) was actually good. Unfortunately their good matches came between the bizarre abortions attempted by the owners. If it had been deliberately funny it would’ve actually been good. And even as it was, people laughed and had a good time and not all the laughter was at the bad quality of the bad matches; some of it was just laughter at Corey’s smart-ass remarks. But I digress (like a Mexican luchador handing off a loaf of Italian bread that Corey pointed out was the wrong ethnicity; the bread, I mean.)
What follows is a certain someone’s re-imagining of that event (I didn’t write it, I would take credit if I were that good believe me) as if it were an art “instillation” (he spells it wrong on purpose). In other words, if it were really good by being so really bad that…it becomes art.
Atlanta Underground Art Wrestling Instillation September 25
by Mark Fabe
A friend at Georgia Perimeter mentioned that there was an immersive art project called Atlanta Underground Pro Wrestling going on nearby and asked if I wanted to go. He forwarded me the flyer, which was all text, no pictures, and really no description of what we would see. It looked like something from a secret society or cult. Needless to say, I was intrigued.
Now I understand what pro wrestling is: homoerotic ballet where the participants pretend to fight each other to homophobic and sexist cheering by sexually-repressed males. But I wanted to see what this artist would do with the concept, how would they twist the conceit. I was not disappointed.
The show was called “Underground” but unlike normal venues for music or art, where ‘underground’ would imply something outlawish/different than normally seen, this venue was literally in a basement of a building. Walking in, I felt like Tyler Durden on his first night of Fight Club.
The theatre was dark and dank, a place where you could imagine a snuff film being shot just minutes before, then a group of men in hazmat suits come in and hose the human juices out the door, into the street and begin setting up the ring.
Concessions were offered with the caveat that everything was free, as long as you tipped the price of the item. This, to me, set up the idea of what wrestling is: the viewer is a willing victim, a person paying to be fooled. Somewhat like the agreement made with a magician. I ‘accepted’ a diet Coke and then ‘tipped’ $1.00. “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” –Eagles.
As I sat down, my friend remarked how, “It felt like the room was closing in around us.” I couldn’t disagree. We sat in the back and I began the difficult task of figuring out who was part of the show and who had paid to see it as I had.
The artist had positioned a sad group of characters around the ring, aping the style of lovable losers. The fat guy. The internet guy. The heavyset girl they all like but are afraid to scare off. I felt like I was back on the high school yearbook staff. They worked throughout the show as a Greek Chorus, shouting barbs to the participants as the comical action occurred.
Once the action started, an array of pop culture and simulated violence was put on display. The open contest featured a masked comical party man, complete with party hats, against a man named Gas Mask. The show was going to play with caricatures and began deconstructing concepts and cultural norms. Would there be a wrestler named “The Wrestler”? Guess I’d wait and see.
This clash seemed to be showing the carefree style of the 1980s versus the grim realities of today. A happy go-lucky character completely battered and bruised by war and political strife, inundated by information and turmoil. The story was told very effectively.
Next, two young gentlemen came out and I had to wonder if there was any significance to both of them being African-Americans. Is this a nod to the troubles that young African-American males face on the streets every day? I was very impressed with their athleticism. Obviously the artist picked up some real wrestlers to give the show a feeling of authenticity.
After that, a homeless looking man came out and began talking about a failed relationship with his father. Then another man came out and began yelling at him. It seemed to display the way we treat our mentally ill.
They took an intermission and I listened to the dialogue (scripted? improvised?) between the other ‘customers’. One gentleman was loudly braying about how he was the most entertaining thing happening there and seemed to be laying it on very thick, showing the alternately high self esteem/low self esteem a lot of the fans of professional wrestling seem to possess. I enjoyed his character.
The second half began with a Jersey-Shore-esque gentleman facing a Mexican masked man who came out with a partner dressed in the same outfit. I got a little confused but in the end it somehow cost the Jersey man the match. I think this match leaned more heavily on the right-wing stereotypes that we’ve become so desensitized to, but I did enjoy that the Mexican wrestler (Luchadore, I was informed they are called) came out to Techno music, bucking one of the stereotypes of mariachi music, but then having a switcheroo between the two ‘luchadores’, showing that people of privilege are so unobservant that people of all other nationalities look the same.
By this time, admittedly, I was getting tired of the concept of the art opening and was ready to go. One last match between very athletic guys and I think must also have been ‘real ‘wrestlers’ or at least as real as wrestlers can be, which is an interesting thought in itself. Do we consider fake flowers to be real fake flowers? How can something be alternately real and fake? As Seneca said, “We suffer more from imagination than from reality.”
At the end of the show, a man came out, presumably playing the promoter, and apologized for everything we had just seen. He was perhaps the best actor in the troupe. Again, it hearkened back to the idea that there’s a sense of bravado these characters have and then they’re immediately regretful and require pity. They yell and scream one moment, pretending to hit and hate each other, and then they return to their lives of quiet obscurity.
Overall, I liked the instillation. It reminded me how we, as Americans, overindulge in all of our vices and virtues and how art can be found in the smallest, most ridiculous thing. I look forward to this artist’s next piece and would like to see what they did away from the pop culture milieu.