here’s a legend of an old wrestler, a real brawler, who got his fingers caught in the trunk of a car after the last of the boys had piled in his suitcase. The man didn’t scream. Didn’t cry. No, he sold it. Because fans were around who could see him and know him. Because he was tough and understood the importance of portraying the business as real and his character as impervious to pain.
It’s legend, like I said, but it coexists with an old adage that when a man’s truly hurt, you’ll know because he’ll forget to sell.
Professional wrestlers are a strange breed. Selling hurt to tell stories, but only the chosen stories. Otherwise, we are stoics. Practitioners and proprietors of pain.
You know where this is going.
The night I landed wrong on a leap form the second rope and turned my ankle. When I couldn’t walk.
Martin LeRoux tried to pull me to my feet by my hair. I thought he’d seen I was hurt, now I had to tell him through gritted teeth. My ankle’s fucked.
But he took care of me, like a veteran does, like I’d learned, too. Threw my upper arm around his neck and rolled until I was pinning him, until he was pinning himself, until the ref counted to three and the match was over. Afterward, he bellowed at the ref about a fast count and how he’d been robbed and threatened to knock his head off, louder and louder as the fans watched the altercation brew. The misdirection.
For in this time, the referee threw up an X with his arms, subtly, signaling I was hurt before his arms twisted as if that X were incidental, just a step toward stretching them wide to yell back at LeRoux.
Two rookies came to get me. Not exactly the medic I might have expected, but they carried me the way they must have been instructed, hands clasped beneath my thighs, arms stretched across my back, and lift, an approximation of a wheelchair.
A few fans saw. Snapped pictures and pointed. But just those few. And it’s never the few we concerned ourselves with. It was the crowd.
And to the crowd, I might as well have disappeared. As my ankle throbbed, backstage there was doctor who unlaced my boot as fast as he could to get to the shattered bone beneath—the crowd cheered the referee, who I’d hear later had slapped LeRoux across his face. Then booed LeRoux—the bully!—who slammed him to the mat as the show went on.