When I was in third grade, or so, my brother (in fifth grade) and I were into Wrestling. Now, I’m not talking grade school athletics, weird headguards and unitards Wrestling, I’m talking Professional Wrestling. This was in the glory days of Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, Hacksaw Jim Duggan. This was in the time of the Bushwhackers, the Rockers, Captain Lou, The Junkyard Dog, Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts, the Macho Man Randy Savage and his lovely Miss Elizabeth. The time of Mean Gene Okerlund and the Heartbreakers, Ravishing Rick Rude, and all the other immensely creative and ingenious characters. Of course we thought this whole charade was real…all kids do, and some men too.
My cousin Chris and step-cousin Jesse had turned us onto the sport, mostly because when we were all together we would have Tag Team wrestling matches. My brother and Chris were always on a team together, and Jesse and I were always stuck together. He was just as much of a girl as me, although I like to think that I had a little more fire and passion to not get beat down than he did. Any family gathering, we would close ourselves up in a room or outside and pummel each other like ruthless young boys (and a girl).
I specifically recall one Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house. All the adults in one room, chit chatting away about grades, drinks, money, and gossip- oh so boring! The four of us in another room deciding what to play…and of course I was always forced into being the other tag team participant, otherwise there weren’t even teams. I always got ‘talked’ into playing. Being the only girl, and the youngest of the group, it was basically wrestle or pay for it later.
‘This match has been scheduled for one fall,’ Jesse would announce. ‘In this corner, the challengers, Jesse and Kate! Ahh Ahh Yeah Yeah!’ We would cheer for ourselves and make muscles and mean faces to our opponents. I think this was the most fun. The taunting. Who doesn’t love a good taunt?
‘And in this corner, weighing in at a combined weight of 900 lbs, the WWF (because it was still WWF back then too) Champions, Chris and Marshall! Boo Boo,’ and Jesse would hiss and boo at our older, stronger opponents.
‘Ding Ding Ding!’ and the match began.
Marshall, my brother, and I began. He’d come at me and I’d duck, going for his legs. I would grab onto his legs and try to pull his to the ground. Try as I might, I was never able to take him down. He bent over and swiped me up from around the belly and tossed me onto the couch (we could always use the whole room and furniture to our advantage), pretending to drop elbows on my skull. I always crouched up in the fetal position and gave an occasional swift kick without really looking where I was kicking. I’d get him with maybe 2 out of 6 and he’d hit roll me off the couch and onto the floor and de-fetal my body. He sat on my feet and started grappling my legs around his.
‘Oh! It’s the figure four leg lock!’ screams Jesse, still pretending to be our announcer, ‘Let’s see if she submits!’
Jesse would chime in often, taking on the role of Mean Gene. He would interview us before and after the match. He would call out moves that we were pretending to lock onto each other. It was a blast, really.
‘Oh, she breaks free and goes for the tag out!’
I slap Jesse on the hand to trade out of the match. Marshall does the same with Chris, and we see two new opponents meet with fresh energy.
Chris and Jesse were unspoken rivals, even outside of the ring. Chris was always poking fun at Jesse and wrestling his self-esteem even before any match would begin. Jesse, tall and skinny, had spiked hair and glasses (that he removed for wrestling, of course). He always assumed the role of The Ultimate Warrior. He always acted as the outcast of our foursome, simply because he was part of the family by marriage and not blood. We all never really cared- we were kids and didn’t even understand how all of that worked. We just knew that we were all kids and we all liked wrestling. My brother and I treated him like another cousin, but Chris was brutal to him.
Chris was a stocky young boy an always assumed the role of Andre the Giant.
I mean, he wasn’t tall or obese, just a little pudgy. His famous move was the crusher– where he’d basically sit or lay on top of you and jump up and down, crushing his opponent more and more each time. Kind of a rib buster, really. I hated that move most because I was the smallest and he was giant compared to me, and he always crushed me!
So Jesse and Chris, the Ultimate Warrior and Andre the Giant, went at each other with a fury. Marshall took over as announcer.
‘Oh! Andre’s for him down on the floor- one, two- and he breaks free of the pin.’
Squirrelly and feisty, Jesse would bounce around like a boxer and take the play match into a real wrestling match. Man, he threw punches and kicks. I wouldn’t have put it past him to bite now and again. When the fighting would get out of control, Marshall or I would call out,
‘Where’s the Ref? Where’s the Ref?’
They’d back off a little and in a fury, Jesse would slap my hand and send me in and reseat himself at the announcer’s throne.
I was back in. Shit. This time at the mercy of Andre the Giant, better known as Chris my pudgy cousin. I stepped up onto the couch and bounced ‘off the ropes’ onto his back. It really was stealth on my part, but I was no match to take down the beast- he twirled me around and down to the floor I flew. He went in for the kill- the Crusher! Only he missed his target and sat directly on my head.
He sat and I began screaming bloody murder and immediately began to bawl my eyes out. The pain from this weight on my cranium!
This is basically how every match ended. Someone, usually Chris, would inadvertently cause me, the girly girl, too much pain and I’d scream and cry and all the fun would be over.
This particular time, Marshall gave me a pillow and said, ‘Shhhh, here Kate- cry into this pillow. Be quiet, he’s sorry, shhhhh, be quiet!!’ The boys never wanted to quit the game. Well what boy would want to? Pretend wrestling? It was fun. My crying loudly always brought my mom or Chris’s dad to the room to put the rough housing to a halt. I got consolement with cookies and soda and the boys had to find another non-physical game to play.
Oh, that made the next match even worse! They never forgot that I ruined the fun last time and I’d get pummeled even worse for it at Christmas time. I still bring up the crush to my skull Thanksgiving nearly every Thanksgiving. Sometimes it’s nice to be a girl.