Vampire Weekend Warriors
by Matthew Damascus
Do vampires really exist?
Well, if you go into a Denny’s on any given night, yes they do. That is, if your definition of “vampire” is an acne-riddled 15-year old with a faded Marilyn Manson shirt, a dubious black cape, a deck of Vampire: The Masquerade cards, and a serious sense of self-delusion.
No, really. You know, vampires. Vampires. Lurking in the darkest corners of your imagination….
In the wrestling world, however, vampires are alive and well.
So-called “serious” wrestling purists, devotees of the Japanese style epitomized by Misawa and Kobashi, long-time WWF fans, lucha fanatics, have co-opted the word “vampire” and use it to derisively refer to a darker side of the wrestling fanbase.
“Vampires” – they live to see blood. They crave it. For a vampire, it’s not a wrestling match until there’s blood. And I’m not talking the restrained bleeding we see on Monday Night wrestling. No, the ring has to be awash in blood. Rivers of red. The crimson mask, as it is called when a wrestler’s face is completely covered in deep red, is the ultimate moment to be relished.
The vampire fan has several icons: Terry Funk, Sabu, Cactus Jack, Atsushi Onita, Dusty Rhodes, and several lesser known Japanese lunatics (I mean that in the nicest possible sense). The ultimate vampire match, as recognized by the mainstream American public, was the “Born To Be Wired” barbed wire match between Terry Funk and Sabu in ECW. It goes beyond spectacle to near-snuff. At the end of the match, after Sabu has wrapped himself in barbed wire and splashed Funk off the ropes, it takes paramedics with bolt cutters at least fifteen minutes to separate the two men from one another and their web-womb of barbed wire.
The Cactus Jack tapes and IWA King of the Deatmatch tournament always do a brisk business whenever I visit the video merchants at an ECW event.
Its not only the fans, but the wrestlers who become seduced by the mythic allure of the vampires. Backyard wrestlers, and smaller indie leagues boast of gore that would make ECW look like a sewing circle. The boldest display of this vampire-fetish came when MSNBC did a piece on “extreme wrestling” that focused on New Jersey-based indie Combat Zone Wrestling. A wrestler named Lowlife Louie Ramos was interviewed and came off full of his own hype, bragging nonstop about the risks he takes and the blood he loses, not knowing how pitiful his wrestling skills were actually looking. Anyway, blah blah, he’s hardcore, I’m hardcore, and all of the sudden Ramos takes out a staple gun and staples his arm like six times just for the benefit of the folks at home.
Hey asshole, thanks for making all wrestling fans look like twats.
For the most part, I side against vampires. I don’t NEED to see a wrestler bleed for me. I don’t NEED to see a wrestler jump off a twenty-foot scaffold for me. Most of the time, I don’t even WANT to see it.
But goddamnit, there is no such thing as an absolute in wrestling.
Case in point: ECW Heatwave, July 16.
Boring show, didn’t do anything for me. With one exception.
Steve Corino, for the second pay-per-view in a row, turned bleeding into an art.
I don’t know how the fuck I can be so contradictory. But its just that when Steve Corino, clad in red tights and white cowboy boots, is awash in his own blood, and staggering around the ring, punchdrunk like Iggy Pop during his best Stooges days… It’s more than just wrestling at that point, it’s performance art, it’s Kabuki theatre, it’s a homage to Nature Boy Ric Flair, a mess of platinum blonde and blood. Corino plays his part perfectly, he immerses himself in it.
Here’s the crucial difference with Corino- this kid has it all. He’s in his mid-twenties, he’s complete gold on the microphone, and he can wrestle like hell. I’m a total mark for his cowby-boot augmented superkicks. A Steve Corino-bloodfest is not him desperately trying to distract and dazzle the casual fan with gore, in hopes of concealing his limitations in the ring (like certain horror movies). Not a chance.
Steve Corino bleeds because he’s giving his utmost. Steve Corino bleeds because he feels like it. Steve Corino bleeds because it’s part of his act. Steve Corino bleeds because he punishes his body in the ring. Steve Corino bleeds because he’s the king of old school. Steve Corino bleeds because he does it so fucking well.
Enough with the garlic already.