Montreal professional wrestler, El Generico, will be heading to Europe in late April to represent Canada in two prestigious wrestling tournaments: the King of Europe Cup in Liverpool, England on April 28th and 29th and wXw’s !6 Karat Gold tournament to be held in Essen, Germany from May 4th to 6th.
It is always a huge professional compliment to be invited to cross the Atlantic to wrestle. In the harsh meritocracy of professional wrestling, no promoter will purchase a plane ticket unless he is convinced that the fans will pay to see you wrestle. In this case, El Generico is the only wrestler from Canada invited to these two tournaments. So he is representing not just his home promotion, the International Wrestling Syndicate, not just his city, Montreal, but his entire adopted country.
This invitation continues the momentum from a very successful 2006 campaign for El Generico. He ended the year as one half of the California tag team champions Cape Fear with California native Quicksilver. He was voted California’s Outstanding Wrestler of the Year for 2006. Cape Fear was voted California’s tag team of the year and El Generico’s match against Pac, "The Man That Gravity Forgot", tied for match of the year. In addition, wrestling magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated placed him 294 on their PWI 500 list, the highest rating for a wrestler from Quebec in nearly ten years.
To mark this occasion, I have decided to write a little retrospective of the history of El Generico.
When We Were Marks That Rudolph Moment
There will come a time during the King of Europe Cup, or the 16 Karat Gold tournament when El Generico will find himself in difficulty, find himself trapped - facing a pin-fall, or being forced to tap the mat to admit defeat. When that moment happens, the last thing that El Generico will feel is fear. It is always a thrill to be invited to travel to Europe to wrestle; it will be an even bigger thrill to represent Canada. So there will be an adrenaline, but there will be no fear.
El Generico has already faced his fears; conquered his demons; won the biggest match of his life, but to explain that I will have to explain how a red-headed Mexican street urchin became El Generico.
He grew up in the streets of Tijuana, dreaming of becoming a professional wrestler, a luchador. He scrimped and saved (and stole) enough to pay for training in a dojo, a professional wrestling gym. There he learned the traditions and rules of lucha libre, professional wrestling. In Mexico, lucha libre is codified, encrusted by years of traditions and rules building one upon the other. The young red-headed Mexican who would become El Generico honoured those traditions, but at the same time he thirsted for more.
Watching bootleg wrestling tapes with his fellow students, he saw moves that they were simply not being taught, like the Yakuza kick, where an opponent was thrown into the corner so that you run and kick him in the face as hard as you could, or the brain-buster, where you lifted your opponent into the air as if for a vertical suplex, but instead of rotating your opponent down to the mat on to his back, you dropped him straight down to the mat onto his head.
When he saw these moves, he knew that if he could master them, he could win in the ring and more importantly, he knew that mastering these moves would make him cool. And at that age, being cool seemed more important than life itself.
One day, he had an exhibition match against one of his fellow students, and in a moment of rash brilliance he attempted and succeeded in properly executing the Yakuza kick and the brain-buster. He won the match… and he damn near killed his opponent. After the match, still flushed with excitement, he waited for his trainer to criticize his technique. This battered, grizzled veteran, known as the Tijuana Toros for the bull’s head mask that he had once worn, and for his legendary stubbornness, looked at his rash, red-haired student and asked quietly, “Are you pleased with yourself?”
The future El Generico flushed and unable to speak, simply nodded.
The Tijauan Toros looked at him for a second, and then with a wave of his hand, said, “Get out of my gym. Get out of my city. Get out of my country. You will never be a luchador. You will never wrestle lucha libre. Get out.”
Broken, banished, banned.
He fled north, leaving behind family and friends, searching for somewhere where there was room to be different. He fled north.
In time, he stopped running. He found himself in Montreal. Actually, just north of Montreal, in a Greek suburb called Chomedey, Laval. Amongst the Greeks he found a refuge and he eked out a living as an itinerant busboy and dishwasher working for cash and staying one step ahead of the immigration officials.
He looked for a teacher to finish his training and he searched for a promotion to begin his career. Montreal was filled to the gills with wrestling promotions. Every church basement seemed to host one. But he was caught by the rookie’s catch-22: no-one would hire someone who had never wrestled in public before, but to wrestle in public he would need to be hired.
One day, he cleared the table of two brothers from Peru who informed him that they were professional wrestlers called Latino Kid and Latino Mysterio. They wrestled for the IWS as a team called Los Latinos. The three became friends and eventually he mustered up the courage to ask the brothers for help breaking into the IWS. The Latinos went to their boss, who went by the colourful name of PCP Crazy F’N Manny, and asked him to give their friend a try-out. Manny told them to bring their friend to the next show, that he might have a job for this red-headed Mexican.
As it happened, Manny had a problem. He was in the middle of a philosophical disagreement between members of his creative staff. A technical wrestler, a villain named TNT had come to Manny and asked him to find him a green rookie to stretch, to humiliate in the ring. In wrestling jargon, he wanted a squash match.
Manny had no difficulties with that. What was causing him headaches was the arguments as to what the result of the match would be. Some of his advisors said that whoever TNT squashed would be forever scarred by the experience. No crowd would ever take him seriously again. For the rest of his career, he would be known as a loser, a jobber.
The other side of the argument claimed just as fiercely that exactly the opposite would happen. Everyone, they argued, has had a first day at work; where nothing went right; where your new colleagues were mean to you. This rookie would be a hero.
“Bum,” said one side. “Hero,” said the other. “Aspirin,” said Manny.
Manny decided to hedge his bets. The day of the show he handed the red-headed Mexican kid a mask and told him, “We’ll call you El Generico. If the crowd likes you, we’ll run with it. If they hate you, we can always send you out another time without the mask and no one will know.”
El Generico, as he was now to be called, had a problem with the mask. It was a technical point of lucha libre honour and El Generico didn’t know enough English to properly explain his dilemma. In any case, El Generico knew an opportunity when one was offered to him, and he knew that once refused that these opportunities did not easily or quickly return. Besides, he had been exiled from Mexico for using illegal moves. What debt did he owe to the sacred traditions of lucha libre? He smothered his conscience and put on the mask.
Wrestling TNT was like wrestling an octopus with a PHD in causing pain. TNT twisted him like a human pretzel; stretching muscles; popping ligaments; grinding cartilage; all the time screaming in El Generico’s ear for him to give up. El Generico wanted to, but in the pain and confusion he lost what little English that he had and could no longer remember how to submit. He knew that he could tap the mat to end the match, but found that his pride was making it impossible to do that. But he had to say or do something. He found himself screaming, “OLE!” A second later the crowd roared back, “OLE!”
Backstage, Manny smiled to himself. The verdict was in. Hero. Not bum. Hero.
When El Generico limped backstage after his match, Manny clapped him on his shoulder and said, “The crowd loves you kid. Guess you’re stuck with the mask.”
El Generico was horrified.
The mask that Manny had given him to wear was the replica of a mask worn by a luchador named Octagon. El Generico had broken one of the cardinal rules of lucha libre: never wear another man’s mask. It was like starting your career as a super-hero by wearing Batman’s mask. El Generico ordered another unique mask immediately, and hoped that Octagon would never find out.
Unfortunately, he did and in time El Generico found out that Octagon was upset as was his brother Pentagon and their cousin Pentagon Black. Right out of the gate, El Generico had an entire family of luchadors angry with him. He reassured himself that Montreal was a long way from Mexico and he hoped that he would never cross paths with this family of luchadors.
El Generico had, by good fortune, joined the IWS at exactly the right moment. While El Generico was becoming a Quebec sensation and polishing his skills in the ring against the IWS veterans, those veterans were becoming sensations in the United States.
Especially one particular IWS veteran knows as Sexxxy Eddy. Along with three other IWS wrestlers, Eddy was invited to a wrestling show in Delaware known as “The Tournament of Death”. This bloodthirsty spectacle featured wrestlers maiming each other with glass, with barbed wire, with thumbtacks, with fire, and with many other instruments of destruction.
The most important thing to understand about Sexxxy Eddy is that he wrestles in wrestling boots and a red bow-tie and a gold lame thong… and nothing else. In an event where men who claim to have no fear wrestle with as much padding as possible, Eddy was insanity personified. He qualified for the finals, but the event doctors refused to allow him to wrestle, sending him to the hospital to have his wounds tended to, observing, “We call the event the Tournament of Death, but we don’t actually want anyone to die!” Only the most obsessed of wrestling fans remembers who won that event, but any one who knows anything about independent wrestling remembers that it was the event where Sexxxy Eddy nearly died.
Almost immediately, Sexxxy Eddy was in demand all over the North-East. Wrestling promoters quickly realized that for almost the same price that they could pay Eddy to fly to their events; they could pay him to drive and bring some of his “Crazy Canuck” friends from the IWS with him. El Generico caught the light of Sexxxy Eddy’s reflected glory.
One night, backstage in New Jersey, a wrestler from California came up to El Generico, and another IWS wresler named Kevin Steen. He shook their hands and grunted at them. El Generico and Kevin Steen were mystified, but other wrestlers assured them that this was a good thing, “Normally Super Dragon hates everybody!”
Within a few weeks, thanks to a recommendation from Super Dragon, El Generico and Kevin Steen received invitations to fly to Los Angeles, California and wrestle for the biggest California promotion, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. For Kevin Steen, it was huge professional compliment and a stepping stone to glory. For El Generico, it was something more.
Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.” To be sure, Los Angeles was not Tijuana, it was not even Mexico, but for the home-sick El Generico it seemed the closest that he would ever be allowed to come. Los Angeles might not be in Mexico, but in all other respects it was a Mexican city. The traditions of lucha libre were honoured and respected there.
El Generico wondered how he would be received. How would a crowd of Los Angelinos react to a man who had been banned from Mexico, who had violated the cardinal rules of lucha libre?
When the time came for his match, El Generico was a nervous wreck. He came out to Bouncing Soul’s “OLE!” just like in Montreal, and when the music ended just like in Montreal, he yelled “OLE!” The crowd roared back, “OLE!” The rest of the match was a blur. He must have done well, because everyone congratulated him on the match, but after the first roar of the crowd, he was operating on auto-pilot. He remembered hitting the brain-buster and the crowd going nuts, but everything else was a blank.
Maybe Thomas Wolfe was wrong, maybe you could go home again. Or maybe what he meant was that the person that you were when you left was not the same person that you were when you came back. He had left Tijuana as a scared, red-headed kid, he had come back a confident adult, proud in the mask that he had earned wrestling so far from home.
Staggering to the back, giddy on adrenaline, he ran into Super Dragon who smiled… Super Dragon never smiled. But here he was smiling, at him, and saying, “You’re more popular than guys who were born here and have wrestled here their entire lives.”
It was at this precise instant that El Generico had his Rudolph moment.
Growing up in Tijuana, El Generico had never seen Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman or Charlie Brown’s Christmas or any of the Christmas classics. When he moved to Montreal however, he eventually found himself rooming with fellow IWS wrestler, Beef Wellington. Beef was Jewish, but he had the biggest collection of Christmas movies that El Generico had ever seen. Beef’s favourite Christmas film was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. There was something about the Island of Mis-Fit toys that Beef loved.
El Generico was fonder of the title character. After all, Rudolph had been forced to exile; had left behind his family and friends; had wandered; had had adventures. El Generico knew what that was like.
He especially liked the ending when Rudolph came home. Everyone was happy and relieved to see Rudolph and his companions, but at the same time sad, because Santa Claus was about to cancel Christmas for the first time ever because of the bad weather. Rudolph’s nose goes off and Santa Claus shouts at him, “Rudolph your nose!” Almost as if Santa wanted to curse and didn’t because he was Santa Claus. At that moment, a light seems to go off in Kris Kringle’s head and he continues, in a much warmer tone, “Rudolph, that marvelous, wonderful nose! Rudolph, will you lead my sleigh tonight?”
At that moment, Rudolph realizes that his curse is really a blessing; that what made the other reindeer drive him into exile is what will now save the day; that what made him a freak is what makes him a hero.
Standing backstage at PWG, with the crowd’s “OLE!” still ringing in his ears, with Super Dragon’s praise still registering, El Generico had his Rudolph moment. He realized that his journey was complete; that he was accepted; that he was cool; that he was home.
So, if it comes to pass in Liverpool during the King of Europe Cup or in Essen, Germany during the 16 Karat Gold tournament, that El Generico finds himself in danger of losing, I know what will happen. He will yell, “OLE!” and the crowd will roar back, “OLE!” and everything will be all right.
Once you are at home in your own skin, you can never be lost again.
I have written about El Generico before: When We Were Marks: I Am El Generico’s Father http://the-w.com/thread.php/id=24405 A more detailed version of his origin that I summarized above.
When We Were Marks: How El Generico Earned His Cape http://the-w.com/thread.php/id=27698 Another El Generico origin story told in the style of English found only in Marvel Comics The Mighty Thor.
The GLOW documentary aired on LOGO last night. It was pretty terrific. I only wish it were longer and had even more old footage. We learned quite a lot about the GLOW girls, the promotion and why GLOW ended.