“Wrestling Classics,” Billy Middleton
Ruthie brings home a DVD entitled 100 Wrestling Classics, loaned to her by a cop buddy at the precinct. It’s not my thing, but she’s excited, and our counselor suggested accommodating each other’s interests. The first clip is in black and white, and the caption at the bottom reads Lou Thesz vs. Karl Gotch (1964). “Thesz broke three ribs in this one,” Ruthie says. “It was better in the old days, before everything was scripted.” I believe everything was always scripted.
Next is a mixed martial arts match between Antonio Inoki and Muhammad Ali, from 1976. Inoki spends most of the match in a defensive position on his back, kicking Ali in the legs when he gets too close. Ali slouches over him, exhausted, confused. Fifteen rounds of sheer boredom, hardly a classic at all, but Ruthie is enthralled. “I could do this,” she says. “They taught us self-defense in the academy.”
Ruthie pauses the DVD and pushes the coffee table to the wall. She plants her feet wide, squats in a karate stance, and tells me to bring it. I say I’m not in the mood. She sighs and lets her guard down, and that’s when I launch myself from the couch and tackle her to the floor. We roll around, gouging and punching and biting, executing submission holds, going for pin-falls, kicking out. We each spend time in awkward positions, elbows turning red with carpet burn. Joints extend, muscles are placed under impossible tension, bones strain almost to the point of snapping. Eventually, she gets me facedown, arm twisted up behind me. Her knee presses into the base of my spine. “If I apply just a little pressure, I can dislocate your shoulder,” she says. “I can put you in the hospital.”
Pain wriggles up my arm, into my shoulder, down my back. “Tap out,” she says. “Tap out, punk. Do it. Do it.” Harder and harder she pushes, but I’m unwavering. I grit my teeth, pound my fist into the carpet. Realizing I won’t give, she lets go, and then she’s kissing my ear. Sucking on the curve at the top. Then biting, grinding her teeth into the outer part. The pinna, it’s called. I can almost remember where I learned that name. She presses me into the floor, entangles her fingers in my hair, yanks my head back. “They taught us six pressure points to incapacitate a criminal,” she says. “Which one would you like me to show you first?” I close my eyes and prepare to take whatever she can dish out, reminding myself that the human body is made to endure.