Of Spandex & Sorrow
by Clem Flowers
"I'm sorry, but this is taking forever."
"Yeah, just search something else."
"Nononono, just a few minutes more. I promise it's worth it. It's so good."
"Are you sure they used Placebo?"
"I'm sure. And it's awesome. I mean, I think it's a cover they did, but still, it is fucking awesome."
My high school friends, now enjoying the pleasure of being able to legally buy booze, sat around the scattered seating in the basement at our rich pal/unspoken group leader's family home, tipsy & taking turns showing weird/ funny/ bizarre things found on the primordial video sharing site known as YouTube. A far- too- expensive projector screen bought by her garbage stepfather to try to gain her mother's warmth for another day served as the canvas for each of our curated selections of music videos and weird local commercials for group enjoyment.
Then came my turn.
Please understand, these were my best friends on the planet at that moment. They'd helped me come out of my shell and put behind memories of a childhood filled with illness, sadness, and the deep lonesome woes that tend to manifest themselves when you've spent so long in the hospital your classmates in second grade make cards for you.
These folks helped me discover that deep in my iron- lined closet was a bisexual, hedonistic rascal dying to get out and meet cute dudes; moreover, from them, I got how to dress cool and be introduced to new worlds of music, movies, and all sorts of pop culture ephemera. In return, they were delighted and fascinated by my deep running knowledge of TV, movies, and music of a bygone era. (Thank you immune deficiency.)
They were wonderful friends, with no judgements.
Except one- I adored pro wrestling.
They did not.
I tried on numerous occasions to articulate that which I loved about the medium- the pageantry, the drama, the morality tales, the athleticism, the rare moments to see good triumph, to see justice in an unjust world- not to mention, the kick ass fireworks that usually capped off all big pro wrestling shows.
My snarky, Hot Topic- loving friends considered it the TV show for close minded, homophobic knuckledraggers.
Considering we'd lived through the late 90s, when wrestling was at the apex of pop culture and seemed to be baptized in blood and casual misogyny, it was hard to dispute them.
Many attempts were made on my part to try and explain why I loved it (as many of them were huge glam rock fans, you'd figured the costumes would've helped a bit.)
It was a non- starter.
Just eye rolls and barbed remarks any time I brought it up.
Thus, it became my secret shame.
At least, until Placebo came into the picture.
Quick primer- Placebo is a British indie/ alt band that specialize in shimmering, moody songs dealing with drugs, sex, and a plethora of angst.
Which is to say, utter catnip for those who mostly dress in black.
Watching one of the weekly WWE shows one night, I saw a video package hyping an upcoming match for the company's biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania.
And there it was.
The weak, primordial Wi-Fi finally pulled through enough to finish buffering the video.
I shushed my slightly annoyed friends & took my seat as the video started.
What unfolded was a masterpiece.
The typical soliloquy of a wrestler (in this case, Shawn Michaels, a legend in the medium) licking their wounds over a loss and vowing revenge soon gave way to something unique.
As the tribal drums of the Placebo cover of the timeless Kate Bush classic "Running Up That Hill" came rolling in like waves on a rocky shore, what commenced was not a highlight reel of wrestling.
This was Michaels being swallowed whole, his world ripped to shambles by one thing everyone can relate to:
The desire to fix a mistake.
In the previous year's Wrestlemania, Michaels had come closer than anyone before him to ending the storied undefeated streak of The Undertaker, a ghoulish phantasm made whole in the wrestling ring.
But a bit of carelessness and the dream was crushed.
Michaels then received a storyline award for the match, which sent his mind to replay the match in his head, as it had clearly been doing for every day.
"It doesn't hurt me/ You wanna feel how it feels"
The song began in earnest.
I got caught up in the video for a moment before realizing something, something there hadn't been all night in the room:
Everyone was watching.
"If I only could/ Make a deal with God."
Denied a chance to "right the wrong" at seemingly every turn, Michaels fell into the clutch of madness; attacking innocents, friends, idols- anyone who he deemed a threat to his one wish.
"You don't wanna hurt me/ See how deep the bullet lies."
Finally, after weeks upon weeks of chaos, The Undertaker agreed to the rematch. With a condition- if Michaels failed to defeat him again, then Michaels had to retire from wrestling.
Michaels replied: "You don't get it. If I can't beat you at Wrestlemania, I have no career."
A bit of a heavy handed line to end on, and one I was certain my friends would roast instantly.
But there were no laughs.
After a few moments, one of the group offered a summation of my friend's reviews of the piece:
"Shit. That was good."
Murmurs of agreement followed.
After that, someone cued up a highlight reel of weird infomercials and we had a good laugh.
Now, do I think I converted any of them to wrestling fans that night?
But, none of them ever ragged on me if they saw me in a wrestling shirt again.
Clem Flowers is a queer, soft spoken Southern transplant living in the colossal shadow of a mountain range in Utah. They enjoy cooking, watching old films, and making many trips to a local bird sanctuary. They live in a cozy apartment with their wonderful wife and their sweet calico kitty Luna. They can be found on Twitter at @hand_springs777.
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