Five Poems -Rob Sturma

thewrestler


Antisocialist
                   for CM Punk

One day you went to take out the trash
and someone was waiting there for your autograph.
You’re a prick when you won’t take a picture with a fan
at an airport
at 2AM.

There was one thing you loved more than anything
And that was to be a punk rock wolverine
in somebody’s backyard and to be really good at something
that a lot of guys never learn how to do proper.

I am not mad at you for walking out on the action figure
and video game money.  You threw your body into so many
glass ceilings and came back early still nursing your wounds,
because they needed you and the pop you would bring
when the sound of static
and the first Vernon Reid guitar riff blared through the speakers.

But you were never a fan of going through the motions
just because you needed to heal.    You looked around and saw
your opponent’s knees become fragile,  the men you traveled
down the road with begin to lose feeling in their arms when their necks
betrayed them.    It was impossible for you to be the body you were before
and all the changes you were told would be made were empty promises
couched in the anthem best for business.  

They could have at least come through on the ice cream bars.


So it’s okay if you want to chill in your loft and enjoy what the years
of being a fighting champion brought you:  a lair in the heart of your
stomping grounds, a flourishing new marriage,  a chance to breathe
for the first time in years.  Blackhawks season tickets you can actually use.

Never say never is the other song on your playlist.
You remixed it on a red carpet, screaming never ever ever,
and people who have never known 320 days on the road
swear off of your cult of personality while legions more
still chant your name in Rosemont, hoping they can conjure you
from the gorilla position.

I wish you walks on the beach that aren’t broadcast one still shot at a time.
I wish you find that spark that makes you want to put on kickpads again,
to come out from behind the LCD screens bearing a fist clutching lightning,
to shout Ben Grimm’s battlecry from bended knee.
But now is the time for you to put away all your luggage.
To learn what it is to be a fan again.
If you never return, we understand.
But we will never stop chanting your name.



The Whipping Teeth
                after Bobby Heenan and Robb Q Telfer

The best mouths in the industry are never off duty.
They are there to keep the ham-and-eggers in line.
To let them know You listen to me, you'll go to the top
You don't listen to me, you're never heard from again.
To make their broadcast colleague so exasperated 
that all they can utter is a defeated will you stop.
To argue the legality of a Greco-Roman hair pull.
In a land of athletes and competitors, they make 
assets like cunning and intelligence look like heel moves.
Their influence undeniable on a generation of performers
who wanted to wrestle like Ricky Steamboat
but talk like Ric Flair.    Because we always
need guys who can talk.   Men who can tell you how
much their client will dominate the contest by giving you
the verbal equivalent.   Men who can talk
and back it up.   Between a backdrop and a camera
lives a place for men who can talk.   If they’re angry enough
they might fire their words so hard that people call it shooting.

Paul Heyman was a self-titled schmuck from Jersey who talked
his way backstage and talked his way into helping
Dusty Rhodes book the shows.  He talked his way into
assembling a squad of assassins, ever-changing,
to make him look good.

Mick Foley may have leapt off of his roof onto a pile of mattresses,
but it is the fading VHS promos of a young Dude Love that made
Paul Heyman talk Mick Foley into using his frustration
to make people feel things about wrestling besides apathy 
or adrenaline.  Mick Foley lost his ear in a German
wrestling ring, but is the malcontent Mankind who makes the 
beast fully human.

Chris Jericho was born into hockey and community college communications classes.
He drinks rock ‘n’ roll for breakfast.
Chris Jericho is like Madonna.
He has many iterations.
Everyone of them knows how to make a crowd part of the show.
Punk-Ass Smartmouth WCW Jericho picked fights with Goldberg
and unraveled a ream of old printer paper as he read his list
of 1004 Holds 
in order 
in the center of the ring.
They had to cut to commercial.

Bobby Heenan is that asshole uncle at the family reunion; 
the one who says the most terrible things
but still gets the funny motherfucker pass.

Husky Harris was called the Tank With The Ferrari Engine,
but when he retreated to Louisiana and watched a lot of Cape Fear,
Bray Wyatt was born preaching the gospel of the swamp
and creating such a magnetic presence that when he walks to the ring,
the arena goes dark and people turn on their cellphones like lanterns.
They are called the Fireflies.  They are hungry for his words.

Wrestling at its base is guys fighting and guys talking.
Everyone wants to go heel 
because the bad guys always have the best dialogue.
John Cena is a superstar babyface who rose to prominence
as a shit-talking freestyle rapper who majored in Thuganomics.
Everybody hated that guy.  He was just another action figure
until he freestyled on a tour bus one night.   If you can talk 
your ticket is written.  

CM Punk dropped pipebombs.
Steve Austin was the Intercontinental Trash Talk Champion.
Randy Savage said a lot of words in a row while spinning in a circle,
and we loved every word we never understood.
Even Hulk Hogan learned the importance of The Big Speech.
The day he formed the New World Order and told the fans to stick it
broke thousands of little Hulksters’ hearts.
One action, but lots of incendiary words.

To sell yourself to the audience you cut a promo.
You become the best salesman in the office.
You will have to be as compelling as phrases like
wallowing in the muck of avarice
or
Do I have your attention NOW.

If you have something to say, there’s your mic.
Prove it.
We always need guys who can talk.



Lure,
Or Paul Heyman and I Go To Hot Topic Because It’s BOGO T-Shirt Weekend
After Ellyn Touchette

Even before we enter the store,
When we are still by LensCrafters,
scream-o music throbs from Hot Topic’s retail orifices,
making small children uncomfortable
and forcing old people to cross to the other side
as if these Sons of Slipknot have a posse
      (caveat: in this mall, they very well may).
Paul chuckles and says,
 
This sound was cutting edge back when we had Shane Douglas drop the belt 
in Philly.  Now it’s just elevator music.

He’s dressed to the nines (as is his way)
and I couldn’t feel more like a fanboy in my Daniel Bryan ballcap
and nWo T-Shirt,
but the truth is it’s Buy One Get One weekend at the one place in the mall
that still carries wrestling t-shirts, and really cool ones.
Not the ones with cartoonish depictions of Technicolor superheroes
        (though Paul and I do have a feverish debate as to whether or not
         he’d be the perfect casting for Doctor Octopus in a Spidey movie—
         there’s nothing wrong with superheroes in context after all).

The display upfront is overflowing 
with those adorable POP! collectables made by FunKo,
the ones that look like Hello Kitty attempting cosplay.
The Architect of Extreme raises his eyebrows
And beelines for them—
              
My kids love these, he tells me.

Dark Willow!  I reply.

We hold up little Groots and Green Lanterns to show each other that we may or may not buy. 

 Arrrgh, Paul.  I can’t get caught up here.  I came to find some t-shirts.

I walk in to a wall of Adventure Time, 
Marvel Comics, 
and vintage logos from 90’s bands.
 
The 19-year old bangled employee leans on the counter looking at me, 
attempting customer service via mental telepathy.

I ask her,  Do you have any t-shirts that say “I’m a Paul Heyman Guy”?

Who’s Paul Heyman?

I look over to Paul with my head on a swivel.
He’s loading up a basket 
with the cutest Walking Dead bobbles you’ve ever seen.
He’s heard none of this.

I want him to set down the basket and say

Ladies and gentlemen,
My name is Paul Heyman,
and I am the advocate for Rob Sturma and his shopping needs.
I want him to spend ten minutes dressing down 
and deconstructing the terrible floor plan executed by the assistant manager.

He only sets the basket down on the counter and says,

I’m definitely getting these, as soon as my friend is done picking out shirts.  
Rob, did you find anything?

Uh, yeah.  An old school Macho Man in lavender and one with a retro Bash At The Beach logo.  
And some Punk stuff on clearance.

Put ‘em in the basket.

Paul, are you sure?

He insists because we both know there’s nothing like a good sale.

The Nerd Bait at the entrance has worked.



Most Likely To Recede
           For T. Bollea


You weren’t the first to wear a colorful doo-rag.
Superstar Billy Graham was on that tip when your mane 
was still thick and lustrous.
Back when you answered to Thunderlips
and showed the world how tiny Rocky Balboa really was.
Even with lifts.
Back when you could part your hair 
to one side.

At first it was headbands, 
A throwback to your bass-playing Florida past,
but the forehead was a fighter, Terry.
It grew at the rate of your popularity.
By the time you formed the New World Order, the doo-rag
Was back in black.
Because I’m a rebel biker, brother.
No, the Undertaker was a rebel biker.
And he wore a bandana.

You really should just go full Jason Statham
Or Patrick Stewart.    Hulkster,
those final platinum strands crawling down your skull
Are telling you they want to be free.

Bald is beautiful, dude.
1980 was fun but presidents have come and gone 
since then.  We’ll do a Kickstarter for the clippers
if your assets are tied up.

The last time The Ultimate Warrior put on his mask,
he had a crewcut.  You know how jacked up Ric Flair’s
head looks now.

Don’t do it for me, Daddy.
DO IT FOR ALL THE LITTLE HULKAMANIACS

IT’S A HAIR VS HAIR MATCH
AND YOU’RE THE WINNER

BRUTUS THE BARBER BEEFCAKE CAN HELP

BRYAN CRANSTON SHAVED HIS HEAD
AND THE RATINGS WERE OFF THE CHAIN

SUPERCUTS AT THE SILVERDOME
IN A STEEL CAGE

No seriously, Terry.
Just shave it off.



Unlatching
           for Ric Flair

You were cock and swagger
Also Spake Zarathustra and feather bow
You never worried about the character
Because you never played one
Decades of being the template
The Man
Platinum tresses so you would be
Gorgeous
Timeless
Eighty thousand dollars on hand-made robes
When you howled into the dark,
the dark howled back.

But it was time to slow down.
To take your Hall of Fame ring,
to let someone else be the Man;
to evolve--

It is tough to wear your age
In a world of the young and hungry.
You hear them say
I’m sorry I love you
as they put you down for the last time.

It should be the last time.
You wear the last time on a watch,
A promise that you will not ask to do this anymore.

The problem with wrestlers
is that it is easy to believe your own myth.
Your tastes in champagne and cigars,
The honeymoon suite on Space Mountain,
the one with the revolving door.

Now you do whatever you can
To hear the dark howl back.
To feed the beast.  You are legacy.
Please know this.   The ramp will always
honor your boots, welcome your thousand
dollar shoes.   This is not an unlatching.
This is a thank you and a throne to sit in.
You’re still the Man, and for once, 
we love The Man.

About Rob Sturma

Nerd. Poet. Editor. Wrestling mark. Superhero enthusiast. Secret lounge singer. Lloyd Dobler. I run FreezeRay Poetry and sing showtunes while beasting Lego video games. View all posts by Rob Sturma

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