Thursday, May 10, 2018

Dead Wrestlers Book One Excerpt: May 1989, Eddie Gilbert vs. The Great Muta

In my ongoing and silly hanging on to this blog I'm posting an excerpt from Book One of my trilogy DEAD WRESTLERS. I chose this one because today (or tomorrow maybe, I can't find a date, but I know it's one of the two) is the 35th anniversary of the car accident "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert suffered that ultimately led to his death in February 1995.


Some back story: In DEAD WRESTLERS the main character Mark sees the ghosts of deceased grapplers and knows when living ones will die. In this excerpt Mark attends a National Wrestling Alliance show at the Boston Garden and is very excited to see his two favorite wrestlers - Eddie Gilbert and The Great Muta - face each other one-on-one. However, it is when Gilbert begins walking to the ring that Mark sees that Hot Stuff's death is in the not-too-distant future.


In this excerpt there are references to previous incidents, one a Bruiser Brody match Mark attended the year prior, two some matches he watched on television with the ghost of Gino Hernandez.










“Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert came out to the Donna Summer song of the same name. I turned and told Al that only someone as cool as Gilbert could use a Donna Summer song as his ring-entrance music. I was beyond excited. Hot Stuff had never wrestled in Massachusetts before, at least since I had become a fan. Now he was on his way out. Muta stood in the ring, his face painted completely white except for the black Japanese writing on his cheekbones and the black over his eyes.


 


It was almost on: my two favorite wrestlers battling one-on-one. Muta, with his evil genius manager Gary Hart, versus Gilbert, seconded by his lovely wife Missy Hyatt at ringside; Muta, who had recently debuted, wrestling Steamboat on television and defeating Eddie’s brother on the May Pay-Per-View, WrestleWar, taking on Gilbert, who had just returned for his good-guy run after brief heel stints in Memphis and Continental Wrestling.


 


I had waited for this brawl and my wait would soon be over.


 


Anticipation soon gave way to fear. I had expected Gilbert in his colorful ring jacket, long blue trunks and white boots, white sunglasses, and sporting a mullet and light beard. Instead, Gilbert’s hair, still a perfect half-mullet, sat atop a dwarfish skull consisting of part base structure, part zombie. There were no ears or nose to speak of, his body a raging, dripping set of bones, dirty and sanguine, like he had just stepped out of a well-dug grave on a murky night. It was far worse than Brody in Malden or what Gino showed me on television.


 


Had it not been so frightening it would have almost appeared comical, like in old cartoons when a skeleton would run through a cemetery then fall to pieces and play his ribs like a xylophone. But this was not a Disney sing-songy skeleton. This was a horror movie, a walking, kicking, punching, splatter film.


 


The crowd around me cheered with every whack Gilbert gave Muta, the painted, flesh and bones warrior, with the kendo stick. It was a full five minutes of the unrecognizable creature - still wearing elbow pads and wrist tape, and the same old boots and trunks – overpowering Muta, kicking him in the stomach with his fragile skeleton feet, trapping him in the corner of the ring while standing on the middle rope and throwing ten punches to his face with those bony knuckles. 


 


Then Muta had the upper hand, choking the remains of the corpse Gilbert with a wire or chain, and kicking him below the belt.


 


Finally, I saw the eyes, the cold, black holes that stood as eyes, as they turned to me, and I could swear they looked directly into my soul. Gilbert stared daggers at me and, for a moment, I thought that phrase could turn literal.


 


I knew Eddie Gilbert would be joining me soon. I turned and there was Gino, enjoying the action. He looked at me.


 


"What?"


 


I just stared at him.


 


"Pretty gruesome, huh? Now you know this is serious business."


 


I lowered my voice so my companions for the evening wouldn’t hear me. Timidly and nearly in tears, I whispered, "Eddie's gonna die?"


 


"Gee, you think so?” Gino gave a short laugh and patted me on the back. “Listen, he's got a few years yet, and he may not be savable, but there are some that will be. And it's all on you, kid."


 


"I'm fifteen." My father and brother both turned to me. I mimed cheering Eddie on.


 


"And getting older every day.” Gino gave me a thumbs up.


 


The bell rang. Gilbert was outside the ring and didn’t get back in by the ten count. Muta won by count out. I hated count-out decisions.


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