This came out of two weird obsessions of mine – counterfactual history and professional wrestling, especially wrestling from the late 20th century.
The concept of “What If” has made the study and reading of history that much more interesting. What if the US did invade Japan during World War II? What if William of Normandy didn’t succeed in invading Europe, or what if the Mongol Empire had completed its invasion of Europe? What if Jesus hadn’t been crucified? The fictional possibilities of those questions often would send my mind reeling.
As a young kid, my mind was captivated by the operatic, hyperbolic, and lunatic action of pro wrestling. I had never known characters like this in real life, but they were clear echoes of the society I lived in. It was a guilty pleasure I had to keep at least halfway hidden from my parents, who had no idea what to make of their son’s obsession with massive musclemen, masked luchas, and high-flying daredevils telling operettas of the working class. (I guess I had more in common with Ric Flair than a Midwestern upbringing.)
It was a fascination that never truly went away, even after I realized what kayfabe was all about and I began to see through some of the more repetitive storytelling. But the fascination with wrestling culture and lore never quite went away for me. One of those stories was the tale of the Von Erich family. I had heard of the family growing up, but it wasn’t until much later, when the veil of kayfabe was pulled away and the Internet made research 10 times easier than in the old days of card catalogues and vertical files in libraries, that I found out the whole story about them. They were a family that were bigger stars than the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas and the Texas Longhorns in Texas, and their story was a tragedy of depression, death, and suicide that would have made Shakespeare sit up and take notice.
Some night about eight years ago, a “what if?” question came to my mind when I was doodling on the computer. What if the first of the Von Erich brothers to die hadn’t died in Japan in 1985?
For a day or so, I pounded out about 1,000 words on the subject, taking as my additional inspiration the final airing of WCW Nitro in 2001. Then, as per my usual problems with procrastination, it sat there untouched for years in my hard drives.
This week, I opened the file and took another look at it. I was interested in a change of pace. In two days, I added another 3,000 words to it. I have the feeling it is, in the words of the original Top Gear crew, “ambitious but rubbish.” But so help me, I hadn’t had more fun recently than the hour and a half it took me to book the most awesome wrestling event of the 1980’s, one that would have put Wrestlemanias I and III to shame.
Good or bad or somewhere in between – whatever it is, keep reading to see what my obsessions have wrought. As Rick Sanchez might say, just consider it one of the possibilities somewhere on the finite curve.