Todd Kaneko

Big John Studd Lost the Bodyslam Challenge

W. Todd Kaneko

Take a good look at me New York City and the rest of the

world. John Studd. Seven foot plus nearly 400 pounds of

solid muscle and I’m coming to the ring with a bag of hair

that I humiliated Andre with by ripping it out of his head.

I’m also bringing $15,000 because I can’t be slammed.”

—Big John Studd just before Wrestlemania 1

After the match, Big John Studd
claimed he still could not be beaten,
that Andre the Giant did not lift him
over his head and slam him to the ground,
the crash reverberating through
our televisions. But we saw him fall
and hated him more for it.

Sometimes a man can’t help but deny
those calamities lingering in the body—
a fat lip, a bruised breastbone, a six-pack
of lawnmower beer before breakfast.
After the match, my father nodded
in approval as Studd scrambled
out of the ring with the money.
Later that night he went outside
and threw rocks at the highway,
at all those families speeding
past our building. It’s difficult

to bring heartache from where it hides
in the body, where it masquerades
as an angry beard, as bravado spilling
from a man who fell while we watched.
After the match, we were supposed to
hate John Studd because we saw that
bodyslam. But we knew all too well
that everyone falls, eventually.

Men Like the British Bulldog

W. Todd Kaneko

When the last man has been eliminated
from a battle royale, when Davey Boy Smith
has dumped everyone over the top rope,
do not celebrate for the British Bulldog,
handsome atop the turnbuckles, arms raised,
triumphant over his vanquished rivals.

Some men are not meant to be champions,
my father told me. We cheered for Davey Boy
battling through twenty-nine men, forty minutes
of battering fists and powerslams, the Bulldog
raising men over his head and dumping them
to the ground. My father also told me about fights
with my mother some nights, about mornings
spent nursing a hangover and a busted lip.

Failure is a vortex in the body where a man
can vanish into himself, a curl of sorrow
sluicing over his head. Rule Britannia rang
through the stadium—Davey Boy Smith
tossed the Heartbreak Kid out of the ring
but not to the floor, turned his back,
victorious until he found himself toppled
earthward where the music stopped.

My father gazed at the world through
the bottom of a bottle, oblivious to that warp
and smear of shame. When a man works hard
all his life, he learns to sit in the dark
and imagine rumbling for glory, fists
raised skyward toward greatness.

Here Lies Hercules Hernandez

W. Todd Kaneko

Hercules descended from Mount Olympus
in 1986, skin of the hydra draped across
his loins, chains swinging heavy about
his neck like Heaven’s yoke. My father and I
watched on television that Saturday night
he wrestled for the world championship.

Hercules battled Hulk Hogan—two titans
snarling and swelling that evening
before they collided knuckles over fist
so my father could forget that grind
of working the planeyards, the weight
of raising a boy alone in a two-bedroom
apartment near the airfield. They battled
until Hercules hoisted the champion up
to snap him in half across his back. We both
hoped to see a new legend begin—Hercules,
a lion’s roar in his throat, a stag’s hooves
pounding his chest because any man can win
once he learns to bristle with greatness.

We both knew about loss, understood
how Hercules ended up with a boot
to the chin—a loser on his back watching
that atomic leg drop fall from the sky.
Ray Hernandez was from Florida, oiled
down for pose and hypertrophy. We knew
the folly of men who pretend to be anything
other than the men they have learned to be.

W. TODD KANEKO lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His work
has appeared in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, Southeast
Review, Barrelhouse, the Collagist and many other places. He has
received fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writers
Workshop and currently teaches at Grand Valley State University. Visit
him at