Is wrestling just meaningless fake wrestling? Or could it be performance art that borders on a religious experience? We have followed a group of wrestlers in Malmö and tried to find a deeper meaning in the entertainment violence.
the wrestlers parked on the car deck and took the elevator up to the cafe on the eighth. They ordered coffee and a jar of jelly babies, sat down at one of the tables and ignored the zinc gray sea outside the window.
They had made this trip several times before: one and a half hour drive from Halmstad to Gothenburg, three hour ferry to Frederikshavn on Jutland’s north-eastern tip and then another one and a half hour drive to Randers, where the wrestling show “Inzane Azylum” started at 20th
the smallest of the four named Leeloo Demorhne. With 37 years he was the oldest in the group, but behind the big beard, he looked at least ten years younger. Fabian Puregger was Leeloos opposite: tall and muscular, with a clean-shaven face and serious eyes, while Asgeir Halvorsen Raumli, Norwegian, could have been Fabian’s little brother.
Mattias Dahl and Joel Wäring during a wrestling show at Tango Palace.
And so was there Mattias Dahl. 190 centimeters tall and 125 kilograms heavy, bookers for the wrestling scene in Malmö which have been on the competition to WWE, the world’s biggest wrestling federation. His presence in the room was different from the others. Leeloo, Asgeir and Fabian were all well trained, but their bodies are still perceived as light. Their physics was something they had to fight to, while Mattias seemed so used to his own strength that he no longer thought about it. In everyday life, he studied sports psychology and worked at the Air Defence Regiment in Halmstad.
They talked about the chances to make the American wrestler Matt Sydal to Malmo, even if they thought his fee ($ 3, 000 for a weekend) was high side. They talked about their weight. They were talking about the latest episode of NXT, especially on how “tight” one of the matches had been, while they agreed that the wrestling team American Alpha was not real wrestlers: They could movements and grips, but lacked the necessary charisma to the seriously win over the audience.
from the audience’s point of view, a wrestling match, a clash between the evil and the fatten. But the wrestlers themselves do not regard the show as a struggle, but rather as a form of dance. A good match is “tight”: it has no transport distances or hesitant moment, but is equally uninhibited and precisely composed as a pop song. This practice Leeloo Demorhne and Ingrid Hoftun before his match. Chaos (Kim Tinning) sitting next to and watching.
Not once they talked about themselves wrestlingens core, at least as a third party regarded as the core – everything was fake, rigged. When I brought the topic of speech darkened their eyes.
– It does not matter if it meets or not, it’s about the feeling in the moment. Going down the carpet is not nice. is an incredibly damaging to the body and so much sacrifice, and it really feel the audience, said Leeloo.
They spoke in an almost lascivious manner of his injuries: When Fabian went on a table and got splinters in your elbows. When Asgeir broke the wrist and Leeloo got concussion and the time when Mattias crushed upper teeth against one of the posts in the ring.
– The sick is that no one saw it. On the video you can see how I spit tooth chips, but the audience believe that I spit on them.
He smiled. Front teeth gleamed unnaturally in the light from the lamps.
Leeloo really want to shave off his hair. “But with the hair seen it in a different way, and will be hated for it,” he says. It is an advantage because he usually has the role of heel – the evil wrestler.
the black carpet in the ring is so worn and scratched the patchy look to be completely white.
Blankets hanging at the windows, and at a table in the corner sold wrestling figures from the 90s in unopened packaging, like small capsules of time.
Mattias Dahl has taken on the wrestling tricot are discussing with one of the Danes in what order the law to get on the ring. With fifteen minutes remaining to the start switch headlights on while the audience arrives in a gentle stream: After work-gang, the single mother with her twelve-year-old son, teenage boys and their more or less indifferent girlfriends.
Behind the curtain heats Leeloo Demorhne up with push-ups. Out in the hall played fateful techno and emcee shouts Leeloos name. The crowd booing, but it is only a dutifully upset. Leeloo trying to stir up the atmosphere, screams I AM Master and lunging at people on the first line, but the response is poor.
No less than seven wrestlers challenge him about the championship at the same time: Abdullah Khalil, Martin Miguel, Juvenile X, the Natural Born Hipster, Jonny Casanova, X-Ray and Asgeir Halvorsen Raumli, which has tape around his wrists and wearing spandex pants Norway flag colors.
the gong sounded.
What happens is similar to a theatrical läktarbråk.
the wrestlers hitting each other with flicking gestures, kicking each other down the rope, twisting arms and legs of the angles that make the audience burst out in a collective oooh. Asgeir lying on the mat and receiving kick after kick to the body, gets up, gets thrown into the ropes and falls flat on his knees.
His back is pink swelling and shiny with sweat.
Leeloo Demorrhne and Kira.
While I was standing there in the dark, I feel the violence, however it is rehearsed, penetrates closer and closer to me. The smell of liniment skin and spreads through the room as the smell of cooking in a train carriage. When the wrestlers fall on the carpet resembles the sound of a thunderclap, their facial expressions commute from clenched mineralization to over played cries of pain, and in the end it all too much and I had to go out.
Ten minutes have passed.
When the brawl is over and I go into the locker room sitting Leeloo alone on a sofa and stares blankly ahead.
– There was, he says, and wipes the sweat from his forehead.
he was not talking about that he has won or lost – it does not matter. What he refers to is the mood in the room.
– I did not have enough confidence. I did not connect with the audience.
2009 began a few amateurs organize wrestling shows at Tango Palace in Malmö. What they lacked in technique and finesse compensated those with self-irony and the tailwind from the novelty, and it worked – at least for a time. But in the past year had hype died down and the audience figures started to falter. Evolve or die , was the motto in force, and a new generation of wrestlers tried to win the respect of those who pointed out that their “sport” was “fake.” They struggled to reinvent wrestlingen and make it relevant to a larger audience.
the only question was how, and it was a problem that they shared with the rest of the wrestling world.
“Wrestling is caught between form and function,” wrote critic Michael Wiseman on wrestling blog Camel Clutch in September 2013. “What it means is that it can not decide whether it should market itself as sport or art form. (…) Modern wrestling is trying to reach both wrestling fans and those who love story. But how wrestling able to balance both worlds successfully? “.
The most likely scenario was that it looked wrestling for the first time got to experience it myself had known in Randers: confrontation with entertainment violence. There was no sporting framing, no story to the uninitiated observer could perceive. Those who exercised the violence was not a movie screen, but was just here , just a few meters away from us. The violence was particularly provocative precisely because it was played. With its choreographed kind and grip set wrestlers a question I do not want to admit the answer to: You do like to watch violence?
For it was, of course, . But not in its purest form, not so close that I could feel the sweat smell. When turned wrestling into a spectacle that was so cruel and meaningless to the most ardent got existential anxiety.
Mattias Dahl practicing yoga regularly to” get enhanced body control, and learn to breathe properly, “he says.
It’s a Monday night in Halmstad and we sit in Mattias Dahl’s living room and sees a black and white wrestling match of 1951 between Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz. Two men in dark shorts wrestling before a seated audience.
I have bought with my Coke and crisps, but will eat it myself: Leeloo drinking water and Mattias ladles itself lentil patties, rice and peas.
When awakened actually their interest in wrestling? The roots go deep into their childhood, so deep that there is not really any time unfolds “before” wrestlingen. They started training seriously for three or four years ago, but to ask why is as pointless as asking a child why it plays. Maybe it’s “fun”, but only in the very short-lived moments. The rest of the time is a tough fight against the body’s own limits. Yet they continue.
On the floor in front of the TV is Mattias cerise red yoga mat.
“He beats so fast that the camera does not have time,” exclaims the commentator when Buddy Rogers press the Lou Thesz against the ropes and feed blow to the midriff.
the violence needed to be filled with meaning.
What kind of meaning?
Wrestlingen had arisen on the American settlers fairground and harvest festivals , where anyone were to challenge the wrestler in a wrestling match. A person from the audience (which in fact was part of the show) got up on stage and defeated the wrestler with ease and got his price. But when others are trying to do about the feat ensured that he got beat, in one way or another. Usually wrestler was strong enough to defeat the opponent on its own. However, if the voluntary suddenly got the upper hand, pressed wrestler him up against the canvas, where an aide on the other hand knocked him out with a bat.
If someone had come to the show was arranged, had wrestlers chased away with pitchforks and torches. And so was born the kayfabe – code of honor by which a wrestler will always uphold the spectacle, even outside the ring.
Much later, when wrestling had become a form of entertainment which aired on American cable TV, there was of course obvious that the games were just entertainment. But kayfabe made the audience could never know exactly what that was prearranged. Wrestling was a game that constantly blew up the fourth wall – that a match had suddenly crossed the line and now really really , was a proven approach.
“For wrestling fans is unreal our passion, but the reality is our drug,” writes author and journalist David Shoemaker in his book the Squared Circle. Fiction and really could feed on each other and give meaning to wrestlingen as long as they were absolute. The problem was to let it remain s. When wrestlers suddenly found themselves in a new world of Reddittrådar and Twitter accounts, namely became the border between poetry and life increasingly more vague. It became harder and harder to maintain kayfabe when the emperor revealed as naked.
Mattias show a match from indie Association Pro Wrestling Guerilla from 2015: A slim wrestlers in neon yellow shorts doing a double somersault from the top rope and lands with kneecaps on his opponent’s back. Another wrestler falls from a three meter high ladder and makes a corkscrew volts down on a table that is crushed under his weight ( “hipsterwrestling” sighs Leeloo).
– It’s impressive. But they do for many moves , and in the end it means nothing, says Mattias.
The first televised wrestling matches in the 50′s had created a perfect illusion of “real wrestling”. Now the pendulum turned over in the other direction: Kayfabe was dead and the new kind of wrestling was so acrobatic show and the rate that it resembled a sort of aggressive cheerleading.
So what was the next step? What would you do if you were a bunch of wrestlers in Malmo who were unable to perform the stunts that Pro Wrestling Guerilla had made commonplace?
– We need more good wrestler with charisma, says Leeloo.
– We need stories that people become engaged in. Then what it is, is hard to say, says Mattias.
Leeloo and Daniel Ottosson during a workout in the premises of Annelundsgatan in Malmo.
I ask if they have thought of going in a different direction: Work with a theater or an artist collective? They shake their heads.
– Some have suggested that we should run a political agenda, feminism, burlesque, others performance stuff, says Mattias.
– And you can do those things as a part of wrestlingen. But it should not be “here we go wrestling and then burlesque”. Then it will be wrong, I think.
He explains that their goal is to make wrestlingen mainstream, something that anyone can go and look at. And to succeed there must wrestlers in show after show reaching the moment when the audience is in complete rapture, or as they themselves describe it: the wrestlers are a total of over , meaning that they won over spectators on their side.
– I want to tell a story through wrestling. The audience should lose themselves. It does not matter if it is fake, there and then it’ll be for real for them, says Leeloo.
– But it is difficult, says Mattias and intertwine your fingers and carefully.
– The so difficult.
Jonna Roslund and Daniel Ottosson during training.
Focus on what you can do, not what you want, it is written in capital letters on the whiteboard in the training hall.
the ring occupies almost all the floor space and across the blue carpet at a thick tear which covered over with dark canvas and duct tape.
wrestlers practice basic moves: somersault, back somersault, different kinds of cases, technicians – backbump, flipbump, banana peel bump.
– the key is to lie straight in the air, says Mattias and kicks out his leg as if he slips on a banana peel. He hurls the body backwards and hovering for a moment completely horizontally above the carpet before he lands on his back with a sharp thud.
Two girls, both beginner, try to repeat the movement. They do not succeed – the mental barrier puts a stop.
– How do I turn off their brain? wonder one of them in frustration.
– It turns out enough times, answers Jonna Roslund.
Leeloo and judges Emil Topalovic.
She falls with the same straightforwardness as Mattias – the movement has been repeated so many times that it has become a body memory, as natural as blinking.
– this must sit in the spinal cord, otherwise will you to harm you, she says.
Like the time when she ran into the ropes but forgot to hold up his arms in front chest. The pain behind the bruise was far from fake – she had had a crack in the sternum.
The group split up in individual training. Jonna practicing uppercuts; first against the pillow in the ring corner, then along with one of the other wrestlers. A hard blow to the chest, but there just under the arm touches. Stomp the carpet while to get that cinematic sound when the impact occurs. Later she says that wrestlingen means many things to her, but above all it is a way to … Turn back, maybe.
– You can not fight against the evil people in reality. But you can fight them in the ring.
She saturating a new kind. And again.
“the hardest part of being a judge is to read the game. it will reinforce what happens in the ring, but without stealing focus from the wrestlers’ says Helena Sixt, which is wrestling judges.
to be provoked by entertainment violence is obviously not a given.
a few weeks later, during the preparations for another wrestling show, I met Helena Sixt. She is the youngest child in a medical family, studying himself to a doctor, and almost every weekend, she gets into the ring as a wrestling referee. She describes her first meeting with wrestlingen as a “psychosis”, but also as an “emotional kidnapping” and a “screwdriver straight into the emotional center.” A year ago she was invited to a wrestling show of a friend, sat on the first row and had no particular expectations.
I did not think I would go into it as intensely as I did. But I was sucked in and just let the check.
– I did not think I would go into it as intensely as I did. But I was sucked in and just let the check. and then everyone was feeling super reinforced and very clean. Man feel love, hate, desire, amazing joy …
the parents thought at first that she had joined some kind of cult, because wrestling was all she talked about . When she had seen her third show she took the decision.
– Then I felt that I had to dedicate my life to this. I felt an incredible knowledge that it was so. I know it sounds insane, but so be it. Now I have finally, 30 years old, found it here. Then I just take it in your hand and run with it.
What’s the feeling she describes? It’s ecstasy – the Dionysian devotion, as in literature, often triggered by a traumatic and violent ritual, and makes the man for a moment loses his own self. But above all, it reminds of what the French theater theorist Antonin Artaud called “Theatre of Cruelty”: Speaking exclusively to the audience’s minds, to put the audience in a magical trance.
the idea strikes me, is wrestling in fact a bastard form of Artaudteater?
– Artaud succeeded not do as much theater itself. He ended up in a mental hospital at the end of his life and died later in agony …
There is a reason that many say they are inspired by Artaud, while never seen anything that calls itself Artaudteater, really. He is very difficult to interpret.
This is Kent Sjöström, lecturer and teacher at the Malmö Theatre Academy. He has just shown around the school premises: A black box with at least seven meters in height. A sewing studio. A “rörelserum” with mirrored wall, thick carpet and rubber suspended parquet floor that bends slightly under their feet. In other words: a wrestling paradise.
– There is a reason that many say they are inspired by Artaud, as you have never seen anything that calls itself Artaudteater, really. He is very difficult to interpret.
The psychological theater had only damaged the theater, according to Antonin Artaud. The theater of cruelty would therefore be a return to the fundamental emotions. It was a theater that once found the poetry in large agitated crowds; a theater that ignored the everyday worries and instead indulged tell you all about love, crime, war and madness, and that made it through to tear itself from the written word and return to a narrative of the body; movements, gestures, sounds and powerful characters. An “organic exorcism” re-invented the modern myths and where the actors took the roles of gods, heroes and monsters.
– Artaud’s part of 1900s modernism in the theater. It is corporeal and questions the replica’s central power. And there’s certainly a connection between Artaud and wrestling, but it is you who will launch the theory. I, like all scientists, careful. The wrestling is a theater, that’s it. But if it is a theater of cruelty, I’m not really sure. It’s so incredibly rehearsed?
Joel Wäring and Mattias Dahl goes through his match point point while compere Kristian von Svensson preparing for their time on stage.
however, it is a common misconception that every step and grip in wrestling is decided in advance. When the wrestlers are planning their matches, they start backwards. Once the end is certain, they work their way forward and places a number of spots to the drama revolves around. The rest is more or less improvisation; especially since they rarely repeats matches. The risk is too great that they hurt themselves, and they do not want it to look out for rehearsed. In this way wrestlingen a lot in common with another American cultural form – jazz.
– Interesting. The actor’s job is otherwise to know in detail what they do. It will be rehearsed, but have it spontanas quality. Okay, I can buy it there with Artaud, but I would still be careful with the clutch. He wants the closest to a confession of the inner person. There is something outsägbart of the human being to be replaced. The mental or physical core, something like that, he would surely say.
You have to have a balance between commitment and control. The more violent it is on the stage, the more they need to have control.
Malmöwrestlarnas characters are an extension of themselves and they build stories in the ring based on real events, eg a neck injury as one of the wrestlers gained during a match . What is important to keep in mind when working with personal experience in that way? When they tell a story with their bodies?
– You have to have a balance between commitment and control. The more violent it is on the stage, the more they need to have control. They should not brace themselves and try to go into a state where they are trying to “squeeze” out her own feelings – it is negative. It is utbrännande.
Kent Sjöström says that, broadly speaking, there are two kinds of actors: The spawning and the sacrifice. The sacrificial actor drawing strength from their personal feelings and experiences on stage. The actor playing does not work with his own self in this way. Instead, she starts from a dedicated knowledge about the role or situation portrayed.
– I imagine that wrestling is a good example of the spawning actor. But Artaud, he worked through the sacrifice.
The apartment Friisgatan is third with covered balcony. In one of the moving cartons is a whiteboard with text drawn in black: Here o Now: Loose upgraded. Prioritize. Accept.
Mattias phoned his mother yesterday and congratulated her birthday. So far he can stretch.
His mother would not know that he wrestlar. “She cares very much about how things look from the outside,” as he describes it. Wrestlingen not fit into the picture of their family, it is not “good” enough. Her attempts to remain silent kill all of it has led to that they barely talk to each other.
– Now she wants us to be heard more. But I have said to her: “It was you who said I was no longer welcome in the family. It was I do not . “
You can not choose his family. It just is so.
He has already emptied his apartment in Halmstad; now it’s just the girlfriend’s stuff left. We sit in the van and drive towards Nobeltorget.
– You can not choose his family. It just is so. Even when I was fourteen, I felt that … One can have an acceptance and respect, but –
We stop at a red light.
– But you can not force anything.
Jonna Roslund building up the ring at Tango Palace.
the ring is a puzzle : iron beams, numbered plywood sheets and mattress pieces with serrated edges. Wrestlers help one to wear and join. Covering over the carpet with a black cloth. Spanning the ropes and throws himself then against them. Yes, schvunget is just right.
So suddenly stands just ring there, right on Tango Palace parquet floor, as if it has always done it.
the doors opened promptly at 20, and the audience ordering beer at the bar and sits down around the dark varnished tables and the valve seats closest to the ring. The MC, a man in a black shirt and a top hat, grasps the microphone and asks if the audience is ready to watch pro wrestling?
– Yes-a, they respond, gently.
Mattias Dahl watching with concern the match backstage, meanwhile preparing Norwegians Terje Fjord (Terje Jacobsen Ydstie) and Espen Olsen (Asgeir Halvorsen Raumli) to join their game.
the wrestlers sitting in a small room backstage and follows the events via television standing on the dressing table.
– Tough crowd , says Mattias Dahl and the second wrestlers nods.
While it unfolds, unfolds a parallel life in the wings: wrestlers shooting promos with dance room’s red velvet drapes that fund. They practice their monologues. They share tips and advice ( “if you will of you, make a chin lock in one of the corners and ask: Where are we?”). They embrace each other after the games, so dripping with sweat that you may believe that they have a shower with your clothes on. And so, just over two hours later, it Mattias turn to go up in the ring.
He assumes brottartrikån and laces carefully the high-legged boots. He does push-ups and combs her hair with gel. Drinking water and talking through the game one last time with Joel Wäring, wearing floral shirt and indigo blue leotard with flared trousers.
The MC calls out the names of their characters. Joel running a lap of honor in the audience to the tune of “Nothing will stop us now,” before Mattias step into the ring and begins with a neck lock and a push to get Joel to fail immediately. Mattias elbows him in the head, feeding blow to the spine, but Joel stands up, raises Mattias shoulders and turns him into a Airplane Spin . I sit at a table right next to the ring and see how the lights illuminate every shift in wrestlarnas movements, as well as by light them. The crowd cheers, and when Mattias exhaling sweat fly through the air and glisten like silver dust.
All of this is. And this time I can manage to look straight at the spectacle, although I feel no ecstasy, no “pure” feelings.
Then I saw something.
an image glimpsed at in the gaps: Once Mattias Joel gently lift from the carpet and cupping his hand under his chin.