By Seth Kushner

When I was in junior high, I was obsessed with professional wrestling.  I was finally interested in something the “cool” kids were into, but casual interest has never been my way, so I became a “wrestling nerd.” While the well-adjusted were content to simply watch wrestling on Saturday morning TV, I had to subscribe to Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Inside Wrestling, The Wrestler and others. I had to not only know a favorite wrestler’s stats, but but also his personal info, his real name, past names he’d wrestled under in small, regional organizations, and other such trivial facts.

I regularly watched the kid-friendly and cartoonish antics of Hulk Hogan, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, The Iron Sheik, George “The Animal” Steele and Andre The Giant on national WWF (now WWE) programming, like everyone else, but I also watched Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and The Road Warriors on the seemingly more dangerous and bloody mid-Atlantic based NWA. I also watched the AWA from the mid-west and WCW from Texas. These other wrestling shows were popular in their own neck of the woods, but less so in New York City, where the WWF had a headlock on the airwaves. My parents refused to pay for cable, so I had to find these other wrestling shows on fuzzy UHF stations, which required adjusting a rabbit ear antenna on top of my TV set until the picture became clear.

[Bruno Samartino & Ric Flair]

During seventh grade I became friends with a kid who was not so affectionately known as “Big Fat Freddy.” Yes, kids can be cruel. Big Fat Freddy was my “wrestling friend”, as we were both obsessive wrestling nerds. His favorite wrestler was “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. One look at said wrestler, and one could clearly understand Big Fat Freddy’s idol worship. Dusty, a veteran of the ring, was a fleshy man with bleached blond hair and always stood for what was right. I more enjoyed watching his bitter rival, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, who was often the villain, but his showmanship was next to none. He entered the ring dramatically to the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, wearing a big, feathered robe. Trash-talking and arrogance were his signatures, but most importantly, his wrestling style was scientific.

All of the wrestlers I’d most admired had what was considered real skill; Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Brett “The Hitman” Hart, all wrestled in a style that was about move and counter move. Reversals and defenses. A wrestler like Hulk Hogan, for example, was looked down upon for his lack of scientific skill by “real” wrestling fans like myself. Hulk was probably the biggest superstar pro wrestling had ever seen, but he was more a brute showman than a skillful tactician.

[George "The Animal" Steele]

Big Fat Freddy and I had similar views on wrestling and we  took them very seriously. He was full head taller than me, and probably about a hundred pounds heavier and his clothing was always either too tight, or too large, and always stained with some type of sauce. He lived in a small and very cluttered house on what must have been the last unpaved road in Brooklyn. Big Fat Freddy, a “mamma’s boy” was a child of divorce and very close with his mother, who I found to be an odd woman. One time I rang his bell looking for him and his mother answered in nothing but a shear negligee. Big Fat Freddy wasn’t home, and I left beat red.

Big Fat Freddy’s weight was an issue, and played the roll of the jolly fat kid well, and when taunted, he would react in one of three possible ways; he would self-deprecate and go along with the joke. Or he would become defensive and say, “My mom says when I’m older I’ll be very tall and muscular.” And, sometimes, he would cry. Though he liked to play the role of tough guy, often by imitating his hero, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, but it was entirely an act.

[Jerry "The King" Lawler & Greg "The Hammer" Valentine]

One time, the two of us and another friend were shoveling snow for an old couple who paid us five bucks each to clear their sidewalk. Big Fat Freddy was lazily sitting atop a snow bank and letting me and our other friend do all of the work. Then, to make matters worse, he began hurling snowballs at me, and laughing. I was already annoyed for having to do his share, and the snowballs caused me to snap and I leaped on top of the much larger boy, and began pummeling him. Our mutual friend pulled me off, and once calm, I looked at his angered face and I was afraid. But, his expression changed and he began sobbing. The big crybaby had tears streaming down his face. I felt badly and apologized.

Big Fat Freddy and I attended many live wrestling events together. It was at these events where he would do his “patented move.” The best instance of this was at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island. We were attending the NWA Great American Bash and from our nosebleed seats we noticed two empty ringside seats. We debated whether we should attempt sneaking down to claim the prime seats because we had tried similar moves at Madison Square Garden at WWF shows, but security always stopped us. But this venue and event seemed more lax, so we causally walked past the security guards, and they paid us no mind. As we sat ringside, we felt giddy with our deceitful victory, and Big Fat Freddy had even bigger plans.

“I’m gonna wait till the main event, and then do it,” he said, with determination.

I knew what Big Fat Freddy had in mind and I was excited to see how his devious plan would play out.

If memory serves, the main event featured a tag team-match between Ric Flair and three other guys who were less memorable, verses Dusty Rhodes, Sting and The Road Warriors. At a key moment during the match, Big Fat Freddy turned to me and said simply, “it’s time.”

Big Fat Freddy then stood up, looked around, smiled deviously, and unbuckled his large jeans.

“LOOK AT ME EVERYBODY!” Big Fat Freddy screamed, as he dropped he pants, bent over and spread his large ass cheeks.

The crowd at the Nassau Coliseum roared wildly. Though, I should add that at the very same moment that Big Fat Freddy mooned the entire audience from the front row, Dusty Rhodes delivered his own signature move, The Bionic Elbow, to Ric Flair in the ring. Now, the crowd could have been reacting to what was happening in the match, but I like to think it was Big Fat Freddy who got their attention.

[The Iron Sheik]

I know it may sound as though I believed wrestling was “real,” but in fact, I always knew that it was staged and scripted, as did Big Fat Freddy. I enjoyed it in the same way as I did movies and comics, as a work of fiction. But in this particular colorful fiction, real athletic skill was needed in order to make the performance believable. Nowadays, pro wrestling is billed as “sports entertainment,” and the fact that it’s a performance is no longer hidden. But, when I was a kid, the reality of it was debated in junior high cafeterias across the country.

I have not seen Big Fat Freddy in nearly twenty-five years. I have no idea what became of him, or if he ever became “very tall and muscular,” as his mother had promised. I wonder if he still watches wrestling? Probably not. I  lost track of it years ago. But, to this day, it’s difficult to even think about wrestling and not think about Big Fat Freddy stealing the show at the Nassau Coliseum.

“LOOK AT ME EVERYBODY!”

–Words and photos by Seth Kushner

[Nicolai Volkoff]