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from champions


On November 8, 1997, Shawn Michaels
faced Bret “The Hitman” Hart in a title match
in Montreal, Canada. After 22 minutes of
haphazard & half-hearted grappling, Michaels
executed Hart’s finishing move—The Sharpshooter—on
The Hitman, but The Hitman wouldn’t quit. Unfortunately
for The Hitman, WWF Owner Vince McMahon was
convinced that a Michaels loss would lead to the collapse
of the American economy. Thus, Secretary of Defense William
Cohen launched a cruise missile strike on the referee,
forcing him to end the match and award the title
to Michaels. This ignited a riot within the Molson Centre.
Distraught that their national hero was embarrassed,
The Hitman’s supporters stormed the ring and used
souvenir poutine plates to beat the referee to death.
But none of this mattered to Michaels—he was
the world champion of the fucking universe.
Later, in a WWF Magazine article about the
incident, Hart said: “Why do you want to
shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries,
or any depressions? For after all, you do not know
what work these conditions are doing inside you.”




before it started raining,
the student council candidates
scrawled their names in bright
bubble letters right outside the
campus center. Later, the earth
washed the chalk into a glowing
puddle and when I saw it I thought
there’s Ryan,
there he is,
he’s never going anywhere,

so I scooped some of it
up with Tupperware
and kept it on my desk for
the remainder of another
entirely youless day.

I wish this was a metaphor,
but I still can't comprehend
the language of grief. I can’t peel
my eyes from the pain.

do you remember when
I was running for student body president
and me and Ben forgot to vote?
Do you remember the time
the dog came home drunk
and the entire night smelled
like the 90s? Do you remember when
we brought our hope to the dump and you said
this would be a mighty fine place for a rave?

I’m tired of saying
those years changed my life—not
because they didn’t but
because you wouldn’t hear it.

I’m on the top rope of the ring
and I’m looking for you in the rafters.
Every minute it feels like I’m screaming.
Every minute I feel like a cannon
of anguish and my fuse is getting torched
by a heartless burning sun.
Every day there’s a litter
in my veins and I don’t
know how to clean it.
I keep finding all these things
that make me think of you—wrestling
matches, hip-hop lyrics, pictures
of sneakers that neither of us would
wear now—but my mind is a UHAUL
truck with its tires on fire, and
it's blowing every tollbooth on
its way up to Exeter.

Which is all to say
I don’t know what
I’m supposed to do
with this puddle.

I keep thinking of that moment
in the Hard Times promo, when
Dusty tells everyone on the other
side of the camera that he will repay
them with all of the love in the
universe. How did you handle that
weight, Ryan? Every day I carry
a stable on my back and
sometimes it feels like I'm
drowning in the hey.

Had I been elected, my first
executive order would have been
to award you an honorary degree
in elbow drops. I'd have us touring the south and
your heart would be a special attraction. Bald
Eagles would announce our arrival
over bullhorns and the clouds would shower us
with confetti at the end of every carnival.

I don’t care if
I ever make sense.
I don’t want a bouquet
of ideas—I want dance
party after dance party, bonfire
after bonfire. I want to two-step
through a sunflower field wearing
lollipops and diamonds. I want a battle
royal with thick-taloned demons in
the middle of the forest, and I want to
dropkick them through the ropes
until the universe gets ape-shit.

There’s a way out of the ring
if our whole legs can feel it.
There’s a way out of the woods
if our whole heart can see it.






Mark Cugini is the author of I’m Just Happy To Be Here (Ink Press, 2014). His work has appeared in The Lifted Brow, Sink Review, Hyperallergic, Barrelhouse, Noö, and Hobart, among others. He is the managing editor of Big Lucks Books.