IF THERE'S ONE QUESTION that troubles every thinking person, it's this: Does cheating go on in professional wrestling?
In an effort to find an answer, I recently attended a tournament sanctioned by Florida Championship Wrestling. I chose FCW for two solid journalis-tic reasons:
*It is a venerable circuit in the "minor leagues" of professional wrestling, where the potential stars of tomorrow learn the ground rules, the "do's and don'ts," that make up the ethical standards of the sport.
*It is near my house.
The FCW tournament I attended was held at the Miccosukee Indian Gaming Center, located west of Miami on the edge of the Everglades. This is one of the few gaming facilities where you can gamble on bingo, slot machines, poker, etc., and then . . . merely by walking a short distance . . . get eaten by alligators.
I watched the wrestling matches from a seat right next to the commissioner of FCW, Bernie Siegel. It is Commissioner Siegel's job to monitor the sport closely for cheating and impose stiff punishments on wrongdoers.
"I haven't had an eye exam in years," he told me.
In the first match, a wrestler who had been losing suddenly gained the upper hand (so to speak) by kicking his opponent in a very sensitive masculine region.
"Did you see that?" I asked Commissioner Siegel.
"See what?" he answered.
The referee didn't see it either, even though he was standing about two feet from the wrestlers. It takes a special type of person to be a professional-wrestling referee, the type of person who, if he had been present when the Hindenburg was being consumed by a giant ball of flame, would have been looking, with intense interest, at the ground.
In the next match, a wrestler thumbed his opponent in the eye, yanked on his hair, and then choked him for approximately five minutes while the referee hovered alertly nearby, looking for violations.
"These are world-class athletes," observed Commissioner Siegel.
Next, in one of the featured matches, a wrestler named Larry Lane fought "Playboy" Bobby Davis, who is 350 pounds of highly disciplined, superbly trained, expertly conditioned fat. Lane was winning, but then Davis's "manager," a woman named Ebony, who was wearing a pair of shorts that would be two sizes too small for Barbie, distracted the referee while a third wrestler, Tony Apollo, who was supposed to be injured and who was not, technically, even in this match, climbed into the ring and whacked Lane over the head from behind with his crutch.
"I didn't see anything there," said Commissioner Siegel, before I even asked him.
In another featured match, a wrestler named Anthony "The South Beach Stud" Adonis distracted the referee by asking him about the rules. For several minutes, while the referee patiently explained the rules, directly behind his back, Adonis's opponent, Billy Viper, was writhing on the mat in agony while being repeatedly kicked in the masculine region and clawed in the eyeball region by Adonis's manager, a woman named Babe.
"We've had people get their eyes gouged out," observed Commissioner Siegel, adding, "They become referees."
As he spoke, Tony Apollo, who was not technically in this match, either, slipped a folding chair into the ring for Anthony Adonis to whack Billy Viper with.
"It looks like he's slipping a chair into the ring," I said.
"I'll have to check the tape on that," said Commissioner Siegel.
In subsequent matches, a wrestler beat his opponent in the face with a cowbell (yes, a cowbell); a manager named Abudadein ("The Master of Darkness") used his staff ("The Staff of Darkness") to knock out a security guard; and Duke "The Dumpster" Droese appeared to be about to win his match when his opponent, the Cuban Assassin, clubbed him senseless with a flagpole holding a Cuban flag, which the Cuban Assassin's manager, a woman named Fantasy, had slipped into the ring, unobserved.
"Is he allowed to hit him with the flagpole?" I asked.
"He hit him with the flagpole?" responded Commissioner Siegel.
All in all, it was an exciting evening of athletic competition. And although at times it appeared, to my untrained eye, that some of the contestants might possibly have been taking liberties with the rules of fair play, I realize that this could hardly be possible, if the commissioner of Florida Championship Wrestling, who happens to be a licensed attorney and whose whole job is to keep an eye on things, did not see any violations. So rest easy, America: The popular sport of professional wrestling is definitely "on the up and up." Its integrity is protected by safeguards every bit as stringent as the ones used to protect America's most vital nuclear secrets. You think I'm joking.