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A professional wrestler goes by many names. Stan Hansen carried his own birth name, a true shooter through and through, but he also carried the handle “The Lariat,” so named for the bull rope he would sometimes wield and for his finishing maneuver, a wild and explosive swing of the arm across the lamentable chests of countless foes. In Japan, he was known as gaijin: an outsider, a foreigner, an alien. But most Japanese wrestling fans knew him simply as “The Cowboy.” With his bristly mustache and cowboy hat, the six-foot-four-inch Texas transplant could have been from another planet touring the cities and small towns across Japan, by bullet train and by bus, striking fear into those who paid to bear witness and collecting checks from All Japan Pro Wrestling. With him he brought the Texas style passed down to him from the Funk brothers, cowboy legends in their own right both at home and abroad, but in Japan it was easier to keep up appearances that the show was what it appeared to be. Making wrestling look real in a Japanese ring was as simple as this, as it turns out: just beat the holy dogshit hell out of one another. If a magician could pull off the perfect trick, it wouldn’t be an illusion at all—that which appears to disappear would disappear for real. The naked eye can tell the difference; there’s no substitution for real, human pain. It doesn’t take an earthling to know the difference.

paving the king’s road.
what’s more american than
a cowboy, than pain?

It is a hard life, nothin’ fake about it. You done broke out here before in the seventies, and been around the world and back again since. They didn’t know who you were before then, but you showed ‘em and you didn’t have to say a goddamned word. You let your body do the talkin’. You showed ‘em violence is a language all its own. You make poetry out there in that ring. You step out there with your partner onto that blank canvas, open each other up, and bleed. You’ve been draped in tens of pounds of solid gold. You’ve wrestled Andre the Giant and won. And now you’re back, and you ain’t no goddamn nobody. You’re the Cowboy. You’re the closest this world has known to a goddamned monster. And tonight is cool, and the beer is cold, and you feel the sting and swell of tonight’s battle slowly dull as you wander along the countryside, bottle in hand, still in your ring gear. The chill night air and buzz of adrenaline and alcohol carry you through the evening—plenty of time to make it back before the bus departs for the next town—and almost lift you up off the ground, light as a cloud, up into the night sky. Only it isn’t almost. You’re several feet off the ground now and your stomach sinks. You’re not one of those top-rope, high-fliers. Up and up and up, through a hole in the sky. And then—

suspended in air.
suspension in disbelief.
what you see, you get.

Where am I? With us. Who are you? We are we. What do you want? We want what everyone on your planet wants, what everyone everywhere wants. Wh-what’s that? To learn. To teach. To love. But what do you want from me? To learn. To teach. To love. But WHY me? You’re the only one who can teach us this lesson. Who do you think I am? You’re the man who broke Bruno Sammartino’s neck, who took out Big Van Vader’s left eye. The only man to single handedly defeat both Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki. You take a performance everyone understands to be a facsimile and make them doubt. Even we are unsure. So that’s what you wanna know? The same as anyone else? If it’s fake? No. We know these performances are devised for entertainment. But we don’t know how you make them believe. Why don’t you go ask Bruiser Brody? We will. But now, here, we are asking you. Well it ain’t enough to want to make ‘em believe. You gotta believe it yourself. You gotta go out there and be real. Believe it. Believe it yourself.  Now what is it you say you wanna teach me? We want to teach you that which you first taught us. Which is? About love. You use violence in order to love. You love the fans who pay to see you. You love the man across the ring. You love the art that you make, and your art is born out of that love. You may not know that you already know, but even through violence, you may carry yourself in love in all that it is you do. Love, suffering—both are an act of opening oneself to give everything within and in turn to infinitely receive. Now open yourself to this lesson— Yes. And receive. And receive.

gaijin, alien
outsider. cosmic kayfabe.
I want to believe.