Q: Franz … Should we call you Franz or Paco?
A: Franz, please. I have taken on a new public persona since entering the Amerikan wrestling world.
Q: Franz, you have had a remarkable string of victories against the best the wrestling world has to offer. How do you explain your success?
A: Don, it’s a mystery to me. I clearly lack the size and strength to defeat such accomplished wrestlers, but like Gregor, I found myself transformed into a being with physical abilities I could hardly have imagined.
Q: Just looking at you, we can see you’re not the typical steroid-enhanced, muscle-bound wrestler with a snappy super-villain name.
A: No, I am the proverbial 110-pound weakling—71 kilograms, actually.
Q: And you are practically a midget compared to most professional wrestlers?
A: I think they prefer to be called “little people,” Don.
Q: In wrestling, we still call them midgets, Franz. So, what are you? 5’7”? 5’8”?
A: One-hundred and seventy-one centimeters, Don.
Q: You’re not from this country, either? We understand you were born in a little town in Mexico.
A: Yes, in my current incarnation, I was born in El Vergel, about 100 kilometers southeast of Chihuahua.
Q: And you were a sickly kid growing up?
A: Not just sickly, Don, I was also a nervous child. I hated any kind of noise or commotion. I used to say, I was so insecure about everything that all I was really sure of was what I already held in my hands or my mouth or what was well on its way there.
Q: And so your parents handed you over to a coven of Chinese monks living in the mountains hoping to pump you up into something?
A: My father believed I had a severe chi imbalance that could only be corrected by rigorous training in the martial arts. My parents enrolled me in the Shaolin Temple at Baborigame when I was seven.
Q: Where the hell is that?
A: Baborigame is in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Chihuahua. It is very inaccessible, but also very beautiful.
Q: I’ll bet. And how the hell did Chinese monks end up in the back of the Mexican beyond?
A: The monks left their Wudang Temple in China at the end of the 19th century during a period of political unrest.
A: You remember the film “Crouching Tiger,” Don?
A: The place where the hero dies at the end, that’s Wudang.
Q: Ah. I liked it when he sent all those poison darts back at the witch.
A: Yes, it required very accomplished swordsmanship.
Q: So, the monks didn’t go to Mexico to set up a Chinese restaurant.
A: No, Don, they were looking for an inaccessible region in the New World where the Emperor’s henchmen could not find them; they settled in Baborigame. They brought with them copies of all the great martial arts texts that the Wudang Temple had accumulated over the centuries, some of which were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. I was extraordinarily lucky to have been born close by, about fifty kilometers away.
Q: Lucky? Right. Did your parents’ abandoning you in a new-age temple leave you screwed up as a kid?
A: Not at all. My previous personality tended toward extreme insecurity both about my own mental and physical abilities and in my dealings with others, particularly authority figures. I suffered under an overbearing and rigid father, to whom my mother was so devoted that she gave me no spiritual support. In my current incarnation, I benefited from being raised in another kind of setting, unprejudiced by my earlier experiences. The martial arts training I received at the Temple helped me overcome these prior insecurities and develop a new, more assured personality, illustrating something I had written in my diaries, Life’s splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.
Q: That’s a lot more information than we really needed to know, Franz. This ain’t Oprah.
A: Sorry, Don.
Q: In terms of what wrestling fans might be interested in, how did your Shaolin training make you the awesome competitor you are today? What kind of secret ancient formula did the monks give you that lets you kick the butts of the top wrestlers in the world?
A: Well, of course, I learned many different martial arts forms, in addition to methods of meditation and chi kung for improving my chi imbalance.
Q: But there must have been something special that the monks taught you to be able to take down guys twice your size and strength?
A: I can’t stress enough that Shaolin training is not just a set of clever moves or holds. It is a unified spiritual and physical discipline that, once appreciated, allows the practitioner to accomplish feats that might seem almost magical to the uninitiated. These powers come from understanding and controlling one’s life energy, the chi.
Q: Sounds to us like new-age mumbo-gumbo, Franz. We know wrestlers are just like magicians. They think they’ve developed some secret hold, and they don’t want to share it with anybody else.
A: My mission as a secular disciple of the Shaolin Temple is to bring enlightenment to the public, to help them allay their unfounded fears, as I intimated in the story, “Absent-minded Window-gazing,” What are we to do with these spring days that are now fast coming on? Early this morning the sky was gray, but if you go to the window now you are surprised and lean your cheek against the latch of the casement. The sun is already setting, but down below you see it lighting up the face of the little girl who strolls along looking about her, and at the same time you see her eclipsed by the shadow of the man behind overtaking her. And then the man has passed by and the little girl’s face is quite bright.
Q: Okay, this isn’t getting us anywhere. So let’s talk about some of your matches. You started out wrestling in Mexico, in Lucha Libre?
A: That’s correct, Don, and like most luchadores in Mexico, I wrestled wearing a mask.
Q: What was your nickname?
A: El Gusano. My specialty, then as now, was wriggling out of unbreakable holds.
Q: We want to know more about some of your matches here in Amerika, but there was one remarkable fact about your Mexican wrestling career that may be interesting to the fans. Your umasking. Can you tell us about it?
A: Well, after some successes in the ring, I developed a minor following as El Gusano, and my opponents started to challenge me to participate in Luchas de Apuestas.
Q: What’s that?
A: Wager matches.
Q: For money?
A: No, for honor. The luchador losing the match is unmasked by the victor.
Q: And you had a problem with that?
A: Yes, it was humiliating for the loser. In my prior incarnation, I was constantly humiliated by my father, and I found it impossible to impose this feeling on others, even other professional wrestlers. So I declined to remove the masks of the luchadores whom I had defeated.
Q: And that caused trouble?
A: The Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre was going to bar me from further matches if I refused to unmask El Ciclón in the title match for Sonora-Chihuahua Lucha Libre region.
Q: What happened?
A: El Ciclón threw me with the sunset flip and then attempted the hurricanerana, but I reversed it into the Indian death lock. He was stunned and quickly counted out. But I could not, as a secular disciple of the Shaolin Temple, unmask and humiliate him. So I unmasked myself instead.
Q: What happened to El Ciclón?
A: He was declared the victor of the match by forfeit, but in his next match he suffered a severe shoulder dislocation and was himself unmasked as Benito Cabrera, a mechanic’s assistant at the Masiaca Pemex Station.
Q: The mask flap ended your career in Lucha Libre?
A: Yes, I gave up my identity as El Gusano, because A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die. I began wrestling in the US where ritual humiliation of the vanquished was not a requirement.
Q: Aha. Getting back to your Amerikan wrestling career, you started out small, with matches mostly in southwest border towns, Nogales, El Paso, Laredo. When did your career hit the big time?
A: The event that brought me some, largely undeserved, notoriety was the match in which I was lucky enough to defeat Eviscera. The match was a warm-up for the main bill of The Rock versus Stone Cold at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Q: Eviscera’s a big muther. What? 6’6”, nearly 400 pounds?
A: He is an imposing figure, with well-developed musculature, but he has, perhaps, acquired a tendency toward over-reliance on his size and strength to dominate his opponents. Although I was surely very fortunate to have defeated him, his approach to the match may have contributed to the upset; it was somewhat ineffective against my Shaolin training. It calls to mind something in my Diaries, The bone of his own forehead obstructs his way; he knocks himself bloody against his own forehead.
Q: So what is the technique that you use? The fans want to know how a little wimpy-looking guy like you can take down a monster like Eviscera.
A: It’s not that I am keeping a secret. It’s just that I don’t know how to explain it to someone who hasn’t had two decades of Shaolin training. Remember, Truth is indivisible, hence it cannot recognize itself; anyone who wants to recognize it has to be a lie.
Q: We figured you’d come up with some mystical crap like that. So here is a clip of the last couple of minutes of your match with Eviscera. Can you just describe what you were doing when Eviscera had you in the Boston crab?
A: Certainly. In a hold like this, the defender’s first instinct is to resist. My Shaolin training taught me to do the opposite, to yield, to relax.
Q: We can see that here. You look like a wet noodle. Now what?
A: Now I want to assess the opponent’s center of gravity and locate any energy stagnation in his body.
Q: Okay, we guess we can see that. You look like you’ve got all the time in the world, even though a 400-pound gorilla is about to break you in half?
A: Exactly, now you are catching on. Here I can feel that Eviscera is going to try to put a little twist in the crab, maybe try to dislocate one of my hips. I use this movement to reposition myself.
Q: How did you do that? You turned yourself around, grabbed his left ankle and toppled him over.
A: My tai chi and chi kung exercises keep me very loose.
Q: We’ve heard of double-jointed, but you must be triple jointed?
A: Here then, when Eviscera tries to untangle himself, I applied the jackknife pin and the match was pretty much over.
Q: What are you saying to Eviscera while you have him pinned?
A: I was asking him how much pain he was experiencing. I didn’t want to apply unnecessary force.
Q: And his response?
A: He yelled some obscenities at me, but it was just the frustration of the moment.
Q: Aha? Moving on, here is a clip of the end of your match with Jake “The Snake” Douglas.
A: I think Jake may have chosen the wrong nickname. He did not appear to have grasped the wisdom of the snake. In fact, he was even less flexible than Eviscera.
Q: We understand that Mr. McCann was upset that the match ended so quickly?
A: Yes, it was unfortunate that I could not find an honorable way to let Jake escape from the chicken-wing hammerlock he was in after I reversed his poorly executed gutwrench.
Q: Okay. Next we have the clip of the match with Chris “The Crippler” Bennett.
A: I found Chris to be a much superior opponent.
Q: Even though he is a hundred pounds lighter than Eviscera?
A: Yes, but Chris was much more flexible and has perfected his wrestling skills to a higher degree. He understands that position, not power, wins matches.
Q: But you defeated him anyway?
A: Yes, I think he may have become overconfident early in the match while I was feeling him out. Chris attempted the Argentine backbreaker, really just a theatrical hold. Once he had me in the air, it was quite easy to detect his center of gravity and destabilize him. Finding him off-balance, I initiated the victory roll and the match was over. With proper training, Chris would be a formidable opponent. It brings to mind the end of “The Great Wall and the Tower of Babel,” Human nature, essentially changeable, unstable as the dust, can endure no restraint; if it binds itself it soon begins to tear madly at its bonds, until it rends everything asunder, the wall, the bonds, and its very self.
Q: We understand that Mr. McCann would like to match you up with one of the Divas? Perhaps ever bring Chyna out of retirement?
A: That’s correct. Mr. McCann made it clear that I was to appeal to the prurient interests of the fans by repeated use of the grapevine pin, and my female opponent would similarly counter-attack with the schoolgirl pin. I was also informed that my female opponent would have a tear-away top that I was to, well, tear-away just before the end of the match.
Q: Sounds exciting. Who’s scheduled to win this match?
A: Mr. McCann said that he hoped my opponent might win the initial match, after becoming topless, and then I would surely win the rematch in which she would remain fully clothed, but the publicity surrounding the initial match and the FCC fine for nudity would create an expectation of another topless finale.
Q: It sounds like a winner. Did you agree?
A: I pointed out to Mr. McCann that as a secular disciple of the Shaolin Temple it would be inappropriate for me to participate in such an event, so exploitative of both the art of wrestling and women.
Q: What was his response?
A: He was very understanding and said he didn’t want me to do anything that would make me uncomfortable.
Q: Vic McCann said that?
A: Those weren’t his exact words, but that was the thrust of his comment. He thought that some other wrestlers with more relaxed sensibilities might be interested in such an event, although besides me he didn’t have any other crowd-pleasing wimps to put up against a Diva. It caused me to ponder the aphorism, Wisdom is thus not what men first of all seek. They seek, instead, the justification for what they happen to cherish.
Q: It looks like you are missing a golden opportunity. There aren’t many fans who would pass up the chance to put Chyna in the grapevine pin.
A: They should consider the words of the Hunter Gracchus, My death boat went off course; a wrong turn of the wheel, a moment’s absence of mind on the part of the helmsman, the distraction of my lovely native country.
Q: Aha. You have already gone through and defeated a nice list of top-drawer wrestlers. Is there any chance that you might get a chance against one of the movie-star wrestlers, like Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock?
A: Mr. Austin and Mr. Rock have declined offers for a match. Something about image problems. Similarly, Hulk Hogan has stated that his retirement is permanent, although he has came out of retirement twice in the recent past. It looks like my next match may be against either Nic Flare or The Tornado.
Q: One thing that a lot of fans don’t understand is your claim to be reincarnated?
A: That’s correct. I am the reincarnation of Franz Kafka.
Q: And he was…?
A: He was, well I am, a Czech who wrote at the beginning of the last century.
Q: Why would anybody believe that you are the reincarnation of this Kafka guy?
A: I can remember clearly my whole life in Prague. After all, Believing means liberating the indestructible element in oneself, or, more accurately, being indestructible, or, more accurately, being.
Q: Maybe you are just channeling this guy? Like the way the wrestler Attila channels, uh, you know, the Hun with the same name that raped and pillaged a lot at the end of the Roman Empire?
A: Attila doesn’t claim to be Attila, only to be in touch with Attila’s thoughts and feelings. I, on the other hand, am Franz Kafka. As I wrote previously in my diaries, By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
Q: I’ll take your word for it. You wrote a famous sci-fi story, right? About the guy turning into a cockroach?
A: I thought of Gregor as becoming just a generic bug.
Q: Is it like that movie, “The Fly?” Did he go on a rampage? Eat a lot of people? Maybe lust after some German broads?
A: It’s not really that kind of story.
Q: What the hell happens to him?
A: He becomes very lonely after being rejected by his family, stops eating, and dies.
Q: Christ, this must be assigned reading in college or something, right? Otherwise, who would read it?
A: It’s considered a classic of Jewish mystical Kabbalah-inspired literature. When I wrote it, I thought, …we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us … We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
Q: Ah, so you’re Jewish?
A: My previous incarnation was Jewish.
Q: So why do you think this Kafka guy got reincarnated as you?
A: Let me answer your question with a question, …how could a person, even only as a nothing, consciously surrender himself to the nothing, and not merely to an empty nothing but rather to a roaring nothing whose nothingness consists only in its incomprehensibility?
A: So you understand why Kafka had to be reincarnated.
Q: Uh, okay. But why as a Jewish-Mexican wrestler?
A: A cage went in search of a bird.
Q: Oh, god! I give up. Back to the roach story. You say it is famous, but I doubt anybody in this audience has read it?
A: Although the novella was created by my former incarnation and my Shaolin training has led me down a different path, I still think the story has much to offer the intelligent reader, after all, Art flies around truth, but with the definite intention of not getting burnt; its capacity lies in finding in the dark void a place where the beam of light can be intensely caught, without this having been perceptible before.
Q: It’s lucky for you we retired from professional wrestling a decade ago, because we could take offense at that last remark about our intelligence.
A: I can assure you that I didn’t mean to impugn your intelligence, but …a man of action forced into a state of thought is unhappy until he can get out of it.
Q: Hey, one more wisecrack and you’re going to be eating teeth. Cut. I’m through with this jerk.
A: In the fight between you and the world, back the world.
Editor’s Note: Shortly after the transcript of the interview with wrestler Francisco “El Gusano” Grajilla, aka Franz Kafka, had been sent to the printer, he lost his match with the neo-Nazi heel, Heinrich “Der Maulwurf” Schadenmeister, on a controversial technical foul decision. “Der Maulwurf almost makes El Gusano look charismatic,” said wrestling impresario Vic McCann, who promised to do everything in his power to see that Kafka got a rematch with Schadenmeister. Kafka, however, declined the offer of a rematch, saying, “I am comfortable ending my wrestling career in defeat because In theory there is a possibility of perfect happiness: To believe in the indestructible element within one, and not to strive towards it.” Asked if he didn’t have a duty to defend Amerika’s honor against the humiliation of a neo-Nazi victory, El Gusano responded by quoting from “The Country Doctor,” Once one responds to a false alarm on the night bell, there’s no making it good again—not ever.