Monday, October 12, 2015

Farewell to a Bratty Legend

Few were as good as Perez at getting the crowd all riled up
Photo Credit: Joel Loeschman
The list of "great indie wrestling heels" is short. The nature of the beast dictates that in order truly to get over, a wrestler needs to sell merch, and few wrestlers have the wherewithal to get the crowd to totally hate them when they need to move shirts to supplement their take-home pay. Kevin Steen is the most famous example, but even his antics got him cheered. The best example is, and always has been, Portia Perez. No wrestler has placed so much effort into being so despised in front of an indie crowd, which is why her retirement over the weekend feels like such a huge loss. Wrestling, SHIMMER especially, is losing an automatic heat magnet.

Looking at Perez's pixie-like frame wouldn't clue someone into her innate ability to turn crowds into frothing lunatics. Wrestlers her size generally become sympathetic babyfaces. She's always been small, even compared to the women who have traditionally haunted the indies. But she's always been able to get under people's skin, even if her techniques were never all that subtle. Then again, subtle and wrestling go together like peanut butter and kerosene most times.

But then again, Perez's tactics were never really about the things she did or said. Rather, it was how she went about her business. She always had a believable cantankerousness about her. Whether it was an extension of herself or just the most realistic sliding into a soul trapped in an eternal rainy day is irrelevant. When she spoke, she spit venom. When she was in the ring, you knew she was up to no good, no matter how purely her intentions may have seemed at any given moment.

But then again, even as she got people to hate her in the arena, her talents have engendered massive amounts of respect from all over the wrestling universe. Real does recognize real, even if in the moment real also wants real to eat shit and do it hard. That's probably why Lacey and Daizee Haze, who have not been seen in a wrestling ring since May 2010 and August 2011 respectively, came back for her retirement match. It has to be the reason that Tomoka Nakagawa flew back across the Pacific Ocean to be ringside for it. And of course, Perez ended that final, eight-woman tag match gaining an illegal pinfall on Haze, only for the match to be restarted and for Haze to return the favor legally. Afterwards, Perez told the crowd that they "sucked" and that she was "going home now." The ending couldn't have been more perfect if it tried to be.

And so Portia Perez will go home, somewhere in Canada, and live life without the daily rigors of professional wrestling. She's earned that time off for all she's given to the biz, but in return, the biz will feel a lot emptier without her, all because she sacrificed a few t-shirt sales in order to help each and every single one of her opponents become folk heroes just for facing off against her. Her legacy is more than titles and wins and losses, although it can be argued that her tag team partner, Nicole Matthews, was able to get more of a spotlight to show off her considerable talents because of Perez. So with that, I say farewell, happy trails, and best of luck, Portia Perez. Thank you for being so easy to boo.