July 19th – The Festival of the Supremo

What is a better activity for a summer afternoon than watching the wrestling? Buentoille has two ‘pits’ (the local word for what are essentially sunken circular amphitheatres) specifically set out for the pleasure, and thousands more watch from home. Each pit has its own sandwich sellers and wine carts, the two great loves of any true wrestling fan; you haven’t experienced wrestling culture to the full unless you have eaten a cheese, pickled cabbage and mustard sandwich whilst quaffing from a tankard of sweet wine and watching the three wrestlers struggle for dominance.

There are two essential forms of Buentoilliçan wrestling. Firstly, there is the type practised at Govrol Banatek’s Pit, where three wrestlers are covered in oil and must hold each other to the floor. Banatek-style wrestling, as it is known, involves theatrical and pretty brutal techniques, including running tackles and throws. The only things outlawed in Banatek style wrestling are punching, kicking and headbutting, but pretty much everything else is fair game.

Compared to Banatek-style, Mordo-style wrestling – named not after the pit in which it is normally shown (the Pit of the Supremo), but after the three mythical brothers who allegedly pioneered it and indeed all of Buentoilliçan wrestling – is generally thought of as the ‘thinking Buentoillitant’s wrestling,’ because of its more tactical nature. In Mordo-style wrestling three people grasp each other by the forearms and attempt to break the connection of the other two, whilst retaining their own grip. The idea that in other cities like Litancha wrestling tends to be a competition between two people seems to cause most Buentoillitants considerable consternation.

There has always been some antagonism between the fans of each sport, with each claiming their ‘style’ as the older of the two. Whilst there is no hard evidence one way or the other, we do know for sure that the Pit of the Supremo was built after Govrol Banatek’s Pit, which which was built by its namesake, the man who allegedly made the sport what it is today, formalising a set of rules that focused street fighting into a more measured spectator sport, and introduced the unbalanced third actor who keeps things in Banatek-style interesting, with fleeting alliances being formed and broken at a glance.

Yet today’s festival focuses on the other side of the equation, the Mordo-style art, which tends to gather more ‘refined’ or ‘cerebral’ types; the kind of folk who obsess over a certain flick of the wrist, or the deliberately distracting eye movements of one of the competitors. Mordo-style is a far less fluid method of wresting, with long pauses in the action when folk are evenly matched in strength or are waiting for an opportune moment to strike. There are libraries full of books on Mordo-style tactics. Today is the culmination of the Mordo-style season, when this year’s ‘supremo’ will be crowned after a tense and drawn-out battle of wills.

In what is either an act of propaganda, a cementing of the mythology that surrounds the creation of this ‘cerebral’ wrestling style, or a genuine sign of respect and remembrance for the genesis of the sport, the final of the Mordo season will not be held in the pit, but on a small rocky island (Narem Jag) in the Buentoille Bay. In the centre of this island, surrounded by a sparse treeline, is a natural pit with steep, cliff-like sides. It was upon this natural feature, apparently, that Banatek pit was modelled, although there is no evidence to suggest that this was the case, and the claim is refuted by Banatek-style lovers. Yet more importantly, for today’s festival at least, it was apparently where Buentoilliçan wrestling first began, at least 100 years before the first man-made pit was built.

According to the stories, the brothers Mordo were identical triplets whose mother died during childbirth. Their father was somewhat scarred by the experience, and had a smouldering hatred of his three sons, blaming them for her demise. He took to drink heavily, and would often, whilst they grew up, compel the brothers to fight each other. Eventually the neighbours complained about the noise, and so he began to bring them out to the island, to the pit there (discovered by father Mordo on a camping expedition with his own father, or when his fishing boat was wrecked there, depending on which version of the story you hear), where they would be placed and only allowed to leave when two of them had been floored, the survivor being declared the ‘supremo’ by his father and carried off to eat heartily whilst the other two were left on the floor. To escape this torture, the children devised the Mordo-style wrestling rules, which managed to entertain their father enough without causing significant damage to themselves.

The issue with this (frankly rather harrowing) story is that there is absolutely nothing to suggest it is true. There are no birth records of any triplets named Mordo or any similar name, nor are there any other documents that link wrestling to that name. Some think that the story may have begun as a metaphorical tale, the father representing the braying masses of the Banatek audiences who, according to Mordo audiences, want to see nothing but pain and wanton violence. Others say that the fighting brothers were real, but that they were not twins and were actually dancers called Mordres. The connection to the island, outside its handy geological appearance, does not factor into these explanations.

Whether or not the Mordo brothers ever existed, they are revered today, forming the name and crest of the wrestling organisation. The final of the season is always held in the Narem Jag pit, the crowd and television cameras gathering around on the edge of the circular cliff, yelling down at the contestants, the food and drink sellers skirting the crowd and shouting along with their sales spiels. The contestants this year are mostly tactical masters, who obviously combine their wit with prodigious strength to execute their plans. They know through hard-earned experience when to push, pull or lurch suddenly and alarmingly. Perhaps one year there will be another Big Fermine this year; someone who through sheer strength pulled her two opponents apart like they were breaking a wishbone. None could stand against her. It has been too long since the public saw the exploits of a twister, someone like Bending Bradley who had enough joints that some doctors technically didn’t class him as human.

Still, as the announcer comes out from a crack in the rock face to introduce their acts for the day, there is the same heady anticipation, the audience safe in the knowledge they will see a good show, and at the end a supremo crowned.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Leeches
  • Spelunker’s Breath Festival
  • Winemaker’s Day