Mat Burns is a collection of 12 flash fiction stories based in the world of pro wrestling. Some of the stories might be recognizable, others will leave you thinking a while about wrestler’s careers after their retirement or encounters with their demons, but what can’t be denied is how great and fun they are. Some of the stories feature a retired wrestler that learns how to fly, a luchador born with a mask on Arena Mexico, a person going literally into the mind of a wrestler, and a literal missing limb.
What more can you ask for your surreal stories?
For those that don’t know, flash fiction are very short stories that don’t last over 3 pages and have no more than 1,500 words. An example of flash fiction would be: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” As any writer can tell you, trying to write something short and sweet is very hard, especially if you have a lot to say and a lot happens, which is the case in Ryan Dilbert’s stories. His stories have surrealist twists and turns that will either shock you or make you laugh, but they feel the perfect length and you get a feel of the character and situation. As a reader, you will be satisfied with the great job Dilbert did.
Some of these stories reminded me back when I was starting to get into pro wrestling and I had my dial-up internet connection, I went to look for pro wrestling urban legends that were simply ridiculous. A tame example would be how Bruiser Brody was so tall that when he was murdered they had to cut off his legs so he could fit into the casket. Some of the short stories have violent and ridiculous twists that have an urban legends vibe. Using two examples of stories in this book, I can easily imagine the story of a wrestler’s ghost haunting an arena or how a women’s champion paid to have her sisters resurrected being told on crazy websites or as road stories.
What I liked is the insight that it provided. Three important themes throughout the book are wrestlers’ memories, their past, and the abuse to their bodies after years on the road and wrestling. There are stories about the mindset of a retired pro wrestler forgetting about his fame and how frustrating it is, to the point that not even family members can remember him or her. The abuse of the wrestler’s bodies theme is shown with stories of wrestlers resorting to different surrealist ways to recover their body or learn something new, like flying.
One of my favorite stories is “No More Riots Left to Start”, where a heel manager can’t handle that in the past she was hated and now in the present, she is loved, and doesn’t matter what happens she can’t get her or her guys booed, doesn’t matter how many people she spits or curses at. Another stand out is “9 to 12 Months (Month 1)” where an injured pro wrestler simply can’t stand to be idle at home. “Born Chris Shane” is funny and sad, where a pro wrestler gets too caught up on all his characters, in a method actor way.
I would recommend “Mat Burns” by Ryan Dilbert because these are short, fun, interesting, and surreal stories that will make you think about pro wrestling and the wrestlers. It’s a collection of short stories that will make your afternoon better and will leave you with a smile on your face and thinking about how crazy and weird is the world of pro wrestling.