Unbound with Laura Stark: Episode 01 - LAUREL ANNE HARDY

Uncut, uncensored and unedited- XWA interviewer Laura Stark sits down head-to-head with some of the promotion's top talents to ask the questions no one dare ask in these in-depth, candid interviews.
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Unbound with Laura Stark: Episode 01 - LAUREL ANNE HARDY

Postby DJS » Fri Nov 24, 2017 6:51 pm

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EPISODE ONE: Laurel Anne Hardy
Recorded: 17/11/2017
Written by: Styg & DJS


We open in front of a big, black curtain. Stood on a podium is a screen, displaying a rotating logo for the XWA. In smart-casual, Laura Stark welcomes us in with a cheerful demeanor.

LAURA STARK:
What's up XWA fans and welcome to the first ever edition of Unbound, I am Laura Stark and this is the beginning. Quite often in professional wrestling, we are presented with various colorful characters and people who are larger than life. We don't question their motives or where they come from, we just allow them to exist for our entertainment. Unbound is the show that says "no" to this concept. What you are about to see is a different kind of interview show, the likes of which the XWA has never seen before. This isn't your regular backstage interview - this show strives to go into the mind of our roster, see what makes them who they are and get the real, honest answers that you won't hear anywhere else.

The screen on the podium changes to show our interview subject as Laura moves over.

LAURA STARK:
On this premiere show, our first guest was perhaps one of, if not the the most anticipated by fans when Unbound was initially announced. Even though this person is often very open, there’s still a lot of mystique around her, even now, three years into her tenure. Having defeated the likes of Jericho Shaw, Trace Demon, Diamond Jack Sabbath and Whisper, this person has gone on to become a focal point in the legacy of our promotion. Becoming the first ever Supreme XWA Champion, she became the first ever female to win an XWA world title, but that barely scratches the surface of what she's been able to do. With a story that's guaranteed to shock you and an interview you'll never forget, today we kick off the first episode with the Final Boss. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to get Unbound… with Laurel Anne Hardy.

--Zzzzzzziiippppp!--

The Unbound logo zips past the screen and we are transported elsewhere.

Laurel’s dressed mostly monochromatically in a smart black suit and tie with a plain white shirt, but pops of colour come from her lime green trainers with matching nail varnish, and her bright fuchsia lipstick. Save for her choppy fringe, her is up in a high, wide pony spilling to her shoulders. Laura is, as usual, suitably professional looking. The room is dark and uninteresting with two chairs facing one another, a small, round table in the middle with nothing more than a water jug and two glasses on it. The only thing we should be looking at right now is Laurel and Laura. And we jump over to Laura to start us off.


LAURA STARK:
Ladies and gentlemen, I am joined by the Final Boss herself, Laurel Anne Hardy. Laurel, how are you doing today?

Laurel smiles a warm greeting, but it seems like she’s having to concentrate on suppressing a yawn a little bit.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Um. Tired. But that’s kind of a given these days. Other than that I guess I’m fine, cheers. How bout you?

LAURA STARK:
I’m good, thank you. So, I think we should get right into it - this has been something of an interesting year for you within the XWA and professional wrestling in general. In previous years you’ve been more energetic, more excitable - well, to a degree - but this year has been different. A lot of journalists on the sport have been very quick to notice you’ve not quite been the same. As is the nature of Unbound, I want to get the answers. So why do you think people believe the Laurel Anne Hardy of previous years has not made it to 2017?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Ah… cause I don’t wrestle as much anymore? I don’t do social media much anymore? I’m definitely not as visible these days. I’ve wrestled… probably only about thirty, twenty-five professional matches this year? Maybe less to be honest. Which is basically none at all for me compared to the last few years.

LAURA STARK:
Which is a fair point...but then, there are a few people who don’t really keep up the social media side of things these days or even the wrestling side of things and yet they’re not getting the same response. Is there more to it?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Well, I mean, that speaks to why I haven’t been as active, yeh?

LAURA STARK:
Which is?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY
Because I feel...

She pauses, and then sighs.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I guess burned out?

LAURA STARK:
Is that because of how intense your competitive schedule was prior to 2017?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Mm, no, wait, burned out’s not right. Fatigued, definitely, but it’s… boredom, more like. I’m just… bored with wrestling, you could say.

LAURA STARK:
Bored?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I feel… a bit numb to it all. I find it very hard to make myself be excited about wrestling at the moment.

LAURA STARK:
And to be clear, are you talking about wrestling in general, or your own career?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh, both. Both. I haven’t watched a wrestling match in… I’m not sure exactly, but several weeks. Least a two or three months. Maybe more. But my own matches have been increasingly - or rather, I guess, decreasingly; I’ve been decreasingly interested in my own matches this year. They’re stuff I gotta do for work, yeh? It’s not about me, or about other people; the sport as a whole is just…

Laurel pauses for a moment as she thinks about how to clarify her position. Laura deftly steps in to keep the flow going.

LAURA STARK:
You and it no longer fit together?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yeah, that’s about right. Close enough. People keep saying “oh you should check out such an’ such a match, five star epic” and I…

Laurel shrugs.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
...I really don’t care. I tried to make myself give a shit for a while but that well is dry now. It’s like, okay, if you know someone who really hates jazz music, playin’ them Kind of Blue ain’t gonna suddenly open their eyes, is it? That’s basically where I am right now; how good the wrestling is don’t matter. That’s not why I don’t like it. It’s not the quality, it’s the genre as a whole.

LAURA STARK:
So I have to ask: why? Why are you so disinterested in wrestling lately?

Laurel pauses, then gives a small, slight, half-smile.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I don’t feel challenged.

LAURA STARK:
No? You’ve had some extremely tough matches this year, and some disappointing results. The no contest against Smith Jones; being bounced out of Dynamic Duos in round one; losses to Emery Layton and Emma MacNamara-

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
No no no, lemme stop you there, cariad. The loss wasn’t the frustratin’ part about the Emma Mac match. With that match I was disappointed by Emma’s attitude. Her tryna play it like I’m some indie darling only a handful of hardcore fans’ve heard of, desperate to connive my way into a match at my first big show. Never mind that I’ve main evented an’ sold out the most famous venues on four different continents, right? Never mind the fact I’ve been the top merch seller for about two an’ a half years in a global company that puts on shows in arenas that sit tens of thousands. FFW came to me. They invited me; they asked if I wanted to compete at Unstoppable. I said yes; I’m glad I’m did; I gave them the most ultraviolent match they’d had in years; Emma got a strop on about it, but other than that, that whole experience was fine. As for Emery… my own state goin’ into it was frustrating. That I wasn’t at 100%. That I couldn’t give Em the match she wanted or deserved. I mean, I guess that’s true of all of it, whether I won or lost; I felt like I could’ve done better. Joey Miles, Dynamic Duos even if you ignore Chainsaw Massacre bein’ cheating shites as usual… Jeannie. Fuckin’ Jeannie Rose, poor kid, she deserved a proper match. I need to make that up to her.

She pauses for a moment. Laura begins to form her mouth to ask a follow-up, but Laurel wasn’t actually done, just collecting her thoughts.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
But anyway, that’s not what I meant by not feeling challenged. Okay, I don’t feel… let me try to explain what I meant there. I feel like very few matches these days - my own, or anyone else’s - really actually matter. In the grand scheme of things, I mean. The legacy of professional wrestling. I feel like a lot of exciting things are happening right now in the structural side, the production of shows - distribution methods, the way working relationships between companies are changing. But the actual in-ring work just ain’t keeping up. I don’t feel challenged artistically or professionally, is what I’m sayin’. Wrestler A vs wrestler B fightin’ for one of the six thousand world titles that exist, yeh… it’s very hard to get excited about that.

LAURA STARK:
Haven’t you always felt this way, though?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yeah, but I feel it more now. More acutely. It’s understandable - depressing, but it’s understandable - that people focus on their own legacy to the exclusion of wrestling’s as a whole. But it’s like, you’re a fifteen-time world champion? Well… so what? So are a lot of people. That don’t make you special; it makes you a name on a list. What’ve you done that people are gonna actually remember? The titles someone’s held ain’t some’n people remember. It’s some’n people know. It’s a cold fact. There’s no meaning to it. And that’s what art is, Laura. Meaning. I’ve talked about Arata Tanaka an’ Dragon Takeshi bein’ the ones who made a wrestling fan. They ain’t make me a fan because of how many fuckin’ titles they’d won; they made me a fan because of what they meant to me that night. How they made me feel.

LAURA STARK:
So nothing is making you feel that way anymore.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Uh… in a sense. It might be just as fair to say that nothing’s makin’ me feel any new feelings? It’s like… okay, like, I’m a big fan of the hyper stylised 70s - 80s Japanese action films, yeh? Lady Snowblood, Burst City, Lone Wolf an’ Cub, Battles Without Honor an’ Humanity, all that. But, y’know, however much I like ‘em, that’s not all I wanna watch, all the time. Sometimes I might be in the mood for Pan’s Labyrinth. Sometimes I might be in the mood for It Happened One Night. Sometimes I might be in the mood for Withnail an’ I.

LAURA STARK:
I see.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I mean, like you said, this isn’t new for me. But in the past, my feeling like that has led to me just goin’ “well fuck you, I’ll do things my way” - but this year… maybe I’m just gettin’ older an’ less energetic, maybe it’s the fact I’ve been in the fightin’ world one way or another for about fifteen years now. I dunno, I’ve just hit a wall. The World Cup - it was the first World Cup this year, 64-person knockout tournament for those who didn’t see it, an’ I commentated on the whole thing. Legs in Japan, Germany, South Africa, Australia, Brazil… all over the world. Literally spent more time on planes than not for a few weeks. I was actually originally meant to represent Wales in it, yeh, but I dropped out, because… y’know, I don’t need another fuckin’ trophy, do I? I’d just won Rey del Aire, which is some’n I’d wanted for years. The World Cup is - not tryna take away from it, but it would mean a lot less to me as a competitor, on a personal level. Whereas Rosaline Davies, she’s a good friend of mine, I know how that kind of exposure can help her so I was happy to give up my place for her. I was really happy commentatin’ the World Cup. It was a fantastic series to see live, an’ to have the chance to provide insight on. But I think even more than wipin’ me out physically - which it certainly did - it wiped me out emotionally. It… I’ve been circlin’ around feelin’ done with wrestling as it currently exists for a long, long time an’ I think that was the thing that pushed me over. It was kind of a… okay, so what next?

LAURA STARK:
And is that feeling of being “done” what led you to founding Filthy Bazaar last year, and then more recently Super Terran? They’re both big sidesteps from wrestling tradition, in what feels like a deliberate way.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
They are. Very deliberate. I think it’s definitely fair to say they come from wantin’ to do things that go against the zeitgeist of the sport.

LAURA STARK:
So if the zeitgeist was more in line with the kind of thing you’re doing in those projects, you’d be doing something else again?

Laurel thinks about it, then shrugs.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I… you know, I’ve no idea. Maybe. I don’t think I could say without actually bein’ in that situation for real. They’re not new ideas for me, though. Super Terran’s actually been planned since before Filthy Bazaar, but Filthy Bazaar was much easier to get off the ground. But certainly, the last couple Filthy Bazaars havin’ more esoteric matches - The Floor is Lava, the Whose Line Is It Anyway? bit, that kinda stuff, that’s certainly a pushback against how seriously wrestling takes itself as a competitive sport. Filthy Bazaar’s definitely becoming more of a… whatever random weird idea I or anyone else has, it’s the place where we can just go, you know what, let’s do it. Maybe it’ll work, maybe not… let’s find out.

LAURA STARK:
Does that mean we can expect more of the experimental side of Filthy Bazaar over the deathmatch side?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
It needs to keep both, I think. And… I mean, I want it to be a place where people can come even if what they want to do is more traditional. Y’know I ain’t tryna tell people, like, you can’t do a regular match. For one thing, I’m interested in seein’ if new things can still be done in traditional matches. For another, variety is important; for another again, so is freedom of expression. And that’s… that’s really what Filthy Bazaar is about: expression. Expression and experimentation.

LAURA STARK:
And with that being the case, what is Super Terran about?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Hm. Super Terran is… I guess at heart, it’s my little parody of wrestling. I mean it’s a lot of things. It takes pro wrestling as a real, serious combat discipline and transposes it to a theatrical, very artificial setting. A lot of the tropes that’ve developed around wrestling get repurposed as narrative devices. The wrestling itself, the actual fighting, is part of the artifice. It was kind of a … what if wrestling wasn’t, y’know, real, yeh? It uses the moves, the kinda pacing that often develops in a real wrestling match, but it’s all choreographed - or at least we hammer out a basic story with an ending and the performers improvise their way there.

LAURA STARK:
And what is the point of that?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Wrestling exists in a kind of insular bubble. It’s very easy for us as the people on the inside of the business to forget how it looks from the outside. You know, we… we train so much, we travel so much; even you, Laura. You’re not a fighter, but this is still a full time job, right?

LAURA STARK:
Absolutely. I work… usually something like forty-five to fifty hours a week, I’d guess, all things combined.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Almost that entire time you’re dealing with other people within wrestling. How much of your life do you spend on the road, or in the sky?

Laura laughs slightly.

LAURA STARK:
A lot of it, yes.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Exactly. That’s a lot of time you’re essentially spending outside of the real world. Like any job, it becomes the thing you spend the most time doing, seeing, and the people you’re spending most of your time with are obviously in the same bubble as you so you relate to them more - you even end up mainly socialising with them. It becomes a kind of surrogate life. That’s just the nature of work. Our job in particular is especially insular, though, and it yet depends so much on the outside world. Like it or not - and believe me, there’s a lot about this fact that I don’t like - sports have to be entertainment to survive on a global scale. If there were no fans willin’ to buy tickets an’ DVDs an’ subscription services, we couldn’t support the structure that lets us compete around the world at the level we do. It’s not just wrestling either. Boxin’, MMA… football. Rugby. Basketball. American football, hockey, cricket… athletics, gymnastics… there has to be a theatrical element to all of it, little stories, whether they’re real or imagined or played up for the cameras, to keep the whole thing’s wheels turning. You look at Usain Bolt or Mo Farah. They’re not just people who run fast. They’re personalities with gimmicks. Curated brands. Wrestling… I think it’s fair to say that wrestling embraces the theatre, the stories, the spectacle, to an even bigger degree than any other sport. I mean, I’m hardly the first person to say that.

LAURA STARK:
So Super Terran is asking what happens when the theatrical side of it actually overtakes the sporting aspect of it.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Exactly! It’s shining a light on a side of wrestling we as insiders often like to downplay. In rehearsals, the wrestlers in the cast have said that the choreographed fight scenes have helped them understand real fighting more. The artifice makes us confront it, which helps us think about it in new ways. The same goes for the whole production. The sets, props - everything that can be handmade is handmade. That’s not to say like… if somethin’ needed money spent on it, I spent it, but the important thing was makin’ sure it was all right. We want it to always have that hyper-theatrical look. The surrealness, the fakeness, is part of the identity.

LAURA STARK:
And why is that?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
In the main part, to reinforce that it’s not real. To make the audience always aware that even though they’re watching something that looks very much like wrestling, it’s not. It’s more of a meta reflection of the elements that constitute wrestling. There’s also the fact it draws on a lot of different influences - British science fiction, American superhero comics, Japanese cartoons. One of the things we wanted to nail in particular was that it’s not quite happening in any specific country or culture. There’s a lot of stuff from different places, even different time periods; it could be happening anywhere, but at the same time, it’s happening nowhere. It’s like an old… Sonic or Mario game. The architecture looks off. This couldn’t be happening in real life; the physics aren’t right. The dimensions aren’t right. It’s a subtle way of creating unease.

LAURA STARK:
Unease? You want to intentionally make your audience uneasy?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Definitely. Um, not properly set them on edge, like, but Jean Cocteau would be a good comparison. Or some of Dario Argento’s films, like Suspiria, or The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. Or, ah, Gothic by Ken Russell. There’s a staginess, a suspension or at least a warping of causality.

LAURA STARK:
It’s funny that you’ve just mentioned a lot of horror and suspense films for what, based on the first episode, felt like a tonally lighter sci-fi. I definitely caught Spider-Man references, and what I believe was Men In Black...

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Well, Men In Black’s an interesting one for you to bring up. Russ showed me some of the original books as we were workin’ on it, and they’re a lot darker than the films.

LAURA STARK:
Oh, I’ve never read those.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I hadn’t. I actually don’t know a lot about comic books, sci-fi, superheroes an’ all that. Not really my scene. Russ an’ Katie - Russ Lehman, who used to be with us in XWA, an’ Katie Brookmyre, with Cardinal City Pro. They’re both big into that kinda stuff. They helped me with that side of things, to develop the basic ideas I had into a proper story that used those kinds of touchstones to work as shorthand devices. But um, yeah, in terms of the tone… things always start out lighter. We’ll be gettin’ darker for sure. More existential, more cosmic. I mean, to be fair, we did show a guy gettin’ killed in issue 1. But it’s also gonna stay PG. The horror’s more conceptual than gory, an’ the character deaths are gonna stay abstracted through a lens of wrestling moves.

LAURA STARK:
So I assume that’s Joe the groundsman that’s dead?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Right. He’s done. We have no plans for him to ever come back…. Like, never say never in comic books, I guess, but right now we consider him written out forever. That whole thing, actually, how it works is the idea of super-finishers, y’know? Like in my own case, Tsunami Wildfire. The special occasion things, yeh. The moves that are really hard to do, or take a lot out of you, but are pretty much guaranteed to end your opponent if you get ‘em right. You know those hyperbolic videos you get on YouTube that are like “Cordy Stevenson literally murders an’ disembowels Evan Envi an’... fuckin’… strings his corpse up over her front door”?

LAURA STARK:
I know them.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
That’s kind of our little parody of that. In the Super Terran world, those murder finishers literally murder the opponent character.

LAURA STARK:
I’m guessing there are a lot of those elements, things from the real sport adapted to your stage version of wrestling.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
There are. I’ll let you try to find them all yourself.

She winks with this line, laughing.

LAURA STARK:
So is your goal to make wrestling confront the things you’ve been talking about?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Well, it’s very small scale right now. That, again, is intentional. The intimacy with the audience is essential for the project as we envisioned it. But hopefully the people who see Super Terran - both the fans and the people on the other side of the barrier - will think a little deeper about the nature of wrestling.

LAURA STARK:
At this point I need to ask… is it your place to make people confront things about the nature of wrestling, as you put it? Are the artifice or the insularity even bad things that need confronting, per se?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Hm, maybe not in their own right, necessarily. But they have negative aspects about them which we as an industry as a whole ought to be cognisant of. There’s a lot of shitty behaviour like goin’ after people’s families, or tryna get entire promotions shut down because of old personal feuds between higher-ups, that’s become kinda normalised as “the way wrestling is”. At that point, you’ve crossed the line into “takin’ this too seriously” and if I can deflate some of that harmful seriousness around wrestling, so much the better.

LAURA STARK:
No doubt the kinds of people you’re talking about would counter-argue that you don’t take wrestling seriously enough.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh, trust me, I’ve heard it. That’s just people justifying their own shittiness, nothing more. I take wrestling very seriously - just in productive ways, unlike them.

LAURA STARK:
You know, you’re quite dismissive of criticism.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Thank you.

LAURA STARK:
Well, it wasn’t really a compliment...

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
No, I know. Thing is, you have to be to last. Certainly unconstructive criticism. People’ll dump on anything an’ anyone. You have to just not give a fuck when people talk shit about you. I won’t stop standin’ against the people who think it’s their right to fuck other people over. Some people think that’s all an act to get the fans on my side, but all that shows is how cynical an’ warped they are themselves. I’ve never tried to present myself as anything I’m not. Anyone who doesn't believe that I'm upfront about who I am doesn't matter to me.

LAURA STARK:
“Fuck the haters”, to put it bluntly?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Pretty much.

LAURA STARK:
And you certainly have attracted both criticism and outright hate, for everything from your history in deathmatches to your dismissal of titles.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Hah. ’Kay, you know what the deathmatch thing really is? They're just mad that I can do anything they can do, but they can't do everything I can do. People who won’t do deathmatches have this dismissive line about people who do: “I don’t need to do deathmatches”. Yeah, no shit. Neither do most hardcore wrestlers I know. Anyone who's ever wrestled me in a regular rules match knows I don't need to be in deathmatches. I’ve fought more than enough spectacular matches under regular rules to show that. I choose to be in deathmatches. I choose to embrace every new situation and every new challenge I can. But some people like to think they’re somehow better by limiting the experiences they have.

LAURA STARK:
Why do you think that is?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I mean, it’s as simple as they limit themselves because, in some fucked up way, it makes them feel superior. It’s a lot easier to be the best at what you do when you only do one thing.

LAURA STARK:
So you don’t respect those who focus heavily on a single discipline?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
More like those who use it as a crutch, or think it makes ‘em better than those who value pushing ‘emselves an’ growin’, yeh?

LAURA STARK:
Well, I think it’s fair to say there's an attitude in - not just in wrestling, but in all of sports or all competition, that if you're serious about wanting to be the best at something, you should dedicate everything you have to it, and stepping outside of that remit is nothing but a distraction.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yeah, no, I know that. I just find it fuckin' stupid. It's kind of endemic in... well, in modern culture in general, but especially in ultra-competitive stuff like wrestling. The idea that everything people do needs to be driven by a singular purpose. They criticise stuff people do by sayin' "I don't need to..." ...to whatever. Newsflash: nobody fuckin' needs to do half the shit they do. That doesn't mean they shouldn't do it. It's the same thing as what you said with titles - they way people get in their heads that if I don't particularly care about most titles then I should never compete for them, even if the match is interesting for other reasons. It’s not just about “my goal is this one specific thing an’ I won’t do anything outside of that goal”. That singularity of purpose, again, is what ends up with people who think that for them to be number one they gotta bring down everyone else… the shit that leads to messin’ with people’s families and that. The crux of all of it is this bullshit idea that there's only room for one on the mountaintop.

LAURA STARK:
Do you really think competitive ambition leads to messing with opponents’ families?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Not directly, obviously, but it all feeds the same culture when one approach becomes the orthodoxy. People get like “I work so hard, respect me”, an’ when ambition is glorified to the extent it is now, it ends up makin’ it okay for other people to be like “I’m so ruthless, respect meeeeee!”... nah.

LAURA STARK:
If there wasn’t a dominant narrative, surely people would still find ways to justify the kind of negative behaviour you’re talking about.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh yeah, certainly. Fuckheads always gonna… fuckhead. But maybe the rest of the business might be a little bolder about opposing it.

LAURA STARK:
Overall, do you believe competitors need to be less ambitious?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
It’s not ambition in itself. It’s the way wrestling as a whole thinks ambition is all that matters, or even a specific type of ambition, the ambition to be at the top - which is not the same as being the best - by any means necessary. I mean, fatigue notwithstanding, I’m driven as fuck. I just have more mature ambitions than to be world champion as much as possible, an’ ones that don’t require me to fuck over everyone I pass on the way. I got no respect for hustle. Not when it comes in that kind of form. I mean, I started lower down than anyone. When I started training I was homeless. I couldn't even read or write. People are like, oh, I worked as a stripper when I started out, or I lived in a crackhouse... that's what I had to work up to. So I don't need anyone fuckin' tellin' me I don't know what it's like to struggle or work hard to earn every crumb, but the whole ruthless ambition at any cost thing, Jesus it's some trite shit.

LAURA STARK:
But for years you were working four or five matches a week-

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Right. But that was all on me, I never demanded respect for it, an' I ain't give a fuck how hard other people work. That's their business. Look, I started out as a homeless, illiterate gypsy. Eight years later I'm one of the biggest, most in-demand names in wrestling, with my own promotion. I ain't gonna let anyone tell me I haven't worked hard. That I haven't earned where I am. That I haven't bled gallons for this art form. But on the way I've been fortunate enough to have the love and support of so many people. From Leanne, who took me into her home, taught me how to read, taught me how to open a goddamn bank account. Mark Chapman, who got me an' Leanne tryouts with GEW. All our trainers in Britain an' Canada - Beres an' Jolene, Terry, Shane an' Nikki. The Jokers. Cerberus. Then there’s Jay, Ai, Annie, Smurf, Emi, Allison, Mia, Molly, Nina, Nurvy, Miko… Madman, rest in peace… Matty, Russ, Katie, all the others who helped with Filthy Bazaar. All the other people who care about me an' who I care about. Now that I'm at the top am I meant to push them all off just so I can have a little bit more room to stretch my legs? No. Fuck no. I don't play that game.

LAURA STARK:
You can't say you never stepped on anyone to get where you are now, though. Just look at The Asylum, in Global Extreme Wrestling...

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
You're right. I can't. I don't say it. I made mistakes. I fucked people. But I recognise them as that: mistakes. I ain't claimin' to be a saint here. I know the things I've done. But I been tryna learn; I been tryna set my mistakes right where I can. Every day I think about GEW. What I cost the employees, and the fans.

LAURA STARK:
Do you think that’s possibly why you choose to fight The Survivors? Is it more a case of guilt rather than a pride for the XWA and the desire to see them beaten?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh, certainly it’s about wantin’ to prevent the death of another company after I killed one. You know, that’s why I stood against Gods & Monsters in EXODUS, the Infinite Empire in FGA, yeh… I’ve always been upfront about that. But that doesn’t take away from how proud I am of XWA. I mean, I still have a lot of respect for FGA, for GCW, for other places I’ve worked. That said I do feel like the XWA fans… get me a little more than in other places? Not tryna sound ungrateful to my fans from those companies. I appreciate all of my fans so much. But in places like EXODUS an’ FGA, there were some fans who felt like I went too far. Some people who didn’t understand that war, saving the company they love, means sometimes someone has to do unsavoury things.

LAURA STARK:
You?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Better me than someone who hasn’t been through it already, or ain’t equipped to deal with it. If doing what needs to be done to save wrestling promotions makes me the bad guy to some people, then I’ll be the bad guy. Saves other people having to be that. I do feel like XWA fans get that more than most companies’ fans. I mean, the whole idea of fans of this promotions versus fans of that promotion is kinda bullshit, obviously. I don’t know of many people who are fans of literally only one promotion. But I feel like XWA attracts a great proportion of fans who are on that kind of wavelength, who understand why sometimes I have to do things like Whisper’s leg, than other companies.

LAURA STARK:
Speaking of breaking Whisper’s leg… and other things you’ve done such as branding Alexander StarrZoë and taking Mr Rottentreats’ eye… how did it feel when you were on the receiving end of it? Of course I’m talking about when Jimmy Page almost severed your ear and caused you permanent hearing loss.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I mean… it comes with the territory. To be honest I was quite lucky not to get any permanent injuries before then. I got these scars by my eye pretty early on in my career…

She points them out.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
...but that’s really more of a near miss. So when Jimmy ripped my ear off… I wasn’t pleased, obviously. But if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Bear in mind I’d had the same ear injured a few months earlier, which I’m sure left it weaker. But yeah… I mean… he still ripped it off, didn’t he? I came to terms with it in that regard, the die by the sword aspect, fairly quickly. It just became about… learning to live with this. Which is not to say it’s not a problem.

LAURA STARK:
No? How are you coping with it, now that you’re removed from the incident?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Uh, well, it’s hard. I mean, I have a hearing aid in right now.

And she taps her ear.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I have it in almost 24/7. It does cause trouble in my daily life. I should’ve said “learning to live with it as best I can”, which I’ve pretty much done, but it’s not like I forget. It definitely affects me daily.

LAURA STARK:
Do you wear it to wrestle?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Sometimes. Sometimes not. Usually not, because I sweat a lot in matches an’ I worry about the moisture with the electrics. But obviously havin’ lessened hearing on one side is not good in matches, at all, so it’s a trade-off.

LAURA STARK:
What makes the difference in whether you wear it for a given match?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh, uh, lots of things. What the match type is, who my opponent is. What the venue’s like - its size, acoustics. A lot more factors than I could really explain right now.

LAURA STARK:
Fair enough. If I could backtrack a little bit, regarding your relationship with the XWA fans, something I’m sure a lot of people who work for XWA in particular would like to know is about the fact that despite your recent loss to Diamond Jack Sabbath, you’ve declared yourself still the Beating Heart of XWA.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Well, yeah. That’s not up to Jack Sabbath or The Survivors to decide, an’ it ain’t about wins or losses. It’s up to the fans an’ the boys and girls in the back. Just cause Jack got me on the night don’t change it. There’s another thing where wrestlers get too caught up in the smell of their own shit: when they get this idea that match wins are authority about anythin’ other than match wins. It’s like… “I say man-made climate change is real” - “well I say it’s a myth - let’s have a match to decide who’s right”. Not how it fuckin’ works, get over yourself, and if the fans say I’m still the Beating Heart then that’s what I am. Jack Sabbath’s opinion is irrelevant.

LAURA STARK:
Okay, that fairly neatly brings me back to something else I wanted to touch on. Certainly you have your critics among the fans; not all of them love you, and those who don’t, while certainly a minority in the context of XWA in particular, still tend to be quite vocal.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh, sure. That’s inevitable. Anyone who stands out, or stands aside from wrestling orthodoxy, is opening themselves up. Anyone who takes a stance on anything is opening themselves up to people who don’t like that stance. To be honest, even if you try to please everyone, that very fact will turn some people against you. That’s how it is.

LAURA STARK:
One particular criticism from both fans and industry insiders I’d like to address is that you’ve been called a hypocrite, for your criticisms of the structure and culture of a sport in which you yourself have become a major star and a multi-time world champion. Biting the hand that feeds, as it were.

Laurel frowns dismissively and shakes her head.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
No. No, that’s bullshit. I mean, I hear it, yeh. But if the people at the top don’t talk about the problems in this - in any field, let’s be honest, then it becomes a lot easier to ignore them. It’s like when I’ve talked about purse disparity for example. People go “What does she know about what lower carders make?” They forget I’m a trainer. I talk to people on the bottom rung of the business every day. I live in a household with six other wrestlers who between them are involved in just about every aspect of wrestling. I know a lot about a lot. I know what it’s like for people who are strugglin’ to get started. But when they say it, people don’t listen. It sucks that it takes people who are established to talk about that kind of thing for anyone to take it seriously, an’ then that even then, people will find excuses to not have to take it seriously. Whatever angle you come at something from, not just in wrestling but in anything, someone’ll have an issue with it. They’ll say “you don’t have a right to criticise because X” or “you’re only saying that because Y”. So you change your angle - an’ instead it’s “you don’t have a right to criticise because Z”. It’s always something. It’s sophist, goalpost-movin’ bullshit an’ you can’t get pulled into that game.

LAURA STARK:
Even so, some would call you a malcontent. Unappreciative of your success, and ungrateful of the opportunities you've had.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Plenty do. But I am grateful for the opportunities I've had. I wanna make that clear - when it comes to the people and the companies that have supported me, I am nothing less than grateful, an’ I’ve tried to support them in turn. But take the example of GCW’s Best of the Best - certain people, certain others wrestlers were like “oh, I guess they’re givin’ anyone opportunities now”. I was given the opportunity, yes; so were thirty-one other people, most of whom I had a better record than. I did appreciate bein’ included in the tournament, even if Glory Braddock only put me in it as a rib because she thought I wouldn't want to win it. I guess she thought I would just walk out on round one, or whatever. Thing is, to win it, I still fought through five rounds against some of the world's best wrestlers. I still feel completely comfortable sayin' I earned that trophy. And maybe certain people, rather than complainin’ about me not valuing the success I've had and sayin’ I've taken opportunities away from them, would be better off looking closer to home if they want to ask why they haven't had that success themselves. Listen, I ain't at all any kinda capitalist; I fully appreciate that some people don't get the same opportunities for completely unfair reasons or just because all their hard work gets overlooked. We do not live in a meritocracy an’ wrestlin’ ain’t one either. I know that full well. But for one thing, it does strike me that the people who complain the loudest are most of the time not the people who are actually gettin’ fucked over. An' for another thing, the position I'm in now came with years of blood and sweat, damn near killin' myself in front of crowds of forty people. People are forgettin' that for a good long while, not all that long ago, like you just said yourself a few minutes back I was workin' four or five shows a week to make my name. I ain’t gonna have people tell me I never earned anything, just because I didn’t act the way most people would when I won Best of the Best or the Supreme Championship or whatever.

LAURA STARK:
But what about other shots you have been literally handed - at the HKW Bloodlust Championship, for example?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
But would I have been handed that shot if I hadn't proven myself in years and years of deathmatches before that point?

LAURA STARK:
But you’re far from the only person who could say that.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Well, maybe so. But I only even took that match as a favour to Nina Stokes, because she specifically requested it. I told the HKW officials before the match that if I won, I’d vacate it right back to her. I won’t be pilloried for doin’ somethin’ nice for a friend. Plus you gotta look at what quarters the criticism comes from. Like I kinda said before, a lot of the time, the more success people have, the more they feel they deserve - whether or not they actually do. Whatever you wanna say about me, I ain't like that. If I don't appreciate my success in terms of titles it's only because I ain't that invested in it, an' anyone who's followed my career can vouch that that's not because it came easy to me. Am I less invested now that I've had it? Sure. I can't deny that. Before I'd been a whatever time champion, yeah, I still had a bit of that uncertainty, feelin' like I needed to play the game, yeh? But now I've confirmed to myself that in the times gettin' there when I felt like that wasn't me, I was right. The fact is I've passed up more title shots than some wrestlers ever even earn; like I said before, it’s sophist rubbish to say that fact shows I’m ungrateful, ‘cause the people who say that would find some other angle to complain from if I’d done things differently.

LAURA STARK:
So the titles you have elected to compete for - what was different about them?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Ah, earlier on in my career, out of feeling I had to. Beyond that some were out of consideration for a friend. Not just like in the Stokes example, but tag titles. I’ve enjoyed teamin’ with Leanne, Allison an’ Annie, an’ I understand that the titles are important to them. Let’s see… PDW… ah, the hardcore one there, I can’t even remember the name of it… that was one of those where I still felt like it’s what I was supposed to do. HKW Bloodlust was a favour to Nina. G/P Most Brutal was a favour to Ling. Fight One Outlaw was a favour to Nurvy. Besides all that, it's about the experience. When I get invited to a match that's the real selling point - is this some’n I've never done before? Is this a match type or a venue or an opponent that's gonna be a new experience for me? Honestly, it usually isn't even about whether it's for a title or not, especially not since that whole shit around Christmas 2014. That was the big turning point in me caring even less about titles. And, like, that was post-PDW, post-Autumn Effect and the whole… well, all of that bullshit. Like the HKW match; I wanted to be able to say I'd wrestled a match with them, I wanted to help Nina out, I wanted to have a match with her on a huge stage like that. That's why I took the match. Same as the World Extreme thing in GFP. When they asked me if I wanted to be part of a big multi-person falls count anywhere match in downtown Tokyo, obviously I said yes. We didn't even know whether it would be for the title yet when I said yes. And people act like since I wasn't interested in the prize, I should've pulled out of the whole experience? Fuck that. Uh, an’ then, I guess in certain cases, it was to take titles away from people who didn't deserve them.

LAURA STARK:
That last thing you said is something I’d like to come back to, but before that, I’m glad you mentioned Annie Zellor. You reminded me that that’s something else wanted to discuss.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I can guess. Me leavin’ FGA?

LAURA STARK:
You leaving FGA. In the middle of the rivalry between #Sparklebuddies and Whiskey Dex, you literally walked out. That seems to have been another peak of the fatigue you were talking about.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yeah, I just got to the point of, like, what are we doin' here? Why we doin' any of this? All the four of us were doin' for months was fightin' in circles an' the only thing that was changin' across all of it was that me an’ Miko were puttin' more an' more stress on our friendship. I would honestly have been just as happy to not take the rematch and let Hallyu Generation be sole #1 contenders. But I didn't wanna be unfair to Annie.

LAURA STARK:
It's interesting you bring that up. A lot of people said that you abandoned Annie.

Laurel pauses for a moment...

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Well, I did, I guess. But Annie deserved a partner she could rely on. At that point in time, that person was not me. Look, she’s got The Crimson Baroness now. They’re a better team together than me an’ Annie were. Hell, my teams with Leanne an’ with Allison were better than Annie. #Sparklebuddies were a good team, no question. We weren’t a great team.

LAURA STARK:
But will we see #Sparklebuddies again - or for that matter, The Zodiac Killers or Dragons Unleashed?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I dunno. I mean, I’m sure we probably will. But it’s not something I’ve discussed with any of them as a serious plan.

LAURA STARK:
Are you done with tag team wrestling for now?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I guess. I mean, as done as I am with all of it. I did get sick of bein’ pigeonholed as a tag team wrestler, that’s for sure.

LAURA STARK:
Fair enough. Now I’d like to return to something you just said about people not “deserving” championships. What would you consider "didn't deserve them"?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Cheats. People who disrespect wrestling.

LAURA STARK:
Yet you’ve just been talking to me for several minutes about being sick of wrestling yourself...

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
That’s fatigue. That’s not the same thing as disrespect.

LAURA STARK:
And is it really your call to make as to who deserves titles and who doesn't?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Well, if the alternative is sittin’ back to watch this culture of cheating, politicking, deliberately injuring people just get worse an’ worse, then yes.

LAURA STARK:
“Deliberately injuring” - what about Whisper? Or James Ronie, or Alexander StarrZoë...

Laurel replies with clear derision in her tone:

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yeah, but those weren’t over titles.

LAURA STARK:
So it’s okay to deliberately injure people over other things?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Sometimes it’s necessary. “Okay” don’t come into it.

LAURA STARK:
Okay. So… when you competed to inaugurate the Supreme XWA Championship, what was your motivation?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Aah… a few things. Partly wantin’ to continue the lineage of the Hardcore Championship, which I felt like I was doin’ a good job with. Partly because… you know… main eventin’ Tokyo Dome. The chance to end Shaw’s streak. Gettin’ the back up of both Razer an’ Shaw. Lots of things.

LAURA STARK:
Would you describe either Jericho Shaw or Razer as people who didn’t deserve the titles they held?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I certainly can’t say I respect the way they went about their business. Both of them. Both talented fighters, but Jericho was that prototypical guy who ties his identity to a title. It was never about XWA or the World Championship; it was all about him, yeh. Then when it wasn’t anymore… well, it pretty much broke him, didn’t it?

LAURA STARK:
And Razer?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Again, talented… shame he felt like he had to get Bella to help him in matches so much. Feel like it betrays some insecurity…

LAURA STARK:
You think Razer’s insecure?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Well, y’know, why get someone involved in your match if you don’t think you can win it on your own?

LAURA STARK:
Do you still have problems with either Razer or Jericho Shaw?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
No, not on a real personal level. Never really did on that kinda serious personal level, to be honest.

LAURA STARK:
How many people do you have a particular problem with?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Honestly, not that many. Anyone I've never explicitly said I have a problem with either on a show, in a promo or on social media, I probably don't hate. I mean there's a lot of people I don't care for but they just ain't a part of my life enough to hate. I mean... Chandler Scott, Andreas Lasiewicz, Vanessa Cade... I've never hidden the fact I don't like them. But I don't hate them. I don't object to their existence. I don't care enough. They just ain't relevant parts of my life. Professionally, I care about the art form of wrestling. Personally, I care about my friends. But there’s an awful lotta stuff I just really don't give that much of a shit about. I mean, a lot of the time when I get into arguments with people on social media or whatever it’s just because I’m bored, not because I’m upset. Same as most people, really.

LAURA STARK:
Who would you say you do have a genuine problem with?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY;
Hm. Malcolm Drake, the big one. Me an’ Drake… we’ve put each other through some shit, an’ I can’t say that if he showed up in wrestling again tomorrow, we wouldn’t pick right back up where we left off. Alexander StarrZoë. There’s kind of a detente between me and Starr. We both… I think we both recognise that if the war between us kept going, or if it ever starts back up again, nobody is coming out of it alive. So we leave each other alone. But I can never forgive him for what he did to Evangelista’s sister, kidnapping her an’ holdin’ her hostage. Never. Ah, Jared Buxton - same again, messin’ with my family. Jared’s a guy I definitely wouldn’t be sad to end permanently. Alice Harris is close to that list, to be honest; not quite on it, but give her time. Jimmy Page… he was.

She rubs her ear absently.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I mean we still ain’t exactly friends, but we’ve cooled on each other a little bit. James Ronie is… a complicated one, for obvious reasons. That’s it, really.

LAURA STARK:
What about Diamond Jack Sabbath?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
He’s just a weak, weak little boy inside. He always has been. I feel sorry for him, more than anything.

LAURA STARK:
You used to be friends-

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
No we didn’t. We were allies, not friends. An’ then he decided he’d rather be on what at that point looked like the winnin’ side. That’s literally all it is - he’ll join any cause that gets him ahead. When The Survivors are facin’ down the end, don’t be surprised if he tries to switch back again. I’ll give him this, though. Him an’ Trace an’ Ace’ve all lasted longer as each other’s buddies than I thought they would, considerin’ how much they all fuckin’ loathe each other.

LAURA STARK:
Well, I suppose he did recently say he had ‘nothing and no one else left’ to turn to…

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Maybe if he hadn’t burned every bridge he’s ever crossed he wouldn’t be in that position. As it stands, I find it hard to give a fuck.

LAURA STARK:
Fair enough. Let’s move on from this topic, and shift from the professional to the personal. Let’s talk about Laurel Yunokawa, rather than Laurel Anne Hardy.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Absolutely.

Continued in Post Two...
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Re: Unbound with Laura Stark: Episode 01 - LAUREL ANNE HARDY

Postby DJS » Fri Nov 24, 2017 7:13 pm

Part Two...

LAURA STARK:
So... earlier you mentioned Christmas 2014 being a big turning point for you, so that would be a good place to start.

Laurel smiles a slightly uncomfortably “I knew that was coming at some point” smile.

LAURA STARK:
Around that time you were admitted to hospital...

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yes...

LAURA STARK:
...from a drug overdose.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yeah.

LAURA STARK:
And it - you've never gone into a lot of detail about it - but it wasn't accidental.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
No. No it wasn't.

LAURA STARK:
Something you've said before, and to the best of my knowledge never retracted, correct me if I'm wrong here, but you've repeatedly said that it was not a suicide attempt.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yeah.

LAURA STARK:
So, I have to ask... just to be categoric, on video, on record... was it a suicide attempt?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
No. It was not a suicide attempt.

LAURA STARK:
So... what was it?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
It was...

Laurel shifts in her chair.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
It was one of a lot of things around that time where I...had to find out where my boundaries were, physically an' emotionally. I did a lot of experiments on myself. Everything from... my pain threshold, to my motivations as an artist, to my sexuality. Everything over that two or three month period was about me understanding who exactly Laurel Yunokawa is.

LAURA STARK:
And did you understand ‘who Laurel Yunokawa was’ after that period or does it remain ongoing?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I mean, it’ll always remain ongoing, because people change. I’m not the same person I was three years ago. But I do have a much deeper understanding of myself now. I recognise my own strengths an’ weaknesses better, habits… I’m better at knowing why I do something, on a deep, reflexive level.

LAURA STARK:
And how has that changed you?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
It’s made me stronger. It’s made me… I don’t want to say more willing to act on how I feel, because that’s never exactly been a problem for me. But able to act more productively on how I feel. The… the impulsiveness, the disinhibition, the way I used to be known for like, “oh my god, who knows what Laurel Anne Hardy will do next”; those are part of my personality disorder, an’ I receive ongoing therapy for that. But the things we’ve just mentioned, that period of coming to understand myself, are really what got me to the point where I was ready to accept the therapy. And I’m better at channelling my impulses the right way now.

LAURA STARK:
What exactly is your personality disorder?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Ah, it’s atypical dissocial personality disorder. It was originally regarded as borderline psychopathy, although, you know, there’s no such actual formal diagnosis as psychopathy. But the first psychologist I saw used it as part of the assessment. Since then we’ve explored it in therapy sessions; I have CBT sessions monthly. I... score high on impulsiveness - um, under the triarchic model for psychopathy, which is again not an actual medical diagnosis but something we discuss, I score very highly on boldness an’ disinhibition, and lower but still fairly high on meanness. The main focus of my therapy’s been on being more empathetic. Recognising the needs or the security of other people. Working on some, uh, naturally manipulative tendencies I have. Learning how to respect other people’s agency.

Laurel shifts and keeps looking away as she discusses this. Nonetheless, Laura says:

LAURA STARK:
You’re remarkably comfortable discussing what’s clearly a difficult thing to even acknowledge.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Well, I’ve spent the last couple of years gettin’ to this point. I was in denial for a long time, yeh? It’s still quite a difficult thing for me to process, mentally, even with the reflexivity I’ve developed since… since all the Christmas ‘14 stuff. But I’ve come to recognise the importance of being frank about it, with myself more than anything. It’s… I want to be a better person, which is I guess where the borderline part comes in. I used to be a terrible person. I owe a lot of not being that person anymore to Evangelista. It was really for her that I wanted to change.

LAURA STARK:
She clearly means a lot to you.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
More than anyone. I really love her. Uh, not in a romantic way. The doctors tell me I’m pretty much incapable of that form of love. But Leanne is… certainly, I can’t imagine life without her. I almost drove her away a few years ago with ways I was hurtin’ her an’ didn’t even realise. That’s why I try to be better, when you get right down to it. I don’t wanna drive her away again.

Recognising that it might be time to move on again, Laura shifts in her seat and leans forward.

LAURA STARK:
Let's talk about what led to who you are as a person. I’m interested in your upbringing. Would you have classed it as a happy childhood? Difficult? What made Laurel Yunokawa into the woman she is today?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh god, upbringing… uh… happy and difficult, to be honest. So, for those who don’t know, I grew up in a caravan, travellin’ around North Wales. Me, my brother Matty, sister Zoë, our mam. The four of us. But we were part of a group of travellers too. I’m… not exactly a gypsy in the sense that like Emery Layton is, but my mother was. I am of Romani descent. My mam, she…

Laurel pauses for a moment, uncharacteristically struggling with her words.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I guess this is... look, this isn’t something I’ve ever said because there’s a big taboo about it, but... well, the fact I’m famous means it’s out there if people want to put two an’ two together. She left.

LAURA STARK:
Your mother left?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yeah. She ran out on her family. That’s somethin’ you just don’t do in the traveller life, but she did.

LAURA STARK:
Why, if you don’t mind me asking? I understand it might be a sensitive subject…

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Uh, it is, but… basically, she got pregnant.

LAURA STARK:
With you?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yes. And she didn’t want her kid growin’ up in the same kinda conditions she had… I mean, she was still practically a kid herself, yeh? So she ran away. She’s reconnected with… some of the family since then. But long story short, her an’ my dad fell in with some more like new age kinda travellers. My dad went back to Japan after a couple of years. Ah, me an’ him are cool, I should clarify. I still see him when I can. Very, very lucky as a kid that when he could afford it, he’d fly me out to Hokkaido for a week or so.

LAURA STARK:
That must have been incredible for a child.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
It was. Especially considerin’ I grew up dirt poor. I never went to school, as a lot of people know. I couldn’t read or write until I was an adult. I never really had much in the way of toys, or… playthings. My ma had a battery powered radio, an’ she had a record player she’d fire up when we had the juice in the generator to spare, so listenin’ to music was one thing. I’d draw; she’d get me cheap pencils or crayons for Christmas or my birthday, an’ I’d nick paper from wherever I could find it. I was an obsessive drawer. Other than that I played out a lot. Very outdoorsy kid. Me an’ my brother an’ sister an’ the other kids in the train, we’d stay out until the middle of the night climbin’ trees an’ rocks, swimming, fishing, massive sword fights with sticks an’ that, mud fights. I used to play in manure, even.

LAURA STARK:
Manure!?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh yeah. You wouldn’t believe the stuff you can make into toys when you don’t have any actual toys. Even mates who were poor as kids, there’s stuff they take for granted that we never had, like TV or bicycles. Hell, I never even had shoes for a lot of my childhood. Uh, to be clear, my mam did the best she could. She never let us go hungry. I still owe a lot to her.

LAURA STARK:
I imagine it got hard for her.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
It did, absolutely. I know she did things she wasn’t proud of, an’ I bet I don’t even know the half of it. As I got older, I tried to help her, makin’ sure she could at least provide the basics at least for Matt an’ Zoë. That - well, let’s just say it didn’t always involve stayin’ on the right side of either the law or ethics.

Laura nods.

LAURA STARK:
You’ve alluded in the past to crimes you committed during your teenage years...

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Well this, obviously, was all a long, long time before I got any kind of diagnosis or treatment for my personality disorder. I was a little shit who’d do literally anythin’ if it meant me an’ mine were alright.

LAURA STARK:
Theft?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh, that goes without sayin’, yeh? I used to rob on the daily. I mean I’d take jobs. People needed things done - if they had the money, I’d do it.

LAURA STARK:
What kinds of things?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Guard duty - watch these boxes overnight an’ if anyone comes snoopin’ around, run ‘em off… hide this package, don’t open it, someone’ll be at this or that drop point in ten hours. Not all criminal stuff - like I’d day labour as a farm hand or roadie for local festivals or whatever, if people were willin’ to pay. A lot of it was illegal though. I helped a guy commit insurance fraud by settin’ fire to his barn.

LAURA STARK:
So arson?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yep.

LAURA STARK:
Is that the worst thing you did?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh, no. No way. I’d be violent if people needed me to be violent. I was… a pretty violent kid in general. Like, we all were, the mates I hung around with, but I was especially violent. I was… I was “the violent one”, I guess. “The crazy one”.

LAURA STARK:
Did you mug people?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Mm. Few times, as an adolescent. Full on assault, if I was gettin’ paid for it. Sometimes even if I wasn’t, I suppose.

She sighs.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY
I liked to fight just in general. From 13, 14 I was fighting for money. I was a special attraction. The teenage girl who’ll fight anyone. I mean, that age, I lost a lot of the time obviously, but I still got a decent payout for it. I wore masks, or painted my face, ‘cause if mam found out she’d’ve tanned my arse. She did when I told her years later. Fuckin’ 20-odd. She ain’t talk to me for days after that. Let’s see… I’d sell - you know. Gimme twenty quid, I’ll suck you off. Be surprised how many people take up an offer like that if you ask in the right pubs.

LAURA STARK:
How old were you?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Not legal, put it that way.

LAURA STARK:
And… just oral, or…

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
No, not always. And to be clear, I have no problem with sex work or sex workers. But I was dumb as fuck about it. I didn’t look after myself.

LAURA STARK:
No? It sounds like you were lucky not to get into some serious trouble.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh, I did. Certainly… my youth involved some sexual violence. Um.

She pauses for a couple of seconds.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Since we’re bein’ open… bein’ on the receiving and giving ends of it.

Laura can’t help but double take.

LAURA STARK:
By which you mean-

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Okay, yeah, I mean, let’s call it what it is... rape, I have committed rape. More than once.

Laura starts to reply, but she isn’t sure how.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I’m not proud.

LAURA STARK:
...I’m… glad to hear that…

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
When I say I used to be a horrible person, I ain’t kiddin’. I mean - and this is not to justify my own actions in any way - but when I was a teenager, it was… normal? Not… normal normal. But I’d been sexually assaulted myself, again, not just once or twice. Half the people I knew had been. So doin’ it myself was… revenge, if that makes sense? Even if it wasn’t to the same people as who did it to me. It's a thing about the kinds of personality disorders… if you get your power taken away from you, you take someone else’s to feel like you’re the top bastard around again. I… I promise I’m not that person anymore. I’ve worked hard, I work hard, to not be that person. I’d give anything to make up for it all.

There’s another silent moment, then Laura asks quietly:

LAURA STARK:
Have you ever killed anyone?

Laurel takes a few seconds to reply, and when she does, she simply says:

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I’m not going to answer that.

Laura too pauses a little.

LAURA STARK:
Well, on that note, maybe it’s time to begin wrapping this up. I’ve one final question but before I get to that, I wanna do a little word association if that’s okay?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Absolutely.

LAURA STARK:
Alright. Since it’s been kind of the main theme of the interview, let’s start with wrestling.

Laurel mulls it over for a few moments before replying:

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Potential.

LAURA STARK:
Art.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Essence.

LAURA STARK:
Filthy Bazaar.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Exploration.

LAURA STARK:
Super Terran.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Subversion.

LAURA STARK:
Japan.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Second home.

LAURA STARK:
XWA.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Mine.

LAURA STARK:
Yours?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I might be goin’ through a rough patch wrestling-wise but my flag’s still planted here, an’ I won’t let The Survivors or anyone else kill us.

LAURA STARK:
On that front… The Survivors?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Cowards.

LAURA STARK:
Whisper.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Gone.

LAURA STARK:
Evangelista.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
...my muse.

LAURA STARK:
Molly Reid.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Oh god. She… she still means a lot to me, even if she didn’t mean the right thing to me. Uh, I hope she can find happiness. Sorry that’s not one word.

LAURA STARK:
No problem. Annie Zellor.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
That’s a bit complicated. She’s a good friend though, don’t get me wrong.

LAURA STARK:
Allison Lorraine.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
I’m glad we made up. Her decidin’ she had to be at war with me wasn’t easy.

LAURA STARK:
Laurel Anne Hardy.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Work in progress.

LAURA STARK:
Laurel Saiko Yunokawa.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Hm, that’s harder… I guess… recalibrating.

LAURA STARK:
Recalibrating?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Yeah. It’s time for me to figure out how to get my passion back.

LAURA STARK:
I see. Well that quite conveniently brings me to one final question I’m sure everyone wants to know. What’s next for Laurel Anne Hardy?

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Honestly, I’m not sure, yeh. Super Terran an’ Filthy Bazaar will continue an’ keep on breakin’ boundaries, that much I promise. Beyond that, in terms of me personally I’m not entirely sure where I go next, creatively. I look forward to finding out as much as everyone else.

LAURA STARK:
Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll be as innovative and attention-grabbing as the rest of your career.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Thank you. I hope so.

LAURA STARK:
And with that, I think it’s time to call the curtain on the first ever episode of Unbound with Laura Stark. Laurel Anne Hardy, thank you for joining me and for answering my questions.

LAUREL ANNE HARDY:
Thanks for having me.

--Zzzzzzziiippppp!--

Unbound logo goes by the screen again, taking us back to the studio Laura was stood in earlier.

LAURA STARK:
Well, there you have it ladies and gentlemen. I think we learned more about the somewhat enigmatic Laurel Anne Hardy. Whether those things were good or bad, whether you disagree with the things said in this interview or not, I think we can all agree there’s no one in the business like her. Despite the things I learned about her in our chat, I still believe she’s one of the best that the XWA has ever seen. Perhaps, she has lost her interest in wrestling, but she still clearly has a lot of respect for the industry as well as her own ideas of how it should work. If you want my opinion, I believe that one day in the future, if she can find that passion, she’ll be the best once again.

That’s all we’ve got time for tonight. Make sure to check back next time, where once again, we’ll be uncensored, unedited and, most importantly, Unbound. Thanks, guys. See ya later.

Aaaaand fade to black.

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FEEDBACK & DISCUSSION THREAD:
viewtopic.php?f=10&p=52491#p52491

Links to project, events and matches mentioned and directly referenced within this episode of Unbound:
Filthy Bazaar: http://xstreamvideo.jcink.net/index.php?act=SC&c=6
Super Terran- Issue #1: http://xstreamvideo.jcink.net/index.php?showtopic=626
XWA Winner Takes All (2015): Hardy/Shaw/Razer- Inaugural Supreme XWA Championship match: viewtopic.php?f=129&t=6482
XWA Once Upon a Time In Mexico (2016): Laurel Anne Hardy vs Whisper: viewtopic.php?f=164&t=6718&p=47473#p47473
XWA BAKA GAIJIN (2017): Laurel Anne Hardy vs Emery Layton: viewtopic.php?f=188&t=7568
XWA Fool's Gold (2017): Laurel Anne Hardy vs Diamond Jack Sabbath: viewtopic.php?f=192&t=7701
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