Dan Richards and I have driven a full workday to a different time zone for a booking that we apparently never actually had, then driven across town to beg for a different one.
“...what the f*** are you doing down here, begging for work for?!” Said a Grumpy Promoter.
“Just give ‘em, boys a chance.” Said a Kind Voice, from the shadows.
I felt like I was awaiting criminal judgement in the moments the Grumpy Promoter stared at the Kind Voice, who had stepped out of the shadows to reveal a friendly face. Grumpy looked grumpier for a moment and started to protest. “But-”
“C’mon. They drove all the way down from West Virginia. That takes heart, cut ‘em a break.” Said the Friendly Face, who turned out to be another local promoter.
“Alright. F*** it! Get dressed boys you go on ‘popcorn’.” Said Grumpy, referring to the spot on the card right after intermission, when a lot of the fans are still hovering around the concession stands.
Dan and I shared a look of “F*** yeah! Maybe this day will be salvageable after all!”
While men who looked like Bodybuilding Magazine coverboys stretched, oiled, exercised, and danced-in-practice of signature moves, around us, in customized, beautifully designed and tailor fit wrestlewear, Dan and I slide In-Stock-Generic-Misfit cheap spandex over our before-photo bodies. Afterwhich we sat in relative silence while larger than life voices made merry around us. It reminded me of being back at a middle school dance, only I felt slightly more comfortable and hopeful.
During intermission I shyly walked up the stairs from the basement locker room to the curtained entrance that led into the bingo-hall-ish venue. I peaked a creepy-awkward, eighteen year old eye out through the curtain. I saw about seven people in line at the hotdog-and-coke stand, about ten people sitting in the roughly one hundred chair set-up around the ring, and about three people camped up by the merchandise tables of unenthusiastic-to-be-there wrestlers.
I thought about the show that we originally thought we were booked on: the mass of vehicles outside that promised to have been the largest crowd of my fledgeling career.
Maybe there’s a lot of smokers. Or a long line at the bathrooms. I thought, trying to force feed myself optimism.
The ring Announcer announced that action would be returning to the ring shortly.
Nerves hit me extra hard suddenly. I felt like house cats were fighting in my tum-tum. Like I was going to puke my nuts out. Like I was going to s*** my own d***. Okay, I’m underselling it, a bit, but I don’t quite have similes strong enough to convey just how much unease my skin-and-bones teenage body was feeling in that moment.
No one ever asked us for a CD with our music on it, so, when a loud bell tolled signaling that AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” was about to play, someone said, “That’s you kid.”
I stepped through the curtain with an unconfident, “C’mon!”
To which, around twenty three audience members looked at me like, “What the f***? You c’mon!”
Great crowd. Glad I drove to Tennessee for this experience. I thought to myself as I put my head down and walked to the ring like I was walking through the hallway of a new school.
I stood in the ring, as the center of attention, feeling naked, since I practically was; wearing only trunks and boots, at the time. While I waited for what seemed like the amount of time it might take for wolves to be selectively bred into chihuahuas, someone yelled, “Who the f*** are you?” Like the good-ol’-days of getting homophobic slurs yelled at me in gym class, I pretended not to hear it. “You f***ing hear me, f****t!” The voice added.
Great crowd. Glad I drove to Tennessee for this experience. I thought to myself as a loud bell tolled to signal that Dan was also coming out to the AC/DC classic.
Dan stepped out of the curtain with an unconfident, “Sit down and shut up.” The twenty three audience members continued to be as seated and silent as they were before he had said it, so, Dan put his head down and walked to the ring like a child being sent to the principal's office.
I was happy to have judgemental eyes off of me for a moment, as Dan stepped into the ring and threw his arms up in “I hope you don’t boo me. *wink*” fashion.
The silence was broken by a familiar voice screaming, “Now, who the f*** is that assh***?”
Dan looked at a seemingly angry-to-be-alive, or at least be at a wrestling event, man who was sitting in the third row, by himself, despite the many empty front-row seats, then yelled, “Don’t make me come out there.”
“I dare ya to, you little b***h!” Said the “fan”.
Dan didn’t have a response and the other twenty-two “fans” laughed at his stunned silence. He looked at me and I thought that he might have been thinking, “Great crowd. Glad we drove to Tennessee for this experience.”
The ring-announcer, who was also the DJ who had given us sweet, matching Classic Rock entrance music, said in a monotone, uninterested, quiet-and-careless voice, “In this corner” He batted at an imaginary fly in my general direction, before continuing, “we have...Jason…” He leaned in to study the piece of scrap paper in front of him, then finally said, “...Kin-caid, from West Virginia.”
The announcer flipped his scrap paper over then continued, “And his opponent…” He pointed an upside down hand in Dan’s general direction, before saying, “Dan Richards, also from West Virginia.”
“Ooohh!” Whined Dan, from Virginia, under his breath, with a look that was on the disappointed side of irritation.
“Lemme check ya.” Said a tough looking ref, in a gruff voice. As he violated my personal space with his too rough hands, I admired his prison tattoos.
“Where the hell am I gonna hide anything?” I asked loud enough for the “crowd” to hear. This elicited a small spattering of laughter, which I hope had helped me win them over, a bit.
“Well, if you would put some god**** clothes on, this sh** wouldn't be so awkward to watch.” Said a voice from the “crowd”. The ref gave a shoulder shrug and a head nod to show that he agreed with the heckler.
“There’s no reason to curse the lord!” Dan scolded the heckler. The crowd went space-vacuum silent at the religious fervor of the rebuking.
Dan looked satisfied by his crowd control. The bell rang out. The stomach unease had softened since the experience was worse than my worries, there was no longer anything to worry about.
I began circling with Dan slowly, showing caution at my obvious size disadvantage. Now we were wrestling, now, I felt semi-comfortable.
My semi-comfort was interrupted by the heckler, who had had time to think of a comeback during our slow circling. “Sure there’s a reason to cuss the lord; He created two jobbers like you!”
The other “fans” seemed to be split between thinking “that was hilarious” and “that was blasphemous”.
Dan stopped circling to give the heckler a “what the heck” look. I took the turned-back opportunity to give Dan a School-boy Roll-up pin for a near fall.
The “crowd” seemed slightly disappointed that Dan kicked out, and that wasn’t the whole match.
“He pulled my tights!” Cried out Dan, making a big show of meming someone pulling his his black dress trousers.
Before any of the other audience members had a chance to point out that I had not, in fact, used the tights to take the big man off of his feet, the heckler screamed, “You’re not even wearing tights, ass****!” Then added thoughtfully, “You and the ref got matching Dickies, though. Cute.”
Dan had no response, so, we decided to give the match a proper start with a collar-and-elbow-tie-up. Dan pulled my hair and sent me flying across the ring and down to the mat. He waited for the “crowd” to say, “He pulled his hair, ref!” So he could say, “No, I didn’t!” The “crowd” must have been skipping rehearsal, though, because their lines never came.
Dan looked around confusedly then shrugged.
I picked myself up from the mat, using the ropes for help. I held my back as we circled, again, before tieing-up, again.
This time, Dan grabbed my wrist, twisted it, and locked it up.
I waited a millisecond for the “crowd” to give me a building clap-of-encouragement. Since they didn’t, I decided to try a reversal without their help. I did a forward roll, back to my feet, elevating the pressure of the wristlock. Dan adjusted, changing the direction of the pressure, to keep my wrist locked down. I also adjusted my strategy, in light of his adjustment, and did a one-armed cartwheel over the wristlock, landing on my feet, back in the original position. This time, I timed Dan’s readjustment and used his strength as added momentum to do a one-hand handspring and, before Dan could react again, I broke the wristlock with a downward swinging forearm blow to his wrists. Then, promptly dropkicked the 6’5” former college basketball player right in the mouth.
Dan stayed on his feet, but staggered back, holding his face in pain.
The “crowd” was impressed by my athleticism, for a moment, and I got a short applause that was interrupted by the heckler screaming, “What’r’ya a male cheerleader?”
The applause stopped cold and was replaced by “haha”s, apparently, at just the thought of a male person filling a role culturally favored as a girl-thing.
Great f***ing crowd! I’m oh-so glad, I drove to Tennessee for this f***ing experience! I sargasmed in my mind.
Dan and I tied-up a third time. This time, he drove his outer thigh into my abdomen sending me back down to the mat in fetal position. As I lay there, gasping for breath, the dastardly bastard, Dan, fell down on top of me, with most of his weight being concentrated into the back of his upper arm, which he drove into my stomach. I exhaled loudly, sitting up in pain, and, before I could take an in-breath, this Goliath to my David, wrapped his left arm around my throat and grabbed his left hand with his right one, locking me into that position.
I looked at the ref, who was looking away from the ring give-a-f***lessly, to see if he was going to check if this hold was legal or if, as I suspected by my lack of ability to take in fresh oxygen, it was an illegal windpipe-choke. Unable to rely on the rule-keeper to keep me from being strangled, I fidgeted and tugged with extreme purpose until I found myself in the less-uncomfortable position of a proper, legal rear-chinlock.
About that time, around two minutes since the bell had rang, according to my internal clock, the ring announcer, who hadn’t announced a time limit to our match exclaimed, “Eight minutes down, two minutes remaining.”
“You mean we could have two more minutes of this sh**?!” Asked the heckler, in a way that was loud enough for everyone to hear, but meant to sound as if he was talking to himself.
“Go home, boys.” Said the referee with his Clint Eastwood with a deep southern accent voice.
“I wish I was home.” Said Dan sadly.
“Me, too. Me, too.” I said quietly through the discomfort of the chinlock.