Fiction Fragment Friday
As a teenager and in my early twenties I was a big fan of wrestling. I haven’t watched regularly in a long time, but I will always have a soft spot for it. There is a real showmanship to it. The stars need to have athletic skills, acting skills, and be able to give speeches. This is the case whether they are heels or faces because the days of people believing that the matches are not predetermined are long past. Wrestling is about large personalities, drama, and athletic exhibitions.
This story owes a lot of influence to a variety of sources. First of course is years of enjoying professional wrestling and the many books about the industry that I have enjoyed. The second is to Scott Sigler’s Galactic Football League series. Two sources that have been very influential to me as a creative individual.
I stood on the ramp just behind the curtain bouncing in place. It was a way to build up my adrenaline and prepare for the crowd. I owed the crowd for my livelihood, but more than that I owed them the best show I could put on. The children who believed in me, the parents who bought them my merchandise, and those in between that just appreciated the spectacle. I would never allow myself to forget that I could only do this as long as they supported me. Time to give them something they had never seen before. “Show time.”
My music hit and I exploded through the curtain. My legs pumped as I ran down the ramp and slid into the ring. I bounced off the ropes twice and then climbed the corner ring post. My arms raised to the cheers of the crowd. Words cannot explain the energy you feel feeding off the crowd’s cheers. It is a high like nothing else that can be experienced. I projected an image of endless energy as I climbed each ring post one by one pumping up the crowd on all sides. It was what I was born to do. I braced myself against the far ropes and stared up the ramp waiting for my opponent.
My opponent’s music roared from the speakers, and I used every bit of my showmanship to hide my anxiety. The music sounded wrong to my ears because they couldn’t process the full range of it. The voices were sounds that could not be made with human vocal cords. This is the music of the Planotians and their champion all eight foot six of him came through the curtains to it. He didn’t run like I did. He moved slowly and methodically emphasizing his power as he stalked to the ring. He didn’t look at the majority human crowd, but instead locked his eyes on me.
I was scheduled to win this match. The first match between an alien and a human needed to end with a human win no matter how much of an underdog I was. There was concern that the humans might riot if I lost. Tensions were already high between our people and a big part of it was the view that they were unbeatable monsters. For peace we needed to undermine that thought process and part of it was showing one lose to a human. We needed them to become sympathetic and that meant we needed them to become stars. Movies and sports entertainment were the obvious path. If it could be shown they could be beaten, then we could do a turn and make them the good guys. I was just an entertainer, but suddenly I was in the spotlight as a diplomat.
I tried not to let him see that I was nervous. I didn’t really know Gorath and I wasn’t sure if I could trust him or not. The truth is they are far stronger than us and if he wanted to, he could kill me with his bare hands and while I was a peak human specimen, I would barely be able to put up a defense. We were supposed to play up my speed, but the truth is Gorath could move far faster than he was letting on. If he decided, he didn’t want to lose to me I was never going to be able to pin him.
Betrayal wasn’t my only fear. Wrestling is a very dangerous sport performed by extremely well-trained athletes. I had ten years of experience under my belt, and I still had to be extremely careful every time I entered the ring. Gorath had less than a month’s training and none of it had been in the ring with me. Even if he was completely dedicated to putting on a show with me, he didn’t have experience. I couldn’t count on him as a partner to help ensure my safety. That was all up to me. I just had to hope he could properly pull his punches and was coordinated enough to aim properly.
The crowd went crazy when we locked up. This match had been promoted heavily for the last month and everyone was looking forward to this moment. It was the moment of truth. As planned Gorath tossed me back against the ropes. I flew through the air, but he had performed the move perfectly. I bounced off the ropes using my momentum to fly forward moving so fast I was a blur of motion ducking under his arms. I rebounded from the ropes behind him and drop kicked the back of his legs. Their knees are not like ours, but they look similar. I landed the move perfectly and, on a human, it could have seriously damaged him. As it was, I knew he could have stayed up, but he went down to the mat as planned. This was a key moment. The crowd went crazy to see a Planotian could be knocked off his feet.
The match proceeded better than I ever imagined it would. I won’t go as far as saying that Gorath was good, but he had picked up skills fast enough to make him a truly passable wrestler. He hit too hard at times and undersold some of my hits, but it didn’t seem to be intentional. The strong slow gimmick actually helped quite a bit since every move was more calculated. Of course, my own skills were also going a long way to selling the match as well. The crowd was loving it and I knew this would be a match carefully examined for years to come. Now it was just time to finish it.
It was the moment of truth, and I was nervous. We were moving into the last moments of the match. Gorath had gone a long way to building my trust, but I knew that if he didn’t want to lose this very public match he wouldn’t. The match ending called for a top rope move which added another level of danger. He had to catch me just right and move to avoid presenting too much resistance to me hitting him.
I leapt from the top rope, and it felt like time slowed down. The jump was slightly off, and the angle was not right. If Gorath wanted to change the ending he wouldn’t even have to do anything vindictive. All he needed to do was not go out of his way to protect me. My fate and potentially the fate of relations between our people were all in his hands. I saw the moment he realized I had screwed up. He did not hesitate in his decision, he just moved. He moved faster than he had the entire match to adjust his position. I hit him hard, and we both dropped down to the ground. The wind had been knocked out of me, but I could hear the ref counting. Before I knew it the ref was raising my hand and giving me the belt.
Gorath stood and let out a howl. He went to the ring and reached out grabbing a microphone. “Human!” He screamed pointing at me. This was not in the script. “You have earned Gorath’s respect this day. “ He put his hand out for me to shake and I took it not quite sure what to do. “I look forward to our next meeting.” He dropped the mic and leaned in towards me to whisper, “Screw their storyline, I like mine better. Great match except for botching that last jump.” He chuckled and I swear it sent chills up my spine. I watched in awe as Gorath left the ring and walked up the ramp. The audience was cheering like crazy, and I knew in that moment he had not just earned my respect. He had earned the fans respect. For the first time I had hope that peace was going to be possible after all.