Fiction Fragment Friday
As far back as I can remember I have loved professional wrestling. It has been a major part of a good portion of my life. I don’t actively watch these days, but I am still fascinated by behind the scenes stories. Especially tales from the years I watched and the history leading up to that. I have lost count of the biographies I have read and the documentaries I have watched on the subject. I have listened to three audiobooks in the last two weeks alone about the subject. That led to this weeks story. Unlike most of what I write there is no science fiction or fantasy aspect to this story at all.
I just nodded my head in acknowledgement to the assistant whose name I never bothered to learn. He was one of many that had come and gone over the years. They never lasted long. If they were any good, they would get promoted quickly and if they weren’t they wouldn’t last. In the beginning I tried to get to know them all, but at some point, I had gotten jaded. That mindset seemed to have permeated all aspects of my life.
Standing up was slower than I would have liked and sent a spike of pain through my left knee. I just stood for a moment and braced myself. There was always some level of ache or pain. It was an acceptable level of perpetual discomfort when sitting, but hard to get moving. Once I was up then I had the momentum and could keep going. It’s once you stop that all those years of injuries catch up to you. I let out a sigh and started walking.
I walked through the halls to the sounds of my peers giving me encouragement and wishing me luck. I knew that some of them were looking at me and thinking of when their day would finally come. It wasn’t the time for thoughts like that though. I needed these last few moments to get into the zone. When I stepped out there I had to be all in with no hesitation. Not committing and holding yourself back is the fastest way to get yourself or someone else hurt.
Standing there behind the curtain I started bouncing back and forth between my legs and throwing a few air punches. It is a way to limber up a bit, but it also tests my pain levels. I needed to know what to expect. Adrenaline can do amazing things including hiding your limits from you. This little ritual was my way to wake my body up and tell it to prepare for much worse. This is the final step before being on.
My music hits and I step through the curtain for what I know is the last time. I pause on the ramp for a moment and take it all in. First your eyes have to adjust to the blinding light. Then the cheers or boos hit you like a physical thing. You can feel it deep down. I braced myself as my pyro went off. It was unnecessarily loud, but that was part of the image being projected. I could feel the heat coming off of it.
Words cannot explain what that moment feels like. Standing there on stage to a packed arena of cheering fans. It didn’t matter how much pain I might be feeling they were here for this, and I would not let them down. In my younger days I might have run to the ring but now I needed to conserve my energy for when it really counted. Being completely honest with myself I walked slower to the ring just to take in the crowd for as long as I could. I wanted this moment to last.
Reaching the end of my walk I climbed up the stairs and entered the ring for the last time. I knew that it was possible I might return for appearances, but it would never be the same. It was better to assume each time I did something that night it would be the last time, so I didn’t take it for granted. I leaned against the ropes stretching one final time before the match. Up and coming star John Ward waited in his corner giving me all the time I needed. The kid was good, and I knew that I was going to rely on him pretty heavily in this match. With the ring of the bell, we were on.
I started with a lock up in the center of the ring. It is a basic move where I put my left hand behind my opponent’s head, and they do the same with mine. The right hand grabs your opponent’s elbow and pulls down on it. When done right it looks like there is a struggle and shows one wrestler to be stronger than the other. It also serves as a great time to pass messages to each other. I whispered, “shove, lockup, shove, flying lariat.” Then I shoved him backwards. He sold the move by falling to the mat and bouncing back away from me. He oversold it a bit, but that was the style of the new guys. We locked up again right away and I shoved him right back down.
John ran to the far side of the ring and bounced off the ropes to gain momentum. Halfway to me he lept into the air and wrapped his arm around my neck taking me off my feet and to the mat. The impact itself didn’t hurt so much as shake my whole body triggering every sore muscle and joint. He whispered as we hit, “Play to the crowd, surprise bodyslam.” I lay there for a moment to give him time to prance around the ring playing to the crowd.
I got to my feet to a huge roar from the crowd. John stepped back into my chest then turned around looking up to me. Before he had a chance to overplay his fear, I grabbed him and lifted him into the air dropping him on his back. I slapped him twice on the chest lightly to indicate that he should dodge, then I bounced off the rope myself and tried to drop my right knee on his face. He sat up and my very well-padded knee hit the mat.
My left knee was my bad knee so on air I had been faking an injury to my right one. This way my opponents could focus on that, and I could protect the one that actually hurt. It also allowed me to reasonably have extra padding on my right for that kind of drop. I grabbed my knee and rolled around on the ring until John grabbed me and put me in a figure four leg lock. I yelled out in exaggerated pain and slapped the mat. I put one arm over my face to block my mouth from the crowd. “Be vicious kid, no begging off.”
“Give up old man,” he screamed to the crowd. Then he whispered, “Sorry, force of habit.”
I knew it wouldn’t be for long if this match went well. We were making his career and he was going to get a huge push as long as we delivered. This was my last match, but it didn’t mean I was done. I had accepted a role backstage in creative and helping to develop the new talent. My body wasn’t going to let me keep going, but I wasn’t ready to walk away either. I realized that my mind was drifting and pulled myself back into the moment. I managed to pull us close enough to the ropes to reach them. The ref called for the break, but John held on until the very last moment before breaking it.
I was proud of the kid. He spent the next five minutes completely destroying my knee. I gave him some offense, but he ran the match calling the moves for a while. We told the story of the young hungry star capitalizing on the veteran’s mistake. He played to the audience and built up the image of the arrogant youth. Taking advantage of that, I spun him, wrapped my arm around his neck from behind and fell backwards dropping him to the mat. The move looks devastating, but I loosen my arm as we fall so he can lift his head to protect it.
Now is the part of the story where I dominate the youngster for a while. It is the hardest part of the match for me as I am pushing my body to do things it doesn’t want to anymore. I know I’m not as fast as I used to be, but I don’t want to look slow either. I rely on the adrenaline and try not to think about the pain I will be feeling the next day. This is the part of the match where I hit all of my signature moves. The referee gives me the signal that it is time to wrap up the match. I hope this is because we’ve reached the allocated time and due to the performance, we are delivering.
I gave everything I had left to give in the match. My body was exhausted, but I knew John could have gone for a match twice as long. I hit another bodyslam and then motioned to the audience that I was going for my finisher. John was ready and with a surge of energy dodged in the nick of time. I made it look like I was trying to keep the pressure on and walked right into his finisher. He had leapt into the air and wrapped his arm around my neck. We both fell to the mat. This move that he called the Wardener was a basic cutter is very versatile since it is quick to hit from just about any angle. A big part of how good it looks depends on the person taking it. I was not going to let this kid down. He had given me a great match to go out on so I threw myself into the fall taking a much harder hit than I probably should have.
I lay there in pain listening to the ref count to three. My last match was over, and it was a loss. I had enough pull it didn’t have to be that way, but I figured if I was going out, I wanted it to be putting over someone and helping to make their career. I gave John plenty of time to get to the back before I struggled to my feet. I was selling his finisher the best I could. The crowd cheered for me as I rose and started chanting, “Thank you.” In this age of the internet, they knew I was retiring, and this would be my last pay per view. The chant hit me, and I choked up a bit. I limped my way back up the ramp not wanting them to see any tears, but also continuing to tell the story of a hurt right knee.
When I stepped through the curtain to the back I was met with applause. Just about everyone was there waiting to congratulate me. As much as I worried about how well I could perform it was such a relief to hear them praising it. I even thought I might read the wrestling blogs in the morning. It felt good, but the show must go on and the next match was getting ready to start. My wrestling career was over, but the industry would go on without me. Only time would tell what my legacy would be.