The Rise & Fall of an Underdog #4
March 5, 2009
By: AJ Pearce
Welcome to another edition of The Rise and Fall of an Underdog. Thanks for reading and I hope you?re enjoying the story of Jake's journey to the big leagues. If you have missed any installments, check out the previous Thursday's posts or let me know and I can send it to you. I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and would always love to hear any comments, questions, or requests you might have. Happy reading!
Jake had been training for six months. It seemed like only yesterday that he had so nervously waited on the street outside Deluzio's Gym; unsure of what might happen and what he was actually capable of, doubting his ability and regretting making the trip the whole way down there. But that was the past and in the present Jake was confidently becoming a model trainee. He never missed a session and even attended the bonus sessions one night a week. These were mainly reserved for the most senior members of the company but The Crusher had extended the invitation to Jake very early on and he jumped at the chance to train more and fit in as ?one of the boys?.
Wrestling was definitely a fraternity, as Jake had very quickly found out. A world of handshakes and practical jokes called ?ribs?. Jake was yet to be the brunt of a rib but in a masochistic sort of way he couldn?t wait for his turn. Shoelaces tied together, clothes disappearing while you?re in the shower, shaving cream in your boots, anything that meant Jake was a little closer to the boys was fine by him.
And he had gotten pretty close with one of the boys. Steve, his partner f rom his first rope running exercise who had nearly plowed straight through him, had taken an interest in Jake and took it upon himself to help to initiate him into this sacred brotherhood. He introduced him to the rest of the boys and sang his praises to whoever would listen. Jake had never had a brother but in a way, which he kept to himself for fear of sounding creepy, Steve was starting to feel like one. Steve would take Jake aside when he had trouble with a move and work through it with him till he got it right. But he would get it right. Jake appreciated this and tried his hardest to not let Steve down in practices. He also tried to impress the Crusher; he was the boss after all. But the Crusher was another story. The most emotion he ever showed was when the bills were too high and he had to plead with the bank to give him a little extra time. Besides that he was all business. One time in practice, after Jake had executed a perfect hip toss, The Crusher gave an immediate ?Good job kid!? This was all the praise Jake needed and he strived to take that hip toss the same way each time.
Apart f rom the personal and emotional gains Jake was making, his wrestling was getting better and better with each passing training session. After the initial basics (working the ropes, tieing up, taking bumps) Jake had progressed fast onto learning the moves that would shape any match he would ever be in. The first time he took a body slam he winded himself and his kidneys stung for a few days. But now he could take one and hop up to his feet in the same breath. Jake had always been a fan of the technical wrestlers and was naturally drawn to the different types of suplexes; vertical, German, fisherman's, belly to belly, he learned them all. And he wasn?t afraid to take them either. Jake felt there was something exhilarating about letting go and trusting someone enough to let them raise you over their head and bring you safely crashing down to the mat below. Steve had started to teach Jake the finer points of chain wrestling. Steve was a big fan of the British style and Jake was amazed at how quickly he could move through a set of moves without breaking a sweat. It was like a dance without a leader and Jake was learning his steps in time.
The aspect that intrigued Jake the most was the psychology of a match; how to tell a story. This didn?t mean sitting around and writing out a story but putting together a sequence of moves that would elicit an emotion f rom the audience; take them along for the ride. Most fans knew that wrestling was ?fake? and that the outcomes were predetermined but what they didn?t know was the lengths the wrestlers went to get that outcome. Jake listened in as guys discussed their upcoming matches and built their stories. Who would take the lead and call it and who would take the beat down and make the big comeback. They would craft a lot of the bigger spots and the finish but Jake was amazed by how little they planned. He had imagined a vast script to memorize and cue cards to learn. What it boiled down to was calling it on the fly. Knowing your moves and your partner well enough to feed off the crowd and give them what they want. Jake knew that even the greatest Oscar award winning actor couldn?t pull off a performance like these guys did every time they stepped between the ropes and into the squared circle.
As much as he enjoyed it, training had not been a walk in the park for Jake. He still ached after every session and stocked up on industrial strength muscle rub. Some weeks he hurt all over and others it targeted one body part and lingered until the next time he stretched it out. There were bruises, scratches and a little blood. One time he mistimed a move and ended up cracking his head against the head of one of the greener trainees. For the first time in his life Jake actually saw stars. The other guy was very apologetic and Jake shrugged it off as an occupational hazard. But he did think twice before taking a head butt f rom that guy again! Another time Jake was practicing a simple snap mare take over. This is when your opponent flips you f rom behind him, over his shoulder and onto the mat in front of him. Sounds easy enough. But the first time Jake took one he didn?t launch himself far enough or flip his body over enough. So all he did was come over the guys shoulder and go straight down onto the top of his head. Jake didn?t see stars this time. As he stood up and reached out for the ropes for support, he watched his own arm rise up and complete this simple task. It was if everything was in slow motion and Jake was watching f rom outside himself. He shrugged it off but as he walked to the bus stop and stopped to puke up all of his Gatorade, Jake wondered if it had been a concussion. He ruled this out himself, wiped his mouth and continued on his merry way.
So with all of this training behind him, and a firm belief in his improvement and ability, Jake wondered when he would get a chance to step into the ring for an actual match. He was realistic and understood that most guys did a year of training before they ever saw any in ring action. He bided his time and did his best to not seem cocky or over eager. But secretly inside he just wanted to hear the crowd and at least one person chanting his name.
After most training sessions the Crusher would keep his headliners in the ring to discuss the upcoming matches. As the booker he would decide who would fight who, when it would come on the card and who would be winning or ?going over?. Jake listened f rom a distance as he changed into his street clothes. He was just about to head out the door when the Crusher called after him.
?Hey kid! You free Friday night??
Stay calm Jake, just answer him he thought as he tried to muster a response.
?Yeah, sure. What do you need??
?Well we?re short a ref and we?d need you to do a couple of the matches. It pays ten bucks and you can have a free ticket for a friend.?
?Sure thing Chris. I?ll do it.?
?Get there at 6. Opening bell is at 7:30 so that gives us plenty of time to go through the spots with you. You know where the rec centre is??
?Yeah, it's right by my house.?
?Alright then. See you then.?
?See you then.?
With that Jake headed outside and down the street. He ran over the brief conversation in his head and realized what had just happened. He was going to be a part of his first wrestling card! Sure it was going to be as a zebra, but he was nevertheless going to be in the ring in front of a crowd of up to (let's be realistic) 75 screaming fans!
Would he know how to ref? It was after all just counting and smacking your hand down on the mat. How hard could it be? Jake knew that this was the first step in his career as a wrestler and that he could only move forward f rom here. But above all else he realized that he was passionate about something. For the first time in a long while he had a reason to be excited about his life and that reason would be played out that Friday night, in a wrestling ring.