Well welcome to the first installment of ?The Rise and Fall of an Underdog?. My name is AJ Pearce and this is my first column for WrestleView.com. But it isn?t a column in the traditional sense. I will be presenting to you an episodic fictional story that will grow week to week. We will follow the training and life of a young man in the wrestling business and the ups and downs he encounters along the way. I want to thank Hunter and all the guys at WrestleView.com for having faith in this new idea and giving me the place to try it out. If you want to reach me with any comments or questions fell free to do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. All that remains is for me to say thanks for reading and enjoy!
Jake stood there staring at the building. It was an unimpressive structure; grey and drab and in desperate need of an upgrade. Like every other building on the street it looked as if time had forgotten about it, like time had stood still. But Jake was most interested in the sign. Dingy, cracked and hanging on by only one corner it read ?Diluzio’s Gym and Training Center?. The sign blew back and forth in the cool September wind and Jake took a step back for fear of it landing on his head, doing more damage than the activities that were about to take place inside the building.
Jake Reynolds was 19 years old, athletic and in need of an outlet. Only two days before he had read an ad in the local paper promoting this dilapidated building; promoting the training that went on inside. ?Learn how to be a pro wrestler? the ad had proclaimed above a picture of two sweaty men engaged in some form of grappling hold, the anguish on their faces screaming out at you off the page. This ad had probably not even elicited a glance f rom most readers but it grabbed Jake’s attention and made him wonder if he could do it. He had been watching wrestling for as long as he could remember. His oldest memories of wrestling were sitting on his father’s lap on a Saturday night and watching the matches while eating a giant bowl of popcorn. During the commercial breaks his father would practice the holds on Jake and let him elbowdrop him off the top of the sofa. There were no pin falls; they always ended up on the floor in a heap, laughing until the action started up again on their old TV set. These were Jake’s happiest memories of his father. After those Saturday nights there weren?t many happy memories of his Dad. There weren?t many memories at all.
But Jake wasn?t standing outside a dirty old gym in the freezing autumn cold to take a trip down memory lane. He was there to try something new. Lord knows he needed it. Jake was a year out of high school and at first he didn?t mind messing around, working his part time job and having fun. But soon he started to realize that all of his friends had disappeared. Most to college, some to relationships, and now Jake was alone. He had applied to colleges but his less than impressive grades and lack of extracurricular activities didn?t appeal to any of them. His teachers had warned him that working out in the school gym wasn?t enough. One over emotional History teacher had said ?The only muscle you need to work out is your brain!? Jake had laughed this off as cheesy, sentimental garbage but after a year of inactivity his brain was one flabby muscle.
But that was the only flabby part of Jake Reynolds. Years of weight training had served his body well. Although he only stood 5?10?, he had managed to heap 186 pounds onto his otherwise petite frame. He was by no means a monster but when he looked in the mirror he was happy with what he saw. Sure, he would love to be bigger but his pesky genetics always got in the way. Jake was contented to be a little big man and thought that his chiseled good looks made him the perfect candidate for professional wrestling training.
Jake looked down at his watch. It was already 10:10am and no one had arrived yet for the 10am training session. He was beginning to worry when coming around the corner appeared a motley looking crew if Jake had ever seen one. There were six of them ranging in size: large to larger. Jake recognized most of them f rom the matches he had attended at the local rec center by his house. He recognized two of them as the bitter enemies he had seen beating each other over the head with steel chairs. Today they laughed and patted each other on the back. This wasn?t a complete shock to Jake. In the age of the internet and numerous fan sites, Jake was aware of the ins and out of the business. He was what they called a ‘smart mark?. But still, seeing these two men who usually bloodied each other to a pulp sipping coffees together and laughing did strike Jake as odd for a moment.
The wrestlers all shuffled past Jake, paying him no notice. Standing there in his sweat pants and hoody he probably looked like any number of fans they encountered on a weekly basis. But one older man who was obviously the leader of this muscle bound gang stopped and pointed at Jake.
?You that kid who called me the other day about starting your training?, he said in a gruff voice that sounded as if it had had as rough a life as his scarred forehead.
?Yeah, I?m Jake Reynolds. I read about the training in the Gazette.?
?Good. It’s twenty bucks a session. But if you pay for the whole month up front it works out to fifteen.?
Jake was a bit shocked at the quickness and bluntness of the mention of money. He had thought they would talk above moves and holds first or even his background but he simply nodded. He understood it was a business after all and that no business, especially one in such a rough part of town, can survive without the almighty dollar. While Jake was thinking all of this the gruff older wrestler looked him up and down.
?You work out??
?Every morning and for a couple of extra hours on the weekend? Jake proudly replied, hoping he hadn?t sounded too eager and overconfident.
?Well maybe we can get some more weight on ya. Come in. Oh, and we only take cash.?
With that the older wrestler disappeared into the building. Jake still didn?t know this gruff grappler’s name but he had been too intimidated to ask. Although he had been watching wrestling all his life he had never actually spoken to a wrestler. It wasn?t as if he was star struck but it was yet another wall of mystery crumbling down. Jake had passed through the world of fan into the world of participant. At least he would when he forked over his twenty bucks.
More wrestlers shuffled past Jake as he too entered the building. Jake instantly thought that the inside of the dingy warehouse certainly complimented the outside. As the wrestlers went around briskly shaking each other’s hands, Jake looked around. There were countless posters covering the water stained and hole ridden walls. Some were new, advertising the upcoming matches, and some were so old they had yellowed and curled up in the corners. These advertised matches that had taken place long before Jake was born. He pulled his attention away f rom the walls and took in the rest of the place. There was a small locker room and a row of benches containing old towels and discarded items of clothing. There was a definite aroma in the air but Jake wasn?t the prissy type; he could take it. The bulk of the warehouse was taken up by a rather ancient looking gym. There were no machines like the ones Jake used at his gym, just a lot of free weights and pulleys that Jake didn?t even recognize. The floor was covered in the thin blue mats that Jake remembered f rom his PE lessons. But he didn?t remember there being as many stained patches as there were covering these mats. In the corner of the space was the most impressive part of the scene. Jake felt the hairs stand up on his arms a little as he brushed his hands across the blue canvas of the first genuine wrestling ring he had ever touched. He pulled on the ropes and was surprised by the tension he felt. He wanted to jump straight in the ring and run around like a chicken with its head cut off but he knew he had to play it cool. Although he was bursting with excitement inside, he shrugged it off and stared at the squared circle.
?Alright, enough of the chit chat? shouted the still nameless boss. ?Get your gear on and everyone on the mats. Jason lead them through some stretches and I?ll be down in a minute.?
With that Jake was thrown into his first day of training as a professional wrestler. No fanfare, no pomp and circumstance, just a bunch of guys groaning as they spread out on some dirty old mats. Jake removed his sweater and changed into his gym shoes. He was already sweating and he hadn?t even done anything yet! But he was about to embark on a journey that would take him farther than he ever could have imagined. He had come to this dirty old building with a need to belong; to find somewhere he could fit in and make something of himself. And he was about to enter a brotherhood, a special fraternity, that he would never leave again.