Welcome once again to ?The Rise and Fall of an Underdog? and the story of Jake’s journey into the world of professional wrestling. As always I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions. Thanks for reading and enjoy.
p.s. Just for curiosities sake, I?m looking to see what countries my column reaches and where all you beautiful readers live. If you have a moment, send me an e-mail stating where in the world you are. Greatly appreciated 😉
Even Jake realised he had hit a new low. His head ached, his eyes itched and he was pretty sure he had broken his hand. Inside though, he felt even worse. He wasn?t sure if it was merely a fog of self pity or actual disappointment; either way, it didn?t feel good. He sat with his head in his hands, praying for some sort of help, and wondering again how he had ended up in a prison cell in Germany.
After leaving the UK, and Alana leaving the tour all together, Jake had made it his life’s goal to have a good time with the boys and make the most of his time in Europe. And he?d done a pretty good job of it if he did say so himself. Spain was a whirlwind, not just from the copious amount of Sangria he drank, but from the sheer number of towns and venues they had crammed into two weeks! It seemed like the second the ref’s hand hit the mat for the third time they were in the van, halfway to another town. Jake had wrestled in town halls, churches, a converted barn and even the holy of holy’s in Spanish wrestling, a bull fighting ring. That had to be Jake’s favourite venue of his short but storied career. The dirt floor, the stands rising straight up, almost vertical, the open ceiling, and, for the first time in his career as a professional wrestler, the literal smell of bullshit in the air.
The crowds had been hot and the women even hotter. What had started out as his honeymoon with his beautiful new bride had turned into Jake’s first foray into the world of indiscretion. Well, his first and second forays into the world of indiscretion. And that was just the first night! He didn?t remember their names and it didn?t matter. They didn?t speak a word of English, and his high school Spanish only got him as far as the nearest bathroom or library, but again it didn?t matter. After each match he would find a young Spanish princess to make him forget about how lonely he felt and how much he was hating himself. It did the job for a little while and he managed to forget about his worries. In the arms of all these beautiful exotic women he was king and he liked it.
As he awoke in a bed with two of these formidable young ladies on his last day in Spain, Jake was hit with that searing lower back pain he had started to forget about. Maybe it had been the mixture of cheap wine and even cheaper drugs that had managed to ease the pain for awhile. But as he lay on the floor in a dingy Barcelona hostel, writhing in pain, there was no easing it. The two young women jumped out of bed startled and tried to help Jake. He just cursed and waved them off. They returned the cursing in their mother tongue and left him to make his own way out of the sixth floor room. He hobbled down the stairs and made his way onto Las Rambles, the main street in Barcelona. It was filled with roadside stands selling everything from flowers to cheap paintings to live animals. Jake passed them all and headed to the spot where he knew a local drug dealer frequented; shift eyes and even shiftier merchandise. Jake had only seen him the night before for recreational drugs; something to keep the ladies happy and the party going. Today though, he was in the market for something stronger. Namely his new friend, Oxycontin.
When the Cortisone had become too expensive, and the needles too cumbersome and risky, Jake had turned to what the dealers called ?hillbilly heroin?, Oxycontin. Despite the stupid nickname the stuff worked! Any pain Jake felt went away and he was able to perform and, more importantly, party like nothing was wrong. Every one of the boys in the back that caught him popping a couple before a match would tell him tales of friends who had gotten hooked on the stuff and royally messed up their lives. Jake would wave them off and explain that it was a temporary thing to get through the tour and he knew what he was doing. In a way he believed his own white lie and thought that he was in control of when and how he needed it. Today though, as he leaned against a lamp post in Barcelona waiting for a drug dealer, he wasn?t so sure that he had as much will power as he had first imagined.
The drug dealer came through for Jake and within moments he was feeling better. He finished the final show in Barcelona and received a standing ovation from the crowd. Afterwards he was interviewed by a reporter from the biggest wrestling magazine in Europe and posed for pictures like a champion. The reporter wanted to know about how life on the road affected him.
?It’s my job? he replied with a smirk. ?Some guys punch a clock each day, work a 9 to 5, but my job let’s me travel around the world and see places that other people only dream about. Yes I miss my family and friends and yes in a perfect world I could do this job I love and be able to settle down in one place. But that’s just not how it goes and I am willing to do whatever it takes to make it in this business; no sacrifice too big, no journey too far. The rocket kid is taking off, come along for the ride.?
Jake was pleased with his off the cuff answers and only hoped that the translation to Spanish would do him justice. He actually doubted if the reporter even understood any of what he had said. All in all he thought his time in Spain had been a success and that the interview would help. But the interview would never make it into the magazine thanks to the even bigger story that was about to break in a small town in Germany.
Rotenburg was a small town around 40 miles from Hamburg, the city where the Beatles had started their musical journey. Jake had always dreamed of visiting these tiny clubs and pubs but there was no time for that. He would be competing in the biggest wrestling festival of the year and hopefully partaking in a pretty legendary beer festival as well. As they pulled up to the venue it made Jake feel like he had actually run away from home and joined the circus. The matches were going to be held in an enormous big top tent and Jake would be sleeping in a smaller version in the middle of a farmer’s field. He would forgo the modern luxuries of a crappy motel if it meant he was closer to a real life Oktoberfest. He only hoped that Rotenburg wasn?t so named for a reason.
Jake awoke for his first day of wrestling with a sore head and an even sorer back. Sleeping on the bare ground was possibly the worst thing Jake could have done for his already ailing lower back. He had started the night on a flimsy air mattress but when he woke up it resembled a deflated whoopee cushion and he was paying for it. The only thing he could think to do was reach for the pills, wash them down with a left over beer from the night before, and head to the big top.
He was set to wrestle four times on the first day; twice in an outdoor ring surrounded by bales of hay for seats (and fans who couldn?t afford the seats in the main tent) and he would wrestle twice in the big top. After the second match he was in agony. He took a bad bump in the corner of the ring on what was definitely a loose board. The ring was harder than he was used to and the thin foam didn?t do much to cover the rickety old planks of wood. He fought through it though and after a couple more pills made it through his last two matches in the big top. Jake was surprised by the number of people crammed into the tent and, despite his pain, gave them the best match he could. His opponent was fairly green and Jake carried the match. But due to his opponent’s lack of polish, Jake was able to do everything he wanted and got himself over with the crowd perfectly. The boys backstage congratulated him and everyone was ready to buy him his first round.
After around ten guys bought him that first round, Jake was feeling no pain. The mixture of booze and Oxycontin had rendered him a slurring, giggling mess. He had never been a sloppy drunk. He used to pride himself on how he could slam back a few drinks and still carry on an intelligent, insightful conversation. Now though, glossy eyed and totally out of it, he could barely string a sentence together. In all the revelry he bumped into a young German guy drinking with a few of his buddies. Jake attempted to apologize but couldn?t help bursting into another fit of giggles. This didn?t impress the now beer soaked, fairly well built, young man.
?Watch it you stupid Yankee bastard? he seethed in surprisingly good English.
Then Jake did something so stupid that even in his messed up state he knew it was wrong before he?d even finished doing it. He threw his arm up in the air at a forty five degree angle, clicked his heals together and shouted ?Yes mine fuhrer!? The expression on the young man’s face went from annoyed to furious in an instant. Jake would later find it funny that the guy had blue eyes and a blonde crew cut, but as he came hurtling towards Jake it was anything but funny. Jake managed to dodge the first punch but caught the second one right in his kidneys. Again all he could do was laugh. The young German came in for another swing and Jake moved at the last second, getting in a kidney shot of his own in the process. Jake was doing alright. All of a sudden he felt as if someone was coming up behind him. Before thinking he turned and swung with all his might. The sound of bones crunching came through more clearly to Jake than any other part of the evening. His hand met dead on with a steel folding chair that was being swung by the young German’s buddy. How ironic that the one item Jake was trained to be hit by would be the one that would do the most damage. He screamed in agony and without thinking (yet again) head butted the chair wielder. After that everything got a bit crazy. Everything went a bit black. And Jake woke up in a jail cell.
No sooner had the promoter bailed Jake out than he fired him. Jake’s plane ticket had already been changed and he was on his way home. Had he been a bigger star they may have overlooked the incident, chalking it up to drunken fans making trouble. Maybe it was because he was just an up-and-comer or maybe it was due to the fact that the whole thing had started from a stupid, racist gesture, but either way Jake was given no clemency. Magazines and dirt sheets would write about the incident, promoters would hear about it through the grape vine, and Jake would lose a hell of a lot of work in the wake. He had basically burned Europe for himself and with his tail between his legs headed home to salvage his career. Little did he know that he would be fighting to salvage his marriage just as soon. The Rocket Kid had made a fizzle and not a bang, and the monkey on his back would just not let go.