Hello and welcome to the final instalment of ?The Rise and Fall of an Underdog: The Story So Far?. It’s been six months of chapters of Jake’s journey into the world of professional wrestling. So I thought I?d bring everyone up to speed with the story so far. We now continue with chapters 21-23. I?ll be back with a brand new instalment of Jake’s journey next week. You can always send any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
It had been a simple move that had done it; nothing fancy. Not a corkscrew moonsault or 450 splash. It hadn?t even been in a risky match like a cage or ladder match. Nope, it had been a simple, everyday sunset flip that landed Jake on a stretcher and in a hospital.
A sunset flip is one of the first moves you learn in training and Jake had done it at least a thousand times. In every match he had ever been in he had done a sunset flip. It was simple. You run at your opponent, he bends forward, you leap over his back, down through his legs, taking him down for a pin. It was physics really; force, propulsion, basic stuff. But this time something went wrong. Jake was wrestling a fairly green guy by the name of Donnie Diamond. He had shown a lot of promise and was ecstatic, and lucky, to be getting a match with the champ. There was never any chance of Donnie winning this match but as they say at the Oscars ?it was a pleasure just to be nominated?. Donnie was nervous so Jake went through the match step by step and they planned all the spots they were going to do. He could see the cogs turning in Donnie’s head as he tried to remember all the moves and the order they went in. He reassured him that if anything went wrong he would call it on the fly and it would still look great. Jake gave Donnie a pat on the back that the Crusher would be proud of and sent him on his way.
Jake got the sudden urge to call his Mom. He hadn?t spoken to her in a couple of weeks and he was suddenly hit with pangs of guilt. He dialled his cell and waited. The answering machine kicked in after a couple of rings and caught Jake off guard.
?Hey Mom, it’s Jake. Jeese, could you set the answering machine to any fewer rings. Give a guy a chance! Anyways, I just wanted to say that I?m a crap son and that I know I should call you more. I?ve been so busy that sometimes I don?t even know what town I?m in. But that’s no excuse. I?m going to make more of an effort Mom. I?ll call you after my match tonight. Promise. Love you.?
He hung up the phone and made a conscious effort to burn a reminder into his brain to call his Mom after the match. Not satisfied with his memories abilities, he grabbed a pen from his bag and sprawled in dark letters across the back of his hand ?CALL MOM?. Satisfied, he headed for a bite to eat and a bit of down time before the match.
Donnie looked as if he was about to puke. As they waited behind the curtains Jake chuckled to himself at the thought that he was just like Donnie a year or so ago; nervous, wanting to give the best match he could, hoping not to kill himself! The music hit and Donnie shook off the nerves and got into character. Jake hit the ring and was surprised by the snarling beast he met in the ring. Donnie was such a timid soul but as a heel he was ready to rip Jake’s head off. The bell rang and they started off with a good ol? test of strength. Donnie gauged Jake’s eyes though and the heat was on. Jake took it slow at first but when he knew that Donnie could keep up he kicked it up a notch and delivered some picture perfect drop kicks and a hurricanrana that any Luchador would have been proud off. Donnie was huffing and puffing a little but Jake knew he was doing all right. He gave him a little wink and Donnie hid a smile. Jake hit the ropes and Donnie put his head down. The sunset flip was about half way through the match and they both were looking forward to a big finish. But Donnie pushed up a bit early and Jake over rotated landing firmly on the back of his head and neck. Jake hit the mat in a heap and Donnie fell forward. As Donnie came to his feet he could see the ref standing over Jake. The ref signalled to the back for the medics and made Jake stay on the mat until they got there. Nowadays there’s no messing about with neck injuries and if there’s any doubt as to the safety of the wrestler the medics are called out with a spine board. This was the wrestler is safe and the promoter has his back covered as well. The fans all stood in silence, as did Donnie, as Jake was strapped into a neck brace and placed on the spine board. Once he was safely out of the ring the fans respectfully applauded the fallen combatant. As the cheers grew, Jake managed to get the attention of one of the medics as he said ?I can?t feel my legs.?
Jake was rushed to the nearest hospital and examined by a team of doctors. By the time they had finished the x-rays Jake was starting to get the feeling back in his limbs. When it had initially happened his mind had gone straight to the worst-case scenario. He saw a life in a wheelchair and the end of his career as a wrestler. But the doctor explained that when the neck experiences such a jar it can lead to tingling and numbness in the extremities. He warned Jake that it might continue for a little while and that he should stay away from wrestling for at least three months. Three months could as well have been a million years for Jake and any time off meant uncertainty in his career and certainly his financial life. Luckily Jake had invested in a health care plan but the lack of income would not be easy. This was the last thing Jake needed right now and he felt so stupid and helpless.
?Who’s Mo?? the pretty young nurse asked Jake as she adjusted his I.V.
?Your hand, it says ?Call Mo?.?
Jake must have sweated off the final M in Mom during his match. All of a sudden none of his other problems mattered; not his tingling legs or the time off he would have to take. All that mattered was that he had promised his Mom that he would call after his match and now he was laying in a hospital bed and had to explain it to her over the phone.
?It’s Mom not Mo. Can I use the phone? I need to give her a call.?
?Oh she’s already on her way. Didn?t anyone tell you? She’s your emergency contact so we called her as soon as you got here. She should get here any minute now.?
Jake was relieved but now had to come up with some way of rationalizing all of this for his mother. He knew she wasn?t petty but could hear an ?I told you so? coming. When his Mom entered the room a minute later she burst into tears and carefully hugged Jake. There was no I told you so? just a mother worried about her little boy. Jake knew that he hadn?t gotten off scot free, there would be a serious conversation to come. But for now he hugged his mother and began to cry in her arms. Alana followed in and they all held each other close in a hospital room, in a town that Jake didn?t even know the name of. He had gone through a major shock tonight. Not just the shock that he had felt in his neck but the shock that maybe this wasn?t the best job in the world for him to be doing.
Jake had never been so bored in all his life. It had only been six weeks since his accident but it felt like an eternity. He had always had a good work ethic and was never idle. His first job was delivering papers when he was twelve and he worked all the way through high school. And his stint at the Electronics Emporium had been his last foray into the conventional world of work. So he had never been one for sitting around the house all day doing nothing. But the doctor had told him to rest and under the watchful eye of his mother, and Alana, he was doing just that.
His neck felt fine and he had quickly regained all the feeling in his extremities. It had been very scary at first; not knowing if you?re going to walk again or live a normal life. But it had all come back so Jake was no longer worried. He went to physio and did all the exercises the doctors gave him. He had been a model patient and now he was ready to get back to normal. And normal was in a wrestling ring.
It had crossed Jake’s mind that maybe a career as a wrestlers wasn?t the brightest idea. Maybe he should just walk away and get a more stable job in an office or even go back to school. But these thoughts had been fleeting; a momentary lapse in his career plan due to a little bump. Well, a pretty big and painful bump, but Jake was over it already. His mother and Alana on the other hand were far from over it. They hovered over Jake like an insane pair of nurturing seagulls. Jake felt as if he couldn?t even fart without them analyzing it and calling the doctor to check it was okay. They even made him wear the stupid neck brace the hospital had given him as a precautionary measure. Granted it had only been for a few days but it made feel like a dog wearing one of those stupid funnels to keep from biting his wounds. He understood that they were just worried about him but enough was enough. One evening after dinner he decided to tell them that he was ready to start training again and work towards a return to the ring.
?Are you a total idiot?!? his mother bluntly and matter of factly asked. ?Or are you just a total glutton for punishment??
Jake knew this was rhetorical and didn?t bother with a response. Alana was unusually quiet and merely shook her head and looked at Jake with tired, puppy dog eyes. She broke her silence.
?Jakey baby I know how much this means to you and that you are going crazy being cooped up in this house with us. But we had a pretty big scare there and you should count yourself lucky to be doing as well as you are. Don?t you feel like this was some sort of sign??
?No I don?t? came Jake’s meek rebuttal. ?It was a bad bump and that’s all. Happens to guys all the time. If you fall off a horse you just have to get right back on, don?t you??
?This is hardly horseback riding Jake? his mother snapped. ?I?ve stayed quiet about this for long enough because I knew how much it meant to you. But enough is enough. Let’s be realistic Jakey and move on.?
Jake had heard enough. He didn?t stomp out of the room or slam any doors. He merely grabbed his coat and headed for a walk. And the end of his road he hopped on a bus and headed somewhere he hadn?t been in a long time; to Deluzio’s gym and to the Crusher.
As Jake opened the door the dilapidated old place he felt as if a day hadn?t passed since that fateful morning he began his training; a kid with a clipping from the newspaper and a dream. It sounded cheesy but Jake still felt as strongly as he did that morning. The place was empty but Jake could see a light on in the Crusher’s office. He headed up the rickety old stairs and tapped on the door. The Crusher was hulked over a pile of receipts and a calculator. A pair of glasses rested on the tip of his nose and he looked like the world’s strongest accountant. He looked up from his work and a smile crossed his face. He crossed the room to Jake and shook his hand as heartily as ever and gave him a pat on the back that reminded him that he really had recently injured his neck.
?How the hell are ya kid? I heard about your bad bump. How ya doin???
?I?m fine. Still a bit sore but fine. I?m just going crazy doing nothing!?
The Crusher ushered Jake into the room and pulled up a chair by his desk. He opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. Jake was surprised at how nice a bottle it was. Considering how frugal the Crusher was with everything else, he spared no cost on his drinks. They each took a swig and settled back into their chairs. Jake still wasn?t exactly sure why he gone their but the Crusher smiled at him and summed it all up for Jake.
?So now you?re wonderin? if you should even get back into a ring again.? The Crusher said as he took another swig of his whiskey. ?Your women pressuring you, doctor’s tellin? you you?re a fool for doin? it. But all you can think about it is your next match.?
?That’s exactly it.? Jake agreed as he clenched his teeth through another sip of the rather strong whiskey.
?Let me tell you somethin? kid. Wrestling has been my mistress for 32 years. I?ve been through 3 back surgeries and three wives. My knees are shot and I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat for no apparent reason. I?m nearly broke and the bank’s been on my ass for years. But do you know that all this 51 year old hunk of meat can think about is putting on some spandex on a Friday night and entertaining a crowd like they have never been entertained before.?
The Crusher poured himself another shot of whiskey and downed it in one fell swoop. Jake was already a bit warm and tingly from his glass but he still hung off the Crusher’s every word. The Crusher continued.
?Now I?m hardly a role model or fit to give anyone any kind of advice but all I can say is this; if you can relate to any of the things that I have just said, and I know that you can, follow your heart and do what you think is right. I?ve known you?ve got talent from the first day I laid eyes on ya kid and it would be a shame for the rest of the world to not get to see it.?
They finished their drinks and Jake realized that he had to hurry to catch his last bus home. As he was leaving the Crusher did something he?d never done before; he hugged Jake. Maybe it was the whiskey or maybe it was just the fact that he was proud of Jake. Whatever it was Jake appreciated it and as he headed down the street he knew what he had to do. He got out his cell phone and dialled his promoter’s number. Jake wasn?t stupid about it. He didn?t sign himself up to work a programme across the country. Just a few guest referee spots and a few lumberjack matches. But the main thing was that he would be back on the road with the boys and he could get back to training. Jake knew this would upset his mother and Alana but they would get over it. They loved him more than a fight about his chosen career. Deep down he knew they understood just as he had understood everything the Crusher had said to him tonight. Jake understood what his calling was in life and what he was meant to do. He knew where his passion was and where he would find it again; in a wrestling ring.
Jake was ecstatic to be once again backstage at a wrestling show. He was anxious for the first time in ages as he stood and waited behind the curtain. As he looked down at the black and white stripes of his referee shirt he was a bit disappointed but mostly excited to step back in the ring. Jake’s promoter had invited Jake back to ref a couple of matches and to get involved in a lumberjack match in a couple of weeks. Jake was itching for some action and would take anything he could get. The doctors had warned him about wrestling and strongly suggested that he take up a new line of work. But this was Jake’s passion and no injury could ever stop him.
Both wrestlers had entered the ring as the announcer began to introduce the special guest referee for the match. As Jake’s music hit and the announcer screamed his name in a gruff elongated fashion, Jake ploughed through the curtain to the roar of the crowd. It’s always great to surprise a wrestling crowd and Jake had done just that. Their cheers caught him off guard a little and as he stood in the middle of the ring and clapped back in return he could feel the tears welling up in his eyes. He knew the fans appreciated what he did in the ring but their heartfelt welcoming made him realise how much he meant to them and that he had made it as a performer in the business.
The match got underway and Jake tried his best to play the part of official. He really had no idea what he was doing but he played the part as best he could. When the heel got in his face he shoved him back and pointed to his referee’s shirt; establishing himself as the law. And when the heel went to hit his opponent with a steel chair, Jake grabbed it out of the air and threw it to the floor. The heel didn?t like this intervention and promptly slapped Jake across the face. Jake didn?t disqualify him like a real official would; instead he responded with a punch to the face and a picture perfect moonsault off the ropes. The crowd went wild as Jake pulled the injured babyface over to the fallen heel and counted one, two, three. The Rocket Kid had returned and the crowd was loving it.
Afterwards Jake made sure to say hello to all the boys backstage and shake everyone’s hand. The two opponents from his first match officiating were eager to thank Jake for his work in the ring and adding to their match. Jake tried to head home but the boys were having none of it. They convinced Jake to come out for a drink with them (although it hadn?t taken all that much convincing really.) Jake enjoyed a beer with the boys and was filled in on all the new stories from the road; who was arrested for public drunkenness, who was dating the most ring rats and who had been jailed or, even worse, hospitalized since Jake had been away. Jake made a fairly early retreat at 1am and headed home. He had told Alana that he was going to watch a show tonight and not that he was going to be in the ring. It was eating at him so he knew he would have to tell her when he got home.
As he slinked into his room he noticed that the light was still on and that Alana had fallen asleep while reading a book. He carefully crawled into bed next to her but as soon as he kissed her neck she awoke.
?Hey, did you go for a drink with the boys?? she sleepily asked.
?Yeah, one or two.?
?I figured as much? Alana yawned as she snuggled into Jake.
?Oh, and they were short a ref tonight so I filled in for a match? Jake said as he tensed up and waited for the onslaught.
?Really? That’s good. How was it??
Jake wondered if it was the tiredness talking but took it anyways. ?It was amazing. The crowd went wild. You should have heard them.?
?Oh Jakey? Alana said as she smiled at him and propped herself up on one elbow. ?I?m not going to be able to talk you out of wrestling am I??
?Probably not? Jake responded with a smile and a kiss.
With that they fell asleep together and Jake felt secure for the first time about a return to the ring. He knew that his mother would not be as much of a pushover as Alana but she would get over it in time. He felt as if he had the seal of approval to return to training and that’s what he was going to do the next morning.
No matter how long a wrestler is in the business they can always improve. This doesn?t mean that they train with the rookies every week but they do find time to run through drills, practice moves and learn new ones to add to their repertoire. Jake was always more than willing to learn but as he hit the ring for his first training session in ages he knew he was there mainly to dust off the cobwebs and make sure his body was up to the standard he always strived for.
Jake had been nervous about doing the couple of moves he had tried in his match as a referee despite the fact that he had done moonsaults a thousand times before. This time though he had felt butterflies as he leapt backwards and landed on his fallen opponent. But his neck and back had been fine and after the initial fear had passed he felt as confident as he had before his accident. Jake knew that he could do it, he just needed a bit of a refresher and he certainly got that in his first session back.
As he sat on a bench afterwards, a sweaty mess, Jake realised how easy it was to get out of shape and out of the loop. Maybe he had pushed himself a little too hard but Jake knew that he needed it. He ran the ropes so many times that he could already feel the rope burn rising into welts on his back. His muscles ached from countless slams, suplexes and leaps from the top rope. Jake ached all over, but he loved it!
As he headed home Jake had a spring in his step and a smile on his face. He had made it through a training session intact and his back hadn?t exploded or his head fallen off. The initial fear was gone and Jake was ready for his big comeback. Sure the doctors had advised against his ever wrestling again and what should have been at least six months off had been only two. Yet none of that mattered to Jake. He knew what he needed to do. Sure, it was only going to be a lumberjack match at first. But that would turn into a feud with one of the other lumberjacks and a programme that would bring the Rocket Kid back in the spotlight. As Jake walked home on a chilly evening he whistled to himself and knew that things were going to be alright.