Hello and welcome to ?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. Over the next month I will be posting all the previous chapters so you can catch the bits you missed or get on board for the first time. We now continue with chapters 17-20. You can always send any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
Jake was about to become a champion for the first time. Technically it was the second time but he didn?t really consider the few minutes he had won the International Title from the Crusher to be a real title run. He was ready for a real run as a champion and he was about to get it. Things with Alana were still rocky but Jake had become single mindedly focussed on the business and wasn?t about to let his personal problems take precedence over his professional life. He was about to become the PCW Junior Heavyweight Champion.
There was no pomp and circumstance when he found out he was to become champion. It happened in a routine meeting backstage while the promoter was doing some housecleaning.
?Don?t forget to pick up your travel allowances from the office this week. It’s not much but the gates have been a bit short lately. It?ll get better. Next month’s show at the Coliseum is selling well and we?re decided to have all the titles changes hands on that night. The Boogie Brothers are going to win the tag straps, the Rocket Kid will win the Junior Title and Monstrosity is going to win the Heavyweight Title. See you all in Wilmington this weekend.?
That was it; Jake was going to be champion. He had worked several matches on the road with the current Junior Heavyweight champion Flash Finnegan. Flash was a fellow high flier and they made magic in the ring together. It was always a great feeling when you got to work a program with a guy you clicked with, when every match could be a four star affair. Jake couldn?t wait to plan out the match and give the crowd a title win they would remember.
But finding out about his upcoming title win hadn?t been a totally positive experience for Jake. After the meeting he had started to head back to his motel when he realised he had forgotten to ask the promoter about his pay. As he rounded the corner to the dressing room he could hear two wrestlers talking. The voices belonged to the soon to be heavyweight champion Monstrosity and another big guy by the name of Johnny Ravage. Jake started to head in to the room when he heard them mention his name. He stopped in his tracks and listened.
?Yeah the Rocket Kid’s got talent but I don?t think he’s championship material.? Monstrosity said in his freakishly deep voice.
?I know? Johnny agreed. ?He’s impressive and all that but a bit forgettable.?
?And he’s a bit of a runt too. Too damn small.?
?Yeah. You don?t have to worry about that guy making a run for your Heavyweight title.?
Jake decided to forget about his question for the promoter and get out of there before he was discovered eavesdropping. As he headed back to the motel all he could think about was what he had heard in the dressing room. Did all of the boys feel that way about him? They had always been so supportive of his career but now he wondered if it was all just an act. Just a show when they really thought he was a tiny waste of time. Jake had struggled so hard to get where he was and to put on enough weight to both protect his body and be a convincing force in the ring. Genetics had dealt him a duff hand and there was nothing he could do about it. He tried to get to the gym as often as humanly possible but life on the road made this nearly impossible. If you were lucky enough to find a gym in the armpit of the universe towns they went to you were even luckier if they let you actually work out without a membership. Jake’s worst fear in the business had finally reared its ugly head; he needed help to bulk up.
The Juice was the guy to see if you needed a little help in the muscle building department. This wasn?t OJ Simpson though, this was a 350 pound Puerto Rican with arms the size of tree trunks and a medical bag that most surgeons would envy. Jake had meekly approached him after a show and even more meekly inquired about purchasing some goods.
?What are you after?? Juice had asked in an almost whisper.
?I just need to bulk up. Maybe get a bit more definition.?
?No problem. $500 will get you a month’s worth and that should get you nice and ripped for the big show at the Coliseum. You?ll look better than you ever have.?
That was all Jake needed to here. The next day he met the Juice in his motel room and handed over ten crisp fifty dollar bills and received a crumpled brown paper bag. The Juice gave him a firm handshake and a congratulatory pat on the back. Jake didn?t feel the need for congratulations. Actually he felt kind of sick.
Jake thought the name Human Growth Hormone sounded suitable and medical enough. As he jabbed the needle into the fleshy part of his butt he admitted defeat to himself. He looked at himself in the bathroom mirror and sighed. He gave a little flex and thought he looked just fine. But what the fans and his peers thought was what he was worried about most right now. Jake had made a commitment to the business and realised that this title win could be his ticket to the big leagues. Fast, little wrestlers never made it past the mid card. And although they made an impact on the fans they could never draw the big money the heavyweights did. Jake wanted maximum exposure even if it meant the minimum effort that steroids required. He knew he would still have to go to the gym and stick to his diet and that’s the way he wanted it. Some semblance of normality was required in all this.
Jake packed up the viles and needles and hid them in the bottom of his bag. He certainly didn?t want his roommate Mike stumbling upon them. And who knew when Alana would pop by for a surprise visit. Alana? What would she think about all of this? Jake cast the thought out of his mind and settled in for a restless night’s sleep. Just a month’s worth he thought to himself. Just a month.
Jake had a loyal fan base and appreciated their eagerness. Sometimes they could get a bit overzealous but he understood that they were the reason why he was doing the job he loved. Without the fans he would probably still be working at the Electronics Emporium and he certainly would never have met Alana. So when eager female fans grabbed at him as he went to the ring he laughed it off. Or when they waited outside the arena for autographs and ended up telling him their life story he simply nodded and smiled. He had a bit of a harder time though when they showed up at his hotel room. That was kind of like crossing an imaginary line for Jake. The line where wrestling ended and real life began. He regretted being a bit curt on a few occasions and acting like a diva when all he wanted was a little sleep. Right now he needed his rest and he needed to focus on his upcoming program with Flash Finnegan.
Jake had worked a few matches with Flash in the past and really enjoyed it. They clicked in the ring together. When they wrestled Jake felt a bit guilty because it was so easy and effortless. Although they were both high fliers they didn?t try to outdo each other in the ring. They worked off each other to make their opponent look good. It was uncommon for two babyfaces to work a program together for a prolonged period. This could split the fans and go totally wrong for one of the combatants. But their matches were magic and the fans loved it. Flash Finnegan’s fans were just as boisterous as the Rocket Kid’s and not at all scared to tell Jake how they felt; all in good fun. One night though Jake had his first run in with not a fan but a fanatic.
After a particularly gruelling match in front of a really hot crowd, Jake hit the showers and made a hasty retreat from the arena. He didn?t feel like going drinking with the boys this night. He was sore from an awkward landing when he put Flash through the time keepers table. As many time as you did a spot with a table there was no denying the stiffness you felt afterwards. Jake crossed the dimly lit parking lot and made his way to his car. His road buddy Mike was having yet another rowdy night out with the boys so Jake had the car and the hotel room to himself for awhile. As Jake fumbled with his keys he heard someone clear their throat right behind him. Jake jumped back and noticed the mystery throat clearer to be a portly middle aged man with a beer belly poking out from underneath his Flash Finnegan t-shirt.
?You scared me man. You might want to reconsider sneaking up on people in darkened places.? Jake chuckled. But the mystery throat clearer did not. He was all business.
?You might want to reconsider putting champions through tables in non-title matches!? the mystery throat clearer said in a voice that sounded like it needed some more clearing.
?Okay buddy. Thanks for the advice. Thanks for coming to the show.?
Jake stuck out his hand and the mildly creepy Flash Finnegan fan just stared at it. He looked up at Jake and then spat on the ground in front of him. He turned away and plodded head down into the darkness. Jake stood there for a moment, chuckled to himself and continued his journey to his hotel room.
Jake was still chuckling as he headed up the stairs to his hotel room. He was struggling to carry a six pack of beer and a pizza while trying in vain to reach his room key. He managed to get it out just as he reached his door. Standing at that door was mystery throat clearing man. And he didn?t look happy.
?Okay buddy it’s getting to be a bit much now.? Jake said as he placed his food on the floor. ?I know you?re a big fan of Flash but the match is over now and this is my private time. So I?d appreciate it if you just head home and we?ll see you at the next match.?
The mystery throat clearer snarled. ?If you keep risking an injury to Flash there won?t be another match!?
Jake was starting to get a little more than creeped out by this weirdo. He tried to maintain his composure as he sized the guy up. Jake was sure he could take down a middle aged obese man but was a bit worried about the way this guy kept one hand in his pocket clutching something.
?Okay, I don?t want any trouble. I promise I?ll be more careful in the ring with Flash if you promise to leave me alone now to enjoy the rest of my evening.?
The crazed fan looked deep into Jake’s eyes and smiled. This relieved Jake until he noticed that the fan was struggling to get his hand free from his coat pocket. Jake leaned back against the wall as mystery throat clearer freed his hand and raised it towards Jake. In it was a beat up old 1980’s wrestling action figure; the big thick rubber kind that didn?t bend. Jake could tell that it was the Dynamite Kid from the British Bulldogs tag team. But over Dynamite’s face the crazed fan had stuck a picture of Jake’s face from that night’s program.
?I hope you?ll be more careful. I don?t want to have to use this!?
With that the mystery throat clearer turned on his heels and ploughed his way down the corridor and out of the hotel. Jake had never experienced any like what had just happened. He had really been scared by this fan and wasn?t quite sure what to do next. He would tell the promoter and Flash in the morning and he would make sure that everyone knew to look out for this guy. Jake picked up his beer and pizza and settled into his room. He managed a weak chuckle to himself as he downed the first few beers in quick succession. The evening’s sufficiently weird moments had put Jake’s relationship with the fans in some odd sort of perspective. He wasn?t sure how he was feeling about them right now but he that he wasn?t about to let one wacko change his opinions. Yes Jake still appreciated the fans. Just not the ones who made voodoo dolls of him!
The night of the big show at the coliseum had arrived and Jake was buzzing. He had worked a good programme with Flash and the fans were really in to it. Jake had never been so over in his career and this title win was just the icing on the cake. And Jake had never looked better either. He had made a deal with himself that he would only stay on the juice long enough to beef up for his title match. He had also been going to the gym more and trying to stick to a diet that life on the road made very difficult. Yet he knew that the bulk of his definition had come from a bottle and, although he felt a little defeated by this, he knew that no one backstage could doubt his ability to portray a champion now. And tonight was the night that came true for Jake.
There was one other added stress for Jake this night. UCW had just signed a deal with a cable wrestling channel in the north east to present a weekly hour long show and tonight was going to be the first taping. Jake had had dozens of his matches taped for the DVD’s that the company sold online and at the shows. But this was different. This was a TV show that had the potential of reaching far more people than the loyal fans of UCW. This could reach people in other, bigger companies. This could be a ticket to the big leagues and it made Jake more nervous than ever.
Flash Finnegan had been a pleasure to work with and he and Jake rarely had to plan their matches. They simply had a rough sketch and a finish. They would take turns calling the matches and every night it worked better than the night before. They had worked more than 30 matches together in the 6 weeks leading up to tonight so they knew each other well. But they still arrived at the arena early to go through their match. They both understood the importance of this match and that who won or lost was not the big issue. The main thing was to entertain the fans and both look as good as possible for TV.
With their match planned, including a great finish involving a countered victory roll in the corner, Jake relaxed backstage and got ready with the boys. Jake looked around the dressing room and found himself being a bit introspective. He looked at this random collection of men that he travelled with and spent most of his life with. From the monstrous, bulky, quite frankly scary looking men who Jake knew as humble and quiet outside of their wrestling personas to the midget wrestlers who could be a royal pain in the ass. From the referees who secretly wished they had the ability to be on the other side of a match to the old timers who were hanging on for one last moment in the spotlight. Jake loved them all. Sure he would have liked to be home with Alana and his mother more often, but these guys were like his family on the road; his brothers. And Jake wouldn?t have it any other way.
Jake and Flash were up first. The pressure was on for them to open this first TV taping and get the crowd in the Coliseum and at home gripped to the action. Jake’s music hit and he ran down to the ring, slapping every hand he could. The crowd roared as he stood in the corner and applauded them all. Flash’s music hit and the crowd roared just as loud (if not a bit louder). Flash took his time coming to the ring and acknowledged as many of his fans as possible. Little did they know that their hero would be losing his title tonight. Flash entered the ring and he and Jake met in the middle. They held a bit of a stare down but then in a sportsmanlike gesture of good will they shook hands.; two babyfaces hanging on to their characters as they embarked on a classic. The bell rang and the match was on.
There was no starting out easy for Jake and Flash. They went right into a complicated set of chain wrestling. Each taking the advantage for a while and then losing it, bringing the crowd with them the whole way. Jake was the first to do some high spots and landed a moonsault from the top rope to the outside of the ring. Flash landed a bit awkwardly and Jake whispered to him to make sure he was okay. He nodded yes and the match continued. Jake took the lead for a while and Flash sold it like there was no tomorrow. Jake went to the top again and leapt halfway across the ring for a fog splash but Flash rolled out of the way and the match was his for awhile. He sent Jake off the ropes and caught him with a perfect flying head scissors. The crowd roared and both Jake and Flash knew that they had them. Flash continued to throw Jake around the ring like a rag doll and Jake sold for him just as well as Flash had done. As planned Jake countered a suplex and took Flash to the mat. They both lay there catching their breath and listening to the crowd. Fans were already clapping for these two amazing combatants and Jake and Flash were soaking it all in. As Jake and Flash started to get to their feet Jake whispered ?Let’s take it home?. Flash knew what to do. He attacked Jake with a barrage of punches and chops and sent Jake into the corner. He raced in at full speed and caught Jake with a vicious high knee. Flash quickly climbed behind Jake and onto his shoulders. He pitched forward for a victory roll but Jake caught him as he went under his legs and pressed him to the mat for the three count. The match was over, the fans cheered and Jake was now the Junior Heavyweight Champion.
Flash stood with his head down and his hands on his hips; his sullen face contorted to look mad at himself and at Jake. But after a moment he extended his hand and he and Jake shook before embracing in a hug. Every fan in the arena was on their feet and as Flash buckled the championship belt around Jake’s waist and raised his hand as Champion the crowd went wild. Jake joined the crowd in applauding Flash as he left the ring. Jake ran to the corner and did something he hadn?t done in awhile; he pointed to the heavens as a sign to his departed father. Jake began to cry as he stood in the ring. He hadn?t thought about his Dad in weeks and it was all too much for him. In this moment of personal triumph Jake felt greedy and alone at the same time. But he pulled himself together, knowing that his Dad would be proud and would not want to see him like this. This was Jake’s moment. He was a wrestling champion and hopefully soon to be a big TV star. Life was tough but life was good. And as he stood in the middle of the ring listening to the adoration of his fans, nothing else mattered.
Jake hadn?t known what to expect when he won the Junior Heavyweight Championship. He knew that things wouldn?t get any easier and it wasn?t a pass to rest on his laurels. He knew that he didn?t magically get his own dressing room or the ability to travel on his own. A championship depended on how hard you worked and how much money you could draw while champion. Jake knew all of this. But what he didn?t know was that the gruelling schedule that he had been working on the road for the past few months was nothing in comparison to the schedule of a champion!
Jake used to get at least one night a week off and sometimes even a Saturday or Sunday if there was no show until the Monday night in the next town. As champion though, he was on every card. He worked with some guys for a week or so and other guys for just one match. He would wrestle against new, local talent and grizzled veterans. But no matter who he was wrestling it was their job to make the champ look good, believable. Some guys did this begrudgingly and mumbled under their breath as they were given the finish by the champ. Jake had always been an accommodating opponent and always worried about how the match looked for the fans and not about how he looked in the spotlight. As champion though he had to put that to the side a little and focus on his image and drawing as much business as possible.
He was no Hulk Hogan but Jake knew that he was serving the company well. Gates were up and fans blogged about his matches as soon as they got home. His merchandise was selling well and it was not unusual to look out upon the crowd and to see a wave of Rocket Kid t-shirts spreading across the arena. Jake took a pretty good percentage of his merchandise sales and the promoter was good about reimbursing the guys promptly. Jake was making money and he was over with the fans. Life was good. But there were two problems; missing Alana and not being able to miss the steroids.
Life on the road never made it easy for a guy to keep up his physique. Trips to the gym were infrequent at best. With his extra workload as champion Jake had literally no time for the gym. He was working up to three shows a day (a run at a state fair got him up to his record of six matches in a single day!) so time for pumping iron was almost nil. But as champion Jake was expected to portray an image, to be marketable and appealing to all the fans; so steroid use had become a catch 22 for Jake. To be a champion you had to look like one but by being champion there was no way to naturally find time for it. And it wasn?t cheap. Luckily Jake’s merchandise money and extra cut of the gate for being champion afforded him all the pharmaceuticals he required. Every time he stuck that needle into his skin though he hated himself a bit more. He hated what he was doing to his body and the fact that he could never tell Alana. Alana!
Jake was trying his hardest to keep his relationship alive. He tried to call Alana every night but a lot of times the small towns he wrestled in had little to know cell reception and after a hard day’s work the last thing he wanted to do was traipse around trying to find a payphone. He was guilty of ignoring Alana and hated it. He paid for her bus tickets out and even a few plane tickets when he was working further into the next state. But a lot of the time these visits were no more than a booty call and Alana knew it. As they lay in bed on this latest visit she addressed this fact with Jake.
?Jakey, what are we doing here??
?Trying to sleep? he replied in a half joking, half serious tone.
?No really, I mean it. We?ve been together for almost a year now and here we are in another crappy motel room. I love you, you know that, but I don?t love this.?
Jake propped up on his elbows and looked at his beautiful, enchanting girlfriend. He kissed her on the forehead and brushed the hair away from her face. ?I know this isn?t ideal but it won?t be like this forever. I?m champion now and moving up the company. I just need to get on TV a bit more and hopefully I?ll get a tryout for one of the bigger promotions.?
?And then you?ll travel even more.?
?For a while yes but then we can settle down. I?ll have made enough money for a house of our own. Then you won?t have to spend all your free time with my Mom while I?m away.?
?Amen to that!?
?Let’s just play this part of our lives out until we get to the next part. You….I….?
Jake paused for a moment. He didn?t know what he was going to say next. But as he looked into the eyes of the woman he loved he knew what he needed to say.
?Alana, will you…?
She cut him off, pressing one of her fingers against his lips. ?Not now Jakey. Please. Let’s save it for a motel just a little bit nicer than this one.?
They both laughed and collapsed into each other’s arms. They lay there naked for awhile until they fell asleep holding each other. Jake had seen how she had looked at the bruises on his buttocks and knew that she was growing wise to his steroid use. But she hadn?t said anything so Jake left it alone, for now. It had been a great night and Jake was feeling good about life. His role as champion hadn?t cost him too much to date. His girlfriend still loved him as much as ever and he was making headway in his career. Life WAS good. But twenty four hours later Jake’s feelings would all change. As he would wake up strapped to a gurney, trying to wiggle his toes and wondering why the hell he had ever gotten into the world of professional wrestling.