Welcome once again to the Rise and Fall of an Underdog and the story of Jake’s journey into the world of professional wrestling. We?re nearing the end of our story with Jake down on his luck and even more bad choices ahead of him. This week is chapter 42 of 50. Will Jake redeem himself? Keep reading to find out. As always I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions. Thanks once again for reading and enjoy.
Jake was finding it hard to get booked anywhere. News of his arrests and subsequent deportations in Canada and Germany had made its way around the industry and promoters were weary of employing him. With no job and no matches, Jake was left to wallow in self pity, and vodka. Even his mother was getting fed up with him. He knew he was on the verge of being kicked out on the streets so he had to get some work fast. He found the name of a promoter of a little known company in rural Tennessee called Redneck Wrestling and made a last ditch phone call. The promoter seemed far too excited to hear from Jake but under the circumstances it was fine by him. He had heard of the Rocket Kid and offered him top dollar to come down and wrestle for him. He even offered him the main event against a former world champion! Jake happily agreed, loaded his car and headed south.
Jake had wrestled all over the world; from the Great white north of Canada to the legendary arenas of Europe. Yet despite his globetrotting he had never managed to wrestle south of the Mason?Dixon Line. The North East had been good to him but, with his reputation tarnished, he needed to take what he could get. Woodlawn Tennessee it would have to be.
A small town on the outskirts of Clarksville, Woodlawn was hardly a place to write home about. There were scattered houses, a few shops and a whole lot of cattle. The smell took a little getting used to and, despite the heat, Jake drove with the windows up. His GPS guided him down a dusty country road and when it announced ?You have reached your destination?, his jaw dropped. There was a huge painted sign reading ?Redneck Wrestling? standing about twenty feet high. But it wasn?t the sign that bothered Jake so much as the fact that it was painted on the side of a barn! Through the doors Jake could see a tattered old wrestling ring and even older bleachers that wouldn?t have looked out of place in a school in the 1970’s. Jake shook his head. This was what his career had come to. Part of him wanted to just throw the car into reverse and head on back down the dusty highway. It wasn?t the money that made him stay, it was the fact that he had to wrestle. With so much of his life gone he needed the stability of the one thing he still had. And it was going to be a match with a world champion after all.
Jake parked his car in the field that was the parking lot, avoided the cow pats along the way, and made his way into the arena/barn. A short, squat man with a bright red face and a comb over that defied gravity paraded straight up to Jake.
?Well as I live and breathe you really are the Rocket Kid! When I talked to you on the phone I thought it was just some kid pretendin? but shoot, it’s really you? He shook Jake’s hand and patted him profusely on the back. ?I?m Sherman Devereaux. Redneck Wrestling’s owner, booker, promoter, ring announcer, ticket taker, you name it I do it. We?re just over the moon to have you here. Champ’s already here if you wanted to talk over yer match with ?em.?
?Which champ am I wrestling exactly?? Jake politely asked.
?You don?t know? Shoot, I?m sorry. We have been blessed to acquire the services of the legendary Steve ?The Hangman? Harrison! He’s been with us for a month now and the fans just love him. I never thought we?d get wrestling royalty down here but here we are. The Hangman and the Rocket Kid! Shoot! I?ll catch you later.?
Sherman skipped away like a bulldog on a sugar rush as Jake headed backstage to meet ?The Hangman?. Backstage lay just behind a big black curtain in what used to be the stables part of the barn. It still smelled as if the horses were still there and Jake couldn?t help but laugh at the thought of getting ready in one of those little rooms; the stud that he was! He still couldn?t picture the champ in his head. He remembered the name as a one time champion in one of the big southern companies in the early 80’s. He was a transitional champion at best; a guy that just held onto the belt for a couple of months while one of the big superstars recovered from an injury or a damaging court appearance. His name was on the record books but while other former champions got lucrative positions as bookers and road agents, The Hangman was wrestling Jake in a barn in rural Tennessee.
?Well there’s the sacrificial lamb? came a husky voice from one of the stalls. It sounded like it had enjoyed one too many whiskeys and way too many cigarettes.
Jake looked in the stall and beheld the wonder of Steve ?The Hangman? Harrison; stringy grey hair, torn denim jacket, pants around his ankles, pissing in a bucket. The sight of the former champion’s flabby white ass stopped Jake dead in his tracks and he looked anywhere but right at it as he introduced himself to The Hangman.
?I?m Jake Reynolds, the Rocket Kid. We?re going to be working together tonight.?
The Hangman vigorously shook out the last few drops ?More than three shakes and yer playin? with yerself.? he said with a grin and a cackle that was quickly followed by a bout of phlegm filled coughing. ?We?re livin? the high live now partner. You want some.? He held out a hip flask to Jake. He waved it off.
?Maybe after the match.?
He reached out a hand to Jake and although he knew what had just been in that hand, he honoured the wrestling tradition and shook the champ’s hand. ?Heard a lot about you kid. You got a little bit of a reputation now don?t ya! My kind of man.? Jake tried to interject but The Hangman continued. ?Let’s keep it simple. I?ve got a pretty good thing goin? down here and these rednecks love me. You?re going to play the cocky young heel out to beat down the ol dog, that’s me. I?ll let you beat on me for a while, I?ll get some juice, mount the comeback, you?ll blade too and we?ll bring it home after 20 or so. Sound good??
As much as Jake hated cutting himself, he agreed. ?Good stuff? the Hangman cackled. ?Let’s get us some dinner before we set this place on fire.?
Jake headed out with the Hangman in his beat up old pick-up truck. They hit a local BBQ joint called ?Gerry’s Grill? and chowed down on some of the best ribs Jake had ever eaten. He tried to resist over doing it on the beer but it went so well with the BBQ. The Hangman told story after story about his sixty two day run as champion. Wild road trips with the Nature Boy, bloodbaths with the American Dream and a heck of a lot of stories involving midgets! Jake enjoyed them all as he enjoyed his food and one too many cold beverages. Bellies full and a pretty good buzz on, they headed back to the barn to prepare for a match that Jake hoped would be a real barn burner, pun intended.
Jake was feeling no pain as he sat in his horse stall and dressed for his match. He giggled like a little kid as the Hangman did Mr Ed impressions in the next stall. All of a sudden the beers got the better of Jake and he needed a wizz. He spotted his personal bucket and despite the disgust he had felt when he had first met the Hangman, he had to go. When in Rome! As Jake stood in a barn in the middle of nowhere, drunk, stinking of horse crap and pissing in a bucket, he was hit with the biggest buzz kill of his life. He pulled up his tights and slid down the wall of the stable to the floor. He hung his head in his hands and tried not to sob. He had screwed it all up and he knew it. He needed Alana so badly right now but he knew that there was absolutely no chance of her taking him back now. When he came back from this road trip he would probably be homeless too as his mother had run out of patience with him as well. All he had now was a belly full of beer and BBQ and a match with a washed up alcoholic former champion with just an old pick-up truck and a pot to piss in. Before Jake could wallow in self pity too much the Hangman popped his head into the stall, a big grin on his face.
?It’s magic time kid!?
Jake composed himself and mustered the best heel snarl he could as he smashed through the curtain. As his music played on an ancient boom box Jake surveyed the crowd. There were only twenty or thirty people in the crowd and probably the same number of teeth. Jake looked for children but found none. Rasslin? was for men around here… and butt ugly women! Jake shouted and cursed at every fan in the building (which didn?t take long) and made his way to the rickety old ring. The canvas was made of an old tarp and Jake had to be careful not to slip on it as he got into the ring. He wondered how he would manage to run on it in his match if he could barely get into the ring without falling over. The Hangman’s music hit and the faithful crowd went wild. The Hangman looked even more ridiculous than usual in his three sizes too small tights and dark wrap around shades. He carried an old piece of rope with a hangman’s noose on the end and swung it wildly over his head as he entered the ring. He laid it down in the corner and Jake knew that it would be making an appearance later. He didn?t know much else though as he and the Hangman had neglected to go through the particulars of their match. But he was a former champion, it would be fine.
Fifteen minutes later the Hangman stood over top of Jake, blood pouring down his face, hangman’s noose in his hand and a crazy look in his eyes. Jake had tried his hardest to make the match look good up to this point but it had been an absolute stinker. They both had enjoyed themselves a little too much at dinner and while the Hangman was a little more of an old hand at wrestling drunk, Jake was a newcomer and had been as sloppy as hell. He missed moves, slipped on the canvas and even laughed a bit when he accidently suplexed the Hangman into the ropes. Despite all the screw ups the Hangman still bladed like a trooper and sold like crazy for Jake. He was a true old timer through and through. Now it was Jake’s turn to return the favour. He reached into his wrist tape, pulled out the hidden piece of razor blade he had taped in there, and cut a tiny slice just under his hair line. He squeezed the area as he pretended to hold his wound in pain and got the blood flowing. All the alcohol must have thinned out his blood because it quickly flowed down his face and into his eyes. Half blinded, he missed his next cue and took a vicious clothesline from the Hangman and his rope. Jake was disoriented and had no idea what the Hangman was doing as he tightened the noose around his neck. ?Just go with it!? The Hangman whispered into Jake’s ear as he hoisted him up on his back, stinky old rope tied around his neck, and reverse slammed him as he pulled on the rope. Jake saw stars as the rope tightened and he was hung for half a second too long. The fans were going crazy now, whipped up into a blood loving frenzy. The hangman stood on Jake with one foot and got the victory. ?Now that’s how it’s done you little know it all punk.? The Hangman hissed. Jake tried to catch his breath as the champ left the ring and coke cans and popcorn rained down on him.
Afterwards the Hangman was nowhere to be found. There was no handshake, no congratulations, nothing. The Hangman had some sort of personal vendetta against Jake and he had no idea why. He had listened to his stories and laughed at his jokes. He had shown him the respect that he had been taught to but none of it mattered. The Hangman was a bitter old man now who felt that the industry owed him something and that any up and coming guy would never be good enough to lace up his boots. Jake had let the guy hang him with a noose and he didn?t have the decency to shake his hand after the match. Jake didn?t know what hurt more; that or the red welt that was slowing forming around his neck.
As Jake thanked Sherman for having him down and assured him that he just couldn?t stay for another show, somebody came bounding up to Jake’s car.
?Well just look at you! You?ve come a long way since that first day with the Crusher now haven?t you Jake?
It was Steve Sebastian, Jake’s first sparring partner and former International wrestling champion. Jake hadn?t seen him in over three years, since his first days working with the Crusher. Steve had gotten into some trouble with the law and the last Jake heard he was serving a five year prison sentence. He certainly looked like a free man now as he rushed up to Jake and gave him a massive bear hug.
?You?re a sight for sore eyes!?
?Steve, how the hell are you? Last I heard you were going away for five years. Drugs wasn?t it?? Jake whispered the last bit.
?Yeah, I did two and then they let me out on good behaviour. And now I?m doin? a bit of wrestling and also a bit of work on the side.? He winked at Jake in a knowing way but Jake didn?t get the inference.
?I work with this doctor who supplies different athletes with their various pharmaceutical needs. I just take the scripts, get them filled and pass them along to the sore and needy?
?So you?re dealing again?? Jake asked in an almost sarcastic tone.
?No way man. Don?t be so crude. I?m just a delivery man now. Sure, I take a cut of the action but I?m just providing a service. And I get a hell of a discount too!?
This was the first point that peaked Jake’s interest. ?How good a discount??
?The free kind? Steve smiled. ?When you get back up north why don?t you give me a call. I?ll totally vouch for you and if you need a place to crash I?ve got myself a sweet duplex all paid for. Cash! Take my card and call me right away. You hear me Rocket Kid. Later?
With that Steve jogged off to his car, a flashy new Mustang that roared to life and tore off down the dusty rural road. Jake stood there for a moment looking at the card. What did have left to lose? He?d just driven hundreds of miles to get thrown around by his neck in front of twenty rednecks in a barn; dealing drugs couldn?t be any worse. Plus, with Alana gone, his Mom deserting him, and no chance of seeing his new born child, did it really matter if he went to jail? Jake knew he would call Steve as soon as he got back home. He slid the card into his wallet next to the two fifty dollar bills he had made that evening and hoped that those two would turn into a lot more really soon.