The Rise and Fall of an Underdog #12
May 22, 2009
By: AJ Pearce of
Jake was two weeks into his month long stint in Winnipeg’s Prairie Championship Wrestling. And although it was only the first week of November there was already a foot of snow on the ground and the temperatures dipped to 20 below (Celsius) every night. Jake’s first international tour was anything but glamorous yet he was enjoying it more than anything he had ever done.
Big Ben, the promoter of PCW, was a jolly man with an abnormally large belly and an abnormally red face. He looked like W.C. fields with a sunburn. But Big Ben was one of the gentlest, most soft spoken individuals Jake had ever met; quite the contrast to the gruff demeanor of his former tag partner The Crusher. Jake felt welcomed in PCW and Big Ben had done his best to help him settle in. He found Jake a room to rent in a friend’s apartment and, unlike a lot of small scale promoters, paid Jake on time after every match. The apartment Jake was staying in was probably the most barren place he had ever seen. It took minimalist to the next level. But there was a bed for him to lay his head on (no pillow yet though) and a place he could call home for the time being.
Despite the frigid weather and bleak living conditions, Jake was there to wrestle and he threw himself into his work with every ounce of energy he had. PCW worked every Friday night in a small Winnipeg arena. Compared to what Jake was used to, the 400 plus strong crowds were a welcomed change. Jake was getting over with the Winnipeg fans and eating it up. But that was just Fridays. The rest of the week Jake was stuffed into a dilapidated old van with 6 to 8 other wrestlers with varying degrees of personal hygiene and traipsed around the frozen tundra of Manitoba. These trips ranged from quiet sleepy affairs to raucous, alcohol fuelled madness. And Jake, as the new guy, was the brunt of countless ribs. He couldn?t count how many pairs of boot laces he?d gone through or how much shaving cream ended up in every part of his gear. But it was all harmless fun and Jake enjoyed being one of the boys.
Once out of the van Jake found himself in Bingo halls, school gyms and community centers on Indian reservations. There was nothing glossy about rural wrestling road trips. Most of the places Jake wrestled in didn?t even have heat. You could see the steam rising from the sweating wrestlers and see your breath with every winded gasp. The style of wrestling was faster more out of necessity than style! But Jake was learning a lot from each match. He wrestled old school shooters who were as old as his grandparents and green young guys who were 120 pounds soaking wet and leapt around the ring like they?d forgotten their Ritalin. There were so many styles to choose from and Jake was using them all to form his own style and move set. His mat wrestling was just as important as his high flying and he was learning how to build a match and tell a story. And Big Ben was impressed.
?Hey kid? Big Ben near whispered to Jake one day. ?Just wanted to say great job. Chris was right; you?re a real up and comer.?
Jake tried not to blush ?Thanks Ben. I appreciate it.?
?Let’s try and get you out here for a longer tour in the spring. It?ll be warmer, I promise.?
Big Ben gave Jake a pat on the back that the Crusher would have probably laughed at and headed off. Jake wasn?t even through his first tour and he was already getting booked for his next one. He would gladly come back to Winnipeg in a second and knew that he would accept any offer from Big Ben. He?d learned so much and felt a real bond with the boys. His matches were improving and he was working the crowd like never before. All of this was great, but the main reason Jake would come back to Winnipeg in a second had nothing to do with wrestling; Jake had met a girl.
Her name was Allanah and she was a regular at the Winnipeg shows. Jake first noticed her as he ran to the ring one night. As he slapped hands with all the excited kids he saw her standing up against the barrier with her hand stretched out. He also saw that she was wearing one of the hastily made ?Rocket Kid? t-shirts that were being sold before each show. Jake had a fan, and she was hot! Jake approached on of the other wrestlers after the show and asked about Allanah.
?Oh her. Yeah she’s one of the regular ring rats. I don?t think anyone’s hit that yet though. Go for it brother.?
Jake knew nothing about Allanah but still felt like defending her honor and punching out the crude punk. He didn?t though, and searched Allanah out in the crowd of autograph seekers waiting outside the arena. Jake knew what a ring rat was and personally hadn?t had any dealings with these young ladies that lusted after wrestlers and fulfilled their wildest dreams. Deep down he knew that Allanah was different. He spotted her from across the crowd, they locked eyes and she sheepishly approached him.
?Nice t-shirt? Jake initiated as he tried to play it cool.
?Thanks. It’s just some little guy I saw wrestling.?
?Well, I don?t really know that yet.? She cut herself off and blushed. ?What the hell am I doing. That was a horrible line. I don?t usually do this. I just thought you were really cute and I ?m nervous and now I can?t shut up!?
Jake laughed. ?It’s okay. Do you want to go grab a coffee or something?? Jake had never been so nonchalant with a woman in his life. But his newfound quasi celebrity status was kicking in.
A bunch of the boys hooted and hollered as Jake headed off with Allanah. Jake simply flipped them the finger and headed off. They found an all night diner and drank burnt tasting coffee by the cupful. Sitting across from Allanah Jake was mesmerized. Her olive skin and jet black hair were probably due to the fact that she was half M?tis Indian like a lot of people in the area but Jake thought she was the most exotic looking woman he had ever met. They talked for hours. She was a university student studying political science and even did Greco roman wrestling in high school. She regularly attended the pro matches, at first with her now ex-boyfriend but now she went for the thrill of the sport. Jake listened more than talked and told her about himself as much as he could muster. The hours passed and then came the awkward moment at the end of the night. It wasn?t too awkward though as they happily headed to Jake’s apartment.
As they lay in bed together Jake sighed and held her close. They had both agreed that they didn?t want to go ?all the way? out of respect for each other. But just holding her meant so much to Jake. He had begun his journey in wrestling as a way to find something that was missing in his life; to feel complete. And in the few short hours he had known Allanah he was halfway to complete already.
Jake’s cell phone had been buzzing all night and he?d ignored it. As Allanah fell asleep Jake carefully reached across the room and picked it up. The display flashed ONE NEW VOICEMAIL. Jake pushed the button to retrieve it and soon felt all the blood rush from his face.
?Jake, it’s Mom. I?ve tried calling all night. I didn?t want to do this on the answering machine. I don?t know how to say this. Jakey, it’s your Dad. He died tonight. I?m so sorry honey. You should probably come home. Call me when you get this. I?m so sorry honey. Jakey, I love you.?
The message ended and so did Jake’s euphoric feelings. He had been riding such a high; both professionally and now personally. Everything was going so well and now it felt like it was crumbling down around him. Jake hadn?t heard from his father in years and hadn?t thought about him in half as long. With a beautiful, caring woman lying next to him he still felt more alone than ever. Jake’s tour was over. He was going home.