Variety keeps life exciting. When it’s raining it’s usually only a matter of time before the sun shines again and vise versa. Life is always going to throw you a curveball, and a changeup, and a slider, and a fastball. One has to make your mind, body and soul as thickly woven and dense as a catcher’s mitt, to absorb the brutal endless onslaught of uncertainty. I guess I’m being a little over-the top philosophical in the sense that luck (or an occurrence) in this situation is grandly exaggerated. Things will get better. Things will get worse.
Thursday started off as any other morning would. 3 parts oatmeal, 1 part protein powder, 1 part peanut butter and a dusting of cinnamon. I’m not exactly sure what constitutes a ‘part’ or if most meals make up 4-5 of these so called parts. I suppose when you never measure things regarding to food, portion consistency can be thrown out the door. Damn good breakfast though, and eggs of course. And coffee. And toast. Ketchup. I like eating in the morning, as well as in general. Okay, 6am, on the road for Tennessee. A Thursday night shot in Morrisville, about an hour and a half outside Knoxville. Thunderous, belligerent showers make the roads uneasy causing us to be behind for the start of the show. Ericules Wrestling Promotions, had to make a good second impression… ahem. Arriving late I missed my match and luckily got booked in the main event to tag with the local baby face “Menace” a large, black, masked wrestler who is quite talented. Upon talking to Menace I was shocked to learn he was 45 years old. He is unbelievable shape for his age and I pray to various gods and deities every day that I age as well as he has. Sitting in a desolate corner in the cramped dressing room a weathered pair of gentlemen slowly put on kneepads and lace their boots. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson are known to legions of fans as the ‘Rock-n-Roll express’, former NWA world tag team champions in WCW. Things always work full circle in wrestling it seems. Here I am, getting my start, a young and hungry (relatively) injury free supple young lad. The same dressing room as a broken beat and scarred duo of men, living paycheck-to-paycheck continuing their passion, their love of the squared circle. I have the upmost respect for these guys, I can relate and learn so much from these pioneers of the sport.
Menace and I worked a match vs. Tony Kozina and Davey Richards, and tore the house down, Ericules was pleased. Although a man with a giant capital ‘E’ shaved into his chest, pink makeup, pink wig, arm covers and pom pom’s hanging from his trunks, he may have just been overall pleased for reasons beyond our control. He offered for us to crash at his house, which we graciously accepted. Upon arrival it was apparent he lived in a house with his wife and children and younger brother, a family man. Just shows how far of a spectrum a wrestling gimmick can help one to get away from their normal life, a weekly escape from reality, drug free.
I wake up trying to swallow. My throat is swollen and my nose is plugged. Sick, great. Luckily just on the right side of my face, my glands are swollen, so if I stick to drinking fluids on the left side of my mouth I should be okay. No such luck. We begin our drive to Dayton, Ohio, which should be about 5 hours. Tony suggests a shortcut, which takes us through ‘Deliverance’ back roads Tennessee, and eventually gets us to Ohio. Traffic and gridlock makes the potential to be late for the start of the next show. I grow increasingly nervous at the thought of missing my Ring of Honor debut.
Ring of Honor is the premier wrestling company in the United states, and by that I mean ‘wrestling’ company. WWE and TNA on a grand scale are much more elaborate and mainstream; however it’s all a movie. Grand larger than life characters, storylines and production values have taken what the sport was built off of and sent it spinning in a whole new direction. It’s not about the wrestling anymore, there is barely any wrestling on their shows. Ring of Honor was built off competition and hard working wrestlers providing standout matches for a loyal, cult like fan base, Much like ECW was in the late 90’s. Needless to say, I am grateful, excited and nervous for the opportunity to wrestle here and fulfill one of my major goals for getting into the sport in the first place.
‘Jump around’ by House of Pain erupts on the stereo and a smirk graces my face. I take a final gulp of water, crack my neck and enter through the hanging black curtain alongside Tony Kozina, my tag team partner. I have never tagged alongside Tony before, yet at this moment, my mentality had to be that were a well oiled tandem machine bred for the destruction of everything, possibly sent back through time? I hadn’t decided yet, but we were badass. Seas of faces mesh into one and the sound of the crowd dims, as they clearly have no idea who I am. “Who the fuck is this guy” is literally the first thing I hear. Enter the Bravado brothers, two brothers who look so nervous and shaky that the wind will send them fluttering from branch to pavement like a leaf. Our victims. “Put your working boots on” Tony says to me, staring me in the eyes. I knew he meant this is where it counts. We work a decent match and I go over on one of the brothers after an elbow smash in the corner followed up with a running Yakuza kick. He kicks out right into an ankle lock. The crowd that didn’t know my name are now clapping for me and cheering us on. “Jump around” ensues and I bust out my flawless ‘running man’ dance move, much to Tony’s disapproval. We did it. We entertained.
Saturday arrived quickly and it was time for my second chance to impress in the ROH setting. Chicago ridge Illinois, one of the companies more successful places to run. I walk in expecting another shot on the pre-show, I am notified by an agent that I have been bumped up to the main show. I must have done something right the night before. 6 man mayhem, Kyle O’reilly vs. Silas Young vs. ‘Sugarfoot’ Alex Payne vs. Rasche Brown vs. Sal Rinauro vs. Grizzly Redwood. I’ve never set foot in front of a crowd so large, demanding and rowdy. I’ve dreamed about it though. After 10 minutes of high risk dives, timely false finishes and sheer dominance by Rasche Brown, I make my exit clutching my neck and selling to the crowd, absolutely the biggest rush and most fun I have ever had came from performing that night. I came back through the curtain confident in knowing I did what I had to do. I didn’t rush or get flustered. I hit all the spots I needed to hit, I wasn’t selfish in thinking I needed to get this move in or do that cool thing, All I did was sell well and make everyone else look as good as possible. I’ll get my chance to shine I needed to solidify that opportunity first. Feeling’ great.
After changing, I begin watching the remainder of the show from the backstage monitor. I look beside me and there is an older, battered and gray man sitting beside me. He is worn, yet has a youthful abundance to him and an aura that is spreading like disease from across the room. Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart was one of my all time heroes’ growing up. His matches I have studied endlessly, from his work in Stampede to his legendary run in WWF. He looks to me, and his eyes study my face with an unrecognizing yet dignified approach to knowing I’m about to pick his brain for everything it’s worth. I introduce myself and shake his hand. He needs no introduction. For the next 25 minutes I ask him every possible question I can think of while my mind is racing to continue the conversation and prevent any possible awkward silence. I want to tell him that the first time I saw him win with the sharpshooter I grabbed a pair of pants and practiced recreating the move until I had it down. Or while watching his match with Davey boy Smith at Wembley stadium I re-created the entire spectacle vs. a pillow. I was Bret. I decide to ask him about working heel instead, smart move. Stories from his past engulf my ears and invade my imagination. Many of which come strait from his autobiography, but hearing them in person relays such an authentic feel. He explains his departure into the United States for the first time. A customs agent inquires the reasoning for his entry, in his best impersonation of his father, the legendary Stu Hart, “He’s American, let him in” a scratchy, bitter voice suiting of Stu. It was time for Bret’s in ring appearance and the classic guitar rift hits the speakers and 1200 some odd fans lose their minds, as well as my self, (my mind losing being much more subtle). I felt 10 years old again, hearing Bret’s music running around the house flickering light switches on and off in excitement. He thanks the fans of Chicago and the fans of ROH for supporting such an expanding company. He walks to the back area, and seemingly disappears from the building as quickly as I had noticed him sitting beside me. I wanted to thank him, but I missed my chance, for the time being. His saddened, knowledgeable eyes smothered in wrinkles of wisdom make me think about the wrestling business as a long-term endeavor, in both the positive and negative lights.
The drive home was tiring. Stopping at a gas station, Tony and I bear witness to a beautiful site as a lady drives away from the gas station minus removing the gas nozzle from her tank. Notable sites and sounds from the road are what make the long, painstaking drives worthwhile.
A ONE ACT PLAY
TONY: Mmm Mmm, I got me some fried chicken gizzards.
KYLE: FCG? That’s disgusting Tony.
TONY: My momma used to make the sweet delicious geeezards all the time, I’m praising Jesus Christmas every time I find these gems at a gas station.
KYLE uneasily eyes the fried contorted pieces of black meat emerging from a greasy cardboard container.
TONY: Here, try one; they got a nice crunch to em.
TONY reaches the container towards KYLE as he reluctantly accepts the foreign American delicacy. KYLE bites a small corner off the chunk of gizzard, face of disgust and an exaggerated chew of a rubbery substance.
KYLE: What is a gizzard anyway, that red wobbly thing that hangs from a Turkey’s neck?
TONY: These are Chicken gizzards.
KYLE: I think it’s called a wattle.
As TONY enters car, KYLE turns to garbage can (stage left) and spits the remaining gizzard into the trash and continues a fake chew, entering car.
KYLE: Mmm gizzards.
TONY: I know, right.
END OF ACT I
Enter Monday morning. Davey and I return to Absolute martial arts for an ass kicking Muay Thai/ Jiu-Jitsu session. After a strenuous kickboxing session I am my usual soaked-in-sweat self beginning Jiu-Jitsu. We practice a seatbelt maneuver that brings the attacker locked into your guard, which leads to one getting a double under hook, into various submission attempts. We begin a rolling session. I hold my own as per usual and avoid any scenario of getting tapped out. Three 2-minute rounds changing opponents every time. I finally get to one of the pro-fighters of the gym. We begin and my inexperience and eagerness to attack gets me suckered into a triangle choke attempt, which I avoid. He’s slick and sly however, altering to an arm bar attempt which I roll out of into a standing position I lose grip of my anchor and I am caught in the most pain excruciating moment in recent memory. “TAP” I yell to no avail, “FUCK, LET GO!” at least that’s what I remember of it. What seemed like an eternity was probably more like 1 second (one-one thousand). I run clutching my arm headfirst into the cage and storm off the matt, elbow dangling in a gruesome fashion. Hyperextension of the elbow, for obvious reasons is a serious injury, and I’m pretty freaked out at this point. This relates to my opening paragraph, as to when things are going well, all it takes is one instant, in the final round of a workout to slip up and get caught in a trap. I’m not angry, just disappointed in myself. I think of when I tore my knee, the pain and the result, no wrestling for 4 months. Being optimistic had never been so difficult.
Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. RICE. I guess all I’ve been consistent with is ice. I’m too stubborn to take any time off. As it stands now, the elbow is severely bruised and full range of motion is still incapable. However I am fully confident it is not a serious injury. The progress it has made the last 2 days alone has comforted me greatly. A couple beers while losing my hearing at the Motorhead concert also helped me deal with the situation. 5 days later, full range of motion is there and I have begun weight-bearing exercises again. The only pain is when I walk elbow first into a doorframe, which shockingly happens so frequent it’s mind blowing. Wrestling tomorrow night again in Chicago (Saturday the 29). C’est la vie.
This post has gotten longer than hoped, I feel sorry for anyone who has taken the time to read this anti-climatic piece of work. It hasn’t really gone anywhere and been preachy with a lesson. I guess I learned from this situation, (don’t stand up in an arm bar). But as far as teaching others from my mistakes, I would recommend keeping nose to the wind and always pushing forward. Things happen for a reason, bad or good, however who even determines what bad or good is. I guess that is a perceived value to be decided by one’s upbringing and morals. Until next time, keep living, laughing and loving. K
1 Comment so far
Leave a comment