The Grudge Match This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 22, 2013
By , Selinsgrove, PA
It was a cold winter night; the snow was glistening on the ground outside of the arena. Our coliseum didn't have much heating, so we warriors were forced to fend for ourselves. I was sitting in the locker room on a bench, waiting for my turn. I could hear the crowd chanting, “Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!” I knew the last match had ended when I heard the masses roar in unison, some hissing and booing, others screaming with joy. Still others were handing money to the person next to them because they had lost a bet. It was very much like a Roman coliseum.

As the wounded warriors came back down the ramp, I congratulated my friend Chuck for putting on a good match. Our small crowd of die-hard fans didn't go crazy like that often, and when they did, you knew that you had done an amazing job.

I had about fifteen minutes until I was on. I was the semi-main event. As I waited through a promo and a TV-title match, I could feel myself tense up. I wasn't used to performing in public yet. Maybe if I took a nice warm shower, the steam would calm me down. But no, it would take too long to put all my gear back on. I was trapped. I was scared of performing in front of a crowd, but I was also scared of chickening out. I went to talk to DJ, my friend, coach, and booker.

DJ was standing by the lockers, talking to my opponent, El Loco, who had nearly 10 years on me, and was six-foot-eight. Tonight was my debut match, and I couldn't have been more nervous. It was my fault, though. I had hyped it up too much; I should have kept my big mouth shut. ­Instead I called out Loco three times, demanding a match. And not just any match, but my “specialty,” a street fight.

I shook Loco's hand, then turned to DJ and did the same. You wouldn't have known it looking at me that I was terrified. Loco was a beast, and I was not even 5' 10". This match was going to hurt.

Five minutes until I was on, and Loco left to get himself into character, and I did the same. The conversation did little to calm my nerves. I could hear the crowd chanting, “Tables! Tables! Tables!” I knew that by the end of the night, one of us would be put through a table.

I was sitting on the bench, trying to become the most defiant and ignorant character in the world for my match. I was getting there – until I heard Loco's music blare. It was traditional Mexican fiesta music, not intimidating for those who weren't fans of the promotion I worked at. But to fans and athletes alike, that song was terrifying, because it was synonymous with tables. The Mexican patriot who loved tables (or putting people through them, I should say) was about to go to war with Hollywood's top gangster, me.

I heard my song, “Undead” by Hollywood Undead, blare through the sound systems, and I charged through the curtain into the sea of fans. Many were taking pictures of me. I paused at the top of the ramp and closed my eyes to take in the moment. The loud music did little to block out the chorus of boos and chants of “You suck.” I flashed my ­character's trademark grin and began shouting insults and profanities at the audience. I had asked DJ to poll our audience on who was the most hated man in the company. Even though I had only been doing promos for three months, and had never even wrestled a match, I was positive I'd be in the top three.

I strutted out, yelling random insults at the audience, but I never stopped locking eyes with Loco. Some thought this was for dramatic effect, but I was also seeking some sign from him that I would walk away from this match in one piece.

I climbed through the ropes into the ring and stood in my corner. I was doing my best not to look like the frightened little boy I was on the inside. You idiot! I thought. Why did you put yourself into the most dangerous match, against the most dangerous guy, and not even for a title? I had no answer, and then I heard the bell ring.

I jumped out of the ring immediately. My character was a coward. By now the butterflies in my stomach were gone; I had to be the worm. When El Loco came after me, I jumped back into the ring and back out again. Then I decided that a game of tag for thirty minutes wouldn't be entertaining, so I purposely let him catch me.

His locker room reputation of being the most painful wrestler was definitely proven to me beyond a shadow of a doubt. El Loco proceeded to throw me around the ring – clotheslines, suplexes, the whole nine yards – before he ­finally let me go.

I slid out of the ring, holding my chest. Good Lord, I thought, twenty-five more minutes of this? I ran behind the announcer's table to get away from him, but he kept coming. I was trying to signal that I needed a breather, but I realized that was all in vain.

So I decided to turn the tide. I picked up a chair and hit Loco in the gut. I watched him cringe on the ground, and then I planted him on the back. I ran up on the apron and hit him with a moonsault from the ropes. I then ran back into the ring, waiting for him to get up.

The match seemed endless and insatiably brutal. I was thrown onto a ladder from seven feet in the air, I was thrown over the top rope, and I was power-slammed onto a metal chair. Likewise, I beat him with kendo sticks and baseball bats, knocked him through a table, and hit him with an onslaught of aerial maneuvers.

Then I received the signal to end the match.

I ran into El Loco, and he lifted me up and slammed me onto the mat. He obviously hadn't seen the signal. I tried to tell him as he lifted me again, but before I could, he gave me a spine buster. The referee had to tell him that the match was ending. Then he knew what to do, and as he lifted me up he whispered, “Sorry, bro,” in my ear.

He picked me up and power-bombed me through the table – his signature move. I felt the sharp pain of splinters in my back as the ref counted, and when the bell rang, the crowd erupted. I didn't know what was happening. For a second, I thought they were outraged at a horrible match and were going to riot to try to get their money back.

I hobbled my way backstage, ever wary of a fan attack. Inside the locker room I was met with uproarious applause from my coworkers. “Great match, kid.” “Amazing.” “Not bad for a rookie.” I was suddenly the most popular person.

DJ did poll the fans, but not on who was the most hated man in the company. He asked the audience which was the best match of the night. My match with El Loco took the cake! It was an amazing feeling. I was floating on cloud nine.

It felt great, even though I was sore. I took pride in my injuries. As I hobbled out of the arena, I was swept up by a swarm of fans trying to get my autograph. I ran to my car.

Driving home, I was practically cheering. Despite being sore, I felt better than I had in years. I had fans. I was somebody, at least in their eyes. This was what I wanted.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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