I woke up staring at the ceiling_ blurry banners hanging from the

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					       I woke up staring at the ceiling, blurry banners hanging from the barely distinguishable

catwalks. I felt like I‟d been hit by a train. I groggily sat back up staring at my hands, I couldn‟t

help but wonder what had gone wrong. I ran my hand through the now-crimson strings of hair to

find what could conservatively be described as the Grand goddamn Canyon in the back of my

skull. My hand came back into my view bloody. No surprise.

       Getting my skull cracked open with a piece of wood wasn‟t exactly my ideal way to

spend the evening, it wasn‟t unexpected either. It was what the people wanted, and it was

freakin‟ compelling. What wasn‟t part of the plan was me getting knocked out cold, but my

„opponent‟ wasn‟t exactly a master of hand-eye coordination. My vision started to come back

into focus and I could see him standing in the ring, arguing with the referee about the match.

       He rescued the match by drawing the fans‟ attention away from the fact that I was

legitimately knocked out. This match was an untelevised "dark match" before my real on-screen

debut. It wasn't of any real significance, but he still treated the match as if millions were


        He saw me stirring and climbed out of the ring, putting me in a headlock, close to him so

only I could hear his voice, his strong Irish accent made me wonder if he‟d ever been out of

Ireland outside of performing at our shows.

       “Y‟allright there then, Quinn? Took a nasty friggin spill, man.”

       “Yeah yeah, Roddy, I‟m alright. I think we need to wrap it up though.”

       “Fuckin‟ right, I need a smoke. And you need a damn doctor.”

       I grunted in response, and he knew what to do. Say what you will about Roderick

Brookes, my opponent for the evening. He might be an uncoordinated gorilla but he is a

professional gorilla, and probably one of the biggest names in wrestling as well.
        I broke his hold but he made me pay with an uppercut that made my jaw crunch and my

ears ring. That last hit clouded my mind and put me on autopilot. I could hear my heart and head

throbbing, but more than that, I could hear the wild boos of the packed local crowd. They hated

Roddy. There was so much heat in the room it was making me dizzy.

       I was absorbed in the crowd, forgetting myself as I got rolled into the ring and pulled to

my feet, with Roddy half a step behind me. I barely had time to react as he lifted me onto his

shoulders before sending me headfirst into his knee, for his patented finisher. The crowd

screamed in fury, as the sweat and bloodstained ring shook, and the referee counted the pin.

       Individual losses are as meaningless to wrestlers as a scripted death is to a movie actor.

It's all part of the game and what was important wasn't that you never lose, but that your losses

play some role. My role was to lay in the ring and look hurt, which wasn't hard considering I

probably had a concussion. The referee signaled for EMTs as my blood stained the already filthy

mat. They lifted me onto a gurney and carried me away. I decided to convulse a bit as they

strapped me down, putting on a good show for the fans, who were none the wiser. Of course I

really was hurting worse than I'd hoped.

       You see, in professional wrestling there are basically three kinds of guys. There‟s the

guys who don‟t hurt you, but everything they do looks unconvincing. These guys are amateurs,

they generally either get good or get lost. Second, there‟s the guys who know how to make it

look a lot more painful than it really is. These are really the ideal ones to work with, since they

have good matches and you don‟t end up mourning for your lost teeth. The last group is made up

of the guys who would be in the first group but they decided it‟s better if they actually hurt you

than take the risk of looking stupid.
       I was out of the hospital pretty quickly. The doctor wasn't a fan of wrestling, so he

wanted to get me out quickly, it seemed. It was a long drive back to my Hotel room, made longer

by intermittent periods of pulling over to throw up. Concussions will do that to you. Maybe I

should‟ve stayed in the hospital. But I had a debut promo to write for my first televised


       A promo is a televised segment where a wrestler or manager gets a microphone, either in

the ring or backstage, and basically has to make himself look good, his opponent look bad, or the

move along whatever story he was taking part in.

       More often than not a wrestler is judged largely on what he can bring to his character

through these segments. I was bent over, staring into the bile stained snow next to my rented

subcompact when I first truly began to think about what my first appearance on television was

going to be like.

       I thought of all the things I would say to sell my character to the fans as someone they

really could hate. I could hear the boos from my last match, echoing in my mind. The fans hated

Roddy and I wanted that heat for myself. If the fans hate you, they pay for the chance to see you

get what's coming to you, just like any weekly TV show.

       In the real world I was Quinn DeLarge, independent wrestling “star” and to my parents,

English major and college dropout. But to the mainstream wrestling world I was going to make

my debut as Alex Quinn, evil zealot and god-of-his-own-religion. He believed that the only way

for humanity to be saved was for him to personally beat and torture every human on earth. Kind

of a reverse Jesus thing.
       Of course envisioning the words you‟re going to say and actually making them sound

consistent with the image you‟re trying to create aren‟t the same thing. Anyone can write a good

segment, but having the intangible qualities to make your character believable are what make the

difference between failure and success. I only had four days to recover before it was time to film

the promo that would introduce me to the world. I could only hope I wasn‟t going to screw it up,

because guys who screw up have one fate. Losing. All the time.

        It‟s a fate worse than death for a wrestler. It‟s called “jobbing”. If you‟re a jobber, you‟re

the guy who the big names beat in a few seconds to look strong. Nobody wants to be that guy.

Individual losses are unimportant, but being used only to lose... it was humiliation. It was the

death of your credibility and usually a slow one.
        I watched my video begin on the TV, realizing millions of people could be watching my

speech at that very moment. I hoped I wasn‟t too high-brow for the typical fan, but at the same

time I was confident that I‟d have the smart fans‟ attention. Smart fans or “smarks” were your

typical 18-24‟s that watch wrestling, don‟t care if it‟s “fake” and recognize good writing and


        It was surreal watching the video. I barely remembered it, since we were forced to film it

before I was able to recover from my concussion. Watching it over again, I realized I‟d been too

wordy, though I guess it fit my character. Still, as I sat in the locker room watching my video on

the small television, I couldn‟t help but smile. I made it to the national spotlight with a character

of my own creation. I wasn‟t handed off a stupid gimmick character like so many “indy stars”

before me. I wasn‟t going to be a clown or pirate... both silly cartoonish characters I'd seen in

wrestling before. I was going to be my own character. In mainstream wrestling, this is pretty


        I thought of the backstory I'd come up with. My character's mother was a prison guard

who was raped, giving birth to him. This would probably not go over well with my actual

mother, who was an English teacher who probably had a few wrestling fans in her class. I didn't

have long alone with my concerns before that familiar Irish-accented voice interrupted.

        “Holy shit, Dean; did ya hear this guy on the mic?”

        Roderick came over from the other locker room with his good friend and frequent

opponent Dean Anderson not far behind. Roderick Brookes, whose errant swinging put me in the

hospital, was a somewhat tall, pale, Irish redhead, a bit doughy and not at all in good shape. But

behind the flab was some serious power and deceptive stamina considering how much he
smoked. His fat and smoking habit should‟ve made the things he does in the ring impossible, but

he‟d put on some of the best matches the fans had ever seen. Quite a few were with Dean.

       Dean, much better known by his ring name Darius Falcon, was the physically the

opposite of Roderick in many ways. He was somewhat shorter and in excellent shape with a

solid head of shoulder length jet black hair. Dean had been in the wrestling business much longer

than Roderick had, but they had so much chemistry in the ring you‟d think they‟d both had

decades of experience. The two seemed to ooze pure hatred for each other in the ring ever since

they first met in what was Roderick‟s debut. In real life, they were good friends as well as

driving forces in getting new guys like myself into the spotlight.

       They both wore huge grins as they congratulated me on “making it” and putting on what

they considered to be an excellent segment. Of course the actual words Roderick used were

mostly “Fuckin‟ great” “Badass” and a lot of other hyperbole, but Dean was more subdued. He

coached me on my interview skills through a lot of my early independent wrestling career and

seemed satisfied with the results. He shook my hand and nodded, which felt to me like even

greater praise than Roderick‟s rave review.

       It always amazed me that they could be such good friends considering their clashing

personalities. Roddy was wild. He drank, smoked, and openly did just about every kind of

painkiller on the market. He was too valuable to drug test, so management would often "lose" his

results. He didn't care much for his health, he just wanted to wrestle, no matter what the cost.

       Dean was a more quiet, reserved guy, like myself. He absolutely never drank and refused

to accept painkillers even after he cracked his skull in a ring accident. He works through the pain

by keeping in shape and tries to encourage the younger guys to steer clear of drugs as well,
without being too pushy. He already decided that Roddy is a lost cause and just accepts his

lifestyle, rather than risk their friendship or professional relationship.

        I sat and laced up my boots. My match was up next and concussion or not, I wasn‟t going

to disappoint my friends.
       Stephen Blacksmith fell rapidly to the bottom of professional wrestling for reasons I

could never understand. He was a relatively big name in the industry for a short while but his

career quickly took a drop out of nowhere. He was a jobber now and he was due to be my

character‟s first victim. I hoped his career wasn‟t a reflection of my future. The wrestling

industry is a fickle lady. Ugly too. And a bit of a skank.

        We had spoken before the match, for a few minutes, discussing how we could mesh our

styles to make sure the match impressed. The higher-ups had already instructed us that I was to

dominate the match so I would gain something of a “monster” image. The thought of my six

foot, two-twenty pound frame menacing anyone in the giant‟s world of wrestling was pretty

amusing. I understood what they meant and I knew I‟d demonstrate it in this match.

       Blacksmith hadn‟t even been given the dignity of a televised entrance, to the viewers at

home; he was out in the ring as soon as the commercial break ended. This was probably one of

the surest signs of your irrelevance in wrestling. When the director decides no one wants to

bother watching you head to the ring, it usually means the director has decided no one wants to

bother watching you do anything. At this point, any air-time you get is a drain on ratings and it‟s

all downhill from there. I saw him in the ring, stretching and warming up before I began. The

camera cut away from him to show a fan holding a sign that read “Die, Blacksmith, Die”. And he

was supposed to be a fan favorite.

       My entrance, on the other hand, was formidable. The intimidating sounds of a violent

violin music filled the air of the arena as dramatic blood red lighting bathed the entranceway. I

peeked out of the curtain that separates the backstage area from the ring and saw more people in

one place than I ever had before. The music began slowly but built up to a menacing pace as the
crowd grew angry, just at the thought of my appearance. The boos were deafening. This was a

good sign. Finally, when the music reached its loud, menacing, peak, I broke the curtains, eyes

on the floor as I walked down the entrance aisle. Each step felt labored and every nervous breath

I took made my body shake. I looked brooding and sinister, but the reality was I couldn‟t bring

myself to look at the massive crowd that had shown up for the event. The slow steps were

because I was almost terrified to get into the ring and wanted to delay things as long as possible.

I‟d felt like I‟d just walked a thousand miles by the time I reached the ring, finally looking up to

scowl at a nearby fan, not bothering to move the stringy hair from my face. I couldn‟t help but

think, That’s going to look great on TV.

        I finally climbed into the ring and stood across from Blacksmith, who was an

intimidating figure, trained in several martial arts. If this was a real fight, I‟d get slaughtered.

Blacksmith was a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter who left the sport because he could make

more money in Professional Wrestling. Before he was in wrestling for long, he'd suffered so

many injuries no doctor would dare clear him for an MMA fight. So here he was, ready to be

beaten and humiliated by a nerdy English Major who by some crazy act of a chaotic universe,

was beginning to build a career at his expense. He may have been a little bitter. Just a smidge.

        I heard the bell and Blacksmith took that as his signal to immediately trip me, sending me

face-first onto the ring mat. He moved with amazing speed putting me in some kind of kung fu

arm hold that bent my arm backwards into a position that it was never meant to reach. This was

bad. It was my first match and not only was I starting out behind, but Blacksmith was

legitimately hurting me. I was starting to lose feeling in my arm and decided I would

demonstrate what my character would hopefully become known for; wild brawling. I slipped my

arm from Blacksmith‟s grip and immediately hit him with a sharp right hand that forced him to
back off. I got to my feet and kicked him in the face as hard as I could. I thought I could feel his

jaw dislocating from the force. I guess I‟d kicked him too hard.

       Before he could recover, I decided I‟d make him pay for the shooting pain in my arm,

dropping on top of him and delivering a few more sharp right hands that felt as real as they

looked. I didn‟t give him a moment to breathe, sliding out of the ring, dragging him by the arm

from it and delivering a Russian Legsweep, putting an arm around his shoulder, and throwing us

both backwards into the guard railing outside the ring. It was a strategy I‟d learned in my early

days. If you cheat in a match to win, your opponent looks like an idiot for falling for your tricks

and you look like a coward for using it. Unless you like looking like a coward, or your character

is supposed to be a coward, this is not what you want. So I learned to fight dirty but stay within

the rules of a match so I don‟t look like I‟m afraid of my opponent.

       I‟d hurt Blacksmith with that last move and he looked pretty dazed, if there was one thing

I‟d learned from Roderick, it was that staying on your opponent without doing more damage was

the key to getting through times where someone was legitimately hurt. The problem was, a

headlock wasn‟t my character‟s style, so instead, I dropped down, slapping Blacksmith with an

open palm across the head a few times. It didn‟t hurt, but it looked like it did. The crowd

couldn‟t hear our exchange.

       “You alright, Steve? Your head took a pretty sick bounce off of that railing. Can you see


       “You wish could hurt me like that, boy. I‟ll live through it, so why don‟t you focus on

getting‟ yer image as Mister-badass-merciless-prick built up instead of bein‟ such a softy. We

got a match to fight.”
        Maybe it was my imagination but I think I sensed a bit of hostility as he shoved me away

and climbed to his feet. And I think I sensed more hostility when he started smacking my head

against the ring steps. I have an active imagination. I realized Blacksmith wasn‟t going to be

following the writers‟ instructions to let me dominate the match unless I got more aggressive. I

swallowed what pity I had for his ruined career and blocked one of his punches and decided to

take matters into my own hands. The rest of the match was all me, Blacksmith failing to get any

offense in at all.

        I was fairly confident I‟d put on a good match. I decided I‟d finish it with a big move that

defined my character pretty well. I lifted Blacksmith onto the corner, a common spot for match

finishes, since the height of the corner posts make it easier to lift an opponent and make the

moves look more painful without making them hurt much more. Blacksmith sat on the corner

with his back to the ring as I positioned myself back-to-back with him. I lifted him onto my back

by his arms, spreading them in a crucifixion-style position, holding him in the air this way for

just long enough to get the message across before bringing him down to the ground in front of

me hard. The impact sent him tumbling forward over himself and most of the impact seemed to

be directly on his head. The crowd roared at the impressive display. I crawled over quickly and

pinned him to win the match.

        I climbed to my feet slowly and got back into my calm and brooding character, doing my

best to show contempt for the fans with my expression. I managed to hold onto the contempt, as I

looked down at Blacksmith, who was motionless. A look of worry nearly crossed my face, but I

managed to mask it to avoid breaking character. I'd had ring accidents before, but that landing

was the worst I'd been a part of. Medical technicians rushed to Blacksmith‟s aid, placing him on

a stretcher, with a brace to immobilize his neck. He was heading to the hospital, and it was
because of my big finish. What could I do? I felt sick, I might have killed him. I stumbled

backwards into the corner of the ring and sat down, my arms resting on my knees as I thought

about the repercussions.

       I might have killed him.

       I moved the hair from my face. I couldn‟t break character.

       I might have killed him.

       I looked to the side, fans were staring, not sure what to make of my actions. I looked at

Blacksmith, who was thrashing wildly now. Was he fighting or having a seizure?

       I had to get out. I looked back at the fans, who screamed abuse at me for what I‟d done to

my opponent. I wondered where the “Kill Blacksmith” guy had gone to. He'd back me up.

       My gaze returned to Blacksmith who was being carried out of the ring on the stretcher

now, his eyes open, finally, but glassy. I looked at the fans behind me. I couldn‟t do this. I stood,

finally, watching Blacksmith go. What could I do? I couldn‟t break character. I laughed. Not the

kind of laugh that you let out when you hear a funny joke. The kind of laugh you let out when

your mind has twisted so far that it‟s snapped in two. Alex Quinn, religious zealot and

remorseless tormentor, was born. I was a success.
        I visited the hospital the next morning. The doctors wouldn‟t let me in the ambulance the

night of the match. I couldn‟t sleep the whole night. Every time I closed my eyes I saw

Blacksmith, laying in a hospital bed with a tube in his nose, finding out he couldn‟t walk. I woke

up. Closed my eyes again, and heard that he‟d lost use of his arm, and my eyes would shoot open

again. They were too heavy, and I dozed off for just another second, and the doctor would tell

him his lungs weren‟t functioning. Every time I tried to sleep it was a different diagnosis and it

was always my fault.. Can you die from insomnia? I wasn‟t sure, but after just one sleepless

night, I felt like I would.

        When you‟re a wrestler, the road is your life. You don‟t spend your “days off” at home.

You spend them signing autographs or trying to recover from the constant wear on your body. If

you own a house, you‟ll probably never see it. If you have kids, they won‟t even know who you

are. People say wrestling is fake, and if there is anything fake about it, it‟s the "real life" of the

wrestlers. I ate the free motel continental breakfast, after a sleepless night alone in someone

else‟s bed.

        I climbed into my rental car and drove the half hour down the unfamiliar road I‟d

probably never see again to get to the hospital that I‟d probably never visit again. You‟re not

attached to anything. Wrestlers live a portable life, surviving on fast food, 7-11, and whatever is

fast and cheap. It‟s hardly a glamorous existence.

        I finally pulled into the hospital parking lot, the piece of shit Ford Festiva I was driving

just barely able to make it up the ramp into the garage. At this point, I swear to everything that is

holy that if I ever get rich, I‟m going to buy a Festiva just so I can destroy the goddamn thing.

Maybe drive it off a cliff with the engineers who built it inside.
       Too bad the fantasy of killing the people responsible for what could roughly be described

as the worst car in history wasn‟t enough to take my mind off of why I was there. I was in a daze

as I entered the hospital, barely able to bring myself to speak to the receptionist, an icy blonde

with a European accent that I couldn‟t place. She directed me to Blacksmith‟s room. He was

recovering from surgery in Room 1408.

       I climbed the stairs to his floor and found the room without much trouble, but when I

walked in all I found was an empty bed and a nurse cleaning the room up. She turned to face me

as I opened the door.

       “Can I help you, sir?”

       “I‟m looking for Stephen Blacksmith, he had neck surgery and the receptionist said he‟s

supposed to be in this room”

       “I‟m sorry sir… he‟s already gone.”

       I felt my heart drop into my stomach. Had he died during surgery? Or after? Either way it

was my fault. I‟d killed a guy whose only crime was making the match look too good. I knew if I

hadn‟t taken his attacks personally, I wouldn‟t have even thought of trying to end the match that

way. But I was stubborn and had to hold onto my pride and now I‟d ended a man‟s life. I didn't

know what I would do. I couldn't leave wrestling, but at the same time, could I step into the ring

again, knowing I'd killed a man. The room seemed like it was closing in on me. All I had were

my thoughts until they were rudely interrupted by the voice of a dead man.

       "A bit ugly for a nurse, ain't ya?”

       Blacksmith? Impossible. The voice came from behind me, and before I had time to turn

and identify it, I felt my head slammed downward into the receptionist‟s desk. She slid

backwards in her rolling chair wildly as my assailant pinned my head to the desk. I swung wildly
for his gut, managing to catch him with a punch that knocked the wind out of him and forced him

to release his grip. I squared off, ready for a fight, before I saw the breathless, laughing face of

Stephen Blacksmith. He leaned on a cane, and had a surgery scar on his neck. More importantly,

I thought he was dead.

       ”You little shit, what‟re you doin‟ here? Wanna rub salt in my wounds? Well I don‟t have

any so you're shit outta luck, Rocky Road.”

       Rocky Road. He called me that because he said I was the flavor of the month. He said

that within a few weeks, no one will remember me. Of course I had another question. Before I

could ask, the nurse from Room 1408 answered it for me.

       “Ah, Mr. Blacksmith‟s returned. I told you to stay in bed, I'm tired of finding you gone

every time I come in.

       There really should be a law against saying "he's gone” in hospitals unless they mean

death. That shit is confusing. I felt relieved, until I realized I still had an annoyed and injured

Blacksmith glaring at me.

       “Steve. I‟m sorry about your neck. I got too into the match, and I fucked up the spot.

Jesus, I could‟ve killed you”

       “Ain‟t been wrestlin‟ long, have ya, Rocky? Botching moves is part of the job. You learn

to hit it right and you move on. I‟m not dead, and the doctors say I‟ll have full mobility in my

legs in a few months. You got bigger shit to worry about than visiting me here. Don‟t you have a

match again tonight? And a ten hour drive? Jesus... you got everything handed to ya and you're

still green as fuckin‟ grass. I worked my ass off in wrestling, and now I‟m bottomfeeding while a

bunch of untrained monkeys like you reap the benefits. Get your ass out of here, Rocky. I don‟t

want see your face again unless I‟m punching it in.”
       He didn‟t have to tell me twice. I had my first LIVE televised show today. There

wouldn‟t be any video editing to make the match prettier. If I didn‟t deliver, I‟d be where

Blacksmith was now. But I couldn‟t help but think what the point of it was. Retire at 30 or die at

40, that‟s all the wrestling industry was. I‟d bust my ass until my body gave out, and by the end

I‟d either be crippled, dead, a failure, or all three. So why wrestle?

        Because it‟s what I love. Some guys have wives. Some guys have porn. Some guys have

drugs. I wrestle. And it‟s all I want to do
       My match that night was a success. Another unfortunate soul, damned to the deepest

circle of wrestling hell for the most fatal sin, being unpopular. The match flowed more naturally

than my previous one, with no catastrophic injury to speak of, aside from my opponent‟s ego,

which probably had been suffering from a severed spinal cord and couldn‟t feel anything

anyway, after the beating it had taken from this industry and this company. This went on for a

few more weeks as I was being set up for my first major feud.

       Feuds, as the name would suggest, are storylines between wrestlers that build up a

rivalry, they can based purely on the matches, or be based on a more character driven storyline.

My first was going to be a simple one, with little in the way of anything that could be considered

unique or personal, but that‟s how it always begins.

       I felt confident that success was on its way and proud that I‟d gotten the fan reactions that

I‟d been seeking, but there was one thing I‟d felt more than anything. Sore. My body ached, the

nonstop schedule of working four or five nights a week was taking its toll much faster than I‟d

ever anticipated. Since most of my matches were easy and involved me taking very little in the

way of offense, my concussion healed fine, but my body still ached from the constant wear and

tear. In “real sports” an athlete will get benched, or have an offseason to recover before they get

really bad, but in wrestling you can‟t rest your starting pitcher because the fans are paying to see

him every night. I think it was Roddy that told me that wrestlers only have three vacation

destinations: the hospital, the unemployment line, or the morgue.

       I laid awake for hours, staring at the motel ceiling, desperately hoping the sharp constant

pain my neck and back would go away. My knees and muscles were so sore that I couldn‟t move

at anything close to a normal pace. The worst part about it was, I wasn‟t booked to have any time
off for a long time, I had three goddamn weeks of matches coming up until I could finish this

feud, and even then I wouldn‟t get any time off. I could barely get into bed, and I had a show to

do the next day. I was royally fucked. I looked to the clock. Twelve o‟ clock, flashing. Piece of

shit. My pay-as-you-go cell said 12:30 on its near unreadable screen. I‟d still get my eight hours

in if I could get to sleep I started soon… I started to drift off, my eyelids holding lead weights.

Just as I was off to a threesome with a couple of Asian nymphomaniac wrestling fans, a loud

sound jerked me awake. A crazy man banging on my door.

       “Quinn! Quinn! It‟s Roddy, open yer fuckin door, man!”

       “Roddy? What do you want? I‟m in bed, already... Are you fucking drunk again?”

       ”I‟m always drunk ya fuckin idiot, but that‟s not why I‟m here. I got somethin‟ for ya.

       It‟s important.”

       I sighed quietly, knowing I wouldn‟t be rid of him until I let him in. Slowly, I managed to

get out of bed, my whole body aching with every awkward step to the door. After what felt like

hours of listening to his relentless pounding on the door, I made it, swinging the door open and

catching a fist straight to the chest that sent me sprawling. He hadn‟t meant to do that, I assumed,

so I tried not to get too angry as I felt the hand grenades go off in my knees as I fell on my ass.

Even my ass was sore. Damn it.

       “Ya look sore as shit ya sorry bastid… but Santa Clause came early this year, ya lucky


       “What the hell are you talking about, Roddy?”

       With that, Roddy smirked down at me producing a bottle from his jacket pocket. I had

heard plenty of stories about what those brown bottles held. For wrestlers, they were like an

ancient cursed power, they took away your pain but they took your soul with it. I sighed, staring
at the bottle, rereading the label over and over as if I expected the contents to change into tictacs.

For treatment of extreme chronic pain. The bottle practically screamed it in my ear. Again. And

again. The pain in my body screamed back.

        It wasn't a fight I wanted to be in the middle of. Wrestlers who got hooked on painkillers

usually ended up dead or addicts. Not that I had much of a personal life to risk, I still wasn't too

enthusiastic about tasting the forbidden fruit. After a little deliberation I decided I could do it just

this once, and when my body was used to the daily wear and tear, it wouldn't be a problem. I was

a master at rationalization of terrible decisions.

        “Help me up and gimme a glass of water”

        ”Water? Fuck that, I‟ll do ya one better, Quinny.”

        Roddy smirked, a look I didn‟t like the implications of, producing a bottle of beer from

behind his back. In for a penny, in for a pound, they say. I took the beer from him, begrudgingly.

Now don‟t get me wrong, I know drugs and pills don‟t mix, and certainly not with pot, but if I

was planning to survive in wrestling, I couldn‟t be in constant pain. Roddy lit the joint, holding it

in his lips, grinning with those tobacco stained teeth as he passed me the other. I‟d smoked a bit

when I was in school, admittedly, but this was a whole different game. The pills, the beer, the

weed, it all mixed together and the pain melted away and everything was hilarious. After about

ten minutes of giggling, I looked up at the clock. 3 PM.

        “Wait, what the FUCK?”

        I looked over at Roddy and he was long gone, a spilled beer on the bed where he‟d been

sitting. I jumped to my feet in a panic. I had to be at the arena by 6, and my match was at 8. I was

going to have to haul ass if I was going to make the show on time. I practically floated to my car

with my bags, peeling out of the motel parking lot so fast that the smell of melted tire didn‟t have
time to reach my nostrils. I sped down the highway, my mind in overdrive now from being so

inactive for all that time, and my eyes started to dart all over the road, ready for anything.

       The whole monotonous trip should've taken 2 and half hours, but I‟d managed to cut

down to an even two. I managed to pull into the parking lot without crashing or killing anyone

and got geared up for my match early. My soreness was gone but it was replaced with something

else. Guilt. I‟d sworn to myself as long as I was a wrestler I would never be “that guy”.

       The guy who can‟t function without taking so many pharmaceuticals that his blood could

get you high if you cut him open. The guy who needed them to just to get out of bed. As much as

I respected him, I knew Roddy was that guy, and I didn‟t want to be too.

       But, that was the choice. Quit wrestling, which I could never do. I love wrestling more

than most people love their children. Damn little brats. It was sacred to me the way people held

their marriage or the bible sacred.

       Dope yourself up until your body can function. Pills, steroids, legal, illegal, you name

them and wrestlers use them to just get by. And I knew then and there, there was no other way

than Roddy's. Everyone did it. Well... almost.

       My mind wandered to Dean. His drug-free “straight-edge” character was more than a

gimmick, he lived it. I thought it over carefully, and remembered the fate of wrestlers before me.

Brian Pillman. Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit. Dead from a cocktail of painkillers and wear and

tear on their bodies. I wouldn‟t be another like them. I just hoped I had what it took.
       "Of course it hurts... it's always going to hurt like that. Or worse."

       I couldn't help but feel let down by Dean's words. I thought there was some secret

technique that let him work through the pain without drugs.

       "What do you mean? I can barely move, and I've been on a full schedule a few weeks.

You've been at it for years, and you do fine. "

       "I push through the pain, but that doesn't mean I can make it go away. There's no miracle

cure, Quinn. To do this job you have to deal with the constant pain. There's nothing but physical

therapy and willpower to help you through it."

       It wasn't the answer I was looking for, but why did I expect something different? If there

was some drugless miracle cure for pain, nobody would bother with the pills. I'd given in so

easily to the urge to use the drugs before... maybe there wasn't any hope of being like Dean.

       "You had the will to give up on school and get this far... I think you can make it without

drugs." Dean added. I hadn't mentioned them, but he knew the reason I was asking.

       I just nodded, not sure what to do now. I left the lockerroom and started to pack my

things to get ready to hit the road again. I sat in my cheap rental, ready to go, when my phone

rang. My eyes wandered to the screen hoping I wouldn't see that simple three lettered word that

can strike fear into any man. "Mom" the phone's screen warned. I reluctantly answered.

       "Heyyy... mom." I tried not to sound too disappointed in her call.

       "You need to quit this childishness."

       My mother had been trying to get me to quit wrestling and become a teacher like her.

After all these years she still didn't understand what it meant to me to be a wrestler.

       "Gee, it's nice to hear from you too. You know this isn't going to go anywhere, mom. I'm

not quitting until I physically can't wrestle again."
        I tried not to sound too impatient, but the night was growing cold, and I had a long drive

to the next show and only a couple of days to make it. We were going to be touring the south.

        "From the look of you that day isn't that far off... I saw the way you walked. I know when

my boy is hurt."

        She was using her sternest, most motherly tone that was nearly impossible to argue with.

I wasn't going to give in, but I couldn't fight her.

        "Mom... I know what I'm doing, okay?"

        "I don't want you taking those steroids or pills like those behemoths they talk about on

the news. That stuff destroys your mind and body, Quinn."

        "I know mom, I'm not going to do any drugs."

        "I just worry sometimes. I still remember when I found that pot in your sock drawer"


        "I mean it! I don't want you getting mixed up with that stuff!"

        "I won't, mom."

        "Good... don't betray my trust."

        She said it as if she still controlled my life. A lot of guys had wives and girlfriends who

nagged them about this stuff. I had my mom. It felt pretty pathetic.

        "I've gotta get on the road, I've got a long drive ahead. But it's really great to hear from


        "Drive safe, love. Pull over if you get tired."

        I sighed. Did she have to be such a mom?

        "Alright mom. I love you."
       I finally managed to get her off the phone. It was going to be a long, mindnumbing drive

to Georgia, where the next show was. Wrestling in the southern states was definitely a very

different experience than wrestling in the northeast, especially Philadelphia, where I got my start

in wrestling. Philadelphia had the smart fans, but also the most bloodthirsty.

       They were my favorite kind of fans, even if they could be brutally critical of anything put

in front of them. It‟s the “marks” that are the problem with the wrestling industry. It‟s marks that

put no-talent freaks of nature with no charisma in top positions because they love their T-shirts.

Marks are killing wrestling and make it seem like a joke. The south was full of them.

       This was going to be a real test for me. If I didn't get a lot of hatred from the southern

fans, it would mean I wasn't doing a good enough job as a heel, and I wouldn't last. I was

nervous, I felt like my character might be deeper than marks would be willing to understand.

       At least most of the trip would be on the highway, so it wouldn't be as bad as the long

winding local roads I'd get stuck with when I was touring. I pulled onto the interstate and headed

south, speeding toward what could be the end of my career.
                Backstage, I could hear the southern crowd going crazy for Gerard Marik, a

talentless young hack who'd climbed to the top of wrestling on luck and looks alone. He was the

sort of wrestlers whose only fans were women, idiots, and children. Unfortunately they were a

large enough demographic to keep him on top. He could work a passable match but he only

cared about himself, and his opponents always came out looking bad, because he couldn't sell


         I was slated to lose to him tonight, to begin a long feud that would culminate in a ladder

match. He was taking time off to do a movie, so they needed to write him out of the show, and

the final match of the series would end in him being "injured" so he could be offscreen. So I

would win the feud, even if it started with me losing.

         The moment of truth was coming. I heard my music hit as the crowd fell silent. I dragged

my feet as I walked out onto the stage, looking at the dead crowd. This was not good. In fact, it

was the worst possible outcome. I stepped into the spotlight, and immediately the place erupted

with furious boos, the full arena throbbing with hatred. It worked! They hated everything about

me, just like they should. I grinned, doing my best to stay in character and look evil, though in

reality, I was ecstatic. My heart pounded as I approached the ring, ready for the match, now that I

knew I'd accomplished my goal.

         The match was a fairly short one, with Marik getting a surprise pin after I was distracted

by an "angry fan" who was hired to play the role. I quickly assaulted him, showing pure

disrespect for the fan favorite in front of the packed house. I stomped him and spat in his face. It

was so good... it was so compelling. The fans were eating it up. I was a damn good bad guy.

Garbage started to come down from the stands, as the crowd grew more passionate. I decided it
would be best to end it now, sliding out of the ring and heading for the back as I left my

opponent to recover.

       It wasn't until after the match that Marik came storming into my dressing room, fuming.

He wasn't much of an intimidating figure, a bit smaller than me, looking like a tanned blonde

surfer boy, but he had power because he was popular, so he was a bit intimidating anyway.

       "What the hell was that?"

       "What was what?"

       "Did you HAVE to spit in my face? You made me look like a complete bitch, Quinn!"

       "I had to sell the beating, since you didn't want to take any big moves. The only way to

get heat without hurting you was to disrespect you. Not that you'd know anything about


       "Don't talk to me about psychology! You haven't been wrestling as long as I have...

you've only been here for about a month. You don't know a goddamn thing!"

       I shook my head. Was he that ignorant? I'd been wrestling since I was 18, in independent

companies, unlike him, who'd only been wrestling for about two years

       "I've been wrestling for six years... you've been wrestling for two."

       "You know those small time auditorium matches don't count. Wake up and smell the

coffee... nobody cares about independent wrestling!"

       Idiot... that's where a lot of the best get started.

       "Look... I don't like you, but don't question my psychology if you don't know what you're

talking about Gerard. We both know why you're successful, and it works for you. If this is going

to be painless for us, you have to trust me."
       "Like hell... I'll just tell management to cancel the feud. I don't wanna work with a smug

prick like you!"

       I stared him down for a moment. Was he bluffing? He needed a good feud, but not as

badly as me. He had a movie to support him. I decided to call his bluff.

       "Go ahead... see if they let you go do your movie if you aren't willing to put me over. Do

you want to dial? I've got my cell phone right here."

       I held it out, and suddenly his confidence began to fade. He stepped back a bit, as if the

phone was a gun.

       "Just... don't spit on me again. You made me look terrible."

       "Then learn to take some bumps."

       He just glared back, before walking out of the lockerroom.

       I finished getting into my street clothes. I wasn't needed for the rest of the show, so I

would be able to get to my hotel to rest early.
I was lucky, for once. I wasn't booked until the next televised show

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