Ricky stood in the wings behind the black curtain, waiting for his entrance music: the boom of a kick drum; the filling rattling bass; the crunch of fuzzed out guitars. His ears were tuned for the cue, though at this point in his career, it was almost unnecessary. After nearly two decades worth of matches, his body knew what to do, could take over and run the whole show without his say-so.
Good thing, too. The man’s mind was nowhere near the tiny mining planet GT-538X. It was back on Earth, at home with his wife and infant daughter. A small, holographic image of his family glowed blue from the projectors in his wrist guard. The picture was only two months old, but he wondered how much his daughter had grown in that time, how many milestones he’d missed while traveling system to system to grapple, toss and be tossed around the squared circle.
The deep baritone of the ring announcer echoed through the civic auditorium’s PA, and the man pressed a button on his wrist, causing the projection of his family to disappear.
“And now, folks, the match you’ve been waiting for all night.”
The ensuing noise of the stomping feet, clapping hands, and hollering voices of 5,000 miners and their families became a wave rising and crashing toward shore, and then the music cut in, and Ricky burst through the curtains onto the metal catwalk, already mouthing the insults and challenges he’d hurl on his walk to the ring.
He paused for a moment at the top, flexing his muscles, sneering at the crowd, and drinking in the juggernaut of ire lobbed in his direction. He smiled with satisfaction in knowing that the promo he’d cut that morning–the one where he’d insulted his opponent and anyone else who called GT-538X home– had done its work. These people hated him.
“Please welcome today’s challenger, standing at 6’3″ and weighing in at 260 pounds,” the announcer continued, “RICKY ‘RAW’ STILLWALL.”
The jeers intensified, followed soon after by showers of beer and pop, and hail stones of popcorn. Ricky slapped at the projectiles as he began his saunter toward the ring. He berated the audience and rushed toward the steel barrier. He raised his arms from time to time as though readying to deliver a backhand, before glaring and stalking away.
“With a career spanning nearly twenty years on Earth, and now a few months in the Intergalactic League, Ricky Raw is no stranger to the mat. In that time he’s amassed a record of 105 wins, 140 losses, two tag team championships, and one intercontinental title.”
Ricky arrived ringside as the announcer finished his intro, and traveled the perimeter, giving those with the front row seats more of the vitriol he’d shown on his walk. He knew he’d riled them up just enough when more than one spectator, fellas who’d perhaps had one too many of the auditorium’s overpriced beers, tried to take a poke at him.
Ricky knew just how far to push an audience. That’s why he was one of the best heels and mechanics in the business. His equal parts aptitude for pissing an audience off and technical knowledge always made the baby face look good, always made for an exceptional show. And that’s all Ricky “Raw” Stillwall ever wanted in his career as a professional grappler, to tell a good story. And maybe pick up a fan or two of his own along the way. In any crowd there’d bound to be someone who’d root for him.
But that’d become an insurmountable challenge back on Earth. As he’d gotten older–and at just shy of 40, it wasn’t really that much older–Ricky’d had trouble finding work. The younger folks in the game were all about the extreme, the ultra violent, making their trade in sadism. Did he need to be clocked in the head by a bat covered in barbed wire? Did he need to take a staple gun to his chest? Did it make sense to smash someone’s face into a pile of tacks? Hell no. Where was the showmanship? Where was the skill? Where was the story? Because he couldn’t get with the program, Ricky’d been signed to a year-long contract with the off-planet Intergalactic League. Three months in, and all he wanted to do was get back home to Lucia and the baby.
Inside the ring, Ricky bounced off the ropes a few times to check the tension, before climbing each of the four turnbuckles and mugging the crowd. After intimidating the ref, he settled into his corner and waited for the baby face, whose intro music had replaced his own.
The announcer rumbled back in. “Please welcome next, your reigning Intergalactic League Champion, standing 7’2″ and weighing in at 305 pounds, CHLAROH PTROLEX!”
Chlraroh emerged from behind the curtains to cheers and whistles. He beamed at the audience and raised a single fist in the air. The crowd began to chant, “Chlaroh, Chlaroh, Chlaroh,” and the champ pumped his fist in time. As walked down the catwalk, he pointed a long reptilian finger at Ricky and nodded his head. Ricky stifled a yawn.
Ricky liked Chlaroh. They’d had lunch earlier that day after choreographing the match that morning. The champ was young, and it showed as he forgot some of the match’s key sequences, but he showed a lot of promise. It seemed as though the League was looking for the trajectory of his star to continue skyward. Ricky was only too happy to help.
Chlaroh leapt to the apron and then over the top rope, then beelined for the center of the ring. Ricky took his time.
As the two opponents stared each other down, the ref pretended to lay out the rules. In between regulation patter, he slipped reminders for the first few exchanges of the match, then sent the grapplers back to their corners.
Seconds later the bell rang to start the match and the two combatants locked up.
As they moved through the choreographed sequences, Ricky played his part to perfection. He was sinister in his actions, taking every opportunity to pull dirty tricks, and take cheap shots. And whenever he was hit, he transformed his face into a mask of excruciating pain.
And throughout the match, he helped Chlaroh, relaying instructions when the young champ seemed lost: Wait a three count then move to the suplex…I’m going to send you to the ropes, duck twice, then clothesline me…When you send me into the turnbuckle, let me sit for a five count before you charge…I’m going to toss you out of the ring in two. Once we’re both outside, you knock me out, then climb back in. I’ll let the count hit nine, then climb back in. Finishing moves after that.
Back in the ring Ricky initiated his finisher, catching Chlaroh with a boot to the gut. When the kid’s head lowered, Ricky grabbed him in a reverse lock, then dropped him with a DDT. He rolled Chlaroh over for the pin, and waited for the ref to count. On the cusp between a two and three count, Chlaroh kicked out. When Ricky approached, Chlaroh swept his legs out from under him, and put him in his finishing move, the Ptrolex Arm Bar. Ricky heard one of the ringside announcers lose it, screaming the name of the move into the microphone, as he felt his right arm wrenched behind him.
After a ten count, the plan was for Ricky to tap out, but in that moment, he decided to amend the plan. He gave his shoulder a hard twist, and felt something in his arm break apart. While pain enveloped his limb and his mind, Ricky heard the bell ring, and the ref call the match for Chlaroh.
Later in the locker room, as the doctors set Ricky’s arm, Chlaroh apologized, asked him what the hell happened out there.
Ricky looked at him and smiled around the pain shooting through his busted arm. “Wasn’t your fault kid. Nothing to be sorry for. I just wanted to go home.”