Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Route 69 S101: Arlington VA (Part 1)

"Ben, Ben, Ben. I can't believe you're really doin' this."

"You mean we're doing this."

"Nah, I can believe I'm doin' it. What do I got to lose? It's you that's takin' the big leap, dude. You're the one chuckin' the good life away. Quittin' yer job. Sellin' everything except for this sweet ride and two suitcases. Travelin' the country. We’ve been friends forever and this is the craziest thing you’ve ever done. Shit, it's the only crazy thing you’ve ever done."

I laugh, "Well, Jeff, believe it. Say goodbye to NYC, because we're out of here."

"Awesome, dude. First, I need to swing by the construction site."

"Sure. You forget something?"

"Kinda. I still gotta quit."


Jeff tells me, "Sorry, buddy, but I was sure you'd chicken out."

"No way, not after the year I've had. I've thought it through and this is the right decision for me. My trip to L.A. only confirmed it. Meeting Cody and hearing about his life and how he’s living out his fucking dream, it inspired me. I need that kind of freedom. I want to love what I do and that means escaping my old life and doing ... something else."

Jeff nods as we pull into the job site, "I hear ya, man. So, after I get done quittin’, where to?"

Instead of answering, I say, "You go do what you have to do then we can talk plans over breakfast."

Jeff hops out and heads in to the trailer to see the foreman. As I lean back in the driver's seat of my last major worldly possession, my dad's perfectly restored 1958 Corvette convertible, I can't help but think about Jeff's question. Where to? Where am I going? Is it crazy, jumping in a 55-year old car, trying to find myself? I’ve got no real plan. No idea what I hope to find or where.

My car and now only tangible possession

As I wait on my best friend to quit the only job he's ever held for more than a few months, I wonder if I'm being selfish by dragging him into my midlife crisis. Or whatever this is. Is it even possible to have a midlife crisis at 25? It's not a nervous breakdown, I'm pretty sure of that. But after my dad's death last year, I've just been feeling … itchy. Is that a thing?

My father worked his whole life in the same high-pressure job. He was successful and made a lot of money, but I don't know if he was ever happy. If he was, I never saw it. Maybe when he was taking care of this car, but even this was more about obsession than joy. People joked that he loved this car more than anything. Except to me, it wasn't a joke, it was my reality. Only way I would ever see my father is if I helped him with this old thing, which is why I kept it. When he had a fatal heart attack at 51, he died without ever saying he loved me.

I'm sure as hell not going to live the same way. I’m going to be happy. And love. And live. Of course it’s easy for me to say. Thanks to my dad’s life of sacrifice, money's not an issue. No family tying me to NYC. I can actually do this. Be shiftless. Find myself. But then my mind comes full circle and I think about Jeff again. Oh Jeff. What am I dragging you into? I didn't ask him to come along, but he insisted. Said he wouldn't let me do this ... whatever it is ... alone. I'm glad for the company, but should I have just taken off? I suddenly feel responsible for him, when this trip was supposed to be about having no responsibilities.

Who am I kidding? I could never do that. Jefferson Case is the closest thing to family I have. He's been my best friend since we were kids. It’s weird how we’ve stayed friends, in spite of evolving into opposites in so many ways.

My best friend, Jeff
We've always been from opposite sides of the tracks, so to speak, but as kids it didn’t matter. I’m what they called book smart, he’s street smart. I'm all gay, he's mostly straight. I'm social, he's a loner. I did a Master’s degree, he scraped out a night school high school equivalency. I'm Madison Avenue, he works odd jobs. I think too long, he acts too quickly. On and on, but it doesn’t matter. I never had a brother, but I can’t imagine how I could be closer to one.

Jeff races out of the office, waving a check. He has a big smile on his face as he hops in my car like a kid on the last day of school.

Jeff says, "I told’em how yer going nuts …”


“… and BAM, they paid me, no hassle, and even said I was welcome to come back if we get back to town. Woo! Breakfast is on me, buddy!"

I don't say anything, I just stare at him for a minute.

Jeff looks at me quizzically. "What?"

"Nothing. I love you, buddy."

"Yeah? Well then breakfast’s on you."

"You got it."

Arriving in Arlington

Eight hours later, we're cruising into Arlington County Virginia. It’s only a three-hour drive, but we stopped at every little tourist attraction we could find, taking back roads, getting lost and just enjoying our newfound freedom. Add in breakfast, lunch, gas and nature breaks … eight hours.

Over breakfast, we decided to head to DC to check out our nation's capital. It’s a great city, but expensive to live in for an extended period. I’ve got the money to front the trip, but it’s not like I can put us up in a suite at the Ritz every night. Jeff wouldn’t like that, anyway. So we landed in Arlington. It’s still pricey, but I found a reasonable extended stay hotel with two bedrooms, kitchen and living room. It’s near a grocery store and some cool looking bars. We found a real gym on the outskirts that’s accessible by car or transit. I say real gym, because both Jeff and I go for no frills, old school setups over fancy meat markets. We roam the area, looking at the people, restaurants and shops in our new home. We have no idea how long we'll be staying, so we want to get familiar with the landscape.

A couple of days later, I arrive at the gym for my morning workout. Jeff went ahead, but I don’t see him when I enter the gym. He must be around, so I get changed then head out onto the floor.

Me, getting ready. Now where's Jeff?

As soon as I exit the locker room, Jeff comes running up to me across the gym. He's got a big smile on his face. "Dude! You'll never guess what."

I pause. Okay, Jeff was here alone for the last 20 minutes. I realize that this might not be good. I slowly say, "Okay, what?"

"I got a job."

I relax, but ask, "Here?"

"No. Kind of. Wait, what? I got the job here, but not to work here. Those guys over there. You know what they are?"

Jeff's new friends ...
"Oh. Muscular. Smoking hot. Totally fuckable. Shit, you found me two new boyfriends."

Jeff drops his head. He says, "Dude, you need to get fucking laid."

I put up my hands. "We all couldn't be lucky enough to find a perky little hotel desk clerk to fuck on our first day here." Jeff smiles broadly, proud of his conquest. I get us back on point, "So you're saying those two studs aren't for me?"

"No! They're pro wrestlers."

"I like pro wrestlers."

"Dude, be serious. They work for a local fed –Championship League of American Wrestling or some shit like that. It spells out CLAW. Local, super small, in bars and shit. But it's legit. I googled it. Anyway, they're gonna get me a tryout. Tonight!"

"Seriously? You want to wrestle pro again?"

"Yeah, why not? I was good. You know I was good."

"Yeah, you were great, but it's been two years. And last time didn't end so well. Something about wasting years on political bullshit? I seem to remember you punching the promoter in the face?"

Jeff smirks, "He fuckin' deserved it. But this is different. I'm older. More mature. And it's just for fun, until we move on to wherever's next. I never stopped trainin’, man. I brought all my fuckin’ gear along, might as well use it."

"Well, congrats, buddy. That's awesome." We hug then I insist on going with him, even though these guys offered Jeff a ride. He introduces me to his new friends, Mitchell and Eddie. I’m pretty sure Eddie is checking me out, but I decide to hold off pursuing anything, for Jeff's sake. At least until he has the gig.

Jeff's Tryout

The CLAW gym is not in Arlington, but in a neighboring industrial area that has seen better days. I got a good feeling about the guys, but I'm concerned about this place. From the outside, it’s old and rundown. Jeff said they were a small outfit and it's not like you need anything fancy if you're holding all your shows at bars and community centers, I guess. The only nice looking part of the place is Eddie, who is hanging around outside, washing something off a silver SUV. He looks so hot in just a pair of low-slung board shorts as he washes down the car. When he sees us, he waves then quietly flexes while trying to look casual.

Now that's what I call a welcome wagon!

Jeff hops out, but I worry out loud about my car. Eddie offers to let me pull the Vette inside. He hops into the passenger side to direct me to the back sending Jeff through the front door with the bucket. I quickly realize that I was right about Eddie. He raves about my car, angling for a longer ride sometime and offering to show me around. As we round the block to the back of the warehouse, Eddie asks a lot of questions about my relationship with Jeff. When I explain that we’re like Max and Dave only with the personalities reversed, Eddie not only gets my ‘Happy Endings’ reference, he comments that it’s the same with him and Mitch. Nice.

We finally pull into the gym from the back, parking off to the side. It's cavernous, but also sweltering inside. I see Mitch working through moves in the ring, wrestling barefoot against a long-haired beefcake in trunks. The sounds of slams and punches echo through the warehouse and I’m immediately thrilled. I’ve never been involved in pro wrestling, other than as a fan on television or in the crowd for some of Jeff’s shows.

Mitchell, working out in the ring
Jeff joins us, checking out the ring and area carefully. Eddie points out Derek, the owner. He’s yelling at the guys, barking orders at Mitch and his opponent. I think I recognize Derek. Oh my God. I know I recognize him.

The big boss, Derek Kaine
There’s an additional 20 years on him, but Derek is none other than Derek Kaine. In the 80’s and early 90’s he wrestled for the NWL and then the AWL. He and his brother Eric were big stars and among the hottest studs. While Derek's career was before my time, his legacy of hotness thrives in the blogosphere.

Derek lives on for younger guys like me

When we meet up with Derek, he’s polite, but intense as he checks out this new prospective wrestler. He starts quizzing Jeff and it’s all I can do not to answer the questions for him. I cringe when he tells Derek about why he stopped wrestling, including that he punched out the promoter. Not something to tell your next boss. I worry that Jeff seems like an attitude problem, but he turns it around, explaining he’s grown since then. Phew.

While they ignore me to discuss business and backgrounds, I check out the memorabilia from Derek’s days as a wrestler hanging on the wall. Fuck, he was a hot stud. I’m a little self-conscious, as I’ve actually jerked off to his pics in blogs and matches on YouTube. Probably not something I’m going to share.

Mitch and the other stud stop wrestling. Derek orders them to come over to meet Jeff and take him to the back to get changed. The three of them head off to the locker room, leaving me with Derek and Eddie. In order to avoid fawning all over the legendary wrestler or hitting on Eddie, I keep it all business. I learn that he set up this facility as a way to train the next Kaine generation and it just evolved into CLAW. Mitch is actually Mitch Kaine, his son, and Eddie wrestles as Eddie Kaine, although he’s just a boyhood friend of Mitch’s that Derek has unofficially adopted.

Derek’s definitely old school and so is the federation. I tell him that I checked them out and CLAW could use some better promotion. He’s cool for a 50-year old guy, but not up on video sharing, DVDs, blogs or any social media. No wonder they’re so small. Long-haired guy leaves, but Derek doesn’t even notice as he seems enthralled by my suggestions around promotion. At least he is until Jeff steps out of the locker room then I lose him.

Jeff looks great in his gear
At 6’2” and 225-lbs of ripped muscle, Jeff is a really good size for an Indie federation. He’s wearing his tight black briefs and he sure fills them out. The white waistband has three black stars on it that match the three black stars on his white boots. I think he looks like a great pro wrestler, so hopefully Derek agrees.

Beside me, Eddie lets out a soft whistle of approval. Slut. Actually, Jeff does look amazing in his gear, so I guess I’ll forgive him for admiring my best friend after hitting on me. Jeff confidently jogs to the ring, sliding under the bottom rope without breaking a stride. He leaps to his feet, bouncing up and down, checking out the canvas. Jeff jumps onto the turnbuckles, testing them against his weight. He runs from rope-to-rope, feeling out the ring. Next, he throws in some leaps, rolls and dives. I have to admit, Jeff does look comfortable in there, like he never quit.

You'd think Jeff owns the ring, the way he moves and checks things out. He actually leaves the ring to grab a wrench from a nearby table and tighten the turnbuckle. Jeff looks great, but I wonder if this place is too small for him or something. Maybe he thinks he's above an outfit like CLAW. When he’s satisfied, he runs through a few more moves before walking over to us. He looks really confident, looking down on us.

Jeff says to Derek, “Mitch and I were talkin’ in the back. He’s cool with runnin’ a match with me. Figured that was the best way to show you what I can do.”

Mitch has joined us, still looking smoking hot in his black trunks. Mitch is as tall and heavy as Jeff. He looks good, but less defined than my buddy. Mitch confirms for his dad that he’ll work out with Jeff. Derek hesitates, obviously thinking about something. Finally, he agrees, having seen enough to know Jeff’s competent.

The two young wrestlers put their heads together, discuss moves then break. They put on their game faces, circle then start with a collar-and-elbow lockup. What follows is a clinic, with the men exchanging headlocks, suplexes, hip tosses and so on. Jeff and Mitch manage to work in body slams, dropkicks and some nice rest holds. The submission holds look great and I see some potential finishers in there. Everything looks good to me as they work really well together for this being their first time in the ring together.

Derek’s not as impressed. He’s yelling at both of them from the get-go, pointing out missed spots, clumsy transitions and illogical planning. Three times he stops the match and gets in their faces about different things. He manhandles their bodies to show them proper position and technique. A couple of times, Jeff argues that he was doing it right, but Derek clearly doesn’t want debate. He makes them re-start and try things again and again. Over 30-minutes later, both guys are sweating and breathing hard, especially Jeff, who I quickly realize isn’t in perfect ring shape. Finally, a fed up Derek sends a tired and sweaty Mitch out of the ring to stand with Eddie and me.

Jeff looks at me with a quizzical look. All I can do is shrug my shoulders, because I’m just as confused. Derek gets back in Jeff’s face about how he’s not listening and not taking instruction. Now, that I have to agree with, but Jeff has never been good at taking orders. My buddy has finally had enough. He snaps back, letting Derek know that he knows what he’s doing. It’s obvious Derek likes his students silent, obedient and respectful of his 30+ years of experience, but Jeff’s tired and irritated. He’s just not having it, getting angrier and angrier.

Beside me, Eddie leans in. He says, “You said you haven’t been around pro wrestling. Never part of this side, anyway, right?”

“Uh huh, that’s right. Oh, your boss better watch it.”

Eddie ignores my comment, saying, “Dude, I like you.”

I break from watching the escalating argument. I look at Eddie, responding, “Okay. I like you, too, Eddie. But what –”

Eddie interrupts. He says, “Good, we like each other. Hopefully then you’ll listen to me when I tell you how things work in pro wrestling. Do not get involved. Let them settle this.”

“Involved in what? They’re not going to fight.”

Eddie lifts his head, pointing his chin at the ring. While Eddie and I were talking, Derek and Jeff moved in and are now no more than an inch apart. Derek is berating the younger wrestler something fierce and Jeff’s going off right back. I reach for the rope to get in-between them, but he grabs my arm.

Eddie says, “Dude, seriously. Let it play out.”

“Are you crazy?”

Eddie tries to calm me down, “Please, dude. Just let it play out. I don’t think your buddy would want me to let you get involved.”

“Let me? Screw you.”

As I turn back to the ring, Eddie grabs me from behind. He locks on a reverse bearhug, pulling me in tight against his bare torso. We’re basically the same size, so I feel confident I could break free, but I don’t want to turn this into something. I say, “Jeff, c’mon. Let’s go.”

Jeff waves me off, not taking his glare off the red-faced old man. The two men in the ring simultaneously issue challenges and accept them. Immediately, Derek brings his right arm up and across the side of Jeff’s head. THUD! My buddy staggers to his right. Derek lifts his foot into Jeff’s abs. OOF! When Jeff bends over, Derek grabs a hold of the back of his trunks and neck then sends him flying over the top rope, out of the ring to the floor below. BOOM!

I struggle harder against Eddie’s grip, looking to get to Jeff. When he won’t let go, I send my elbow back into Eddie’s head, staggering him. CRACK! Before I can move, Mitch moves in. I swing at him, but he blocks it. Mitch comes in with a fist to my gut. POW! He tells me to calm the fuck down, but I ignore him. Eddie grabs me again, pinning my arms against my body as he locks his hands in front of me. Mitch moves in, muscles still sweaty and pumped from the long workout with Jeff. He pins my legs with his body and helps Eddie keep me locked up. Both of them are so close, I can feel their hot breath on me.

I’m helpless as I’m sandwiched between the two wrestlers. I’m yelling to Jeff, but my best friend rises and tells me calm down, echoing Mitch’s order. I protest, but Jeff is clear as he tells me to stay out of it. He then warns Mitch and Eddie not to hurt me. Mitch assures him we’re all cool, spouting something about respect and some bro-code bullshit that Jeff seems to understand. I grudgingly relax, falling back into Eddie’s controlling embrace. Mitch backs off, but keeps staring me down. I stare right back. I’m on edge, wondering exactly what the fuck we’ve gotten into.

After a few more seconds, I tell Eddie, “Let me the fuck go.”

Eddie whispers to me, “No, I don’t think so. We both know you’re gonna try something again. C’mon man, trust me. This is how it works.”

Mitch says, “Dude, seriously. Derek and Jeff are men. This is how men settle shit.”

I angrily spit out, “Fuck you both. He better not get hurt.” Despite my threat, I don’t move to break free.

I stand there, seething with Eddie’s arms around me. He frees my arms, but holds me against his body in a reverse bearhug. I’m momentarily distracted as I feel something hard pressing against my ass. It’s Eddie’s cock poking me through his board shorts. The guy is actually turned on by all this. Ordinarily, I might like the feeling of his arms around my waist, but right now, it just makes me feel like a prisoner.

While I was struggling, Derek was in the ring, stripping off his shirt, sneakers and pants to reveal a pair of black trunks. Now that I can really look at him, I have to admit that the old man has a surprisingly hot body – muscular and trim. If I wasn’t so angry, I’d be more impressed, but I am, so I’m not. At 6’4” and probably 210-lbs of lean muscle, Derek is a decent size match for Jeff. Even with seeing his body and knowing his background, I still can’t believe this 50-year old is going to fight my best friend.

Impressive at any age
Derek moves his fingers, inviting Jeff back in to try and fight him. The young buck doesn’t hesitate. He accepts by climbing on the apron then hopping over the top rope into the ring. They circle, eying each other warily. They both have small smiles on their faces as they make another turn around the ring. Jeff darts forward for a lockup and Derek accepts. The two men grab each other and push, muscle against muscle.

Jeff easily dominates, driving Derek back towards the corner. However, the old man is a veteran. He spins them, using their momentum to slam the muscular younger man’s back into the turnbuckle hard. Jeff is jolted, giving Derek the perfect chance to hop up, planting his bare feet on Jeff’s sturdy thighs. The savvy ring veteran rolls back, dragging Jeff with him. As they fall, Derek pushes his feet up, flipping the musclestud overhead. Jeff flies across the ring, landing hard on his tailbone. WHAM!

Angry, Jeff rises quickly and spins to confront Derek, only to be caught under his arm in a hip toss that sends him head over heels. He crashes down hard onto his ass again. WHAM! The younger muscleman springs up, turns and charges right into Derek's arms. Jeff goes up then is slammed down onto his back. BAM! Jeff bounces upon impact then slowly rolls to the ropes. He rises to his knees, carefully massaging his back. The younger hunk's face is red with anger as the older veteran stands with his hands on his hips in mock boredom.

Jeff rises to his feet and circles again. With Derek being barefoot, he and Jeff are roughly the same height. They exchange a long stare as the old veteran savors his early dominance. Outside the ring, I remain tense, but Mitch and Eddie seem to be enjoying the show. All four of these pro wrestlers acted like I was wrong to try and help my friend, even Jeff, so I just watch silently. I have managed to move forward, my hips resting against the ring. Behind me, Eddie rests his chin on my shoulder, his muscular arms still holding me tightly against his bare torso. I can still feel his hard cock against my ass as I grip the bottom rope.

Derek initiates the lockup this time, but Jeff manages to duck the charge. He grabs Derek’s right leg and topples them both down. WHOMP! Jeff manages to drive his shoulder into Derek’s gut when they land, adding to the impact. He scrambles forward and locks on a side headlock. Jeff flexes his mighty bicep, squeezing the leaner ring veteran’s head. UNH! I hear Derek grunt as his head is crushed in Jeff's grip. The young buck keeps up the pressure as Derek spins to his knees. They rise together, Jeff still cranking on the headlock. UNH! When the savvy legend slams his forearm into Jeff’s back, my buddy responds by yanking forward, flipping Derek over his hip and down onto his back. BOOM! Jeff lands on Derek’s chest, headlock still firmly in place.

Derek moans in the hold that he just can’t seem to escape. Jeff’s broad chest and stomach are rising and falling as he maintains the pressure. I can tell he’s feeling the fatigue – he was tired running moves with Mitch, now he’s into a real match against an experienced and shockingly tough. opponent. Derek grabs hold of the back of Jeff's trunks and thigh, lifting him up and flipping him onto his shoulders. Jeff's tight black trunks wedge up his ass as he's rolled onto his shoulders. In spite of being upside down, Jeff manages to maintain the headlock. He kicks his feet, rolling them back until he's sitting across Derek's chest once again. Derek tries again, rolling Jeff ass up, but the younger stud manages to hold on tightly.

Jeff grinds the hold, getting some gratifying grunts from the ring veteran. Still, grunts aren't a submission. Derek rolls and forces them to their feet. The ring veteran reaches one hand around Jeff's waist and the other behind his leg. With sudden force, Derek lifts Jeff up. The younger muscleman kicks his feet to block the move, but it's too late. Derek topples backwards, slamming Jeff's thick upper back into the canvas. BOOM! Jeff loses the headlock as he lies helpless and momentarily stunned.

Free at last, Derek rolls across his opponent's waist. He grabs Jeff's arms and drags them down, using his knees to pin them against Jeff's own body. He peppers Jeff with body shots, asking Jeff who's boss. The proud young wrestler responds only with grunts as the fists pound into his muscular pecs and abs. He squirms under Derek, but lacks the strength to get free.

Derek stops,punching, lifting his hands in an open and close motion. He asks Jeff again who's the boss. Jeff looks up and sees the hands. His eyes go wide and he gets a burst of adrenaline. The young stud thrusts his hips up, toppling Derek forward. The old man rolls forward, falling off Jeff's body. The two men scramble up, Derek to his feet, but Jeff stops on one knee. He launches his 225-lbs of muscle at Derek's abs, driving them both back into the corner. CLANG! The ring ropes shake as Jeff slams his shoulder into Derek's abs three times. He rises up and grabs Derek around the throat with his left hand. He pushes the ring veterans body up and back over the top turnbuckle, forcing his stomach to come forward.

"Didn't see this comin' didya? Not bad fer a rookie, right?" Jeff taunts as he fires his a series of rights into Derek's lean muscled stomach. POW! POW! POW! POW! He asks how Derek likes it as he lets the veteran sag in the corner. Jeff turns, grabs Derek behind his head and executes a beautiful snapmare, flipping Derek overhead.

When Derek lands on his back, he instinctively sits up. Jeff moves in behind and drops to one knee. He positions his other knee in Derek's back, leans to the left and brings his right arm around in front of Derek's throat. He pulls back hard, locking on the Dragon Sleeper. Derek's hips shoot up, his body parallel with the mat as he's bent back over Jeff's knee, his head trapped under the young buck's mighty arm.

Jeff slams a forearm across Derek's chest. He asks, "How's my form? Think I'm doing this move right?" Jeff doesn't wait for a response, wrenching back harder. When Derek moans in pain, Jeff laughs, "That's a fuckin' yes, ain't it?"

Derek tries to twist free, but Jeff's too strong. Jeff holds the submission move for a long time, wearing Derek down. The young stud tries to some much needed rest as he kneels there, but give Derek credit as he never stops trying to escape. Jeff has to keep up the pressure and keep countering to maintain control. Sweat is pouring down his face and body, forming a puddle forming under the two men.

With sudden speed, Derek's left hand shoots up and back. With his head trapped, he can't actually see Jeff's body, but he knows it's there. The blind fist still connects on Jeff's right pec. THUD! The blow bounces off the rock solid muscle, but it shakes Jeff. Derek fires back again and again, hitting Jeff's pec in different places. Jeff focuses on steadying the submission hold, confident his muscles can take any awkward punch Derek delivers. On the fifth attempt, the fist opens up and becomes a claw! Derek, having felt Jeff out, clamps his hand around the pec. He blindly repositions then squeezes. Whether pain or shock, Jeff lets out a cry and wobbles on his knee. Derek takes advantage, finally able to twist and roll out of the deadly maneuver.

This time, Derek is first to rise. He grabs Jeff's wrist, smoothly spins under his arm and moves in behind. Derek pulls Jeff's wrist high up his back until it almost touches shoulder blade. A simple, but effective move. Before Jeff can react, Derek plants his bare foot behind the muscle stud’s leg then forces him down to his knees. When Jeff drops down, Derek releases his wrist. He slams his right foot into the middle of the younger hunk’s thick back. SLAP! BAM! Jeff flies forward, sprawling face first to the moist canvas.

As Jeff rises, Derek grabs his boots, folding them together. The old man quickly wraps his legs and arms around Jeff’s legs into a confusing knot that puts tremendous pressure on Jeff's shin. It's like a figure-four, but Jeff's on his stomach and Derek's entirely behind him, with arms and legs wrapped around Jeff's boots. Immediately, the handsome young buck's face is etched in pain as he cries out as the submission move is applied. My muscular friend flails on the mat, his bulging ass and powerful torso rising and falling as he moans in pain. Unlike a figure-four, he’s facing away from Derek, so he can’t punch him, flip him or any other counter I can think of. All he can do is try to hold on.

“This is called the Kaine Krippler, a hot little leg lock I designed,” Derek taunts.

ARGH! Jeff can only groan and moan in response. I watch as Jeff bucks in pain. He should submit, but he won’t. Jeff would rather be carried out of here than admit defeat. I can only watch helplessly, ordered to stay out of this by Jeff himself. If I had a white towel, I’d toss it in. I realize that I have a shirt. In one fluid move, I strip it off then move to throw it in before Eddie and Mitch can stop me. Before I can do it, I freeze as I have an epiphany. It’s not my decision to make. It’s Jeff’s. I have to respect him enough to let him suffer. I lower my hands, dropping my shirt to the concrete floor below.

Oh shit, I finally realize what Mitch, Eddie and Jeff were talking about. After Jeff’s story about punching the promoter, Derek was testing Jeff. When Jeff acted like he owned the ring and ignored orders, he disrespected Derek, this group’s alpha male. They had to fight to establish the pecking order. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Mitch looking at me. I turn to look at him, my eyes wide and my jaw slack. He nods confidently, seeing my understanding.

Mitch says, “Yeah, there it is.” He reaches out and lightly slaps my bare pec, telling me all is forgiven.

I feel Eddie's hot breath on my ear as he whispers, "Told ya."

I don’t respond, but my body language says it all to him. Eddie’s hands move up to just below my pecs and he pulls my naked torso back into his in a tender hug. I don’t resist the squeeze or Mitch as he puts a hand on my shoulder, massaging it gently.

Back in the ring, Derek lets go of the leg lock, rolling away from Jeff. He refuses to let the ripped younger wrestler get a moment’s rest. Derek stomps down on Jeff’s back then leans over and grabs his ankles again. He crosses Jeff’s boots, stepping inside them and locking the front of Jeff's white leather boot in front of his bare shin. With Jeff’s legs securely locked, he bends over and grabs Jeff’s short blond hair. When the muscular stud’s head lifts off the mat, Derek grabs under his chin, pulling back.

“And now you’re seeing the Kaine Klutch! Knees, back and neck – all in one hold, kid!”

Once again, Jeff is reduced to moaning as he’s manhandled by the more experienced pro. Jeff is bent backwards against his spine. He tries to pry Derek's bony fingers off his chin, but it's no use. I decide this must be it, but Jeff's pride is still annoyingly strong. I just want this to be over, but Jeff's not cooperating. He holds out against the submission move for a long time, impressing me and hopefully Derek, as well.

Derek rocks back, pulling up on the young muscleman's chin. He rocks them back and forth, lifting Jeff's chest higher and higher off the mat with each move. When they have enough momentum, the ring veteran finally pulls hard enough that they roll all the way up. Derek lands on his butt while Jeff is stretched out. My friend's body is exposed as he kneels, legs trapped, his spine bent back against Derek's knee and his chin being pulled backwards. It's a painful position. Jeff's arms hang limp as he tries to resist the intense pressure that wrecks his body.

"Bet this hurts a helluva lot more than that pansy-assed ..." Derek turns his head, "Sorry Eddie, old habit."

Eddie replies, "S'okay, I'll let you keep that one."

The confident old man smiles then turns back to look at Jeff's broad back as he tortures him. Derek says, "Oh good. Bet this hurts a helluva lot more than that pansy-assed move you tried on me! Bet you'd love to know how to do this, wouldn't you?"

Jeff can only moan at the cocky veteran's taunt. Derek's obviously feeling pretty confident. Derek releases the submission hold, releasing his iron grip on Jeff's chin. He forcefully pushes Jeff forward, slamming his face into the canvas as he unwraps their legs. Jeff curls up a little, reaching down to rub his knee. He doesn't even make a move to rise, instead just writhes on the mat, a tired and abused ball of muscle.

Derek calls for a bottle of Gatorade, which Mitch grabs for him. He drinks half of it then saunters over to Jeff. He grabs Jeff by the hair, dragging him over and up to a seated position. He orders Jeff to drink, tipping the bottle against the young stud's lips. Jeff nurses on the sports drink bottle like a hungry baby, some of it spilling down his torso as he sucks in the nourishing liquid.

When the bottle is gone, Derek tosses it aside and crouches down. He asks Jeff if he's gonna quit. Jeff shakes his head, "You didn't submit me, yet, old man!"

Derek smiles then thrusts his hand forward, aiming a claw right for Jeff's face. I'm amazed as Jeff seemed to know what was coming. He actually blocks the hand by grabbing Derek's wrist. From his seated position, Jeff lifts his legs and slaps on a leg scissors around Derek's arm. He squeezes and twists, toppling Derek onto his back as he cranks on the arm bar. Derek's left hand pounds the mat in frustration, angry at having been outsmarted.

Jeff seems rejuvenated as he tortures the arm, resting his calves on Derek's chest to keep him down. The young musclehunk sits up then fires fists into Derek's exposed bicep. I hear the old man cry out with every punch. Jeff leans further forward and slams fists down into Derek's abs. The shots are hard, leaving red welts in their wake. The ring veteran's legs and hips roll back and forth as he suffers.

With great speed and force. Derek manages to bridge then kick his feet up, actually doing a 180, bringing his bare feet over his head. Jeff can't hold him, flipping right along with the ring veteran. He loses the armbar as Derek pulls free, using his free hand on Jeff's hard ass to push off. Derek staggers, falling on his butt as Jeff rests on hands and knees, hanging his head in fatigue. Slowly, the two men rise, on opposite sides of the ring.

Feeling a renewed energy, Jeff charges forward, hoping to regain some kind of advantage, but he’s a step too slow. Derek grabs him by the arm and flips him over. The young buck crashes down hard on his back as the ring veteran rolls into position for an armbar. Derek falls back and brings his legs around Jeff’s arm. He wrenches back, forcing against the elbow. Jeff moans as he tries to resist the submission hold.

Derek says, "You had a good idea, with the scissors/armbar combo and the fists to the gut, but here's how you shoulda done it!"

Derek sits up then slides one foot behind Jeff’s head. He forces the handsome younger stud’s face up, adding a new element to the already painful hold. Jeff moans a high-pitched grunt that tells me he’s really feeling this move in both arm and neck. Now it's Derek's turn to fire away with fists to the gut, slamming his big hand into Jeff's wide-open 8-pack. I can see the strain across Jeff’s face as he is forced to look down his body and watch the fists breaking him down, knowing that all those muscles are useless to him at the moment. Still, in spite of the pain, he won’t submit.

"See kid, that's how you shoulda done it. Now this next move I call this the Kaine Krossface!”

Derek releases the leg scissors, expertly rolling up to a sitting position, pushing Jeff’s weakened right arm over his mouth. The ring veteran slides up, forcing his left leg under Jeff’s head and applying a type of seated figure-four headlock that I've never seen before. He uses his thigh to keep Jeff’s arm in place, while his legs squeeze the life from Jeff's handsome face. The cries of the muscular younger beefcake are muffled by his own arm, which is hopelessly trapped. The wrestling legend sits on Jeff’s chest like a conquering hero, his legs effortlessly binding the stud’s arm and head, but Jeff still won’t acknowledge defeat. He fires his free left hand into Derek's flexed thigh, but it does nothing.

Derek says, "See, I could put you out with this, but I really wanna show you my signature move."

The ring veteran unwraps his legs, immediately grabbing Jeff’s aching right arm. He stretches it out across the mat then sits on it, pinning the damaged limb on the canvas. The veteran slams his fists into Jeff’s right shoulder and pec. POW! POW! POW! With his arm held tightly, all Jeff can do is writhe as his body is battered. The older muscleman digs his fingers into the once-hard flesh of his opponent, burying them deep into the softened tissue over the shoulder and chest. Jeff groans and bucks as he feels agony from the abuse.

All looks lost, once again, but then, with a sudden burst of energy, Jeff swings his legs up, grabbing Derek around the head. He pulls down, toppling the 50-year old wrestler to the canvas. The young stud tries to hold a head scissors, but Derek easily rolls free. Jeff rolls to his knees then topples sideways to a sitting position as he shakes out his arm. His muscled body is red, soaked and sagging from over 60-minutes of wrestling action. Jeff is breathing hard, trying to will himself back in the game.

As Jeff sits on the canvas shaking out his arm, Derek wastes no time. He comes up behind him and steps over the younger stud’s broad shoulders. Before Jeff can react, the savvy ring veteran reaches down. He grabs Jeff’s boots and lifts it up, bringing Jeff’s knees up to his face. Derek wedges Jeff’s legs under his arms then reaches his hands back behind Jeff's head. My muscular buddy moans as he’s folded in half by the modified stump puller. Jeff is stretched out, but Derek also pulls forward on Jeff’s neck, pinning his chin down. The younger buck’s arms flail helplessly as his head is pulled between his legs.

“This is the Kaine Konstrictor! Wanna give, boy?”

“F-fuck no!”

Derek holds the legs up for another minute, but Jeff is nothing if not stubborn. The veteran releases the thick legs then falls back, dragging Jeff back with him. Derek pulls Jeff’s head up to rest on his bulge then wraps his long, bare legs around Jeff’s head. I see the muscles tense as he secures the head scissors. Derek plants his hands on the canvas then pushes up, lifting his ass off the mat and upping the pressure Jeff feels.

My friend can only kick the mat in frustration. I see his handsome face turning red as he’s crushed. Again he refuses to submit, suffering against the ring veteran. Derek lowers his ass then brings his hands to Jeff’s head. He runs his fingers over the muscle stud’s red, throbbing forehead then to his temples. I’m amazed as Derek never lets up on the pressure, even as he traces the veins in Jeff’s head. It’s almost seductive, the tender touch he’s using, leaving me to wonder aloud what’s he’s doing.

Mitch tells me, “Be patient. You’ll see.”

With Jeff holding out against the scissors, Derek lets go and rolls to his bare feet. It takes a minute, but Jeff crawls to his hands and knees, Derek confidently and patiently hovers behind him. He opens and closes his hand in a claw motion. The muscle hunk on the canvas starts to rise to his feet. Behind him, the ring veteran has an evil grin on his face. He stalks his wounded prey carefully. Jeff stands up and leans back, stretching out his aching shoulder. The muscleman is totally unaware of what’s happening behind him. Finally, with Jeff steady on his feet, Derek grabs his shoulder and quickly spins the younger muscle stud around.

I whisper, “Oh shit … the Kaine …”

Before I get another word out, Jeff staggers face first into Derek’s open hand. The 50-year old wrestling legend locks on a front face claw, his strong fingers tightening around the side of my muscular friend’s handsome face. Thanks to the head scissors, he knows exactly where to put his hand for maximum damage. Jeff cries out then grabs Derek’s wrist with both hands. Within seconds, Jeff is going weak in the knees as the power of the face claw crushes against his temples. Jeff dances on spaghetti legs, trying to keep focus as the old man sadistically applies his signature hold. I hear soft grunts coming from Jeff as he struggles in vain to pry the hand off his face.

Derek confirms my thought, taunting Jeff. He says, “This move I only teach my guys when they earn it – the Kaine Klaw!”

I helplessly watch as the younger musclestud droops, his left knee collapsing before he’s forced up again, like a puppet. Derek controls Jeff’s magnificent, but helpless body, shaking and twisting it as the claw sucks the life out of him. The young buck wobbles in the claw, doing a drunken dance under the power of his older dominator. Jeff’s muscles tense, but you can’t work out your face. All those years in the gym didn’t prepare him for this.

Eddie’s tight grasp holds me firm as Jeff gets weaker and weaker. When the young stud’s muscular arms fall limp against his sides, Derek kicks the Jeff's feet out from under him. The muscular beefcake topples to the canvas, slamming hard onto his back. Derek follows him down, never releasing the claw. The ring veteran climbs across Jeff’s waist, straddling him. He leans forward, pressing down harder on the claw.  Jeff’s mighty body squirms under the older man, convulsing helplessly.

Jeff is done, but Derek isn’t letting go. Once again, I twist anxiously against Eddie’s grip around my waist, but he still holds me firm. Mitch moves forward, making sure to remind me of his presence. I nod and hold up open hands and let Mitch know I get it, I'm not trying anything, just shifting. I do understand why Jeff said he wanted to handle this, but I feel like this has gone far enough. Fuck.

In the ring, Jeff moans as he's sprawled out on the canvas, helpless under his older dominator. The young buck finally manages to move his left hand, tapping Derek’s leg twice in a sign of submission. Derek slowly peels his fingers off the muscleman’s handsome face, his victory confirmed.

The Offer

The dominant Derek puts his hands on Jeff’s pecs then rises to his feet. My buddy lies defeated and destroyed between the ring veteran’s legs, trying to regain his senses. Derek steps to the side then reaches down and grabs Jeff’s right hand in his own. He pulls up, dragging Jeff to his feet. When Jeff staggers, Derek catches him and supports him.

When I pull towards the ring to help Jeff, Mitch blocks me. He says, “Wrestlers only.”

Mitch rolls into the ring and helps hold Jeff on his feet. As my best friend hangs in Mitch’s strong arms, he shakes out his head. Jeff bends over and I wonder if he’s about to puke. Derek’s demeanor has changed as he rubs Jeff’s back, consoling the defeated stud. Jeff hangs there, summoning his strength, breathing in and out slowly. If not for Mitch, he’d probably be on the mat. Finally, Jeff rises up, still breathing hard. He stills looks woozy, but Mitch is more than able to keep him steady.

Derek extends his hand for a shake. Jeff doesn’t hesitate, immediately taking it. Derek says, “You still think I can’t teach you anything?”

Jeff shakes his head, “No, sir.”

Derek says, “Good. You going to do what I say?”

Jeff looks Derek in the eyes with obvious respect. He says, “Yes, sir.”

“Good. You got skills, kid. And you got yourself a job. Welcome to CLAW.”

Jeff smiles, but doesn’t speak, too tired to get words out.

Derek says to Eddie, “Let him go, lover boy.”

Eddie moves his hands, finally releasing me, but he doesn’t move from behind me. I know why, of course, as I could feel the hard on against my ass through the entire match. With the tension completely diffused, I realize the last words I spoke to Eddie were a vicious ‘fuck you’. I want to apologize, but Derek speaks first, stopping me.

Derek points at me, “You got a job, too, brainiac.”

I’m shocked, but manage to stammer out, “Oh, no thanks. I wrestle, but I’m not a pro wrestler.”

“Fuck right you’re not." Derek pauses to appraise my body then continues, "You probably could be, but you’d need a shitload of training. I’m talking about the shit you were talking about before – YouFace, Instantgram, TwitTube, blogs … that crap. You got so many ideas, genius? Prove it. Promote this place. Turn your friend and my kids into stars. Make me some money for once.”

For some reason, I eagerly agree to market CLAW. The pay is nothing, but it’s clear Jeff wants to give this a try. I owe it to him to stay in town for a while if this is what he wants. Plus, it does sound like fun. Maybe I found my thing in the first city we visited. I finally get a chance to apologize to Eddie, but when I turn, he’s gone. I guess he walked away while I was talking to Derek. I’m disappointed, but I guess I’m not surprised. Derek, Jeff and Mitch head to the locker room to clean up. I wander around the gym alone, thinking about Eddie, wondering if I'll get another chance with him.

Derek leaves first, shaking my hand before heading out. He says, “Be good to my boy now.” I don’t have a chance to question it before he leaves, but I assume he means marketing Mitch.

I wait another ten minutes then Jeff finally emerges, followed by Mitch. My buddy has a smirk on his face, but before I can follow up, Mitch asks me, “So what’s the deal? You mad at Eddie?”

“No! I was going to apologize, but he took off. If anything, I’d guess he’s mad at me. Or at least has lost some respect for me. I didn’t really get the whole pro-wrestlers-guys-being-guys-man-vs-man-respect-alpha-male-bro-code thing. I thought we were in serious … well, doesn’t matter. I’m really sorry, man. And I will apologize to Eddie when I see him.”

Mitch gives me a hug and fist bump to my back. He says, “S’all right, dude. Jeff here shoulda trained you better before he brought you into the lion’s den.”

With a smile, Jeff says sarcastically, “Yeah, it’s my fault.” He puts his arm over my shoulder, telling me, “Actually, Eddie didn’t take off. He’s in the locker room. We had a good talk. He’s a cool guy and he’s not mad at you. Not at all, buddy. Listen, Mitch and me are goin’ to Mitch’s favorite bar. Drinks. Chicks. You know the deal. Will you be okay without me tonight?”

I nod, “Oh.” I’m a little disappointed at being left alone. “Sure. I guess I’ll head back to the hotel. Watch some Family Guy reruns or whatever.”

Jeff looks at me like I’m crazy. “Uh, Ben … Eddie. Is. In. The. Locker. Room.” When I don’t respond, Jeff sighs. “For a smart guy, you sure can be dumb. Let me try it this way. Mitch is Eddie’s ride. Can you wait until Eddie cleans up and then drive him home? You know, whenever you two get done here. In this gym. With this wrestlin’ ring. Alone. Just the two of you. No one comin’ back until mornin’. Do I really gotta keep goin’?”

It suddenly hits me what he’s saying. The straight boys are heading out, leaving me and Eddie to do … whatever we want. I respond, “Oh my god. Got it. Of course. Yeah, yeah yeah. I’ll take care of Eddie.”

Mitch and Jeff head out, laughing at me for being so obtuse. Just to be clear, they don’t actually use the word obtuse, but it’s what they mean. I don’t care, as I practically run to the locker room after bolting the door behind them. Inside, Eddie is sitting on the bench. He looks at me and smiles. I start to apologize, but he waves it off. Eddie comes in close, moving his arms around my hips and planting his hands on my ass. I smirk as I drape my arms over his shoulders and press my hips forward into his.

Eddie says, “So, you told Derek you wrestle.”



“Oh yeah.”

To be continued ...

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