Monday, April 13, 2015

Route 69 S107: Gettysburg PA

"This is cool, Jeff. Right?" I have a hopeful tone in my voice as we finish packing up my car in front of the long-term hotel in Arlington VA that were calling home.

My best friend Jeff sighs, replying in a monotone, "Sure, Ben, it's cool."

I try to cheer him up, "C'mon! Weve got gorgeous weather and a classic convertible. Big summer weekend festival in Gettysburg. Cool bands. A little history. A lot of wrestling. Ring of Wrestling shows Friday night, two on Saturday and one on Sunday ..."

"Great, I get to watch other guys wrestle. I guess I better get used to it." Jeff puts on his sunglasses then slides into my car, reclining the seat to let the sun bake his bare torso during our ride.

I try to get him thinking positively. "Remember, I'm getting a behind the scenes tour and their main guy is going to talk to me about marketing a wrestling organization. But this isn't all about me. You'll get to network with these guys and they're only one step below the big-time. You know I always look out for you, same as you do for me."

He sighs, "Yeah, I know. Sorry, bro, I'm not tryin' to be a jerk. I appreciate it. It's just been a long couple of days. Comin' back from Texas yesterday and now we're heading up here. I'll feel better tomorrow." Jeff reaches over and grabs my forearm, squeezing it as a 'thanks for trying' move. I decide to let him work through his feelings and we spend our 90-minute drive up the I-270 in silence.

As we cruise from our home base in Arlington VA in my red 1958 Corvette, I think about the past few months. My decision to chuck it all and find my passion by driving around America. Jeff's decision to chuck it all and come with me. Jeff getting back into wrestling with the tiny and fledgling Championship League of American Wrestling and me taking on their marketing responsibilities.

When CLAW went on hiatus for a month, Jeff got a short-term opportunity with the Texas Rasslin Association, so we've spent the last month in Dallas. We both had a ton of fun and he got four televised matches, losing all of them to their top reigning heel faction, but showing really well. The promoter really liked him and so did the other talent.

So all was great. We even talked about staying in Dallas longer, but then TRA wasn't able to give Jeff a permanent spot on the roster, so we headed back yesterday. I know Jeff was hoping his four weeks of jobbing would magically turn into something bigger, but that's not how things work in this business. Intellectually, Jeff knows he needs to be patient, but emotionally, it's hard for him. Thinking long-term just isn't in his nature.

I know he'll snap out of it, but spending two days crossing the country in my car isn't helping. Too much time to think. I'm still very excited. I'm enjoying marketing CLAW and would like to turn it into more. I've got an idea for handling multiple federations across the country - folks who can't afford 24/7 content managers and marketers. With the connections I'm developing, I can offer them a centralized service. I figure if I can get ten or twelve federations to pay me a little, it'll add up to be enough to live off. Not that I need the money right now, but at 25, I'm way too young to be living off my inheritance.

Anyway, as part of my goal, I've been trying to network with folks who are more experienced and successful at this. Dylan Chase from ROW is the first guy who's offered to spend time with me and share some knowledge. As I told Jeff, ROW is just one step below the big boys in the WWL and AWL, so this is going to be awesome.

Welcome to the Big Leagues

We check into the hotel then Jeff accompanies me to check out the facilities. When we arrive, the ring and changing tents are already set up for their weekend outdoor shows. Considering it's only Wednesday, I'm a bit surprised, but I guess that's something I can ask Dylan about. If I ever find him.

I look around for someone to help me find Dylan, realizing I should've asked him for a description or a pic. As we head up to the ring, we're being checked out by a hot young shirtless guy. Probably an ROW roadie. I nod and smile as I dial Dylan's number.

The hot guy's phone rings. I look at him, "Dylan?"

"Ben! Great to meet you." We do introductions and I hide my surprise well. At least I think I do. Based on his smoky voice and level of responsibility, I expected an older, bigger guy. Nope. Dylan is right about the same age as me, blond and boyishly hot. Damn, I'm going to have to struggle to keep it professional.

Jeff and I have a great private walkthrough with Dylan. It turns out, he's only 24, but with a lifetime of experience, working around pro wrestling since he was a young kid. His father was an AWL pro wrestling jobber in the 80's, so he spent a lot of time around the ring. We do a thorough walkthrough and I'm amazed by him, taking notes the entire time. He's teaching me so much it feels like I'm back in school. When Dylan comments on how impressed he is that, "I've got my shit together so fast", I really appreciate it.

I ask Dylan if he has seen anything I've done for CLAW. He has and says that he likes it, but does give me some pointers. Jeff goes off to hit the head, so while I have him alone, I ask if Dylan saw Jeff in action, even dropping that he was on television in Texas. Dylan says that he thinks Jeff had potential, so I push it, asking if he'd be open to looking at Jeff in the ring. Dylan agrees to check him out, but says he doesn't know if any of his guys are around to practice yet. I don't want to let this chance pass, so I offer to spar with Jeff.

When I see Jeff walking back, I intercept him and drag him to the car, explaining the situation. At first, my buddy is skeptical, but then he sees the big picture.

Jeff says, "Fuck, I didn't bring any of my gear."

I pop the trunk, revealing our gym bags, overflowing with gear. "That's okay, because I did."

"You knew?"

"I hoped."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't want to disappoint you. I planned to ask for a tryout for you the whole time, but I wasn't sure I'd manage it."

Jeff gives me a huge hug, "Bro, you're the fuckin' best!" We head to one of the makeshift changing rooms and start to get changed. I brought multiple options, letting Jeff pick his image and I'll wear something contrasting. He decides on basic black, so I pull out my white gear and start getting ready.

We talk about different moves he wants to showcase and I tell him to go all out, I'm his willing wrestling dummy. I'm 6'/200-lbs, so he should have no trouble moving me around. And I work out enough that I can take a fall. Jeff finishes getting ready first, so he heads out to warm up in the ring while I finish up getting into my gear.

I hear someone draw a quick breath and look up. Its Dylan. Hes come in to see how I'm doing and go through some of the stuff he'll be looking for. When I finally get ready, Dylan and I wander to the ring, just shooting the shit. I'm flirting a little, unsure of Dylan's deal, but before it goes anywhere, we're distracted by a commotion ringside. Oh fuck, it's Jeff arguing with a guy from ROW. And not just any guy. He's exchanging words with a huge tattooed monster named Duke Rogers.

The big man is dressed in black trunks, knee pads and boots, obviously planning to use the ring when he found Jeff, a stranger, hanging out there. Jeff is a hothead. Duke is a muscle monster. Since Dylan was with me and not there to explain, it's not hard to see how this escalated.

Duke has been around a while, using several gimmicks that usually revolve around his rough, biker appearance. He recently held the ROW heavyweight belt. The rumor is that the muscular behemoth only dropped it because he's headed to one of the major federations. Jeff's not small - 6'2"/225-lbs - but compared to Rogers, he's looking awfully tiny. The big man is 6'8" and over 300-lbs of beef and muscle. I can't believe Jeff picked a fight with him of all people.

Dylan and I race over. Duke is calling Jeff a 'fucking amateur' and a 'psycho stalker' while Jeff is calling him an 'asshole'. We get there just as Jeff tells Rogers he's a 'roided up, dickless d-bag'. I guess that does it, because Rogers takes a swing. WHOOSH! Jeff ducks, coming in with a couple of hard shots to Duke's tight stomach. THUD! THUD! The big man grunts, but the blows only bring Jeff close enough to get grabbed in a bearhug. ARGH! Jeff groans as he's crushed in the giant's thick arms.

"Let him go, Duke! He's a wrestler. He's just here for a try out!" Dylan orders.

The beefy muscleman looks crazed as he says, "I ain't letting go until he begs!"

Jeff gurgles, "Fuck you, freak!" SLAM! My buddy hammers a forearm across the musclebeast's head, squirming free. Jeff takes two steps back, out of range, staring down the big monster. I notice he's got a small smile on his face. Typical Jeff. It does give me an idea, though.

Dylan takes a step forward to get involved, but I grab him by his (tight, hard) bicep (which he subtly flexes in my hand). We exchange a lingering (smoldering) stare, but I reluctantly decide to focus on the problem at hand. I whisper to Dylan, maintaining a flirty smile, "Your guy isn't going to kill mine, is he?"

Dylan smirks back, "No. Just welcome him to the ROW ring with an ass kicking."

I've learned a little about pro wrestling in the past few months, so I suggest, "Then why don't we let them work it out?"

Dylan's smile broadens, "Ben, we're going to get along great."

Jeff vs. Duke

Duke breaks the staredown. He tilts his head to the ring as he asks Jeff, "You man enough?"

Jeff responds by lifting his boot into Duke's unflexed abs. The big man actually grunts and leans forward into an elbow to the side of his head. The musclebeast turns and staggers back as Jeff moves in. My buddy grabs a hold of Duke's long hair and black trunks, spinning and pushing Duke under the bottom rope into the ring.

Duke springs up to his feet fast, before Jeff can even finish climbing in. Unfortunately, the smaller stud is left in no-man's land as he's half in and half out. Duke thrusts his boot forward, slamming it into the side of Jeff's head. CRACK! The handsome blond falls back out of the ring, but Duke grabs his ankle before he falls the whole way out. Jeff hangs there, upside down, his upper body dangling down, his leg held tight by the tattooed muscleman.

Duke pulls up, dragging Jeff back into the ring by one boot. Now in the ring, Jeff has no time to react before Duke stomps the back of his leg, slamming his hamstring hard. The big man measures Jeff up then turns and drops down, driving his forearm down inside the smaller man's inner thigh. ARGH! Jeff grunts as 300-lbs of muscleman lands on his leg. Duke holds Jeff's boot and wrenches his ankle, adding pressure to the knee and foot.

Jeff reaches down, grabbing Duke's hair and pulling, trying to move the mountain of muscle off his leg. The musclebeast is immovable, but he's annoyed enough to let go of the leg. Duke shakes his head free then moves off Jeff. Both men rise and circle. My buddy dives in to tackle Duke, but it doesn't work. The giant steadies himself then brings his arms down across Jeff's back with a double axe handle. OOF! Jeff drops to one knee in front of the massive muscle monster.

Duke quickly bends over and grabs Jeff around the waist. He easily powers the 225-lbs man into the air, holding the blond stud upside down with Jeff's back against his torso. Jeff groans as he's held in the upside-down reverse bearhug, his body being shaken up and down. It's a weird position and I wonder how long Jeff can take this, but the point becomes moot when Duke suddenly charges forward.

The big man practically runs into the corner, slamming Jeff's body into the corner gut first. WHOMP! Jeff coughs as he hangs on the top turnbuckle, his head dangling into the ring and his legs stretched out of the squared circle past the ringpost. Duke brings his body forward, slamming into Jeff's back. The whole ring shakes with every crushing thrust.

I get swept up in the moment, "C'mon Jeff. Hold on!" I slap the mat, cheering like a typical manager of a pro wrestler.

A surprised Duke turns to look at me, allowing Jeff to roll himself off the turnbuckle, crashing to the mat below. He sits under the distracted Duke in the corner, trying to massage his washboard abs and summon some resistance. The musclebeast is still eying me, giving Jeff some much needed time to recover.

The giant turns to resume his assault, only to be tripped to the canvas by Jeff. My buddy dives on top of Duke, driving his knee into the ROW star's open stomach. OOF! Jeff rolls back, grabbing Duke's black boot. He rises then steps over the outstretched leg. Before Jeff can apply whatever hold he's going for, Duke lifts his boot and kicks Jeff's butt, sending him face first back to the corner.

Duke rises as Jeff kneels facing the corner, shaking the cobwebs from his head. The big man hovers, waiting for the right moment to strike. I call out, "Look out Jeff, he's behind you!" Duke is distracted by me again (not my intention ... honest!) as Jeff launches himself back. My buddy slams his whole body into Duke, toppling the surprised 300-lbs musclebeast to the mat. BOOM! Jeff lands on top of him then his momentum carries him to the side.

Jeff grabs Duke by the wrist, trying to move him, but the giant breaks Jeff's grip, rolling away to regroup. Both men rise, breathing harder now. Duke closes in, but Jeff leaps up, delivering a picture perfect dropkick to the big man's chest. The ROW muscleman is only sent back one step. As Jeff rises, he turns right into a clothesline that flattens him. WHAM! I groan in sympathy as my best friend lies on the mat, holding his head and kicking the mat.

Duke grabs Jeff by the wrist and drags him to the middle of the ring. He sits his ample ass on Jeff's handsome face, pinning his shoulders down with his shins. Duke starts punching the ripped midsection below him, pounding the perfect six-pack at will. Jeff cries out with each blow as the muscles are weakened more and more. He can't throw the big man off him. When he tries to lift his feet to scissor Duke's head, the musclebeast just swats his legs away.

Duke taunts, "Tell you what, amateur, you kiss my ass and I'll stop!"

Jeff, his mouth smothered by Duke's ass, shouts a muffled, but recognizable, "Fuck you!"

Duke laughs as he delivers six more punches then rolls off to survey the damage. He circles then runs back into the ropes. The musclebeast springs off the ropes, clearly aiming some kind of move for Jeff.

I yell, "Jeff, move!"

Duke leaps into the air for a leg drop, but my buddy hears me in time. Jeff quickly rolls to the left. When Duke lands, he lands beside the smaller stud, missing the leg drop completely. Duke lands hard on his butt, pain shooting up his spine.

I slap the mat, "Jeff, get up! Come on, man!"

Duke moves faster, getting up, but rubbing his ass. He shoots me a look of scorn, before he moves in. As the big muscleman reaches down to drag Jeff up, my buddy grabs his arm and pulls down, flipping Duke over onto his back. Jeff locks on an armbar. It controls the beast, but you can tell it's not doing much else.

"Jeff, come on! Use your legs or something!"

The smaller stud swings his legs around Duke's head and locks on a head scissors to go with the armbar. I hear a hard grunt of frustration from the ROW superstar as Jeff keeps him down on the canvas, crushing his head in the vice-like grip of his powerful legs. The beast keeps grunting as Jeff extends his legs. Just because Duke's body is massive doesn't mean his head is any tougher.

Jeff pins the big man's arm down then starts punching at the beefy bicep, trying to weaken his opponent. He keeps the pressure up on the head scissors as he fires away. The musclebeast manages to rip his arm free, bringing both hands to Jeff's legs, trying to force them apart. The two men struggle as I'm amazed by duke's strength. His arms are actually parting Jeff's legs.

"C'mon Jeff, you can do it. You're doing the right thing!" I yell encouragement from outside the ring, cheering on my underdog buddy.

Duke actually manages to break the scissors. However, Jeff is ready. Before the big man can capitalize, Jeff grabs his left wrist and rolls Duke over. The beast's face buries in Jeff's bulge as the smaller stud swings his legs around and folds them behind Duke's head. The ROW stud is wrapped up tight in a head scissors with his face full of sweaty crotch.

Jeff squeezes again. I wonder if he can put Duke out, but the big man's no novice. He brings his legs up then powers forward, folding Jeff in half. "Look out! He's going for a power bomb, Jeff!"

With all his strength, Jeff thrusts to the left, toppling them over and managing to maintain the hold. Duke's swearing and grunts are muffled by his opponent' spandex-encased pouch. Unfortunately, the big man isn't giving or going out. He rolls up again, aiming to power out. Jeff surprises him by letting go of the head scissors. Duke's face is red as he regains the ability to breathe and think.

Before Duke can react, though, Jeff puts his boots on the heaving pecs and kicks his big opponent into the ropes. Duke backs into the ropes and bounces off, stumbling a bit as Jeff rolls up and spears him, right in his thick torso. OOF! Duke falls on his ass as Jeff rises and grabs him in a front facelock. The big man grabs the smaller stud's lats and pushes him off with ease. Jeff staggers back as Duke rises.

Jeff charges in, but Duke shoulder blocks him back down. Jeff stumbles, but keeps his feet. The musclebeast grabs his wrist and backs him into the ropes. Duke whips Jeff across the ring. As Jeff comes off the opposite ropes, I see the big man raising his boot. I call out, "Jeff, duck!"

My buddy follows orders and drops to the canvas. Duke's extended foot sails over him, unbalancing the big muscleman and sending him staggering towards the ropes in front of me. To my surprise, he continues, moving through the top and middle ropes, landing on the ground in front of me with a maniacal grin.

As the giant towers over me, he says, "I've heard enough outta you, boy. You wanna be in this fight? Yer in!"


Before I can even respond, Duke hammers his forearm down on my left shoulder. I'm stunned as he does it again and again. I'm pummeled, dropping to a knee from the sheer force of the blows. Duke palms my head like a basketball in his giant left hand then drags me to my feet. He slaps on a chokehold with his right hand, squeezing until I gurgle.

Dylan says, "Duke, wait. Ben's not a wrestler ..."

Duke pauses, "Really? What are these?" The big man stomps my foot, crushing my toes in the pro boot. "And what are these?" With his free hand (the one that's not choking the life out me), the beast grabs the back of my trunks and lifts, wedging them up my ass, exposing my cheeks. He pulls my face so close to his that I can feel his hot breath as he finishes responding to Dylan, "I don't give a shit what he is. He's in gear. He's got a big mouth. He's mine." I push against his hard pecs, trying to get free. It doesn't work.

The big man drives me back, slamming my back into the side of the metal corner post hard. When I go a little limp, he grabs the front of my trunks and pulls my hips forward. A series of hard ab punches tear through my muscle wall like paper. The beast is the strongest man I've ever faced as he manhandles me.

Suddenly, Duke breaks off. I look up and realize that Jeff's back in the equation. He's leaning over the top rope. Jeff's got a hold of the big muscle beast's hair and is lifting him up and back towards the ring. Duke has his hands up, trying to pry Jeff's grip off his long hair.

I don't wait for an invitation. I move in, pounding my fists into the solid abs of the ROW star. He actually grunts as I take it to his unflexed stomach, pounding away like he's a heavy bag at the gym. Duke forgets about his hair, instead bringing his hands down and around my throat. He squeezes tight, but from above, Jeff drives his fist down on top of Duke's head. It's enough to stun him and allow me to break free.

I dive forward, driving my shoulder into Duke's mighty body, slamming the small of his back into the ring apron. Jeff orders me to lift, so I do, elevating the huge beast onto my shoulder and plopping his ass on the ring apron. Duke slams his forearm across my back, but can't follow up as Jeff stomps between the ropes, slamming his boot between the big man's broad shoulder blades.

I use the distraction to grab Duke's legs and lift them up, toppling him over the bottom rope back into the ring. Jeff is waiting, stomping the giant as I climb in to help. Hey, Duke brought me into the match, so don't give me any grief about getting involved. We each grab an arm and handful of hair, dragging the big man up to his feet. We force his head down, under our arms and grab hold of his trunks. When Jeff says, "Up!" I lift and we flip Duke over in a double suplex. WHAM!

Jeff and I roll to the side then each grab an arm. We position our feet against the tattooed behemoth's head and side then pull, stretching his arms out. Duke is strong, but stretched out, Jeff and I can control him. The pain is obvious on his face as we wrench his shoulders. His hands ball into fists, his forearms tightening as he tries to power free.

I look at Jeff, silently asking what to do next. It's not like we can beat him this way. Jeff nods, understanding my look, but then I realize how much he needed this rest, so I hang on. Duke doesn't wait, though. He bridges, thrusting his hips into the air and lifting his side free from my boot. I don't wait for him to break free, immediately rolling up forward. I drop down, slamming my forearms into the big man's stomach. POW! Duke's hips drop as Jeff rolls up and drops an elbow into his heaving pecs. THUD!

We rise to our feet then stomp the thick torso of our opponent. When he stops trying to get up, we reach down and each grab a wrist, dragging him to his feet. Jeff and I whip the giant across the ring, leveling him on the ricochet with a double dropkick. I'm getting more and more fired up as my best friend and I work in tandem to take control of this impromptu match.

Jeff and I again drag Duke up, whipping him across the ropes. We go for another dropkick, but the big man manages to bring his arms up and deflect our feet. We hit his forearms then fall to the canvas. We immediately spring to our feet in unison only to be met with a devastating (at least for me) double clothesline that sends us both down onto our shoulders and neck. UNH! Duke gives us each a stomp then grabs us by the hair and drags us up.

We fire fists into the ROW star's side, but he doesn't react. Next thing I know, he's slamming our heads together. CRACK! I'm seeing stars and staggering from the impact. Jeff must be dazed, too, because the massive musclebeast manages to grab us both by the throat and double chokeslam us to the mat hard. WHAM! Duke steps over me then kicks me, rolling me over onto my stomach beside Jeff.

I start to try and rise when I'm crushed. Duke has run back into the ropes then come off and splashed down onto both of us! OOF! The air leaves my lungs as he lies on top of us. I barely notice as he climbs off us. Next thing I know I'm being dragged up by my hair then lifted across the heel's broad chest. I dangle helplessly in Duke's arms as he positions himself behind my rising wrestling partner.

Duke says, "Hey, idiot, wanna play catch?"

As Jeff turns, the big man throws me into my unprepared friend, sending us both back to the mat hard. Jeff takes the worst of it as my 200-lbs of muscle lands on top of him. I roll off my buddy, struggling to compose myself. Duke goes after Jeff first this time, dragging him up then whipping him into the corner. CLANG! He follows in with body splash that crushes Jeff between the unmoving turnbuckles and 300-lbs of muscle. Jeff sags in the corner.

I'm up, so I charge to attack Duke from behind, but he anticipates me. The muscular behemoth turns and clocks me with an elbow to the head. I stagger backwards only to have Duke push me into the corner opposite Jeff. We slam in hard before he whips me across the ring. I can't stop myself from running right into Jeff hanging in the corner. WHACK! Our chests and heads collide hard. Of course Duke is running in behind me, splashing onto my back, crushing Jeff under 500-lbs of meat this time. BOOM! When the big man steps away, we both fall to the mat, stunned and unable to fight back.

Duke grabs me again, still using me as his weapon against Jeff. It's humiliating, but I can't stop him. He actually bodyslams me, front first, on top of Jeff's back. SLAM! My face collides with the back of Jeff's head, my boots beside his. Neither of us can move before Duke plants his ass in the small of my back. If I think I've got it bad, Jeff now has over 500-lbs of beef holding him down.

The powerhouse reaches down under my shoulders and locks my arms over his thighs in a camel clutch. He then places his oversized paws under Jeff's armpits. He pulls up, lifting Jeff's chest off the mat then starts to force Jeff's arms in front of mine! Both our torsos are up and it's straining both our backs. When he gets all four of our arms over his massive thighs, he reaches around, locking his hands under our chins in a bizarre double camel clutch. Under me, Jeff is grunting, as his back is taking way more abuse than mine.

Through the pain, I whisper into Jeff's ear, "On two ..."

When I reach two, we both thrust our arms forward, mine pushing Jeff's off the musclebeast's thighs. Duke loses his grip in front of our chins and we're back flat on the mat. However, neither of us are really moving as Duke remains seated on top of us. The ROW star finally rises then grabs the waistband of my trunks, dragging my carcass off Jeff.

Duke doesn't let go, holding my hips aloft as I hang by my trunks. I'd be glad they're reinforced if I could focus. The behemoth grabs my hair with his other hand, forcingmy head up. I scramble to get my feet under me as he forces me up, controlling me by trunks and hair once again. He brings my ear to his mouth as I groan in pain.

The big man taunts, "I don't want to be hearing any more crap outta you, boy."

With that, Duke uses the waistband of my trunks and my hair to hurl me over the top rope, out of the ring to the grass below. Fortunately I know how to land, but it's still rough. Dylan comes to check on me, but I ignore him. I focus back on the ring. I want to help Jeff, but I can't seem to muster the strength right away. Like it or not, Jeff's on his own for now.

One-on-One Again

Dylan helps me to my feet then I try to climb back into the ring. Dylan lightly holds me back as he supports me. The handsome young stud moves is close. His hands feel good on my naked flesh, but I do feel guilty about abandoning Jeff. I've got to do something.

Dylan whispers, "I think you'll do more harm than good in there, Ben."

Ouch. That stings as much as any beating Duke could dish out. However, I realize he's right. I ended up hurting more than helping as the big man used me as a battering ram and dummy to weaken my buddy.

Jeff sees me trying to get back in and says, "Stay out there, bro. I got this."

Duke laughs at Jeff's comment as he moves in from behind. The laughter stops when Jeff gets a burst of energy and dives at his knee. The big man topples down, his leg collapsing in on itself. Jeff grabs the musclebeast's ankle and twists, wrenching the damaged knee. Duke swears up a blue streak before finally getting in a good position to kick Jeff off with his other boot.

Duke rolls over only to have Jeff leap onto his back, aiming for a rear naked choke. The ROW star rises up, lifting Jeff up with him like he weighs nothing. Jeff hangs on the 6'8" monster, trying to weaken him. It seems to be working, but then Duke staggers back before my buddy can knock him out, squishing Jeff into the corner again. That ends the idea of the choke, leaving Jeff highly vulnerable.

Duke spins to face Jeff. He lifts his knee into Jeff's abs then does it two more times. WHOMP! WHOMP! WHOMP! The huge knee lifts have the ring shaking as Jeff is desperately hanging onto the top rope to stay on his feet. Duke forces his legs over the middle ropes on either side, positioning him in a seated position on the middle turnbuckle.

My buddy is unable to fight back before Duke launches a series of fists into the weakening six-pack. THUD! THUD! WHAM! POW! I lose count as the blows hammer away at the wall of tight hard muscle. Jeff's abs are tough, but this is torture! When Duke finally steps back, Jeff falls forward, managing to land on his forearms to keep his face hitting the canvas as his legs remain hanging on the middle ropes. He reaches one hand to clutch his stomach. I wonder if he's about to puke, but he holds it together.

The musclebeast reaches down over Jeff's ass between his legs. He bends down and grabs hold under his victim's shoulder. He easily powers Jeff into the air, spins then drops him across his knee in a gutbuster. OOF! He pushes my buddy off, sending him rolling to the center of the ring.

The big man stomps Jeff's abs then bends over to lower his own kneepad. Duke drops his unpadded knee into my buddy's lean midsection. THUD! THUD! THUD! Jeff's ravaged abs are torn apart even more before he's dragged back up to his feet. Jeff bends over at the waist, unable to stand. I can tell that he's trying to summon his reserves, but Duke is unrelenting.

Once again, Duke grabs between Jeff's legs and over his shoulder, lifting him up for another gutbuster. OOF! This time, instead of pushing Jeff off, he lifts him up then drops him for another. URGH! A third gutbuster has Jeff convulsing on the big man's leg. UNH! It's tough for me to watch as my best friend is hanging on Duke's leg, hacking and coughing loudly.

Jeff finally falls to the canvas, facing the sky. I can see him blinking as Duke circles his prey confidently. The big muscleman drops down and slaps on a killer gut claw. He digs and twists his fingers into Jeff's abs ruthlessly. My stubborn friend refuses to give, somehow holding out against the assault.

Duke taunts, "I bet Derek Kaine couldn't even match this, jobber!"

I'm struck by the comment, wondering if Duke knew who Jeff was before this started or if his reference to Derek is a coincidence. I have put a lot of pics of the CLAW studs out there, especially Jeff. Maybe Duke has some vendetta against Derek. Or handsome blond studs. My mind is reeling as I see Jeff's face twisted in torment.

Not that it matters. Duke's motivation doesn't change anything.

Jeff is still left to suffer, regardless of the reason. Back in the ring, Duke is lifting Jeff's stomach up, using the claw to drag his midsection off the canvas. My buddy hangs there, hips and ass in the air, a foot off the mat. Jeff squirms and moans in agony as he's suspended by only his formerly killer abs. He resists for a moment, slaps the mat in frustration then finally has to admit the truth.

"I give! Give! Give!"

Duke releases the claw immediately, letting Jeff's sweaty, defeated carcass fall back to the mat. I see the blond stud roll on his side and curl up, barely able to imagine how much his magnificent abs hurt right now.

The ROW star rises up slowly, a satisfied smile on his face. He drags Jeff up by his hair, my buddy unable to stand up straight from all the ab abuse he has endured. I'm expecting a handshake, but instead, Duke applies another double gut claw. Jeff gurgles as he's powered up over the big man's head by his abs. The giant charges towards Dylan and I, hurling Jeff over the top rope on top of us. We manage to catch him, laying him down on the grass. His abs are red and look really abused.

Duke says, "This is my ring! My ring!" He flexes then hops out. He heads to the changing tent, muttering about needing to get new gear.

An Offer I Can't Refuse

Cradled against me, with Dylan hovering, Jeff lies on the ground moaning for a few minutes, soaked in sweat, abs aching and completely drained. But he's smiling, so I'm really glad about that. I offer to help him up to his feet, but he refuses. Typical stubborn Jeff, he wills himself to rise under his own power. After a few more minutes, he actually manages to stand up straight, stretching out his torn midsection. He breathes slowly, continuously confirming to Dylan and me that he's fine.

Dylan says, "I'm so sorry guys. Duke can get a little ..."

Jeff waves it off, "I'm good. What about you, bro?"

I nod my head, "I'm cool. Sorry I got involved. I didn't think he'd drag me in there. And once he did, I couldn't figure out the best thing to do. I've wrestled big, but that guy's way out of my league."

Jeff grudgingly admits, "Mine, too. Fuck, total monster."

Dylan chimes in, "Glad you're okay. You were both great. You definitely know some moves and how to take bumps. Audition passed."

Jeff says, "Seriously? Thanks, dude. So got any work for me then?" I smile, glad Jeff is asking for the order. That was the whole point.

Dylan says, "Funny you should ask. Are you up for some tag action on Friday night? I just got a text. I'm going to be down a couple of guys who were supposed to fight the Ratchets. You'd save me from rearranging everything."

Jeff practically jumps out of his skin, "Hell yeah, bro! Who's my partner?"

Dylan looks confused, "Partner? Ben, of course. I meant both of you. You and Ben. You'd be a good face pair against them. It'll mostly be taking bumps, putting them over. A lot like what you guys just did, only a little less painful. What do you say?"

Jeff says, "Dude, of course. We're totally in!"

At the same moment, I'm shocked and saying, "What? Me?"

"Yeah, you. We can give you guys matching gear if you want it and don't have it. We've got some matching trunks in white, pink, pale blue ..."

I stammer, "No. No. Thanks, but ... no. I'm not a wrestler. Well, not a pro anyway."

Jeff frowns, "Yeah, he's not. Sorry, bro."

Dylan looks disappointed, but I see a sly grin across his face, "Okay, I get it. Well, maybe some other time. Good luck, guys."

Dylan's words hang there as I realize that he's manipulating me into accepting. I told him Jeff's my best friend, so he knows I'm trying to advance Jeff and he's using that against me. Dylan is clearly saying that we're a package deal. Either I wrestle with Jeff or Jeff doesn't get to wrestle. I look at Jeff who seems like he's accepting another disappointment. I turn and stare Dylan down, trying to see if he'll back down on making me wrestle. He doesn't, so I have no choice. I agree in order to get my best friend in the show.

Dylan shakes our hands then heads off to get the paperwork. Jeff thanks me, giving me a huge hug. I mutter, "I can't believe I'm doing this."

"Bro, you'll be awesome. I owe you. Just add it to my tab."

We break our hug and I give Jeff a smile, "I don't think my phone has enough storage for me to add anything else to your tab. That list easily takes up 64-gig!"

Jeff grabs me in a side headlock and we start play wrestling. By the time Dylan comes back, Jeff is on top of me, both of our bodies covered in wet grass. We get up, elbowing each other before we settle down and try to act like adults about to do something important. I read the documents carefully then we sign, committing to wrestle on Friday night.

I'm nervous, but Jeff and I spend the next two days working out our moves with our opponents and I feel better. The Ratchets, Derrick and Dwayne, play a big and mean heel team, but they're actually really cool. It's great running moves with them and learning a whole new side of the business firsthand.

Before the match, I find the photographer and videographer, slipping them some extra money to get a lot of close-ups of Jeff in action. The match goes off pretty well, with Jeff doing most of the heavy lifting and taking most of the abuse, but I get my time to get pummeled, too. In the end, I'm the one who gets arrogantly pinned by Derrick while Jeff is super-kicked out of the ring to the ground by Dwayne.

All in all, a successful trip. Jeff is back to his old self, while I managed to learn a lot. As we're watching the rest of the show, Jeff tells me, "Bro, you know, this could totally help you sell some clients - being in the ring for real, especially with an outfit like ROW. It's totally legit."

I still don't want to be a wrestler, but Jeff is right. This may help my credibility with potential clients, proving I'm part of the business. And this entire experience is about exploration and discovering myself, so it's cool. It's all just part of the journey.

The End

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