Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pitkoski v Hook

Spider Pitkoski. If a bottom-rung jobber like me can have a nemesis, it is Spider Pitkoski, elder son of Mike Pitkoski, founder and CEO of Florida All-Star Wrestling.

Spider’s an inch taller and five years younger than me. Not a terrific looking face, but a natural burly body built up on Mom’s roast beef and pierogi, high-school football, summers working construction, and now, nine years after turning pro at age nineteen, a ring-savvy knack for turning up the steam and sweat in the final stretch of a match.

Nine years into the biz, he’s starting to look a little out of shape, though, but who am I to judge?

Unlike me, Spider never fights outside the state, stays close to Daddy’s money, Daddy’s small chain of gyms, and Daddy’s bookings, which always pit the boy against butch though unprepossessing heels like me, in fact, mostly me, in one out of every 13 of Spider’s matches, me.

What can I say? I drop a good match, and I make the boss’s son look good. Spidey’s been good business for me. Our mat chemistry is good, almost perfect.

Although he’s not a huge draw for the fans, he gets some pop off the family name and connections. He’s tag-teamed a dozen times with the state heavyweight champ. His cousins, Punk’n’Patch, are huge hits around these parts, and brother Jojo is a handsome, up-and-coming rookie. Spider benefits by association with the three of them—getting fan mail from lonely girls and boys who could never hope to catch the eyes of Jojo, Punk, or Patch.

Jojo is at ringside tonight, in skintight black Aussiebums. He’s slim, young (just 22), a little wild in the eyes, more gymnastic and gym-toned than his big brother. Nicely shaped pecs, and one terrific heart-shaped ass that gets a lot of play when he fights on TV. Jojo circles the ring shouting out encouragement to his brother, pumping up the crowd.

My manager, Lord Travladore, has been officially banned from tonight’s event. He’s reportedly under lock and key in his dressing room. But I happen to know he’s visiting his sister Eleanor in Daytona Beach.

The ring announcer announces the two of us, the evening’s opening event. We’re set to wrassle for seven minutes, while the fans buy hot dogs and sodas and look for their seats. The hardcore faithful, though, have already filled the front two rows.

Neither of us makes a big show of it as our names and weights are called out. We raise our hands to the crowd, no expression on our faces, steadying our eyes at each other across the ring.

I’m a big guy with a gut. No gimmicks. I like to dish out pain, and can sell it good when it’s time for me to pay the piper. My reputation, such as it is, is for being authentic and mean—not outrageous mean like some frigging zombie character or Ayrab cannibal, but run-of-the-mill mean like your asshole brother-in-law, whom I probably resemble.

The bell rings, and Spider and I circle each other, crouching, ready to dive for a leg or lock arms in the center of the ring.

He slides in to me, catches me on his shoulders in a fireman’s carry, takes eight steps in a circle, a clear show of strength, and slams me on my back on the mat. I grimace but spring back up to my feet, rubbing my lower back, my belly already starting to push down my tights a little.

I motion to the ref that Spider pulled my hair—unlikely given my buzz cut.

We circle each other, unblinking eyes sinking deep into the other’s.

We lock up. The usual close clinch where we show off our well-rehearsed muscles to the crowd.

Spider pushes me back into the turnbuckle, shoving my shoulders back to the corner post, belly to belly, slapping.

Ref calls for the break.

Spider shoves off me, but comes right back with a right fist to my gut. Loud satisfying smack of knuckles against flesh. Ref pushes him back, but he bounces back into me, one, two, three hard ones to the solar plexus.

I’m holding on to the ropes.

Spider backs off, glaring, all business. He wants me. Bad.

His little brother skips around the outskirts of the ring, urging the paying customers to cheer for Spider and point their thumbs down at me. Some old lady with silver and yellow teeth yells in the front row, “Kill him, Spider, kill him!” Her neck and underarm wattles quiver as she does a little war dance. Jojo picks up the heat and eggs the small but game crowd on to “kill him spi-der kill him … kill him spi-der kill him ….”

I pull myself up on the top rope and lean over, intentionally letting the rope knead my belly unattractively. I shout at the crowd, “Shut up, losers.” Spitting the words. They laugh and cheerily call for my demise more loudly.

The kid, Jojo, positions himself right in front of me, jabs his bony finger into the air at me like a Pentecostal preacher on fire with the Holy Ghost and hoarsely leads the chant.

As soon as I turn back into the ring, Spider charges me, clotheslines me, and I drop on my butt with a dramatic—almost operatic—OWwww. This takes a second.

The crowd cheers. The nice thing about longstanding rivalries is that the cues are easy, and it doesn’t take a lot to get the story across to the fans.

Everybody knows that, when the babyface starts off strong against the older, more experienced heel, a third of the way through, the bad guy’s going to turn the tide, dominate the match until the face is reduced to raw meat, barely breathing, and then, and then, in the final minute, the heel will make a mistake, take a badly planned dive off the turnbuckle, for instance, which the hero will elude and, in a triumph of good over evil, roll up the heel, pinning him, the face’s ass on or just above the loser’s humiliated head.

Believe me, it’s an angle that never fails to satisfy.

Following up on the clothesline, Spider grabs me by the ear and pulls me to my feet. The ref shouts some terse warnings, but Spidey is lost in his thoughts. He Irish whips me into the ropes and then crashes his elbow across by throat on the rebound. I drop to the mat, bouncing twice.

In a flash Spider hauls up my left leg and twists my ankle while he anchors my right leg to the mat with his left foot on my knee. He spreads his legs wide and leans into my upraised left leg, adding weight to my pinned knee and pressure to my stretched hamstrings.

I pound on the mat with clenched fists, yowling in agony. The ref pantomimes asking me if I want to give up. I shake my head no. My whole torso is twisted, my back painfully arched.

Desperately I reach out and grab a ring rope. The ref makes Spider break the hold.

I pull myself up on the ropes. Gingerly. Spider springs back to action and tackles me, and we both fly through the ropes and land on the concrete floor below.

This hurts.

We lie there side by side, shaking our heads trying to shake out the cobwebs. Sweat drips off our bodies and gathers into reflecting pools under us.

Groggily, I try for a cover on the half-conscious Spider, grabbing his leg and thrusting my chest and stomach over his face, but Jojo rushes over and pulls me off, delivering an indignant slap to my face. Fists at his chest in a boxer’s stance, Jojo stands guard over his fallen brother.

I get up on wobbly feet and roll back into the ring. The ref starts the count of ten, but Jojo lifts Spider up and hoists him back onto the mat. I lunge and kick Jojo in the face, separating the brothers, and the handsome kid falls flat on his back.

Being bad has taught me a thing or two about taking an unfair advantage. I drag my opponent to the center of the ring, away from the ropes. I pound his face once with the sole of my boot, then grind it into the bridge of his nose, while he furiously, helplessly kicks and stomps. I grab his feet and stretch his legs wide and, in true payback-is-a-bitch mode, drive my boot into his balls.

Boos and hisses from the crowd. Jojo is back on his feet now, screaming foul at the ref, who, distracted, doesn’t see me drive my knee into Spider’s jaw. Spider and I have done this routine a dozen times, and the fans lap it up every time.

He groans and cups his hands over his crotch.

On cue, I climb up onto the top ring rope at the turnbuckle. Jojo’s at my back, slapping at the heels of my boots and hurling insults. He grabs the seat of my tights. My balance is not good up here, and Jojo distracts me as his brother slowly and heroically rises to his feet. The crowd is screaming its head off.

Spider charges the turnbuckle and climbs up to face me, for several seconds we stand there, precariously, eyeball to eyeball, our chests heaving with exhaustion and lust for dishing out pain.

He hooks my head in his armpit, and I hear his heart tom-tom into the side of my face. My hands flail, trying for a hold or a defense, but they slip off Spider’s slick body. He flips backward, tossing me clear across the ring.

He’s up on his feet, bouncing, in less than a second. I spring to my knees, arms outstretched, in classic begging-for-mercy pantomime. Spider crooks his arms into the fighter’s stance and looks around at the crowd.

The crowd is with us now. The seats that were empty have filled up. Everybody’s heaving, shouting, chanting “kill him,” Jojo is pounding the palms of his hands on the mat, syncopated to the fans’ incantation.

Spider pulls in closer. I take advantage and slug him in the gut. He crashes into me, fists flying. I do my wobbly lump bit as the punches keep coming like lightning strikes. His body is shining and poised. Each blow rocks mine. My round belly—a point of erotic pride for me—quakes to every jab.

Again he armlocks my head and spins me around, walloping my face with his free fist six or seven or eight times.

The audience’s newfound roar fills the auditorium.

He releases me and I collapse on my back with a resonant thud, my quivering gut a hill he’s about to charge and take. He stomps his boot to the space beneath my navel. Twelve times and then I stop counting. He climaxes with a double stomp to the chest.

The ref tries to tear him away, but the young stud will not be pacified.

He kneels next to my head, grabs me up by the ear, and punches me in the face. One, two, three times.

Then he pulls me to my knees, locks his arms around my waist, his chest against my back, hauls me upside down, holds me aloft for a good 20 seconds, then delivers a piledriver. My body crashing down like a demolitioned hotel in Vegas.

Lights out. Kaput.

My ears ringing with the screams of the fans, hailing the young hero, firstborn of the FASW empire, triumphing for the 100th time, perhaps, over his longtime foe. In a cocky kid-brother gesture, Jojo clambers into the ring and poses with his boot on my chest, grinning broadly, beaming with family pride, flexing his tight biceps to the adoring lights and flashing bulbs surrounding us.

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