Alexi Ivanov doesn't do much by way of self-defense, not even locking up with Ethan Andrews at the start of the match; instead he chooses to leave his arms stiff at his side. Maybe he wants to get beat up. I get it. There are days I feel the same way.

So Ethan punches him in the chest a few times and slips him into an armbar. The armbar spurs the first sign of emotion from Alexi. He moans and beats the palm of his free hand to the mat. Encouraged, Ethan slaps the Russian rookie's tight abs.

Alexi has entered Rock Hard Wrestling, receiving the four-star treatment. He's fought the hugely popular Eli Black and then fought at Eli's side against fellow Rock Hard megastars Austin Cooper and Jake Jenkins. Now he's in the ring with Ethan, fifteen pounds lighter than he is, a major star in his own right, close in size and similar to him as a man of few words.

"You're the best Mother Russia has to offer?" Ethan wonders aloud, dismayed by the lack of fight in the guy. If we're talking pecs, Rossiya-Matushka does indeed have much to crow about in her boy Alexi. Coins should be minted to celebrate that smooth chest of his. But as competition for Ethan, he's as brittle as Lenin's corpse--and as Round 1 rolls to its conclusion, it looks like Alexi, too, will be remembered in the words "You fell in sacrifice."

Ethan zeros in on Alexi's sculpted pecs as quickly as I did, and he gives them a solid pounding, before letting the rookie drop to his back on the mat to finish the tenderizing process with the heel of his boot. Weirdly, or perhaps a lot gets lost in translation from Russian to English, Alexi pleads to be released so he "can get up and do something." Run away is my first guess. But Ethan obliges, daring him to come at him, only to kick his feet out from under him and flip him over into a Boston crab.

Ethan gleefully taunts the guy, slapping him in the face and saying, "Let me hear some Russian!" I've never seen Ethan so deeply into bully mode, so all this is a bit of a shock for me. I'm beginning to understand what Dostoyevsky meant when he claimed that "the most basic, most rudimentary spiritual need of the Russian people is the need for suffering." I should buy some Rosetta Stone software and move to Russia. I wouldn't mind meeting a few needs myself, providing all the pecs are this tight and shapely!

Alexi rouses before the end of Round 1, but it's not enough to save the day. Ethan chokes him with his forearm, against the rope, and then with the flat of his boot, and Alexi finally submits. He does even better in Round 2, where he gives as good as he gets in the sass department, at one point, taunting a pretty badly throttled Ethan, "C'mon. For America." Alexi looks good. He sells the pain and shows moments of real spunk when he gets the upper hand. He could use work on his mojo and mat moves, but there's nothing wrong with him that ten more rounds in the ring with Ethan Andrews couldn't fix. And it's Ethan who's revelatory here, arrogant and sadistic in equal part--a side of him I had never seen before.


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