It was the opening sting of his music that always set his heart aflame. Standing back in gorilla position waiting to hit the ramp and hear the roar of the crowd. There was no feeling on this earth like it. Jack Blines burst out from behind that curtain with all the energy he had in his body.
The screams met his ears, bringing that same energy back inside of him. That noise that made him feel as though he could do anything. Whether they loved him or they hated him, and Jack had plenty of both over his career. He’d wrestled so many matches it was impossible for him to even ballpark it anymore. Over the course of his twenty year career, that ring, the squared circle, had been his home.
He had changed a lot over those years, but it never had. Three ropes, twelve turnbuckles, twenty feet by twenty feet of canvas and pine. He was always happy to see it.
Rings like that hadn’t changed since the sport began, at least not in Voltare Championship Wrestling. VCW was the oldest and largest company in the business. Only they could put on a show like this.
A sold out capacity crowd for the biggest show of the year, Unibrawl XXXI. Even if someone didn’t know what wrestling was all about, they would’ve heard of Unibrawl. In his career, Jack had the privilege of main eventing the legendary pay-per-view five times. Not counting tonight.
As he strode down the ramp to the ring, a sign caught his eye. Jack stopped halfway through his entrance, cutting a path over to the barricade and shaking the sign holders hand. The man had his son with him. It was the little guy’s first show. Jack could always tell, you could always see the wonder in their eyes. Jack removed his wristband and tossed it to the kid, giving him a toothy smile and a fist bump to the delight of the crowd, before returning to the ring at a sprint and sliding under the bottom rope.
The canvas was already worn and tired from the twelve matches that had gone before them, but Jack kissed it all the same. He always did, before springing to his feet to another burst of noise from the crowd. He met the thousands of eyes on him. He was invincible.
As his music at last began to die down, Jack retreated into his corner. And the lights dimmed all throughout the arena. Jack didn’t know much about his opponent. He’d seen the guy in the locker room dozens of times but they’d never really spoken. He was one of the newer talents, from the independent circuit. He’d arrived at VCW a little over a year ago and just tore through everything in his way.
A low piece of classical music began to play throughout the darkened arena, it fluttered up and down on the keys of the piano until suddenly transforming into a deafening guitar riff. As it changed, so did the lights. Bright red filled every corner of the stadium. As if it has been smeared with blood.
Fire erupted on stage as his opponent emerged from gorilla position. He was a smaller man, in the ring he didn’t stand out, but his entrances were a thing to behold. He wore a black cloak with spiked pauldrons over his gear, striding down past the fire as the crowd recoiled in excited fear.
He didn’t slide under the bottom rope like Jack. He took the stairs, one at a time as if he was relishing every moment the crowd spent under his spell. When he stepped between the ropes, the lights returned to normal and George Ruthaford the ring announcer hurried into the spotlight, microphone in hand.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your main event for this evening.” An overweight man in his sixties with a low booming voice, George had been with the company almost as long as the owners.
“The following contest is scheduled for one fall” Ruthaford continued.
“One fall!” The crowd screamed back.
Jack smiled. That was his favorite part about this sport. The fans were a part of the show, it wasn’t like football or hockey, the fans controlled the pace and flow of the matches. Their cheers spurring on the competitors, their apathy bringing out frustration. They had more power than even they realized.
“And it is for the Kingmaker Glove!”
More cheers. It was the first time a match for the Kingmaker Glove would be main eventing Unibrawl. Ordinarily the VCW World Championship held this spot. But, in another indication of the audience’s power, the championship matches, more specifically the champion, had been getting less and less of a reaction over the past few months. They were losing interest in him, and so the decision had been made to slide him down the card to prevent fans from leaving early.
“The competitor in possession of the Kingmaker Glove, is entitled to a world championship match at the time of his choosing, anytime over the next year.”
Cheers again. True to it’s name, if you won the glove, it didn’t matter how low you were on the card, next day you could be world champion. Jack had won it twice before. Once it had sent him to a six-month long reign as champion. The other . . . Well he didn’t like to remember the other.
“In this corner, weighing two hundred and ninety-five pounds, from East Rutherford, New Jersey. Jack Blines!” Jack posed for the crowd again, bathing the cheers.
“And his opponent. Weighing one hundred and ninety eight pounds, from Sao Paolo, Brazil. Victor Hernandez!”
Boos from the crowd came spilling into the ring but Victor paid them no mind. He tossed his cloak over the top rope and began to stretch. He has the simplest gear, just black trunks, kneepads and boots, nothing fancy. And Jack could respect that. He’d wrestled in something similar back at the start of his career.
The referee was muttering something to both of them Jack had stopped listening to them on his second or third week in the business. He knew the rules and so did Victor. Pin the man or make him submit. Ropes break pinfalls and submissions. No grabbing hair if they had it. If you’re out of the ring for a count of ten you lose. And they weren’t technically supposed to be on or in the ropes while they were fighting but that rule wasn’t really enforced anymore. It was a relic from a previous age, when closed fists were illegal.
Better days, thought Jack with a smile as the referee called for the bell.
It had barely started ringing before Victor launched himself at Jack, nearly knocking the referee over. Those old closed fist rules would’ve helped against someone like Victor. He was a striker, trained in Brazilian Jujitsu before traveling to Japan and learning the hard hitting and legendary Japanese Strong-Style. This was not a man who was going to use wrist-locks or hip-tosses. Victor Hernadez would beat you until he got bored, and then pin what was left.
Jack sidestepped the charge and Victor went crashing into the turn buckle. Stumbling back, dazed from the impact. Those buckles were steel, pad or not you were gonna get a little dizzy.
Jack didn’t waste the opportunity, he darted forward and locked his arms around Victor’s waist. Heaving the smaller man up over his head, Jack delivered a perfect german suplex.
As he hit the move and felt Victor crumble, Jack extended his toes, bridging into a cover. He didn’t expect to win here, but Victor would have to expel more energy to kick out of the pin attempt. And the more energy Victor expelled the closer Jack came to winning. Jack wasn’t the greatest technician in the sport, nor the greatest striker. But his stamina was unrivaled. His longest singles match clocking in a record fifty-five minutes and fifty-three seconds. That was admittedly ten years ago, but Jack still had gas in the tank.
The ref slid in to count the fall. And Jack listened to the roaring fans count along with him.
Victor kicked out, throwing Jack off his feet. Victor was hurting, and was slow to get to his base, Jack was up and locking his arms around Victor’s waist for another suplex when he spun around, sweeping Jack’s legs out from under him.
Jack crashed to the canvas, feeling the shock run through his entire body, it never got any softer. Victor leapt onto the second rope and attempted a springboard moonsault. Jack rolled away, and Victor smashed into the ring.
Taking advantage of his opponents momentary dazed state, Jack locked in his famous hold. A variation on the crossface, he wrapped his hands around Victor’s face and pulled, putting as much weight on the smaller man’s back as he could. He’d won more matches with this move than he could count, it had been the signature of his trainer Buddy Blackwell, who had passed it on to him as well as given it it’s new name. The Blineside.
In any other position this might have been the end of the match. The pressure on Victor’s neck and lower back were almost unbearable and if Jack kept it up it could do serious damage.
But it seemed he’d barely even gotten the hold synched in before the referee was beside him ordering him to break it. Victor has grabbed the bottom rope.
Jack swore under his breath and broke the hold, backing up to the opposite corner. The commentators would call it a rookie mistake, even question his ring IQ, but Jack had been taught that even if you couldn’t win him the match now, every move drained more and more energy from his opponent.
He glanced up at the lights.
Hope you’re watching this old man.
Victor Hernandez was on his feet again, his breathing more labored than it had been. Even these indie guys had their breaking point. Jack flashed another toothy smile at the crowd, prompting a barrage of new cheers.
This seemed to incense Victor and he met Jack in the middle of the ring, locking up once more. He tried to use his power to bring Victor to the ground but the smaller man broke the hold and darted back, hitting the ropes. Jack grabbed him on the rebound and irish whipped him to the opposite side of the ring. Going in for a clothesline, Jack swung but Victor slipped under his legs. An explosion of pain erupted in Jack’s ankle, the chop-block bringing him to his knees.
Victor kicked him in the side of the head so loudly that it drew gasps and screams from the crowd. All the lights in the stadium seemed to go out for Jack in that moment, replaced by a barrage of incomprehensible color and sound. Somewhere through this haze, he felt the weight on his chest, the familiar vibration of the ring resounding with every count of the referee.
Jack kicked out, rolling through the pinfall and locking his arms around Victor. Hoisting him over his head Jack spun into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, bringing Victor spine first onto his knee.
Jack floated over into a cover. The referee was in the perfect position to count the fall.
Victor kicked out with such incredible force that Jack was thrown back into the ropes. Momentarily stunned at the display of strength, Jack was in prime position for the clothesline.
Victor hit him with such force that he felt his head snap back. He flipped over the ropes and off the ring apron to the floor. Gasping for breath, Jack fought his way back to his feet, looking from the ring to the crowd in astonishment. If the ropes hadn’t been there, he might’ve wound up in the third row. Where was Victor getting this new strength from?
Not finding his opponent in the ring, Jack looked up to see Victor soaring through the air in a perfect moonsault. No time to dodge this one. Jack gritted his teeth, planting himself as Victor came crashing down upon him.
The force of the fall was immense, but somehow he was able to stay on his feet, locking his arms around Victors waist, Jack slammed him with all his might into the apron, the hardest part of the ring.
Victor bounced off with a thud, crashing to the ground in a heap. Letting himself fall back against the barricade, Jack took a moment to catch his breath. The fans weren’t used to that kind of brutality from him, and some of them seemed shocked, even angry that he would use a move like that. But that hardly mattered now, Victor wasn’t going to afford him the same luxury.
Jack seized his unmoving opponent and rolled him back into the ring. He made sure that Victor was in the absolute center of the ring before locking in the Blineside once again.
The referee was beside them now, Jack could hear him asking Victor if he wanted to quit. If a person didn’t have the energy to tap, they could verbally submit. Or, if it came to it, the referee could stop the match if they were unresponsive.
This was precisely what Victor was. He didn’t answer the referee’s questions, didn’t say a word. So the referee needed to determine if he could continue.
Taking Victor’s hand, the referee lifted it up. If it fell back to the canvas, that was it. Jack had won the match. The referee let the hand go. But it didn’t fall, instead Victor’s head turned around one hundred and eighty degrees to look Jack in the eyes.
There were screams and gasps from the crowd and Jack broke the hold, stumbling back in horror. For a moment he thought something had gone wrong, that he’d somehow broken Victor’s neck. But nobody’s neck could be broken like that.
Victor got to his feet as well. He spun around, his head sliding back into place as he leered at the frightened crowd.
Jack looked at the ref but the ref had scuttled back out of the ring in a panic. Jack had only turned away for a second but when his eyes flashed back to the ring, Victor was nose to nose with him.
“Hoc autem regnum meum.” He snarled in a voice that was not his own. He seized Jack by the throat and lifted him up with one hand.
Then the ring burst into flame.
Fire erupted from the turnbuckles, from the apron the ropes, everything, sealing Victor and Jack within a cage of white hot flame. Jack struggled for air, Victor’s grip was like a vise. What was happening? Had something gone wrong with the pyro?
Bathed in the firelight strange markings began to appear all over Victor’s body, runes and symbols Jack had never seen before. Save for the one on his chest, a gigantic pentagram.
He smiled, revealing pointed teeth. “Et hic est tuum.”
Victor slammed Jack down with such force that Jack felt the canvas and the boards give way, but it didn’t stop there, he was falling, falling into a pit of endless darkness. The sliver of light he’d crashed through growing smaller and smaller. The last thing Jack Blinds heard before he lost consciousness was Rothaford’s voice.
“Your winner! And new holder of the Kingmaker Glove! Victor Hernandez!”