A Wrestling Tale 8.11.01: The Pre-Match Ritual

Hey. I’m Joshua Grut, and this is almost definitely the last time I’ll be talking as myself in any of my columns. I just wanted to thank a few people. Widro, Hyatte, Daniels, Rivett, and everyone on the 411 staff who has welcomed me with open arms. Now then , the following is not based on a true story, so no disclaimer is necessary. Thank you for reading. Enjoy…The Pre-Match Ritual.

Everybody has a soft side, even Bret. Look, there he is. He’s over there in the corner. He’s getting ready for his match, so nobody’s talking to him. He has this pre-match ritual of ten minutes of silence while he goes over the match in his head. Then he puts on his Walkman and listens to Powerman 5000’s When Worlds Collide. He lets out a yell and heads towards the entranceway. The man is intense. You do not screw with the man during his pre-match ritual. A new kid once came up to him during his ten minutes of silence and asked him if he wanted to go out to a bar after the show. He grabbed the new kid by the neck and just choked him until the new kid was on his knees. This guy was so intense that he claimed the song When Worlds Collide as his and his alone. Once he and his wife were stopped at a red light and he heard the song playing from a convertible next to them. He got out of the car, walked in front of the convertible and demanded they turn the song off. The sixteen year old Asian girl was very quick to comply. She had no idea who this guy was, but she knew not to mess with him.

Anyway, we’ve left him alone in his corner and he’s going over the spots in his head. His eyes are open but he doesn’t see any of the other competitors. Call him a brute. Call him a tough guy. Call him a bully. When he retires from this business he wants to be remembered for two things. First of all, he is a perfectionist. When either he or his competitor blows one of their spots he spends all night yelling and screaming about it. Even if the spot was not blown, even if it was just a little off, he cannot sleep that night. When you work with him you better have your head on straight or he’d tear it off for you after the match. Second of all, he is an artist. He doesn’t consider the match a story. He considers it a work of art. He considers the ring his canvas and his opponent his brush. Maybe that’s a little egotistical, but all great artists are. Much like other great artists, he’s never satisfied with his work. When a match with him in it fails to get the response he imagined the crowd giving it, he’ failed. He can’t blame the brush, it was his fault. Sure, he can break the brush in half and throw it into the garbage can when he’s done painting a terrible picture with it, but the blame for the failure of the match is on his shoulders. The truth is just because the fans don’t go crazy exactly where he imagined they would doesn’t mean that the match is a failure. As a matter of fact he’s known as the greatest worker in the world and the biggest son of a bitch in the locker room.

In one of his main event matches on the Thursday night television show a spot was blown. He threw his opponent into the corner and expected the opponent to seamlessly jump to the top rope and deliver a spinning plancha. Instead, his opponent jumped to the top rope, slipped and fell to the floor. The referee immediately made his way out of the ring to pretend to count while asking the opponent if he was all right. Not giving the referee time to ask or his opponent time to recover, he made his way out of the ring and slapped his opponent across the face. “YOU BLEW A SPOT! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING WORKING A MAIN EVENT?” Sure, he felt a little bad when he found out his opponent had broken his foot in two places but if the opponent had not blown the spot it never would have happened. Instead of apologizing, he spent the next 3 days calling up the booker and telling him that he would never work with the opponent again. “It is unprofessional slipping off the top rope.” The booker replied, “He finished the last 8 minutes of the match with a foot broken in two places!” No. It was unprofessional. Put him in the ring with the same opponent and he’d kick his ass for real.

Is Bret respected? Of course he is. Everybody wants to work with him and hang out with him. Sure, you take him to a bar and he’ll just drink his beer and answer your questions with curt yes and no answers, but man is he cool! Once, this fan approached him in a bar after the matches. This fan was a nice guy, like most fans usually are. This fan approached a couple of the other guys first, got their autographs and gave them huge props and then saw Bret. This fan approached him, and asked him for an autograph. He replied, “I don’t give autographs.” The fan looked a little upset, but he was this fan’s hero! This fan remained undeterred, and asked him if this fan could buy him a beer. He looked at this fan, raised his still three fourths full beer and shook his head no. This fan then shuffled his feet, looked down at the ground and thanked Bret for his time. Some of the other guys were watching this and approached this fan, told him not to worry about it and that they’d buy this fan a beer.

This fan thanked the other guys and said, “Did I offend him or something? Does he just like to be left alone or something?”

One of the other guys replied, “Did he threaten to kill you?”

A little taken aback, this fan replied, “Of course not!”

One of the other guys looked genuinely impressed. “He didn’t say he was going to beat you up? Rip out your intestines? Get your girlfriend pregnant and then eat the abortion?”

This fan looked disgusted. “No! That’s sick! All he did was tell me he didn’t give autographs and then when I offered to buy him a beer he shook his head no.”

One of the other guys said, “Wow. He must like you!”

The bartender walked up to the group, a beer in her hand. “This is on the mean looking guy who doesn’t smile or want to talk to you over there.”

She handed the beer to this surprised fan who then said to the bartender, “Hey! Don’t bad mouth him like that!”

“I’m not bad mouthing anyone. That’s how he told me to describe himself to you.”

Suddenly, Bret got up and left the bar. Everyone asked him if he needed a ride. He did not reply. Man, this guy is cool!

He’s still sitting there in his corner of the dressing room. He has five more minutes of silence left. He knows this because Gina had came by and told him that he had fifteen minutes until his match five minutes ago. Whenever he hears this, a timer goes off in his brain. He can actually tell you exactly how many seconds he’s been sitting there in silence imagining the match. Of course, this theory has never been tested as most people actually make an attempt in a small crowded dressing room to remain five yards away from him during his pre-match ritual. He once slammed a guy into a locker for walking too loudly. He threatened to kill a guy for telling a joke to another guy on the other side of the room during his ritual. You don’t want to know what happened to one of the new guys who borrowed his Walkman with out asking.

He never killed anyone and he never broke any bones. But he could scare the hell out of anybody, mentally and physically. You wanted to fight? He’d fight you. He would beat you down until you knew you were his bitch, and then he’d stop beating on you. Usually when two guys fight they respect each other afterwards. Not him. He’d kick your ass and still call you a bitch. You offer to buy him a beer or something and he’d tell you he’d drink the beer, break the bottle over your head and cut your ball sac off with broken bottle. Oh wait, maybe he did kill someone once, but it was an accident. But that’s just a rumor!

He’s not killing anyone now. His eyes are open but the only thing he sees is his opponent blocking his suplex attempt with a DDT. It’s actually a pretty brilliant spot. It’s so simple, I can’t believe nobody has done it before. Look at him. Look at his eyes. The man is more intense then anyone I’ve ever met before in my life. That’s why this is going to be so goddamned brilliant.

Okay. It’s about time. Everybody out of the locker room! Come on! Go. You guys know what to do.

All of the other competitors except for Bret and Tommy filed out of the locker room. Bret would have thought something was odd about this except for the fact that he could not think about anything but the match. Small package. The fans count one, two, kick out! The fans sigh and settle back down into their seats. No, they groan and remain standing. Block the dropkick by grabbing the legs in midair and slam the brush into the mat. Half Boston Crab. The fans are screaming and yelling. The bell rings. The fans explode. Collapse in exhaustion. Okay. Perfect.

Bret reached for his Walkman. Tommy suppressed a smile.

Concentration. Concentration. Concentration. Focus. Focus. Focus. Perfection. Glory. Fame. Music.

Bret pressed play, and Tommy began to laugh.

Take these pink ribbons off my eyes

I’m exposed, and it’s no big surprise

What the hell was this?

Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand?

This world is forcing me to hold your haaaaand!

Cause I’m just a girl

Bret threw his Walkman against the wall and stood up in a fury. His nostrils were flaring, his face was completely red, and his eyes were searching wildly for the perpetrator. “WHO THE F__K MESSED WITH MY WALKMAN!”

Bret looked around and saw no one. Then he heard laughter coming from the door to the locker room. Tommy was standing there laughing his ass off. Tommy raised his hand.

“It was me. I’m sorry man. I thought you might like to hear something different, what with your lack of a penis and everything.”

Bret’s eyes were wild with rage. He was paralyzed by anger. He pointed a finger at Tommy but was too upset to say anything. After what seemed like an hour but was only a few seconds, Bret took his first step towards Tommy. Tommy waved his hands at Bret in a ‘Hold on one second’ kind of way.

“Wait! Wait one second! Before you attack me, I have something to say in my defense. You see ”

Bret let out a cry of anger and charge at Tommy. Tommy reacted quickly, turning off the light switch next to the door. The room instantly became pitch black. Bret furiously groped around the locker room, letting out little swears and shouts every time he stubbed his toe. His mind began to make sense of it all. They were all against him. They all must have known about it because none of them were in the locker room when it happened. Tommy must be trying to take his spot, and everybody else wants it to happen. Well, he wouldn’t go down that easily! If he had to rip the throat out of every person in the federation he’d keep his job! Where the hell was Tommy? He’d kill him when he found him!

Bret heard the door open. He turned towards the sound to see many silhouettes gathered around a single candle light. From behind him, he heard the unmistakable voice of Tommy.

“1!”

They were going to attack him.

“2!”

He couldn’t take them all on.

“3!”

Well he’d take out as many of the bastards as he could! Bret let out a yell on three and charged at the candlelight. If they started singing half a second earlier, Bret would have been able to stop.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO WHAT THE HELL?!

Bret crashed headfirst into his birthday cake. In the confusion, someone flicked on the light switch. There he was, the artist, the perfectionist, the brute, and the bully, covered in cake. Not just any cake. A cake made in the shape of Gwen Stefani’s body. Bret slowly got to his feet, although Gina, who had been unlucky enough to insist she be the one holding the cake, just moaned. Bret wiped the cake out of his eyes and with great anger and trepidation looked at the faces of all his colleagues, his ‘friends’, his brushes. He was still waiting for the attack, but after a few seconds realized it wasn’t coming. He turned around in a circle and looked as menacingly as he could at as many people as he could. When he had completed the circle, he took a chunk of cake off his face and ate it.

“So. Anybody want cake?”

After a second, everybody began laughing. Bret helped Gina up and gave her a hug and a cake kiss. Bret then went around and shook everyone’s hand and genuinely thanked each and every person for remembering his birthday.

You see what I mean? Everybody has a soft side, even Bret. You’ve just got to know how to reach him. I think that OW! OH GOD! OW!

“DON’T MESS WITH MY PRE-MATCH RITUAL! Also, thanks for remembering my birthday. I appreciate it man. Let me help you up.”