The View From Down Here – The Worst Match Ever [a personal reflection]

Anyway, it sounds like you’ve probably got some fascinating stories from your time training and being on the road working. Would love to hear more about your personal experiences. How long were you training before your first match? What have been your best experiences? And how about the worst? Are there any Botchamania-worthy moments you want to tell us about?” – James A, comments section, last week.


Truth be told, considering I think the furthest I ever travelled to wrestle was 400 km (250 miles), the stories aren’t that great. And especially recently where the company I was most at home with didn’t let me wrestle in front of crowds, so I’ve jumped ship, so to speak (and ended up concussed…), the tales to be told are not the greatest.


Having said that…


I’ve mentioned here at Pulse a few times that the worse match I ever saw was one I saw live. Now, normally you don’t crap on young wrestlers at indy shows. Well, for this, bugger that. This was bad. So, on to the tale:


The two kids had practiced everything, knew the bout like a gymnast knows a floor routine. They’d done it a hundred times in training, at least. Every move, every punch, every kick, every hold, it was all practiced and perfected (a term probably used in the loosest possible sense here). Every facial expression of pain and anger and satisfaction had been drummed into them. Over and over again.


It was choreography worthy of the Australian Dance Theatre.


Pity then that they were two teenaged debutants about to enter a wrestling ring for the first time in public…


Vinnie, the trainer, believed that rookies had to have everything prepared beforehand so they did not embarrass themselves. Therefore he made sure the first few bouts of all his charges would be like this before they could go out and wing it, working on the fly, just like that.


However Vinnie did not count on what was about to happen when a seventeen year old Frank Richards and an eighteen year old Johnny Rebel entered the ring at a local hotel about six months before they were ready to do anything (after training for all of three months), in front of a crowd of about twenty drunken locals…


The match was due to go for between five and six minutes. And the first half was fine, if very basic and not all that thrilling. And who in their right mind would send these two out there first? Resthold city, but at least they didn’t botch anything. Then: “You both suck! Shit, this is boring!”


The guy must have been in his forties and outweighed both of the wrestlers.


Put together.


And Johnny panicked.


He broke out of Frank’s side headlock, whipped him into the ropes and dropped his head.


Frank stopped short and then went to kick him.


Johnny sailed backwards, crashing to the mat, while Frank’s leg was still behind him. I mean, not within a country mile of contact.


The sheer force of Frank’s intentions and thoughts had apparently knocked him over…


The laughter started about then.


He stood up and Frank gave him a drop kick. Full extension, great height… connecting somewhere around the ankles. If he was lucky. At training it had been hitting the chest. Now he could barely lift his feet off the ground and Johnny was barely grazed by it. And Frank landed flat on his face, bloodying his nose.


More laughter. And catcalls.


Johnny stood over Frank and looked confused, so Frank gave him the one piece of offence in the match that looked almost realistic – a European uppercut to the testicular region.


Johnny sold it as though Frank had rubbed his stomach.


Laughter everywhere.


The referee (a senior wrestler with an arm injury, if memory serves) could feel the tide turning against the match (ya think!?) and told them to take it home.


They panicked. What about all the planning? It was barely three minutes in. But Frank went to slam him anyway. Johnny had no idea what was going on, sandbagged him… and Frank tripped over his own feet, landing heavily on Johnny, driving all the air from him. He tried to get up, lifting Johnny, but fell again, this time landing on Johnny’s head. But it was clear Frank just wanted this to be over, and the way that had been decided, so he somehow managed to roll over, keeping hold of his prone opponent, until Johnny was on top, and Frank held his limp form there while the ref counted three.


Yes, Frank was pinned by an unconscious man.


They were laughed back to the dressing room.


Where are they now? Frank’s been on-and-off involved in wrestling over the intervening decades. Johnny never set foot in a ring again; last I heard, he was rally car racing for a sport.


That was the worst wrestling match I ever saw. And I had a unique perspective on it. So you can talk about bad Divas matches or anything involving a decrepit Hulk Hogan or a Ryback v Mark Henry v Sheamus v Mr Anderson hour-long 4-way dance, but I saw an unconscious Johnny Rebel pin Frank Richards while the crowd laughed them out of the ring.


So, James, let me say – it only got better after that.