It was just another one of your typical spring days in the Puget Sound—damp and dark, with a constant, heavy drizzle of rain. Not like one of those crazy Midwest rainstorms that come out of nowhere and hammers you for a couple minutes with an intense, thunderous storm followed by a streak of sunshine; Mother Nature’s nice way of reminding us how powerful she is and why we shall respect her. In the Pacific Northwest, she reminds us of her dominance in a much more subtle, but torturous manner…
To put it bluntly, it rains. Period. It will rain for days, weeks, and when she’s really pissed off, months even. You wake from your peaceful slumber to a steady flow of water droplets pummeling the ground day after day, beating onto your skin as you step outside to make the morning commute, slowly seeping deeper into your already darkened soul. Little by little, like the frog who’s stuck in the pot water that gradually turns to a boil, it wears you down to the point where it becomes accepted as part of your everyday routine, analogous to the mundane work that is to be accomplished when you arrive at work.
Then finally, after a much-extended departure, a few rays of light seep through a slight break in the clouds, sending the Olympic Peninsula natives into a frenzy of adulation. We rejoice in the miracle of sunshine and spend much of our workday talking amongst our peers about our great plans for the weekend, now that the streaks of grey have been vanquished from the sky—our one and only sign of hope.
We crawl into bed with delusions of grandeur, for the sun, that bright ball of fire in the sky that had departed so long ago and had nearly been erased from our memory, would finally return to us. Then, the very next morning, you are woken by the same persistent sound of tapping on the roof and windowsills. You rise with every emotion drained from your body, except for a slight smirk, a recognition of the irony from the sights and sounds of sorrow, fooled once again to think we might actually have a chance to live through a day of nice weather. And once again, the cycle repeats itself, forever ongoing, beating us into submission and furthering our depressed state. No wonder so many people look like they’re in a terrible mood in the city of Seattle.
The rain doesn’t always have such a negative effect, however. It makes us Pacific Northwesterners who deal with it day in and day out hardened to the fact that bad weather is a part of life, and that we must deal with or die. We learn to suck it up, to pedal our bikes through unyielding walls of water just to make it to work to produce goods and services for the proud, work-driven community, or hike through flooded plains and mud-ridden trails to reach a destination of everlasting beauty. It’s much like how the Wisconsinites deal with the bitter and cold winters with their sub-zero temperatures, or the harsh and blistering summer climate in the southwestern states. It gives us all an appreciation of those wonderful days when by an act of God, the sun is shining bright between the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges without a cloud in the sky.
Much was the attitude that I discovered that liquid-saturated Saturday preceding Cinco de Mayo when I ventured down Callow Avenue in Bremerton, Washington with my go-to skate buddies Jack and Adam. For those of you unfamiliar with Callow Avenue, it is a representation of the very best and very worst of what the city of Bremerton has to offer. It houses a collection of historic businesses that molded the city into what it is today, while at the same time attracting many new stores that seem to undertake a more progressive model to commerce.
On either side of the street, you’ll find a mass of pawnshops, which have strategically placed neon signs plastered across the windows with seductive slogans. One in particular caught my eye, and if I can remember correctly, it had a catchy phrase that went something like, “guns, guns, GUNS!” Apparently, judging by the signs and the wooden silhouette of a cool cowboy leaning on a post and clasping a smoking pistol, these pawnshops like to sell a lot of guns.
Then on the east side of the street across from the town bakery and adjacent to the comic book shop, there is an adult themed store with its specially attributed mannequin models posing in a provocative manner to advertise their explicit clothing line. They seem to have great deals on a wide range of videos that line the store shelves, which I’m sure keeps their customers coming back for more. And who can blame them with deals like “3 DVD’s for 19.95,” or “free edible underwear with the purchase of full lingerie set?” Say what you want about the morality of their product, but there’s no denying that they know how to run a consumer based business.
And what would Callow Avenue be without a tobacco shop or two, whose specialties have recently expanded into the reach of glass headpieces? With the rise of marijuana use due to Washington’s reformed laws, business has been booming for these small business start-ups, and who can blame them for taking full advantage of the law to boost their clientele base? It’s what any smart businessperson would do, from Donald Trump to Vince McMahon.
There is even rumored to be an underground S&M and dominatrix club in one of the back alleys aligning Callow. Supposedly, some of Bremerton’s finest are members of this exclusive club that is only accessible through secret invitation. Doctors, lawyers, bankers, among many of the other important citizens of the Kitsap community are supposedly spotted entering the club’s secret passageway to indulge in their inner-most dark desires. I didn’t believe it at first, but with much persuasion from Ben Woodward, he verified and assured me that such a place exists. He seems to show a keen interested in those types of places for some reason or another.
We had nothing but the harmless intention of composing a high quality Instagram video that afternoon, although the never-ending rain put a stop to those plans real quickly. It was just impossible to gather the filmmaking resources required to make such a video that lives up to our standards given the cacophonic state of the weather. All was not lost however, for as we walked further down, a congregation of spectators had come into our sight. For better or worse, our curiosity guided us past food vendors and hollering fans, some of whom had traveled far and wide from the outskirts of town, including representatives from Shelton, Belfair, Purdy, and many of the other communities out in the sticks that surround the city of Bremerton.
After maneuvering through the cluster of crazed fans, growing further impatient from the delay of action, or eyes settled to the middle of the street where a group of children, drenched with an unrelenting barrage of rain water, tirelessly labored to clear a square ring erected from four columns of turnbuckles at the corners and aligned with three rows of ropes. No matter how much these boys squeegeed or how many towels they soaked up, the unstoppable force of rain continuously militated their efforts. These modern peasants however were determined to see the ring cleared, and were willing to do whatever it took for the chance to watch their hero’s, many of whom they’ve been waiting their whole life to see, battle it out for their shot at stardom; the superstars of the West Bremerton Wrestling Federation, or better known as the WBWF.
I had heard of these small-operation wrestling organizations popping up around different cities with their members aiming to take their skill set to the big leagues. Usually these events are pretty secretive, with their whereabouts only known by a limited number of hardcore fans who rarely share the details of the sport’s arrangements. For that, I considered myself lucky that day to have stumbled upon such an event, and I’m sure there was at least a WWE scout or two in the crowd, even if it was raining cats and dogs.
After 10 minutes of obstinate work from the child laborers whom of which I’m sure were grossly underpaid, out of nowhere a booming voice with a God-like reverb exploded out of a PA system setup outside a Mexican restaurant. From the way the man screamed at the boys to get their tiny buns out of the ring, I got the idea that their determination had finally paid off, even though much of the ring was still covered in a thick layer of water. It mattered not, for rain or shine, we were finally going to see some damn wrestling!
The first two opponents stepped out into the ring, a masked behemoth, clad in a full body spandex suit vs. a truly undersized welterweight sporting red and yellow Zumba pants. Toe to toe they stood, gazing into each other’s eyes with great malice; every second passing adding to their desire to clobber the other into the mat. The bell rang and the two reached in for a fierce grapple, forcing each other’s weight upon the other, a force that quickly overcame the friction between their florescent colored K-Swiss running shoes and the rain-soaked mat. What seemed like perfect execution, both wrestlers’ pair of legs flew out underneath them, sending them face first to the mat. The crash of the two muscular giants thundered throughout Callow as the two turned to their sides, squinting their eyes and wallowing in pain.
The referee began his 10-second match disqualification count as the wrestlers desperately attempted to rise from the fall. I don’t know if he was paying attention, had terrible track of time, or what his issue was, because his 10-second count seemed to last over a minute, for both wrestlers found it extremely difficult to keep their balance during their ascent to stand on two feet. Both wrestlers slipped and fell back to the ground at least 3 or 4 times before the black behemoth finally rose up, grabbing Zumba’s long, oily locks and forcing him back onto his feet.
The behemoth grabbed Zumba by the arm, pulling and using his momentum to send him towards the ropes… perhaps too much momentum. Again, the behemoth lost his balance and found himself back on the ground. Zumba saw this as an opportunity, bouncing off the ropes to set up for a fierce guillotine leg drop, a perfect set up for a devastating finisher.
He approached the Behemoth lying on his back as he ran full speed and lifted his right leg, the one that would soon be strategically placed across his opponent’s throat, sending maximum pain throughout the rest of his body. It was a perfect execution, too perfect, only if it hadn’t been for the inch of rainwater covering the mat…
Zumba began to slide, waving his arms in a windmilling fashion, doing everything he could to keep his balance and deliver the finishing blow. However, with one leg already up in the air and a near frictionless wrestling mat, his valiant efforts were ultimately no use. His left joined his elevated right, an entire ball of muscle floating in the air for a brief moment of time; his eyes widening to the size of silver dollars and his mouth shaping into the letter “O”, bracing for the impact his bony behind was about to make with the floor.
“OHHHH,” he cried out holding his left butt check, the one that had taken the brunt of the impact from the monstrous impact. “C’mon!” we screamed in frustration, sensing that with both men on the ground, the referee would repeat his 5 minute 10-second count all over again. This match was far from over.
Zumba’s mistake proved to be detrimental, for although he was courageous for taking on the masked behemoth, his valor was much too underwhelming for the 100 plus pounds and 8 inches the behemoth had over him, much to the disappointment of the crowd. Everybody likes a good underdog victory every now and then, especially the couple that was across the ring from me.
The wife sported a black shirt with the slogan, “ATF: Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms. Who brings the chips?” and the husband was clad in a tucked in XXL shirt with Yosemite Sam spread across the torso with two revolvers drawn and the phrase “Back Off!” tucked underneath his belly, well below his waistline. Their 6 children, soaked in oversized shirts such as “Out of my Mind, be Back in 5 Minutes,” among other witty tops easily purchased at the local Wal-Mart mimicked their parent’s demeanor, hurling insults and yelling furiously at the heels throughout the duration of the event.
Soon after the Behemoth celebrated his victory and Zumba pitifully exited the ring in agonizing pain, the piercing sound of the Soviet National Anthem came blaring out of the speakers, one of the most excruciating songs to come out of the 20th century.
“What the hell?” I asked myself. My question was quickly answered as two Russian jerks strutted out of the Mexican restaurant covered with the red hammer and sickle flag alongside their manager who kept waving around old Soviet Union paraphernalia yelling gibberish through a stupid megaphone. Nothing grinds my gears more than a bunch of loudmouth commies prancing around with unjustified cockiness, especially considering the hostile advances against Ukraine in the past months. A vicious anger began bellowing inside me, a rage building to uncontrollable levels. It consumed me so much that I regrettably found myself hurling offenses along the lines of “Putin Sucks.” It was an action way beneath my character, but I could hardly believe the utter lack of respect these guys were showing, and was very much hoping their opponents were strong enough to deliver them the punishment they deserved.
After their egregious boasting, out came the other tag team, whose appearance left me a bit concerned I must admit. The first was a chubby kid; barely of legal age to wrestle in the WBWF, clothed in black tights and in the process of growing a Flock of Seagulls style haircut with purple highlighted tips. The kid had passion no doubt, a commendable attribute, but at the same time, certainly had a lot to learn about the sport of professional wrestling.
His partner, although out of shape, looked to be more of a veteran of the sport. His hair style was of one of which I had never seen; a blonde and balding bowl cut with two inch long braids lining the perimeter of his head, matching his stained and crooked teeth and his multi-pocketed, flared out bellbottom style jeans, discolored with bleach stains in multiple spots. His one saving grace was his superman shirt. Say what you want about the guy, a washed up WBWF legend or recovering meth addict (some would make that assumption, but I never make accusations unless I have hard evidence), but anybody with a superman shirt is a man of integrity, intensity, and intelligence, and will with no doubt come out on top, no matter their appearance.
The match began with Mr. Emo up first against one of the Russians. It was an absolute massacre, right from the get go. Mr. Emo didn’t stand a chance. Over and over again the Russian’s took turns throwing him against the turnbuckles and delivering slap chop to his abnormally large breasts and blows to his bloated gut, causing his epidermis to resonate with a high frequency.
“No, no!” He screamed as the Russian’s grabbed each of his legs, kicking them up and down as he clasped the ropes for dear life. His plea was humored, but ultimately ignored as they ripped him from his rope stranglehold and threw him onto the center of the mat, sending a splash of water high into the air. The Russian’s were just being a couple of buttholes now, placing Mr. Emo in various submissions, shooting pain throughout his body with every twist of his wrist and pull of his leg.
The Russian had Mr. Emo stuck in a full crab, a submission move where the victim lies on his stomach while the aggressor sits on his back and takes hold of both legs, pulling them towards the back of his head, causing much strain and deformation to the spine. Further, the Russian consistently taunted his partner, Superman, as well as the crowd, hurling insults in a heavy eastern dialect that nobody quite understood, but hated all the same.
Although they certainly had the upper hand, the Russians’ cockiness were getting the best of their talent. As they were busy ridiculing the crowd, Mr. Emo was clandestinely slipping away from his opponent’s submissive grip, his hand inching closer to his partners, Superman, who had yet to be tagged into the match.
He was so close, nearly a fingertip away from the tag with his arm outstretched and his eyes squinting, a helpful tactic that increases your reach every time it’s tried. My heart was pounding out of my chest, for we were on the verge of witnessing an epic comeback matching that of when the Packers came back at the last second to beat the Cowboys in the Ice Bowl. Just a little more reach and they would have it; the match would be theirs…
The Russians pulled Mr. Emo back to the middle of the ring, laughing at his hopeless effort to tag his partner, but the laughter was short lived. Somehow, by a shear act of God, the tag had been made and Superman was on his way to deliver a world of hurt. His eyes were full of fury, the humiliation his partner received was about to be repaid in full, and after 10 agonizing minutes, we were finally about to get what we all came for—a good ol’ fashion American ass whoopin’!
Superman took a lunge and stuck out his forearm to deliver a close line. The Russian inside the ring had just enough time to see the blow coming, but not enough time to evade. Contact was inevitable; the Russians were going down…
“WHOA,” screamed the Superman as he realized one of his legs slipped out much to far in front of him. Before doing the splits and ripping his growing muscles, he miraculously switched leg positions, and switched again, and then again, and again, and again. It was like a Nordic Track on overdrive, accelerating with intensity with each leg shift. At the rate his legs were moving, his body was brushing with the peril of a dangerous rotation that could send him to the mat if he wasn’t careful, but I knew he was going to pull out of it. He was Superman after all.
It all happened so quickly; that I can’t quite remember the exact way it went down. What I do know is one minute he was upright, the next he was down. His face planted hard against the wet mat, and shortly after, our palms planted hard against our faces. The Russian picked him up and suplexed him right onto his neck, a finishing move that proved to be incorrigible to recovery. The Referee went down for the count. In an attempt to save his partner, Mr. Emo got tangled in the ropes, eventually landing on his stomach with complete uselessness, the epitome of maladroit. 1, 2, 3, and it was all over.
The crowd booed off both teams with utter disgust. I for one was completely ashamed to have these two buffoons represent my country. Their pathetic display was an embarrassment to our great nation, and the unruly crowd let them have it with disapproving hand gestures, nasty heckles, and flying food particles. Mr. Emo and Superman did what they could do re-garnish their support, but in the end, they both left the ring in disgrace.
The last match was perhaps the most inhumane of the day, a three on three tag-team bout consisting of the most desperate wrestlers in all of Kitsap County. They came from all sides, the one entering the ring closest to us standing out above the rest. We were in full view of his cacopygian attributes, and from what I could tell, he may have been only wearing a mask and a white T-shirt, for his overly obese legs, covered in a film of cellulite that had the consistency of cottage cheese, blocked the view of anything between his thighs and waist.
The match began and immediately there was trouble in the ring. The mangers got involved right from the start, distracting the referee while the Cacopygian joined his other teammates in illegally attacking their outnumbered opponent. For those of you not familiar with tag-team wrestling, the wrestlers can only double or triple team for a brief moment after a tag has been made before they must return the their corner, which these wrestlers were in clear violation of. The crowd screamed at the ref in an attempt to raise his attention to the unsportsmanlike conduct happening inside the ring, but the more they hollered, the further he got distracted. For some reason, everybody could see that the bad guys were cheating except for him. I hate it when that happens. It’s become a wild epidemic in the wrestling community that after many years still hasn’t fix. You’d think there’d be better talent out there for referees, but then again, who knows?
Eventually the ref did turn back around, and by an astounding miracle things just happened to return to order right before his eyes reverted back into the ring, although the good guys were still beat up pretty bad and at a disadvantage. It didn’t take long however for pandemonium to rear its ugly head once more after one of the managers slipped a steel-folding chair into the stage. Cottage cheese legs grabbed the chair and took a swing at his opponent, except the low friction mat caused a slip, turning a brutal chair blow to the head into a petty tap on the shoulder. The tap seemed to affect him all the same however, causing the good guy to flail back in pain, roll around on the ground and cover his face as if he’d been sprayed with a vile of acid. The screaming good guy was too much for the ref to handle, quickly calling the match a disqualification.
Shortly after he announced his decision, a nasty, vociferous voice came out of the PA system. A man walked out, claiming to be the CEO of the WBWF. I believed him, although his appearance caught me a bit off guard. Usually a ripped pair of jeans, a ratty T-shirt and an unbuttoned flannel doesn’t strike me as common CEO attire, and his cheesy mustache wasn’t doing him any favors either.
“I’m the CEO, and this is MY Company. Therefore, I hereby reverse this match’s decision by the power bestowed on me!”
And that’s when all hell broke loose.
I really questioned the intelligence and motives of this CEO, and how long he was going to last. I know his ambitions were high for the WBWF, but I just didn’t see him making it onto the Fortune 500 list anytime soon. Within’ seconds of his reversal, an all out brawl of ten grown men broke out in the ring, slapping, grabbing and throwing each other around. One man grabbed a hold of another and forced him onto the ground, thrusting his body weight onto his victim in an attempt to get him to submit. Two others kept rolling around on the ground, grinding against each other, trying to position themselves on top of the other so they could have the upper hand and be the dominant partner calling the shots, delivering the pain and satisfying their alpha male desires.
The ring became a giant collection of blood, sweat, water, and flesh. I hadn’t seen this much body to body contact since the last time I watched Game of Thrones, and being that this was a live event, the content was much more graphic. For minutes we watched in horror as the bloodthirsty and obese kept hammering each other over and over again. We stared in disgust with our mouths locked open as the topless plumps battled, slowly turning into a giant blob of flabby flesh with the occasional limb flopping around in desperation. The uglier it got, the more impossible it became for us to turn our heads the other way.
They nailed each other with lefts and rights and forced their opponents into uncomfortable positions, the victims resisting as their perpetrators held them against their will, forcing their body to twist and turn in ways the good lord never intended. Eventually, after a long and relentless pounding session, their stamina gave out, and they were left laying on the mat, side by side in a puddle of water mixed with blood, sweat, saliva, and any other bodily fluid that may be extracted during a match of this caliber, with a flood of rain dropping onto their feeble bodies; these weren’t the most athletic warriors after all. Now, after 20 minutes of intense, physical, and strenuous activity in the ring, they were exhausted of all their strength, left breathless next to their partners in a moment of extreme pain and pleasure that only the participants could truly appreciate.
Their moment of intimacy was our cue to exit. None of us said a word during the walk back through Callow Avenue. Not even past the adult store, the pawnshops, or suspected S&M club. We thought about those wrestling warriors that gave it their all in the ring. Would they ever get their shot, the big time Pay-Per-View main event in the WWE with John Cena? Only time will tell. All I know that these athletes were willing to sacrifice it all for their shot at their dreams, and for that, I commend them. We may not have gotten the Instagram skit we were hoping for, but in the end, I believe we received something much greater, for it’s truly amazing the things you’ll find sometimes when you’re not looking.
I think we all learned a great deal that day walking down Callow Street, about life and ourselves. Maybe someday, we’ll be at that same level of pursuing our dreams, taking the risk of life for the glory inside the ring. Until then, we’ll look up to these wrestlers with pride, despite their appearance or what opinions society may cast upon them. We’ll look at them as greater men… The men we could be… The men we want to be… The men we can only hope our children will become…