Bumping Up

A longtime pro wrestling fan finds getting into the ring to be an exholarating (and painful) experience

April 17, 2006|By KEVIN ECK | KEVIN ECK,SUN REPORTER

Wrestling fan bumps up his experience Lying on my back in a professional wrestling ring, I shut my eyes and tightened my stomach muscles in anticipation of the impact that was only seconds away.

A 230-pound wrestler named Crowbar was preparing to catapult himself from the apron of the ring, over the top rope and onto me, as a rabid crowd of 1,200 fans at a flea market-turned-wrestling arena in Dundalk egged him on.

The obvious question is: How in the world did an editor from The Sun find himself in such a predicament?

But, to me, the more pertinent question is: How many people get to live out one of their dreams?

That's exactly what I was doing two months ago when I made my debut as a performer on a pro wrestling show.

It might seem like a twisted dream to some, but I've been fascinated with pro wrestling since I first watched Championship Wrestling on Channel 45, then a grainy UHF station, one Saturday afternoon in 1973 when I was 6 years old.

My parents always thought - and hoped - that my obsession with the grunt-and-groan game was something I would grow out of. I think they're still holding out hope, even though I'm 38 now.

I figured out pro wrestling was more show than sport at an early age, but it didn't matter to me that the matches were predetermined. I loved the showmanship, the heated confrontations between the good guys and bad guys and the flamboyant characters.

As I grew older, my interest in pro wrestling never waned. I've sort of become The Sun's unofficial pro wrestling scribe. I also used to host a wrestling radio show and spent a year in Atlanta as the editor of the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling's magazine.

In search of a dream

Working behind the scenes in the wrestling business with WCW was an experience I will never forget, but I always wondered what it would be like to be on the other side of the curtain - in the ring, taking bumps (the industry term for being on the receiving end of a wrestling move) - in front of an audience.

To my astonishment, I was offered that opportunity a couple months ago when I received a phone call from Dan McDevitt, the co-owner of Maryland Championship Wrestling, an independent wrestling organization that runs shows at small venues, such as the one Saturday at the Pavilion at Fort Meade in Odenton.

He and I had crossed paths several times over the years, and when McDevitt decided to bring back MCW after a three-year hiatus, he called and asked if I wanted to get involved in the show. I jumped at the chance, agreeing to be a manager - someone who accompanies a wrestler to ringside and usually gets physically involved in the match - for Crowbar.

McDevitt and I devised a scenario in which I would start the night as Crowbar's manager, but then turn on him after he lost the match, leading to Crowbar's retaliating by putting a wrestling maneuver on me.

Crowbar, whose real name is Chris Ford, was someone I knew and trusted not to hurt me.

The only problem was that I had no idea how to take a bump. Contrary to what some critics of pro wrestling might believe, you can get seriously hurt if you don't know what you're doing.

Not to worry, McDevitt assured me. He said he would have one of the local wrestlers give me a crash course in bump-taking. So, two weeks before the event, I met Pat Brink, a 25-year-old Laurel resident who wrestles under the name Genesis, at a gym in Essex that had a wrestling ring.

Bumpy lesson

I entered the ring with a sense of anticipation and trepidation, and I quickly realized how appropriate the term "crash course" was. After completing my first session of learning the ropes, the pain in my back, shoulders and neck reminded me of how I felt years ago after being involved in a car accident.

"All bumps hurt," Brink said. "You just try to land the proper way so they hurt less."

Though the mat had some give, it was certainly nowhere near the trampoline some people think it is. Just taking a basic back bump - thrusting myself backward onto the mat - was jarring, but Brink told me I was doing well for a novice.

After throwing myself around the ring for a while, it was time for Brink to toss me around. That was a little intimidating, considering Brink, at 6 feet 6 and a muscular 287 pounds, had me by 8 inches and nearly 100 pounds, but I kept reminding myself that I was living my dream.

We started with a body slam. It's one of the most basic maneuvers in wrestling, yet it can still be dangerous if not executed correctly. Legendary wrestler Bruno Sammartino was a veteran main-eventer when he suffered a broken neck in 1976 after landing badly.

Brink explained the move to me, then picked me up and slammed me to the mat. As soon as my back hit the canvas, I knew I must have done something wrong. I got a bad whiplash and quickly became aware of the foul taste of blood - I had bitten my tongue.

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