I was eight years old when I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I no longer fantasized about becoming a princess or a famous ballerina. I wanted to be a professional wrestler. Wrestling was like watching real life superheroes. They were characters that were larger than life — and I wanted to be just like them. My older brother, Matthew, introduced me to it and from the very first show, I was hooked. Wrestling was my only goal.
Now, I’m sitting backstage at Tuesday Night Blitz. I’m signed to Super Stardom Wrestling, the world’s top wrestling organization. I should feel like I’ve accomplished everything I’ve ever worked for, maybe I have…but there’s one thing that’s still missing. My eyes glance over to the stand board with papers neatly tacked to it. Out of all the listed matches for the show tonight, not a single one is a women’s match. The female talent are forgotten once again. I should be used to it by now, but it’s still a painful blow each time I realize that I’m not on the card. Maybe I should just be happy that I’m living my dream…but I’ve worked hard for years to hone my talents. Where’s the payoff?
Suddenly, I’m pulled from my thoughts by the sound of someone slapping the large black trunk I’m sitting on. It’s one of the ones used by the production crew for when they have to pack everything back up after the show and hit the road again. I turn my head and despite the sourness I currently feel, I smile just a little.
“Care if I join you?” A British accent asks.
“You can always join me.” I respond, patting the spot next to me.
Liam Trubble is tall and muscular, with shaggy brown hair and blue eyes. His skin always appears to kissed by the sun, giving one no doubt that this man spends all of his free time outside. Whether it’s jogging, hiking or surfing, Liam lives to be outside. He takes the seat next to me, wrapping an arm around my shoulder and pulling me into him. “Something on your mind, beautiful?”
We’ve been dating for the last two and a half years. We share a condo in Virginia together, one right by the beach so Liam can surf as much as he’d like. I’m sure he already knows exactly what’s on my mind, but I tell him anyway, “There’s not a women’s match…again.” I tell him. Annoyance probably rings clear in my voice, as does my disappointment. Liam has to know how much this bothers me, I rant about it on every long drive we have.
“I know.” He says, sighing in return. “How about we go talk to Shelton tomorrow? Maybe we can figure something out together?”
Shelton Whittle started SSW years ago and has maintained his position as owner and head booker since. Shelton, however, still views wrestling as a ‘carny’ type of sport. He still likes his characters and stories to fall into the ‘carny’ stereotypes, because that’s what he believes draws viewers. He believes that women are eye candy, used to give the audience an added dose of entertainment and to distract them from the fact that wrestling isn’t real. He uses us like a magician uses his assistants.
Shelton doesn’t believe that women can main event a show; he’s made that well known over the years. Any pleas will likely fall on deaf ears, but I don’t want Liam to think I’m just sitting here, feeling sorry for myself. So, I nod in response. “Yeah. We’ll talk to him tomorrow and see if we can work something out.”
Liam smiles then, tacking on; “At least you get to escort me out tonight.”
I escort him out every night. I should be thankful that I’m even on the show, most of the women get tossed into the back and end up just sitting around. The problem is, I’m tired of just being a valet. That’s not what I want. I want more; I want a taste of fame for myself. “Yeah, at least I get to do that.” I mutter in agreement.
Before Liam can notice how much his comment bothered me, or how I annoyed I am, the crowd just beyond the curtain starts to go wild. Cheers, shouts and chants echo from the arena back into the backstage area. When a familiar rock song starts to play through the speakers, Liam stiffens next to me. As the backstage curtain is pushed aside, Liam rolls his eyes. “Guess Cameron won again,” He mutters. It’s a snide comment and it’s clearly meant to be so.
As soon as he finishes his sentence, the curtain is pushed to the side and Cameron steps through. On his shoulder is the prize everybody fights for; the SSW World Championship. It’s a large golden title with a white strap. Cameron’s dark hair is messy, his curls plastered to his forehead. Somehow it makes the blonde streaks in it stand out even more. He looks absolutely exhausted, his body glistening with sweat. As soon as he’s behind the curtains, the people around us erupt into applause for his title defense.
Slowly, I join in. Next to me, Liam remains stiff. Looking over, I notice how his eyes are locked on the title on Cameron’s shoulder. I know how badly he wants to win it. I understand his pain.
When Cameron goes to walk past us, he stops. He turns to look at both of us and the corners of his mouth pull into a half smile. “Liam, Dallas.” He nods to each of us respectively. “Good luck tonight, Liam.” Cameron’s voice is genuine. I think the problem is how genuine it is. It bothers Liam, knowing the person he thinks of as an enemy is full of grace.
He doesn’t respond to Cameron’s well wishes and I sigh, offering a small smile. “Thank you, Cam. You did good tonight.” With that, Cameron turns and leaves off to the locker room. Next to me, Liam is stiffer than earlier. He won’t even look at me. I sigh. “Are you really giving me the silent treatment because I was nice to him?”
“You know we don’t talk to him anymore, Dallas.” He says, as if that’s a good reason for his behavior. It feels like we’re high school mean girls.
Liam and Cameron came into SSW around the same time. Shelton, thinking he had a stroke of genius, placed them together as a tag team. Jekyll and Hyde. In the beginning, they had a bit of success as a tag team but by the time I was placed as their valet, they were mostly just used as enhancement talent. Shelton suddenly found something he had been looking for in Cameron, soon after we got the orders that Liam and Cameron were to split, with Cameron being taken off TV for weeks. During those weeks, Cameron was completely repackaged. He was no longer just Hyde. He became Eres Hyde, winning the SSW World Championship during his return match and holding it ever since.
Liam was left as just Jekyll, left with scraps and still being used as enhancement. Cameron won the world title; Liam had nothing. I watched the bitterness grow in my boyfriend, watch him grow to hate his former best friend. There’s nothing I can say to stop it. I think I even understand in a way. I know what it’s like to want something more than anything else, to want everybody to know just how good you are.
Silence washes over us as we sit until the production crew is urging us into position. I stand with him by the staircase, raking my fingers through my hair to make sure it’s TV ready. “Good luck out there.” I mutter to him before his music hits; Liam doesn’t respond.
The announcer’s voice echoes throughout the arena, loud over the heavy rock music. “This match is scheduled for one fall! Introducing first, to be accompanied to the ring by Dallas Grey,” That’s our cue. We walk up the stairs and out onto the entrance ramp. The thump of Liam’s music is so loud that is always leave my head aching, my ears ringing. I handle it, just like I handle the damned cowboy boots I have to walk in.
That was Shelton’s favorite thing about me. It’s probably why I ended up getting a position at all. My name is Dallas. Dallas, like the city in Texas. Shelton wanted to run with it, give me the character of a cowgirl. ‘The Lone Star Dallas Grey’. Except…I’m from Jersey. I can barely keep up the southern accent, despite taking voice lessons for the sole purpose of doing so.
But when I step out onto the entrance ramp, nothing seems to matter anymore. The crowd cheers, I even see a sign or two with my name. Not just Liam’s. Seeing those signs always gives me hope, like I could really be a star. The announcer continues, “from North London — Jekyll!”
I walk down the ramp, Liam’s arm lazily wrapped around my shoulder. Once we reach the ring, he holds the ropes open for me and I climb through. In the center of the ring, I kiss his cheek and the crowd cheers. It lasts for a split second before Liam hops onto the second rope, flexing for the crowd. I step out of the ring, take my place by the apron. The highlight of my night is over.
All I want is to show everybody exactly what I’m capable of. Instead, I’m reduced to eye candy. I stand on the sidelines, clap and scream for Liam to win. I hype up the crowd, I roll my eyes at whoever he’s facing. And since Liam’s a face, a good guy…I don’t even get to get involved.
His opponent tonight is Joey Wing. He’s a young, cocky up and comer. I already know how this match is going to play out. I know it’s just another squash match to keep Liam happy in the position they’ve given him. No real direction, no story, no character arc, but at least he gets a win on TV. As soon as the match starts, I fall into my role with ease.
I stand beside the ring, clapping and yelling whenever Liam’s momentum seems to slow. My hands ache, turning a bright shade of red each time I slap them against the apron to get the crowd cheering, to bring energy back into the arena. They sting and ache, but it’s my job.
Liam hops up after a kick by Joey and I know the match is close to ending. He hits his finisher, Double Dose, with ease. It’s a whirling kick, the second hit strong enough to knock a person to the ground. He pins Joey and the crowd starts to count along with the referee. I hold up my fingers, counting along. One, two, three!
The bell rings and Liam’s music hits again. As Joey rolls out of the ring, I climb in. I’m excited, energetic, all for the show. I happily wrap my arms around Liam’s neck, hugging him tightly as the announcer declares, “Winner of this match, Jekyll!”. Liam pulls me in for a kiss and I return it as the crowd cheers. It’s a half-hearted effort out of me tonight. I’m happy for Liam, I am. It’s just…I can’t help but wonder what it would feel like to score my own win.
I’m tired of just being an accessory.