If you had asked me if I believed in Ring Rust prior to August 29th, I would have sworn to you there is nothing for any competitor more tangible and looming than that mental oxidation eating away a career over months or even mere weeks of separation from the sport. I would have pointed up and down wrestling’s history and tiers toward examples from The Ultimate Warrior’s disastrous unretirement in the late 1990s to small New England franchises forced to fold due to missing a single show. It is a merciless and fickle sport, equally rewarding as unforgiving from either side of the ropes, from face to heel. I would have told you if a wrestler cannot sustain that explosive energy so necessary night in and night out to the ring, they should hang up the boots, that lethargy has no business among such audacious wilderness, and I would have insisted I was correct - that is, until Milestone 10.
Watching the three-hour gauntlet unfold, one could be forgiven that cynical sin of incredulity when confronted with the half-year shadow between events hovering over RMP’s roster. Not a single competitor looked tired, outmatched, or overwhelmed, even against wrestlers they had never seen before. Granted, jitters tend to dissolve in the presence of smaller venues and crowds, but in comparing match performances from the “Rumble” at the Pepsi Center in front of six thousand, emotional intensity varied little, if at all. Case in point: in the first thirty minutes we were gifted with the return of the Colorado Cup to its home state with Johnny Zuto emerging victorious over thirty fighters, veiled speculation as to what it would take to get Titus Machiavelli to return to the ring from the mastermind himself, and contentious, post-match revenge dished out by a ruthless Severino Corrente on the man who punished him with ten oral stitches at the Pepsi Center, crowd favorite Gregory Iron. We were also lucky enough to see the genesis of a potential juggernaut Lockettes tag team: local legend Heidi Howitzer and impressive newcomer Lilith Grimm. This action is enough to fill any slate, on any night, for any franchise, but true to the previous decade’s form, and with a whopping five belts still up for grabs, Rocky Mountain Pro Wrestling simply calls it “Act One.”
What could possibly follow? How in the world could convince the local and remote crowds they hadn’t seen anything yet? If I had to answer in four words or less, I’d have to say, “tag teams, big men.” We saw the return of JK Pop in defense of their RMP Tag Team belt, and who better to challenge the Kimono Kids for Best in Show than the Boys of Showmanship themselves, the sometimes ludicrous but always luminous Tag Dudes? Sure, Mercury Yaden and Curtis Cole’s return was rebuffed by the champs, but no one in defeat could be dressed better or less bitter than the class act of the Dudes. Here’s hoping they’ll get another shot at the belt in the coming months; theirs is precisely the spirit and energy that RMP needs to keep moving toward Milestone 20.
So often in three-way matches we see the two smaller competitors focus their attacks on the big man in a de facto duet of Davids against a single Goliath. So often the big man is sized up, seized on all sides, and cut down to size despite his size. It becomes almost impossible not to feel for the guy. I think it is always a great triumph to see those statutes of stature turned inside out and upside down, the way Bruce “The Final Boss” Wayans did to Atiba and Lypto on his march to his first CHARGED Championship belt. The Boss laid down the law so swiftly despite the coalition against him, this writer wondered how in the world Bruce wasn’t a world champ already. He was pound for pound the soundest pounder around, and I cannot wait to see him in action again. Though I am curious to see how the newfound hardware affects the Executive’s headspace and notorious work ethic moving forward; will he be ethical in dealing with this belt business?
As we know, when the big men get going, it’s tough to slow all that momentum, as was the case when Jumbo Zamore took the stage against his belt challenger Manny Lemons. Anyone with one eye half-closed could see Manny was in trouble. Despite his gravity, Jumbo can groove; he’s had shuffle enough in the past to hold the Ignition Championship Belt longer than any prior competitor. It’s tough to say exactly where Manny fell short; whether he was outhustled or just outweighed, you can bet he’s looking back on his bid for the belt with all the sourness of his namesake. It almost seemed as if Manny couldn’t quite take his opponent seriously, which, in a match for the Ignition Championship belt, is all it takes to fall short. It was a lemon of a show for Lemons, and I’m sure he would love nothing more, as would this writer, to see a rematch with a tinge more tenacity.
At this point, Milestone 10 had outlasted the sun, and had already put out twice the intensity. What questions could be left to answer or asked? How about the two biggest titles in the league both rocketing toward controversial finishes; will that do for an acceptable third act? Despite the unfortunate results for Allie Gato, Rachelle Riveter and Danger Dean, we as an audience were treated to the best drama of the night in the final two matches. Heidi Howitzer and Lilith Grimm emerged in their foreshadowed alliance and despite having fought a mere hour earlier created such chaos in the midst of the Lockettes Championship match that it took every available referee to hold them back, a task at which, it could be argued, they barely succeeded. I’ll say it again: if those two continue to play nice with each other, the Lockettes division will be all but locked up between them for a long, long time. I cannot wait for the rematch; all four ladies will have a lot to fight for, especially considering the power vacuum within the Lockettes division: the defending champion Abadon vacated her belt when she switched leagues. Throughout Rocky Mountain Pro Wrestling right now, no belt is as contentious or open-ended as the Lockettes’, and the struggle for power should prove to be exhilarating.
Now, an entire essay could be devoted to Milestone 10’s main event, the Rocky Mountain Pro Championship; it was contentious, unorthodox, well-fought, and absolutely worth every penny of the price of admission. Whether or not anyone agrees with how it was called or if the interference from Damon Ace and the returning Mario Vanjur was merited or even legal, one thing everyone acknowledges is the element of surprise. Every piece, every move of the match helped pull so tight a tension that it seemed the only way to break it was to invite the interference of Ace and Vanjur. It set an immense stage, culminating, when the dust settled, in battle lines drawn throughout the RMP roster; for the time being, the question of sides is starting to take shape, and I for one cannot wait to find out in late September who’s truly afraid of the big, bad Vulture. All this after nearly six months of ringside silence: proof enough for this writer that in the minds of true competitors in a truly competitive franchise, Ring Rust is less something to shake off as laugh off.
Touting a love of competition and costume, toting a bag of words, and for the first time tooting his own horn, Grant Leo Winterer is a writer, sports fan, and the only man whose rendition of the whistle solo from Otis Redding’s “The Dock of the Bay” was deemed “pretty good” by those who overheard it once. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing, a minor in ethnomusicology, and a major grudge against instant replay. Originally from middle America, he has worn out the same pair of shoes up and down both coasts and has since let his dogs start to bark in the mountains. In his spare time, he runs a radio show, pickles an egg or two now and again, and works to keep a roof over his head. He can be found on Twitter @turabiannights.