THE WRESTLER'S HEART

By Joe Kaiser

Millions of eyeballs were tuned in to millions of television sets as the upbeat UCW, or Ultimate Championship Wrestling, kicked off what promised to be it's biggest prime time show in the company's brief two-year history. 20,000 fans packed the Pontiac Silverdome to the brim. One could hardly see over all the cardboard signs and posters. The smell of fresh popcorn and a large variety of beer even made some of the wrestlers drool with temptation. For the most part, the arena was silent in anxious anticipation.

The playing of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band's "Blue on Black" broke that silence, followed by a deafening eruption of cheers from the fans. Down the aisle walked Kaiz, UCW's biggest superstar. Wrestling insiders referred to his fighting style as "kamikaze-like," meaning he would take a chance on doing anything, anytime to earn himself the win. Kaiz named his finishing maneuver after what he took to be a compliment from his peers, calling it the Kamakaiz.

Kaiz had an intense look on his face as he walked down to the ring in casual clothes: blue Arizona jean shorts and a black tank top. The sound of his theme music made pure adrenaline pulsate through his veins. He intentionally walked as slow as he could, not paying attention to the gathering of people screaming his name and stretching their arms over the barricade, trying to touch whatever part of his body they could reach. The fans got even louder as he lowered his six-foot-six-inch frame to walk through the ropes and into the ring. He held out his massive hand for a microphone, which was quickly given to him by the ring announcer. The music came to a halt, and he held up his hand for silence. The fans obeyed and became still immediately.

"Mangler, you and I have a serious problem!" he yelled. "Your two little friends cost me the UCW Championship belt, and it's only because of them that you still hold the damn thing!" Kaiz was clearly livid, and the fans were screaming their agreement with him. "Now I want you to get your fat ass down here, without your buddies, and give me a real title shot!"

Mangler answered Kaiz's call, and he walked out to his dismal theme music. The crowd made sure to jeer and boo him, but that was exactly what he desired. Mangler had a Hispanic complexion, and was the biggest (both height and weight) wrestler on UCW's roster. He was the leader of a three-man group known as the Triple Alliance. Standing at the back of the aisle, near the entrance, he also had a microphone in hand. The mischievous smile on his face sent a chill through the spines of every onlooker.

"Don't worry, Kaiz," he stated calmly, "you'll get your shot soon enough. Right now, I believe I have something else that should belong to you."

Kaiz was confused at first, but soon realized that Mangler was referring to Invision, a fellow (huge) member of the Triple Alliance, walking out beside him. He was holding The Diva, Kaiz's girl, by the wrists.

"I think you'll find her to be a much higher priority than the Heavyweight Championship," Mangler said with a chuckle.

"HELP ME, JOE, HELP ME!" screamed The Diva. Mangler demanded that she shut up and backhanded her across the face. Kaiz threw down the microphone and began to climb through the ropes to rescue The Diva.

"Hold it right there!" Mangler ordered Kaiz when he was halfway through the ropes. "One more step and Invision breaks her wrists!" Knowing that his rival held all the cards, Kaiz stayed put. Mangler took a moment to regain his composure. "Now, I have a proposition for you, Kaiz. I'll give you the choice between having your precious title shot," he sneered as he looked at The Diva, "and getting back your pretty woman. I highly recommend the latter, because if you don't choose her, heh heh," his smile grew wider, "she will soon realize that Mexicans do it better!"

Kaiz was so angry his facial muscles were shaking uncontrollably. He wanted so badly to give Mangler the beating he deserved, but for Diva's sake, he had to maintain his dwindling patience.

"Well, Kaiz," said Mangler, "everyone awaits your decision."

Before Kaiz could answer, his brother, Titan, came to the rescue. He attacked Mangler from behind. Invision ran backstage, still holding The Diva captive. Jumping out of the ring in pursuit, Kaiz was cut off by Jazz Jefferson, the third member of the Triple Alliance. Kaiz made short work of him, beating him senselessly and finishing him off with the Kamakaiz, performed by rolling the opponent up onto the shoulders and snapping flat to the ground, hurtling him hard onto his head and shoulders. Titan left Mangler bruised and bleeding on the floor.

Paul Dawson, who was the owner of the UCW, appeared on the large screen above the entrance. His address was directed mostly toward the fallen members of the Triple Alliance.

"Mangler, Mr. Jefferson, I don't feel the least bit sorry for you. Your friend Invision will get his when the time comes. Mangler, you already have the UCW Heavyweight Championship belt; what more could you want? You still carry out stunts other wrestlers would pull when trying to take the belt from you. This can only mean you are eager to lose that belt and once again look from the outside in." The crowd seemed to agree with him. "That's why tonight, in Pontiac, Michigan, we will have a UCW Championship defense!" Mangler managed to show a little shock through his statement of pain. "You will have a match against Kaiz for the Heavyweight belt. And just to make sure you don't take any shortcuts to victory, I am going to book a hard core rules match, which means anything goes. No disqualifications due to outside interference or use of a foreign object, and no count-outs by being outside of the ring for too long. You will win either by pin or submission, or you won't win at all." Dawson returned Mangler's previous bright smile and said, "Have a nice night!"

Upon returning to his locker room, Kaiz was furious as he kicked over tables, smashed lamps, and continuously pounded his fists into the wall. Feelings of being pumped for the match ran concurrently with being upset over the absence of The Diva. The sport had united them, and now it may take them apart. Titan ran into the room to keep his brother's body in tact for the match.

"Hey! Bro! Settle down!" He shouted as he attempted to restrain his younger sibling from behind.

"I'm gonna rip their freakin' heads off if they hurt one hair on her head!" Kaiz responded, screaming at the top of his lungs. His face and neck were cherry red.

Titan proceeded with his attempt to calm him. "You'll get your chance for revenge later! Right now you need to focus on your title match!" Kaiz began to cool down. "Look at me," Titan said in a normal tone of voice. Kaiz obeyed. "You can't let them think they've gotten inside your head. I know how much Marie means to you, but you've got to try to block all that out."

Kaiz was calm, but still flustered. "I ain't gonna just forget about her!"

"Trust me; they're not dumb enough to hurt her. Not unless they have a death wish. It's just one big chess game, Joe, and it's your move. Don't waste it because of personal feelings."

Kaiz nodded, clenching his fists in suppressed anger. If it hadn't been for his brother, he would have never become a professional wrestler, which meant he would have never met Marie. The least he could do was listen to his older brother's advice. Titan suddenly thought of a way for his brother to unleash his vengeance.

"Hey, bro," he said with a smile, "whad'dya say we pay the Triple Alliance a little visit?"

Mangler, Invision and Jazz were smoking cigars in their locker room, laughing and snorting at the mental torture they had hurled at Kaiz. The Diva was bound and gagged in the corner.

"So, what're we going to do next, dude?" Invision bissfully asked Jazz.

"We'll figure it out," Jazz replied. "Right now I've gotta take a leak."

Jazz headed for the door, saying to Diva on the way, "We're gonna have some fun with you later!"

Just as he reached for the knob, there was a pounding on the door, and it was thrust open, nailing Jazz in the side of the head. Kaiz stormed into the Alliance's locker room, followed by Titan. Dazed, Jazz slumped to the floor.

Everything happened in a flash. Mangler got up and sprinted toward Kaiz and Titan. While he kept them occupied, Invision picked up the vulnerable Diva, put her up over his shoulder and ran out of the room. Mangler actually had the advantage in the beginning of the fight, but the force of the two brothers became too much to handle, and he was soon overcome by their intensity. Titan picked up Mangler and made him the victim of a Titan Drop, in which Titan held the huge Mexican over his head, heaved him into the air, caught him and threw him to the floor. Mangler was in a tremendous amount of pain.

"Put him out of his misery!" Titan screamed to Kaiz, who was more than willing to follow directions. Unable to stop him, Mangler found himself being set up for the Kamakaiz. He felt an unbearable amount of pain the instant he landed on his back with Kaiz on top of him. Kaiz got up and started screaming trash talk to a badly beaten Mangler. Despite the pain, Mangler was not phased by the attack.

"You may have beaten me for now, Kaiz," Mangler grunted between moans of pain, "but just remember: we still have The Diva!"

Alarmed, Kaiz looked around the room and noticed Mangler was right; The Diva was out of sight, and so was Invision. Pictures of the worst-case scenario entered Kaiz's mind. Before his brother had a chance to stop him, he stomped back out into the hallway in search of them.

Paul Dawson walked out to the ring between matches, and for someone who took almost everything seriously, he was in a very cheery mood. He brought a microphone with him to the ring, with the intention of addressing the crowd.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I have a very important announcement to make," he began. "It looks like you may not get to see Mangler attempt to defend his belt tonight..." Dawson was interrupted by boos, but the noise didn't last for long. "That's because Kaiz and his brother, Titan, gave him the beating of his life backstage! We have exclusive film of the fight. Roll 'em!"

The fans were appeased by the replay of Kaiz and Titan's ambush of Mangler on the giant screen. They blew the roof off the arena when they saw the Kamakaiz onto the floor. Dawson continued his speech.

"As you can see, folks, it looks like Mangler won't be able to compete tonight. Which means I'll just have to strip him of the belt and give it to Kaiz!" The crowd became even louder, but was quickly silenced by the playing of Mangler's theme music. He still had some blood covering his face, and walked with the slightest limp. Otherwise, he seemed not the least bit phased by the attack.

"Dawson, as I stand here before you and all of the world, everyone can very plainly see that it will take much more than an attack by two mental midgets to stop me! I am more than able to defend my belt, and I can guarantee you that I will leave here tonight with it still in my possession!"

"You sound sure of yourself, Mangler," said Dawson, "But if I were you, I wouldn't be trying Kaiz's patience like you and your cohorts are doing right now."

"Listen, old fart!" Mangler shot back. "I'm the champion! I can do whatever the hell I want to around here! If I push your pal Kaiz's buttons, and he comes after me, I'll do to him what I did to his friend Legend eight months ago!"

"That's a tall order for you, Mangler. You nearly ended Legend's career with that severe break you caused to his leg."

Mangler made a snapping motion with his hands. "I will snap Kaiz's long legs like tiny little twigs! And then, his little Diva will find it much better to stay on my side and manage a winner!"

"We will soon see if your words are more than just idle chatter," said an undismayed Dawson. With that, the conversation was over. Because Mangler couldn't get in the last word, he walked back to the locker room with a disgusted look on his face, more determined than ever to shut everyone up.

Kaiz was more irate with himself than ever. Once again, he got preoccupied with destroying Mangler, rather than attempting to rescue The Diva. This time, he did not attempt to destroy or mutilate anything. Instead, he sat in a folding chair, wearing his ring attire: royal blue streaks on black wrestling tights, which coincided with his theme music. His chin rested in clasped hands, and he looked straight ahead into nothingness. His hazel eyes saw nothing but Diva being taken away in an instant in the entrance. A single tear began to run down his cheek, as he was desperately worried about her. She was totally defenseless against either of them, being tied up. And Kaiz would not be there when she needed him. More tears flowed silently as Kaiz put his hands over his face.

"Cheer up, pal," boomed a voice from the doorway, "You've got some Mexican ass to kick in a few minutes!"

Kaiz recognized that voice from the distant past. He thought to himself, "There's no way in -" his eyes peeked out from behind his large hands. "TIM!"

Legend grinned as Kaiz looked like he had seen a ghost. "Glad to see you too, bud." The redhead walked over and sat down next to Kaiz. "Understand you got some woman problems."

Kaiz chuckled. "Actually, I think they have some woman problems. Probably got tired of a loving relationship with their hands and took my woman instead."

"Ah, so now they'll go from having woman problems to having a woman with problems."

"Why is that?"

"Dumb enough to go out with you, wasn't she?"

Kaiz snickered. Finally, someone had gotten through his armor!

Legend spoke again. "Listen, man. You gotta learn to keep everybody from gettin' under your skin. Don't let Mangler and his goons psyche you out. The only way to send them a message that it isn't working is to go out in the ring and knock the piss out of 'em!" Kaiz was looking at him with wide eyes that donned a red-hot fire. "Now get your tall ass out there and put those gay wads on the ground where they belong!"

Kaiz said nothing in return. He simply got up and headed for the ring.

The moment for all talk to come to an end had now arrived. It was now time to put it all on the line, and whoever could hold the other man's shoulders on the mat for an eternal three seconds would be declared the champion. For Kaiz, it meant more than just a gold-plated belt across his waist. It meant reuniting with The Diva, without whom he'd have nothing to live for.

The fans erupted instantaneously with the playing of "Blue on Black." Kaiz walked through the curtain and down the aisle, walking slowly to match the beat of the song. Kaiz was totally impervious to the fans. not hearing or seeing them. The only noise going through his mind was The Diva's screams for help earlier that night. His cold eyes were totally focused on the square canvas mat encased by three ropes on each side. A burning fire built up inside him, and he was ready to unleash it on Mangler.

A barrage of boos accompanied Mangler's theme music. With the title belt in hand, he walked proudly down the aisle. There was a microphone in the other hand, and as his music came to a halt, Mangler stopped halfway to the ring and addressed Kaiz.

"Before I pound you into nothingness, Kaiz, I have something to show you on the big screen that would definitely capture your interest." He pointed to the screen. "Hit it, boys!"

What was shown on the screen was beyond shocking. The camera showed a closed door in the locker room area, behind which was a voice similar to The Diva's screaming, "NO! STOP THAT! HELP ME!" Also, Jazz Jefferson could be heard making suggestive noises. No one knew, however, that Jazz was the one holding the camera, and the woman behind the door was merely a stagehand. Kaiz clenched his teeth, fighting the urge to fall into Mangler's mental trap. Dropping the microphone, Mangler walked to the ring, laughing at Kaiz the whole way. Upon stepping foot on the canvas, he was welcomed back to reality by Kaiz's right fist nailing him in the jaw and knocking him flat on his back. The bell rang three times, and the biggest match of Kaiz's career was underway.

Mangler was stunned by Kaiz's early aggressiveness. Kaiz picked him back up and repeated his first action. It seemed as though Kaiz would earn the quick victory, but he got too cocky as he barked at Mangler to get up. Mangler did, and leveled Kaiz with a ferocious clothesline. Kaiz shook his head and quickly got back up. Being ready for him, Mangler flung Kaiz into the ropes and picked him off on the rebound with a hard elbow to the face.

The battle was even for what seemed like ages. Neither man could gain the advantage. At last, Kaiz grew weary of the stalemate, and after hammering Mangler to the mat with a powerful scoop slam, he stepped out of the ring and grabbed a folding chair from near the announcer's table. Closing it up, he slid back into the ring. As Mangler was getting up, Kaiz hammered him square in the forehead with the chair, and he fell back to the mat, close to unconsciousness. Mangler rolled over onto his back, and Kaiz treated him with another blast of the solid steel chair.

Kaiz then stepped back out of the ring, and pulling up the ring apron, he removed a wooden table from under the ring. He slid the table back into the ring and re-entered. Setting up the table, he placed a tired Mangler lengthwise across the surface. Kaiz then climbed the turnbuckle closest to the table and, as the crowd's cheers increased heavily in volume, he jumped off, drilling Mangler through the table with a mighty leg drop. Splinters flew everywhere, and Kaiz even hurt himself slightly on the landing. The fans, though, were loving every second of it.

Invision, seeing his comrade down and out, ran out to assist him. As Kaiz went for the pin, he was pulled out of the ring by a lunging Invision just before the count of three, who then assaulted Kaiz with brutal kicks to the midsection as he lay on the concrete floor. Titan came to his rescue as soon as he could, running down the entrance and drilling Invision with a Titan Drop. The damage had already been done, though. Kaiz climbed back into the ring, clutching his ribs.

Mangler saw his opponent finally had a weak point, and with the folding chair, whacked Kaiz in the ribs. Kaiz doubled over and hit the mat. Until he finally grew tired of it, Mangler continuously hit Kaiz in the ribs with the chair. Kaiz was moaning in pain as Mangler pinned him to the canvas.

The referee began the count. "ONE!... TWO!...," but Kaiz got his shoulder up at the last moment. Mangler cursed at the official for counting too slow and went back to business.

Jazz Jefferson came out to add some extra insurance for Mangler, walking with a noticeable limp. Kaiz was getting more fatigued with every second. The tandem of Mangler and Jazz shot Kaiz into the ropes, followed by a double clothesline. Both then began an onslaught of punches as Kaiz lay helplessly.

Something occurred to Kaiz just then. If Invision was disposed of, and both Mangler and Jazz are out in the ring, that must mean The Diva is by herself somewhere! And if Jazz is limping, he must have been on the receiving end of one of her (definitely) un-feminine beatings. She has to be all right! But where is she? Kaiz couldn't find her anywhere.

Suddenly, a flash of maroon that could only have been Diva's body suit flew into the ring and plucked Jazz off Kaiz. Without looking at Kaiz, she said to him, "Here's for all the times you tried to save me." She took Jazz by the shoulders and flung him over the top rope and out of the ring. With him disposed of, she exited the ring and proceeded to watch Kaiz perform.

Kaiz barely managed to maintain his balance as he got up. It appeared that he may have been running on fumes. As he took another flurry of punches, he was beginning to think he was done for. But the sound of The Diva's voice came through as his salvation.

"COME ON, KAIZ!" she yelled. Those three words were more than enough to rejuvenate him. He came back with his own barrage of fists, knocking Mangler off balance. Kaiz fired one last punch and sent Mangler over the ropes. Taking the folding chair with him, he followed the fat Mexican to the floor.

Mangler now lay vulnerable on the cold, concrete floor, and Kaiz was not afraid to expose this infirmity as he repeatedly nailed Mangler in the back and head with the chair. When he felt the damage inflicted was sufficient, he tossed the chair aside and went for the cover. But the referee only made it to two before Mangler kicked out with such force that Kaiz was thrown up in the air and back a few feet. He was so taken by surprise that he could not move. Mangler rolled him back into the ring, and followed soon after. Slowly strolling into the center, he thought he could handle Kaiz without effort. This was a severe misjudgment on Mangler's part; one that allowed Kaiz to get up and kick him forcefully in the stomach. It was a match still too close to call.

Seeing Kaiz could use some help, Legend ran out to ringside. He shrewdly grabbed the chair and snuck into the ring behind Mangler. Being very anxious, Kaiz made the mistake of watching him the whole time, making his rival able to read his eyes. Standing on his left leg, Mangler sent an enormous right one flying backward, expecting to hit Legend in the gut, not knowing that Legend had the folding chair. Mangler's leg launched into the chair, which was sent bouncing off Legend's skull. All 20,000 people in the stands gasped as Legend fell to the mat unconscious. Mangler kicked him out of the ring. Pulling him to safety, Diva continued to watch apprehensively while Mangler picked up the chair and struck an astonished Kaiz in the head.

Kaiz lay on the canvas near one corner of the ring, and Mangler began his most brutal attack yet. He opened the chair slightly, and wedged Kaiz's left ankle inside it. Climbing the nearest turnbuckle, Mangler turned to face Kaiz as the entire crowd collectively held their breath. Mangler sneered as he leaped off the turnbuckle and landed full throttle on the chair. There was a horrendous pop in Kaiz's ankle, and he did not know at the time whether or not it was broken. It was the same maneuver that put Legend out for eight months.

Mangler picked up Kaiz and put him in a sleeper hold, asserting a tight grip with his forearm around Kaiz's neck. The hold was so tight that Kaiz began losing consciousness. Everyone could see his eyes start to close. The referee proceeded with the submission count, holding up Kaiz's arm to see if Kaiz could hold it up in the air. If he let go of Kaiz's arm three times and it fell limp all three times, he would call for the bell and Mangler would win.

Kaiz's arm was held up for the first time. It dropped like a wet noodle.

"ONE!" shouted the referee. He held it up again, and again it fell to Kaiz's side. "TWO!" Mangler could taste victory.

This is it, Kaiz thought to himself, I've failed. As the referee held up his arm for the third and final time, everyone in the crowd and those watching on television were on the edges of their seats. Diva tried one last time to encourage Kaiz.

"DON'T GIVE UP, JOE!" she screamed over the crowd chanting his name. The official let go of his arm, and Kaiz called upon every ounce of strength in his body to hold it up. It faltered for a moment, but he managed to keep it in the air. The match continued!

Mangler was ordered by the official to break his hold on Kaiz, and he reluctantly obeyed. The crowd was becoming electrified. Mangler turned around and reached for the chair once more. Kaiz forced himself to get up, limping badly due to his left ankle. Mangler now held the chair by the legs in front of him. As he turned to face Kaiz, he found him standing nose-to-nose. Mangler rested the chair at his side, and they froze momentarily. Diva, Titan and Legend, who had come to, stood at ringside, holding their breaths. Mangler used the opportunity to run his mouth.

"You know, Kaiz," he said, "your girl was the best I'd ever had." Kaiz's eyes grew wider as he forced himself to hold back. "In fact, The Diva's going to give me an encore performance later tonight!"

"BLOCK IT OUT, BRO!" Titan roared.

"Knock him flat!" yelled Legend.

The emotions flowed through Kaiz's aching body. He used all the mental strength he had left. After a few perpetual seconds, the fury subsided. Kaiz regained his focus. "The game's over, jackass!" he yelled. Mangler raised the chair up for an attack, but Kaiz drilled it into his forehead with an adrenaline-pumped fist. Mangler dropped the chair and staggered backwards. The adrenaline flowing through Kaiz's body kept the pain from bothering him at the moment. He took Mangler by the head and stuck it between his legs. Kaiz then delivered the biggest and most powerful Kamakaiz ever. The explosion onto the mat that resulted from it shook the Pontiac Silverdome. Kaiz, suddenly in agony with his ankle, rolled onto Mangler for the pin. The referee began the count, and the crowd screamed along with it.

"ONE!... TWO!... THREE!" The bell rang, and "Blue on Black" blasted from the speakers as the fans erupted in celebration. Legend helped Kaiz up in the middle of the ring, along with Titan. The Diva ran in excitedly and replaced both of them in holding him up, as he could not stand at all on his left leg. The referee handed Kaiz the belt while Titan proudly raised his brother's arm. As the show went off the air, and people at home were dancing in front of their television sets, he gave the Diva a squeeze, and hoisted the golden belt above his head, hearing the world's largest screams of excitement come rushing into his ears.
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