Saturday July 29th– Hulman Center / Terre Haute, Indiana- Wrestling Night in the Heartland TV Taping
Finally, in the seventeenth minute of a match that no one thought for a second would last past five, R.G. Jenkins found himself getting whipped into the ropes by ‘The World’s Least Dangerous Man’ John Wack. Wack was one half of the tag team facing the Alabama Gang in Terre Haute in a non-title match- the other one… Bob Zardoz… dressed like Sean Connery in the cult 1970’s movie Zardoz… were considered talent enhancement. Jenkins and Mark Hendry found themselves unable to put the tag team away.
The deafening crowd roared as R.G. grabbed the top rope after Wack sent him there and gave chase after his opponent, dressed nattily in a black suit. Wack made a beeline towards his corner and tagged in Zardoz before R.G. could get to him. He’d had enough so he ducked under a collar and elbow tie-up and delivered a Double Knee Buster, driving Zardoz’s knees into the mat with a sickening thud. Sweat dripped from R.G.’s brow as he hooked Zardoz’s leg and pinned him. Referee Davey Keels slid in for the three-count and the bell rang… finally marking the end of the grueling match.
“YOUR WINNER AT SIXTEEN MINUTES AND TWENTY-EIGHT SECONDS… THE ALABAMA GANG!” MVW’s ring announcer Heather Cooper declared.
R.G. huffed and his chest heaved as he struggled to catch his breath following the match. MVW had been on a month-plus month break following the Wrestling Night in America pay-per-view show and it became clear to him that they looked a little rusty and out of sorts. He glanced over to Mark. Hendry had both hands on his knees and was still a little out of breath on the ring apron. Sunny O’Callahan climbed through the ropes to join R.G. in the ring… as did Mark Hendry a few seconds later. R.G. asked Heather Cooper for a microphone and she duly handed the one she just used to him.
R.G. began, “First off, Cary Stevens… wherever you are in this building, I’ve got just one message for you… fuck you!”
The crowd responded with enthusiastic applause to Jenkins addressing a promo aimed at the Alabama Gang earlier in the show by the patriarch of the Stevens Dynasty, Cary Stevens.
“Yeah Cary, you just keep runnin’ your mouth ‘cause on August 12th in Wichita, Kansas, after me and Mark come back from Australia with the PWA Tag Team title belts, we’re gonna shut you and Bo and George Stevens up once and for all when we whip y’all again and retain our MVW Tag Team title!”
R.G. stopped to let the crowd cheer. Sunny took a swig from her bottle of Southern Comfort while Mark played to the fans and tried to get them whipped up even more.
But then R.G.’s face turned a little more serious.
“Folks. On behalf of the Alabama Gang… Mark Hendry, Sunny, and myself… I wanna apologize for that last match. Y’all deserve better than what you just saw,” R.G. said, his voice soaked in frustration. “We wrassled distracted here tonight – and dammit that’s inexcusable. This ain’t how The Alabama Gang usually does its business in the wrestling ring, folks.” Jenkins glances at Mark. “Right, Mark?”
Hendry nodded affirmatively. Mark wiped off the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand and took a deep breath as R.G. looked out at the sea of faces in the Terre Haute crowd and continued to speak.
“Let me tell y’all something,” R.G. growled, his southern drawl becoming more pronounced. “If The Alabama Gang wrassles like that next week against Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr, we’re gonna get our asses kicked all over the ring.”
Mark nodded his agreement again.
“That’s right,” R.G. continued, his tone of voice slowly growing more and more heated as he spoke. “We fucked up tonight… big time. We ain’t gonna fuck this up next Sunday. I’ve been at this way too long and Mark’s been itchin’ for another shot at Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr. And so am I. We ain’t goin’ to fuck this up. We know there’s no guarantee we’ll ever get another shot at this so you can bet your ass we’re gonna go in there and raise a whole lot of hell!”
R.G. paused as the Terre Haute fans jumped to their feet to cheer R.G.’s declaration and his eyes narrowed as he turned his attention… and his remarks… towards their opponents at #97Red. “Dan Ryan. Jatt Starr. I betcha you both watched this match tonight and y’all might be thinkin’ this match is gonna be a cakewalk for you guys. I betcha you both think you’ll kick my head in like Dan Ryan did in Evansville.” R.G. wagged his finger towards the camera. “But let me tell y’all somethin’… he ain’t doin’ that…”
Again, R.G. paused as the fans exploded with a wall of noise inside the Hulman Center.
“…cause we ain’t gonna let that happen again.”
Sunny took a swig from her bottle of Southern Comfort, her gaze locked on R.G. as he continued to deliver his sermon to the raucous MVW fans.
“We’re The fucking Alabama Gang,” he roared, “…and we don’t back down to no one and we ain’t about to roll over and let y’all walk away with those titles again! Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr can try to trash-talk us all they want but trash-talking don’t win matches. That’s right… trash-talking does not win matches! Just ask Tyler Best and his big mouth how that’all went a few weeks back.”
(Editor’s Note: one of R.G.’s first Missouri Valley Wrestling matches just happened to be with the aforementioned Tyler Best back when he spent a couple weeks in MVW. R.G. lost… badly… and he may still be just a little SALTY about it.)
“What wins matches? Beating your opponent in the ring. Doin’ what you have to do to get your opponent pinned. Bein’ a better tag team and winning the match. So Mark and I are gonna do our trash-talking inside the ring and we’re gonna cut Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr and their overblown egos down to size,” R.G. declared, his voice shaking with intensity.
The crowd erupted in a frenzy of cheers and chants, fueling R.G.’s passion even further. He started to pace back and forth in the ring, his voice rising up with each powerful word… each word further fueling R.G.’s determination. Mark felt the intensity radiating off of his tag team partner and… riding the crest of emotion inspired by his words… he looked ready to take Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr on right then and right there.
“August 6th. The MCG in Melbourne, Australia… a hell of a long way from home for us…” hollered R.G., his words echoing around the arena like brimstone thunder. “But Mark and I are gonna make sure it’s a hell of a longer plane ride back home for Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr in their fancy private jet when they come back to the US without the PWA Tag Team titles!”
The crowd roared in response, a sea of fists pumping in the air like lightning bolts upon the heavens. Mark, caught up in the moment, bellowed out his agreement with a passion that shook the foundations of Heaven itself. “AMEN BROTHER, AMEN!”
Sunny O’Callahan, her frizzy blonde hair shimmering under the arena lights, swayed back and forth in the ring, taking another swig from her bottle of Southern Comfort. She nodded along to R.G.’s words, feeling the same fire in her belly.
R.G. bellowed out with all the conviction in his heart: “Me and Mark have come too far… too far to back down now. #97Red is our moment. The moment to prove that what happened at the PWA-001 show wasn’t a fluke. The moment to prove that me and Mark were worthy champions and we belong in that ring on Sunday. Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr may be big-time, big-shot wrestlers in a big company, but they barely escaped the arena with the tag belts. We fought tooth and nail to win these titles! Me and Mark shed blood, sweat, and tears to defend those titles, and at #97Red we ain’t gonna let those belts slip through our fingers again!”
R.G.’s face grew red with intensity, sweat pouring down his brow as the fervor of an old-school preacher overtook him. He paced back and forth in the ring, fueled by the crowd’s energy, his voice booming through the arena.
“Ryan and Starr may have taken our titles, but I say to y’all- this is the hour of truth, the hour when we prove what we are made of! Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr got one over on us in Evansville and everyone thought we’d just fade back into the woodwork. But yet, here we are… The Alabama Gang… unbroken and unstoppable. We’ve worked too hard, fought too long, shed too much blood to be denied now! We ain’t gonna bow down to them and their accolades! We ain’t gonna roll over and just let them win ‘cause their names are Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr and we’re just a couple of rednecks from Alabama! Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr may be legends in the pro wrasslin’ game but next week Mark and I are gonna fight with every last ounce of strength in our bodies, and we are gonna find a way to win the match.”
Sunny just stared with wonder at the Terre Haute fans reacting to R.G.’s promo reaching its fever pitch with a deafening chant of “Alabama Gang! Alabama Gang! Alabama Gang!” so loud that it shook the walls of the Hulman Center.
“Next week, we’re gonna give it everything we’ve got,” R.G. vowed, his voice raw with emotion. “Next week, we’ll show these two big company boys The Alabama Gang means business! Next week, we’re gonna stand tall in that ring, our hands raised high, and the PWA Tag Team titles BACK WHERE THEY BELONG!”
Hendry, not to be left out, took the microphone from R.G. and added his two cents.
Later on, back in the Alabama Gang’s Dressing Room
The dingy walls of the Alabama Gang’s dressing room inside the Hulman Center painted a depressing backdrop for Mark Hendry and R.G. Jenkins, both dressed to match their team’s theme – Mark in an ‘Alabama Gang’ t-shirt, comfortable jeans, and cowboy boots; while R.G.’s ring gear was emblazoned with the same phrase. After delivering his incendiary promo moments ago, R.G. was now bathed in the somber light cast by the single overhead bulb. Mark walked up to R.G., laying a reassuring hand on his shoulder. He smiled at the man, admiration glowing in his eyes.
“That was incredible out there,” he said.
R.G. looked up from the floor, still trying to catch his breath, and nodded at Mark appreciatively.
“Yeah, I’ve never heard you talk like that before,” Sunny added, following behind Mark with an open bottle of Southern Comfort in her hand and her bright blonde curls bouncing with each step. “Good job, R.G.,” she said as she passed by him and headed towards the door. “Mark and I are going to go watch the main event with Bill Dickinson if you don’t mind…”
“Yeah,” Mark said. “Then we got to talk about how you’re gonna celebrate your 40th birthday while we’re in Australia.”
That made R.G. blanch. “Yeah,” he replied with forced enthusiasm… really forced enthusiasm. “I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
“We’ll see you in a few then,” Sunny said, bidding her goodbye as she and Mark headed for the door.
R.G. just watched as Mark and Sunny left the room and closed the door behind them… their voices fading into the crowd’s roar outside. Alone now, R.G. slumped onto a bench, his face a conflicting mixture of resolve and anxiety.
In his mind, R.G. replayed the words he just delivered to the audience and wondered… wondered if he went too far. He wanted to lay down a clear marker for the Alabama Gang’s upcoming challenge to Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr’s PWA Tag Team title. But as he looked forward, R.G. also found himself looking back as well. The memory of getting booted in the head by Dan Ryan in their first encounter was stuck in the forefront of his mind. The Alabama Gang had been so close to retaining the titles but they couldn’t close out the win. He wondered if Mark and him could pull it together this time around.
And then there was the whole turning 40 thing.
“Can I really do this?” R.G. murmured to himself, doubt creeping in. His eyes drifted over to a poster of Mark Hendry, the image capturing the young wrestler’s raw potential and hunger for success. R.G. remembered a time when he was twenty-five with his career in front of him and how he was… not too different from where Mark is right now.
“Mark’s just gettin’ started… future’s wide open for him,” he muttered enviously. R.G. wished he could turn back time and be at the beginning of his career again, like Mark. But instead, he’d been through countless wars in the wrestling ring, from his days at Appalachian Mountain Championship Wrestling to his current battles in Missouri Valley Wrestling.
Despite keeping himself in great shape, R.G. couldn’t deny the fact that his body was slowing down, taking longer to recover from each grueling match. He clenched his fists, the weight of his anxiety and his upcoming birthday bearing down on him like a ton of bricks.
“Can’t let ’em down,” he whispered defiantly, forcing himself to his feet. With a sigh, R.G. grabbed his gear and left the dressing room.
Outside the arena after the show, a sea of eager MVW fans buzzed with excitement, their faces illuminated by the glow of a neon-lit night. The air was thick with anticipation as R.G., Mark, and Sunny emerged from the backstage area, greeted by a cacophony of cheers and applause.
“Hey there, y’all!” Sunny called out, her voice a blend of Californian cheer and Irish lilt. She waved enthusiastically, her frizzy blonde hair bouncing with each movement, a bottle of Southern Comfort in hand, and she enjoyed every second of it.
“Mark! R.G.! Over here!”
The Alabama Gang fans surged forward, pushing memorabilia and Sharpies toward the wrestlers. Mark grinned, his youthful face hidden behind a full beard; he scribbled signatures on any surface fans handed him, enjoying every second of their adoration.
Sunny found herself mobbed by people who wanted to take their picture with her. She duly took the time to take as many cell phone pictures with the fans as time would allow.
R.G. forced a smile and obliged the Alabama Gang fans, signing autographs with practiced efficiency. But his mind wandered, preoccupied with thoughts of the upcoming match and the grueling flight to Australia. He could feel the relentless march of time weighing him down, the birthday he’d long since braced himself for, and the nagging doubts about his ability to live up to the expectations he’d set for himself.
“Hey R.G., you gonna crush Dan Ryan and Jatt Starr this weekend?” A young fan asked as admiration filled his eyes.
“Damn right we are, kid,” R.G. replied with a wink and a grin. The boy’s face lit up, and R.G. felt a fleeting moment of pride as he signed a picture of the Alabama Gang for him.
“All right, folks, unfortunately, the three of us have got to get going,” Sunny announced, raising her bottle in salute. “Thank you so much!”
The trio made their way to their vehicle, navigating the throng of well-wishers and selfie-seekers. They climbed in, heading toward their hotel in Terre Haute for a much-needed good night’s sleep.
Twenty minutes later- Drury Inn & Suites in Terre Haute, IN
R.G. trudged into his hotel room and tossed his travel bag down on the bed with a sigh. He looked around, taking in the thin walls and generic decor. He had stayed in this type of place countless times before—boring, basic, but it served its purpose.
Suddenly, he heard a familiar voice behind him. “Well, it’s about time you got back here.”
R.G. spun around, finding Melanie standing before him, her tawny hair spilling over her toned athletic figure like a waterfall. His eyes widened in surprise as a rush of warmth filled his chest.
“Mel?” he exclaimed, crossing the distance between them in an instant and embracing her tightly. She smelled of lavender and roses, just like she always did.
“Surprise honey,” she purred against his neck before pulling away to look into his eyes.
“What are you doing here?” R.G. asked. “I thought you had to work.”
“I switched some shifts around and decided to drive up here to see you before you left for Australia.”
He could feel the tension in his muscles dissipate as relief flooded through him like a wave. “God,” he murmured into her hair, burying his face in it and breathing deeply, “I needed this.”
“What’s wrong, honey?” Melanie asked.
“Nothin’… just…” R.G. talked in fits and starts. “It’s this whole turnin’ forty bullshit… I’m about to get on a plane to travel halfway ‘cross the world… I’m about to wrassle in a match where my mouth may have written a big ass check my body ain’t able to cash and-“
Melanie tenderly placed her index finger on R.G.’s lips and gently shook her head, a silent request for him to remain silent. Her sultry voice slowly filled the air as suggestive allure sparkled in her eyes.
“Let me take your mind off of things,” she softly murmured.
He replied with a roguish smirk and nodding his head slightly, “I’d be good with that.”
Her body swaying ever so delicately, Melanie whispered into his ear suggestively, “There’s so many things I could do for you… a pole dance… or a belly dance… we could play around with some veils and wraps too… or I can dress up like a Hawaiian hula dancer and give you a show, a striptease if you’d like or even a long, slow lap dance…” She trailed off before pulling out the nightie that she was planning to wear for him weeks ago before they were interrupted by having to bail Mark Hendry out of a South American jail. With a coy smile, Melanie purred, “But tonight I could finally wear this for you.”
R.G., however, hesitated for a moment as he gazed into her eyes, feeling more connected to her than ever before. Finally, he shook his head slowly and replied softly: “Do you really know what I want?”
“I just wanna dance with you,” R.G. said.
A tender smile spread across Melanie’s lips as she reached out to take hold of his hand – leading him towards the center of the room where they began to sway together in perfect harmony; their bodies melting together as one solid unit amidst the fading sounds of the bustling city outside.
“You’re going to do just fine,” she whispered in his ear.
As they danced, R.G.’s worries started to drift away one by one until all that was left on his mind was the simple joy and pleasure of being with his beloved wife.