With one kick, Joey Hamilton has sent the world of professional wrestling into chaos. In his first World Title match, on national television, Joey botched a simple maneuver, turning a scripted wrestling match into a nightmarish reality.
Now the World Champion is injured and the locker room is in tatters. With the top spot open, veteran wrestlers are jockeying for position, hoping to become the next megastar, and Joey is their target.
With a unique look behind the scenes at America's most violent dramatic art, One Fall shows the world of professional wrestling in its rawest form.
There is an instant of clarity right before the pain. Joey had felt it before. The world slows down and is more brightly lit. Muddled noise becomes distinct, separate sounds. Skin is a circuit board, alive with current at every switch.
Joey took advantage of that clarity to let his colleague know that everything was okay. Just before falling to the ring floor, as if knocked unconscious by the violent chair shot to his skull, Joey winked.
Normally a wink wasn't necessary. In most cases a wink would be frowned upon, lest the audience saw it and the illusion was broken. Normally a chair shot hurt, and sounded good, and left you with a headache the next day, but didn't require any reassurance that the match could continue.
But this chair shot wasn't normal. This chair shot snapped all the way to the upper deck. The sound was so vivid that it might have been Joey's spine snapping like a wishbone.
Maybe the wink wasn't a good idea. Someone might have seen it. Joey hoped he hadn't ruined what was potentially a great moment in wrestling history - the nastiest chair shot ever.
Then the clarity was gone, washed out with the pain, and any second thoughts about the wink would have to wait. The pain pressed against his entire head at once, as if his brain had grown too big for his skull and would squeeze its way out of his ears. Joey lay motionless on the ring mat, knowing that this spot would be most effective if he appeared totally unconscious. But it took all his will not to grab his head with both hands and scream in agony.
He hoped the crowd was buying it. Judging by the noise, they were. Or was that just the ringing in his ears? He wouldn't know until he watched the tape tomorrow morning.
Joey Mayhem was a new face in the Global Wrestling Association, and tonight's match was his first appearance on their flagship television program, GWA Burn.
Joey's opponent tonight, Rob "Jumbo" Sanders, was a familiar face on Burn, having wrestled for the promotion for the past eight years. As a television character, Jumbo was among the nastiest of villains, and always drew some decent venom from the crowd. A muscular black man with a 70's-style afro, Jumbo was half way between six and seven feet tall (but always introduced as a "Seven-Footer") and dwarfed Joey by comparison.
That size disparity made the chair shot all the more sinful. Jumbo was already a foot taller than Joey, and had been systematically beating him into mush for ten minutes. Why did he need to pound Joey in the head with a steel chair?
18,000 people had crammed into Ford Center in Oklahoma City on this night to watch the live taping of GWA Burn. They had come from Tulsa, Denton, Shawnee, and Wichita. Some of them had kids. Some of them were kids. Some of them had paid upwards of sixty dollars for their seats. Many of them would call in sick to work tomorrow. After the chair shot, all of them began chanting, "JUM- BO SUCKS! JUM-BO SUCKS!"
Still sprawled on the powder blue rubber of the ring mat, Joey heard the referee yell at the timekeeper to ring the bell, ending the match. In professional wrestling, punching, biting, eye-poking, hair-pulling, body-slamming, and choking were all allowed, but hitting someone over the head with a steel chair was not. Hence, this match was officially over, with Joey Mayhem pronounced the winner via disqualification.
But just because the match was over didn't mean the fighting had to stop. According to plan, Jumbo grabbed Joey's long brown hair and pulled him from the mat. Acting dazed, but feeling alert, Joey opened his eyes and let Jumbo lead him to his feet.
"You up for this?" Jumbo whispered. "Yeah," Joey whispered back.
Jumbo pushed Joey's head down like he was dunking him in a bucket, then wrapped his arms around Joey's waist. Knowing that "The Jumbo Bomb" was coming, the crowd booed. Like a bulldozer carrying a mound of dirt, Jumbo lifted Joey high over his head, then dropped him. The seven-foot fall was impressive, exclamated with a mechanically enhanced thump when Joey's back collided with the ring. Jumbo took a second to tug on his sagging silver tights, then pulled Joey up by his hair to repeat the entire routine.
Two Jumbo Bombs later, the crowd was thoroughly incensed.
"You Suck you slow pile of shit!" shouted a young woman from the front row. Jumbo showed her his middle finger. Another second to pull up his tights, then Jumbo bounced himself off the ropes and completed a body splash, dropping all four hundred pounds of himself on top of Joey's lifeless body.
The ring bell sounded five times, following a strange wrestling tradition of ringing the bell repeatedly when wrestlers were fighting outside the confines of a sanctioned match. A troop of referees appeared from backstage and ran down the entrance ramp to the ring, supposedly to bring order.
Jumbo, now in a state of manic rage, picked up the referees one at a time and power slammed them in an assembly line of carnage.
The ring bell continued to sound. The crowd continued to boo. Joey felt like he might black out.
He couldn't have been happier with how things were going.
Heading into tonight's match, Joey and Jumbo had two goals: 1. Anger the crowd with an extended pummeling of Joey, including a vicious chair shot. 2. Surprise the crowd with the finish.
As Joey lay on his back, surrounded by fallen referees, listening to the jeers of the fans as Jumbo's heavy rap music began to play, he was certain that Goal Number One had been accomplished. Now it was time for the surprise.
Jumbo's music was the cue from backstage to move the segment forward. Following that cue, Jumbo left the ring, stepping over the top rope then descending two metal stairs attached to the ringpost. As Jumbo slowly walked up the ramp toward the exit, taunting the fans along the way, Joey jumped to his feet and worked his eyes into a wild gaze. The crowd thundered in approval.
Feeling a rush from the crowd's energy, Joey sprinted to the edge of the ring (hurdling two fallen referees on the way), and leaped over the top rope. The crowd was now making so much noise that only a fool wouldn't turn around to see what was going on, but Jumbo continued walking up the entrance ramp, as if he didn't hear the fans and didn't notice that his theme music had stopped playing.
Joey ran up the ramp, careful to ensure that he looked into the nearest TV camera so the home audience could see his crazy eyes. Jumbo turned around just in time to get punched in the face. He fell back from the force of Joey's fist. This powerful monster, seemingly invincible just minutes before, was now fodder for Joey's rapid kicks and punches, which were delivered in sets of five or six, each set separated with a look at the crowd to show off the wild eyes and maniacal laugh that were to be Joey Mayhem's gimmick in the GWA.
Jumbo curled up in the fetal position on the floor. A merciful character would have left him there. But Joey Mayhem had an edge of psychosis. Joey stomped and punched Jumbo for an unheard of sixty seconds uninterrupted, before another troop of referees appeared from the back. The referees tried in vain to stop Joey, but he continued his violence until his theme music (upbeat hard rock) came on, allowing the scene to end gracefully. Joey stepped over his victim and strode to the back, all the while looking into the camera. When he reached the top of the ramp he turned for one more look into the audience. Then he disappeared behind the black curtain as the crowd chanted "JO-EY! JO-EY!"