Monday, October 24, 2011

Project: Redemption

I never thought I'd live in a world where I'd agree with Justin Bieber, but he was right: Never Say Never.

My professional wrestling career was dead.  "All That" Matt Murphy was dead.  I was a wrestling junkie who'd been clean for years.  And as many stories of addiction go, I had a relapse.

I had been an on-air personality for Metro Pro Wrestling for several months as the commissioner.  Some of the fans knew who I was, but to most of them I was just the authority figure who made an occasional appearance during Metro Pro Wrestling's monthly live events at Turner Rec Center in Kansas City, KS, and on their weekly TV show on Metro Sports.

Then August happened.

It was the main event.  Michael Strider, the most beloved star in the Central States region, was defending the Metro Pro Wrestling TV Championship against Derek Stone, the psychotic former champion...and the man who trained me at the Harley Race Wrestling Academy.  They collided with the referee and all three men dropped to the mat.  The ref was out.  Stone was the first to his feet.  He grabbed a foreign object.

Commissioner Matt Murphy ran to the ring with a steel chair in-hand and berated Stone as Strider struggled to get to his feet.  Then, I delivered the shot heard 'round the wrestling world, a steel chair to Strider's head.

Slamming a steel chair into Michael Strider's skull.

I revived the referee.  "Count!" I demanded as Stone covered Strider.

One...two...three.  We had a new Metro Pro Wrestling TV Champion.

I yanked the belt out of a kid's hands--Strider had given the belt to the kid pre-match for safe keeping--and handed it to Stone.

"It was me, you idiot!" I yelled into the microphone, revealing myself as the Mystery Attacker in Metro Pro Wrestling's ongoing whodunit.  "Oh, one more thing..."

I pulled off my tie and unfastened a couple buttons on my black dress shirt, then ripped it off to reveal a blue wrestling singlet with ALL THAT embroidered in silver letters.

"A star is born...again."

Fans booed, commentators struggled to find the words to describe the bombshell I'd just announced.

"All That" Matt Murphy was back!

Fast-forward a month and it was time for my first weekend back in the ring.  I started off on a Friday night with Metro Pro Wrestling, where I participated in an 8-man elimination tag team match.  From there, I returned home (across the bridge from home, anyway) to Keokuk and Burlington, IA for two World League Wrestling shows on Saturday and Sunday.

After three matches in three days, I was wiped out.  It took me two weeks to recover from the physical toll the matches took on me.

During the Metro Pro show this month, the fans let me know I was on a meteoric rise to the top of their most-hated list.  They chanted insults, some PG rated and some that made me uncomfortable given the children in the audience (most of them were chanting the vulgarities, too), and they booed the hell out of me.

Enjoying the response from my adoring fans at Metro Pro Wrestling.

I wrestled Domino Rivera that night.  I'd spent months humiliating him while he served as my administrative assistant and he was looking to "come with the uppance" in our bout, but I pulled out the win by nailing him with Dinner With Kate Bender, which looks just like a piledriver except more awesome.

Domino Rivera learns that Dinner With Kate Bender isn't as fun as it sounds.

On Saturday, October 22, WLW returned home to Eldon, MO for its annual Harley Race/Pro Wrestling NOAH camp show.  Headlining the show were Kevin Von Erich, William Regal, and my childhood idol, Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat.

My friend and one of the best wrestlers I've ever been in the ring with, Ace Steel (for the few of you who don't know him, he trained C.M. Punk and Colt Cabana) returned to the ring for the first time in three years to face Regal in the main event.  It was a wrestling clinic and Ace showed that he could go toe-to-toe and hold-for-hold with the greatest technical wrestler in the world.

Three of my favorite people, Miss Natural, Lucy Mendez, and Stacey O'Brien, had an awesome three-way match for the WLW Ladies Title.  Those ladies work their asses off and I was proud to see them get such an amazing reaction from the crowd.

I had been one of the most beloved, and then hated, stars in WLW, and in Eldon a decade ago.  My tag-team partner, Superstar Steve, and I teamed up for the first time in nine years to take on our old rivals, Trevor Murdoch and Bull Schmitt.  In the early days of WLW, that match-up had stole the show countless times and just plain tore the house down many times.

The match started off clean and, for the most part, fun.  Then, while landing a leapfrog, my left knee blew out.  The crowd went into a hush as my partner and opponents stopped the action to help the referee check on me.

"It's bad," I said, swatting their hands away from my leg.  "Get someone else out here to take my place.  Get me out of here."

"Someone get Harley!" Trevor yelled.  Someone ran to find Harley Race.

Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat came to ringside.

"What's going on?" my childhood idol asked.

"I hurt it bad, sir," I said.  "I just need to get out of the ring."
Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat checking on my after I blew out my knee.

Bull sat between the top and middle ropes to widen the gap for my exit while Trevor and Steve carefully helped me to my feet.

I felt my balance shift and Steve was gone.  He ran across the ring and drilled Bull with a boot to the face.  Trevor let go of me and took one step toward Steve.  I whipped Trevor around and kicked him in the gut, then planted his head into the mat with the BDT from Pay TV, a beal throw into a DDT.

The whole damn building had been swerved.  They groaned and booed.  Steamboat cursed me from ringside.

I blew them all a sarcastic kiss, then did a few jumping jacks to show them I was fine.

"Thanks, Dragon," I told the man who I'd worshipped as a kid, drawing a fiery glare from him.

Harley stormed back to his spot at the merchandise table, realizing I'd fooled him along with everyone else.

Steve and I pummeled Trevor for the next several minutes while he desperately tried to make the tag to Bull.  Finally, he caught me with a running bulldog to give himself the time to make it to his partner.  The crowd erupted when their hands clapped together and Bull became the legal man.

Bull knocked me and Steve down with punches and clotheslines, then fired me into the corner and whipped Steve into me.  Trevor shot Bull into us, sending me and Steve both face-first to the mat.  The crowd was roaring.  Bull clotheslined Steve over the top rope and, as I staggered to my feet, my opponents set up for the finale.  Trevor clipped my legs while Bull hit me with a clothesline--the Sweet-and-Sour, made famous by former WWE World Tag Team Champions Trevor Murdoch and the late Lance Cade.

All that was left was referee Scotty Z's three-count.

The crowd came to its feet when announcer Dan Gier rang the bell and announced Trevor and Bull the winners.  But even though the good guys had their hands raised, there were no losers in that match.  We'd recreated the magic we'd made a decade ago, back when we were young and our dreams were as big as our imaginations.  And I'd like to think that the fans were winners, too, because that was one hell of a match.

All four of us embraced in the ring, drawing applause from the fans, and raised each other's arms.  This was a special night.

Referee Scotty Z, "All That" Matt Murphy, Trevor Murdoch, "Superstar" Steve Fender, and Bull Schmitt after our match Oct. 22 in Eldon, MO.
Steamboat stormed into the locker room.  For a moment, I wondered if I was going to get an ass-chewing for making a fool of him.  His stern look softened and he grinned ear-to-ear.

"Excellent match," the Dragon said, then went on for several minutes about what he loved about it.

As Steamboat sang our praises, I was overwhelmed with the greatest sense of satisfaction I've had as a professional wrestler.

Life is like a photo montage; your life experiences--the memories, the moments--are small snapshots that make the big picture that is you.  The memory of Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat praising what I'd done inside the ring with three of my closest friends will always stand out as one of the greatest pictures in my montage.

I don't know if Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat has ever had a more thrilled recipient of his handshake.

Trevor Paul (Trevor Murdoch's son), Hunter Murphy, and Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat.