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On this day in rasslin’ history

April 27th, 2010 No comments
 

April 27, 1987:  The Idol, Rich vs. Lawler feud peaked on on this day in Memphis wrestling history, with the now-infamous hair match, which drew more than 8,500 fans. Along with his manager Paul Heyman (then known as “Paul E. Dangerly”) Idol and Rich cheated Lawler of his hair and the AWA Southern title in a steel-cage match. (The cage probably saved the lives of those heels from hell in the ugly aftermath.) While Lawler getting his hair cut was certainly enough to create a melee of Ron Artest-like proportions, to make matters worse, in the pre-match hype, Idol had promised to refund every audience member’s price of admission should he lose as well as have his own precious bleached-blonde locks snipped. (Imagine how angry the fans would have been if the match didn’t take place.

April 27, 1987

Before the bout, Idol held up the promotion for more money, vowing he wouldn’t wrestle if his demands weren’t met. Jarrett caved but he never forgave Idol for it and to this day doesn’t enjoy speaking of the Heartthrob.) Since the very idea of Lawler losing a hair match at that time was about as unfathomable as Rich regaining the NWA World title, Memphis fans eagerly plucked down their blue-collar cash thinking the Women’s Pet had made a wager he’d soon regret. For more on the last great Memphis feud that drew serious money, click here.

Tommy Rich held the NWA title approximately 4 days, 23 hours, 37 minutes longer than Scott Bowden.

April 27, 1981: With the exception of Dusty Rhodes and Andre the Giant, Tommy Rich very well could have been the hottest box-office attraction in the business in 1981. Although a bit awkward in his movements around the ring, Rich was a good worker, better than most today give him credit for. He was certainly no Ted DiBiase, another young babyface who often worked Atlanta in the ’70s and ’80s (before becoming a dastardly black-gloved heel). Perennial NWA World champ Harley Race, who had a lot of say as to who he dropped the belt to and when, supposedly assured DiBiase at one point that he’d get the much-vaunted 10 pounds of gold for an extended run someday. DiBiase certainly had the ability to be a classic touring NWA champ—one who could wrestle any style and make the local hero look like a million-dollar man in the process. But Rich was more than capable and had a likeable, clumsy charisma that DiBiase didn’t have. According to a published report by Dave Meltzer of THE WRESTLING OBSERVER, Rich was under consideration to be a touring NWA World champion. But first he returned to Memphis in 1980, at a time when the territory’s top-draw Lawler was recovering from a broken leg. Nine-year-old mark Scott Bowden watched with much anticipation as Rich, in his first appearance back, wrestled longtime babyface Bill Dundee, with the winner to receive a Southern title shot. The two did some mat wrestling before Rich apparently head-butted Dundee below the belt as he attempted a backdrop. Rich picked up Dundee ostensibly to ensure he was OK, and then quickly wrapped up his foe in a small package for the win. Immediately after turning on Dundee, Rich further disappointed announcer Lance Russell and the viewing audience by shoving Lawler, who was doing commentary to the studio floor. Soon after, Rich aligned himself with manager Jimmy Hart and Bobby Eaton. Some speculate that he was being groomed for the NWA title and was sent to Memphis to learn the heel style, much like David Von Erich did in Florida in the early ’80s.

No, he didn’t get the proposed extended run with the most important title in the business. Promoter Barnett, the one responsible for pushing Rich to the moon, didn’t want to lose his top drawing card, but was able to convince Race to drop the title for a few days to Rich. Barnett asked Race to make Rich champion to make the young man a viable contender capable of winning the belt in the fans’ eyes in what could be lucrative rematches throughout the area after he dropped it back to Race. After all, if the gold belt never changed hands, the fans would wise up. And besides, Rich was the hottest babyface on cable TV in spring 1981. In Race’s shoot interview years ago, he claims he responded by telling Barnett, “Fine, but if you think I’m gonna let him have the title for more than a few days, you’re crazy.”

According to referee Ronnie West, who worked the match, Rich didn’t even know he was going to win the belt until he arrived to the small arena in Augusta, Georgia, for what was supposed to be nothing more than the usual spot-show main event against Race.

When Rich rebounded off the ropes to catch Race in the Thesz press — a move most recently used by Steve Austin—for the three count, the crowd erupted. In a classic moment, Rich appeared more dumbfounded than Race — he had become the third-youngest man in history to win the NWA World title. As West handed Rich the domed gold belt, the new champion hugged him and they tumbled to the mat together—a wonderful unscripted moment. As if Rich wasn’t already on top of the world, he got a boost from Andre the Giant, who picked up the new champion in his massive arms and lifted him toward the ceiling of the William B. Bell Memorial Auditorium as the crowd popped like crazy–and rasslin’ history was made. For more on Tommy Rich’s rise and fall, click here.

KFR presents WWE Extreme Rules (Live Coverage)

April 25th, 2010 No comments

Extremely good show: WWE delivers a PPV effort superior to WrestleMania.

Surprisingly, Triple H kicks things off with the Street Fight. Can’t recall the last time that’s happened, with HHH in the PPV opener. Oh, wait, he’s not. Camera cuts to Sheamus and the Game brawling in the back. Sheamus lays out HHH with a pipe before they’re separated. I’m sure this opens the door for Triple H to valiantly answer the bell later in the show only to lose to Sheamus in the Street Fight. Or maybe they’re scratching the matchup because it looks like they’re giving us a bonus bout.

Looks like an unannounced ShowMiz match is next in a Gauntlet, thanks to Miz running his mouth and Teddy Long responding with a three-team challenge. Winning team gets a title match tomorrow on RAW. Sets up a likely Hart Dynasty win tonight and title match tomorrow, when Bret is supposed to concede the title of “Greatest Tag Team Ever” to ShowMiz. First team is up: Dear God no…R Truth and his annoying theme song. Make it stop. Morrison is disqualified when he refuses to break his submission hold on the Show. MVP and Henry are up next. MVP hits the playmaker and goes for the cover. Show nails MVP with the knockout punch, enabling Miz to steal the win. Hart Dynasty hits the ring in Money in the Bank title win fashion with Bret Hart, with Smith and Kidd hitting a modified Hart Attack (with a twist…Kidd hitting Flyin’ Brian Pillman’s springboard clothesline) finish for the quickie win. Wouldn’t surprise me to see a title switch tomorrow.

Rey vs. Punk is next. I’m thinking Punk has to win this one to set up an eventual hair vs. mask bout. Or maybe they blow it off tonight and separate these two on the draft. Nice reference by Striker to Lawler when the King spoke of Punk competing with a hairy chest: “Hey, pal, you used to compete with a hairy chest–on a white horse.” (A reference to Lawler coming to the ring for his 1981 bout with Hulk Hogan on a horse.) Striker with another good one, re: Serina: “I love her. I do.” Crowd is hot for this one and the near falls early on Punk. Gallows is starting to look like an oversized version of Steve Austin…at least standing outside the ring…maybe not so much in the ring. Looks like they’re getting a little time here, unlike their WM matchup. Crowd chanting 619 as Punk gets heat on Mysterio, working on the lower back, telling a nice story. Nice roll of the Rs by Striker regarding a submission move made famous by Gory Guerrero.Rey fights out of a GTS but is tripped by Serena on a 619 attempt. Ref throws out the SES, forcing Gallows to Serena to the back. Rey hits a beauty of a moonsault outside the ring. Legrop back in the ring for a near fall on Punk. Crowd hanging on every count…good stuff. Already way better than their WM match…great near falls. Crowd chanting 619. He hits it!

Wins by a hair: Punk escapes with his precious, pure locks intact.

But a mystery man (bald guy with hoodie pulled tight to conceal his face) slips a chair to Punk and then attacks Rey on the apron. Rey’s out cold. Punk rolls him back in the ring. GTS…it’s over. Winner: Punk. Fantastic bout and the finish sets up the rematch. I’d imagine the new SES member is revealed tomorrow on RAW.

Strap match with the former Cryme Tyme is up next. Crowd dead for this one. Highlight early was Lawler throwing his hometown under the bus when arguing with Striker about the dangerous streets of New York: “Oh, yeah? Well, Memphis was voted the 2nd most dangerous city in America.” Nice counterpoint, King. JTG wins in a upset, outsmarting Shad for the win to tag the fourth corner.

Todd Grisham announces that it’s highly unlikely Trips can face Sheamus, citing “nerve damage.” I’m still thinking he makes it to the ring later only to lose. (Hey, you didn’t think he’d put Sheamus over clean, did you?)

Jack Swagger vs. Randy Orton for the title is next. Swagger badly needs a win here, but hard to see Orton losing so early after his babyface turn. I like Swagger’s stoic, all-business entrance, but they badly need to change his theme music to something more fitting of the champion’s new attitude. Swagger has ditched the Kurt Angle look for an all-black singlet. Crowd is awake again for this one. Nice mat wrestling to open. Man, Swagger is smooth. Telling the early story of Swagger outwrestling Orton…despite the “Extreme Rules” stips. Swagger goes for Orton’s punt, but misses. Action spills to the outside of the ring, where Swagger hits a Northern Lights Suplex. Swagger punishing Orton with two more suplexes (with Striker giving a tip of the hat to Gordon Solie’s pronunciation), including a belly to belly. They’re making Swagger look strong, so perhaps he’s dropping the belt. Occasional RKO chants, but Swagger quiets them down with his (almost too) methodical, punishing approach. Orton making his comeback after a lame belt shot spot. Orton goes for the back-in-ring DDT but Swagger backdrops Orton over the top. Brawl breaks out on the floor. Orton nails Swagger twice to head with a garbage can (no chair shots, thank you very much). Orton hits the Garvin Stomp in the ring. Orton hits the back-in-ring DDT, cutting off Swagger who was bringing a chair into the ring. Orton sets up the chair for an extreme RKO but Swagger reverses it into a backbreaker on the steel. Swagger hits the gut-wrench powerbomb for the pin. Good finish and a tremendous win for Swagger to (finally) help get him over as champ and put him on the next level in the fan’s eyes. Orton hit the RKO on the floor after the bout, with the crowd chanting “Randy, Randy.” I’m thinking Orton goes to Smackdown in the draft tomorrow to set up a rematch. Winner: Swagger

All-American Heel: Swagger slithers his way to a victory over the Viper and gets some World champion cred in the process.

Sheamus is in the ring calling Trips out. Grisham announces backstage that Trips can’t answer the bell; the Game bursts through the door…it’s on, baby. They’re selling it as the Game only has “one arm” because of the nerve damage a la the Dusty Rhodes finish in dropping the NWA belt back to Harley Race in 1979 five days after winning it. Hunter on the offensive early, hitting the spinebuster…but can’t follow up with the pedigree because he can’t use his left arm to hit his finisher. Sheamus hits a lariat and goes to work on the Game. Trips refuses to stay down and waves Sheamus on to bring it on. Announcers are selling that Trips can’t use the pedigree so he’s at a disadvantage. Sheamus hits a neckbreaker on the floor. Lawler says the Trips really should have forfeited. Game hits a DDT out of nowhere but can’t follow up because of the arm. Sheamus goes for several pinfalls, but can’t finish off the courageous son-in-law of Vince McMahon. Talk about grapefruits! No wonder Stephanie married this man. Sheamus hits Trips with the pipe…goes for the cover…Game kicks out! How does he do it?! Sheamus goes for the Pale Justice (Diamond Cutter) but Game escaped and backdrops Sheamus over the top rope. Trips suddenly regains feeling in his arm and nails repeatedly Sheamus with kendo stick, prompting a Buford Pusser/Bill Watts reference by Striker: “He’s walking tall now!” (God, I love Striker. I do.) Trips goes for the pedigree on the floor but Sheamus backdrops his way out of it. Crowd is alive now, with Triple H chants. Sheamus nails his foe with that brutal kick of his. Trips is crawling…appears to be out of it…but he’s hanging on! Another kick to the skull. And another! (That’s four if you’re counting at home.) It’s over…God bless Triple H, the most courageous man in sports. Sheamus wins. Another good bout and keeps the heat on the feud. A bit of a copout with Trips, but very good storytelling. Beautiful shots of the welts on Sheamus’s pale back as his celebrates on the win. They try to stretcher Trips out…but he’s not having it! He’s walking on his power…but Sheamus attacks him from behind again with yet another kick. (Yes! Down goes the Game, down goes the Game!) Triple H is stretchered off…cool visual. Again, another case of the WrestleMania rematch being superior than the bout held on the biggest stage. Edge vs. Jericho will likely continue the streak tonight. Winner: Sheamus

Pales in comparison: Sheamus beats Triple H at his own game

Divas title match is next. I’m going to make a sandwich. Striker just asked Lawler if he once dated 70s wrestler Joyce Grable…nice…and follows it up with a Gino Hernandez/Chris Adams blinding reference. (Striker is a god!) Beth Phoenix hits the Glam Slam for the pin. Striker: “Who would have thought an Extreme Makeover match would be so brutal?” Indeed. Winner: Phoenix

Cage match is up next. This is likely the blowoff, so logic says Edge wins. Jericho has already riled up the crowd prematch with chants of “Spear.” Edge selling the heel injury with a slight limp as he makes his way to the ring to a big pop. Jericho stalls outside the ring, so Edge goes out to get him, tosses him into the ring and the cage door is locked. Jericho tries to escape immediately, but Edge grabs him by the trunks, exposing the former Y2J’s ass–vintage Ric Flair from 80s-era cage matches. Woo! The story is that Jericho wants to escape the cage, but Edge wants to finish it in the ring. Edge goes for slingshot, shades of Lawler defeating Hennig for the AWA World title (Striker was asleep on that one) but Jericho jumps up the top turnbuckle and tries to escaped before Edge catches him. Striker compares Edge’s athleticism to David Beckham since they suffered the same injury. Edge called a spot that was audible to the PPV audience..yikes. Edge is trapped in the Walls of Jericho and the crowd rallies him to reach the ropes…but there’s not breaking it in a cage match. Edge escapes anyway and gets a near fall. Edge catches Jericho with a boot that would make Bruiser Brody proud and goes for the spear…but Jericho slipes away nearly makes it out of the cage. Jericho slams the cage door on Edge’s head, shades of Terry Gordy and Kerry Von Erich (c’mon, Striker, get in the game…where are ya?). Jericho could have escaped the cage, but he pauses on the ringsteps and re-enters the ring to finish off Edge with a chair. Edge ducks and nails a spear for a great false finish, with Jericho barely kicking out. Jericho hits a Codebreaker out of nowhere, but Edge kicks off. Great stuff here. Jericho has come to his senses…going the escape route again. Edge scales the ring and barely catches him and drags his foe back into the ring. Edge crotches himself on the top rope, again a la Flair in the ’80s (most notable in the cage match loss in Detroit to Ron Garvin in 87). Jericho is dangling from the cage…his arm is caugh, giving Edge time to again drag him back inside. Jericho nails a springboard Codebreaker from the top rope…very cool. Edge kicks out again…Jericho can’t believe it, telling Edge “stay down, you stupid idiot!” Jericho goes for the chair short on the ankle, but misses. Edge makes the Superman comeback and rams Jericho repeatedly into the cage. Edge closes the cage door on Jericho’s leg…making his foe beg for mercy. With tears seemingly in Jericho’s eyes, Edge put him out of misery with the Spear to take the win. Winner: Edge

Cagey veteran: Edge caps his comeback with a win over his former tag partner.

Brings the story full circle with Jericho selling the leg injury as Edge triumphs. Another good bout on what has been an overall solid thumbs up of a show so far. Very emotional, intense match.

Last Man Standing match is up. Batista hasn’t signed a new deal and WWE loves to finish on a positive note for PPVs, so Cena should retain. Should. Loud chants of Cena Sucks early, which Lawler tries to cover saying Batista’s hometown is nearby and Cole gushes “No one elicits a response like John Cena!” God, Cena’s head slam spot looks weak (more so than usual) when his opponent is bald. Batista viciously attacks Cena’s ankle (geez..didn’t these guys watch the last match?), and the crowd is rallying behind Cena. Remarkable response, certainly. Striker expertly questions Cena’s decision to wear sneakers instead of boots, which would have better protected his ankle. Nice work by Striker tonight. Hate to say it, but he outclasses Lawler in the color role. Batista goes for the figure-four as the crowd “Woooos!” Cole brings up that Ric Flair trained Batista…nice point. Clearly Flair taught Batista the hold, as Cena easily reversed it…once again like Flair in the ’80s. Who’s booking this show…Dusty Rhodes? (Stay with me, Striker.) Cena rallies, hits the 5 knuckle shuffle, but Batista scoots and nails Cena with a turnbuckle tool carelessly left under the ring by the ring crew. Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment on the chair, but Batista makes it to his feet before the 10 count. Two Batista spears…the ref counts…but the Champ makes it to his feet at the 8 count. Batista escapes the STFU, kicking off Cena through a table. Batista punishes the back, ramming Cena into a ringpost and throws him through the ringside barricade (which appeared to have been gimmicked…still a great visual). Batista still can’t put him away and he goes crazy, tearing apart the announcer’s desk and setting up the ringside steps as a weapon. Batista goes for the powerbomb on the steps but Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment through the announcer’s desk…great spot. Batista went FLYING. Crowd counts with the ref…but Batista gets to his feet at 9.5. Very cool. Cena sets up a table in the ring and goes for another Adjustment but Batista counters and hits the spinebuster through the table. Cena makes it up at 9. Both men are barely standing at this point…great storytelling once again. Batista hits a powerbomb, but Cena staggers to his feet again. The Champ slips on the STF, and Batista taps out repeatedly, but the match goes on…until the Animal has apparently passed out from the pain. Ref and the crowd count…but Batista beats it. Cena wracks Batista against the ringpost (shades of Austin Idol and Tommy Rich attacking Lawler). Cena reaches down into the mess of the ring crew’s toolset scattered about at ringside and duct-tapes Batista’s feet together against the ringpost. The Animal can’t get to his feet, so Cena wins the match. Winner: Cena

Duct'd off: The Animal is enraged as Cena taunts him post-match.

The finish was far more effective and clever than it reads…very Memphis-like. (In fact, Lawler beat Idol in a chain match in Memphis in ’87 when he duct-taped the Heartthrob’s wrist to the ringpost.) Makes it four for four tonight on the WrestleMania rematches…all better bouts across the board. Excellent show.

Thumps way up. A better show than WrestleMania, as the bouts had more time to build and tell a story.

Running on empty: Scott Bowden survives the LA Marathon

April 22nd, 2010 16 comments
It’s 3:30 a.m., and I’m applying Band-Aids to my nipples, which have been lightly coated in Vaseline—a necessity so they won’t chafe during the 26.2 miles ahead of me. It’s the morning of my first marathon, and my stomach is twisted in knots, not only from the anticipation but also from the copious amount of carbs and fluids I’ve consumed in the last 48 hours.

I can’t help but think of my friend Rob, an avid runner who talked me into signing up for the Los Angeles Marathon last fall, despite the fact that, at the time, I had not run farther than 8 miles since high school. Starting at the home of the Dodgers and ending at the Santa Monica Pier, we were to endure the grueling-yet-scenic course together. Instead, on this far-too-early morning, he’s in Costa Rica attending a wedding—and laughing sinisterly, I’m sure of it.

I slip on my fancy sweat-wicking shirt, which fits a little tight around my middle-aged midsection. I had safety-pinned the shirt the night before with my official marathon bib and positioned it on a chair, along with my shorts and shoes so that my gear would be facing me upon my awakening at 3 a.m.—for inspiration. Along with the carb-loading, the Band-Aids and the Vaseline, that’s another tip I learned from author Hal Higdon, whose book Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide is required reading for newbies.

According to Higdon, the long-distance event known as the marathon is named after the celebrated Athenian victory over Persian invaders near the Bay of Marathon in Greece in 490 B.C. The first marathon, at the 1896 Olympic games, commemorated the legendary feat of the Greek soldier Pheidippides  (a designated “hemerodromo” or runner-messenger), who ran 25 miles from the battlefield to Athens with tidings of the victory. Pretty cool, I thought. Until I learned that Pheidippides died of exhaustion shortly after exulting, “Rejoice. We conquer!”

My friend Kathy arrives at 5:15 a.m. in the cab that will take us to Dodgers Stadium. It’s still pitch black outside when I inform her that because of a knee injury (Iliotibial Band Syndrome, or ITB, to be exact) I suffered in January, I couldn’t run for six weeks, so my farthest training distance has only been 13 miles. Higdon recommends that first-timers run at least 18 to 20 miles before the event; however, the recurring inflammation and pain on the outside of my left knee made it impossible to run. By mid-February, I was lightly jogging, but I had to slowly build my mileage back up before tapering off.

“Oh, you’ll be fine,” Kathy assures me, but I detect a tone of skepticism. I’m reminded of co-workers who stopped me in the hallway nearly every half hour in the weeks prior, asking, “Are you ready for the marathon?” But in my head, it always sounded more like, “You’re not ready for the marathon…are you?”

Our cab comes to a halt on the 110 freeway—it’s surreal seeing cars snaking around the entrance leading into Dodgers Stadium at 5:30 a.m.  Not only am I concerned about making it in time for the 7:25 start time, but I also really have to pee. (You haven’t experienced true freedom until you’ve urinated on the side of a busy freeway overpass.) One after another on the gridlocked freeway, runners dressed in layers hastily exit their rides and trudge toward the stadium. We pay our driver and follow their lead.

Thousands of runners pour into the stadium like ants. Nearly everyone I see looks fitter than me and, therefore, far saner—that is, until we enter the front gates. Mixed in with the countless athletes who look they just sprinted off the cover of Runner’s World: a ’70s-era bloated Elvis in a sequined jumpsuit, a Boy George lookalike in hot-pink Nikes, Darth Vader in a black cape and running shorts, and Uncle Fester from the Addams Family, complete with a glowing light bulb in his mouth and the trusty Hand affixed atop his bald head. Is this a marathon or a variety show from hell? My only consolation is that I might be dreaming.

Creepy, kooky, spooky...altogether ooky: Uncle Fester needs a Hand in running the marathon.

I lose Kathy in the throngs of people. But after drinking all that water the last few days, I have far more important things on my mind—like finding a bathroom. Looking down over the front parking-lot area is an awesome sight: thousands of runners in line for what appears to be about 100 Port-A-Potties, reminiscent of the Memphis in May Music Festival or a Jimmy Buffett concert. I have to say, the wooded area surrounding the stadium is lovely this time of year.

With the start time approaching, I’m herded into the 5-hour pace group near the finish line. As long I stay with these runners and monitor my times at the mile markers, I should finish in around 5 hours—provided my knee and my heart hold up.

Shortly before the first group of elite runners takes off, the sky is littered with thousands of pieces of clothing as runners peel off their layers and toss them to the side, leaving their discarded garments behind for charity—a marathon tradition.

As Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” blares from speakers overhead, the herds make their way across the start line, activating the trackers attached to the back of our bibs. My wife, Hayley, will receive updates of my progress via text messages as I pass designated mile markers. She’s to meet me at the mile-13 marker on Sunset Blvd., which is about seven blocks from our home. If I’m in intense pain, the backup plan is for me to veer off the marathon route and go to our place. Although I’ve been self-deprecating about my chances of finishing, deep down, I really want this. When I told an acquaintance of my intentions to run the marathon months ago, he laughed, blurting out, “Like that’ll ever happen!” Heck, I need this.

I finish the rest of my soda (the sugar/caffeine rush provides a nice jolt before taking off, per Higdon’s book) and shuffle with the masses past the starting line. I’m off and running.

Mile 1: We’re barely out of the huge Dodgers parking lot when we complete mile 1. Hundreds of well-wishers line the streets holding handmade signs for their loved ones. I mutter, “Only 25 more to go.”

Mile 2: Lining the blocked-off streets are school kids and other volunteers offering us paper cups of water. I haven’t consumed fluids at such a rapid pace since abusing Chili’s happy hour back in college—I nearly choke as I attempt to maintain my pace as I drink on the run. I notice other runners discarding their crumpled-up cups on the street as volunteers sweep up behind us. For some reason, I enjoy throwing my trash on the ground in the presence of nearby police officers.

Sweet Jesus...I can see the finish line.

Mile 3: We pass Olvera Street, the home of a Mexican marketplace, with sombreros and brightly colored piñatas for sale, as the alluring smell of huevos rancheros fills the air. An R&B band, the first of several musical acts along the way, plays “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”

Mile 5: I’m humbled by a runner in his mid-50s passing me. He’s lugging a giant wooden cross on his back with the words “Jesus Saves.” On a slight downhill, I feel the first tinge of pain in my knee—uh-oh. As I see the cross bobbing ahead in the increasing distance, I’m hoping for a little divine intervention.

Mile 8: The bloated Elvis from earlier zips past me…on roller skates. He’s carrying an old-school boom box playing the King’s version of “My Way.” Only in Hollywood. This is my cue to break out my iPod. I pull over to the side for some water and orange slices at a relief station. Never has an orange tasted so good.

Mile 10: The view of the famous HOLLYWOOD sign momentarily breaks up the monotony. Dueling high-school cheerleading squads scream encouragement as we pass. Thank God I have my earbuds in. I slap high-fives with volunteers who root us on. I need all the support I can get.

Mile 11.5: I begin to fear the unknown as I wonder what lies ahead past mile 13. My feet are now throbbing along with my knee. I’m in a bit of a daze when suddenly a girl from a crowd of onlookers runs out in front of me, urging me to “Pick it up!” It’s my friend Casey, whose enthusiasm is simultaneously both inspiring and annoying. Still, seeing a friendly face snaps me out of my malaise. Just one problem: I need a toilet…in the worst way.

Mile 12: The Port-A-Potties have long lines, so I keep running. Suddenly, I remember a public bathroom outside the Starbucks on my left…not a soul in sight. Wooo!

Mile 13: Along with our friend, Samantha, my wife has never looked more beautiful as she approaches with ibuprofen and water. I wash it down, along with an electrolyte gel, almonds and chocolate-covered espresso beans. “I feel great,” I lie. Hayley quickly kisses me on the cheek as I press on. She gives me a reluctant parting glance–like a mother dropping off her child at nursey school, as if to say, “You’re sure you’re going to be all right?” I’m rather envious as I turn back and see Hayley heading toward our home. But I’m halfway to the finish.

Mile 16: As we pass older ladies gathering for brunch on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, the bewildered expressions on their faces seem to be saying, “To think—they paid to do this.” Unfortunately, no sign of Bobby Heenan or Nick Bockwinkel.

Mile 18: Total strangers on the sidelines, many of who are drinking beer or wine, read my name off my bib: “C’mon, Bowden! You can do it!” A far cry from the jeers and death threats I’m accustomed to by rasslin’ spectators. (If I were at the Mid-South Coliseum, I’d be bracing myself for people throwing their beers at me.) I appreciate the encouragement, but part of me is thinking, “Easy for you to f***in’ say.” I can barely hear the lookers-on anyway as the music in my headphones strangely echoes in my head, seemingly in rhythm with the sound of my beating heart—I think I’m becoming delirious.

Mile 20: As I nervously anticipate hitting the infamous “20-mile wall,” I seem to be OK, despite my throbbing feet, which are so hot that they feel as if they are about to explode out of my Asics. Maybe I can do this.

Eat your heart out, Kurt Angle.

Mile 21: My enthusiasm is short-lived, as my legs start to cramp. I devour a couple of orange slices, guzzle Gatorade and swallow the last of my ibuprofen stash. I peer down the beginning of the 5-mile stretch in Brentwood that will take us into Santa Monica. I’ve run this same route dozens of times after work. “Same as any other day,” I try to convince myself.

Mile 22: I laugh as my thoughts drift about coming home from an all-night party at 6 a.m. seven years ago and encountering blocked-off streets for the marathon, feeling like a lab rat trying to navigate a maze. I can’t imagine that I felt any more incoherent than I do now.

Mile 23: Firefighters shoot blasts of cold water in the air, which feels incredible as I run past. I’ve got my second ninth wind (and most likely, my last) as I remember those words that bruised my ego so many months ago: “Like that’ll ever happen!” It repeats in my mind as I pass countless runners doubled over on the side of the road. “It will happen.” At this point, I’m starting to believe.

Mile 25: The Pacific looks amazing. I feel like running straight into the ocean. Countless people chant “One more mile!” as my tired, agonizing feet carry on as if on auto pilot. In the distance, I can see a huge banner, but it seems worlds away. I run toward it, but the banner doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. Sweat is stinging my eyes as I gaze through my clouded contact lenses at the beautiful word slowly coming into focus: FINISH.

Finish: I made it. I made it! Time: 5 hours: 22 minutes, 23 seconds. I haven’t felt this proud since cheating to win a battle royal at the Earl Bell Community Center in Jonesboro, Ark. A volunteer puts a finisher’s medal around my neck. I stagger, nearly losing my balance as I look around for Hayley; I feel like Rocky Balboa searching for Adrian. I’m beaten, broken…I feel like I’ve taken 100 stiff powerbombs in a row from Sid Vicious. Another person hands me a complimentary package of bagels, which I’m tempted to break open right there on the spot. I borrow a fellow runner’s telephone to call my wife. Traffic and road closures have prevented Hayley from arriving at the finish line. Unable to think of a better solution, I ask her to meet me two miles away, despite the fact that the thought of walking another 10 yards seems overwhelming. With my medal dangling around my neck, I limp badly down the street–casual observers probably suspect I’ve just finished the Special Olympics. I feel myself smiling as I think of the Animal-Style fries I will soon be enjoying. I believe I’ve earned it.

Epilogue: I learned a lot about myself; specifically, I loathe crowds.

I trained hard for that day...and I downed a lot of Donuts. Little Chocolate Donuts. They taste good and they've got the sugar I need to keep me going. Donuts have been on my training table since I was a kid.

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