Imagine me, last Wednesday, nursing a lethal hangover. I’m eating a Protein Brick on a stalled 2 train when I notice Hollywood Jim standing two passengers away from me. At first, I’m not sure it’s him. I do a lot of staring-without-staring out the side of my eye. Then I’m certain. He has the frosted tips, sunglasses, and gorilla biceps I see every week on television. This isn’t a cosplayer, it’s the Hollywood Jim, America’s least favorite professional wrestler.
My first instinct is to stay quiet. I’ve seen the horror stories about crazed fans following wrestlers around the city. I don’t like the idea of starring in one. I was raised better than that.
Then I think about it. A Hollywood Jim autograph is certainly worth looking crazy. I already look crazy for free all the time. So I squeeze past the pregnant woman between us and try to smile. Just a little, smiling too much is weird.
“You’re Hollywood Jim, right?”
He nods, smiles back, and pockets his phone. “Yeah, that’s right.”
“I’ve been a huge fan since your handicap match against the Katana Twins in ‘08. You’re the best heel out there. Which is why I was wondering…do you think I could punch you in the face?”
All of the greats have beaten up Hollywood Jim. He’s the modern master of getting thrown through a table, and making the other guy look like a hero for doing it.
Some people are annoying. Turning an arena full of people with cheap tickets to their favorite show into a big ball of hate is something else entirely. Calling Hollywood Jim annoying is like calling a California wildfire hot. Technically accurate, but dangerously misleading. When Jim jobs, it becomes art.
“I’d love to—pardon?” he replies. It’s taking his brain a moment to catch up with the request. Probably jet lag, this can’t be a first.
“I’d like to punch you, if that’s okay. I mean, ideally I’d like to get some height and hit you with a Fuego Kick. There’s nothing to jump from here though, so I’ll settle for a punch.”
“Oh, I see. No.”
Fair answer, but I’m still pretty disappointed. Meeting someone like Jim on the way to my cubicle farm seemed to mean something. But it’s just another washout morning in a washout life. At this point, even the failures I see coming hurt a bit.
“Got it. Sorry to bother you.” I try to squeeze back behind the pregnant woman. She’s pretty pissed at this point, so there’s no budging her. I’m stuck.
“You’ve got to understand,” he says. “The hits I take on tv are from professionals. You seem like a great guy, but that doesn’t qualify you for stage fighting. Letting you punch me might end my career.”
“It might seem odd, but I usually only see you on tv. That’s a world people like me will never be a part of. I know it sounds sad, but catching you in real life is the best thing that’s happened to me in a while. And a solid punch would help me keep going.”
Hollywood Jim watches me for a while. We go past my stop in Brooklyn while he thinks. I try to hold eye contact. Today, for this, I’ve got to be confident.
“Fine. One punch.”
Amazing. I try to keep my grin contained. If I scare him, he might lose his nerve.
“Against the cheek, softly. I’m not kidding. A full-speed hit to the temple could put me in the hospital.”
I check to my left, and find an empty seat. There’s a chance I could pull off a quick Fuego Kick (I’ve practiced), but I think better of it. It’s enough that he’s giving me a punch.
I do two warm-up jabs in the air, and Jim flinches for both of them.
“Could you just do it?” he says. Doubt’s creeping into his voice.
I crack Hollywood Jim in the jaw. For a moment, my fantasy life has a foot in reality.
That said, Hollywood Jim had a point about stage fighting, because he folds up like a lawn chair. Looks like I shouldn’t have leaned into the punch.
“Thank you,” I whisper as he gets up on one knee. At this point the subway doors open—we’re somewhere in the financial district—and a kid walks in. A preteen with the modern imitation of a punk-rock look. He recognizes Hollywood Jim and his face lights up. Before either of us can react, he’s on top of the seat, getting ready to jump. I expect him to bust out a classic Fuego Kick, but he hits Hollywood Jim with an elbow drop instead. Right on the back of the head.
Hollywood Jim folds up again, cradling his head and cursing. Just like on tv! I think it was worth it, I’ve never seen a happier kid in my life. When you get someone young like that, you’ve got a fan for life.
That said, Jim doesn’t seem to appreciate the moment. He springs up and bolts out of the train car before the kid can get a decent photo. The doors catch Jim’s left foot on the way out, and he yanks his foot clean out the shoe.
Naturally, that shoe’s worth something to a fan. The guy wears bright-yellow boots in the ring, but today he’s left behind a fancy black dress shoe. The edges are all scratched up, so he must wear them a lot. Maybe looking classy helps him stay in character. Or meet groupies.
After I pick up the shoe, the kid looks at me like he wants to throw down for it. That puts me in a tough spot. I’m not worried about the fight—I’ve got a hundred pounds on him, and he’s not Loco Lucha Leon. But if I get arrested slapping a kid around, there’s a good chance the cops’ll take the shoe. That’d be a waste.
Mercifully, the kid backs off. Probably because I’ve got a Machete Squad tank top on (it makes you look pretty tough). Best fifty dollars I ever spent.
I decide to keep the shoe on my dresser, between my diploma and a photo from Disneyland. My roommates don’t believe me when I tell them how I got it, but that’s fine. I’ve punched the same jobber that Bigger Ben, Gravestone, and Triceps Monroe punched. Maybe that means my push is coming.