Wrestling with Mr. USA
By Gary Kolb
My match for the Saturday matinee at the Vineland Arena was with a newcomer from Brooklyn New York who performed under the name of Mister USA Paul Naples. We knew little about him. My promoter told me that the guy was a bodybuilder who only had a few matches thus far and probably didn’t know very much. Being the more experienced pro wrestler, it was going to be up to me to carry him through this match.
More bodybuilders were coming into the sport. It made sense. Most of them wanted to parlay their great physiques into quick paydays. Some of these guys worked hard at learning and developed into pretty good wrestlers. Others were just shallow and narcissistic and terrible at performing in front of a live crowd in the ring.
So who knows what this Mister USA will be. Tony Altimore did introduce me to him backstage and he seemed like a nice guy, as are almost all of the wrestlers, outside the ring, of course.
“Paul Naples,” he said, offering a very strong hand shake. He already was stripped to the waist, displaying a very impressive chest and hard stomach. His arms were kind of short, his hands kind of small, but very thick. Paul had a noticeable New York accent and surprised me in that he seemed genuinely shy. Several times he glanced away from me, uncomfortable with eye contact.
There was a good crowd this afternoon at the arena, consisting mostly with middle aged
men. This was good, because matinees usually draw a lot of children, who favor a different kind of entertainment. The kids like comic book characters and storylines where the good guy triumphs over a bad guy. The adults simply want good hard wrestling action.
When it was time for me and Paul to perform, I wasn’t sure what to expect. He was the babyface in the match, the winner. It was my job to more or less make him look good in having his way with me. This would be a fairly easy match, I thought, even if Paul was an unknown who I had never worked with before. Since there were not many kids in the crowd today, we wouldn’t have to worry about theatrics and entertainment. We could just go out there give the men in the audience what they came to see; some good old-fashioned smash mouth wrestling.
And, man oh man, that is what they got. After we tied up in the center of the ring after the opening bell, Paul drew me in immediately and clamped on a powerful bear hug. Good move, I thought. This will showcase Mister USA’s muscular arms and shoulders. Paul squeezed me into his massive chest and I let out a gasp.
“Too much?” he whispered to my ear.
“Not enough,” I said, stupidly. He squeezed harder and I thought my ribs were about to shatter. The crowd was appreciative though, as I squirmed in distress, trapped in his huge arms. The arena was very hot this afternoon and soon both our torsos became slick with sweat. This allowed me to kind of slide lower in his bear hug and relieved the pressure.
When it seemed like I had survived the bear hug submission attempt, Paul spun me over and slammed me back first to the mat. He did this maneuver extremely well for a newcomer. Who ever trained him deserves to take a bow. The wind was momentarily knocked out of me and I just lay on the mat and looked glassy eyed up at the arena ceiling. Paul stood over me contemplating his next move. With his sweaty, muscular body, the crowd was really warming up to him. Even from the floor I could hear whistling and applause.
Then Paul clamped on a body scissors to my abdomen. His legs were God awful strong, even though I was certain he was not applying full pressure. If he really wanted to shut his tree trunk quads onto my ribs, he probably could snap me in half.
We lay not quite in the middle of the ring while Paul punished me with his legs. While I was in pain, it was a pain I was willing to endure. The men in the audience were really getting into it, and that is what we as professionals are here to do. But again, our collective body sweat worked in my favor and after a minute or so, I was able to slink my way partially out of his clutches and grab the lower ring rope. The referee ordered a break.
Even though we only two minutes into the match, I was already gasped. Yes, he was a good worker and taking it easy on me, but still, he was so strong and had already squeezed the air out of me. So I took my good old time, despite the protests of the fans, in getting back to my feet to resume the match.
Having egged the crowd against me by my stalling tactics, I finally engaged Mister USA in the center of the ring again. But I was woozy and he took advantage. Effortlessly, he scooped me off of my feet, carried me around the ring a bit, and then dropped me to the mat in a body slam. The sound of my body smacking the mat gave a loud thud that resonated to the top of the arena seats. The fans gave the loudest applause of the match. Things are going well, I thought, as again I stared up at the arena ceiling. This guy is pretty good.
Paul scooped me up off the canvas with a handful of my hair. He pulled me across the ring to the corner and slammed me face first into the top turnbuckle. He did this a little bit too zealously, in my opinion, and I hit chin first, causing me to see real stars. All I can remember is being on my knees, dazed and staring at the top of Paul’s red, white and blue trunks and his six-pack abs. Then I was airborne once again, not knowing what was going to happen next, only that it was going to hurt.
In this, I was also right.
Slammed hard and backwards to the unforgiving gray mat, any pretense of competition that I could give this impressive newcomer from Brooklyn was now over. Mercifully, Paul pinned me for an uncontested count of three.
The time of the match was two minutes, eleven seconds. It really felt like much longer than that. Backstage, Paul was once again shy and gracious.
“You okay,” He inquired.
” I’m fine, ” I said, but I wasn’t so sure. “Good match.”
“You too,” he replied. It occurred to me that he really did look great, his Mister USA physique all slick with sweat. “Hey, ” he said, almost like an afterthought. ” Would you want to go out somewhere and grab a beer? ”
I thought about it for about three seconds. ” Sure, ” I replied.