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The Deadline arrives!
Doug Lunney handles Vance Nevada's best shots... and low blows... to win his wrestling debut

With manager Miss Tammy and the Deadline Dolls in his corner, Deadline Doug Lunney can't lose. - James O'Connor, Winnipeg Sun
By DOUG LUNNEY -- Winnipeg Sun

 It's a sweltering July night and I'm sitting on a garage-sale-reject couch at Top Rope Championship Wrestling's spartan training facility in the heart of Point Douglas.

 A torrential downpour hits and before long the rain has found its way through cracks in the building, forming a puddle near my feet.

 "Geez!" bellows The Axe, a 341-pounder who is helping train me for my ring debut. "Did you pee yourself, Doug?

 "Don't worry, man, I'll take it easy on you."

 I await my lesson as The Axe and fellow TRCW veterans Rob Stardom, Mentallo and Vance Nevada -- all of whom have been wrestling since before they could legally drink alcohol -- take turns putting male and female recruits to work in the ring.

 "Don't jump when you're going into the turnbuckles or you'll break your back. You're not Shawn Michaels!" Stardom instructs one of the students.

 Then it's my turn and The Axe politely holds the ropes open for my entrance. As I'm climbing in, he releases the ropes so they spring up and almost nail me in the groin.

 His huge grin and hearty chuckle tells me it was no accident. Funny guy, that Axe.

 Unlike the other recruits, my training was expedited because there was only three weeks before my match -- an assignment I'd requested.

 I've interviewed a number of rasslers over the years, from aspiring locals to WWF stars. But writing a first-person tale about preparing for and competing in a match has been in the back of my mind for some years.
A DREAM COME TRUE
There have been a few times as a reporter that I've asked myself: "What the heck have I gotten myself into?"

Once was when I jumped from a perfectly good airplane at 3,000 feet, another was when I was entwined by a 15-foot, 170-pound Burmese python.

But I topped those Thursday night at the Palladium.

In front of a packed house at a Top Rope Championship Wrestling card, I was bodyslammed, slapped, chopped and booted by the evil Vance Nevada. Despite all this, Deadline Doug Lunney was victorious.

OK. My buddy Darren (Da Bomb) Dalton lent a hand.

The match was the completion of a month-long project I've been working on -- getting an in-ring look at pro wrestling.

My conclusion: These guys are incredibly dedicated, athletic and, well, gluttons for punishment. While my match with Nevada was fairly heavy going, it was nothing compared with the brutality of the others.

Rob Stardom and the Crimson Sheik just about needed blood transfusions after their barbed-wire death match. Moses Luke came backstage with a face full of blood after taking a forearm to the nose.

T.J. Bratt took so many chair shots to the head, all he could do in the change room afterward was quietly ask if anyone had any Tylenol.

Robby Royce caught his leg awkwardly in a ladder between the ropes, only to climb to the top rope and crash through a table on the floor seconds later. Even women were going through tables.

Remember. On a good night, these guys are getting $60, maybe $75. But they will do whatever it takes to get to the next level, ultimately the World Wrestling Federation.

As harsh as it is in the ring, the backstage camaraderie among the TRCW crew is that of a great team unit. Being the new guy, every heel, babyface, main eventer and mid-carder gave me their support.

Even the 7-foot-3 Cyborg, who was making a guest appearance, took the time to offer some advice backstage.

"Anything goes wrong, just go at him and start hammering away," he said. "The worst thing you can do is stand there and look like you're waiting for something to happen."

The fans popped before I hit the ring, thanks to my manager Miss Tammy and the Deadline Dolls who entered ahead of me. The adrenaline rush in the ring was so great, it was only after the match that I felt a few bruises swelling up.

But I lived a dream. And that's a great natural pain killer.



 WEAR A MASK

 At 36, it was now or never. And I knew that wrestling-hungry Winnipeg Sun readers would eat it up. I thought maybe I would wear a mask or go under a different name and perform in front of some kids at Chalmers Community Club.

 But TRCW promoter Bobby Jay had this angle in mind where a Sun reporter would lock horns with the nasty Vance Nevada. To further the hype, he scheduled it for Summer Heat 2001, his big show at the Palladium.

 The first thing I learned was how to distribute my weight when falling on my back. I found running into the middle of the ring and throwing my feet into the air such an unnatural movement, it took me a couple of attempts to keep from instinctively planting a foot before I landed.

 "Oh, man, how do you guys do this?" I asked breathlessly after slamming myself to the mat a couple of times. Veteran wrestlers make it look so routine.

 No matter how you land, it's a severe jolt to the system for someone who normally spends his days at a desk. Then there are the ropes, which leave lovely welts on your back after a few bounces.

 The rings have a large spring beneath their centre, which acts like a car's shock absorbers. If you're going to be slammed or you miss someone when diving from the top rope, this is where you want to be.

 Being a wrestling fan, I knew the moves the guys were patiently showing me and picked them up fairly well. The harder they got, the more satisfying it was to pull one off clean, even if it hurt a little.

 "I like to get stiffed at least three or four times a match," T.J. Bratt told me moments before a show at Chalmers.

 In less than a year since he was trained by Nevada, the upbeat Bratt has become one of TRCW's hottest commodities.

 Nevada will tell his boys it's always better to hit your opponent a little harder than you need to, as opposed to being too soft. The hard-core fans at the Palladium can be ruthless. They demand some pain in the ring and let you know when you've blown a segment.

 My confidence improved immensely in my final lessons. Nobody would confuse me with The Rock, but I was taking and delivering atomic drops, knees to the gut, kicks, chops and clothelines.

 Heck, I even man aged a sunset flip (coming off the ropes, leaping over my bent over opponent and grabbing him around the waist to pull him over into a pinning position). It had the boys yelling "textbook" in a mocking but supportive manner.

 I was sent sprawling back to reality when I charged my opponent in a corner and took a boot to the face. I caught it flush on the jaw. If that wasn't bad enough, I was bodyslammed seconds later.

 I spent that evening at home with an ice bag on the side of my face, sitting on the couch with my very-amused wife. She was further entertained when I had to get up in the middle of the night and take a couple of extra-strength Tylenols.

 My only regret was it happened in an almost-empty training centre. The fans at the Palladium would have loved it.

A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF VANCE NEVADA
Many TRCW wrestlers are constantly on the go, juggling in-ring careers with family and full-time employment.
The following is a sampling of Vance Nevada's hectic schedule from this week.
Thursday
- 8 a.m.-4 p.m.: Work at day job.
- 4:30-5:15 p.m.: Work out at gym.
- 6-11 p.m.: Wrestle at Palladium event.
- Midnight: Back to work.
Friday
- Midnight-8 a.m.: Work at day job.
- 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: Travel to Swan River.
- 7 p.m.-10 p.m: At the Swan River Rodeo wrestling event.
Saturday
- 6 a.m: Wake up call.
- 7 a.m.-1 p.m.: Travel to Winnipeg.
- 2-11:30 p.m.: At Winnipeg Con-vention Centre wrestling event.
- 11:30 pm: Leave for Saskatoon.
Sunday
- 7:30 a.m.: Travel to Saskatoon.
- 10:00 a.m.-3 p.m.: Rest.
- 3:30-4:15 p.m.: Train at the gym.
- 4:45-10 p.m.: At Saskatoon wrestling event.
- 11 p.m: Leave for home.
Monday
- 7 a.m: Travel back to Winnipeg
- 8 a.m.-4 p.m.: Work at day job
- 5:00 pm: SLEEP!
Tuesday
- Photo shoot for SUNshine Boy -- stipulation for losing to Winnipeg Sun reporter at Thursday's Palladium match.

Lunney wins debut

Deadline Doug Lunney debuts tonight!

Sun staffer to put money where his mouth is




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