It warms my heart to see people still interested. No choice in this installment, as the beginning segments are going to go long, but I want to get this out there to keep things moving.
You mull things over for a second before heading over to join a trio of other women who have congregated around one of the water coolers. One of them, a young white girl with rainbow-dyed hair, gives you a wave as you walk over and greets you enthusiastically.
“Hi there! Have you done one of these before?”
You shake your head. “First time. Why, have you?”
“No, but Val has.” The girl points to a statuesque redhead whose ethnicity you’d hesitate to guess beyond ‘tanned’. “She was here at the last trials.”
Val shakes your hand. “I thought it was worth another try, what with them expanding and all.”
You nod. “Yeah, that’s why I’m here. The name’s Liz, by the way.”
The girl with the rainbow hair shakes your hand too. “I’m Candy! Or Britt, but Candy’s my ring name, I’m trying to get used to using it.”
The third of the group, a large black woman who has been quiet until now, also offers her hand. “Freda.”
You smile round at the group. “Pleased to meet you all. Did you come far to get here?”
Candy immediately launches into a response. “Well I came from Asheville, go Bulldogs, and Val’s from just up the coast, and Freda came all the way from Chicago!”
Freda shakes her head. “I mean, I’m from Oak Lawn, but it’s easier to just say Chicago. Nobody’s heard of Oak Lawn. Hell, I’ve barely heard of Oak Lawn, and I live there.”
Candy continues, barely missing a beat. “But there’s so much good pro wrestling in Chicago! I always used to get my mom to drive me down to Charlotte whenever the GWF shows would come through, but we didn’t really have anything locally. I had to drive for hours just to get to a gym where someone would train me, and I couldn’t always afford to go, but the guys there were really cool and they never gave me any trouble about that, they let me work at my own pace, even if I had to stop going in the end because the guy running it was kind of a creeper, which was really shitty but I guess you get guys like that everywhere, and I kind of hoped that a lot of the wrestlers would be different, but I suppose that’s just the way it is, even if I’m sure most of the guys are pretty cool, and it’s going to be really different training with other women, like I’ve never done that before, so I’m really looking forward to it…”
You settle in for the long haul. From the way that Freda and Val are reacting, this monologue had been going for a while before you walked over.
--------------- Fifteen Minutes Later.
The gym is getting crowded, and Candy has apparently not taken a breath or repeated herself for the entire time. You’re surreptitiously checking the clock on the wall to see just how long she can go before Freda nudges her into silence. Four figures have entered the room and the people at the front of the crowd are starting to quiet down. The largest of the figures, a bulky older man with salt-and-pepper hair and a small moustache, addresses the room in a loud voice.
“Alright everyone, settle down and listen up! All of you should be here for the tryouts. If any of you aren’t here for that reason, now’s the time to step out.” He pauses for a few moments before continuing. “My name is Mitchell Rees, you will call me Coach Rees. I am the head trainer here at the Fitness Academy. I’m here to oversee your progress, keep an eye on what you’re doing and how well you’re doing it. I decide who gets booked on the live shows, and who graduates to television.”
He steps back, and is quickly replaced by an athletic woman who you’d guess is in her mid-forties, with her hair tied back in a tight ponytail. “My name is Kat Mitchell, some of you might have known me as Killer Kat on the indie scene.” She pauses for a fraction of a second to see who reacts. “You can call me Coach Mitchell. I’m the assistant head trainer here, I do basically everything Coach Rees does but I stand closer to you while I do it. If any of the ladies here want to talk to someone with a bit more experience in the business, feel free at any time, my door is always open.”
“She’s good,” Freda whispers to you. “They must be serious about women’s wrestling if they hired her.” You hope she’s right.
Coach Mitchell is replaced by another very tall man, this one pale and ginger with a huge beard. Even before he speaks you recognise William McAllister, The Highland Warrior, a two-time Pan-American Champion for the GWF back in the nineties and a respected veteran. “Alright. My name’s Bill McPherson, you can call me Bill or Coach Bill if that feels weird. I’m the coach in charge of getting you ready for TV. I handle the promo classes and go through character work with youse. I’ll be helping out all over, like all of us will, but that’s my main job.”
As he steps back, a short Asian man in a casual sports jacket completes the lineup. “And last but not least, my name’s Alex Chen. I’m the Senior Director of Talent Relations here at the Fitness Academy. I handle all the business matters that you need to worry about. I’m the guy who signs all the contracts, I’m the guy who’ll tell you if you get a raise, and I’m the guy who’ll tell you if you’re let go. If you need help with your workout routine, for god’s sake do not come to me for advice, I have been behind a desk for way too long. And before we get started, I just want to say to you all, good luck, but most importantly, do your very best. Coach Rees? Back over to you."
“Thankyou Mister Chen.” Coach Rees retakes his position in front of the crowd. “The rest of today is going to be testing your basic physical conditioning. What we lead you through today will be a simple fitness routine. We expect all of you to be able to pass this point. Do not think that you can hide in the crowd, we will be watching.” He glares around at the crowd as if to emphasise the point. “We will start with a test of both your conditioning and your awareness of the people around you. Arav!”
A muscular dark-skinned man of possibly Indian extraction walks up and stands to attention in front of the class. “Yes Coach Rees!”
“Yes Coach Rees!”
As the man presumably known as Arav follows through with his instructions, Coach Rees addresses the rest of you again. “When I give the word, you will give me twenty burpees and you will give me them in perfect unison. We won’t have people finishing early or late. You will do them all in time with one another. If any of us see even one of you felling out of step, we will reset the count and go back to zero. If you cannot stay in time with a partner, you cannot safely work a wrestling match.”
Arav finishes his count. “Ten, thankyou Coach Rees!”
“Good! Now the rest of you. Twenty burpees. On my mark – begin!”
After the fifth reset, you confirm what you had already suspected: you’re getting beasted. You’re just working up a nice sweat, but you can see a few of the other trainees are sucking wind already. It seems that optimism triumphs over reality when it comes to people’s opinion of their own fitness. The Coaches are definitely taking note, and you’re taking note of them taking note. This is a chance to stand out and make a good first impression.
But will you take it?
A: Hell yeah! When you get out of the enforced teamwork phase, show your stuff to the fullest capacity. It’s your major selling point, and you really, really want to be selected.
B: Best to hold back a bit. Always keep something in reserve, and envy can be a powerful force in the locker room. Best not to make anyone else look bad.
This is a test of fitness. They will have observed already that some are struggling and some aren't. This is also a test of observation, so let's work to sync up and get it over with.
I like it to reading the room and calling a match. If you're not in sync with your opponent, you both look bad, even if one person is superior technically. If that means adjusting timing or style to make it click, you do it.
B. You don't go all out in the opening match of a house show. Save some for when everyone else is exhausted and they spring the endurance test. This feels like exactly the sort of room that would work everyone until they're ready to drop then spring a grueling endurance test, it'll be nice to have some still in the tank when that comes.