So when fourteen-year-old Wesley Brown accidentally discovers the secret identity of Dr. Demented, he freaks out. Now that he recognizes the man behind the mask, Wesley figures he's dead meat...or worse. Wesley knows pro wrestling is just a big show, but he also knows that a monster like Dr. Demented can't be a nice, normal guy out of the ring...can he?
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Chapter One: Heels and Babyfaces
"I'm gonna rip your head off, Doctor Demented!" Sergeant America shouted hoarsely into the microphone. "And I'm gonna take that ugly mask off with it! Then we'll see who you really are!"
Sergeant America stood motionless in the center of the ring, with one well-muscled arm pointing toward the door of the "ready room," where the wrestlers got dressed. A single spotlight illuminated him. The rest of the Houston Astrodome was in darkness.
"Die Doctor Demented!" chanted fifteen thousand rabid professional wrestling fans at once, shaking the building. "Die Doctor Demented!"
The despised Dr. Demented had yet to emerge from the ready room, where he was sipping from a bottle of carrot juice while thumbing through the latest issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
"A week ago during SkullCrush in Dallas," Sergeant America continued over the crowd noise, "my lovely wife Erica left me and ran off with you."
"Boooooooooooooo!" screamed the fifteen thousand. The fans hated Dr. Demented, but they loved having Dr. Demented to hate.
Hoping to get on TV, many fans were holding up banners and cardboard signs they had made: DEATH TO DR. DEMENTED. WE HATE DR. DEMENTED! GIVE BACK MRS. AMERICA. And so on.
"Well, Doctor Demented, I'm here tonight to win Erica back!"
Erica America's real name was Wendy Blau. She was a struggling actress who took the Erica America role because it paid better than waitressing.
Sergeant America, whose real name was Bill Anderson, let the booing die down before continuing. He had only been Sergeant America for a few months, but he was enjoying it immensely. Before he became Sergeant America, he had wrestled under the name Roadkill. Before that, he was Urban Legend. And before that, he had been part of a tag team called Hurricane and Tornado: The Natural Disasters.
None of those characters had caught on big with wrestling fans, so the AWF (American Wrestling Federation) had informed Anderson that his career as a professional wrestler would be over unless he could create a character the fans would respond to more.
Bill Anderson had always loved being a "heel." That is, a bad guy. But the AWF (usually dubbed "awful") suggested he might be more popular as a "babyface" -- a good guy. Because of Anderson's all-American looks, the AWF decided he would become Sergeant America and fight for truth, justice, and the American way.
In the early days of pro wrestling, there were lots of babyface wrestlers. But lately, just about all wrestlers were heels to one degree or another. There hadn't been a real "I love America" character in a long time, and the AWF decided it was time to revive the classic good versus evil story line.
Anderson liked changing characters every year or so. It kept the job new and exciting. Even though babyfaces earned less money than heels, he had to admit it was nice to hear the crowd boo the other guy for a change.
Sergeant America stood in the middle of the ring wearing nothing but red, white, and blue trunks and a large top hat that had been painted to resemble an American flag. His chest had been carefully shaved and oiled to shine when the spotlight reflected off it.
Anderson was proud of his bulging muscles, having been a bodybuilder for years and taken enormous amounts of muscle-building supplements to make himself resemble a Greek god. He had discovered there was little money in bodybuilding, so he turned to professional wrestling five years ago. As a wrestler, he had millions of fans, his own web site, and he was earning two hundred thousand dollars a year plus a nice cut of the T-shirt sales.
"It's one thing to steal my wife, Doctor Demented," Sergeant America continued, "but worse than that, you insulted the United States of America!"
In the ready room, Dr. Demented yawned, flipping through Better Homes and Gardens until his eye was caught by an article on how to make the perfect walnut-pear sour cream cake.
Dr. Demented also loved being a heel, and he loved being Dr. Demented. It was the only character he had played since starting in pro wrestling. He could hear Sergeant America's rantings through a small speaker above the ready room door.
"The Star Spangled Banner" started blaring over the sound system inside the Astrodome.
"Doctor Demented, you ripped our American flag to pieces in Dallas last week. You threw apple pies at the crowd. You said that you despise children, small animals, and democracy. You reject everything that good Americans stand for‹the American way of life."
"Well, let me tell you something, Doctor Demented. We didn't let the British kick us around in the Revolutionary War. We didn't let the Germans kick us around in World War II. We didn't let the Russians kick us around in the Cold War. And we're not going to let you kick us around now."
"As a citizen and representative of this great nation, I will personally kick your butt all the way to the Gulf of Mexico for the good people of Houston tonight! And in doing so, my wife will see who is the better man!"
"Kick his butt!" screamed fifteen thousand angry Texans. "Kick his butt!"
Sergeant America was proud of the references to the British, Germans, and Russians. A history buff, he had come up with the idea in the shower that morning and rehearsed his lines with the AWF writers that afternoon.
"I'm talking to you, Doctor Demented!" Sergeant America shouted, his voice rising. "Or are you too chicken to come out here and stand up for your twisted beliefs?"
"Chicken! Chicken! Chicken! Chicken!"
In the ready room, Dr. Demented sighed and slipped the magazine into his gym bag. He carefully put on the black mask that covered his head, tying it in the back so it would be secure.
"Do you think Doctor Demented is gonna show?" Jimmy Erdman yelled in Wesley Brown's ear. The boys, both fourteen years old, had seats in the upper level of the Astrodome. They were best friends, and really, each was the other's only friend.
Jimmy was a big, heavyset boy with a crew cut. Wesley, much shorter and very skinny, had red hair and freckles. They traded their pair of binoculars back and forth so they could get a better view of the ring.
"Of course he's gonna show," replied Wesley. "Sergeant America wouldn't be saying all that stuff if Doctor Demented wasn't sitting in the dressing room right now. He's waiting until the timing is right."
"You boys want to go get some cotton candy before the show starts?" asked Jimmy's dad, who had gotten the tickets and driven the boys from their homes in Humble, Texas.
"This is the show, Mr. Erdman!" Wesley said, rolling his eyes. Jimmy's dad was not tuned in to the fine points of professional wrestling. Wesley and Jimmy were such devoted fans that they watched three hours of wrestling on TV every Monday night while taping two hours on another channel, so they wouldn't miss a minute of mayhem.
Sergeant America walked around the ring chuckling and making chicken noises into the microphone, taunting Dr. Demented.
"I guess Doctor Demented couldn't make it tonight!" chortled Sergeant America. "Maybe he got tied up in traffic. Maybe he had a previous engagement. Or just maybe -- " Sergeant America put a long dramatic pause here -- "just maybe...he's afraid!"
The crowd noise had built up to the point where it was impossible to hear what the person one seat away was saying. People were screaming, chanting, booing, stamping their feet and smacking metal objects together.
Music was blasting out of the Astrodome speakers. Nobody could make it out, but it was Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyrie."
When the noise level had reached its crest, a blazing bright white spotlight appeared at the far end of the arena. Into the circle of light stepped...Dr. Demented.
Copyright © 2000 by Dan Gutman