Five years can do a lot to a person in the high impact world of professional wrestling, and five years is a lot of traveling when you’re young blood and given the expectation of having a bright future. Alex Schaefer was both; It felt like a lifetime ago now, when “Two Huge ‘Straya Guys” cheekily climbed through the ropes for the first time, back at Queensland Pro, all the way back in 2017. Times have changed since, as they always do. Coming back to the ring after time away, Alex had sent feelers out to various companies and old friends to try to get back in shape, to get back the power the ring gave her, and now she sat alone in a comped hotel room in the MGM Grand, states away from her current home in St. Louis.
PRIME Wrestling was the big leagues. Bigger by magnitudes than other companies she’d been in, eclipsing Honorbound Combat and Citadel Wrestling. The woman ran her hands through her long black hair and gazed at her reflection in the hotel room mirror and gave herself a thumbs up. In just no time, she would have to prove to the world she had what it took to be seen as a competitor again, to own up to the potential she was once a claimant of. Unlike the other companies that just had her against women, this time Alex was going to be locking up with men, just as it had been in Australia.
Something was so exciting; Knowing that she wasn’t the ‘big one’ in the fight got her blood pumping, and her strength alone wouldn’t be what got her to win. PRIME represented a challenge to her and it was one that she strove to meet. The woman tied her hair back in a loose braid and stepped out of her hotel room and punched in a few keystrokes on her phone, before stepping onto an elevator. Her phone buzzed. A text from Tommy, a wrestler she was managing in the Midwest. She sent him a selfie of herself and a peace sign, before waiting for his response.
Tommy was the latest big figure in her life. She’d taken some time away from the ring over the last year and pursued acting, and when that fizzled, she’d reached out to old friends in the wrestling industry to get back into the business. Tommy was the one who reached out to her, and now she was in his corner at every one of his matches at a company he owned in the Midwest. A company that was currently in a break in production. Hence taking appearances and signing a contract at PRIME, hence promises she’d be back in no time.
Tommy was a man that had a way of getting into her head. She missed him, despite knowing the wrestler’s life was one of travel and flight miles, and those feelings were ones she pushed down into the depths of her guts. The hotel lobby was packed with tourists and throngs of gamblers passing to and from the various venues within the hotel, and Alex did her best to distract from notice, pulling down the brim of her local hockey team baseball cap and shoving her hands into her pockets as she made her way through the crowd towards a waiting car out on the curb outside in the sunny Las Vegas afternoon.
The drive wasn’t far. It was between buildings, from the hotel to the massive arena nearby. Alex knew of it through wrestling and MMA. Famous boxing fights had rocked the MGM Grand back in the day, and now, Alex was going to be one of the faces that fought there in front of thousands of people. No pressure, she told herself. Making her way into the arena through a security checkpoint and a worker entrance, she found herself backstage, in front of framed posters of famous boxers mid-match.
A production assistant came to her, clipboard in hand. “Hey, Alex, it’s such a pleasure to see you again! I know we did the production photos yesterday, and those turned out great, according to the producers of the show, but I wanted to take time today as we discussed in our emails back and forth to show you the ringside area and get you an idea of where the important backstage positions are, such as the production area and the locker rooms and catering. The Grand, well, it’s big.”
“I saw it from the outside! Crikey, that’s no lie. How many seats has she got?” She planted her hands on her hips and peered past the tall man to the hallway behind him, buzzing with workers preparing for the next PRIME show.
“Uh, about sixteen thousand and change?”
Alex puffed her cheeks and lifted her hat, the color paling on her face slightly. “I’m used to about two thousand, three thousand tops. I never thought I’d make it to a place like this, and now that I’m here, mate, that imposter syndrome is mean, reckon?” She laughed.
The man shook his head. “Don’t worry, ma’am, you’re gonna do great. Chin up and high hopes.” He offered her a bottle of water, and motioned for her to follow him. She did, taking up his six, before being guided into the arena entrance through the Argyle and onto the stage. The Arena was bright, and stood empty, save production crews working tirelessly to get the place ready for another show. In the center of the ringside area, a deconstructed wrestling ring sat next to commentary tables.
Alex stood there for a moment. “I’ll catch up with you,” she told the assistant, sending him on his way back. She slowly took a seat on the metal floor of the stage and took it all in, catching the breath that had caught in her throat.
For a moment, she was that bright eyed rookie in Queensland Pro again, only this time without her tag partner by her side. Alex Schaefer was going at this alone, and she was ready for anything- including a woman as strong as her opponent in the upcoming show.
She didn’t feel dread or doubt. Not one nerve firing in her brain fed her the idea to second guess herself. It was an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, and Alex knew, sitting alone with her knees to her chest on that bright stage, her opponent wasn’t as strong as Steel.
“Ria, I don’t know you, sheila. I don’t know you beyond the tape I’ve watched the the words that have been said to me about the hell you’ve pushed yourself through to today. I gotta stop for a moment and congratulate you for your recent personal successes. I know of how hard it is to do what you’ve done and I want to be clear, going into this fight, you’re a woman who has my respect. But I want to tell you a little about me.
“I am more than a pretty face. I’ve been traveling around this world pursuing this life between the ropes for five years now, and wherever there’s been a place that wanted me, I was there, hardening myself and getting my fighting spirit blazing strong. But the truth is, I’ve always been chasing this.
“When I was fresh out of university, the Internet knew me as this wee thing with a blonde pixie cut pumping iron in Australia, and despite being small, I worked myself until my hands bled, until I knew the weight of gold and success around my neck. Ria, you know that hunger just as I do. It wasn’t enough. My boyfriend got me in the wrestling ring and I only left once after four years of 50 weeks of traveling a year.
“I love professional wrestling. That’s why I’m back. I love it so much I am going to push myself to succeed harder than I’ve ever before, and with all the respect I have for you, I’m going to ask me to give me your all, because I’m coming into this with all the intensity and power I’ve had building up in my heart since day one, reckon?
“This isn’t going to be some easy match at the bottom of the card ‘tween the young hot headed gallah rookie and the returning hardass, no. We’re going to shake this arena to the foundation. We’re going to crack the earth, we’re going to put on such a spectacle of strength and excellence the old timers will look at us in dismay and awe. I wouldn’t have it any bloody less.
“So bring your A game, Ria. Show me that strength you’ve got and I’ll show you mine.”