“The Belfast Bulldog” Dave Dyer gasps for air during the battle royal at Speedway 95 in Hermon on Friday. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of columns documenting staff writer Dave Dyer’s journey to becoming a professional wrestler. 

The day has arrived.

After six months of training, I’m ready to make my pro wrestling debut. Behind the curtain of a trailer, I stand shoulder to shoulder with a dozen other wrestlers, ready to perform for a crowd that surrounds a ring on the pavement of the Speedway 95 racetrack in Hermon. I’m wearing a just-ordered blue wrestling singlet, my finest (and only) leather jacket, and a pair of wrestling boots I had to borrow from my fellow Limitless Dojo student, Jacob “The Drifter” Dawson.

I take a moment to reflect on what I did to get to this point. Half a year of bumps and bruises. Two near-attempts of blowing out my knees. Constant drives between my house in Belfast to the Dojo in Brewer. It was a mix of emotions. I was nervous, thinking I was half-crazy to be jumping in the ring — at age 33 — trying to hold my own. But I was also proud. Proud I kept at it. Proud I was living my dream. Proud of the people who supported me and helped get me to this point.

The music hits. It’s time to focus. It’s time to live in the moment, walk through the curtain, and live the dream. It’s time.

GET SOME GEAR, FAST

I first found out about my debut at the Let’s Wrestle!: Curl of the Burl show in Orono on May 31. My job that night was helping with the setup and breakdown of the ring, and any help that was needed backstage by any of the wrestlers working the show.

Afterward, my trainer, Alexander Lee, informed me I would be amongst the Dojo students working in a battle royal at a North Atlantic Wrestling Association show June 14 at Speedway 95. A battle royal is when several wrestlers are in a ring at once, tossing each other over the top rope to the outside, until one wrestler is left standing.

Realizing I had just over two weeks before the show — and still waiting for my ordered gear I realize that I need to find some gear, and fast. As soon as a I get home from the show, I grab my laptop, along with my credit card, and try to find something suitable to wear for my debut. I figured the easiest — and quickest — way to go would be to order a blue amateur wrestling singlet, like high school wrestlers wear. I also ordered two heavy-duty knee braces, as I had severely sprained my right knee at a recent practice, thinking for a moment that I may have blown it out, and blown out my chance at wrestling altogether.

My gear is ordered, and thankfully, it will come in long before the show. Now, it’s simply time to wait.

INTERESTING PLACE FOR A DEBUT

What feels like an almost overnight transition, June 14 arrives, the day of the show.

The North Atlantic Wrestling Association is a different organization from Limitless Wrestling, run by Larry Huntley, a long-time veteran of professional wrestling in Maine. Having met Larry a few times, I knew he was an old school, take-no-bull type of person, and that I was going to have to be on my best behavior, and on top of my game. This was a big show for Larry, because all proceeds from it would go to the Maine Special Olympics.

It would also be headlined by two former World Wrestling Entertainment superstars, Tom Brandi — also formerly known as “Salvatore Sincere” — who would be working under “The Patriot” gimmick, and WWE Hall of Famer Tony Atlas. A longtime fixture in Maine, Atlas was one-half of the first African-American tag team to hold a championship title in WWE history. His partner? Rocky Johnson, the father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

I had never been to Speedway 95 , but I grew up near Beechridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, so I certainly had an idea of what a local racetrack looks like. I assumed the ring was going to be set up in the infield area, where wrestlers performing in the battle royal would be able to land on some soft grass when the time came for elimination.

I was wrong. Dead wrong.

The ring was set up on the actual racetrack, near the grandstand. The ring trailer was to be used as the entrance to the ring. The dressing room would be the area behind the trailer, with some added visual protection by a few cars.

Welcome to professional wrestling, Bulldog.

Lee, along with fellow Dojo students Dawson, Ethan “Mac Daniels” McHatten, Dalton “Doug Wyzer” Hemingway and I all head to the ring, to go over eliminations, and have a final chat before the show. Lee gives us a great pep talk, the kind you want to hear from a coach before taking the field for a game. Now, it’s just simply putting on the gear, and waiting. The battle royal is on first, so thankfully, I don’t have to wait long.

KEEP YOUR HEAD ON A SWIVEL

For the battle royal, the heels, or bad guys, were announced first, followed by the babyfaces (good guys). I would be working that evening as a babyface, for reasons I’m still not totally sure of. Maybe it was my kind eyes. Or my chubby face. Or my dad bod.

I knew my family and friends were right by the entrance, and I had to do all that I could to not make eye contact with them on the way out, so as to not break character. This especially held true for my daughter, Scout, who would attack me and give me a huge hug if I looked at her.

“The Belfast Bulldog” Dave Dyer, right, walks away from the ring after being eliminated from the battle royal Friday at Speedway 95 in Hermon. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

The only information we knew going into the match was who was going to win, and who the final four in the ring would be. How we were eliminated was completely up to us. In a match of chaos like this, all you can do is keep your head on a swivel, react to punches and kicks thrown at you, and try to get some shots in yourself. Larry gets the match started by diving onto a pile of wrestlers, and chaos ensues.

My actual time in the ring was a blur. My biggest memory was my interaction with Larry, who gave me a solid chop to the chest that left a welt for a day. He also used a T-shirt he was using to give me, well, a wedgie, which I sold to the best of my ability by writhing on the ground in pain. After about three minutes in the ring, I was eliminated by an up-and-coming wrestler named Malik Logan, who protected me by sending me frontward over the ropes, thus ensuring I would not be landing on the outside pavement on my head.

CELEBRATION

After making my way back to the dressing room after my elimination, I thank everyone involved and give hugs to my fellow Dojo mates. I made it. I had a match, and I survived, without hurting myself, or anyone else. I changed, said hello to my family, and went back to the dressing room to watch the rest of the show with the crew. After teardown, I celebrated with chicken wings and pie at Dysart’s, before the drive home. I made it through match No. 1. Now I’m already thinking about match No. 2.

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