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Chapter 1: Our Meet-Cute
Sometimes the reward for being a good Samaritan is many years away, but in this case it was immediate and amazing.
As I headed back to Fresno, down a dark and lonely stretch of Highway 99, I encountered a car pulled on the side of the road. I stopped to see if I could help. The car had blown a tire and the spare was flat as well. The three occupants were very friendly. I hadn't watched wrestling in years, but Cody Rhodes, Damian Sandow and Jack Swagger were their names. While they were waiting on a tow truck, they asked if I could take them up the road to the In-N-Out Burger.
After we got back with the food, I waited with them. Asking them all the dumb fanboy questions. They were gracious enough not to stuff me in my trunk. When the tow truck arrived, I exchanged contact info with Cody, and he told me to go to tomorrow’s show in Fresno. A backstage pass would be at 'will call' for me.
This was my first WWE show in six years, and I was going backstage! I arrived a bit early and was immediately greeted by my new friends. They showed me around a bit, took some pics and introduced me to more of the “boys”. Then they had to prepare for their match.
As much as I wanted to sit and watch the show, backstage was much more interesting. I was alone, so I started wandering around.
Then, I saw her -- the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on -- she was small, maybe 5’3” and 105 lbs tops. Long brown hair and amazing brown eyes. Based on her hoodie, Chuck Taylors and jeans (which she must have been poured into), I assumed she was a makeup artist, or maybe a relative of one the “boys”.
Normally, I turn tail and run in these situations, but when she looked up from her phone and spotted me gazing at her, I knew fleeing would make it worse. I managed to coherently introduce myself.
“People call me A. J.”, she replied.
I asked her what she did, if she worked for WWE.
“You really don’t recognize me?” she asked me. “I have been on 'Raw' almost every week for the last year and a half.” She wasn’t annoyed, so much as clearly far more bemused with me.
“I haven’t watched wrestling regularly in years, but I think I have a reason to now.”
She laughed. I felt invincible.
“Fresno is my town, I grew up here. I would love to show you around. I can take you to the place where Piper, Orton and Muraco trashed their rental car in ’86. Then maybe we can go to the Holiday inn where Ace Orton was tasered while naked.”
“That sounds tempting but I am in an on-screen relationship, so I am not allowed to go out on the town when I am on the road.”
I was about trudge away like Charlie Brown.
“But if you want, we can hang out in my room. Watch a movie.” She sipped her Capri Sun.
“Ok. Sure.” Internal fist pump.
“It’s the Holiday Inn down the street, not the famous one you mentioned. Room 503. 8 o’clock.”
“I will be there.”
I could not believe how quickly all this had accelerated. Here I was, after a love-at-first-sight moment, meeting at a hotel . I started to worry, maybe this was a “rib” put on by Cody. Maybe A. J. is crazy, I had no idea who she was or what she was about, other than our brief encounter earlier.
But I knocked on the door anyway. She answered, and I was floored.
“Well, I guess I am overdressed.” I stammered
“Oh don’t worry about it, after the show I have to be comfortable as possible. The road is tough. I made popcorn. Sit down.”
I sat down in a chair.
“No silly, on the bed. Don’t worry, I've had all my shots.”
I walked over to the bed and sat down next to her. I noticed a copy of JLA: Tower of Babel on the nightstand. Well, now I was in love for sure.
“Tower of Babel is literally my favorite storyline ever.“ I said.
“Oh yeah, I love it too. I read it every now and then. So what movie do you want to watch?” She put her glasses on to read the TV listings. So adorable.
This was a crucial moment. I can say what I really want to watch, and risk ruining everything, or I can suggest a rom-com to be safe. There was something about her that made me feel like I could suggest anything, and somehow it would be okay.
I looked into her big, brown eyes and said, “I really want to watch Anchorman for the 500th time.”
She smiled and replied, “It would be 600 for me. Let’s do it.”