As the forearm slammed into his lower back, Mike felt like he’d been hit by a runaway train. His knees buckled, but, miraculously, he managed to stay on his feet. Although he knew Luke would strike again in an instant, the blow had emptied his lungs of air, and Mike could not move. Sure enough, he felt Luke grab his gym shorts and yank Mike backward. BOOM!!! Luke drove another massive forearm into Mike’s lower back. In a flash of pain and light, Mike crumpled facedown to the mat. As Mike raised his head off the mat, everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. The force of Luke’s blow had temporarily caused Mike to lose his hearing. He could tell by their faces, though, that the prisoners from Cell Block 15 who had gathered to witness this match between champion Luke (Inmate 3678AQ) and “challenger” Mike (Inmate 9734WX) were cheering wildly. Some were pleading for Mike to get up and keep fighting, while others (likely with cigarette wagers against Mike) were shouting at him to stay down for the count. Even the guards were in on the action.
Though he’d spent hours in the prison yard pumping iron and was in excellent shape, Mike knew it was a huge mistake to wrestle Luke. With 22-inch arms and a 54-inch chest, Luke was the undisputed champion of Cell Block 15. He was built like a god and looked like he’d been carved from granite. With his patented finishing move – the bearhug – Luke had defeated every challenger who’d come his way since his imprisonment seven years earlier. But Luke had issued the challenge, and Mike knew refusing to fight would cost him any credibility with the other inmates and possibly cost him his life if the other prisoners decided he was weak and subject to attack.
And so Mike found himself facedown on the mat following an onslaught of forearm blows to his lower back by Luke. There was no surprise as to what was coming. Luke was setting Mike up for the bearhug. As Mike struggled to his knees, the sweat was pouring off his arms and chest. The summer heat had made the Alabama prison feel like an oven. His legs were shaking with spasms as he tried to stand. Before he could rise fully erect, Luke moved in behind Mike and clamped on a full nelson, lifting Mike off the ground. Locking his hands behind Mike’s neck, Luke poured every ounce of his upper body into the hold. The force of Luke’s pecs, biceps, forearms, and hands combined to make Mike feel as though his own neck and chest were collapsing in on him. He could feel Luke’s pecs bearing into this back and could feel Luke’s sweat dripping down his back. After 10 minutes in the hold, Mike wanted to cry out in submission, but he knew from experience that these cellblock matches ended only when one wrestler lost consciousness. Pleas to stop were not honored.
The pain from the full nelson was incredible. Instinctively, Mike twisted and turned, trying to escape the hold. That attempt to twist out of the hold was precisely what Luke was counting on Mike doing. Luke loosened his grip just enough to allow Mike to turn toward Luke. Mike took the bait. Thinking Luke was losing his grip, Mike turned toward Luke in an attempt to escape the full nelson. Luke released the full nelson, but only long enough to catch Mike in a standing, front-facing bearhug as Mike turned.
As Luke’s biceps cinched around Mike’s midsection, Mike knew he’d made a fatal mistake. Mike opened his mouth to cry out in pain, but the force of the bearhug had already depleted his lungs of enough oxygen to make any sound. The inmates were on their feet. It was the moment they waited for in all of Luke’s matches. The wagers quickly changed from whether Luke would win the match, to how quickly Mike would pass out from the bearhug.
Even in his intense pain, Mike consciously marveled at the beauty of Luke’s bearhug. It was a work of art. The secret was that Luke squeezed his victims not only with his massive biceps but also with his powerful pecs. As a result, the victims were squeezed from all directions. In addition, Luke applied the hold so tightly, no one ever escaped. In fact, Luke’s head was over Mike’s shoulder, so that Mike could not even strike Luke’s face in an attempt to break the hold. Mike truly felt like prey in a python’s vice. And like a boa constrictor, Luke slowly, methodically, and relentlessly tightened his grip – rippling his muscles like a snake – each time Mike exhaled. So tight was Luke’s hold that Mike could feel the nipples on Luke’s pecs and the veins in Luke’s biceps burning into him. Mike gasped for air. It was a fruitless effort. He knew he would pass out eventually; he prayed it would come soon. It seemed to take forever. Mike felt surely his burning chest would collapse in on itself. But his own excellent physical conditioning kept him conscious. An astounding 18 minutes had passed in Luke’s bearhug, six minutes longer than any other opponent had ever lasted and far longer than any inmate had wagered.
The crowd was going crazy, perhaps wondering if Luke might cramp up and be forced to release the bearhug before Mike passed out! Fearing that possibility himself, Luke suddenly constricted every muscle in his upper body – from abs to neck – in one final squeeze. Mike could feel his ribs cracking, as pain shot throughout his entire body. Blood began to drip from his nose and drop onto Luke’s back. Mike feared he would die instead of passing out. Why weren’t the guards stopping the match?!?
As he opened his eyes – hoping somehow to make eye contact with a guard with reason – Mike found that blackness was encroaching on his line of sight. Relieved, he knew the oxygen deprivation was causing him to lose consciousness – FINALLY. At that moment, his arms dropped to his side like a rag doll’s. His legs gave way, and Luke’s grip was all that kept him from crumpling to the ground. Mike gasped for one last breath of air – AND ALL WENT BLACK.
Luke could feel the passing of any resistance in his opponent’s body, and he immediately released the hold. (He did not want a death from a prison brawl to extend his sentence!) Mike fell to the floor, landing on his back in a puddle of his own and Luke’s sweat, with his arms flopped over his head. As he opened his eyes, he looked up to see Luke with his arms raised over his head in a victor’s pose. Luke stood over Mike’s fallen body and performed a series of pose downs for the cheering inmates. He pumped his biceps and giggled his pecs up and down to the crowd’s delight. Champion still. Mike wondered what kind of monster it would take to defeat him eventually – if ever. Mike closed his eyes and awaited the stretcher that surely would carry him to the infirmary for what he imagined would be several weeks of recuperation. He wondered whether the doctors would believe the guards when they reported that his injuries occurred in a fall from the top bunk in his cell. No matter. Mike was grateful to be alive, happy in the fact that he knew he’d have some minor hero status for having survived 27 minutes in the python’s vice.