The midcard: In professional wrestling, the midcard is the backbone of the live show. Most of the attention may be paid to the main event, but a main event does not a show make. It’s the matches leading up to the finale which set the pace, and which can work the fans up to a fever pitch. Every headliner today did time as a midcarder early in their career…it was a rite of passage. But of course, not every midcarder eventually made it to main event status; many, despite talent, determination and hard work, just never seemed to break through or “go over” with the fans to justify headliner status. Midcarders (and in this sense, it may seem a disparaging term) toil away night after night, house show after house show. What drives them is the hope that, perhaps, lightning may finally strike and they will be elevated to superstardom. For most, it is a futile dream.
Jennifer Love Hewitt was, in the minds of many, the consummate mid-carder although it wasn’t always that way! When she debuted in the HWA in 1997, she was an immediate sensation…the Good Girl Next Door with killer high flying moves that lead to predictions of championship gold from many observers. And while she won many matches, she lost more than a few as well…and a number of those were for big stakes - the kind that could have put her in championship contention. The most humiliating was doubtlessly her being eliminated in the first round of the ‘1999 Queen of the Mountain’ tournament by Mena Suvari in less than 90 seconds.
In time, the talk of great things for Hewitt, of championships and everlasting glory, faded away. She was respected as a hard worker, but no one credibly viewed her as titleholder material. To her credit, she steadfastly refused to try for a career turnaround by going heel, insisting on remaining true to herself, even if it meant that some fans dubbed her “Vanilla Love”…shorthand for boring. Still, boring or not, she worked steadily on the house show circuit and even managed to find herself in a TV match once a month or so. If she had any disappointment it was her own inability to climb to the ‘A Level’ but in the past year she seemed to have been able to channel that into something positive as she’d been mentoring a young newcomer, Anne Hathaway.
Love discovered Anne when she did a guest stint instructing at the HWA training academy, and she immediately realized that the statuesque brunette had all of the tools to be a world class competitor…with the right guidance. Hathaway was a diamond in the rough, and Hewitt saw her role as being the jeweler who polished that gem until it was a crown jewel. Taking personal control of Anne’s career, Love oversaw everything from her training to her bookings and right down to what togs she would wear in the ring on a given night. They also tag teamed, and although Love saw no need to give their duo a flashy title, many fans took to dubbing the amply-endowed brunettes the “Busty Browns.” There was a growing consensus that Hathaway, who’d made an impressive debut and racked up a solid string of wins in her first year, was ready for a shot at the big time.
But Hewitt wasn’t convinced. She had seen too many ‘Next Big Things’…herself included…thrust into the spotlight before they were ready. She assured Anne that there would be main event matches in her future, but for now, her best interests remained firmly in the midcard. “Trust me,” she would assure her protégé while flashing her trademark toothy smile, “I know exactly what I’m doing.”
When she wasn’t focusing on Anne’s career, Love was embroiled in an on-going feud with Olivia Wilde. As far as the brunette was concerned, Wilde was exactly the kind of wrestler whom Anne should NOT become, cocky, cruel and all too willing to do whatever it takes to move up the ladder. Perhaps that’s why Love seemed bound and determined to win the feud and teach her rival a lesson she wouldn’t soon forget. For her part, the blond seemed to take a special pleasure out of vexing and foiling Hewitt, whom she considered representative of the worst thing in wrestling…a has-been who won’t get out of the way when a superior talent (i.e., Olivia Wilde) arrives.
Both women certainly didn’t mind that the feud was getting some good media coverage and, indeed, the rivalry was proving so popular they were booked to face each other the following week on the HWA’s live Monday night show. Then Wilde expanded the challenge, saying she wanted a tag team match, “So I won’t be bored to death with only Hewitt’s ass to kick.”
Love quickly agreed, surprising no one by naming Hathaway as her partner. But when asked who she would team up with, Olivia merely smiled and said she’d announce her partner in good time. Wilde’s stealth made for good television, as the mystery of who her partner would be was a hot topic online. On the night of the match, the broadcast team played up the air of secrecy to its dramatic fullest; in the immortal words of the Spanish announcers, “¡Nadie no sabe nada a excepción alguien!”
Finally, the time for the battle had arrived. Hewitt and Hathaway were announced first, with a chorus of “Busty Browns!” growing steadily louder throughout the crowd. In the ring, Love ignored the chant (she hated the appellation, which she felt wasn’t dignified), but Anne soaked up the attention, raising her arms and whirling around to face the whole crowd, a wide smile gracing her lips. Next, the announced called out Olivia Wilde…but no one else. The blond sauntered down the aisle and stepped between the ropes as if she hadn’t a care in the world. “What’s the matter,” Hewitt mocked. “Couldn’t find a date to the prom?”
“Oh,” Wilde replied in an almost singsong tone. “My partner’s just waiting for the perfect moment. But I don’t want to keep you waiting, so should we just get started?”
That suited the brunette fine, and after the referee gave his final instructions and Love told Anne to step out of the ring, that she would be starting the match, adding, “With any luck, you won’t even have to tag in. I intend to take this bimbo down fast,” she said sternly.
The bell sounded, and the two rivals began to circle one another. They locked up in the center of the ring and strained against one another. Suddenly, Olivia broke the hold and took a few steps backward. Smiling ear to ear, hands on her hips, she said, “I just can’t wait any longer! And I can’t wait to see the look on your face when you meet my partner.”
Love steeled herself for some sudden attack by Olivia, knowing that Anne would watch her back if the blonde’s tardy partner ran in. But when she heard the crowd suddenly gasp, Hewitt spun around…and was greeted with a Superkick to the jaw! Love collapsed to the mat like a felled redwood. Blinking rapidly, she managed to clear her vision enough to realize that Wilde was now standing directly over her.
“Yeah!” the blond sneered. “That’s exactly the look I expected! You’ve met my partner, haven’t you?”
The brunette’s eyes narrowed to try and sharpen her vision as a second figure now hovered over her. It took Hewitt several seconds to recognize her…and several more for her brain to accept what her eyes were showing her.
“Ah…Ahh…Anne?” Love stammered.
“I’ll leave now so you two can chat,” Olivia said as she strutted back to her corner…but not before high fiving with Hathaway, making her the legal woman in the ring. The blond then sat atop the turnbuckle to watch what unfolded next from the best seat in the house.
Grabbing her mentor by her chestnut mane, Hathaway hauled Hewitt up to her feet. “What the matter, Love…can’t believe this is happening? I’m not surprised,” the traitorous Anne continued. “Unless something was your idea, you’ve never been able to accept it.” An Irish Whip sent Jennifer bounding off of the ropes, and straight into a high knee kick that nailed her hard in the chest, again sending her down to the canvas, gasping for breath.
Between wheezes, Love gasped, “Why?”
Literally insulted by the question, Hathaway again pulled Love upright, this time Irish Whipping her into the corner. Hewitt’s body sagged, but her arms over the top ropes held her up. “Why?!?” she snarled. “You even need to ask? Damn, you are so dense!” As she spoke, Anne straddled Love’s body by standing on the bottom ropes, then cocked her right fist and began jackhammering it into the brunette’s face, the crowd lustily counting along with every blow. “You’ve done nothing but hold me back for months! You wouldn’t let me enter the May Melee, or accept that offer to work in Japan last month, or let me make any of my own decisions! God, I even had to clear which color of ring boots I wanted to buy with you!” Halting her battering with the count of ten, Hathaway jumped down from the ropes. Grabbing the stunned brunette by her hair, Anne leans in close and says, “And you know the worst part of having to put up with all of that was? I’m twice the wrestler you are, bitch!”
With that, she dragged the stumbling Hewitt to the center of the ring, and once more Irish Whipped her into the ropes. But as Love careened back toward her erstwhile partner, who was ducking forward at the waist in preparation for a Backdrop, she suddenly leapfrogged over Hathaway, who stood up in confusion…which set her up perfectly for Love to catch her in an Abdominal Stretch/Stomach Claw combo. Love knew better than anyone that Hathaway still needed to work on strengthening her abs, which was why she focused her attack on Anne’s weak spot.
“I thought you were better than this, Anne,” Love hissed, her sorrow mixed with rage. “But if this is how you WANT it, then we’ll have it YOUR way.” For emphasis, she tightened her hold, eliciting a pained groan from the taller brunette. “And just remember…I made you and I can break you!”
Wilde was just about to come down from her perch and help Hathaway when Anne, with a roar, managed to Hiptoss Love, breaking her dual holds. Quickly kneeling down, Anne pressed her knee across Hewitt’s throat, pinning her down and buying herself a few moments to recover from the stretch and clawhold, while Jennifer gurgled from having her windpipe crushed, her feet kicking at the mat while her hands tried desperately to push Anne’s knee off of her. The referee counted to four before Hathaway released Love she pulled Hewitt up to her feet and applied her own Abdominal Stretch/Stomach Claw; demonstrating, perhaps, that anything her teacher could do, she could do better!
“Go ahead,” Anne mocked. “It’s your turn to flip me.”
But despite her best efforts, Love failed. She knew that Hathaway’s greater height gave her all the leverage she needed to resist being thrown over. All Jennifer could do was mewl in pain as her ribs were stretched and Anne’s stiletto fingers kneaded her ab muscles. Soon, tears welled in her eyes. Tiring of the torture, Anne released her holds and dragged Love by the hair over to the corner where sat Olivia, then held her upright with a Full Nelson. Finally slipping down from the turnbuckle like a queen descending from her throne, Wilde smirked. Then, her face growing deadly grim, WHAP she slaps Jennifer across one cheek, then SMACK backhands the other cheek.
“You really thought you could stop me?” the blond growled. “I’m destined to the champion of the world! You? You’re nothing but a pathetic little wannabe. You never stood a chance of outwitting me, you loser!”
With an imperious wave of her hand, Olivia dismisses her battered nemesis. Wordlessly, Hathaway dragged Love back to the center of the ring. Everyone knows what came next and while Love’s most fervent fans desperately hoped it didn’t, Anne was about to shatter both their hopes and their illusions. Tucking Love’s head between her thighs and wrapping her arms around the smaller brunette’s waist, Anne hoist her up in the air to deliver the “Bombs Away,” her signature Powerbomb. Love is slammed with such force into the canvas, the whole ring shakes. And she lay there, motionless and helpless. Olivia strolls over, and she and Anne each place one foot on each of Hewitt’s shoulders, ostensibly pinning her in a manner which utterly denigrates the fallen brunette.
“Make it a ten count,” Wilde indolently instructs the ref. “She’s not going anywhere!”
“YOUR WINNERS,” the announcer proclaims. “THE TEAM OF OLIVIA WILDE AND ANNE HATHAWAY!”
A cascade of boos tumble down upon the victors as their arms are raised and then they happily hug one another. Hewitt may not have been a headliner, but she was much-admired, and Anne’s betrayal of her friend and mentor angered most of the spectators who were made to witness it. She may have lost the match, but she won newfound devotion from the fans.
Unfortunately, she also won a dangerous enemy in Anne Hathaway. But then Anne had earned an enemy tonight, and next time, when she doesn’t have the element of surprise on her side, Love swore she’d teach her former student a lesson she’ll never forget as long as she lives!