The first thing that Mitch noticed was the chain’s weight as it sagged between them. He loosely grasped his end and wiggled it, both to test its hold and to antagonize Nate somewhat. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Can’t stray too far, must stay close lest the chain went taut and became a threat to the both of them. They exchanged wary glances, and Mitch assumed that Nate worked out similar strategies in his head.
With a bit of distance, Nate attempted to rush forward and kick Mitch in the face; being far more agile, Mitch ducked the attack. Nate’s impatience left him vulnerable, the chain now between his legs, and Mitch yanked it with all of his strength. It lifted up fast and sharp, not only tugging on the collar and choking Nate but also crushing his balls. The audience gasped, and Nate dropped onto his knees, wheezing.
Whoops. “Gotcha, bitch,” Mitch cackled in Zevon’s voice, albeit saddled with a bit of guilt. After getting to his feet again, Mitch bunched up a section of chain and repeatedly whipped Nate’s back with it, the dull thud of heavy metal again flesh sickening.
But despite Mitch’s assault, his effort to maim Nate and put this whole thing to bed, Nate was still very much in this. On hands and knees, he turned around enough to reach out and grab one of Mitch’s ankles, then pulled him down to the mat. And as soon as Mitch was horizontal on his back, Nate stood tall over him and tugged at the chain. It wrenched Mitch up into the air, and the collar tightened around his neck, briefly suffocating him.
Fuck. He hadn’t even taken that into account.
His legs flailed about in a panic while his fingers wedged under the collar, all of his instincts screaming at him to get out of this any way possible. Undo the collar, forget the match, leave.
But before he could get coordinated enough to do that, Nate released the chain and his body fell again.
The thing about Nate was that once he was in the ring, he became outright mean. It was easy to forget if you knew him personally. A safe worker, sure. And he’d always been Mitch’s favorite to have a match with, because everything he did was so sound, so tight. Generally he came out of each of their bouts as a better wrestler.
And then he’d go and do something like wrap the chain around his fist, staddle Mitch’s chest, and punch him in the face with it. Over and over again.
“Fuck you!” Mitch yelled between blows, spit and blood ejecting from his mouth and spraying Nate in the face. As Nate wound back, Mitch wrenched his shoulder and arm up, colliding with Nate’s groin for the second time that night.
“Aw, c’mon man,” Nate groaned as he rolled backwards, giving Mitch the clearance to wriggle out and free himself. Using the valuable few seconds that Nate needed to compose himself, Mitch grabbed a length of chain and wound it around Nate’s neck. He planted a foot between Nate’s shoulders and yanked harder, using the leverage to his advantage.
“Tap!” Mitch snarled, both hands now on the chain as his midsection twisted so far back that he could feel his spinal column protesting. Sweat poured down his body, pooling at his hands and compromising his grip. He could see red gathered up at the corners of his vision, and determined that he must be busted open at the forehead, likely from one of the earlier punches. It wouldn’t be long before he needed a new strategy, but he gave one final tug to try to buy himself more time.
However, it wasn’t enough. Again, Nate swept him off of his feet and gained the upper hand in the process. The vicious cycle continued that way throughout the match: Nate using his size and strength to brutalize Mitch, forcing the chain into his mouth and around his head, trying to make the experience as claustrophobic and miserable as possible. Mitch was always faster, manipulated the chain more often as he paired it with moves.
Sometimes it paid off, like when he used it with a springboard neckbreaker. Other times it did not, like when he attempted to dive and Nate dodged; what would have normally been a spill to the outside of the ring turned into him getting effectively getting hung by a noose as Nate kept the chain taut from his position in the center of the ring.
But either Nate didn’t want the match to end in the world’s saddest count out, or he heard the terrified noises that Mitch squawked and took some pity, reeling him back inside as if he’d hooked a dying fish.
There’s no strategy once Mitch returned, just the need to survive and win. They continued to abuse one another’s bodies, and during a brief moment of calm, the only sound that Mitch could make out was his own ragged breathing mingling with Nate’s. He spotted the crimson of blood covering half of Nate’s face, and felt the rivulets of his own going past his jaw and down to his neck.
Nothing ever weighed as much as that leather collar, growing heavier with each strike and blow. The vigilance of keeping a panic attack at bay further wore Mitch down. He should have picked any other match stipulation, not the one that preyed so acutely on his greatest fear.
Yet, Nate seemed equally sluggish as they took turns with elbow strikes and chops to the chest. It couldn’t end like this, not in a weak hockey fight, but it did need to end. Mitch couldn’t even see anymore; it was as if every bone had been ground to dust, every inch of skin grated away, every bit of oxygen turned to water when he breathed it in.
A final elbow cracked Mitch across the face with enough force to tear his head from his shoulders. Nate had reinforced his forearm with the chain, Mitch realized a little too late, and the force of it knocked him backwards and into a heap on the mat.
The ref’s voice called out, but Mitch didn’t hear them until around the number 6. His body was much too mangled to move, but from the corner of his eye he could see Nate attempt to drag himself closer with the chain sweetly jangling along with every bit of motion.
“Mitch,” Nate’s voice rasped out when he was just a few feet away.
“8!” counted the referee.
“What?” Mitch asked, closing his eyes and already accepting defeat. If Nate had enough energy to close the gap, he would be the victor.
Nate got within a few inches, his head near Mitch’s, but he didn’t bother to sit up or extend an arm or make any motion whatsoever to go for the pinfall. They made eye contact, and Nate went still. “I’m sorry,” he hoarsely whispered.
“10! Ring the bell!” The referee shouted, ruling the match a no contest.
“You fucker,” Mitch let out a soft laugh, then relished in the absence of urgency for a few seconds. Moments later, there was a commotion, and then a hand on his face and Avi’s voice asking him if he was OK. “I’m fine,” Mitch responded, allowing his head to be cradled. Soon after, Louis and Sandy joined as well, and between the three of them they managed to get him on his feet.
The crowd exploded into cheers.
Can NOT believe that I didn’t add this earlier! So a dog collar match is a hardcore match. They’re pretty rare (typically used to end a feud), and brutal. Both opponents wear collars around their necks, which are attached by a length of chain. They usually get bloody and, well, they are…SO horny lol. Example of a dog collar match.