In pro wrestling, there’s the concept of “going into business for yourself” — that is, ignoring whole or part of the script in order to advance your own career, often at the expense of others. When we last left our hero in Over The Ropes, Jason aka Phoenix had done just that: he was supposed to play the part of the promoter’s son in a match, but instead came through the curtain as himself and pinned the promoter himself for the SFW World Title. When asked if making the biggest mistake of his life was worth it, Phoenix responds, “totally.”
In an effort to maintain the prestige of the championship and the air of legitimacy around the promotion (known as “kayfabe”), promoter Ricky Radison can’t just nullify the results of the match or take the title from Phoenix — he has to lose it in the ring. But that’s just on screen. Off screen, Radison has promised to make Jason’s life a living hell for defying the boss.
In issue #2, we see Jason hiding out in a hotel room, both elated that he is the champion and legitimately worried for his safety. He receives a tip that Radison has put a bounty on his head, and is planning to collect it tonight, when Phoenix is slated to go up against Memphis’s number one Elvis impersonator, Jessie Presley (eat your heart out, Honky Tonk Man). Will Jason be able to come away from tonight’s main event with both his title and his life in one piece?
Much like pro wrestling often is, Over The Ropes sets a simple premise of good guy vs. bad guy. And just like pro wrestling, it works. Jason is a relatable, interesting protagonist who did what he had to do to advance his career, but as a result has put a target on his back. Issue #2 makes clear the story of Over The Ropes, at least for now, is how Jason will be able to balance Phoenix’s rise in the eyes of the audience while his real life falls apart because of it.
Writer Jay Sandlin completely nails the balance between the real and the unreal that makes pro wrestling such a fascinating medium. We interviewed Sandlin on the Poor Taste Wrestling podcast (cheap plug alert), and the man knows his wrestling. So it’s no wonder he has thus far been able to marry wrestling ethos with comic book storytelling in a way that should please fans of both formats. The beginning of the story deftly foreshadows some of the events later in the issue, so be sure to keep an eye out if you want the full picture.
Artist Antonello Cosentino brings Sandlin’s script to life, with distinct, expressive characters, aided by Francesco Segala’s bright, varied colors. Cosentino’s style is decidedly cartoonish, but it absolutely works when portraying the unreal world of professional wrestling.
Over the Ropes is working its way up the card, and has become a main event player faster than Phoenix. If you like pro wrestling, this is a no-brainer. But even if you’re not a fan of the sport, Sandlin’s story is concise, well written and interesting. And who knows? It may just make you a fan after all.
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