In his World Wrestling Entertainment debut, Barry Piotrowski pinned his man.
Actually, it was his own tag-team partner. And Piotrowski, 22, of Burnham, got a little help from a guy named "Ryback."
Boy did he ever.
Ryback resembles a cross between former superstar Bill Goldberg and a silverback gorilla. His finishing move is the "backpack stunner," where he lifts and drapes an opponent behind his neck and shoulders before falling backwards for a resounding body slam.
Ryback was able to backpack stun Piotrowski — who adopted the ring name "Dan Barone" — and his partner, Brendan Burke, at the same time. Then he placed "Barone" on top of Burke to record the three-count in a handicap match during a "Smackdown" show, June 29, at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind.
Though it was a bumpy start within pro wrestling's most celebrated and biggest organization, Piotrowski is thankful for the experience.
"Yeah, I got my butt whipped," Piotrowski said, "but I got my foot in the door, and I got some good pointers and some good compliments."
Piotrowski was contacted two weeks before by the WWE for a chance to be one of two "jobbers" to face Ryback.
"It was basically a tryout for one of the two spots, and I got picked," Piotrowski said. "(Former WWE superstar) William Regal helped work with me to get me ready."
Piotrowski was given a temporary ring name. He normally wrestles as "Barry Ryte."
As the nimble and aerial-advantaged Barry Ryte, the T.F. North graduate managed to attain a Top 500 ranking by Pro Wrestling Illustrated, and was selected to be part of the Super 8 Tournament, which spotlights the most promising independent wrestlers in the world and has launched the careers of several pay-per-view-caliber performers.
But just before the Super 8 event, Piotrowski was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, which not only threatened his pro wrestling aspirations, but his life.
Piotrowski eventually made a full recovery and returned to the ring in spring of 2011. His comeback was one of the highlights of his career.
So was his WWE debut.
"When you see all the cameras, the lights ... the large screens, and you see they way they build it up and then tear it down .... it's really impressive," Piotrowski said.
And with it being "sports entertainment," Piotrowski and his tag teammate attempted to entertain the crowd with a little rap-duo skit before Ryback's entrance. That only provoked Simon Cowell-like indignation from the audience as well as quelling any sympathy for the doomed pair. After all, Ryback is being promoted as a "face" -- short for "babyface," a wrestling term for good guy.
The current gimmick for Ryback is to regularly dispose of jobbers -- often two at a time -- while established WWE superstars critique his methods from the safety of the locker room or studio. Though Ryback has been called out for not taking on wrestlers of his own girth -- which is a rippling 300 pounds -- not too many worthy opponents are fighting in line for a shot at him.
Piotrowski was willing to take his best shot as he started the match by charging Ryback.
"Oh, I was nervous ... my legs were shaking beforehand," said Piotrowski, who was lifted and slammed by Ryback before Burke, sensing the inevitable, tried to make a run for it before being stopped outside the ring by Ryback's well-placed boot.
"Barone" wasn't giving up so easily, and managed to apply a sleeper hold to Ryback, who countered with a spinebuster.
Soon after, Barone and Burke were sent back packing.
"They told me they liked what they saw, and they said to keep checking their website for future shows where I could be available," Piotrowski said. "One thing they did mention is that I need to be more confident out there. They said that the crowd won't be taken by you if they sense you don't have confidence."
Also, it might be good to lose the rap intro.