Enter the Horne
Saturday June 29th
Parking Lot Outside the Yuengling Center
After the Show
The SUV careened around the corner, wheels squealing, headlights on high beams coming up to a black Lincoln Navigator in the wrestler’s parking lot of the Yuengling Center.
A female voice let out an audible gasp when the headlight’s illuminated the carnage left behind mere moments before. A masked man was hanging half in and half out of the back window of the Navigator. Glass covered the ground near the rear of the vehicle. There was another man lying on the ground next to the Navigator.
“Shit,” Jackson C. Horne growled. Horne had seen these type of scenes a few times over his thirty-five plus year career. He’d even been a victim a couple of times…or so. He jammed his left foot on the brakes. The baseball cap on his head slid forward causing him to steady it down with his right hand. “Too late Laura.”
The SUV screeched to a halt and multiple car doors opened up simultaneously.
“You stay here,” Horne said to one of the occupants in the middle seats. “Bobby, Marty, TFP, you come with me.”
Horne, his tag team ‘The Kings of Old School’- Bobby Ricky Michaels and Marty Gibson-Lane, and the wrestler known as The Foul Pole- all dressed in street clothes, exited the SUV and slowly approached the vehicle.
On the ground near the Navigator, Horne noticed that the man on the ground was the brand new HOW World Champion Max Kael. Max had begun to stir. Horne motioned to Gibson-Lane. “Marty, make sure he’s okay, would you?”
Gibson-Lane bent down next to Kael and checked on his condition.
With the onshore breeze cooling off what’d been a warm Tampa evening, Horne cocked an ear after hearing a noise that sounded like footsteps running on the pavement close by. He shrugged. Probably a couple of rats scurrying off into the night.
Reaching the Navigator, Horne confirmed what he already knew. The tell-tale ‘H’ on the shirt gave it away.
“Yep. That’s him,” he said. “All right, let’s get him out of there.”
Horne, Gibson-Lane, and TFP proceeded to gently pull Halitosis out of the back window and place him carefully on the ground. Bleeding from several different places, TFP took off his shirt and started to press down on the wounds.
“Lucky for him, that mask of his probably helped reduce the amount of damage done,” observed Gibson-Lane.
Horne looked down at the battered former champion and shook his head. “Welcome to the big time kid.”
Twenty Minutes Later
In Transit to Advent/Health Hospital
After Max’s herald Sub-Marquis Bentley Tennyson Farthington-Primrose had finally returned and two ambulances arrived: one for the new HOW World Champion Max Kael and one for the former champion Halitosis, Laura Bergman, already distressed over the premeditated attack on her husband, gripped the edge of the seat to help endure Jackson Horne’s blatantly reckless and irresponsible driving to the hospital.
“GODDAMMIT SLOW DOWN!” she shouted at him.
Still on the University of South Florida campus and driving northbound at a high rate of speed on USF Maple Drive, Horne blew through the light at the intersection of Maple and Holly using the left hand turn lane and jerked the car back to the right. He cut off a not too pleased driver in the correct lane as the road went from four lanes down to two.
Michaels sat in the passenger seat up front. Laura sat in the middle between Gibson-Lane and The Foul Pole in the middle row of seats. Due to the often abrupt movement of the vehicle, Laura found herself being jostled back and forth between both men like the clapper of a bell.
“Typical Eric Dane,” Horne commented.
“What do you mean?” Laura asked inquisitively, eager to distract herself from Horne’s driving.
“It’s right from his playbook,” Horne opined. “He pisses all over the place and marks his territory. That’s why he went ballistic when he lost to Darin Zion. That’s why he’s attacked your husband twice. He’s been doing the same shit ever since he started wrestling way back in nineteen thirty-five.”
Laura knew that there was no way Eric Dane was even alive much less wrestling back in nineteen thirty-five. “Wait a minute, Dane wasn’t born in nineteen-“
“Oh you fucking goody-goody two-shoe face types,” Horne interrupted. “You’ve really got to brush up on how to trash-talk a little bit. Dane is going to bluster, bully, put Halitosis through a car window, do whatever he can to try and get into his head. That’s why he did this tonight. It’s Dane’s M.O. It’s what he does.”
“What about the other guy?” Laura asked.
“Oh. Dan Ryan?” said Horne. “All Dan Ryan does is travel from federation to federation and collect titles like Thanos collects infinity stones.”
“Thanos?” Laura had no clue who Thanos was.
Horne let out an exasperated sigh. “Thanos? The Avengers Movie.”
Laura dismissively shook her head.
“Dan has his way too,” Horne continued on. “Unfortunately for Halitosis, he drew the short straw two shows in a row. Sucks to be him.”
“I really hate this business sometimes,” lamented Laura, not one bit happy about the whole evening in general. “Just. Hate. This business.”
“Well, then you shouldn’t have signed the fucking contract in the first place and he should have stayed down in the lower levels of pro wrestling at Missouri Valley Wrestling,” Horne snapped back at her with no sympathy given whatsoever. He whipped around another car on the two lane road. “Halitosis could be wrestling the likes of the Beer Bellied Softball Playing Ninja instead of going up against the level of competition he’s wrestling now.” Horne peeked back into the middle seat to the young woman who was getting a harsh education in big time wrestling 101. “I’m sure you weren’t complaining about the pay raise or the fact that Halitosis doesn’t have to wrestle in every tin horn town to make what’s he’s making now wrestling every other week- were you.”
“Watch where you’re going,” Laura snapped back.
Horne did and saw an intersection coming up. Then a yellow cautionary sign that stated “Caution. Dangerous Intersection.” with a white square sign with a left turn indicator and a red circle and slash through it below. “Darling, your husband is playing with the big boys now and sometimes ‘things happen.’ HANG ON!”
“What,” Laura said right before her eyes widened when Horne blew the stop sign and barely missed an eastbound vehicle on Fletcher Street. “OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!” she screamed out while Horne gunned the engine and the SUV skidded across the intersection, did a nifty Dukes of Hazzard-like fishtail in the middle of the street and veered west onto Fletcher, cut off several westbound vehicles in the process, and nearly set off a chain reaction incident.
Horne stuck his arm out the window and flipped them off.
“You idiot! You do know that the University of South Florida Campus Police is right there!” Laura pointedly pointed out.
Horne glanced left and caught a brief glimpse of the police building before a row of trees and brush obscured it. Thankfully, there was no direct entrance from the parking lot for the said University of South Florida Campus Police to Fletcher Street. However, his unorthodox maneuvering through traffic did catch the attention of a couple officers in the parking lot. Red and blue lights suddenly flashed on two cars that began to back out of their parking spots.
“Look Mrs. Bergman,” Horne casually continued on as if his irresponsible driving was normal operating procedure for him (hint- it was). “For what it’s worth I don’t like his fucking gimmick one bit and the whole bad breath shit for reasons I’ve given on any number of occasions on my podcast- The Horne Sounds! Featuring me- legendary manager and wrestling entrepreneur and also one of wrestling’s most outspoken minds and mouths, hitting you with his blunt and uncensored takes on professional wrestling every Saturday night on your local internet provider-“
Laura audibly yawned.
“…but I digress. Look, Halitosis wrestled one hell of a match tonight against Max Kael.”
“Then why did you call me and why are you doing this?” Laura returned.
“Because despite all the bullshit, he has something not many wrestlers have. He’s got heart. I appreciate and respect that.” Horne paused and swung the SUV left into a double left turn lane and barreled through a red light at USF Palm Avenue. Horne sharply moved back in between two vehicles heading in the same westbound direction eliciting move use of the horns from the offended drivers. “And more importantly, I was fucking sent here.”
“You were sent here?” Laura said. “By who?”
“Dawn McGill.” Horne said.
Laura leaned forward- not one hundred percent sure she heard Horne correctly. “I’m sorry, did you say Dawn McGill sent you?” she repeated back.
“Dawn McGill,” confirmed Horne.
This didn’t make the least bit of sense to Laura. “I thought Dawn McGill completely hated your guts.”
Horne shook his head. “She hated that I was saying all those nasty things about your husband.”
Laura gave him a disbelieving smile. “You’re telling me that McGill is responsible for your involvement tonight.”
“Yes,” Horne said unflinchingly.
“Why would she call you?” Laura asked.
Horne turned and looked at Laura in the middle seats. “We’re engaged.”
Taken aback, Laura sat back in the seat and tried to digest what Horne just said. “You? You’re engaged to Dawn McGill?”
Horne nodded his head yes.
Horns blared to the passenger side of the SUV.
“WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING!” shouted Laura, noticing the SUV drifting right into the other lane.
Both Michaels and Gibson-Lane braced themselves when the red brake lights of a string of three vehicles stopped at the light at USF Magnolia went off and Horne closed fast on the rear vehicle.
Horne’s eyes lit up when he realized he’d need to make an emergency pass. “Oh, shit, HOLD ON!” Horne again used the double left turn lane to pass. The SUV somehow managed to miss the vehicles crossing the intersection and bounced up onto a traffic island separating westbound and eastbound traffic. Horne whipped the wheel hard right, the SUV ricocheted off the island and jumped in front of the last vehicle. Once the vehicle stabilized on the flat surface once more, the SUV whizzed past a green sign that read: “Bruce B. Downs Road. Next Signal” and more importantly, past the entrance to the Advent/Health Hospital where the ambulance had taken Halitosis.
Laura did not notice the SUV had passed by the Advent/Health Hospital entrance either.
“Then why in the world did you say all those awful things about Halitosis then?” she wanted to know.
“Why?” Horne replied. “Because. I was really pissed off at him, that’s why. Dawn wanted to retire from pro wrestling for good. But she couldn’t step away as long as she thought Halitosis needed her help. Why? Since Dawn made the call to Lee Best to recommend Halitosis to him, she feels a sense of responsibility to make sure he has the best chance to succeed in High Octane Wrestling. But now, given the situation that Halitosis is in at the moment, drafted to Mike Best’s War Games team, attacked twice by the Best Alliance in as many shows, and not wanting to leave him without someone experienced to guide him, Dawn has asked me to take over.”
“You?” Laura said.
“Yep,” affirmed Horne. “Me. Up until War Games.”
Laura parroted what Horne had just said. “Up until War Games.”
“Right,” Horne said. “After that, your husband is on his own.”
“What makes you think that there’s a universe – any universe – where my husband will agree to you taking Dawn McGill’s place – especially someone who’s been incredibly critical of him over the past three months?” Laura crossed her arms and stared at the rear view mirror at Horne’s eyes.
“That’s a fair question, Mrs. Bergman,” Horne replied. “Here’s the way I see it. Your husband has two career paths he could take. One, Halitosis continues to build on what he’s done the first three months of his HOW career and stays in the title picture. Or two, his career could take a Flowers for Algernon-like turn and returns to the level he started- back the minor league wrestling arena.” Horne steered the SUV hard right and jammed the SUV in between two vehicles. He flipped on the right hand turn signal. “Like me or not, I can make sure Halitosis doesn’t backslide.”
“Until War Games.”
“Until War Games,” Horne repeated back to Laura.
Laura gazed out the window at the heavy traffic and mulled Horne’s proposal. Then she noticed the SUV slowing down abruptly. Why? The bright red sign becoming larger with the letters ‘D’ and ‘Q’ inside. “Oh my God,” Laura exclaimed.
Horne turned right and guided the SUV into the parking lot of a Dairy Queen.
“Really?” Laura’s anger rose to the forefront and she lashed out, “You mean to tell me that you couldn’t stand to go without a Turtle Pecan Cluster blizzard long enough to take me directly to the hospital so I can see my injured husband?”
For one of the few moments in Jackson Horne’s life, he nearly appeared to be- sheepish, contrite, and even apologetic. But that lasted only for a second. Horne slammed on the brakes and slid to a stop just inches from another vehicle ahead of him in the drive-thru lane.
“Fuck off!” Horne shot back to her.
“Fuck you!” Laura fired in return.
“So are you going to accept my fucking offer or what?” Horne yelled.
Laura didn’t miss a beat. “Take me to the fucking hospital and I’ll ask my husband.”
Sunday Afternoon July 7th
The Waffle House
2119 E. 23rd Street
With westbound traffic on Interstate 24 heading towards the Tennessee River and the city center roared by in the background, Halitosis and Laura Bergman stood in the back of a late model Dodge pickup truck in the Waffle House parking lot surrounded by friends and well-wishers. The truck was parked in front of the yellow and black Waffle House sign with a second white and black sign below it that read “Bus & RV Parking” and then a red arrow with ‘in rear’ on it.
The sun reflected ever so much off Halitosis’s black mask. He wore the usual ‘H’ t-shirt and a pair of jeans.
Laura sported sunglasses to repel the sun’s rays and wore a business suit and heels- overkill on an incredibly warm Tennessee Sunday afternoon.
“Good afternoon everyone!” Halitosis said, raising his hand in the air to let the group know he was going to be speaking. “Thank you all for coming out. I couldn’t think of a better place to be than right here, right now.” He put his arm around his wife and pulled her closer. “Right dear?”
Laura nodded in the affirmative.
“Why are we here, you may ask?” Halitosis pointed at the people gathered in the parking lot. “Because rumor has it I hang out with the local yokels so I can feel like a big shot.”
He paused for the requisite laughter after making light of Eric Dane’s assertion why Halitosis returned to Missouri Valley Wrestling shows.
“Actually, the truth is for eleven years, I was you. My wife and I lived a spartan, middle class lifestyle, where we scrimped, saved, and watched every penny. I worked my way up, step by step, match by match, win or loss. Eleven years. And here’s the thing, I still am you. No matter what happens. No matter how my High Octane Wrestling career turns out. I will never forget where I came from and the hard work it took to get to where I am now. I am you.”
The crowd interrupted him with applause.
“And I also want to thank my wife- Laura Bergman,” Halitosis went on. Laura stepped a little closer to him. “The night I won the HOW World title was culmination of 11 years of hard work, sacrifice, and never giving up on myself- even when no one else would believe in me. That win was for my wife, who ALWAYS believed in me.”
“Still do,” Laura added.
Halitosis put his arm around Laura and gave her a hug while the crowd clapped.
“So, the other night,” Halitosis went on, “I watched a video of a wrestling match. Not just any wrestling match. August twenty-fifth. Two thousand thirteen. Superdome. New Orleans. Sold out. Defiance Wrestling’s Ascension 2013. The ‘I Quit’ match between Eric Dane and Heidi Christenson. Why? Because I wanted to watch an Eric Dane match back when he was actually great.”
Halitosis moved forward towards the tailgate of the truck to get closer to everyone.
“Why? Because that’s the Eric Dane who’s going to need to show up at Refueled Six. Not the Eric Dane who couldn’t get the job done against Darin Zion. Not the Eric Dane who realized after the Zion loss that maybe he needed a little help and brought in some reinforcements. No, I hope the Eric Dane who was willing to die, to go to any lengths to defeat Heidi Christenson back in August twenty thirteen shows up Friday night because Lord knows, I don’t want to ‘luck’ into a win at Refueled Six like I ‘lucked’ into winning the tournament.”
Which brought up another point he wanted to bring up.
“And by the way Eric, how exactly do you ‘luck’ winning a tournament? Or are you still sore that some nobody from a hack, local yokel indie who ‘doesn’t take himself seriously,’ who’s ‘Fisher-Price’, blah-blah-blah, did something you couldn’t do, win five matches in four shows, and won the tournament?”
“Oh, and by the way, just for the record I won that tournament without the benefit of having two of the best wrestlers on the planet – Dan Ryan and Lindsay Troy – running interference or engaging in cheap attacks to ‘soften us up.’ That’s right Eric, I did it by myself. If you think for a second that your sneak attack the night I won the world title took anything away from arguably the greatest moment in my professional career – no – you’re sadly mistaken. All you proved that night is that four guys versus someone exhausted from winning the biggest match of his professional life doesn’t work out well for the one guy. If you think throwing me through the back window of Navigator is going to scare me off, I hate to shatter your illusions but no. When Max Kael and I defeat you and Bobby Dean Friday night at Refueled Six, the forty-four stitches I received that night will be more than worth it. If you think I’m going to back down from you because you make your usual assortment of threats and bluster and bullshit? No Eric – that’s just not going to happen.”
Laura shook her head no behind him.
“If I do my job Friday night Eric – if I wrestle to the best of my ability and stand up to the pathetic flat track bully that you’ve become at this point of your career, you’re going to need to be the great Eric Dane of old to defeat me. You will have to channel that hot August night where you left everything in the ring to survive Heidi Christenson’s onslaught. That’s part of the deal about being the plucky underdog because – well – you’re supposed to be better than me. When the bell rings and the match begins that means all the pressure is squarely on your shoulders to defeat some loser schmuck who worked his way through the minor leagues of pro wrestling for eleven years before he got his big opportunity? You’re the legend here- not me. You’re the man.”
“Jesus Christ,” a voice growled. “I’m sick and tired of hearing about Eric Dane.”
The crowd gasped when Jackson C. Horne, holding up a cornet with one hand and a Turtle Pecan Cluster blizzard in the other, climbed into the back of the pickup truck.
“Apparently, angry old man ranting is an ambient sound used as background noise to help people fall to sleep,” Horne began. “Which fucking explains why I always fall asleep after thirty seconds of listening to Eric Dane talk.”
Laura chuckled to herself, the irony of Horne, in his mid-sixties, talking about angry old men ranting is not lost on her.
Horne turned to Halitosis. “Remember that time I said you were a career mid-carder and at best talent enhancement who gets by with parlor tricks because you suck at lucha libre, that you’ve done nothing – NOTHING – of note in your career except breathe on people, and that your gimmick was so bad, I would usually refuse to acknowledge its existence and wouldn’t dignify this shit stain as being worth my time to comment on, and that you’re the guy with the worst gimmick in pro wrestling history?”
Halitosis nodded and grinned.
“I might have been a little harsh.” Horne said. “Just a little. Remember that other time when I said that Lee Best might have turned over a new leaf when he brought in Eric Dane, Lindsay Troy, and Dan Ryan and get away from the outlaw, hardcore, mud-wrestling bullshit?” Horne surveyed the crowd for their response and snuck in a scoop of the Turtle Pecan Cluster blizzard. “Then he hires Bobby Dean back. Don’t get wrong, I remember once upon a time when Bobby Dean was a serious wrestler. I remember a time when Bobby Dean was a fucking seriously good wrestler. Now? Bobby Dean is a four hundred pound circus attraction masquerading as a pro wrestler. Bobby Dean is pro wrestling’s performing bear and Eric Dane is his ringmaster.”
Rolling her eyes, Laura clapped her hands while Halitosis just stood back and watched Horne speak.
“Don’t get me wrong, I hate your fucking gimmick,” Horne turned and said to Halitosis. “But at least you’re not so fucking obese that you have celestial bodies orbiting you like Bobby Dean does.”
There’s a few groans from the crowd.
Halitosis jumped back in. “I know what you’re thinking,” he said. “Jackson Horne is one of the great heel managers in wrestling history. Jackson Horne has said some pretty critical things about me over the past three months.”
Horne made a face that projected “yeah, he’s probably right.”
“And I’m the baby face in a mask good guy. But now, Jackson Horne is going to be training me until War Games. So the next question you’re probably asking yourself is- how in the hell is this going to work? Answer- it’s just going to have to. Just like Friday night I’m tagging with the new HOW World Champion Max Kael-“
“James Bond Villain!” Horne loudly interjected.
“…against Eric Dane and Bobby Dean. How is that going to work given the fact Max just won the World title from two weeks ago? Again, it’s just going to have to. Why? Because Max and I are on the same War Games team and I not only want to win the match Friday night- I want to be on the winning War Games team next month. After getting beaten up twice by the Best Alliance in the past two shows, it’s time to fight fire with fire. Horne fights dirty. And it’s time for me to get my hands dirty as well.”
Jackson Horne thrust his arm in the air. “About fucking time- YES!”