I’d been pining to see a ballgame all fuckin’ week, don’t ask me why.
You might not picture me as a fan of America’s Pastime, and to be perfectly honest I’m not, but I did play a bit of Little League as a kid and I’ve always enjoyed the game. There’s something in me that understands and respects the time and planning and perseverance that goes into the successful navigation of a hundred and sixty-two game season.
Don’t even get me started on the playoffs.
Whatever. As I said, I don’t really follow baseball, I just like to catch a game every now and again when I can. As it stands, with HOW and the Tampa Bay Rays cross-promoting for each other and with War Games taking place at Tropicana Field I thought for sure I’d get to catch a game sometime this week, but no, the Rays were on a road trip in Boston all week where with any luck at all they’ll end up kicking the shit out of the Bo-Sox two or three times…
Shh, don’t tell Lindsay I said that.
I hadn’t exactly planned on spending my day today wandering around the ballpark, either, but I needed to get away from everybody for a few hours and get my head on straight before I’d be any good to anybody come Saturday inside of that double cage. As it turned out, a couple of hours meandering around alone wound up being more than just a bit cathartic, it was downright enjoyable. I’d been so wrapped up in getting all of the pieces on the board for War Games and trying to either build or repair relationships for team-building purposes that I’d actually forgotten how much I prefer my own company to that of pretty much anybody else at any given time.
Not that I would call myself anti-social, it’s just that historically I haven’t been known to play well with others. I blame this mostly on my own borderline narcissistic personality disorder, coupled with a lifelong fight with sociopathy that makes it real fuckin’ hard to give a shit about other people and what they may or may not think. That and I’ve got an ego the size of Dan Ryan’s estate in Texas and the perpetual need to be the smartest guy in the room, even when I’m not.
Also, I’m told that I can be a monolithic pain in the ass.
It is what it is, I guess.
Did I mention that the other reason I’d been here all morning was to shoot commercials for the local TV markets in Tampa? Yeah, turns out part of Lee’s deal to get the stadium included a bit of quid pro quo celebrity endorsement. That is to say, doing everything in my power to put an ass every eighteen inches for the sake of higher ticket sales, television ratings, and pay-per-view buys.
Besides, what else was I gonna do, go to the Renaissance Faire?
Not fucking likely.
Can you feel it?
I knew I could. It was in the fuckin’ air.
We’re three days away from the biggest night in HOW Refueled Era history.
There I stood, back against the viewing window inside of the Baseline Luxury Box of the Tampa Bay Rays, a red Solo cup in my hand and a smile on my face. Behind me, the infield was covered and there were two HOW-branded wrestling rings pushed together with a real big fuckin’ double cage being constructed around it.
I can’t speak for the rest of my cohorts, but personally, I absolutely can not wait to get inside of that cage and tear me off a couple of pieces of a couple of people. It’s been a good goddamned long time coming, too.
I took a swallow from the Solo cup filled with the Champagne of Beers. That’s Miller High Life for all you hipster douchebags who only drink IPAs from micro-breweries and act like snobs about your overpriced bullshit beer.
I’m looking at you, Scottish Woodrow.
Take for example everybody’s favorite Yardcore Yuppie, Scottywood.
Mockingly, I raised my good old American-style light lager to toast the Hardcore Artist. When the novelty of that wore thin I downed the rest of the crisp, smooth brew and crumpled the cup, unsuccessfully tossing it at a nearby wastebasket.
What can I say, basketball was never my jam.
This guy’s been treading water as a quote-unquote ‘Hall of Famer’ for how many years now? But ask anybody in the know and they’ll tell you that he didn’t earn that title for any of his in-ring accolades…
The dude made his Hall of Fame bones for his, and again I quote, ‘Backstage Contributions’ to the High Octane empire. Or should I say eMpire with a capital M, considering that’s what Mike Best himself gave for an excuse when I came to HOW and posed the question of how some lowlife dink like Scottywood could have ever made it into any sort of Hall of Fame, let alone one as exclusive and highly-touted as this.
What I take that to mean is that young Scotty probably runs the HOW Reddit page or gets stupid drunk and rambles away on some radio show that nobody listens to when Lee himself is too busy to do it. Or maybe he just gets Lee’s coffee or walks his dog for him, fuck I dunno.
I can’t help but to laugh, Scottywood is a goddamned joke.
But I’m supposed to believe that you, the Hardcore Halfwit, have not only built yourself into some kind of basic white girl impresario of bullshit beer and bad hairstyling decisions, but you’ve also managed to make enough money by losing eighty percent of your matches over the years that you’ve bought up a bunch of fucking arenas and plastered your stupid sounding name all over them?
Oh, and because your mean Uncle Lee had to close up shop for a while somehow it’s his fault that you couldn’t scrape together the required business acumen it takes to just allow those venues to make money, and between a bunch of reasons that are too stupid to even remember and your ginormous drinking problem somehow you’ve had to sell off all your fucking arenas and get yourself a studio apartment in Tampa and a part-time job at the Quik-E-Mart until you can sort shit out?
Are you drunk?
Not likely, not on the pisswater he calls beer.
I can’t even with you, you stupid-looking prick, and I’m not going to. I’m going to leave you to MJ when it comes to War Games, she can embarrass you all over again. But understand this –you walking cliche– if you fuck around and find yourself within arm’s reach of me inside of that cage…
I jab a thumb behind me, it’s starting to come together.
I swear to whatever nineties rap-rock band that you’re worshipping this week I will personally snatch out one of those nappy twirls you’re so proud of shove it down your fucking throat.
For a moment I let a lazy smile linger, the mere idea of strangling that Jonathan Davis lookalike motherfucker with his own greasy hair gives me the kind of inner peace that Buddhists dedicate their entire lives to finding.
Moving right along.
Sarcastically, I make a big deal out of clearing my throat.
Former World Champion, Halitosis.
I’ll tell ya what, kid, I’ll give you a round of applause for mixing it up with the big boys. It’s obvious that you’ve done your homework, that you’ve done everything it takes to get yourself mentally and physically prepared to step into the War Games cage with a bunch of crazy men and women who are looking forward to duct-taping your mouth shut so that we don’t have to smell your disgusting fucking breath out there.
Do you eat your wife’s pussy with that mouth?
Drive fast, eat ass, that’s what I say.
If you do, do you wear the mask?
Inquiring minds want to know!
I know, bud, I’m asking a bunch of asinine questions about stupid shit that doesn’t matter. There’s a reason for that. It’s because you’re so fucking vanilla that I really can’t think of anything better to say about you.
Congratulations on winning that tournament, I guess.
I shrugged, still irritated about my own showing at Refueled I.
When this is all over maybe I’ll do you a solid and spend some of that Brinks Truck money you’re so sure exists on getting you a properly made mask and some real gear. I mean, if you’re gonna be a gimmick, at least be a good one, you follow? In the meantime do yourself a favor and watch out for Jack Harmen, I know for a fact that he’s planning on attempting to drown you with Listerine. I don’t think he means the pretty turquoise kind either, I think he means…
Wait for it.
Original. Antiseptic. Mouthwash.
I’m told it’s your kryptonite.
I shuddered. If I’m being honest I’d probably rather have to deal with the guy’s breath then a half a gallon of original flavor Listerine. This ain’t about me, though, it’s about the breath guy.
The commercial shoot was a fiasco, of course.
Although the Rays themselves have been doing okay for themselves this year the people of Florida could not give the slightest fuck about them. That much was obvious in that even their marketing team and production staff seemed determined to continue down the path to the kind of half-assed horseshit that the state of Florida is famous for.
And they wonder why the fuckin’ hockey team outsells them.
Hell, the whole reason I’d been standing there for the last hour, hitting all of my lines and cues like a professional mind you, is that between the Rays themselves and the Marlins that they’ll be playing on Saturday night the only possible way they were gonna get this stadium anywhere near to capacity was to hitch their wagon to the hot new group in town, High Octane Wrestling.
That was the hope, anyway.
The issue with that? Well, the Rays had been pulling about fourteen-thousand paid this season, almost thirty-thousand less than capacity. And HOW? Well, we’d been doing pretty good for ourselves in the Refueled run, averaging about nine-five in the Yuengling Center, but we’d only sold it out three times.
So, if you assume zero crossover and add their fourteen plus our nine and a half then that still doesn’t even give you twenty-five thousand. You see where I’m going with this? But you know what? Fuck numbers and fuck averages, War Games had been a monstrously successful event for High Octane in the past, and this time around the lineup was slap filled with significantly more star power than it likely ever had been before.
All due respect to guys like Scottywood and whoever else that his ilk might call a mainstay, but as myself and my compatriots have said until we’re blue in the face…
There is a reason that we’ve been brought in.
So I grinned, and I bore it, and I did the thirty-seven takes that it took for the actual paid actors who I worked with to get their shit together and turn their Give-a-Fuck-O-Meter’s up to a sufficiently high enough point that the editors assured me they’d be able to patch together a mostly professional thirty-second spot to air on the local affiliates in the hopes of driving at least spiking their figures by the guaranteed ninety-five hundred people that we’d be bringing along with us.
A sellout, though?
Well, I mean, John Sektor was gonna be there, but outside of that…
I couldn’t have told you, to be honest.
As it stood you, me, Lee Best, and Raymond the Ray would just have to wait and see.
And then there’s John goofy fuck Sektor.
I can feel my eyes rolling. I’d been trying to take Sektor seriously but the more he talks and acts like some kind of enlightened guru who just happens to be three seconds away from his next overdose the more I want to be there when he relapses.
You got one on me, I’ll give you that.
Only because my head wasn’t on straight after that loss that Bobby and I took from Kael and Halitosis earlier in the evening. That whole flop of a night had been weighing on me pretty fuckin’ heavily in the days and weeks since.
In the end, maybe they were all right.
Maybe I was a washed-up piece of trash has-been, living off of reputation and force of will, surviving by making anyone who’d listen believe that I was still the man I was in 2012.
Hell, 1998 even.
I wasn’t, though. Eric Dane of the year 2019 was forty-seven years old with a quarter-century of bumps, bruises, blood-letting, carnage, conniving and chaos built up and sitting on my shoulders, my own personal albatross.
That, or, maybe they were all full of shit.
Yeah, that sounds like the more likely scenario.
Write that shit down, Johnny B. Addicted, because you sure as the day is long and the needle is cold ain’t ever gonna figure out how to pull the wool over my eyes again. I thought for absolute sure that after you first hand watched MJ handle that moron Scottywood…
Again I chuckled, completely unable to explain how big of a kick I got out of Scott Woodson’s misfortune and calamity.
Oh, and did I forget to mention how you were out there too, not doing fuck all but standing there with your dick in your hand while she won the match? Anyway, I figured that right there you’d have got the point, we’re not here to fuck around and we are going to win that fucking match Saturday.
I know, I get it, you’re the self-imposed lone wolf type. You don’t trust anybody because you’re an untrustworthy piece of shit yourself and you figure you might have a better chance doing unto others with Kael, Farthington, and friends.
And you probably would.
Except ain’t none of them gonna make it to the end of the night, either.
Understand something, John, the Best Alliance is going to win War Games. If you and Max and Cecilworth and the Etcetera Twins don’t get your shit together and get on the same page we might just run the fuckin’ table on you stupid bastards and play Rock/Paper/Scissors for the belts. It’s going to be surgical, it’s going to be methodical, and it’s going to be fucking thorough.
And Johnny, when it’s over with, you come on back to the back and I’ll make a phone call for you, get you a little bag of heaven that you can sink into so you can avoid the fact that it’ll probably be your fault your team loses, anyway.
And I promise, I fuckin’ swear I won’t pay extra for a heaping helping of fentanyl laced into it to make sure that the job gets done.
You used to be something, John.
Maybe try to man up, be something again.
And because once upon a time I had a half an iota of respect for you, I’ll even give you an out. Show up at War Games like you’re supposed to, come find me in that cage, and get on your hands and knees and kiss my fuckin’ boots. You do that and I might let you carry my fuckin’ bags after the whole thing is over and done with.
Or, alternatively, I might just slap that stupid mustache right off your face.
I could feel my face scrunched up in disgust. Something about that creepy fuck made my stomach sour. Momentarily I kicked around the idea of finding myself another beer, except for that I’d only brought the one with me and then I’d only brought it as a prop to make a point that would surely be missed. You know, like pretty much every other point I’ve tried to make here recently.
I’m starting to think that either the people I’m tasked with dealing with are either willfully ignorant or just flat out dumb. I could go on at length about the details, big and small, that the entire lot of them have either misunderstood or completely fabricated, but then we’d be here all night and to be perfectly frank I’m ready to be done with this shit.
And then there’s our friends, the actual eMpire.
Well, two-thirds of it anyhow, I guess Mike is busy not actually training anybody at the 5-Time Academy or barely having anything to do with the day to day operations of the promotion that he supposedly owns fifty percent of.
Finger Guns, Mike knows I love him.
So that leaves our reigning and defending World and ICON champions.
Now, far be it for me to disparage the good name of…
Fuck’s sake, I can’t even stomach the idea of playing nice with these two.
Farthington, I hope you’ve had a merry old time makin’ fun of my forehead. I could remind the world that you’ve had the same confused, slightly aroused look on your face for upwards of seventeen years now but let’s be real, there’s only ever been one Farthington face that I’ve paid any real attention to, ya heard?
I’d roll my eyes but I feel like maybe if I hold up a sign with the word SARCASM in giant flashing neon letters he’d still probably cling to an off-hand joke on Twitter like it was the only thing in life that gave him joy.
That shit’s over come War Games, though.
I want you to understand that I’ve got no animosity pent up towards you, though. Did your stupid shit get under my skin a little? Well, I mean I did crack you in the fuckin’ head with a pipe so I guess yeah, maybe it did. That’s beside the point, though, because I’d crack anybody in the head with a pipe to get ahead in this sport, Cecilworth.
It’s kind of what I do.
Guess what, I like to gouge out eyeballs with a fork, too.
And don’t let me get my hands on a lighter and some flash paper, I’ll set your whole world on fire. The point is, Cecilworth, that no matter how many times you or one of your friend/lackey/cousin people try to convince the world that I’m what’s wrong with the business, or High Octane Wrestling in particular, I can always point to the fact me and my friends were handpicked to take your spots before we ever made it this far.
I’d tell you to let that sink in, but the jury is still out on whether or not you have a working brain behind those dull eyes of yours.
Now do me a favor, pal.
My name’s not an eighty-five dollar steak, so take it out of your mouth, it’s unbecoming of a supposed gentleman. Or don’t, I don’t give a shit, you’re leaving when this is over with anyway.
To put a period on it I shoot him the ol’ middle finger salute.
And then there was one.
I put on my best fake smile for the champ.
I’m honestly glad it’s you, Max.
The World Champion, that is, I’m glad it’s you and not the breath guy.
You’re the big dog, ain’tcha? The baddest motherfucker that HOW has ever seen! Too smart to be outsmarted, too tough to be beaten up, right? You’re in your forties and beat to shit but your sheer willpower and a team of futuristic scientists have combined to make you the greatest Supervillian this side of Cobra Commander…
Fuck outta here with that shit.
The Prime Minister of Maxopotamia, a made-up bunch of bullshit, more than likely just a sound stage buried somewhere in the back of 5-Time, and King Shit of Shut the Fuck Up Mountain here in High Octane Wrestling!
Your name is synonymous with HOW, Max!
Well, it is now. It used to be your fake step half brother-in-law Mike. He retired though, fucked off to OCW where he had a pretty good run but neglected his duties here at home and somehow ended up leaving you in charge,
Well, not really in charge so much as just…
Lee is in charge.
I’m the guy who’s just about to erase your legacy. Forcibly, and with much gusto! I’m the guy who’s gonna walk out of War Games with your pride, and any luck at all a couple of your teeth and maybe an ear for a souvenir. I’m gonna chew you up and spit you out and then I’m gonna revel in telling the world all about how I came into your house, I fucked your old lady, made a sandwich out of your fridge and left a big greasy turd floating in your toilet bowl.
I hope to Christ you’re as good as other people say you are, Max. I don’t want to listen to anybody’s bullshit excuses when I eliminate you from War Games and send you running with your tail between your legs back to wherever pretentious fucks like you disappear to when you’ve been bested by your betters.
Shrugging I suck down a deep breath. Max is the final piece of the puzzle, no matter how any of this shit blows back. I know without a doubt that beating him is the key to this whole fucking thing. And I’m going to beat him, too, or I’m going to die trying inside of that War Games double cage.
So here’s the question at hand, am I your better?
Jury’s out, I guess. I sure as hell hope I am, otherwise all of this has been for naught. As of right now, you’ve got a half of one up on me, what with you pinning Bobby a couple of weeks ago. You’re going to find out that I’m quite a bit more difficult to deal with when it comes to matches with actual stakes and partners whom I can trust not to fall over and lose because they ran out of breath.
You’re the champ, Max, the End fuckin’ Boss of HOW.
A sneer curls onto my face, I can’t stand the way those words taste in my mouth.
This is it, the first defining moment of the Refueled Era…
Only, before this is over, maybe I’ll rename it. The easy choice, of course, would be to call it the Best era, but that’s not really my gimmick and certainly not my name. No, when the history books are written, once all of the hot air is blown, the brass tacks are gotten down to, and everything is said and/or done, this whole era can be referred to as…
I hesitate. Ain’t nobody about to like what I’m about to say and I savor it for as long as I can before the dead air gets any more uncomfortable. The most genuine, demonstrably joyous smile spreads across my face.
The DEFIANT Era.