The Rebel Alliance…
New York City
One Day Post-Best Alliance Assemblage
Let me put it out there now: I hate New York City.
It’s big, it’s loud, it’s obnoxious, it’s dirty…and I’m not even describing what I think about Scottywood.
I only travel up here when I absolutely have to, and even then I make sure my stay is as short as possible. Dan and I have business meetings and promotional obligations post-Refueled VI and my intention, initially, is to stay only for a few days, quick and simple. But then Cally called a “team meeting” at TC’s for later in the week at Eric’s insistence, and having to fly back to Tampa only to fly back up to New York again made absolutely no sense from a logistical standpoint.
Luckily, Tyler has a house in the Catskills from before we got together that we sometimes go to when we, and the kids, need some peace and quiet. And he is absolutely that nerd who dubbed it Rayne Manor.
And has a butler named Alfred.
I think this is unnecessary, but for anyone who knows Tyler, they know the man is one hundred percent committed to keeping up “fanboy appearances.” God knows it’s not about the money; he’s never given a shit about that. He’s a t-shirt, jeans, leather-jacket, American muscle car kinda guy; never one to sweat the small stuff; always out to have a good time and make sure everyone around him does too. That’s part of what made him a fan favorite in PRIME before he was forced into retirement after his run in DEFIANCE. His roguish good looks and marauder’s charm also helped, but it took me awhile to come around to that.
I am not one who’s easily impressed or swayed by good-looking men.
Why we didn’t have the big Best Alliance group shindig at the Manor, I’ll never know; I offered it up to Cally, but she insisted on TC’s. I wasn’t going to argue with her or, by extension, Eric. I like her quite a bit and I figured, any exposure for the bar is a good thing. But while I’m here in New York, there’s another piece of business I need to attend to, and it has nothing to do with Dan or with the “Alliance.”
It’s about catching up with an old friend.
She’s sitting exactly where I expect her to be, hunched over in that same corner booth, blonde hair a mess, glasses slipping down her nose, paperwork strewn about the formica-top.
I hadn’t been to Center Field in about ten years; most of the time when Ivy McGinnis and I catch up, it’s in Orlando, but when she heard I’d be in town for this huddle-up she insisted I stop by the diner. And, I had to figure she just wanted me in “enemy territory,” being a Yankees fan and all.
We met back in 2003, during an interpromotional card on the FWrestling circuit. She was sitting in a hallway lacing up her combat boots, about to escort MJ’s father, Eli Flair, out to the ring for a match. I was having an argument into my phone, and I hadn’t noticed her there when I threw it against the wall after my call was through, smashing it to bits. I can’t tell you now who the conversation was with, or what it was about, but her quick quip about my behavior and what did the phone ever do to me? diffused the tension and made me laugh.
We’ve been friends ever since.
“So,” I say to her, on my approach, “you summon me here and you can’t even clear a space?”
“You’re family; you don’t need courtesy.” Ivy doesn’t move her head but her eyes angle up at me, and a smile cracks her lips.
I slide into the seat across from her and lean back, getting comfortable. “How’s life, Ivy? How long you in town for this time?”
“Just a couple days,” she replies, “Need to do the books for the quarter, but the kid starts school again next week. Gettin’ all the business done while I can, yeah?”
“Mine still have a month. College, you know?”
A waitress comes over and I order a coffee, not one from Ivy’s pot. I know better.
“I know you didn’t text me just to shoot the shit about our kids, even though we both could talk about them for hours,” I continue. “I bet I can guess what’s really on your mind, but I want to hear it from you.”
Now, Ivy sits up. She drinks from her rancid cup of coffee sludge and keeps her eyes fixed on me.
“You’re right. I was hoping to talk to you about MJ.”
“And Dane. And War Games. And whatever the fuck’s going on mixed up therein.”
“Yep, the real heavy-hitter conversation.” It’s my turn to smile. “Might need some bourbon with my coffee, then.”
I barely get the words out of my mouth before Ivy reaches down next to her and produces a flask.
“Maker’s Mark, LT. Be liberal with it.”
My coffee’s dropped off and the bourbon is poured. I take a swig, savoring the bite.
“Hit me with it. Where do you want to start?”
“Dane. I don’t trust him, and I don’t like his influence on my niece. I know he’s ingratiated himself to Knox and Cally and the rest of you… but that feeling in my gut, man. You know?”
“I know,” I nod. “And I don’t like it either. She’s taken to him. I don’t know if it’s because she feels a sense of loyalty because he reached out to her personally to be a part of this thing, or if she believes there’s wisdom there that she thinks can help her along. In my experience, I’ve learned the man can’t be trusted. He says he’s committed to us all, to this group, but who knows with him. I’m in it because Dan’s in it, and with Eric, you know as well as I do that you have to watch your back.”
“I don’t necessarily know that, because I’ve never been dumb enough to trust him,” says Ivy, “but I trust you and I trust Harmen. And I trust Ryan enough. If Dane sticks to his word, this could be a career-making match for the kid. If not… who the fuck knows.”
She takes a minute to sip directly from her flask, and then pours a measure into her own cup.
“The man doesn’t pay attention to the biz anymore,” continues Ivy, clearly referring to Eli, “but I do. And I really don’t wanna see her do something career-ending this close to the start of it, ya know?”
“She’s got good instincts, Ivy. I know things have a tendency to get a little unpredictable in a cage environment, and sometimes that means we take chances and go for broke. I’m gonna keep an eye on her, though,” I take another sip of my drink. “I know she wants to impress; that’s her nature, she’s an overachiever. But I think MJ knows her future’s too bright to do something that’ll risk the rest of her time in wrestling. And if anyone from the eMpire tries to end it before it begins, I’ll make sure they’re the ones putting in their papers.”
“It’s a disease, y’know,” replies Ivy, “Shannon’s talkin’ about training t’hit the ring as well. Poor guy, he’s one’a those ‘has to run around in the shower just t’get wet’ skinny guys, I don’t see it happening. But he sees his cousin and wants to follow her, and I know you feel me on this, Lindz: we owe it to the next generation t’make sure they don’t repeat our mistakes.”
Yeah. Don’t I know it.
“I’m trying really hard with Ceese,” I admit. “I don’t want my niece being standoffish and above-it-all like I was when I was first breaking into this. But I didn’t feel like I had a choice either; there were no other women doing what I was doing, where I was doing it, nevermind who looked at all like me. And we have to work five times as hard to get crumbs of what the boys do. She gets it. Her attitude is great. I’m thankful Ami has no interest in this life, but Kaz?” I sigh. “I’ve got a feeling the bug might’ve bit him. I overheard him talking to Cecilia when they both thought I wasn’t around. He hasn’t said anything to Ty and I yet but it’s different when it’s one of your own.”
Ivy looks down at her paperwork for a minute.
And she laughs.
And she laughs, and continues to laugh.
“Jesus Cowboy Christ, Lindz,” she finally says, “You and me, we used to be regular attendees at last calls all around the damn country, now we’re sittin’ here talkin’ about our fuckin’ kids. What the shit happened?”
“We grew up?” I laugh also. “Although I’m the adult in my marriage. Tyler may be older but he is not more mature.”
“Least you’re splittin’ the work,” replies Ivy, “I’m both older than and more mature than Sean,” referring to her own husband, multiple time World Champion “Triple X” Sean Stevens.
“Anyways, my point,” she says, after a moment, “The kid’s got the talent but she hasn’t had the harsh reality smackin’ her in the face. Eli and me, we saw the cynicism fuckin’ ruin Knox’s career because he decided the bullshit wasn’t worth the accolades. I think MJ might have the potential t’be better than all of us if she’s given the chance t’get there, and whether y’all win or lose, that’ll either be confirmed or canceled by how War Games shakes out.”
I bob my head in agreement. “Right now, given this lead-up? We’ve got to stick together as a team. That’s our best chance at winning this whole shebang. No room for miscommunication or error like the fallout from the last show. I’ve got to get Dan and Eric on the same page. Things between them got a little … tense… at our team meeting.”
“Tense. Sure. Dane’s a cock and Ryan’s a stubborn ass. But here’s the thing on that, Lindz,” says Ivy, “Is there any advantage at all in this match t’the two of ‘em gettin’ into it before the final bell?”
“I’d rather the two of them not pull a Sektor and Scottywood, if I’m being perfectly frank.”
“Yeah, dunno who the fuck they are,” says Ivy with brutal frankness, “so you shouldn’t have a problem.”
“So much for paying attention to the biz, eh?” I chide and I’m rewarded with a middle finger.
“I listen to what matters, and the rest of it is just white fuckin’ noise, chickie.”
“Well,” I smirk, “all the ‘noise’ coming from the other camp thus far has been nothing but sound and fury…signifying nothing.”
Ivy laughs. “And from what you’ve told me and from what the kid’s said, it’s definitely been a tale told by an idiot.”
The following week
It’s your typical Tampa summer day – hot as fuck, 100% chance of a balmy-ass thunderstorm sometime in the afternoon – and I’m standing in front of “The Trop” – Tropicana Field. Location of War Games. Home of the Rays. Not home to my ball team.
The Rays are up in Boston, taking on the Sawx in a battle for second place in the AL East, so they aren’t in town and the ballpark is deserted. Perfect timing for the HOW crew to start their prep for the pay-per-view extravaganza. Fun fact: Boston is my team, thanks to my father doing a study abroad at Harvard and falling in love with the city and its franchises. He’d later emigrate to the States from Italy, settle in Tampa, and pass that love of Bahhhston onto me, whereas my sister couldn’t care less about organized sports.
He also shortened and changed our last names, but that’s a tale for another time.
“I was gonna start this off with a meme, but I heard those are frowned upon in this establishment.”
I’m leaning up against a palm tree in the shade by the outside entrance rotunda. The entrance mural façade on there changes every few years as players come and go; this year they include Ryne Stanek, Yandy Diaz, Kevin Kiermaier, and Blake Snell.
“There are so many great ones to choose from. Crying Michael Jordan. Crying Dawson Leery. First World Problems Crying Girl. If you had to pick, Scotty, which one would you be? One not on this list?”
“For someone who’s supposed to be this purveyor of pain with your barbed-wire hockey stick, who has been through all these wars and is so adept at doling out suffering that none of us has ever experienced before, all you’ve managed to do is spin a woe-is-me tale and blame Lee Best for a good portion of your problems. Oh, and you name-dropped a bunch of well-known places and corporations to check those boxes off on your Douchebag Bingo Card, and then went on a rant about the Primetime Central circuit for some … unfathomable reason.”
I twirl my finger in the air. Whoopedy-doo.
“Newsflash: Nobody gives half a shit, man. This NOO YAWK tough-guy talk gets pissed away along with your shitty beer because you decided to ramble on for ten minutes about Eli Flair, who isn’t even in the match, and Duke Williams, who is dead, instead of focusing on me for more than a fleeting moment.
“This might’ve been the cool, ironic thing to do if I was convinced you knew what irony was.
“And no, it’s not a weapon you can wield.
“I’m not about to get into why it took me so long to get to HOW because I’m not going to give credence to your, or anyone else’s, jealous rant. I’m nothing but a ‘kiss ass’ anyway, right? Those were your words, Scotty, right? A ‘kiss ass’ who was chased after for over a decade to come to your home and now, you can’t stand the fact that I’m here.
“You can’t stand the fact that I’m the heart, mind, and soul of my team. That I’m a cornerstone of it. That the hope is I’ll be a cornerstone of this company.
“Maybe the problem is — you think LEE is the kiss ass. Maybe it’s because you can’t comprehend that he took one look at you and said, ‘I’m gonna need something more.’ Because that’s what happened. Maybe square yourself with that truth.”
He won’t, because Scottywood would rather engage in self-absorbed, rage-fueled rants that blame everyone else than take a critical look inward and reflect on his own short-comings.
Maybe he should see Jack’s therapist.
“What we’re not gonna do, though, from here on out, is continue with this notion that I’m the one on the Best Alliance to be overlooked. Don’t think I haven’t noticed you cheeky lads doing just that. Whether it’s Max Kael on Refueled VII and The Amazing Race to Save Harold, or Sektor’s Special Locker Room Rumblings, or Farthington’s Masterpiece Theatre…”
Part II featured “me” quite heavily, but that’s not the point; it’s not the point!
“…outside of Halitosis giving me the tried-and-true, ‘She’s a legend and a helluva fighter and I respect her but I must destroy her,’ good guy gas-up, I’ve been feeling a little … neglected.”
“But that’s OK.”
Truly, it is.
“I don’t need to convince anybody to take me seriously. Why play into the obvious ploy? If the thought is I’d stand here and run down all my accomplishments, like you think I’ve been doing all along but haven’t, to try and convince any of you that I’m not a flower about to wilt once I’m in the cage, I’m sorry to have to disappoint. I’m not about to do that labor for you. And never in my life have I been anything resembling something so delicate.
“I’ve made my bills and stockpiled bones from men just like you who have made the same mistakes of overlooking me, or not taking me seriously. I plan on collecting a few more come War Games.
“Lee Best isn’t the only one who knows how to take an eye, you know.
“Don’t think I don’t appreciate the kindness though, Hal. And don’t think I don’t recognize your accomplishment of running the tournament table to win the big 97Red belt. I’m sure, in time, you’ll get it back again.
“It just won’t be this time.
“Or any time soon.
“Big 97Red and the coveted 1% are coming back to Lee Best. Max Kael can wail and gnash his metal teeth until sparks fly and melt his skin; John Sektor can align with the devils he knows over the devils he doesn’t; the ‘Best Boy’ can search for acceptance amongst us and amongst his teammates until he finally feels like a ‘man,’ and none of this… NONE of it…will change the outcome of August 3rd.
“The Best Alliance will be standing tall. As War Games winners.
“Because we actually are an Alliance.”
“It might be an Alliance of Rebels, but no good revolution is started without one.”