Open the Door, Hal
August 7, 2019.
It’s been a really hectic month.
Sometimes you just have to get back home and recharge, and with a two week post-War Games break on tap, that’s just what Dan Ryan decided to do. No teammates or friends, just family, space… and quiet.
The Flair family liked to make reference to a joke that Ryan once told, that the state of Texas fit inside his house — a braggadocious remark in the midst of some heated trash talk that became one of his best-known quotes. It wasn’t that big, of course.
But it was big enough to afford plenty of privacy.
Privacy and time were what he needed right now. Time to reflect on War Games and what went wrong, and more importantly, how it went wrong.
He had his thoughts on that.
But no matter — those aren’t for public consumption.
He also didn’t feel like hanging out in Tampa — no post show musings, no get togethers. He was brought in for a job, and that job went to shit. But when it’s done — it’s done. He didn’t wanna talk about it, didn’t want to answer questions or discuss anything else really.
It was a fight — and he lost.
He stopped to congratulate MJ and hit the first plane back to Texas.
What’s the point of staying around Tampa anyway?
The Best Alliance, as a representation of Lee Best’s vision for HOW, is over, and life goes on. It must, because challenges still remain. We have a new World Champion, a man who used War Games to springboard himself and his old pack of running buddies back to the top of the heap — a man who himself pinned Dan Ryan to put an end to his evening in Florida.
All’s fair in love and war.
Revenge is a word loaded with emotion, and emotion makes you weak. No, this won’t be about revenge. It’ll be about a big target on the back of John Sektor…
But before he can take aim at John Sektor, there’s another matter. Actually — an opportunity.
Halitosis is the number one contender to the championship, and at Refueled VIII he’ll be standing across the ring.
Dan walked his property, as he was known to do, thinking it all through. Mike Best is in charge now.
So, why is Dan Ryan in position to make a statement against the number one contender to the World Championship?
Every member of Ryan’s family asked him this exact question after the show was announced.
Why would Mike Best want to put Dan Ryan, a member of the Best Alliance, in position to stake a claim to World Championship contender status?
Ryan shoved his hands into his pockets, smirking at this.
Because Mike Best and Dan Ryan are much more alike than people yet realize. It’s not personal, Mikey. It’s business. It’s not personal. It’s business.
August 12, 2019.
“Why on God’s green Earth did you sign with a company that runs its shows in the hottest, most humid mosquito infested state in the entire country? Why? WHY? You know I left this place after living here 20 years for a reason, right??”
Alaina Troy-Ryan used the back of her hand to wipe sweat from her forehead, also casting aside a strand of hair sticking near her eyebrow.
Dan Ryan pulled a trunk of belongings out of the back of a limousine. The driver rushed around to get it, but he waved him off. “I got it.”
The kid was grateful. The trunk was bigger than he was.
Ryan lifted it up with ease and turned to his wife.
“Honey, we live in Texas. You’re complaining about the heat?”
“Whatever,” she snorted. “It seems hotter and stickier here for some reason. And the mosquitos…” She smacked at one of the insects on her forearm. “…are ridiculous.”
Ryan shook his head and led the way toward the front door, which Alaina opened. One more swat at two mosquitoes that landed on her husband’s shoulder, and through the door they went.
“You know, it’s impressive.” Alaina walked to the kitchen island and set her purse down. “The way you can just move on like this. Lindsay said Eric was fuming for days after the match.”
“I know.” Ryan set the trunk down next to the living room couch. “Why do you think I avoided his calls? He burns hot, but he cools down… and then we can talk. He knows that too, which is why he stopped trying to reach me.”
Alaina nodded. “And you don’t think ignoring him will piss him off?”
“Nah.” Ryan shook his head in the negative. “I sent word to him. I told him to hit me up when we get back to Tampa. I’m sure we’ll talk later tonight.”
“Or….” A familiar voice cut through the conversation. “We can talk now.”
Both Dan and Alaina look to the door, where The Only Star, Eric Dane stood, taking off a pair of dark sunglasses, the sun behind him.
Alaina looked to her husband. Dan looked at Eric, then frowned.
“Hey. Sunglasses are my gimmick.”
Dane smiled slightly, then looked at the lovely Mrs. Ryan. “Alaina, lovely as always.”
She smiled. “Hey, Eric. I’ll let you two chat. I have some calls to make anyway.”
She makes herself scarce, and the two friends stand in silence for a moment before Ryan finally nods and motions for Dane to come in.
“Come on in…” Ryan took a seat on the large leather couch and waited, watching as Dane shut the door and selected a spot opposite him on a chair adjacent to the fireplace.
Dane just glared at Ryan. Ryan returned the look, saying nothing. Finally, Dane broke the silence.
“Were you planning on just sitting there and staring at me all day?”
“I figured you were pissed off. I thought it wise to give you some space to cool down. If you’re here, it means you wanna talk, so I figured I’d let you go first. I’m a gentleman, you know.”
Dane considered his response, then shook his head with a chuckle.
“My God..” Dane replied, glancing back up at his long-time friend. “You are so fucking annoying sometimes, do you know that?”
“How is it….” Dane continued, “…that you can go through a match like that — actually — not just the match, but the matches leading up to the match, the insults leading up to it, us attacking them, them attacking us, then everything going down the way it did — and sit here so calmly and not want to rip someone’s fucking throat out of their neck? You’re a goddamned android or some shit, and it’s fucking infuriating.”
“Look, I’m always down to rip someone’s fucking throat out of their neck. You know I like to enjoy my Saturday nights just as much as the next man, but I mean…” Dan leaned back. “It’s over. We failed. Lee turned around and left the building and Mike’s in charge. What would raging about what happened do to change any of that?”
Dane leaned forward.
“Maybe nothing, or maybe you don’t care that….”
“Don’t tell me I don’t care.”
Now Ryan leaned forward, pointing in Dane’s direction.
“This was your vendetta, not mine. I wasn’t here to settle a personal score. I was here because my friend called me up and wanted my help. And when you called, I came immediately.”
Dane said nothing, but he conceded the point.
“War Games is over, Eric. But we’re still here. We lost, but we’re not dead. There are other battles to fight.”
The Only Star threw his hands up. “The fuck do you want me to do, huh?” Dane’s eyes flashed in frustration. “Go to Mike Best’s office, get down on my knees and beg him for scraps? Fuck that shit.”
“I wouldn’t get down on my knees, but a reset wouldn’t hurt.”
Ryan turned his head slightly, the intensity in his voice raising.
“However you do it, I think it’s time you drop this vengeance bullshit and remind everyone who the fuck Eric Dane is. Remind them that you are not to be fucked with. Again… we lost, yeah, okay. Now what? Do we roll over and die or do we stand back up and reload?”
Dane’s eyes narrowed.
“I get it. That’s great, Dan. Stand back up and reload.” Dane allowed some mocking to creep into his voice. “And how exactly are you planning to do that?”
Ryan leaned back once more.
“I’m gonna win the HOW World Championship.”
A voice piped up from the hallway; Dan Ryan’s daughter, Cecilia.
“Oh my God, I was so sure you were gonna say you’re gonna steal the Declaration of Independence.”
Dane couldn’t stifle a loud laugh as Dan Ryan turned slowly to his daughter and thumbed back toward the hallway where she came from. “Beat it.”
She shrugged and headed back down the hall.
Eric Dane looked from the hall back to his long time friend.
Ryan smiled. “I have a plan. I suggest you make plans too, because I know that there’s so much more of Eric Dane that these people haven’t seen yet.”
Ryan softened his tone.
“I’m not telling you what to do. I’m just expecting it. I expect that bad motherfucker to stand back up and be a killer.”
Dane almost smiled, but not quite.
“And what’s this… plan… of yours?”
Ryan raised his eyebrows slightly. “I have the number one contender. This isn’t personal. Mike wants to put on the best shows possible. He wants the best matches and he wants the best talent on the roster in those matches. This isn’t about him and his dad anymore. I’m gonna go out and beat Halitosis, and then I’m gonna face John Sektor for the World Championship — and when I do, I’m taking that belt.”
Dan Ryan is sitting behind a large oak desk in Tyler Rayne’s study at the Rayne-Troy abode in Tampa. Bookshelves stretch from floor to ceiling behind him, filled with books whose names aren’t really important to the story.
He reaches out and hits the intercom button on the desk phone.
Phyllis, can you bring me that file? And let me know once you have him on the line.
PHYLLIS: (through the phone)
A couple minutes pass, then the door cracks open and his personal assistant Phyllis sticks her head in. She produces a manila folder, which she drops on the desk.
Ryan opens it, then shuffles through some paperwork, looking at one page, then another. The stack of documents underneath belies a rather thorough file.
I’ve got that call set up for you on line one.
Ryan glances up.
Phyllis takes her leave. Ryan takes his paperwork and slips it into a manila folder, then sets it aside and reaches for the phone.
Thanks for taking my call.
The corner of his mouth goes up in a slight smile.
Not at all. But — I think it’s time the two of us had a meeting to talk over a few things.
Ryan shakes his head slightly.
No tricks. No ulterior motives. Just a conversation.
He listens, finally nodding at the response.
After Refueled is perfect…… Alright…… Sounds good.
Ryan hangs the phone up, glancing over at the file one last time. His gaze rests on the name at the top right corner:
The Yuengling Center.
August 14, 2019.
Dan Ryan is sitting in the front row, ringside, arms outstretched on either side of him and leaning back a bit, relaxed.
The arena is quiet.
Refueled VIII is a few days out still.
Ryan looks around, reacclimating himself with High Octane’s home in the Refueled era.
Well, that was just loads of fun, wasn’t it?
It was, actually.
Ten people under a roof of steel — blood and guts, weapons, surprises. It was pretty much like the best birthday present ever, only there wasn’t any cake, and it wasn’t my birthday.
I know some people are angry. Others are thrilled. We have two new champions and one champion who remained the same.
But life goes on.
I asked for war and I got it.
And it was FUN.
Don’t get me wrong….
It was a failure.
But I’ve lost matches before. No one in this business wins every single match. No one. Big matches like that? There are too many variables to make absolute guarantees. You prepare, you study your opposition, you train for every possibility… at least, you think you train for every possibility…. But sometimes, there’s someone who manages to get one step ahead of you.
Still, I’m here. Physically, I’m in pretty good shape, considering what we all went through. I have the usual aches and pains, but others are much worse off than I am
Ryan looks up, scanning the arena again, then settles his eyes back on the ring.
And what about you, Hal? How are you feeling? How much worse for wear are you after War?
I see you’re short an entourage, but I think that’s for the best, really.
All of that…. (Ryan waves a hand around) ….noise around you — it’s a distraction. I”m sure they gave you some measure of comfort in the environment leading up to War Games. You shocked the wrestling world by coming in and winning the World Championship, but it put a big fat target on your back. Having friends to back you up made sense I’m sure. You can never be too careful.
But now, War Games is over.
You’re back in a spot where you’re about to get another shot at the World Championship, although this time no one’s gonna be surprised. This time, all eyes are on you. They won’t take you lightly.
*EYE*…… won’t take you lightly.
Ryan leans forward.
I want you to know that this match is extremely important to me, Hal. I want you to know that this match, to me, is a path to a shot at the World Championship — and I want you to know — the World Championship is all I care about right now. I’m something of a World Championship collector, as someone wise once said about me, and to get my hands on John Sektor, I need to go through you.
Balance, concentration and focus, right? Trusting your instincts, attention to detail.
They’re good words, Hal. They’re good words. I like them. It’s a good credo to base a career on. People like a plucky hard working athlete. You’re easy to root for. I see the masks in the crowd. I know how popular you’ve become. You haven’t been here very long, but you’ve certainly earned it. How many Hall of Famers have you beaten now? Three? Four?
I respect it.
Yeah, people don’t expect me to say things like that. I’m an asshole. I know. It’s a little bit of a contradiction to you, I’m sure, but I like to be up front with people, you see. I like to tell you up front that if I can, I’ll break your bones. If I can, I’ll tear your arm out of its socket. If I can, I’ll give you much more than a concussion.
If I can… or if I must…. to clear the road to the World Championship…
I’ll do whatever I have to do.
I’ll stop at nothing. I just want you to know that. I want us to be clear on that point, because nothing… and I mean nothing is more annoying than when I “go too far” on someone, and then they complain about it after I told them I’d do whatever I had to do.
I don’t want that to happen to us, Hal.
I don’t want our burgeoning relationship to end in whining and complaining, angry accusations and insults. I want us to enter and leave this coming interaction as men who know where we stand.
I want us to understand one another.
Again, I want to be completely honest with you.
I plan to do this however I need to.
I’ve been called a lot of things — most of them are true. But I’m not a hypocrite, and I’m not a liar. I will injure you permanently if I have to. I’d apologize ahead of time, because it’s good manners, but I wouldn’t mean it. The truth is, I rather enjoy hurting people.
I respect that you want to do this right.
Ryan relaxes again, leaning back once more.
I don’t have any lyrics to quote for you, or poetry to regale you with leading up to our match. That’s not really my style.
But it seems to me that Mike wants some fireworks this week, and I feel like giving him those fireworks.
A lot of eyes are gonna be on the big main event clash this week, but I think I’d like to give them something else to get excited about. I think I’d like to rebound from War Games by taking it to the number one contender and earning a little more respect by pinning him….. again.
You came in and had your big moment. I think it’s time I went out and made mine.