Got To Get Back, Part Two
”So, whattya think?”
The video on the screen in Dan Ryan’s media room at his second (third? fourth?) home in Los Angeles pauses, just as a large truck threatens to run him over. The expression on his face, a mixture of determination and what precedes a display of impressive agility, is frozen in frame. He turns to his daughter Cecilia for a reaction to what she’s just seen.
She looks at her father, then back at the screen, then back at her father. Dan Ryan holds the remote control out and opens his hand, letting it drop with a thud to the carpet below.
“Did you just mic drop the remote control?” Cecilia Ryan narrows her eyes a bit.
Ryan is stoic but confident. “Maybe.”
She shakes her head. “It’s entertaining, I’ll give you that.”
“Good, good.” Ryan nods, taking in the feedback.
“How in the world did you get Megan Fox to take part in something like that?”
Ryan shrugs, eyes wide as if imparting some surprising information. “Believe it or not, she’s apparently not that busy these days.”
Cecilia, actually, is surprised. “How much did that cost?”
No expression from her father. “How attached are you to the beach house?”
“Ugh.” She rolls her eyes. “Well, I guess it was worth it. You know I love good 80s references.”
Ryan smiles. “Everyone does.”
She nods. “And who played the old man?”
“Your Uncle Frank”, Ryan replied. “He cost considerably less.”
“REALLY?” Cecilia’s eyes go wide, then she slumps back as she composes herself. “Good makeup job. But the lines about… STDs….” She scrunches her face up.
Ryan cringes a bit himself. “He was actually pretty gung-ho about delivering those lines.”
Cecilia half closes her eyes, grossed out. “He was?”
Ryan nods. “Disturbingly so.”
“Well…” she says, sighing. “So much for Thanksgiving not being weird.”
At that they stand up – Dan smiles, satisfied. Cecilia smirks, then turns to head for the door. “Are you gonna explain what that production is meant to convey?”
Ryan holds up a finger as if to make a good point. “If it has to be explained, it’s not very good.”
“Good point,” she replies.
“Indeed,” he retorts. “Or, the viewer is stupid.”
Cecilia is amused. “And who decides that?”
Ryan smiles. “That’s the beauty of it. Everyone. Everyone decides. Then, after they decide, you beat them up anyway. It’s my favorite part of the sport, really.”
“Ah yes,” Cecilia Ryan shook her head, half-amused. “Just the way the Greeks envisioned it.”
“The Greeks envisioned it naked. So believe me, I won’t be taking my cues on wrestling from ancient Greeks.”
Cecilia scrunches up her nose again. “Good call. Do you need anything else from me before I go? I have an appointment.”
Ryan is surprised. “An appointment with who?”
She stands up a little taller. “I’d rather not say.”
“Oh?” Dan’s interest is piqued. “You’d rather not say?”
Cecilia sighs resigned. “Fine. I’m going to a horseback riding lesson.”
Dan’s posture stiffens up, and he whispers as if betrayed.
“A horseback riding lesson??”
Cecilia throws her hands up, flustered. “This is why I didn’t wanna say anything! One birthday party ten years ago, mom had horses at the party and ever since you have this attitude about horses. What is it with you and HORSES??”
Dan leans in, eyes narrowed, voice intense.
“THEY KNOW WHAT THEY DID.”
She facepalms, and Dan stands back up straight, still annoyed.
“Ok dad, whatever. I’m gonna go now.”
He takes a deep breath, calming down. He has some other things to attend to anyway.
“Alright, fine. I’ll see you later tonight at dinner?”
She gives a little wink and a nod to the affirmative, and heads out the door.
Dan Ryan stands there a moment longer, then a look of disgust crosses his face. “Goddamn horses.”
The Pacific Coast Highway stretches out ahead, winding its way around the rocky cliffs of Northern California, San Francisco-bound. A 1984 Lamborghini Jalpa speeds into view, the light of the setting sun glistening off its driver’s side.
Inside Dan Ryan focuses forward, the same setting sun illuminating one side of his face. The sunglasses are gone, for some reason other than a pre-planned desire for the viewer to see his expression of deep contemplation as he drives, probably.
Ryan presses the clutch and kicks the car into another gear and it lurches forward, a long stretch of straight road ahead leading to a bridge over a big gap in the cliffs.
Ryan absent-mindedly wipes his forehead with the back of his hand, then thinks back, remembering the early days of his HOW employment. Scenes of he and Eric Dane training as Ryan prepared for his return to the ring, interspersed with high-speed turns and glances into the evening twilight.
A vision of his family flashes, his wife concerned he’ll get consumed with the sport again, like last time, when family got in the way of a championship, and he took out his career ambitions on them.
Back to the road, where he downshifts briefly before kicking it back into high gear.
The first match with Cecilworth Farthington goes through his mind. He pounded away at him on the outside of the ring, and Farthington, always the thinker, took his belt and ran as fast as he could up the rampway, avoiding defeat. Ryan’s family met him backstage, a reminder not to lose himself in his anger as he did before.
He drives on, his eyes closing for the briefest of moments, then opening back up again.
Happier moments pop into his head — Alaina on the road with him, Cecilia there learning the ropes, working with Lindsay again — eating $85 steaks and making Eric pay.
Shadows start to cross his face as he drives, but shadows can’t stop contemplation.
Old times, he and Eric Dane on opposite sides, going to war. Back to the near-past, the two of them training for Rumble at the Rock, Dane to defend the tag team titles, he to challenge Halitosis and Cecilworth Farthington for the ICON and World titles. They bounce around a ring, each hitting a move, then smirking at the other.
Ryan glances up at the Point Sur Lighthouse as he passes by, then back at the road, a more dour expression crossing his face.
Eric Dane’s face in close-up, yelling, but no sound can be heard. Mike Best in close-up, also yelling, with no sound. Suddenly the thought flips to a behind view of a man sitting at a computer workstation, wearing a jacket with photos of himself all over it, his head occasionally thrown back, cackling.
The next image is Eric Dane lying face down, not moving.
Mike Best’s face pops back in a close-up. “If he dies, he dies.”
We’re back in the car, and Ryan frowns in deep consternation. Suddenly we’re back overhead, watching the car drive on, and the music ends…
San Francisco, California.
There it is.
And here we are – in the biggest moment possible, the main event for the ICON and World Titles.
This is that moment.
It’s been a long and very successful career, much longer and more successful than I’d ever planned in the beginning. Back then it was just all about beating people up, physically dominating everyone in my path and letting the wreckage fall wherever it may.
Twenty-two years, some longer than others.
But this year has been a good one. The fire came back. It’s been a return to my roots, to what got me here in the first place. It’s been months of stepping into the fire and burning away anything that doesn’t help put me back on top where I belong, where I’ve lived for most of my career — another chance to crash through the hype and introduce the world to reality.
It’s been a pattern in my career for at least fifteen years.
It was the early 2000s when I hit a high that most in this business could only imagine in their wildest dreams. So for at least fifteen years, there’s been a big, bright target on my back. Word precedes my arrival, and I have to spend time proving myself all over again. And honestly? That’s how I prefer it.
Because it’s these moments — these times, when you have a chance to become the top guy in a company, carrying on your back the weight of its expectations, where I thrive.
No one lucks into this spot… until they do, right Hal?
Passive aggression aside, we’re all here for a reason. And who cares why, in the end? Half the battle is already lost for you, Hal, because you’ve already got the entire wrestling community, wrestlers and fans alike, living rent-free inside your head. You spend all this time worrying about what people think of you, and it’s causing you to engage in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Were you a Game of Thrones fan, Hal?
“The lion does not concern itself with the opinion of the sheep.”
But you’re not a lion really, are you?
They all say you lucked into this. Maybe you did. But your biggest downfall will be that you did nothing with the moments that you lucked into. You embraced them like a child embraces a teddy bear he just got for Christmas, and then you put it up on a shelf and let it gather dust.
Worse yet, you did it twice.
People have been clamoring for someone to step up and give the World Championship back the prestige it once had. And there you are, holding it, begging for scraps of respect like Oliver Twist. Please sir, may I have some more?? — instead of going out and demanding it in word and deed.
Cecilworth shouldn’t be able to mock you the way he does. You are the World Champion, and the ICON champion mocks you with impunity. Everyone nods along, and you’ve done nothing to dissuade them from doing so.
Everyone expects you to lose, so you’ll find a way to lose – you’ve done nothing to suggest anything other than that this moment is too big for you.
This is something I would absolutely love for you the change everyone’s mind about. It’s a mindset I’m begging you to alter. I want you to come into this Infirmary match, and no matter what we are forced to endure over there on that island, I want you to step up and make the moment your own….. because I want absolutely nothing to do with beating down a miserable, whining shell of a champion so full of self-pity that the company can’t wait to rid the belt of your stench.
And Cecilworth — my dear Cecilworth.
Honestly, I feel like we’re very good friends now. I have no idea how you feel about that, but it isn’t relevant. I can’t be friends with someone until we’ve beaten each other up, so while it took some time, I’m starting to like you now. There’s gonna be get-togethers, my daughter’s gonna start calling you Uncle Fartypants…. We’re having a Christmas party next month and you’re gonna be invited, the whole nine yards.
I just… can’t truly call this newfound friendship fully cemented though until I get over this hump of beating you in the ring. Unfortunately, it’s gonna have to be in a prison infirmary, but I’m known to be very adaptable. I’m sure there’ll be all manner of medical instruments lying around to help me reach my goal, and I know how resourceful you are, so I’ll be ready for your… well, resourcefulness.
I know there are going to be changes. I know something’s up with Dirk, and I don’t know what. Is it betrayal? Is it a newfound vigor meant to take your long-time partnership to the next level? Is he scouring San Francisco costume-rental shops for a doctor’s outfit so he can waylay me during the match out of nowhere?
Who knows? So mysterious. I love mysteries. It’s another thing that brings you and me together, our love of mysteries. I only wish your dad were still alive to share it with us.
But let’s stay centered on the moment at hand. Enough of this reverie, which is a fancy way to say happily daydreaming according to the thesaurus I was reading earlier in preparation for this. Let us speak of what is and not what was — because if the phrase “two time HOW World Champion Halitosis” has taught us anything, it’s that absolutely anything can happen in High Octane Wrestling. It’s particularly true when our entire roster is shuttled onto a prison island and forced to interact like an episode of professional wrestling Survivor.
As lighthearted as you like to be, I know you’re taking this match very very seriously. I know you’re off somewhere as we speak, tossing around some rookie grappler and zoning out in a violent trance looking stunned like a man who just heard the most world-altering news possible, like… I don’t know… a fat guy in a version of that movie ‘Yesterday’, only instead of finding out the Beatles never existed, he finds out sugary pastries never existed, and also the movie is called ‘Crullers’. Stunned. And zoned out.
I know I’m not getting wacky Cecilworth at Alcatraz. I know I’m getting serious attempted-murder-on-MJ-Flair Cecilworth, and I’m game. In fact, I fucking love it. This is a dream match-up for me, every time it happens, but more so this time because this time I know that underneath all of that Burberry, the Farthington pride has once again risen up. You want to win this match as much as anything you’ve ever wanted in your life, and I love you for it, Ceese. I really, truly do, because I know that when you’re in this mode, I will never be disappointed in the amount of fight in you. I know that you’ll hit hard and often, and I know that to come away from this match with gold around my waist, I will have to beat one of the best in the world at the absolute top of his game.
And, if you don’t have to beat the best in the world to win gold, what did you really win?
I want no questions left unanswered after this match, Farthy. That’s the bottom line. One way or another, there will be a pecking order. It will be clear and it will be inarguable.
And then — one-month later….
You’ll have a blast. Alaina’s cookies are to die for.
Depending on what mysterious shenanigans are going on with him, send Dirk my love, or kick him in the face for me. I’ll let you choose. Either way, say hello.
When next we meet, it will be in an infirmary. I hope we all need one afterward too. That way we won’t just be friends. We’ll be best friends.
Dan Ryan is on a beach at sunrise, wearing gray sweats and a hoodie in the cool morning air. Not just any old beach. This beach looks out at the waters of San Francisco Bay, and across to Alcatraz Island. What, you didn’t know beaches had eyes? Shut up.
Ryan takes a deep breath, then sprints forward.
There are obstacles set up all along his path. He approaches a heavy bag, and in a fluid motion, he drives a forearm through the first, then a driving knee through the second, before finishing with a shoulder tackle through the third.
Dirt flies up behind him as he cuts through the muddy surf to the next challenge, a gauntlet-style row of atomizing sprayers lining either side of his path at varying heights.
As he crosses an imaginary barrier, each one in succession sprays out a nauseating green mist, and he deftly dives into a forward rolling motion to avoid a few, followed by a hurdling leap to avoid low-spraying nozzles, and finishing with a matrix-like lean-back to avoid the final set aiming for his midsection.
Having survived, Ryan steadies himself and starts forward again, approaching a path between two 8-10 foot walls, each painted to look like a steel cage. He cautiously approaches, then starts through.
A few moments pass, then…
Ryan senses the light touch of a checkered scarf lowering just above his head. He looks up just in time to see a random rich kid type leaning down, lurching to try and wrap the scarf around Dan Ryan’s neck as if to choke him and take from him his life.
Ryan deftly dodges the attempt, but backing into the other side, he is beset upon by a carbon copy rich boy, trying the same with some chicken wire!
He shifts out of the way and sees the third rich kid trying again with a piece of rope, but this is both telegraphed and racially insensitive, and Dan Ryan is ready. He grabs the rope with his right hand and pulls the kid down from the wall, giving him a swift kick in the backside as he scurries away.
Having made it through, more rich boys stand in his path, zombie-like, hands outstretched as they amble in his direction. He dives sideways through the middle, catching the last one in a singular motion with a karate chop to the trapezius muscle.
With his escape the horde ensured, he comes on the final challenge, an out of place three rows of concert seating. In the middle front, two people sit, one with a giant “H” on his head. He looks sad. He and his lady friend are facing a large poster board with an image on it…..
Ryan creeps in when out of nowhere a masked marauder leaps from behind a sand dune.
It’s another masked marauder with another giant “H” on his mask.
Ryan thinks quickly and monkey flips him high overhead into the surf.
He rushes through the scene to the finish line, whereupon NOT the World Title and NOT the ICON title are hanging from a pole. He grabs them and collapses, victorious, as the music fades.
Dan Ryan, very seriously working through a series of heavy bag workouts. Lindsay Troy, MJ Flair, and High Flyer all stand nearby, but he pays them no mind.
Others in the gym hear the commotion and one by one, start to gawk.
Ryan alternates left hooks with hard Muay Thai knees from both sides, catching the bag as it swings back each time in perfect rhythm.
He blasts through the bag, beginning to tear a hole in one of the seams. The smirk is absent, replaced by a sneer.
Hard straight rights threaten to break the bolt from its overhead joint and he stops, ready.
High Flyer looks on, eyes wide. MJ Flair smirks and holds up a pair of devil horns, and Lindsay Troy, finally…. smiles.