Charleston Civic Center
Charleston, West Virginia
Sunday, September 10th, 2023
Jace was on his feet inside of his locker room. The excitement of watching the main event match between STRONK! Godson and Conor Fuse had gotten to him. He stood there silently, soaking in everything he had just seen, watching as Conor Fuse and STRONK! glared at each other during the post-match before the broadcast ended. Davidson grabbed the remote control and turned off the monitor.
“Unbelievable, just fucking crazy,” Jace stated to no one. “Conor Fuse just beat STRONK! for the HOW World Championship belt. Conor Fuse has defeated Godson not once but twice.”
He went silent for a moment as his mind raced and tried to process the thoughts and feelings that were flowing through him. He raised his hand into the air and rubbed over his chin.
“That son of a bitch!” Davidson exclaimed. “He’s tied me for the number of HOW World Championship reigns. That little fucker…”
Jace turned around and began heading toward a corner of the locker room. He started to gather the things he had brought with him here to West Virginia.
“I’m happy for him, he’s had a rough go ever since Lee got up off of his death bed but still…” He mumbled under his breath. “If he is anything like he was headed into War Games last year then boy is he ever going to be fucking annoying.”
Davidson continued to pack his things while he continued to think about how Conor’s title win would change the landscape of HOW.
“Should probably go and check on STRONK!” Jace mused out loud. “Losing the HOW World Championship belt for the first time is rough. Doubly so for him since he lost it to the guy that almost killed him last year.”
He wrestled with the thought for a moment and then turned to head toward the locker room door.
“I know how much he cherishes those extra pounds that the title belt gave to his weight.” He said for his own confirmation. “Having Oliver and Choi in his presence is not going to do him any good when his morale plummets.”
Davidson reached out of the handle on the door but then stopped himself.
“What am I doing?” He said in a bit of a whisper. “I’m out the door at the end of the year. My days as a wrestler here are definitely numbered. I can’t just get up and run to every single person that I halfway like and be a shoulder for them to cry on. HOW in 2024 will not have me here to pick up the pieces. These guys will have to learn to deal with situations on their own and rebound from them.”
He nodded his head to his own pep talk.
“Besides… STRONK! made his choice to side with Lee Best. He might not hate me anymore but he still chose to be a pawn for Lee over our friendship.” There was a grumble in his tone. “I gave him back the STRONKUMMS name and I delivered Choi to him. I’ve done everything I can possibly do for Godson. Hell, he’ll probably get a rematch for the title immediately with the way that he and Fuse had a staredown to end the show.”
He shrugged his shoulders and turned around to continue back to gathering his things.
“Eyes focused ahead and getting what I want.” He said with determination. “Three months left and then I wash my hands clean of this place. No more looking back, no letting Lee talk his way into getting me to stay on for another year or another PPV arc. Everyone else can just handle their own shit.”
He finished getting his things and then turned around one more time looking over at the monitor. Davidson let out a sigh and then ran his fingers through his hair.
“I will talk with STRONK before the year is up and I’m gone for good.” He admitted to himself. “Once this whole Lee vs. me thing is in the rearview mirror maybe something of a friendship can be rebuilt.”
Jace exited the locker room and headed toward his rental car as the scene faded.
I would love to be a fly on the wall in the office of Lee Best right about now. All that work and effort, all the rigging of the game so that his Alliance could hold all of the gold and his unstoppable monster gets beat but a little Canadian.
I would call it poetic if it wasn’t absolutely hilarious.
However, much like Lee is right now… I’m pretty pissed off too. For a while now I’ve been going against him and his fucking Final Alliance. And no matter what I did, Lee always pulled the rug out from under me. From being attacked by members of his group, to being put on a War Games team this year with Scott Stevens and Scottywood.
Then only getting eliminated from that match and losing my LSD Championship belt because a member of the EPU attacked me from behind. And there was 97RED where Narcotic was brought in to be the special guest referee. Not only did he attack me, but Lee and his brother Ollie were there as cameramen to make sure there was no way I was leaving Australia with the HOW World Championship belt.
Lee did everything in his power to make STRONK! the end all be all here in HOW. He was the World Champion that Lee always wanted. You couldn’t turn a corner in any arena without seeing pictures and posters with Godson plastered on them.
So, tell me where were all the dirty tricks and backup in that main event?
I get my first one-on-one shot at the HOW World Championship belt in eight years and Lee Best literally calls in an army to make sure I lose. Conor Fuse gets a shot at the HOW World Championship belt and suddenly it’s a fair fight.
What the fuck is that shit about?!
Wait, why am I trying to put logic in Lee’s ‘Booking 101?’ He’s just going to sit back and pitch a fit before he finds someone to go and take that Championship belt away from Conor. Lee doesn’t like it when you disrespect his title belts but yet he’s the more notorious abuser in that department.
What prestige is there in a Championship belt when it’s hardly ever a fair match? Where is the prestige when Lee himself is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone as long as one of his boys keeps the title in the Alliance?
Conor has three reigns as HOW World Champion. He’s beaten STRONK! multiple times now, yet this current reign? It’ll go down in the history books as nothing more than a fluke. I mere stain on the legacy of the belt. It’ll be used as a platform to praise the next Lee Best-backed individual to win that title. And Conor’s reign will be the answer to some random trivia question twenty years from now.
And yet people wonder why I’m not signing on for another year in this company.
As much as it pains me… I can’t go and fight everyone else’s battles. If they are going to stay here and deal with Lee then they need to learn to fight for themselves. The only thing I can do for them now is get my hands on Lee Best and beat him into an overdue grave for the world to see. Give them a visual demonstration of why putting up with Lee’s bullshit isn’t a law or a commandment.
He can’t run from me for too much longer.
Sunday, September 17th, 2023
It was a week later and another edition of Chaos had taken the airwaves live from Virginia. This week, Jace had decided to skip traveling to the show and hanging out backstage. He was enjoying his little break from being booked and he saw no purpose to waste any time in Virginia just to get a microphone shoved in his face at some point during the night.
He was seated on the couch in his living room. The remote control in one hand and his arm around Samantha Tolson. They sat together watching Chaos 043 on the flat-screen TV in the room with a bowl of popcorn on Tolson’s lap. It wasn’t long before the broadcast ended and there was a pained groan that escaped Davidson’s lips.
“Something wrong, dear?” Samantha asked as she rubbed her hand up and down his leg. “Would you have rather been there in person?”
Jace scrunched his face and then shook his head.
“No, I’ve had enough for Virginia to last the rest of the year.” He answered as he placed the remote down. “It’s just sitting here watching Conor Fuse end the show the way he did and I can see the bullshit just unfolding before my eyes.”
“Why don’t you tell me about it?” Tolson inquired as she leaned her head against his shoulder.
“Conor just won his third reign as HOW World Champion last week beating STRONK!” Davidson began. “And just seven days later he’s in the middle of the ring rambling about how he’s not going to wear the belt until he beats Mike Best? How stupid can one man be?!”
There was frustration in his tone while Samantha slid her arm around his back and squeezed him closer.
“Not everyone is equipped to handle the burden of being a World Champion,” Tolson replied matter-of-factly. “Clearly, this guy has some demons he needs to defeat in his head that are clouding his judgment.”
“He needs to be smacked upside the fucking head!” Jace added, defiantly. “I’ve seen tons of people kiss Mike Best’s ass thousands of times but why is he doing it? Why now of all times? He beat Godson to become the World Champion. He won the battle and he’s the guy now, and yet he seems content to play second fiddle to Mike.”
“He is the boss’s son.” Samantha reminded him.
“You know what he also is? A fucking egomaniac and the current HOW LSD Champion.” The words left a bitter taste in his mouth. “Just because Lee had booked him to challenge Mike for the LSD Championship at the PPV doesn’t mean that he has to roll out the red carpet for him. You’re the World Champion, Mike has a title. You can focus on literally anyone else, hell, you could give STRONK! a rematch for the belt. Instead, he decides to put Mike up on a pedestal and is begging him to screw him out of the title that he just won.”
“It sounds like Mike Best is the last mountain that Conor feels that he needs to climb,” Samantha said after a moment of thought.
“That’s fucking stupid.” Davidson spat. “He is the HOW World Champion. He beat the guy that no one has been able to pin and he’s done it twice. Mike Best ain’t shit when you’re the one with the title around your waist. He can just fucking ignore Mike and decide to do what he wants to do as the World Champion.”
“What if you were the HOW World Champion right now? What would you do if it was you?” Tolson asked as she looked up at him.
“It sure wouldn’t be kissing Mike’s ass.” Jace scoffed. “Actually, I did have a bit of a plan if I had won the match at 97RED. If I had one the HOW World Championship belt then I would have taken that title and left HOW.”
“You would have quit?” Samantha raised her eyebrow.
“I would have taken charge and made my own schedule.” Davidson clarifies. “I would have taken that HOW World Championship belt and got myself on TV in every single non-PWA company that I could find. I would let fans of other companies hold the belt and take pictures with it. I’d wrestle matches against subpar talent by HOW standards and just about lose to belt each time.”
“Couldn’t Lee just have stripped you of the title and fired you?” Samantha injected.
“That’s the beauty of the entire thing.” Jace grinned. “He would have definitely stripped me of the Champion status but he wouldn’t have the belt itself. How would it look for HOW and for Lee’s so-called prestige of 97red if he had a new Champion but not the belt that every single World Champion in that company’s history has held? He would have spit fire in public but in private he’d be blowing up my phone with deals left and right if it meant I would come back and bring that belt with me.”
“Maybe you should tell Conor to do that.” Samantha laughed.
“Nah, Conor’s too much of a nice guy to pull something like that off properly,” Davidson responded with disappointment in his voice. “Lee would have broken poor Conor’s spirit with a few angry voicemails and the whole thing would be over before it even got started.”
“Not everyone is as stubborn and hard-headed as you are.” Samantha poked his chest with her index finger after each word.
“Backhanded fucking compliment,” Davidson growled.
“I learned from the best.” Tolson had a devilish smile on her face.
“Keep it up and I’ll have to teach you a real lesson.” Jace threatened.
“Is that so?” Tolson stuck her tongue out at Davidson before getting up from her seat. “You’ll have to catch me first.” Samantha took the bowl of popcorn and then tossed what was left of it over Jace’s head.
“That’s it!” Jace shouted as he shot up to his feet.
Samantha squealed and then ran behind the couch before racing up the stairs. Jace chased after her as we closed on a final shot of the TV screen that had the HOTv Network logo on it.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Saturday, September 23rd, 2023
It was late afternoon in Raleigh, North Carolina. We focused on a pretty empty Cemetery, mostly due to the downpour of rain that had come through since Friday. The only person that was weathering the storm was Jace Parker Davidson. He stood there under an umbrella that he held in his hand. He was still and quiet until he was joined by a HOW cameraman. The random employee was getting pelted by the rain and only had a raincoat and a cover on top of the camera itself to keep it as dry as possible.
“Thanks for joining me on such short notice,” Jace said without turning to look at the cameraman.
The man nodded his head and commented but Davidson wasn’t paying attention to anything he said. The cameraman took the silence from the HOW Hall of Famer to indicate that he might as well get to work since the rain showed no signs of stopping.
“When you’re set up and ready, I want you to take a shot of the surroundings before pointing the camera at me.” Jace directed.
The cameraman raised the camera onto his shoulder and began to film. He took a wide pan of the cemetery just as Jace had requested. Slowly, he moved the camera to land on Davidson himself as he stood there in front of an open grave.
“Tomorrow night on Chaos 044 I am booked in the main event of the show to take on one half of the PWA World Tag Team Champions. The man that is called ‘The Hammer of GOD ’ but also known as Dan Ryan.” Davidson’s tone was somber at best as he remained focused on the grave in front of him. “And as I stand out here today, I don’t feel any excitement or joy about the fact that I get to step into the ring against Dan. There are no butterflies in my stomach or adrenaline flowing through my veins.”
Jace paused for a moment before continuing.
“I feel angry, I feel confused, and I feel empty. I stand here wondering what the purpose of all of this is and my opponent had a pretty interesting take on it all. Two or three years ago I would have agreed with him wholeheartedly. About a decade ago I would have taken those words as gospel because that’s exactly how I lived my life. That’s how I went about my career, so yes, we are like family, Dan.”
There was a low grumble from the pit of Davidson’s stomach that was picked up by the audio from the camera.
“The thing is that… I was a fool back then. I was young, I was flying by the seat of my pants, and I thought I was invincible.” Jace lets out a small sarcastic laugh. “The last eight years of my life have done nothing but prove to me time and time again that I am anything but invincible. From breaking my neck back in 2016 and having to retire for five long years. All the way to making a comeback to the ring and having meathead motherfuckers like you trying to be the first one to break my neck for good.”
“And you almost accomplished that, Dan, almost.”
Jace goes quiet for a moment as he rolls his head and stretches his neck a few times.
“You think that you’re free, Dan? You’re not free in the slightest bit. You’re a slave to Lee Best and the brainwashing that all of us have experienced at one point here in HOW. You think you have it all figured out and that it makes you one step ahead. The reality is that all you’ve done is dig a deep hole into complete servitude to a man that does not give a fuck about you.”
“Call me a broken record, say that it’s just sour grapes on my part, tell yourself whatever you need to tell yourself to make the medicine go down. The fact remains that I am right and no one knows better than me what it’s like being in servitude to Lee Best.”
“I thought I was different, I thought I was just like you are right in this moment. I lied to myself saying that Lee isn’t using me as a fucking pawn. No, I was just a highly successful wrestler who was doing things the smart way. More money, better opportunities, and I get a get-out-of-jail-free card for the criminal acts of violence that I loved to display. What more could a wrestler ask for?”
Jace lets the question linger in the air.
“I respect you, Dan, but you’re fucking stupid as shit. That little warning for me wasn’t a warning at all. It was more of a pep talk that you had to give yourself so that it was a little bit easier to look at yourself in the mirror. I’ve been there, I know. And while everyone else on the roster will rally around your words, as they pat you on the back and praise you, deep down you know you’re just living a lie.”
“You pretend that you no longer care about anything or anyone. That you were made just to cause pain and nothing more. It’s a nice little old wives tale in this business. The whole ‘I want to die in the fucking ring doing what I love’ line. I’ve said it myself more than once but I can admit it was horseshit. Everyone says that when they think the threat of death is nowhere near them. Everyone preaches that when they think they are still in their prime as an athlete and just moments away from being at the top of the mountain.”
“But then one day, you get close enough to death, and the reality of dying gets fucking real for you. That’s when all the tough talk and bravado run out of your soul like piss running down your leg. I’ve had the moment, Dan. I know what it feels like to die… do you?”
Jace turns and looks at the cameraman.
“How about you?”
The camera moves side-to-side as the cameraman gives his answer without speaking.
“I get the point of professional wrestling. I know most of the time your opponent is 100% trying to destroy you on any given week. I’ve said and heard the same shit many times, the whole purpose is to fight. Which is fine by me, I’ve been fighting all of my life. It’s what I’m used to, but fighting and death do not go hand-in-hand. Take a look around, we are surrounded by death.”
The cameraman begins to pan and show off the Cemetery again but Davidson reaches out and focuses the camera back at him.
“I’m not talking about the fact that I’m standing in a Cemetery, I’m talking about being an active member of the HOW roster. Max Kael, Chris Kostoff, Narcotic, and now STRONK! Is that something you’re just going to pretend you’re fine with ‘Murder Daddy?’ Because I remember just weeks ago when you had a shot at STRONK! and the HOW World Championship belt where you preached that you cared about Godson. That he was like a brother to you. That you would always be there for him. Are you going to pretend none of that happened?”
“My friend is gone. Not because he was murdered, not because someone destroyed him inside of the ring to the point of ending his life. STRONK! is dead because of Lee Best. He was in such servitude of Lee that losing the HOW World Championship belt was more than he could deal with. He lived for the admiration of Lee, he never wanted to be looked at as a disappointment or a failure in Lee’s eyes. One slip up in the ring and what happened? No one cared that STRONK! lost the title. No one in the Final Alliance rallied around him and showed that brotherhood that you claimed to have. What happens when that someone in the ground is you or someone you love? What happens when someone you cannot lose is taken away from you by the pettiness of another man? Will you just stand there like a block of stone or will you act?”
“If going by recent history is anything you’ll be more Gargoyle than Avenger. But that’s what you’ve been taught, that is what keeps you in the good graces. STRONK! kills himself and another human being and no one even blinks. It was just ‘Oh well, another day that ends in Y. Hey, let’s talk about how Mike Best is going to be World Champion again!’”
“I’m disgusted by that, Dan, and you should be as well.”
There was a snarl on Jace’s face.
“You claim that you’re not willing to be patient when it comes to becoming the HOW World Champion. Who are you trying to fool? You have no other choice but to be patient. Do you think making a statement against me in a match is going to get you closer to that goal? You’re sadly mistaken, Daniel. For all your talk, you’re what? Near the bottom of the Final Alliance pecking order. Mike is at the top of the food chain with Lee and always will be. Then there is America whenever he decides to come back. John Sektor will be the new poster boy now that STRONK! is no longer in the picture. Hell, Lee even still has his soft spot for Solex and the fact that he’s never won the HOW World Championship belt.”
“How does that make you feel, Dan? You’ve never held the HOW World Championship belt. You’re a much better wrestler than Solex. You’ve been doing this a hell of a lot longer and you’ve been in the top 3 rankings-wise for a long fucking time. And yet, Lee gives more of a fuck about Solex holding that belt than he does you.”
“Don’t lie to yourself, you know it’s true. You got saddled with Jatt and will be forced to defend those title belts against Townsend and Ward again or whoever the fuck Lee can dig up from a PWA company. Mike will be in the main event going for this 11th HOW World Championship belt. 11th! He’s already the LSD Champion but does that matter to Lee? Of course not, because that’s the baby boy and you? You’re just an empty-headed bodyguard. The same role that you played when STRONK! was the Champion you’re going to end up playing for Mike and pretty much everyone else that ever wins the title before you do in the Final Alliance.”
Davidson sighs and then gestures to the open grave in front of him.
“You realize you’re not a spring chicken, right? You’ve had a long career and accomplished many things. All that I want to die in the fucking ring bullshit aside, you know there aren’t too many sands left in the hourglass on your ability to be a worthy HOW World Champion. But here you are, pissing them all away being a slave for Lee Best. I take you as a proud man, Dan. Are you telling me that 100K is enough to swallow your dignity and be less of a man? I can imagine that your bank account is not hurting in the slightest so what is it? It can’t be the opportunities given to you because you can be ranked number #1 for years to come but you won’t lead the rankings for shots at the World Champion while in the Final Alliance.”
“And I know you think I’m just weak now. You think I’m running away from being in the ‘most competitive company in the business’ because I can’t cut it anymore. For me, it’s all repetitive and stale. I’ve climbed this mountain multiple times. I’ve won pretty much every belt there is to win. I’ve won all the big matches, etc. You know this already. But you’re jealous of me? You shouldn’t be jealous of me for any of my accomplishments.”
“Yeah, being HOW World Champion is great but you are the one holding yourself back from that. Being considered on the Mt. Rushmore of HOW is nice but in the end, what does that do for me as a person? Do you want my spot in the pecking order? Take it, you want to be in the Hall of Fame? Go ahead and take my spot there too.”
Davidson takes his Hall of Fame ring off and tosses it down into the open grave.
“It’s just a fucking ring, the accomplishments? Just numbers after you’ve done it all once. So, go ahead and claim everything I’ve ever achieved as your own. At the end of the day, I have one sole reason for even being in this company until December 31st. That’s getting my hands on Lee Best. Tomorrow night, we find out if you’ll open your eyes and find a way to truly be free like I am. Or will you be content living out the rest of your legacy as a mere tool for a man who will never be able to do the thing you’re able to do inside of a ring?”
“I’ve made my decision and honestly? It’s not that I mind dying in the middle of the ring. It’s just that I refuse to do it for a man that thinks he can get away with disrespecting my the way he has. I’ll see you tomorrow night, Hammer, but you will not drive the final nail into my coffin.”
Davidson turns and begins to walk out of the Cemetery, the cameraman gets one last shot of Jace’s HOF ring in the open grave before we fade to black.