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Look at this, we have a tearjerker about a man and his tragic love life, combination training montage and black out drunkenness; makes it seem like wrestlers are bigger than D list celebrities. Will not disappoint.
It’s disappointing already?
Oh, look at this: I have never seen one of these intact before. This is the famous story of a leader among fools, who learns as much from them, as they do him. Still good, listen.
I can see that you are only interested in the exceptionally rare. I think then, you’d be most rewarded to consider this. Do not be fooled by its commonplace appearance. Like so many things, it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts.
This is no ordinary friendship! It once changed the course of a young man’s life. A young man, who, like this poorly written story, was more than what he seemed.
A diamond in the rough.
Perhaps you would like to hear the tale?
It begins on a dark night…
O’Hare International Airport
March 13, 2020
The international terminal is uncharacteristically full tonight. Walking to luggage is a game of human bumper-cars, evil eyes shot from above their mask covered faces. I want to sooth my ego some, and think they’ve all flown in to pack the Allstate Arena as the LBI has reached the knockout stages, but even I have lost interest in that by now. No, it probably had to do with St. Patrick and his parade, and people chewing their room temperature green ales. Slowly, I part the sea and play fullback for Ted and Grady until we stand and watch the belts spin.
Grady’s the first to spy his bag, and leans forward to collect. Just then, a shrill cry came twenty feet away in the crowd, “Stop! Thief!”
Heads all snapped around to the sound, that’s when I feel a boy collide into my side. His face read guilty, and the handbag he clutched clashed terribly with the Air Jordans. In his eyes, only fear, like he had thought this would be easy, at his size, to squeeze his way beyond all suspicion and grin to count the ill-gotten cash. I knew that feeling, I had it before the ladder match. I counted on chaos, and bet I could swim through the smoke and steal my golden reward. It’s this hesitation of his, looking up at me like his nemesis come to doom him eternally that gives me the seconds to reach out and take a firm grab of that #97Red hood. I could play hero and get a commendation out of this.
But, I pity the urchin too much, and know he isn’t worth my effort, or this faceless voice worth my headache, and shift out of his way.
“What’s that smile about, Red?” I guess Ted caught me grinning.
“Just laughing to myself, thinking a person would rely on a group of strangers to give a flying fuck about her issues.”
He gives me this knowing grin and dives for the pink polka-dot luggage, his, of course.
“Where is that little friend of yours, Ted? What was his name, Benny?” Grady got to gabbing, his natural state of being.
“Binh,” Ted corrects him, but it’s too noisy, and honestly, too similar to pick up. “I lost him when they upgraded him to first class.” He was, of course, nowhere to be found when the common riff-raff of business class unboarded.
“Yeah, what was that about?” I break in, waiting still for that Bleu, Blanc et Rouge case to come a-rolling.
I feel him shrug his shoulders taking his best stab, “Must be that reverse racism shit I keep hearing angry, white trash people talk about.”
At this sage wisdom, Grady and I nod. “Probably trying to put to rest that COVID panic,” Grady adds.
“He’ll be around here, somewhere. He’s never been to Chicago before, so I hope he doesn’t go wandering into the streets,” and I’m happy to hear Ted show legitimate attachment to another human being, even if it is blanketed under patronage.
“Well,” I stretch as I do, picking up my case of street clothes and whatnots. All the essentials, which for a pro wrestler is a change of underwear and your wrestling gear, we all took onboard and sported on our backs now. “Enough standing around here. I’m sure he couldn’t be far.”
Turned to the long parade out to the wideopen, and only slightly toxic air of Chi-town we go. Along the way, we take particular notice of every bearded Asian, but they are mostly all too long, too short, too dark, and not forked. This search reveals a prejudice in me against the vertically challenged, for finding them in crowds proved measurably more difficult. It adds to the likelihood of being discovered by some mark, or worse, TMZ and the would-be TMZs. I prayed each time to go unhindered, but the longer we linger, the more I tempt Providence.
“Ali!?” called this feminine, but strong voice. She must be looking for someone, too.
“Maybe he’s in the coffee shop, Ted?” finding looking at people in the concourse not working.
“He does like a good cup of Joe,” Ted spoke as he thought, and thought it his own idea. “He must be there.”
“Ali?” was closer, and with the waft of that perfume, lilies and lilac, I found Providence judged me. Ted making new friends would always be a trial for me.
“Hi, Elise,” dances awkwardly from my lips as they pull into a fake smile.
“I was afraid you wouldn’t remember me,” comes from her ruby painted lips. How could I forget her? If I tried, and I have, it’d be no use. That almond skin, somehow as smooth as the day she was born, the dark curls that frame her face, where those big, sparking eyes sat like jewels
Before I think of what to say, I find Ted’s floated back over my way, his radar for women was next to none. This only makes me want to choose my words more carefully.
I settle for, “I hope you’ve been well. You certainly look well.” These are compliments paid out of fear, not lust, or love.
“And who is this lovely lady, Red?” Teddy trotted out his charm, and kisses her hand when she hands it to him as I make the introductions.
I see in her eyes injury, now for the second time I’ve dared call her by her Christian name.
“Ted?” she says scrunching her nose at just how ordinary, and unromantic the name was. “Ali, is he a friend of yours?”
In my nervousness, I glance to Ted, thinking the fraction of a second would see Providence grant me grace enough to put into my mouth the words that would end this waking nightmare. When I turn back with the practiced smile, I see Grady’s made his way to the soiree. “Best friend, I am sure I mentioned him to you before. But that was years ago now.”
“Seven,” leapt from her lips without hesitation, like she’d been marking off calendars since we were in each other’s company.
Could she hear me gulp in this beehive? I can’t even hear my own thoughts, and still those furrowed brows made me think so.
“Grady, meet,” I start the introductions, but quake thinking how she’d react hearing her given name three times. Instead, she finishes without giving a name.
“Nice to meet you,” he said without any charm. “You boys found Bambi yet?”
“Bambi?” the wonder in her heart shone through that rosey blush. “He isn’t a part of the troupe, I’m afraid.”
My ribs heave, thinking about how that’d play out, making no show of my humour in my face.
“Binh,” Ted corrects him, to just as little success as the first time. “And that’s a negative. But Red here’s bumped into an old friend. It’d be poor manners to ditch the damsel,” and Teddy’s play at alliteration illicites another short smile from Elise.
“Are you still with the troupe?” I don’t know what I am saying pushing this conversation along, rather than over.
“Umhmm,” came with a cute little nod.
“Where’s it you two know each other from, anyhow?” Grady picked up on just how much I was squirming, and I think he’d want to make me sweat if it meant entertaining him.
“You remember that first booking you got for me after GCW folded, and Ted and I got bounced out of jOlt?” I am trying every which way to phrase this without letting the tiger out of the cage.
Sadly, my bookings all mean money, and money is something Grady Patrick will ever allow to be even half-forgotten. “That Disney on Ice thing?”
In that instant I curse Binh for getting upgraded and getting lost, and the pilot for landing the plane safely, for I’d prefer the fiery death to this.
“Yes, that is where we met,” her fire is hotter, and burns my ego.
“Do you,” absentmindedly, lost in my circumstances I stammer, “Are you still playing Jasmine?” Jasmine was her preferred name.
But this question takes a little joy from her, and I don’t know if I scored some victory, or was inviting some wicked wrath. “No, they recast me after that tour of Europe. I’m Ursula these days. I just couldn’t go on without my Aladdin.”
The Earth fell out from under me, and Ted slapped my back, not as good at holding his laughter, or not knowing to be smart enough to. “Wait, our boy Red was what?”
“Aladdin,” she says. “My Ali,” she affirms.
Turning me around to look him in the face, and the tears that welled up in the corners of his eyes at the thought of it, “You didn’t go full Trudeau on this, did you Red? We going to get fired because you did blackface?”
Jasmine leaps to my defence, “Ali refused makeup, if I recall,” and got lost some in her recalling ‘better’ days. Catching herself, “Did you say you were missing a friend?”
“Asian guy, about yay high,” Ted’s hand was at his chin. “Forked, grey beard. You haven’t seen him, have you?”
“No, I am sorry. But I have already taken up too much of your time, I can see.” She dug through her purse to produce a card. “I hope you find him. We’ll be in town for the week, you should come by; I am sure they would love to see you again,” she takes my hand to place the card. “And it’d mean a lot to me,” she whispered into my ear, and departed with a kiss on my cheek.
“Well, where do you think Binh would be now? Don’t you have his phone number?” I wanted to act like nothing had changed.
“Maybe the Genie would be able to help us out,” it was clear that I’d not get this wish. Feeling his phone rumble, he pulls it to check. “Look at that, I guess I have his number now. He’s just holding an Uber for us. I mean, I hope that’s him.”
Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, Room 408
Getting here was no magical carpet ride. It was only the ill reputation of Ch-Iraq that kept me from walking. Still, for every joke at my expense, I bid my peace for this oasis of a room. It could have been empty, with just a floor for me to lay on and I’d be happy, for I was alone and it was quiet.
For all of five minutes.
“Red, come on,” came through the door after I ignored the first three knocks.
I think about just ignoring this too, but in my irritated state I bellow, “What!?”
“I found it!” this was Ted’s voice, and his excitement was genuine. Maybe he’d figured out how we’d take down Kael if he beat Troy. GOD knows he was favoured to win the whole thing.
“What’chu find?” I crack the door, but don’t get an answer as he and Grady shove in.
“That’s a smart TV right? Throw it up, Ted,” Grady made himself too comfortable.
So, no, they weren’t gameplanning. At least, not for Kael, or Troy. Were they trying to upset me? Make it so I’d never get a good night’s sleep, and give Ted some edge? Nah, we both wanted a fair fight.
“It’s not the best footage, but kinda shaky cell footage. And you told us there’d be no film of it anywhere,” I don’t know why Ted bothered to try to lower my expectations, I didn’t want to see the thing in the first place.
“You hear that? What do you think they’re saying?” Grady ran commentary on the commentary on the film. “That Russian?”
“Slavic. That’s Bulgaria,” the tour would never hit ice in Russia, at least while I was there.
“Turn up the volume, Ted,” Grady was only missing the popcorn.
‘How’d it come to this?’ I’d pity, if I didn’t know exactly every step of this journey, even that shit. I had occasion to think about that, just where I am, and how much I’d given up to be here these past couple of weeks. Why’d I even bother to stay here.
After wrestling had closed its doors to me back in ‘13, I wasn’t done with the entertainment business. I knew that’s what brought me to the dance in the first place, that want to entertain, and the hollowness without it. How the only booking I could get was on a Disney on Ice tour, but at least that was going to be overseas. I bluffed my way to the gig, with my last skating coming from high school hockey: it’d do for the role of guard #2. Only on the flight out, the guy playing Aladdin gets strep throat and is out for 2 weeks. I don’t know how it was they landed on me, but I suspect it had something to do with Elise, their Jasmine. His voice heals, but he doesn’t get his place back.
“Shh! Shh! Here he comes! Red! Red!?”
I was a thief. I’ve stolen my way in the world, and did what I had to. It was unfortunate that I so readily took torches to every bridge, and my only way forward was through this. Then, and now. I wanted to think I’ve grown, it’s how I spun that eight weeks into my place as stuntman for the past 5 years. All that hard work, and it was coming close to decision time if I was to give it all for this.
“Damn, she’s a hottie!” Ted couldn’t but appreciate to see Elise showing through so near to cold ice.
The things that woman had done to me. How she wouldn’t break character, how she’d never look at me with anything but storybook love. I never loved her, or even wanted her, but her will was mythic. I always thought the story ended before the wedding, though she skipped to the honeymoon, she wanted that happy ending.
“Do you trust me?” I hear myself ask.
Do they? Do you? I don’t.
And then that song. “🎵I can show you the world/Shining, shimmering, splendid!…🎵”
HOW was a whole new world. A new locker room I didn’t fit in with. A new crowd that hasn’t seen a fifth of me yet, and never gave me a reaction, only a reaction against whomever I was plopping on their head that week. I was in the LBI semi-finals, but unable to escape the quicksand of returning legends, new signings and new groups. I’d find a place here in time, but like every other time, I’ve begun to itch. Was it time to watch the beautiful fire dance down another bridge burnt? I was about ready with the fireworks.
“Ah! What? It cuts out here!?” Grady must have been my Abu. Not exactly a partner in crime, but a willing criminal to go along with my thieving. He even had the funny little hat.
“That was surprisingly good,” Ted, my genie friend. Teddy Palmer was the guy that made me a prince, a professional wrestler. He was the difference between me wanting to do this, and not.
“Yeah, why’d I never hear from them looking to get you back?” I don’t know if that’s a compliment, or Grady thinking about money again.
“Her,” I cast my finger to the woman in the flowing cyan pants and crop top.
They finally break from the screen to me, cross-legged at the headboard of my king sized. “But, I could feel it in the airport. She was ready to take you into a bathroom, then and there,” again, Ted’s radar for women was second to none.
“She was crazy. Might still be.”
“But,” Grady whines, “crazy sex is the best sex.”
Ted only nods.
“But they’re still crazy after the sex.”
“So, you’re saying you don’t want to fool around with her again?” Ted could not see past the sex part.
“Absolutely. It’s like the worst rat, times a thousand and one. I’m talking, ‘Danger Will Robinson.’”
“Then, you wouldn’t mind handing me that card she slipped you, good buddy?” I’m surprised I still had it, and didn’t deposit it in the first garbage can, or sidewalk I came across. He takes it from the desk. “You think I should go with Aladdin, or?”
Aladdin was mine. In whatever twisted emotion I still had for this woman, it’d just be fucking creepy to go there. “Prince Eric.”
He smiles and heads for the hallway, phone fished for and busy dialing.
Good luck, Ted. I know he’s a sexual savant, but you need to be limber for what you’re about to volunteer to do.
The Palm Restaurant
March 14, 2020
Sunlight drifts through the windows, the endless amount of windows; that’s the first thing I think when the maitre d’ sat us four. The second was how we didn’t belong in a place like this, with a crowd like this. The glass castle played host to old money and ironic hipsters, not the place you’d find two pro wrestlers, maybe Grady on a scheme, and I don’t really know enough about Binh to suggest one way or the other.
Okay, so maybe it was only me that felt like a pauper playing the prince. Didn’t mean I wasn’t the only one feeling uneasy.
“Anyone scope where the men’s room was in this place?” Ted danced in his seat. When none of us responded to the positive, he got up and assured, “I’ll find it one way or another.”
Having looked over the room for fools to part with their money, Grady slumped in his seat. Having care to look at our table, he notes, “Hey, Red? Why’s there five seats at this table?”
The man who knew the answer had just up and wandered to the can. “Ted booked the reservation. Texted me at like 3 in the morning.” I wanted to think it odd being up at that hour, but again, professional wrestlers. I wanted to think that it woke me up, but nightmares of Elise suffocating me against her breast as she wept wouldn’t let me rest until the Sandman finally dragged me to REM.
“Speaking of 3 AM: Benji, when was it Teddy got back to the room? I mean, you were rooming with him, right?” Grady might get his name right some day. Today was not that day.
Rubbing the bags beneath his eyes, the put-upon former janitor relates, “Was after then. Didn’t check clock, but only knew it was too late.”
“And Ted didn’t want to tell you about it first thing?” Grady had been the unfortunate ear on nights I was busy being an adult.
“Silent, though he mumbled in his sleep,” Binh was reading into it in real time. “Something about Jasmine and a tiger? Or being a tiger? I couldn’t tell.”
“Oh no, I see them,” came from the distance. Shaking the mild cold from her form, Elise stalked over, shedding her cloak. The elegant black dress hugged her, enough to draw eyes from tables and elbows from misusses at those tables. “Hello again, boys.”
Binh is a gentleman, and seats her. I knew to not get within biting range.
“Well, thank you, sir. I don’t believe we’ve had the privilege,” if I’d have seen a forked tongue slither the words, I’d have believed it.
“Elise, this is Binh. He was the friend we were looking for when we crossed paths at the airport.”
“Bambi?” knocks Binh from white knight to blushing squire retaking his own seat.
“Binh, madame. Yes, I am here with Ted.”
“Ted,” she tapped her lips with a finger. “Where would he have gotten to, then? I would hate if he’s late,” the pout was overkill. “I guess I never did tell him when I booked our reservation, and well, I had to use his phone to get the message to you, Ali. I never did think to tell him.”
“Ted? He’s,” I stop as my phone demands my attention. “Sorry,” like it’s any excuse, but I unlock the hive brain and find a message, or series of messages from Ted.
“Ted: Is that her?
Ted: Fuck. She can’t see me.
Ted: I’m going to find a way to the arena.
Ted: See you there.”
Great, another one of Ted’s messes to clean up. Another time i’ve been left to fight the battle alone. Once more responsible to put out fires.
“Ted never did show up. He just let me know that traffic was terrible, with the parade and all,” I motion an arm, but all to get a look out to the boys to play along with the lie.
“Ah, that’s a shame. We’ll have to have a good enough time in his place,” I told you her will was iron. Warped iron, with pink ribbons tied in bows around it, but iron all the same. “He told me that you’ve gone back to that wrestling thing again?” I get this from other pro-athletes, but a skating actress?
“Yes, and tag team partners, although, not tonight. Isn’t that right?” Binh was telling my story for me. I felt at a disadvantage to him, like he knew my life’s story, but I only just got his name down correctly. Between him and Jasmine, it felt like I was fighting a whole locker room.
“Yes, and no. Whatever Ted and I are, we are expected to compete against each other. Brass rings to be won, and all that.”
As I went cross-eyed trying to see them analyzing me. I prayed a waitress would hurry up and take our order, so I could at least pretend to be too busy eating. It was me and Grady against these two. Grady and me stick the world, just like it’ll be in the main event.
- Jackson Dr
“You think Binh’s going to be alright back there?”
“”Better him than us,” was cruel, but just. “Better him than us.”
“God, this traffic,” I was unhappy when we moved a car length per minute, but now everything was snarled to a halt.”This place is a parking lot.”
“Just back out and find another way,” Grady, oh Grady.
“I would, if there weren’t ten cars deep behind me. And to each side of me. And to the front,” I was tired of feeling defeated, but Providence wanted me to wallow a little longer in it, remind me what it felt like to want.
“ Best is going to fine you if you’re not at the arena on time,” the dollars made sense.
“Well, maybe you could text him and let him know. But fuck, it seems like everyone in that office is back to being wrestlers again.” When I added, “Fuck,” it was a prayer for something to make sense again.
“Just park it and we’ll find another way around.”
“Just abandon the car?” I was on the other side of town, technically a whole ‘nother town the way American’s draw their maps; surely the best hope for getting to the AllState Arena before roll call was to stay the path.
“Yeah, it’s a rental. I’ll just call and tell them where the car is. We can walk or find some way to the other side of this, then grab a taxi.”
Whimsy struck, the only real thing I have left, and I heed the request. We’re in the rightmost lane already. I kill the engine, and hop out of the silver Malibu. It’s good to be moving again. I’m half a block away from Grady who finally catches up after the phone call.
“Hey Red, wait up!”
“It gets to me, you know?”
“What does?” he looks concerned.
“Ted, he ditched us, again. Left me to pick up best I could on my own.”
Walking to get in front of me, but it’s hard the closer we push to S Columbus Drive, “Ted didn’t ditch us, you know that girl was crazy.”
“No, what gets me is why I am okay with it? Why do I always rush in to save him?” My third wish was for Ted to be free.
“He doesn’t do it on purpose,” he guessed.
“Nah, he’d do it just to make me sweat. Sometimes I think he really tries to see how much I can save him from.” And now we’re close enough to tell we’ve walked the wrong way. The parade had barricades up, and there wasn’t an over or underpass.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you are such a wonderful crowd,” I know that voice. “I’d like to play a little tune for you, it’s one of my personal favourites. And I want to dedicate it to a friend of mine who’s been having a tough go of it recently.”
What is Ted doing up on a float?
“Alex Redding, this one’s for you.”
“Ted, get down from the float!” I try to call to him before he causes an incident.
It’s no use. Ted’s surrounded by a half-dozen ladies all dressed in Irish garb. He looks as natural as can be. But his singing could use a little work. The gathered masses love it.
🎵Danke Schoen by Wayne Newton🎵
‘You know, for as long as we’ve been in this business, everything works for him. There’s nothing he can’t handle. Me, I can’t handle anything. The politics, the bullshit, the brass rings, Ted can survive anything. I still don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“You’re going to have to fight him, tonight.”
“Yeah, but for what? For the chance to be ganged up on by the Best Jr.’s squad again? To tell you the truth, I don’t even think I want to win this.”
The sidewalk’s not clean enough, pick up your jaw, Grady. “Well, if you ain’t interested in winning, then what are you interested in?”
It hits me like a wave of peace and tranquility, “Nothing.”
And a wind takes place of any conversation until the gust dies.
“You see, I can’t just go out there and lay down for him, though. Even if I don’t want to win, he needs to be pushed. He wouldn’t accept it if I didn’t push him.”
“What do you think he’s going to do out there?”
“He’s going to win the World Title,” I just knew it.
And we walked away as Ted changed the tune, and a marching band joined in.
🎵Twist and Shout by the Beatles🎵
Posted: March 14, 2020 @ 4:00 PM
The image to the left is a little more blunt than anything else he’s posted. His left hand folded into the finger, flipping you off with the crucifix inked there stood out all the more.
One inch short.
One inch short, and one second late.
Not worth worrying about, anymore. What’s done is done, and I can’t fault them for it.
But I can fault one person in particular. The same person that’s mangled my plans since the day I signed on here. The only person who has the power to do that sort of thing. Fuck you, Lee Best.
Fuck you for making me think that we had your confidence to get done what we do best. No, instead you have to overbook everything. You sign the eGG Bandits and tell them to go run out there and do what?
I guess I flew too high to the sun on wings of spite. Next time I get a shot at any gold, I’m going to have to fasten my wings with a little more grit, a little more spit and a whole lot more hatred in my heart.
But then, the match I’ve been waiting for for a decade. The match that’ll put asses in seats to say they were there on the day Red took on Ted to see who the better man was. This was supposed to be an all-timer. We were supposed to leave every bit of it in the ring. Instead, we can’t do that, because it’s only our first match of the night. And it’s probably going to end up on the pre-show, anyways. It’s still the LBI, right? Fuck.
I’m tired of being the scalpel. I am sick of doing this clean. I’m beyond doing what I think is best for this fed. From here out, I’m going to be a sledgehammer. I’ll bludgeon and bloody until I can pick my gold up out of that refuse. I’ll be Goddamned high explosives, and pick my prize out of the rubble I leave behind.
Tonight I take on Ted.
Tonight we take on the winner of Kael and Troy.
Tonight I tell Lee Best in the loudest way possible to go fuck himself.
Nothing cute this week, just your same old,