At the end of a long day and following a very strenuous workout at the Gold Standard Wrestling Academy in St. Louis, Adam Ellis couldn’t wait to get back to his apartment.
Traffic. The ride home seemed to take forever.
For twenty miles on every freeway Adam took, the traffic movement pattern consisted of:
Adam whapped the steering while a couple times. Tonight, Missouri Valley Wrestling pitched their circus tent at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana and he wanted to get home in time to watch Wrestling Night in the Heartland.
Unfortunately, St. Louis traffic wasn’t being very cooperative.
Not unlike the weights today during his workout which proved to be more of a chore. For some reason, Adam was just ‘off’ today. His focus wavered at times when thoughts about Kelly and what happened the past Saturday crept into his mind. Several times, Adam had to shake his head in a futile attempt to reset himself and concentrate on the work that needed to be done.
March to Glory was thirteen days away. Adam knew he had to be at his best and to be at his best he needed to be on task and working hard. Conor Fuse and David Noble were opponents of caliber of which Adam had yet to go up against inside the ring.
Complicating the match prep was the fact that John Sektor accepted Arthur Pleasant’s challenge for his LSD title. That meant that by the time their match came around, John will have already wrestled a full match against one of the most dangerous wrestlers in HOW. That meant that Adam couldn’t half-ass his training. He needed to be prepared. He needed to be ready for any and every contingency when John and him went up against two of the best wrestlers in the world.
Further interfering in his desire to have a single-minded, putting everything else off to the side attitude to his training regimen, the Saturday night text session with Victoria McGill. Adam had returned home for a weekend to relax, refresh, and clear his mind before he got down to business. Tori texted him and then asked if he was in St. Louis. Unfortunately, he was three and a half hours away near Kansas City- a fact he silently rued while attending church with his parents Sunday morning and then throughout the trip back Sunday afternoon.
He’d hoped that maybe Tori would text back later that day. But she didn’t. In fact, Adam texted her on Sunday and again on Monday with no response. He wasn’t sure what was up other than Tori just going dark for a couple days.
Finally, the green rectangular road sign marking the “Old Route 21, Meramec Hts.” exit FINALLY appeared in the distance ahead. Ellis eased his car to the right onto the exit ramp and slowed his 2010 Volkswagen Jetta with just a little bit of mileage on it (193,556 miles to be exact) down. He passed the Outer Road sign and made a right turn onto the road. Immediately on the left, the entrance to the Woodglen Apartments. Ellis stopped in the roadway and let an oncoming vehicle pass by. Then he turned the Jetta into the driveway and parked in front of the building where his unit was.
Once he turned the car off, Adam drew in a deep breath. He grabbed his duffel bag and went into his apartment.
Woodglen Apartments- Arnold, Missouri
After a quick shower and even quicker dinner, Adam flipped his flatscreen television and turned the channel to HOTv.
Wrestling Night in the Heartland had just started. Thunderbolt Smith and ‘Long Haul’ Rick Hall were sitting behind the broadcast desk and running down tonight’s show. The Stevens Dynasty aka Bo and George Stevens with Cary Stevens faced Hollywood reality stars turned wrestler the Kardoucheian Empire in the first match. Scott Stevens’s wife Lisa Barbosa-Stevens would be in the main event challenging Shizuko Yamazaki for the Women’s title.
But that’s not why Adam’s watching the show.
As soon as Hall finished previewing the matches, the first segment of the show came on- the Jill Berg Enterprises corporate meeting. Jill does what most corporate CEO’s do, talk… talk… talk… blah… blah… blah.
Adam nodded off for a second until he heard the words…
“Tori McGill with a vicious right hand to Lani Harlot!”
Thunderbolt’s play by play snapped him back to attention. MVW had showed a clip from Tori’s match on Saturday.
Jill Berg then appears on screen and explains how JBE flew Tori down to Barbados last week for a big photo shoot.
One of those photos of Tori on the beach in a bikini debuted on MVW last week. One of the dirt sheet blogs got their hands on a leaked photo- a topless photo of her- and posted it on his site.
And yes, Adam did check it out.
He watched Tori on the big screen and the thing that stood out to him was that she seemed a little haggard. Tired. Sluggish. And definitely embarrassed when Jill anointed her as the ‘Face of Jill Berg Enterprises’ and unveils a picture of Tori with arms criss-crossed across her chest looking forward with a ‘visionary stare.’
Adam thinks she looked fantastic in the picture.
Tori sees the picture and looks away shaking her head.
Jill Berg: The picture portrays Tori as a strong confident woman and will help bring attention to Jill Berg Enterprises to project a strong commitment to quality.
While Jill blathers on in corporate speak about how JBE will do everything possible to push Tori towards the title, Adam watches Tori for her reaction and notices she clearly doesn’t look the part of a strong confident woman at the moment.
Maybe the pressure is starting to get to her. That’s why she reached out to me Saturday night. She needed someone to talk to.
“I’m such an idiot.” Adam facepalms. He wished he could have been there for her because of all people, Adam could certainly could relate to the pressure Tori was experiencing.
Did Adam feel the pressure now that he would be wrestling in the main event at March to Glory for the tag team title? Oh hell yes. In the tag team tournament, literally every match he wrestled seemed to be the biggest match of his career.
At March to Glory? Yeah. BIGGEST MATCH OF HIS CAREER.
To cope with stress and pressure, Adam usually worked out and put a little more juice behind what he did from weight training, running on a treadmill, and practicing in the ring. That approach had worked wonders for him up to now. Well, that is until today when he found himself fending off the thoughts drifting back into his mind about the confrontation with Kelly Saturday night and further kicking himself on not being in St. Louis when Tori texted him.
One thing Adam knew for sure- it was going to be a long two weeks.
Conor Fuse is the arguably the best wrestler in HOW at this moment. Period.
If he stays in HOW, David Noble will also win gold sooner than later.
This is a team that was cobbled together a week or two into the tournament and started out at -1 points. Fuse and Noble fought back and defeated the dysfunctional grease fire known as Team MVW. Then, in a high pressure, high stakes match with EVERYTHING on the line, Fuse and Noble faced off against two of the most dangerous men you will face in HOW- Jeffrey James Roberts and Arthur Pleasant… The Devil’s Advocates. Fuse and Noble needed a win to put them in a tie with Roberts and Pleasant pending Steve Harrison and Chris Kostoff’s final match. A loss and they would have been finished and we’d probably be facing Roberts and Pleasant at March to Glory.
Well, Fuse and Noble won in a real hard-fought match where either team could have easily walked away with the win while Harrison and Kostoff lost in explicatively to Team MVW. So Noble Gaming moved on.
After we defeated Zion and Azula, I stayed and watched their semi-final match from the back. I wanted to get a good luck at our opponents. I was impressed with Darkwing and Bobbinette Carey. I was really impressed with Conor Fuse and David Noble. There’s no doubt in my mind that Fuse and Noble will be- if they aren’t already- a great tag team.
But I believe we’re going to win the match at March to Glory.
What? What did he say?
Yeah. I said. I believe we are going to win the match at March to Glory.
Now I can hear everyone now going ‘oh my god, what is he thinking… what is he doing?’ What makes this wet behind the ears rookie who was wrestling talent enhancement matches in the minor leagues of wrestling a year ago think that he can help John Sektor defeat Conor Fuse and David Noble. Oh no, he’s biting off more than he can chew. He’s opening his mouth when he should just keep it shut.
Yeah, I can hear it and trust me, it’s not bravado. I am not talking out of my ass nor am I writing checks that my ability and talent can’t cash. I believe that we are going to win.
Why do I say I believe we’re going to win?
Because I have to.
I have to believe we will win. I have to think that we will win. I have to believe that I am capable of competing with two great wrestlers and capable of wrestling at that high of level to help Sektor and I win.
When John Sektor and I climb through the ropes and into the ring on Sunday March 27th, I have to go in with a mindset that we are going to win the match. I have to feel that despite the gaping hole in experience between Fuse, Noble, Sektor, and myself that I have the ability… that I belong in that ring with them… that I’m capable of wrestling a match with them… that I am going to do everything in my power to leave that ring with one half of the tag team title.
If I go into the match thinking I’m the weak link of the team… if I go in thinking that Sektor’s going to have to pick up the slack for me… that I’m going to be overwhelmed by the occasion and get my clock cleaned by two veteran wrestler at the top of their craft… we’re screwed.
We’re not doing that. Adam Ellis is NOT going into the match thinking he’s the weak link. Adam Ellis is not going in there thinking that a good performance in a losing effort is enough. No. That’s not acceptable to me.
We may lose the match but it’s not going to be because Adam Ellis didn’t do everything in his power and his God-given talent to help us win the match. It’s not going to be because I used my lack of experience as a crutch to rationalize losing the match… or because I backed off instead of stepping up at the moment of truth.
If John Sektor and Adam Ellis lose at March to Glory, we’re going to lose because Fuse and Noble won the match- not because some untested, untried, inexperience rookie couldn’t hold up under the bright lights of a pay per view main event match.
It’s either we win or we lose. No rationalizing.
No ‘at least we tried hard.’
No ‘it’s okay, we did the best we could.’
There will be no settling for a moral victory.
There will be no excuses.
Nope. Win or lose. There is no in-between. There’s nothing else.
So, is Adam Ellis ready for this moment? Am I ready to step up to the plate? Am I ready to compete at this level against the best of the best?
I have to be.
And as God as my witness, I will be.
If we lose, then dammit, I’m going pick myself right back up and go back to work. I’m going to keep coming back and coming back until I get where I want to go… to the top.
But I have to believe that the bell rings and we engage with Conor Fuse and David Noble that we are going to win the match.
It’s not grandstanding.
It’s not empty boasting.
It’s not bravado.
It’s the way it’s got to be.
Q and A- The Best Arena- Chicago, IL
At the first pay per view press conference at the Best Arena in Chicago, Sektor and Ellis answer a series of questions from the local media and reporters and personalities from several wrestling shows and blogs. Per usual, Adam defers to John on most questions.
When he does answer a question he keeps to the same mantra: a good performance in a losing effort is not good, we may lose the match but won’t be because Adam Ellis didn’t do everything in his power nor will it be because he used his lack of experience as a crutch to rationalize losing the match.
Both Sektor and Ellis exchanged glances. Sektor appeared very pleased with how the young Ellis handled himself in this arena. Ellis smiled. He was having fun sparring with the media.
The last question of the night.
“Jason Whatley. The “You Know I’m Right” wrestling blog,” a guy in a ruffled, needing a good ironing in the worst possible way, shirt and bad hair said, standing up. “Good evening Adam. Can you comment on the current state of your relationship with Victoria McGill?”
Surprisingly, up to this point the questions had mainly stuck to HOW, March to Glory topics. Whatley’s query represented the first foray into Adam’s personal life. He’d prepared himself for the question and answered confidently, “Sure. We’re friends.”
“Even though you’ve been photographed together.”
Adam shrugged. “We’ve met a few times. I used to work with Tori at Missouri Valley Wrestling.”
“Just friends?” Whatley persisted.
Off to the side, Sektor sensed something was up. He stepped in. “Well folks, Adam and I want to thank you for coming out-
“I see.” Whatley interrupted. The blogger then pulled a picture out of his duffel bag. “I just wanted to show you the picture that we just uploaded to the “You Know I’m Right” blog. We’re breaking news here tonight.”
Adam took the picture from Whatley.
Sektor’s face turned white.
Adam’s face turned bright red. “What?”
Whatley’s face radiated smugness. He pulled another copy of the picture out and held it up for everyone to see. “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s John Sektor getting into a cab with Victoria McGill.”
Eyes transfixed on the picture that clearly showed Sektor helping Tori into a cab outside a bar, Adam vaperlocked. He shut down. Every conceivable emotion flooding through him.
Whatley wasn’t done though. He then produced more photos.
Sektor and Tori at the River City Casino on the south side of St. Louis. Sektor was gambling. Tori was hanging all over him… drink in hand.
Sektor and Tori at the River City Casino hotel checking into a hotel room.
And then the last photo, Sektor dropping her off at home Sunday morning- about the same time that Adam was in church with his parents.
“Apparently, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I remember Mommy McGill having a bit of a reputation too,” Whatley said, tone of voice bordering on taunting the young man. “Like mother, like daughter.”
Adam turned to Sektor, mouth open but unable to communicate.
“Adam, I can explain,” stammers Sektor.
“So,” Whatley continued, “does this mean you guys are not only tag team partners inside the ring, you both are tag team partners outside the ring when it comes to Miss McGill?”
The air went out of the room.
Adam whipped around.
Eyes on Whatley’s face and his fucking self-righteous, holier than thou, shit eating grin, Adam’s face went beet red.
He started to shake.
Sektor saw Adam’s fist ball up.
“Shit,” Sektor muttered. He knew it was about to hit the fan.
“Adam, no,” Sektor said.
*Zero* Sektor reached out to attempt to restrain him.
But he was too late. By the time Sektor reacted, Adam was already on top of Whatley and pinging right hands off his face. He’d exploded over the table, caught his foot on the edge and turned the table over on its side, and literally speared Whatley right out of his shoes.
Chairs went flying. People scattered.
Sektor scrambled over the overturned table and tried to pull Adam back. Adam’s left hand shoved Sektor away and he continued to pound the hell out of the poor blogger who was a bloody mess by now.
Seconds later with Sektor and others now trying to pry Ellis off of Whatley, the EPU came flying into the room and the whole event devolved into complete chaos.
Later that night…
MVW Headquarters- St. Louis, Missouri
Ten fifteen o’clock at night.
Ray McAvay pulled into the parking lot of MVW Headquarters. He’d received a courtesy phone call from the St. Louis Police that it appeared a light was left on in the building. So Ray made the trip into town to check things out and make sure nothing funny was going on.
The first thing he noticed- yes, there was a light on inside.
The second thing he noticed. A familiar Volkswagen Jetta parked adjacent the building.
McAvay unlocked the door and headed inside. The second he stepped through the door he heard a most unmistakable sound.
Wry smile from Ray. The sound he’s hearing is not just your garden variety ‘whack’ but an very angry *WHACK* that echoed throughout the otherwise empty building. McAvay made his way down the hall towards the weight room.
Peeking his head in, he’s not surprised in the least to see Adam Ellis feverishly, furiously working on the weight machine with a ferocity he’d never seen from him before.
“Bad day at the office?”
“Oh shit.” Adam jumped at the sound of McAvay’s voice interrupting the rhythm and fever pitch of the workout and nearly fell off the bench.
“Look kid, since you still have a key to the place, I don’t mind you coming in here. But you gotta take it easy on the equipment.” McAvay smiled and attempted to lighten the mood.
It doesn’t. Adam leaned forward and placed his head against a steel support.
Ray nodded. “Yeah, I heard. My phone blew up around five o’clock for a good two hours straight. I will say that the look on that schmuck Jason Whatley’s face was priceless. I don’t think he figured for a moment that you would actually flip the table over and go after him. But yeah, it’s all over the wrestling news.”
Closing his eyes now, Adam shook his head.
“Adam, Tori’s a good kid, she really is. She’s usually level headed when it comes to this stuff but it’s also pretty clear that she’s been under a tremendous amount of pressure of late. She went out. She got drunk, ran into John… and it was a perfect storm… alcohol, bad decision making… two consenting adults… and John is John when it comes to women.”
The answer does not allay the youngster’s feelings in least.
“I don’t think it was done on purpose,” McAvay added. “But. You and Tori weren’t necessarily dating, were you? You both have been dancing around the subject for a few weeks now.”
Awkward silence. McAvay could see the hurt and the betrayal etched all over the youngster’s face. He took a deep breath and tried a different approach.
“All right. Look Adam, people have been trying to call you all night… John Sektor called me. He’s been trying to-“
Adam cut him off. “I turned my phone off. John Sektor is the last person I want to talk to right now.”
“I see. What about Tori? I know she tried call-“
Adam again cut Ray off, “I don’t want to talk to her either.”
Ray walked over and sat down on a bench at an adjacent weight machine. “All right kid. News flash. There are assholes in this industry. Major assholes. This kind of shit is the currency Jason Whatley deals in.”
No reaction from Adam.
“That being said,” Ray went on, taking a more serious tone, “This ain’t high school, Adam. This is the big leagues… a business. You’re a professional now. You probably shouldn’t have jumped over the table and attacked Whatley…”
That elicited an incredulous response from Adam. “But-“
“Nope,” McAvay continued. “Again… you… are… a… professional. No matter what the provocation was, no matter how disgusting his words were, and they were, you no-sell the hell out of it. You smile and walk away. You don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing that he got so far under your skin and so far into your fucking head that all you can do is jump over a table at a press conference for a major pay per view and attack him. You have to be better than that Adam. You have to be-”
“Aw bullshit Ray,” a voice with a distinct Southern drawl called out from the hall.
Adam’s head jerked up. He knew that voice.
Turned towards the opening of the weight room, the massive 330-pound frame of one ‘Redneck’ Bill Dickinson filled up much of the space.
“I left a couple thing in my locker and heard some talking,” Dickinson said, explaining why he, too, happened to be at MVW headquarters late in the evening.
Ellis appeared more than a little apprehensive at the sudden appearance of the man who not too long ago gave him three consecutive Southern Fried Powerbombs and put him out of commission for a few weeks.
“But I’m calling bullshit on you Ray,” Dickinson continued. “Jesus Christ, the kid’s twenty-one years old trying to swim with the sharks. He’s not a robot and he shure as hell wasn’t ready to handle an ambush… hell forget ambush… that was a Pearl Harbor job.”
“Bill, it’s not that simple,” Ray responded.
“The hell it ain’t,” spat back Dickinson. “I don’t give damn how old you are… who the hell it is or what the hell he is, some guy talks like that about my woman, your goddamn right I’m coming over that table and that boy is gonna get fucked up.”
Confused, and more so, surprised at the fact that Dickinson sided with him in regards to his response to Jason Whatley, Adam leaned in and listened.
“As far as I concerned,” Bill concluded. “Whatley got off easy. Real easy. If it’s me, that boy’s gettin’ stretchered out… if he’s lucky… if he says anything like that about someone I care about. That’s what I would do.”
A few more seconds passed.
“So,” Adam finally said. “What should I do now?”
Ray exhaled. “Go home. Take a long shower. Stay away from the dirt sheets. This storm will pass and tomorrow’s a new day.”
Adam nodded in acknowledgement.
McAvay then counseled Adam, “If you want to train here for a couple days, go for it. But at some point, Adam, you need to call Sektor and you need work this out.” He immediately sensed resistance from Adam. “You need to work this out. At the end of the day, yes, he owes you an apology and he needs to make good on that. But you are both professionals and you both have a job to do. You’re going to have to find a way to work through this because you have a tag team title match in less than ten days.” Ray put an emphasis on what he said next. “Adam, this is the opportunity you wanted and everything you’ve worked for. It’s right there for you. Don’t let it slip away. Not now.”
Adam stared at Ray. Then for some reason, he looked over at Bill Dickinson.
“You gonna be okay kid,” Dickinson said in as gentle of tone you’ll get from the 330-Pound Southern Brawler. “Promise.”
Strangely reassured, Adam nodded. “All right. Forget about today.” He reached for his duffel bag for a towel to wipe the sweat off.
“Get back to work tomorrow.”