“Just call him.”
As usual, he’s speaking to no one. Michael Lee Best stares down at the highlighted name in his contact list, contemplating how many more bridges truly need burning before he finally gets his ego in check. If there was any one human being on planet Earth who could explain to the Son of God exactly what the fuck is happening right now, it’s Cecilworth M. Farthington.
But he can’t make the call.
The reasons why are complicated, and maybe another story for another day, but suffice it to say that the most confrontational human in modern wrestling just isn’t ready for whatever that confrontation looks like. Not today. Not with the elephant that is otherwise filling the rest of the room, sucking the oxygen out of it nearly wholesale.
“Fuck.” Michael sighs, tossing the phone sideways.
He runs a hand over the now soft, fine hairs that cover the entire top of his skull. He’s overdue for a haircut— maybe it’s time to let it run a little wild again. “Like father, like son” has gotten him into more trouble lately than it was worth… the rage fueled outbursts, the near relapses… maybe it was time to become his own man again.
Better late than never.
Maybe it’s just a nostalgic sort of day.
Max Kael is still alive. Is alive again? Has a weird imposter pretending to be him and cash in on his legacy? Has been reincarnated into the body of a hyper advanced android with red glowing eyes and world domination on his mind? Honestly, any of them are a distinct possibility— when it comes to the thought to be deceased brother of Michael Lee Best, the only impossibility to consider is that anything is impossible.
“I should just call.” He mutters, with a sigh.
It’s been a long time since they last spoke. Long for them, anyway. There was a time that it was strange for even a single day to pass without wrestling’s greatest friends having some kind of a chat about the state of things, but over the last year things had changed. Life got in the way. Drama got in the way. A series of terrible miscommunications got in the way. Maybe that’s just what happens.
Maybe even best friends can grow apart.
Even still, there’s zero possibility that if Max Kael is truly alive and well in PRIME Wrestling, Cecilworth doesn’t know how and why. For so many years, they were the fucking Illuminati of professional wrestling. The dark spectre hanging over the industry. The best friends that controlled the world. One phone call could provide answers. Clarity. Closure. All it would take was picking up the phone.
The phone stares back at him from the couch.
It’s gonna be a zero closure day.
“I watched him die.” Michael nearly whispers, flatly.
His eyes stare blankly at the plain white wall in front of him, his elbows resting on his knees. If there was any one person in the universe who could verify that Maximilian Kael had ceased to be, it was the man who effectively murdered him. Three years of sleepless nights. Three years of ghosts, haunting him as he stared at the ceiling, trying to get the visions out of his mind’s eye. He had watched Max Kael die. Not just watched, but helped facilitate it in the first place. A literal death match that had covered nearly every inch of real estate at Alcatraz, ending only when Max ran headlong and eye first into a rusted out IV stand.
Michael watched him die.
He held Max’s hand as he took his last breath.
“I need a fucking drink.” Michael huffs, as he stands slowly from the couch.
It’s a meaningless statement. There isn’t a drop of alcohol in the house, nor can there be. So much as a little too much cough syrup and two weeks from now he’s going to be deeper in the powder than a Swiss Olympic skier, and the temptation is always there. But there’s Max’s face— or at least some version of it— staring back at him from the frozen pause or a television screen.
He looks so young.
It’s not a perfect facsimile. Normal teeth. Two eyes. Doesn’t look more than mid-twenties. It’s as though someone ripped Max Kael’s body from a time warp, before HOW had tainted every inch of his soul. Because that’s what HOW does, make no mistake about it. It latches onto your soul and leeches little pieces of it away, piece by piece, and replaces it with something darker. Some of us learn to embrace it. To roll with it. To make that darkness a part of us, and let it guide us toward what we shall ultimately become. But others? It consumes them.
Max was one of the poisoned masses.
It happened slower than most. The majority of them burn out and wither in a matter of weeks, or months. For Max Kael, it had taken over a decade. An agonizing death, far slower than the one that HOW fans watched play out at Rumble at the Rock. When HOW rose from the ashes in 2019, Max just came back… wrong. Bitter. Mean and angry, and resentful toward the world. He wasn’t fun to hang out with anymore. Wasn’t fun to talk to. The Group of Death became an awkward place, with everyone feeling like they were walking on eggshells all the time around him. For the last couple of years. Michael had resigned himself to the fact that a literal death match was ultimately the only way things could have ended. That there was no alternative. No other way things could have gone. It’s the only thing that had calmed the nightmares. The only thing that had kept the demons at bay.
But now he’s alive.
All in all, Michael Lee Best didn’t know how to feel. Confused. Bewildered. Suspicious. Was this really Max? Was it some piece of shit cashing in on the legacy of his dead brother? Why the fuck would Lindsay Troy sign off on bringing someone like Max to work for PRIME, without even giving Michael a heads up that he was still alive?
Something wasn’t right.
Something about this just didn’t add up.
It couldn’t be real. He’d seen a death certificate. He’d been to a funeral. For fuck’s sake, he’d held the man’s hand while he literally died in his brother’s arms. Whoever this guy walking around in Max Kael’s skin was, there was no fucking chance he was the real Max.
He must be an imposter.
And Michael Lee Best was going to learn the truth.
Jace Parker Davidsonnnnn.
Been a minute, my man. Last time I saw you, you were being a little pissbaby and getting your shit knocked out inside of the steel cage, whining about it all the while. Hate to harp on the unfortunate nature of our last meeting, but since we literally haven’t spoken since then, it’s really all I have to latch on to.
How you doing, guy?
Stoked for the rematch?
See, we get to do it your way, this time. Four corners, canvas, no cage. You did a lot of pissing and moaning last time, since we were playing by my rules, so I have to assume that you’re real excited this time around. No popcorn. No yawning and sitting backward on a chair, like you’re too cool for all of it. And I’m certain that you think you have the advantage here, and that I’m afraid of this match. So let me correct the record for you:
I’m so fucking hyped, Jace.
Every lazy motherfucker on the planet tells me that HOFC is my safe space, or the only place I can win matches anymore. They can’t do what I do, so they like to pretend that my strengths are a weakness. Conor did it, and then he found out. You did it, and then you found out. A lot of people fucked around, Jace, and all of them found out. So I’m hyped, man. I’m excited. You know on a level that very few people around here know anymore. You know what I can do in that ring. You know that I’m not a one trick pony. And with your help? With the HOW LSD Championship on the line? You’re gonna help me show everyone else, too.
But hey, it’s your lucky week.
It’s in my nature to shit all over anyone unfortunate enough to step into the ring with me. To get so overly competitive and I burn bridges, break friendships, and forsake everything in my path in the name of winning above all else. But with my brother suddenly showing up in PRIME, seemingly alive and well, it’s got me in a weird fuck headspace. So you and I? I’m gonna tackle this a little different, this time around.
You and I were friends, once.
Maybe we still are. Not sure. I think you took the shit I said before our HOFC match a little more to heart than you lead on, since we literally haven’t spoken since. I hope that you’re doing well, man— you had a hell of a match against STRONK at 97 Red, and even though you came up short, I don’t think it hurt you at all. Looked like a million bucks out there. Been a hot minute since you stepped into a main event World Title match, and I’d be proud of the effort that you put in. STRONK is gonna be a hard dude to beat for anyone. Much respect. It was fun to watch.
And I do respect you, Jace.
I respect you as a man. As a wrestler. As a guy who I used to ride with. You’re the number two ranked HOW wrestler of all time, truly a member of the 99 Club, second only to me. That’s a hell of an achievement. You don’t take anyone’s shit, you speak your mind even when what you say might be caveman as fuck. You aren’t a soft little flower like half the rest of the industry has become. I don’t say shit like this as often as I should, because shit talk is so second nature to me, and I looooove to be the piece of shit that everyone just assumes I am anyway. But I feel like it’s important to step outside of that persona now and again and show a little love. So, much love, my man.
But real talk?
It’s time for a battle.
I have a lot to prove, Jace. Like I said— lot of motherfuckers these days are throwing a lot of shade about how I can’t go anymore. About my “caged safe space”. This LSD Championship rematch? It’s not just an opportunity for you, buddy, it’s an opportunity for me. A chance to remind these soft fucks that I’m not just some guy who plays Mike Best on TV. A chance to remind them that there’s a reason I’m not just the number one HOFC fighter in HOW history, I’m also the number one wrestler.
I made my bones wrestling.
I won ten HOW World Championships by wrestling. Not in a cage. Not just talking trash. Not just knocking dudes out. And while I find it a whole lot less interesting these days than fighting for my life inside of a cage, the idea that I can’t do it anymore is laughable. The wrestling world seems to have forgotten. Started sleeping on the sleeping giant, forgetting what might happen if their cackling ever woke me up.
My nap is over, Jace.
I’m wide the fuck awake.
You and I have never truly had a banger. We had it out a few times last era, and the matches were fine, but my heart wasn’t in it. We went to war in the cage, but your heart wasn’t in it. Well this time, and I don’t know about you, Jace, but I’m all in. I’m ready to fucking rock and roll. I’m ready to tear this fucking house down and give the world the match they’ve deserved from us for a long time, and I’m going to do it high on one of the most potent drugs in existence.
So many people have talked shit about both of us over the years, and 97% of them won’t do it in front of our faces. Whispers in corridors. Messages in shitty side discords. We’re the two greatest wrestlers in HOW history by the legit numbers, and half these motherfuckers couldn’t lace our boots. So let’s go to war, Jace. Let’s take a stranglehold over this LSD Championship and make it the must-have title in HOW. Let’s step into that ring, running on pure fucking spite and vitriol, and let’s have a match that reminds people exactly who the fuck we are.
Good luck out there, Mr. Davidson.
I’m gonna make sure you need it.
…all due respect.