June 1, 2021
Omoide Yokocho (“Memory Lane”)
Tokyo, Japan; Evening
“That was the wildest thing I think I’ve ever seen,” Ami says, dipping her hand into the box of popcorn that her brother holds, and shoving the handful into her mouth. To her right, Lindsay laughs, happy that the kids are enjoying themselves. They’ve just left a performance at Shinjuku’s Robot Restaurant, a place less like an actual restaurant and more like an utterly insane neon light show spectacular.
For forty-five minutes, the Troy family watched in amazement, and maybe even a little terror, as performers dressed as robots, dragons, ninjas, guitarists on swings, and a plethora of other characters danced and entertained patrons while J-pop music blared through speakers. They elected to pass on the minimal food offerings there, as Lindsay promised to take the twins to dinner after the show.
“No kidding,” Kaz agrees. “I kinda wish more people there looked like they were enjoying themselves. I had fun.”
“I think most people there didn’t know what to make of what was happening,” Lindsay remarks. “But maybe I can get the rest of the Grapplers to go after War Games. Conor and Zion I’m sure would be into it.”
“Where are we going now?” Ami asks as the triad walks down the street past little shops, restaurants and a pachinko parlor. “I thought you said we were getting dinner.”
“We are. We’re going to a place I spent a lot of time at when I was younger and wrestling in Japan. Let’s turn left here.”
A hundred meters away, green neon signs indicate the entrance to narrow alleyways that barely allowed for two people to walk side-by-side, where the chattering sounds of diners, searing meats, and cooking utensils fill the air. Dozens upon dozens of small yakitori stands line each end of the alley, and allies that split off from the main one, and pedestrians wander up and down the pavement looking for the perfect bite to eat.
“This is Omoide Yokocho, or ‘Memory Lane,’” Lindsay says, guiding them forward. “It dates back to post-World War II Tokyo and had to be rebuilt in the late 90s because of a fire. This is what sprung up in its place.”
They walk in silence, taking in the atmosphere of Omoide Yokocho; the yakitori restaurants don’t seat many customers; some as few as eight to a counter. Many stands are full, however the turnover is high, and once someone leaves there is another body there to take their place. Before long, they find one with three empty stools next to each other and take a seat.
“I’m a little surprised we’re not going to Ribera Steakhouse,” Kaz says, looking over the dual English and Japanese menu. “That’s the big ‘wrestler restaurant’ right?”
“Yes it is. I have a jacket from them,” Lindsay smiles at her son. “We’ll still go there before we leave; it’s a really cool place. They have a picture of me on the wall after I won a 60 minute match against a guy I had no love lost for. But I didn’t always go to the big, fancy restaurants when I competed here, even when I could afford to. There’s something about this low-key atmosphere and simple food that spoke to me back then and still speaks to me now.”
The mama-san walks over to take their order of grilled fish, pork belly, the Chef’s platter of yakitori, grilled vegetables, Wagyu beef, and draft beer. The beer is brought hastily, and then the proprietor scurries away to help prepare their order.
“Mom, did you really mean what you said at the press conference today?” Ami asks after a mouthful of beer. “Would you really leave HOW if you don’t win the World Title in six months?”
Lindsay dips her head forward in the affirmative. “I did. It’s a huge gamble I’m taking, and Lee might just tell me to go fuck myself and fire me way before I even get the chance, but with high risk comes high reward.”
She takes her own swig of beer and then wipes her mouth with a napkin. “Besides, when have you two ever known me to go back on my word?”
“I’m sure we could think of a few times if we tried really hard,” Kaz states, confidently. “Do you think anyone is going to take you seriously?”
“I don’t know, kiddo. Honestly, I don’t care if people do or not. I’m taking this, and myself, seriously. That’s the most important thing. I might’ve thrown that statement out there today on a whim, but I didn’t do it flippantly. I did it because I need to hold myself to higher standards, and to hold myself accountable for not doing better here than I believe I should have since I walked in the door two years ago.”
“Pfft,” Ami scoffs. “Maybe you think you should have done better, Mom, but neither of us do. And there’s no denying how absolutely great you are.”
“No kidding,” Kaz agrees. “Like you told Clay earlier, you’re the greatest fucking woman of all time. Nobody can take that away from you. And nobody’s gonna deny you that belt either.”
“Here here!” Ami holds up her mug for a toast. Kaz raises his as well.
Lindsay looks back and forth between her two kids and can’t help but beam. She, too, lifts her beer into the air. “I love you two,” she says, as all three glasses clink together.
June 3, 2021
FATE Legends Dojo
Tokyo, Japan; Morning
It pays to have friends in the business, who don’t mind when you call in favors…sometimes more than one in the span of a couple months.
Daryn Thompson and Bracken Krueger, Lindsay’s former students who helped her and Teddy Palmer with their tag team work prior to their title shot against Jatt Starr and John Sektor, knew the Queen and Company would be in town for War Games. So it came as no surprise to either of them when Lindsay called them up two days ago to ask for their boss, Rex Riktor’s number, in hopes that she and the rest of the 214 could have a place to get their last workouts in without interference from Lee Best or the rest of the Best Alliance.
Once upon a time, Lindsay worked for Rex’s younger brother Scott in the latter’s Florida-based promotion Legacy of Champions. Scott, like Lee, had been trying for years to have her on his roster. The timing was never right, though; during her early years in the business, the Queen traveled too much to be able to commit to the promotion, and when she and Tyler first adopted the twins Lindsay made the decision to come off the road for a time. She had only met Rex a couple times during her LOC tenure, and only briefly, but her ties to his brother and her reputation as both a wrestler and a trainer was enough for the Japanese-based promoter to take an immediate interest in Daryn and Bracken once they graduated from her school. And when she came calling looking for a favor, he was more than happy to open up his facility to her and her team’s needs.
Yesterday was the first day Lindsay had been able to get proper workouts in, keeping true to her plan of two sessions a day. Bracken and Daryn joined her, as well as a few others from FATE’s dojo: Graham Youngblood, a prominent high flyer; and Takayuki Mori and Hisashi Aoki, a brawler and a technician, and the current FATE tag champions. Bracken’s monstrous 6’10” size and Daryn’s technician and submissions background helped round things out. They ran drills and simulated not only the experience of being in the War Games environment, but of the participants on the other side. Double- and triple-team situations were imitated. Although the Queen is no stranger to weaponry and brawling, Takayuki broke out the plunder so she would be prepared. Strategies for isolating each member of the Best Alliance were considered as well as different counters for each BA member’s primary attacks.
For Sektor: repeated, rapid-fire punches to the ear to disorient and rupture the eardrum while in the Sektor Stretch.
A dragon screw leg whip for Harrison’s Enlightenment and Jiles’ Terminal Cancer.
A curb stomp from Jace Parker Davidson can be out-classed by an ace crusher.
A simple drop toe hold can easily fell a Monster from Plainview when he’s looking to connect with a Texas Lariat.
On and on they worked through each member of the Alliance until, finally, the Queen called an end to the afternoon session around 5:00 so she could meet up with some of the 214 for dinner. Things would resume the next morning, however, she’d be bringing in someone new to help the next day.
“I don’t know, Mom,” Kaz says, applying the last bit of tape to his wrists. “I’m not sure I’m the best person for this.”
Lindsay leans into a corner and watches her son; her eldest by two minutes, talented in ways he’s not yet aware of, son, and smiles serenely. “It’s been about ten months now since you came to me and told me you wanted to do this for a living. Did you know that?”
He nods, unsure of where Lindsay is going with this, but starts stretching out nonetheless.
“It was a couple months after last year’s War Games, after I came back from Eric Dane’s attack on me. I told you then that I was done training people because I needed to focus on myself and my career, and I suggested you enroll in Sonny Silver’s school. I wanted to teach you myself; I really did. Ultimately, I wanted you to gain knowledge and experience from someone else. I need that today.”
She walks forward to center ring and waits for Kaz to meet her there. When he finally does, she continues.
“I’ve seen the kids who come out of Sonny’s gym. There are very few who he trains as flyers because he’s always hated flippy-doos. He specializes in wrestlers who ultimately wind up becoming brawlers and technicians, with an emphasis on submissions. He’s sent me your tapes, Kaz. I know how hard you worked, how good you are, how great you’re going to be. Not just because you’re my son, but because I saw it for myself. You are the best person to train with me today because your training with Sonny best complements what I’m going to see on Sunday when I get in the ring against Sutler. Your styles are so similar, you’re both young and insanely quick, and I’m going to need to think twice as hard and three times as fast if I’m going to survive in the cages against him.”
The apprehension that Kaz initially felt leaves his face and his shoulders relax. He cracks a smile, brushing his inky black hair out of his face as he does. “Alright. Just don’t think I’m gonna take it easy on you just because you’re my mom.”
Lindsay can’t help but laugh at that, and then quickly drives her knee into her son’s midsection, doubling him over. “And I won’t take it easy on you just because you’re my son.”
You, my friend, are a soft-headed tiddybitch.
I know you’re somewhere on the USS Lee’s Blue Balls right now, probably forcing Lazer to punt Bobby in the taint or losing a game of hide and seek to Doozer, but I want you to know…sincerely…from the bottom of my heart…that out of everyone else in this gigantic clusterfuck of a match, I am most looking forward to to beating the absolute dog shit out of you.
It’s not because your “Blue Steel” looks more like “Yellow Lead.”
It’s not because I hate your hair, although you should know that I do; it looks like a gibbon lives on your head, which is appropriate since I’d much rather watch a monkey shit into its hands and clap them together than watch anything that comes out of your fucking mouth.
It’s because narcissists like you don’t deserve to breathe my air, so I think I’d much rather see you hooked up to a ventilator instead once Sunday has come and gone.
You peddle in mediocrity, Jiles. For your entire career you’ve been both lucky and stupid, and I see right through you. I’ve always seen right through you; right down to when you were trying to get me to join the Bandits, I knew you had some ulterior motive and I was hip to the game.
You think you’re clever, but I’ve been doing this far longer than you and you’re not so smart that you can’t outsmart me.
I know Zeb’s itching to get his hands on you, to cash in on an overdue receipt, and I surely don’t want to deny him that opportunity. But you should know that I’m gonna get more than my fair share of shots in, pal. Just a little heads-up, from one leader to another.
Douglas MacArthur once said that a true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. The peanut gallery can shit on me all they want, question my leadership skills and point the finger in my direction if the 214 doesn’t get it done at War Games.
But all you’re doing is barking at the moon, because once the dust settles on Sunday? The past will be forgotten, and the present will mark Grapplers Local 214 as the winners of War Games 2021.
June 3, 2021
FATE Legends Dojo
Tokyo, Japan; Early afternoon
“Gave me a run for it, Kaz, I’m proud of you.”
Both mother and son lean against the top rope, sipping room temperature water slowly after their training session. Kaz reaches down to grab a towel, wiping his sweat-soaked face and chest off.
“I didn’t think you’d get out of that reverse triangle,” he admits. “I should have known better.”
“Well, there’s no guarantee I’m going to get out of it on Sunday. If nothing else, I have the experience edge when it comes to submissions and counters over the young Kael prodigy. Just a matter of getting my outside arm on the opposite side of Sutler’s hip, locking my hand away from his grasp, and stepping over with my top leg to stretch his out and away.”
“So what next?” Kaz asks, tossing the towel to the ground. “We going again?”
“No. I’m going to head back to the hotel, get cleaned up, and then go meet Arthur at a….what?”
The expression that Lindsay’s son gives her is one of absolute mortification.
“Ew, why are you going to meet that freak anywhere? Doesn’t he have a shitbag bodyguard to pal around with?”
“He does, but…” Lindsay trails off in thought, then sighs. “It’s for the good of the team. He and I have managed to keep things on an even-keel so far, and I have a feeling my showing up might go a long way.”
“If you say so,” Kaz rolls his eyes, which earns him a swat on the arm.
“The both of you looked great out there,” a third voice chimes in from the background, and the Troys look to their left. Approaching them from a side door is FATE owner, Rex Riktor, his blonde hair slicked back and beard immaculately trimmed.
“I didn’t know we had an audience,” Lindsay replies with a grin. “But I’m glad you think so. Thanks again for the use of your place, Rex; I’ll owe you one.”
“Hey, it’s my pleasure. Glad I could help you out.”
“This is my son, Kaz,” the Queen says, and Kaz holds out his hand for a shake.
“I know,” Rex clasps Kaz’s hand in his. “One of Sonny’s kids. I’ve watched another one of his guys, Jeremy Ryan, tangle with Bracken on quite a few occasions. They have quite the rivalry going. If you’re looking for work, young man, I could use someone like you on my roster.”
“What?” Kaz exclaims, dumbstruck by the offer. “Really?”
“I think you could do well here. You don’t have to let me know today. Your mom has my number. Think it over and give me a call when you’re ready.”
“I…wow, thank you. I’ll do that.”
The chiming of a phone cuts through the gym, and Kaz hops out of the ring. “That’s mine. I’m sorry.” He quickly shakes Rex’s hand and hustles over to his bag to answer it.
“Same offer goes for you, Lindz.”
Lindsay snaps her gaze away from Kaz over to Rex; now it’s her turn to look astonished.
“There’s a spot for you here if you want it, too. No package deal or anything; Kaz’s offer is his own, same as yours. But I’d love to have you work for me. Scott always sang your praises and thought very highly of you. Still does.”
The Queen blinks, processing the proposal and Rex’s kind words. She looks over at Kaz, chatting away to an unknown person on his phone, and thinks about the amazing opportunity the two of them were just presented before shifting her mind to the 214: their mission in HOW, the battle ahead, and to one member of the group in particular.
By the time she returns to the States, her divorce will be finalized, and the journey she’s on with Teddy can continue unimpeded. If she takes this offer, though…
A moment or two passes while Lindsay talks this over in her mind. Finally, she sways her head from side to side. “I appreciate the offer, Rex, but I have unfinished business in High Octane Wrestling. I have a War Games match and a world title to win. I’m committed to doing that, to accomplishing something that a lot of people don’t believe I can do, and that one person in particular doesn’t want me to do…”
Riktor nods his head, solemnly. “I understand.”
“…I’m not finished,” Lindsay says. “You have my number. Call me in six months and ask me again.”