“The fuck happened to you, Tyler?”
The footage is freeze framed on the screen, hard paused at the moment of most critical failure. The back of Tyler Adrian Best’s skull rests in shambles against the Great Lakes Championship belt in the center of the ring, his expression a mess of pain and confusion as the referee’s hand comes down for the final three count.
But the count never finishes.
The screen remains paused.
Michael Lee Best sets the remote down on the desk in front of him, leaning back his chair and kicking his feet up. It’s the third time that he’s backed up the footage and then played it through, always pausing on that three count. Always pausing on the pained expression of Tyler Adrian Best, mere seconds before losing his championship at Aftershock. His eyes slowly move from his digital son to the one standing before him in flesh and blood, but Tyler’s eyes refuse to meet his. The disgraced former PRIME number one contender, and now former Great Lakes Champion, can only look at the floor.
“I asked you a question.” Michael says, flatly. “It wasn’t rhetorical.”
The God of Sons rubs his thumb and forefinger over the bridge of his nose, before washing his whole hand over his face. He doesn’t want to answer the question. Doesn’t even really feel like he owes anyone an explanation. But he also knows that the sooner he gets this over with, the sooner he can leave.
“He just got me, bro.” Tyler shrugs, still avoiding eye contact. “Ain’t like nobody ever got you before. Shit just happens. Any given night, right?”
Michael softly nods his head, but the expression on his face doesn’t imply agreement. He slowly mulls the words over, before looking back up.
“He just… got you.” Michael repeats, with a disappointed smirk. “Got it. Cool. Any given night, I feel you. I feel you.”
The LSD Champion folds his hands in front of him on the desk, leaning forward in his chair.
“Any given night.” he mutters again, slower. “Yeah, Ty. It was any given night when on any given night, I was wrestling Hall of Famers. When Shane Reynolds, or John Sektor, or the real, actual Max Kael might pop up on the booking sheet any given night. I sent you to PRIME, Tyler. I sent you to the fucking Canadian Football League. And you dropped the ball. Humiliated yourself. Humiliated me. Humiliated this entire company. I put you on easy mode and you fucking failed, Tyler. So what did I do? I brought you home.”
The Son of God shakes his head, laughing despite himself.
“…and I sent you to fucking developmental.” he scratches his head. “No, sorry. Not just sent you. I created an entire fucking developmental for you. Took fucking promo shots of you with the belt, Tyler. You want to talk about fucking nepotism? I dealt you a fucking Blackjack off the bottom of the deck, and you still managed to bust out. The Gameboy? Fucking… Neckbones Jones? What in the name of a fucking bingo hall?”
Michael Lee Best can feel the flop sweat coagulating at the very top of his brow, his whole temperature beginning to rise. He shouldn’t be this upset, right? His first year was far from perfect, and it took him a whole calendar year to make it to his first HOW World Championship. At this point in his career, Tyler Adrian Best has already done things that took his father years to accomplish, and even a few things that his father has never accomplished at all. And yet as he sits at this desk, looking at his son, he can’t help but feel anger. Embarrassment.
TEN-X. The last slot at War Games. The PRIME Experiment. XPRO. For two years now, Michael had been stacking every deck at his disposal to try and turn his son into a success. But why? The Son of God had always prided himself on the fact that despite everyone claiming he’d been given special treatment his whole career, he’d always managed to do things on his own. The greatest accomplishments of his career had been done in opposition to Lee Best, not alongside him. So why stack the deck for Tyler? Why hand him absolutely everything? Why give him things to make his life easier, when Michael himself had always thrived when things were at their hardest?
It just felt… desperate.
You can only wrestle for so long before your body gives out. You can only come out of retirement so many times before people stop caring. You can only do so much to add to a legacy before you need something more. For as successful as Michael Lee Best has been as a wrestler, every wrestler that he’s ever trained has ultimately failed. Great Scott failed. Alex Beckman failed. Gino Giordano failed. But Tyler? Tyler was a Best. Tyler was blood. Tyler was a direct reflection of his father, and so far that reflection had been… fine.
Tyler Best was a good wrestler.
And maybe that was a fate worse than failure.
“I don’t know what you want from me.” Tyler finally looks up, his eyes filling with resentment. “Man, I’m grateful for all these opportunities and shit. I appreciate what you’ve done for me. But man, I don’t fucking know you. You told me you were my dad and then like… four months later, you shipped me off to fucking Vegas by myself. Now I’m wrestling down at XPRO by myself. And bro that’s fine. Seriously. I don’t fucking need you. But this on again, off again, father-son bullshit is making my fuckin’ head spin.”
He steps toward the desk, putting his hands down on either side and leaning in toward his father.
“I’m not you.” Tyler scoffs. “And that’s the problem. Same as you and your dad. He wanted Lee Best Junior and he got Michael Lee Best. And now after all that bullshit is said and done and y’all are good, all the sudden you want Mike Best Junior and you got me. I am not you. I will never be you. And whatever mid-life crisis you’re having ain’t my fuckin’ problem, dude. This is my life and my career, and as my boss, you can fucking fire me or you can keep me on, but I don’t need a father in my ear if he’s trying to turn me into something I’m not.”
He pushes away from the desk, headed for the door. Michael stops him though, putting a hand into the air as he objects.
“We’re not done here, Tyler.” Michael begins, his voice rising in anger. “We need to–”
“Go fuck yourself, man.” Tyler laughs, boldy interrupting. “I’m out. Oh, and you fucking lost a World Title to Scott Stevens. Don’t forget THAT shit.”
The youngster slams the door behind him, leaving Michael Lee Best in the office by himself.
This wasn’t how this was supposed to go.
His son was right– they’d hardly spoken since Tyler went down to XPRO, and truth be told they were barely speaking before that. For all the work that Michael had been doing on himself over the last year, he was still a long way away from what anyone might think of as “healthy”. The flagrant narcissism was as real as ever. The self delusion was as real as ever. The out of control ego… that might be something that never goes away. In his mind’s eye, he may even truly believe that he’s trying to help Tyler Best become the best that he deserves to be. But like most things involving the Son of God, it’s misplaced intention at best.
Tyler is right.
Michael is trying to create another him.
It’s the greatest, most terrible irony there could be– the man who constantly boasts that there has never been anyone like him desperately wants there to be someone like him. Someone to carry on the name after he’s gone. Someone to break the records that he has set. Someone who can start younger, and wiser, and with longer potential. The world doesn’t much care to see Michael Lee Best win his eleventh HOW World Championship… but Tyler? Tyler is something new. Something fresh. And here’s his father, trying to turn him into a carbon copy of the man that came before him.
Mike Best Junior.
Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
“Fuck.” Michael grunts, laying his forehead down on the desk.
Maybe Tyler Adrian Best would eventually become the greatest wrestler to ever live. Jury is still out, and honestly it will still be out for a long time. Amidst all that narcissism and ego, another thing that Michael desperately needs to handle is his constant need to control everything. To see the future. To book ahead. If he wants to focus on legacy, then right now, the only legacy he can focus on is his own. His own championships. His own opportunities. His own career. A match with Bobbinette Carey. A pay-per-view against Conor Fuse. Even what comes beyond that is still a mystery– maybe the world is sick of seeing Michael Lee Best on their television screens every week, but until the day comes that he has no choice but to walk away forever?
This is still his career.
This is still his time.
He glances back at the freeze frame of Tyler’s title loss on the screen, this time taking a moment to remember what it was like when he lost his first World Championship. How hard he’d taken it. How much he wished his father had been there to bring his spirit back to life, instead of cut a fucking promo on him. Tyler was still only twenty years old. Still just a kid, and he was treating him like a full blown adult. Like someone who has already had the benefits of a whole life of mistakes to learn from. In truth, Michael was treating his son like he was looking into a mirror, and being just as unfair as he would be to himself. Just as unforgiving.
It isn’t fair.
Michael slowly shakes his head, before reaching up with the remote and turning off the television. Time to put that all behind him. He’ll give Tyler a few days to cool off, and then come Monday morning, it’s time for father and son to have maybe the first real father and son talk of their lives. No wrestling. No legacy. No business. If this is the year of Michael Lee Best’s mental health, then maybe it’s about time that he starts to project that energy onto the people that he loves, too.
“Love you, kid.” Michael laughs, as he releases a long sigh.
Now it’s time to fucking show it, for a change.