April 11th, 2021
Saint Louis, Missouri
Jack Patrick’s Bar & Grill
It’s the first moment I’ve really had to reflect on what I’ve just accomplished. Lindsay has excused herself to take a phone call, the rest of The 214 has scattered off into the night to do what they will, and my brother and Sock picked up a couple of locals within the first hour of arriving here. The excitement has settled, the hush has fallen over the downtown watering hole, and I sit in absolute awe of my LSD Championship.
The leather edge to the strap rests atop the oak bar, the golden centerplate facing me. I run the tip of my index finger along the engravings, mouthing each letter as I do so. The name plate that read ‘Jatt Starr’ has long been removed, ditched on a stack of dirty dishes our waitress made disappear. Gripping onto either side of the strap, I lean forward and lightly rest my forehead on the globe held up by the eagles wings, closing my eyes.
I fuckin’ did it.
There were so many long nights during my recovery that this moment seemed so far away, and at times, unachievable. When I returned at ICONIC, I did so with the goal of picking up where I left off, but also with a deep appreciation of the moment before me. Those six months off were a bitter pill to swallow, but it taught me a very important lesson that I needed to learn. I came in like a bat out of hell, and seven weeks to the day of my debut, was crowned the 2020 Lee Best Invitational Winner. Talk about making a name for yourself, huh? Well, just as quick as I was able to achieve that, it was all taken away in the blink of an eye. It was easily the most humbling experience of my life. It taught me that you never know when all this will come to an end, so take the time to appreciate the fuck out of every single moment.
And you can bet your ass I’m taking my sweet time right now.
Sitting up, the television mounted underneath the neon ‘Jack Patrick’s’ sign with the blinking cloverleafs is airing a replay of my triumph from hours prior. A grin begins to creep across my face as I watch Joel Hortega hand me the Championship. I lay down on the canvas, resting it across my stomach, staring at the rafters above. Bryan McVay makes his announcement, and the crowd response sends the same chills down my spine as if I were back in the Enterprise Center.
The iPhone set down beside my plate with the half eaten cheeseburger dings with a text alert, begging for my attention. Picking up the device, it does its facial recognition trick, unlocking itself to reveal the next text in a long lineup of congratulations. It’s the one I’ve been waiting for, and admittedly had begun to feel a little butt hurt, thinking he might have missed my big moment.
“Congratulations. Proud of you. Bye – Bin L.”
As I usually do, I read his message internally with an exaggerated accent, and wise sensei like undertone. I once again ponder why he feels the need to sign off on his texts, or better yet why he feels it’s necessary to include the initial to his surname. How many Bin’s does he think I know? Regardless, it’s the cherry on top of my celebration to receive his congratulations, and continue to prove he was right in putting himself out there and believing in me.
As I go to place my phone down, it dings once more, this time it’s a message from a 416 number not programmed in my phone, which just so happens to be the area code of Toronto. It simply reads “Congrats. Snowflake Poo emoji ”. I shrug, giving little thought to the message, as I’ve received dozens from unknown numbers up to this point and I’ve grown tired of replying “New phone, who dis?”
“Still Mr. Popular I see.” Her gentle touch pulls across my shoulders before hopping up onto the stool beside me. “I don’t think your ego can take much more of this.”
A mocking snicker is my response to Lindsay’s remark, as I place the phone face down. I take one more brief gaze at my Championship, before laying it down flat on the bar, patting the centerplate. Looking over, her hazel eyes peering into mine, my smile grows a little wider, matching the one that flirts my way. With a brief nod upwards, I offer the corniest of winks.
And I take an extra second to appreciate the moment.
“Might have to hire a secretary,” I quip, shifting atop the chapped pleather seat, turning inwards towards her. “How’d your call go?”
“Oh, fine,” she asserts. “Post-show ritual with my kids. Then Clay texted; he wants to go over a couple things in the morning.”
“Oh?” I raise my brow, not wanting to press when it comes to her divorce. “Everything alright?”
Lindsay shrugs and takes a sip of the drink I’d been keeping an eye on for her. “I’ll find out tomorrow. Enough about that, though.” She places a hand over mine and smiles. “I’m proud of you.”
“Thank you,” I offer with a subtle bow. “I like to think my training partner deserves a bit of the credit too.”
“Just a bit?” She widens her eyes the slightest, dropping her chin.
Joking aside, her role in preparing me for Jatt can’t be stated enough. Not just the in-ring training, but more importantly, keeping me composed mentally for the challenge that awaited me. She helped me stay out of my own way, fought with me to keep the failures from my past at bay, and focus my energy where it needed to be. We’ve been the perfect ‘Tag Team’.
And now we finally get to prove it in the ring.
“This though,” I tilt my head in the direction of my newest possession. “Just the beginning. We’ve got a quick turnaround and another huge opportunity in front of us next week.”
“We’ll be ready,” she says with a sly smile. “Already got a plan working.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” I place an elbow on the bar, leaning into it, intrigued. “Do share.”
“Couple of my students who tag together in Japan are back here working some dates for a sister promotion as part of a talent share. I’m going to see if they can meet us in Dallas for some tag team workouts.”
“Getting those types of reps in before Saturday could be a gamechanger,” I begin, before the wheels in my head start spinning. “Wait…which students?”
“Daryn Thompson and Bracken Krueger.”
I slouch into my stool, letting my head fall back and hang. “Daryn fuckin’ hates me.”
“Wait, what?” Lindsay blinks, unsure she heard that right. “What are you talking about? How do you know Daryn?”
“It was like six, maybe seven years back. We worked for the same promotion, and let’s just say she got to see Teddy in all his glory.”
The Queen of the Ring cringes, unable to help herself. “Ohhh…”
“Yeah…” I finally let my head come forward. “I suppose on the bright side she won’t be taking it easy on me.”
“No, she won’t,” Lindsay agrees. “But you’ll also get to show her that you’ve changed since then.”
“Something tells me she’ll still be aiming to take my head off…” I trail off, grabbing my glass and taking a mouthful of diet coke.
Both Lindsay and I turn towards the interrupting feminine voice shouting my name. Two blondes are excitedly waving at me from the entrance to the bar, but are far enough away I can’t really make out any defining facial features. The click clacking of their heeled boots gets louder as they skip our way, their strides lacking coordination, indicating they might’ve had a drink or two. As they pass through a beam of light, my gut sinks and the drink sitting in my mouth is half expelled through my nose, the rest burning my throat as it’s not so much swallowed but forced down.
Stacy and Jodie from Straub’s Fine Grocers, aka the overly touchy fans.
“Congratulations!” Stacy shouts as she latches onto me while I wipe the carbonated bubbles from my mustache.
“Ah..uh..” I cough, squirming in an attempt to break free from her grip. “Thank you.”
“You were great out there!” Jodie adds in, having worked her way behind me, latching onto my back.
“Uh, hi?” Lindsay chimes in.
“Oh, how rude of me.” Stacy acknowledges Lindsay, oblivious. “Hi!”
Lindsay goes to stand up, but I place my hand on her knee, pushing up and breaking free from the surprisingly strong grasps of the petite All-American girls. I turn to face my fans slash stalkers, who beam much like they did this morning, only with the additional glow of a higher blood alcohol level.
“How did you know I was here?” I ask.
“Zeb posted a picture on Twitter and tagged the location.” Jodie smirks.
Fuckin’ Zeb and that Twitter account.
“Well, uh, thanks,” I place my hand on the small of Lindsay’s back. “I appreciate it. But we’re kind of…”
“We just want to get a picture with the new Champion.” Stacy cuts me off.
“I think you girls got your picture this morning,” Lindsay replies, giving the invasive blondes a chilly smile before looking up at me.
“Need to set boundaries?” She says with a devilish grin that is somewhat reassuring.
“That’s what Larry said!”
I slide my hand up her back, stopping when reaching the base of her neck. Leaning in, I lock my lips with hers and am in no hurry to pull back. Taking a peek out of the corner of my eye, Stacy and Jodie stand awkwardly, not taking the hint at first, but eventually overcoming their blonde locks. They turn to leave, and I start to pull away, but Lindsay’s hand clasps onto the back of my neck, holding me closer for a few moments more before finally breaking the embrace.
“Think we can continue this elsewhere?” she softly asks.
“I think that’s a possibility,” I take her hand as she stands up, and with my free hand grab my LSD Championship. I throw some bills on the bartop to cover the tab and the two of us make our way towards the exit, fingers intertwined, stride for stride. We’re halfway to the door when a thought crosses my mind. “Hey…”
“Yeah?” She looks at me.
“Do you think John and Jatt have this type of chemistry?” I struggle to get the final words from my sentence out before bursting into laughter.
“I think whatever they have is about to come to a screeching halt,” she replies, as I hold open the door and we make our way out into the cool spring night.
April 16th, 2021
The 214 Airbnb
“That was pretty fuckin’ cool…” I mumble to myself.
Pausing the video on my phone, I back it up fifteen seconds and hit play. Cancer Jiles stealthily rides his wave of momentum down the entrance ramp, leaping up as I split the middle and top ropes with Jatt and Hugo in my line of sight. Then it happens.
“Ahhhhh! Oh my GOD!” I whisper yell, before continuing to commentate the muted video. “Terminal Cancer! Terminal Cancer! That bird shit scrubbin’ bastard!”
I wish I could say I stopped it there, but nope. I rewind and watch the video not once, not twice, but more times than I can keep count of. Each time hits a bit differently. I laugh at times. Anger flushes my face red other times. Then some viewings are met with complete indifference. There’s no changing what happened, but that kick holds the key to what’s been holding me back from being the best tag team partner I can be. It was my downfall with Red. It held me back with Zeb. And if I don’t fix it quickly, my fortunes with Lindsay won’t be much different.
My Tag Team awareness is the shits. It’s not even a stretch to say I border on the lines of being selfish.
When you think about it, It’s kinda funny that when I was grinding my way through the Lee Best Invitational last year, I was labeled ‘Tag Team Ted’. Oh how wrong they were. Everything I was doing and accomplishing came as a complete shock to everyone because I was thought of as nothing more than a tag team specialist.
Fuck, It’s laughable, really.
Any shred of success I’ve tasted has contradicted that perception, and I’ve proven I’m at my most effective when going Han style: Solo. As far as taggin’ goes, I’ve done diddly squat. At some point you gotta look in the mirror and ponder: hey, maybe I’m the problem. I’ve reached that point. It hasn’t mattered the partner I’ve had perched on the apron, my W column is nothing more than a messy nest for my big ol’ goose egg of embarrassment.
And it all comes down to my awareness, or better yet my lack of. Well, and as much as I hate to say it, certain selfish tendencies.
Locking the phone screen, I drop it on the concrete edge of the pool I’m sitting on, my legs draped over in the water. It’s a warm Dallas evening, but it has been overcast since midafternoon. The light drizzle that is falling is refreshing, and the rippling effect it has on the pool’s surface is soothing. I run my hands through my hair to slick it back, then place my hands into the damp grass behind me, leaning back.
“It’s not you, it’s me.” I whisper, emitting a forced chuckle, but I don’t find much humour in it.
I’ve beat John Sektor. I’ve beat Jatt Starr. But StarrSek Industries? They’ve got my number. I must’ve watched that Tag Title match a dozen times already, and I’ve been able to pinpoint numerous instances where I could have done things differently, and likely should have. I wrestle as if my partner isn’t so much my partner, but a last resort. I’d be hard pressed to name the last time I didn’t end up on the outside of the ring looking in while my partner has taken the fall for our ‘team’. Well, one time I was unconscious, and another I was handcuffed to the guardrailing, but still.
They say knowing is half the battle. I hope that means I’m halfway there now…
At least Lindsay was able to set up a training session with Daryn and Bracken so we could get some reps in. Sure, Daryn wasn’t the ‘friendliest’, but I’ll gladly take her dislike for me over going into a Championship match blind like Zeb and I did any day of the week. It was the opportunity Lindsay and I needed to gauge our in ring chemistry, determine our strengths and weaknesses, and devise the best game plan possible. It was the confidence boost I needed heading into the weekend, but at the same time StarrSek will be a completely different beast than grappling with two former students of hers. I just can’t get caught up in making the same mistakes that have plagued me countless outings before.
Figure it out, Teddy.
Muffled laughter comes from behind, and I twist in its direction, turning my head. The lights are on in the kitchen of the bungalow we’ve rented out for the weekend, and through the windows I can see Lindsay and Zeb sitting at the kitchen table. Conor is absent, probably tucked away somewhere in the house, game planning for his World Championship match, or maybe just gaming. Who knows. I’m not sure what Zeb is yammering on about, but the yarn he’s spinning has Lindsay in stitches. Her laughter is infectious and brings a smile to my face.
This time will be different.
Be careful what you wish for…
First and foremost: I’ll give credit where credit is due. I hate to do it and it pains me to say it, but the two of you? You’re a well oiled machine. Sure, the guy signing our checks is the one greasing the gears, but let’s look past that. You’re the Tag Team Champions for a reason. Now, whether that reason is worth celebrating or not is beside the point. This second act of two Hall of Fame careers has been nothing short of impressive to witness. Not necessarily for your in ring work, per se, but your ability to find alternate routes to triumph in spite of your declining skill sets.
Success comes in many forms. Amirite?
For instance, a perfectly timed Terminal Cancer.
That one bought you a pair of one way tickets to New York City. It secured your spot at March To Glory and kept your names shining in the bright lights of Broadway. It saved the match-up that had been hyped and advertised for months. StarrSek versus Bruvs. It’s a real shame all that hype couldn’t elevate it beyond piss break designation. That totally bitchin’ kick also tacked on eight more disappointing weeks to a title reign that’ll only be remembered as the answer to a High Octane trivia question.
Who did Teddy Palmer and Lindsay Troy skullfuck enroute to their Tag Team Championship victory?
Then there’s the ever imaginative jump attacks.
They say you never forget your first, and although you tried your hardest, I still remember. Refueled 53, my boy Zeb called me out to be his partner, then BLAMO! Solex decked me in the back of the head and ruined my aviators, that prick. Lindsay tried to even the odds while the two of you beat the holy hell out of Zeb in the ring, but it was all for naught. Fast forward a tad and Lindz and I are getting boot fucked into oblivion. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience.
But there was a silver lining at the bottom of the pile.
It just so happens that was the moment of conception for the Grapplers Local 214. It was a real bonding moment between three friends, who decided right then and there, it was time for a change. So, congratulations on your role in altering the High Octane landscape! The universe sends its ‘Best’ regards.
It didn’t end there though.
There was the steel chair blitz. And the show closing gang beating. And the Louisville batting practice. And the tee off time. Holy shit, there’s always a fuckin’ ‘and’ with you two and the insulation Lee’s provided you with. It’s just a shame you haven’t realized that every single time, they play out like a classic Scooby Doo episode.
“And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” – Jatt Starr and/or John Sektor.
I was very honest in telling you both that you started a war you wouldn’t win. As per usual, though, you couldn’t shut the fuck up long enough to actually listen to the warning I was giving.
You decided to try your luck, John. We put on a technical showcase. You dialed back the hands of time, and for the briefest of moments, resembled that legend of yesteryear. It was awesome. It also wasn’t enough to stop me from choking you the fuck out. And you Jatt? Well you simply had no choice. You plotted and schemed and spewed all your Jattisms. Once all that bullshit was sifted through, once we made it past the smoke and mirrors, I dumped you on your fuckin’ head and took my LSD Championship.
Each moment proved two things. One, I’m a man of my word. And two, you’re all talk.
And boy have the two of you proven you can talk a lot of shit. Now please don’t mistake “a lot” with “variety,” because it’s always the same tired routine. Tell me again how Lindsay and I are sleeping together. It never gets old. Oh, and speaking of, lemme hear about her birth year or fertility status once more. Or why don’t you start typing Teddy into Google and look at all the recommended searches. I’m sure that with a few dedicated hours you’ll be able to ‘create’ quite the list of nicknames.
Keep talking shit, and we’ll keep making you eat it. It’s a very simple concept. The only running joke worth laughing at at this point is the state of your careers. So please, I beg of you, stop talking. Just…no more…deal? Start doing your talking in the ring, where it actually matters. Not backstage. Not after matches. In the ring.
Fuck, you’ve even resorted to reading from your dream journals at this point. You’ve sent your wishes out into the universe. You’ve spoken them, and we’ve all been fortunate enough to listen. John, you’ve made it known that you and I aren’t done. Jatt, you’ve set out on a quest to find something to believe in. And StarrSek Industries has set their sights on skyrocketing the Tag Team Championships and entire division into the stratosphere (or if you’re feeling extra creative, the Jattosphere. You’re welcome.).
John, I licked my wounds, pappa. I shook off your attack, and made a fuckin’ statement by winning the LSD Championship. You can knock me down as many times as you see fit, but I’ll always get back up, and swing twice as fuckin’ hard as you can. Don’t forget what happened the last time you thought stepping up was a good idea. I will not hesitate to lock you in the L.B.I and watch you slip into unconsciousness once more.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re in the driver’s seat. We’re done when I say we’re done.
Jatt, you not only told me, but you told the entire world I wasn’t LSD material. It was a cute claim, but the fear you spoke with wasn’t hidden very well behind that paper thin veil you display as confidence. I took that claim personally, and made a very sincere promise to you. I told you that I would gladly write the final chapter of your career, and being a man of my word, I put ink to paper last week. This week, I’m bringing on a co-author and we’re continuing where I left off.
Whether it was what you were looking for or not, you now have something to believe in.
StarrSek has taken those Championships as far as they can. It’s no secret you’ve lost a fuck tonne of momentum, and you’ve been running on empty. Your reign has been underwhelming to say the least, but I’d be remiss not to acknowledge your attempt. You tried to build a new legacy, but you fell short of the mark. The Jattinum and Gold Standards just didn’t cut it. The 214 will succeed where you simply couldn’t. And Lindsay and I are more than happy to be the catalysts for that movement.
The Tag Championships are finally going to reach the heights you envisioned. I just hope you like the view from your backs.
I sincerely hope it’s finally set in who the fuck you’re dealing with, and everything Lindsay and I are fighting for.
…Your wishes are about to come true.
But you’re not gonna fuckin’ like it…