”Everything in life has a pattern and a coincidence is simply the moment when the pattern becomes briefly visible.”
– Anthony Horowitz
The interior of Golanga restaurant in Roma Norte, Mexico City, exudes a unique and captivating atmosphere that blends rustic charm with contemporary elements. Inside, patrons are greeted by a space that reflects the neighborhood’s artistic and cultural spirit.
The walls feature exposed brickwork, lending a sense of character and history to the space. Adorning these walls are local artwork pieces, showcasing Mexican artists’ talent and creativity. The artwork adds vibrant splashes of color and visual interest, creating a dynamic backdrop for the dining experience.
Soft, warm lighting bathes the restaurant, casting a cozy and inviting glow over the dining area. The lighting design is carefully crafted to create an intimate ambiance, allowing guests to feel comfortable and relaxed as they indulge in the exquisite food.
Seating arrangements are designed with both comfort and style in mind. Guests can choose from cozy booths, providing a sense of privacy, or elegant tables arranged to accommodate various party sizes. In the back is another set of private booth seating, separated by another three-quarters-high brick wall. The seating is thoughtfully arranged to maximize space while ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable dining experience for every guest.
Clearly, great attention has been given to every detail in the décor of the establishment, with carefully selected furnishings and table settings. The tables are adorned with stylish linens and sleek tableware, creating an elegant and refined aesthetic. The combination of contemporary elements with rustic touches creates a harmonious balance, adding to the overall charm of the space.
The restaurant has an open kitchen concept, allowing guests to catch a glimpse of the culinary magic happening behind the scenes, adding not only a sense of theater to the dining experience but also fostering a connection between the guests and the talented chefs, further enhancing the overall dining experience.
Past the brick wall separating the VIP area from the rest of the restaurant, the area reflects opulence and refinement. The décor has been carefully curated, with plush furnishings, rich textures, and exquisite detailing. Luxurious fabrics, such as velvet or silk, adorn the seating, exuding a sense of indulgence.
The seating arrangements are designed with comfort and exclusivity in mind. Oversized plush chairs surround a large circular table, providing ample space for guests to unwind and enjoy their meals. The layout is carefully planned to ensure privacy, allowing guests to engage in intimate conversations without disturbance.
Sitting around the table and occupying the three chairs are Dan Ryan, Craig Massey, and Phyllis Anderson.
Craig is grinning, looking down at a tall drink, a tequila-infused concoction unique to this establishment.
“Never gets old.”
Dan stares at him and Phyllis shakes her head. She leans forward.
“They do have other drinks in this country, you know. You don’t have to single-handedly try to drink every last drop of tequila in Mexico.”
“I don’t have to,” Craig replies. “But I’m going to.”
Dan frowns slightly.
“This isn’t a vacation, you know. We’re here on business. We’re not here to check another item off of your bucket list. I asked you to speak to our representatives last week. I assume you have something to report.”
Craig pushes his drink to the side and straightens himself up in his chair. “I do. Your business interests here are doing well. Specifically, the…”
Dan holds a hand up, then looks at two waiters standing near the entrance to the area. They aren’t paying attention, but they’re still a little too close.
“No specifics. Go ahead. I’ll understand.”
Craig nods. “My apologies. Your money is being well spent down here. We are seeing some… very healthy returns. I think that everything is going even better than expected. And your friends from Veracruz send their regrets for not being able to make the trip themselves, but they did have something sent for you.”
Dan’s eyebrows raise.
Craig shakes his head. “No, not that. And don’t worry, I didn’t bring it out with me. I have it safely tucked away for the time being. These friends of yours…” Craig nods in approval. “They’re very impressive. And dangerous. Are you sure it’s a good idea to get entangled with these people?”
“I’ve been entangled with dangerous people my entire life, Craig. I was born into a world of dangerous people, and besides, I’m more dangerous than any of them.”
“I see.” Craig looks at Phyllis briefly, then back at his boss. “I thought you were turning over a new leaf, though. I thought we would be extricating ourselves from some of these things soon.”
“Craig,” Dan says, leaning back. “This is a complex world, you know? There’s so much more to it than black and white. There are millions of shades in between. And beyond that, the world itself thrives in its own chaos. Everything is happening separately, but at the same time, it is all interconnected in a way that can seldom be predicted. Now, I have much to atone for, much to repair, but I won’t do any of it at the expense of who I am. I don’t care who preaches down their nose at me, and I don’t care how many stupid jokes are thrown my way. Lots of children who think themselves very very clever like to run their mouths, lots of hot air, signifying nothing.”
Phyllis smirks. “You quote Shakespeare now?”
Dan looks at her. “Sometimes.”
Then, he turns back to Craig.
“My need to make better choices has nothing to do with who I am. It only has to do with my own reflections on who I am. I’m getting older, Craig. Not all of these joints are in tip-top shape, and sometimes, I get aches and pains in a lot of places I didn’t use to. But above all else, and despite everything, I am still and will always be a fighter. I’ll fight for what I want, fight for what I need. I’ll kill for it. If I have to, I will absolutely kill for it.”
Craig holds his gaze right at Dan’s. “Even at the risk of losing everything?”
Dan scoffs. “I’ve already lost everything, Craig. Everything isn’t coming back. Championships won in the past aren’t coming back. Old friends, long gone, are never coming back. Nothing that matters can be regained. All that really matters is in the future. It’s up to me to make it what I want it to be, but I will not sacrifice who I am. You show weakness in this sport, you show weakness anywhere in life, and there’s a monster right around the corner waiting to eat you alive. But I’m the monster, Craig. I’ve always been a monster. Anyone who forgets that does so at their own peril.”
“I understand.” Craig nods.
“Your… dangerous men…” He says, ignoring Craig entirely. “If anything, they should be afraid of me. And trust me, Craig, no matter how scary they may seem…” Dan does the ‘oooh I’m scared’ fingers. “Believe me, I can show them what fear and pain really are.”
Craig smiles. “Yes… I know you can. I suppose it’s good to have people like that at your disposal all over. I always know if we’re going to Japan we’re in for the royal treatment. If one of your Mexican buddies has the low down on some high-quality drink…” Craig holds his glass up. “Do let me know.”
“Boss…” Phyllis interjects, gaining Dan’s attention. “I know you wanted to meet with us about your local dealings while we’re down here, but I have some other information that I feel like I should share with you.”
“Okay, Phyllis,” he responds. “Share your information.”
She takes a deep breath and pulls a manila folder out of her bag. She pushes it across the table in front of Dan and sits still, hands steepled in front of her.
“Everything you need to know is in there.”
He looks at her for a few moments, then down at the folder in front of him. He opens it up, and at the very top, he sees his daughter’s name. A lightning bolt shoots through him, his mind flipping a switch. As he reads, his face becomes more solemn, thoughtful, and then finally relieved.
“So she’s not coming to Mexico.”
Phyllis shakes her head. “Apparently not.”
He reads further, then looks up again.
“Yes,” Phyllis nods. “She’s gotten a job over there. Two guesses about who got her that job.”
Dan looks at her, considers her words, then looks down and shuts the folder again, and then shoves it back across the table at Phyllis.
“Good. This only makes things easier. There will be a time and place, but I don’t need this distraction right now. All of my focus is on War Games now. Everyone’s just now showing up in town, but I’ve been here for over a week. I want to be as prepared as humanly possible, and I will. Craig, I assume the training facility is available?”
Craig swigs another sip of his drink. “Of course. It is, as they say, at your disposal… until War Games that is.”
Dan smirks. “That’s all I need. I want you to go ahead and get the training set up. Bring whoever you can round up locally. I need some fodder for my training.”
“Fine,” Craig stands up from his seat. “But try not to hurt them too badly.”
“Oh, I’m going to hurt them badly. Don’t bring anyone you like.”
Craig just stares back at him, stands there, then finally shrugs. “Okay.” He walks away, rounding the corner past the brick partition, and disappears into the main room of the restaurant.
Back at the table, Dan turns to Phyllis who is still sitting still and looking back at him.
“Phyllis, you specifically went against my orders. I told you not to pursue any further information regarding Cecilia. I meant it.”
She makes an expression as if to say, ‘Whatever’, and waves her hand dismissively. “And when exactly have I ever expressly followed your orders? Someone has to keep you from doing something stupid.”
He looks at her, thinking her words over in his head.
“I want you to reach out to our people in Japan. Tell them to leave her alone. And these orders, I expect to be respected fully. If they so much as go near her or even look at her while she’s there, I will bring down so much thunder that they’ll be begging for the end to come. I’m dead serious about this.”
“Okay,” Phyllis replies. “Whatever happened to leaving her alone and letting her live her life?”
Dan points a finger in her direction and leans forward intensely.
“She’s my daughter. I have enemies. I want her protected. Period. I don’t really give a fuck what anyone else thinks about it, whether or not they approve, or of anything else. Give the order, immediately. Understood?”
She holds up her hands in defeat. “Fair enough. Understood, boss.”
Dan stands to his feet, takes a drink from the glass in front of him, then heads for the main room. Before disappearing out of view, he stops, pauses, and turns back around to face her.
“Phyllis… thank you.”
She smiles slightly, although he does not. The look is held for a few seconds, then Dan nods and disappears around the corner.
”If you want to be a successful runner, you have to consider everything. It’s no good just thinking about endurance and not developing fine speed.”
– Arthur Lydiard
VIII. BEST FOR LAST
Everyone thinks the most important day in a man’s life is something positive, some grandiose moment of accomplishment and achievement that defines who he is. But sometimes that day isn’t a positive one. Sometimes it comes disguised as something else entirely.
Life is a tapestry woven with countless moments, some fleeting and forgotten, while others etch themselves into the deepest recesses of our being. In the middle of this intricate web of experiences, there is one moment that stands out from the rest, casting a profound impact on my existence.
It was a day that showed me my true character, broke through complacency, and lit a flame of change within me.
I was dead in the water last year. My career was seemingly over, taken up with a job reserved for men put out to pasture. I’m not that old, but for this business, I might as well be elderly. I’ve been around long enough to remember things that nobody else still standing can remember, save for a few.
I was finished, lost, broken. Sometimes people point out all that I accomplished in HOW during that first run, but I think we all know how empty it was. I have won over twenty World Championships in my career. I was done years before that, to be honest. I was done as far back as two thousand seventeen, completely jaded and numb to giving a shit, and every one of those championships came before that. I was good at hiding it, but I was completely dead in the water. I had no business coming back and trying to compete with the likes of Mike Best, Cecilworth Farthington, or Max Kael. I was so good at faking it that those very men invited me into their inner circle, no pun intended, to create a group so dominant that we just had to fight each other. I was out of place, but yes, I was so good at pretending.
Not just out of place. I was out of my depth.
I won the ICON twice. I won the tag titles twice. I challenged for the World Championship four times, and the best result I got out of those title shots was a count-out victory, a draw, and an iron man match where I won the ICON but Cecilworth kept Big Red.
It was nowhere near matching my reputation. Oh, and to be clear, I had to cheat to get those draws. I had to scratch, claw and bite my way to coming up short. That’s how completely finished I was.
By the time the news came, by the time I got a knock on the door to tell me I was fired, I was such a shell of myself that I felt completely numb. If there was anything else left to break in me, it broke right then.
But it was so, so necessary.
It’s hard to define and describe the catharsis of finally, once and for all being called on your bullshit. You don’t know how soul-crushing it can be to live that lie, to spend every waking moment trying to remember what’s real, what’s true.
It was necessary.
Dan Ryan as everyone knew me died in two thousand seventeen. He died when I hung up the boots for good and went home to my ranch to live out my years with my family. The road had come to a dead end and I had to leave. I had to. There was nothing left.
It’s a joke, really. Because fuck self-pity. Fuck emotional turmoil and fuck everything that goes along with getting older in this business and having to face up to the fact that you’ve lost your fastball. And you know what? I’m always… always the last one to know. I was the stereotypical athlete trying to hold on to former glory. So when I got drawn back in, I needed help. There’s no way in hell I was gonna show weakness. I had a reputation to uphold.
But weakness comes in many forms. I failed, and I needed to be put out of my misery. I needed to be awakened to the truth. It’s the only way to begin the journey to remembering who the fuck I am.
But I’m remembering.
Things are going even better than I expected, and I expected a lot. I’ve always expected the world from myself, yet another thing that has not and will not ever change.
Some people have suggested that I don’t want the World Championship.
When did I say that?
I will defend and protect the Alliance at all costs… all costs. I will move heaven and earth to make sure that one of our hands is raised at the end of that match. There will be blood everywhere, there will be surprises, unexpected returns, and betrayals. This is where the entire wrestling year culminates in a glorious, violently beautiful moment that people never forget. This is where legends are made.
Why wouldn’t I want a shot at that?
Is it because Christopher America is also in the Alliance? Yes, he is. We both are intent on doing the right thing, but if the chance presents itself, he’ll come at me like a fucking freight train, and I’ll be ready to meet with equal force. If we have to fight, so be it. I’m not gonna patronize him or anyone else by offering up half-hearted insults and passive-aggressive implications so you can post your burn gifs and jack off to your all-time favorites.
Christopher America is the World Champion. He’s been the World Champion for a year. There is nothing in either of those sentences to insult. Doing so would be disingenuous, but that doesn’t mean I’m not ready for a fight. I don’t know if this is that moment. I just don’t know, but I will prepare like it is, and I will fight like it is. I will do everything in my power to fight until my last breath and someone peels my dead, limp body off of the mat.
That’s what getting called on your shit does. I’m reinvigorated, reborn. No rah-rah bullshit. Just a tough motherfucker ready to kick some goddamn teeth in.
For the rest of you, I want you to see what respect really is. You don’t say you respect a champion and then conjure up cheap ass insults that don’t make any sense. You don’t respect a man and promise to back down either. If the moment comes, I’m gonna show the champ the ultimate respect. I’m going to give him the fight that he and that big 97Red belt deserve. I’ll either win my very first High Octane World Championship, or he’ll become even more of a legend than he already is. That’s how it works. That’s how you act like a fucking man.
For the vast majority of the rest of you, you’re all mostly a bunch of fucking jokes. You’re dead fucking weight in this match.
Scott Stevens, why should I even bother with you? You don’t even piss me off. You fucking bore me. You’ve spent so much time running your mouth and so little time actually doing anything worth a fuck. You used to at least get some credit for your behind-the-scenes work. You used to help the bossman keep the website updated, used to keep track of wins and losses, title reigns and records… But then, for some deranged reason, you though that being a glorified secretary for Lee Best meant you were a… demi-God. You seriously lost your fucking mind, and when it all came crashing down, you pouted away like a little impotent bitch. Because that’s what a man who can’t back up his big talk is, Scott… a fucking bitch.
Beating you up is the most boring thing on the planet because the result is always the same. Always the fucking same.
The same goes for Scottywood, only he at least knows when to fuck off and die. He knows when to shut the fuck up and go play some hockey or some shit. He knows the futility of trying to be more than he is where you don’t, you sackless waste of skin.
And speaking of sackless wastes of skin, what the fuck happened to Jace Parker Davidson? The man is the LSD Champion and yet everywhere he goes, the world’s loudest chorus of crickets follows. He gets his little feelers hurt, tries in vain to fight the bosses, and ends up losing all of his credibility and his eye. But did you really need that eye anyway, Jace? You obviously couldn’t see well enough already based on your personal choices, and so here you are, teaming with Scottywood, Scott Stevens, and Zach Kostoff.
I have never felt more sorry for anyone than I feel for Conor Fuse for his destiny to have to drag you four around the ring at War Games. This dude has to team up with the Mount Rushmore of Suck in the biggest match of everyone’s year. Or hey, maybe it’s not the biggest match for Jace, right? Judging by his embarrassing ‘please fuck me hard but be gentle’ effort against Mike in the cage, maybe he just wants to come down to Mexico and try to drain the country dry of tequila with my boy, Craig.
Charles DeLacy, we’ve done this before. You had your shot. It didn’t work out for you, but you’re cruising along in the background of that team of yours. You’ve got a shit load of talent, I’ll give you that. But for some reason, no one is talking about you. Are you gonna be that surprised team member that shocks the world and is left standing at the end? Even more unlikely things have happened in this company.
And Joe Bergman, nice to see you again, Joe.
No, it’s not.
Like Stevens, you are human vanilla ice cream. You are a beige leisure suit being worn by a nerd to a seventies party because Party City ran out of white. You’re a piece of wonder bread with the crust cut off. You’re professional wrestling but without any of the fun or violence that makes professional wrestling interesting. You literally called yourself bad breath, I assume because there was already another “Generic-Ass Bitch” in the Screen Actors Guild.
You and your boys talked so big to me and Jatt, sending your little redneck goofs after us time and again, and then, your boy Ray challenged us to come to your turf to defend our HOTv Co-World Championship belts, because, in your paint by number world, the mean ol’ bad guys are supposed to be cowards. We’re supposed to back into corners and hold our hands up and beg for mercy. We’re not supposed to accept challenges like that one and walk confidently into enemy territory. We’re not supposed to beat the brakes off of those two doofs.
Because that’s how you think. You don’t know how to think about this sport in terms that aren’t plain as fuck and predictable as the sunrise. That’s you in a nutshell. I don’t even know why you’re here. Hell, I don’t even know if you’re here. Go watch some futbol or some shit. You don’t even deserve your spot in this match, and you’re about to get eaten alive, again.
I know I didn’t say something about everyone, but I only concern myself with the best of the Best, or the worst of the worst sitting there wasting everyone’s goddamn time. I don’t have time for mediocrity. I don’t have time for middle-of-the-road losers just floating down the river like a dead body.
This night is going to be one to remember. I fucking guarantee it. This is a moment for the truly greatest of the greats, and that’s precisely where I plan to etch my name, right in the dead center of greatness. It’s what I used to be, what I always was, and this is what I am.
Fuck your corny ass comments.
I’m here to fuck you up.
Let GOD’s will be done.