My trip to Miami- scrapped and being stuck in Chicago the entire week isn’t exactly how I planned to spend my time before wrestling for the company’s most prestigious belt- the High Octane World Championship. I’d rather be mentally relaxing and at my peak than in a conference room with stiff lawyers and accountants.
The last thing on my fucking mind is finances. I’ve become the black sheep of our clique. I’ve fallen behind in progress with 24K. They don’t say it, hell, they probably don’t even notice or care. I do though and I see everyone is excelling in their strides.
Andy is hitting every single metric of success that High Octane has and excelling past that. The man is undefeated. All I hear is talk about Cecil, undefeated for a year. Yet here’s Andy, taking on that same competition Farthington has and crushing them.
The wrestling industry has changed, the landscape is forever painted in the image of 24k and I’m starting to mare that image with my failure. Even The Bruvs have rebounded hard and fast after dropping the belts. Defeating legends and becoming the only true legitimate tag team in this entire company while taking Mike Best and Cecil to the brink.
And I’ve let an ICON Championship slip through my fucking fingers.
Then again, I didn’t join High Octane to just win matches, talk shit, and make money hand over fist. I came to fuck around with the lot I arrived with and so far, we’re ‘S Tier’ world class champions in that category.
An interruption of thought by this guy, Marshall Owens, my dear friend and attorney. He’s been with me for over a decade and met him through none other than the Mental Rapist himself, Sean Jackson. Both great men.
Across from Marshall sits Charles Fulton, great publicist, Perfection spin master, and media hitman. Crushes any TMZ bullshit before it’s even a thought to report it.
Hugh Morrison, the accountant, always next to Owens. Marshall actually poached him from Baker Tilly before my Japan adventure to deal with the venture management, Miami Day Club, and wrestling school books. Yada-yada.
Oh and then there’s the tax attorney Greg… Who gives a fuck? It’s Greg.
“Yeah. Guys, listen. We’ve been here for an hour and half. I have a tee time with Claude at three, can we expedite things without all the fluff- yeah? So, what’s the damage and exposure?”
Of course they are all looking at me. They don’t want to give that number.
Charles, always with the stupid formalities. I love the old man to death, really and I’d never correct him on the ‘misters’ or ‘sirs’ that spew out, but now’s not the time.
“Don’t give me the bullshit spin, Charles. Give me the numbers. What’s the damage and exposure?”
Marshall leaning towards me to take control of the numbers really isn’t comforting. It tells me he’s willing to eat the punishment for the other two in the room.
“Assuming the feds settle you’re looking at upwards of $17 to $25 million.”
That got me to spit coffee pretty damn quick.
“Is that a fucking joke?!”
Jesus it’s not. He’s shaking his head that it’s not. Fuck.
“Greg here was lucky enough to…”
Yeah I’m looking right at you, you prick. With your thick goddamn glasses and your confused dopey look.
“Get out, Greg and go fuck off in a corner.”
“I don’t understand how I have four of you. Literally four of you to do books, numbers, make sure everything is okay and this happens? What do I pay you for?”
And where the fuck does this idiot think he’s going?
“Sit the FUCK down, Greg! Does this all seem like a joke to you? Do your job or some shit. Crunch numbers, you fuck.”
Good boy, Greg.
“You can’t just import shotty goods from Thailand and not pay all the fees and taxes associated, Jim.”
Marshall, always with the direct statements. That’s trust though and why he can do it with me.
“Technically they were samples.”
That’s what the manifest said.
“Three thousand pieces in samples? Come on, Jim. No one is buying into that shit. You also know you can’t sell imported goods at three hundred percent markup and then not report all the revenues to the IRS. Also not reporting earnings paid from the corporate accounts, wages earned in Japan. Jesus, Jim. This isn’t good.”
Greg looks like he wants to talk some shit. I’ll go ahead and give him a nod. Let’s go, spit it out, kid.
“Mr. Witherhold, that single action of importing goods has opened the entirety of your portfolio for investigation and scrutiny. Not just federally but also in the State of California.”
I’m laughing loud because I don’t have enough energy to slam Greg’s face through this glass top conference table.
“What’s the issue with California?”
I’m looking around, where’s my answer?
Greg actually is going to be useful? Are pigs flying?
“Well?!? Well what!?”
“The.. uh… the Franchise Tax Board of California, they levied against your High Octane wages…”
Get. The. Fuck. Out.
That took a minute to register. Totally taken back. My High Octane wages…. seized?
“And are beginning to move for asset seizure with the first being the Gulfstream. So the recommendation is that you stay put in Chicago for the time being. No more travel to the home state.”
Both my hands go up. This news is worse than news of my mother passing, worse than when I was eight and my new puppy ran away from home. I cried for days, weeks, that Christmas season. Clarification is required.
“You mean to tell me…”
Marshall is looking down at the table. This is serious. Holy fuck. Pretty sure my heart just fell into my stomach.
“I want to be open about this, until we can get the court to halt garnishment with the motions we filled you’re technically working for free right now.”
Where am I going?
What am I doing?
I’ve failed now twice in a row to secure victory. To secure a win. Is it me? Have I lost the edge? The Bruvs steam rolled Dan Ryan and Lindsay Troy, Murr took Daniel the distance only to be blind sided yet still secure a double-you. Yet I have to eat a fall on live TV and clean? Fairness was never part of this sport, never will be. Fairness only exists if you allow it and I did. I allowed it.
I fought clean(ish) and I lost clean.
I went to try and wrestle Dan Ryan and Dan Ryan won. I went in trying to fuck around with Dan Ryan a little and Dan Ryan won. Many may see it as a negative having lost to someone like him, someone who has up to this point been so out of step is it’s a surprise he is still sticking around.
I had to think over that actually? The guy is a walking fucking punchline right now and I took a loss to him.
Dan Ryan has been losing left and right in this company and I couldn’t get his goddamn shoulders down and pin him. Part of me thinks the referee counted a bit fast just so Dan Ryan would get a win and have a little motivation under his belt right before War Games. That the little sucker knew if Dan Ryan didn’t get some of his smile back before War Games this would all fall into the trash for MIke Best.
That’s some tinfoil hat shit some would say.
If we remove that tinfoil excuse, I guess all that’s left is that I’m a total failure, right? It guess it means I should just hang up my boots ‘cause as that annoying fuck Mike Best would say ‘I’m swimming with sharks’. Or maybe I’ll just become a shell of myself and walk around like sad fucking moop the rest of my High Octane exsistance.
I mean when do we start calling me High Flyer 2.0? I’m already teaming with that dopey cunt, might as well reprise the role of sad, lost, and unmotivated.
That’ll never happen. I’d rather drink bleach like it’s champagne than permanently be stuck on a team with M.J. Flair.
Yet, I don’t think you all know how truly damaged I am by the two whole losses I’ve encountered. Surely the world around me is going to collapse. The end is nigh, the fall of Perfection and the walk of shame right out of Chicago. Surely I’m going to pull a Alex Redding and fall off the face of the fucking earth. Right? Isn’t that what the expectation is?
So I ask, is it really a negative that Dan Ryan planted my shoulders on the canvass and cleanly?
Of course not.
Dan Ryan is a legend. Dan Ryan finally showed promise that he can get a win. Dan Ryan still has to get through ‘Yours Truly’ at War Games to win the biggest prize on the line. He has to do that when it really fucking matters and not just against me but Andy Murray and the maniac that is Max Kael.
Thinking that these losses have made me lose a step is deadly. It’s what can be the fucking downfall of anyone who’s letting that cross their minds.
If anyone, I mean this, anyone in the back is dumb enough to think my perfect five and zero record and career is now in flames because I took loses to Mike Best and Dan Ryan, this message is for you:
This sport isn’t fucking boxing where one loss tarnishes everything or eight and a promoter won’t even touch your name. Look at M.J. Flair, she’s right about there and still got an invite to compete for the company’s most cherished piece of waist attire- the World Championship.
This world, our sport, this industry is solely unique when it comes to combat. Guys get beat, there are no ties here apart from the rare double count out. That is this sport. Loses are part and parcel to the game.
And I came up short.
Now I get another shot at it. Not just at Dan Ryan, not just at Michael Best and the ICON Championship, but Max Kael and the LSD Title. More important is the one everyone is eying, the big boy that hasn’t changed hands in over a year… the World Championship.
Coming up short can end up paying out big.
And I plan to cash the fuck out at War Games. I plan to help my team reach victory. Yes, even you M.J. Flair. I will fucking carry your ass if I need to. I will save your ass from being pinned, which you’ve made a career here of doing, if I need to just so we have the man advantage.
That’s fucked up isn’t it? I hate the living fuck out of you M.J. all the way back since Utah. Legit DESPISE your fucking existence and hope you and your father die in a fire slowly.
But I’ll save your ass if I have to just to save this team.
I’ll take you the distance and as close to gold as you’ll ever get in this company. I will take you to the point our team wins and then toss your fucking ass right out so Andy and I can deal with Max and then rock, paper, scissors for the World Championship.
That’s just the type of guy I am.
And you’re welcome, you fucking cunt.
Ten minutes have passed and the men are now reentering the conference room. I needed some time to think to myself about what is going on. This can’t be real. This can’t be happening. I’m James fucking Witherhold, all my life I’ve skirted the rules and played on the outside. Never one has my hand been slapped, never once have I been punished. Years of doing things my way and not once has it gone wrong.
“Let’s go over the assets and where we can start liquidating in a worst-best case scenario, assuming the feds settle at the highest end.”
Charles is the first to speak up after my time of silence and solitude.
“The worst-best case scenario?”
“Yes, the worst possible option in the best scenario. As opposed to the feds not settling and you owing the full amount they are seeking with penalties which you don’t have enough to cover.”
Charles always works fast, same with me. Never skipping a beat and right to business. He has all the numbers there he knows what to sell off and what not to if we were to lose. This is just his way of announcing it to make sure I’m aware so I can’t say later no one told me.
I would do that though. What’s the point of taking responsibility when you pay people to take that responsibility for you?
“Shouldn’t we decide that if we lose? I don’t like approaching this from the position I’ve already lost.”
“Jim, you’ve already lost in California.”
Oh fuck you Marshall. I won’t say that outloud though, he’s right. But fuck him anyways, kindly of course.
“We have motions, if those win…”
“They will just delay the inevitable which is the State taking assets unless the back taxes are paid, Jim. There’s no smooth talk, cheating, maneuvering or anything out of this. It’s pay the full amount or we settle both state and federally. ”
Not exactly what I want to hear that I am going to have to pay two government agencies. Thoughts are circling as Charles begins his advice.
“There’s the day club in Miami we can sell. The condo in San Diego sold before the issues with the state, which adds to the available fund balances. You can list the house in Florida along with the yacht down there.”
“I’m not getting rid of the yacht, Charles. Are you sick in the head? Where do you expect the boys and I to hang out? On a pontoon boat? Get out of here.”
Come on now, that’s silly, Charles.
“James, I really need to identify that we’ve been operating under your direction which has been pretty razor thin margins. Enough to pay the bills and keep up with the lifestyle you’ve been having but this whole situation with feds is dire. And I want to stress dire. This is a situation where we need to seriously look at…”
Fuck off, Charles.
“Marshall, seriously, there has to be a way…”
Marshall fist just slammed on the table. Did he just get heated at me? What is this?
“Jim! Knock it off- NOW!”
What the fuck?
“This isn’t fucking play games time. This is act like a fucking adult. No one told you to buy a multi-million dollar home in Chicago you didn’t need or to buy a hundred thousand dollar display in the AllState arena, that’s not even including needing a crew out there every week to install it and take it down just for you and your buddies could have a laugh.”
“No. Shut your fucking mouth for once, Jim. This is serious. You’re going to lose your goddamn house, your wages, your accounts will be zero, everything gone if we don’t get a deal here. Do you understand?! EVERYTHING GONE! You’ll be roommates in Mike Best’s shitty condo he still has a mortgage on if you don’t take this seriously right now!”
I actually have no words.
“I guess… we sell the Gulfstream first and go charter to raise the margins. That gives us about $10 million of liquid to shuffle.”
“If you really want to save the cash flow, I’d recommend a commercial.”
Commercial? Do I look like Cancer Jiles, Charles?
“I’d recommend shutting the fuck up okay? We’re making progress here. Let’s get the plane listed. Figure out shit. Push on the settlement, I can’t deal with another fucking loss around here”
People always say to be a ‘team player’.
Everything I’m not.
Everything I’ve never been good at unless it’s with my friends. Luckily for M.J. and Max my great friend is on this team. I will do everything in my power to make sure he and I are successful walking out of War Games. 24K is in this match, a tag team that is equal to none other than the Hollywood Bruvs.
Chemistry is what will lead our team to victory and the biggest equation is Murrfection.
I’m ready to fight. I’m ready to do whatever I need to to take my team to the top.
Then… well… it’s a dog eat dog world.
And Perfection’s starving.