Capital One Arena, District of Columbia
July 3, 2021
1:15 pm EST
“Okay, it should just be around this corner,” sounded just as confident the fourth time now. Before I had much time to draw any correlation on how a poor sense of direction affects my faith in just how this man could flourish in the face of business, or he had time to sprout some conspiracy theory on how every arena architect tried their best to tribute Daedalus, the door we sought was in view, partial as it was, covered mostly by the man posted there.
“Ah, if you wouldn’t mind,” Shady offered feint gratitude and had to stutter his step when he wasn’t given the full runway. With the added comedy of having to crane his neck, on account of that goofy bowler cap, Shady looked for some understanding in the heavy that carried on as sentinel.
“Boss ain’t available to talk.”
Pulling back to straighten that less-than-dapper suit I still don’t understand how he wasn’t just a puddle in in the face of North America feeling on fire for the last two weeks, Shady spoke slow, “I believe Mr. Best is expecting us. I texted with him just twenty minutes ago.”
And it might have worked, if he didn’t try to shoo away the goliath in mime.
“Boss said nobody goes in.”
Choking up with two strikes, Shady of all people appeals to the better angels of us all, “Sal, listen, I am sure your mother raised a smart, respectful boy such as yourself to ascend to the lofty position of doormaid…” is about just as far as he gets.
“My name is Frank. And my grandma raised me,” was followed by a huff and crossing of the arms.
“Ridiculous,” Shady taps a foot.
“Nah, he don’t work here anymore.”
“Well, whenever Mr. Best is finished with his DeShaun Watson-esque massage routine, be sure to let him know that Grady Patrick, the single greatest starmaker? Starmaker? Yeah, GODdamned starmaker was here,” came with a pivot. “That’ll be good for you, Jimmy,” his parting shot.
I guess me chuckling to myself didn’t go unnoticed, meeting the knux of Frank as I passed.
“You some new wrestler? You can drop your shit,” he casts eyes at my whole-world-in-a -hockey-bag,” in 297.”
“Obliged,” I tip the metaphorical cap, though I wore my ballcap backwards.
“Good luck,” he half meant tonight, and with Shady’s whole situation, the eye roll suggested.
At a reasonable pace, I track behind where Shady might have gone, but find him steaming around the very next corner.
“Of all the indignities,” he moans.
“Honestly, I’m just surprised they even let you in the building, let alone you’d find a bridge left unburnt in this business.”
His response is to just point at the poster hung in anticipation of the High Octane arrival that the Wizards or Capitals might have seen if they were still playing.
“Front. And. Centre.” Teddy Palmer. “I find them the single greatest talent this place has seen in its waltz out of the grave, and this is the respect I get.”
Blessedly, his phone gets a ring, having him abandon this pity party. “Uhmm.. Yeah…”
Teddy Palmer. I haven’t ran in the same circles as that guy since, shit, before Vegas, just a couple of green horns among the talent pool percolating in Southern Ontario. Glad to find him in a good spot.
“Listen, you going to be good?” almost sounded like he cared. “I’ve got this thing,” he held forth the cell to redirect any blame.
“Business never ends?” gets a smile. “Yeah, I think I can manage.”
“Alright, good. Good. Stay loose?” he was a few paces to the exit.
“Yeah, I’ll just run the stairs for an hour,” was the plan, simple.
“Do whatever works. Can’t wait to see the look on that blind man’s face when he owes it to me for delivering two stars to save his sinking ship,” and the dozen snakes piled together in a cheap suit called ‘Shady’ Grady Patrick slither off to whatever next plot was brewing.
I won’t say I like the guy, but he is good at what he does, and he’s at least found me this dancefloor.
A Half Hour Later…
And I’m breathless.
It’s not the stairs that get any credit, I’d be sure to get to my run in a short minute. T’was rather the centre ring, in final stages of assembly. It’s been the better part of a year and a half since I’ve graced the squared circle but in an instant the echo of all the voices of the surely would-be packed house haunt the image.
That was the hardest part.
Not whittling down my shortlist of 50 songs I’d feel could work as entrance accompaniment to just one.
Not the hours put in the makeshift gym going from in shape to in ring-shape.
Not the sweet, demure and merciless Korean woman that waxed away every last chest hair, because the sweat flies better? The chops land redder? No.
It was the idea that after long enough, I doubted I’d be able to stand centre and hear that symphony.
Simply put it’s magic, and I’ve missed that magic.
That awaited in just eight short hours. Between then and now were those stairs.
“No time like the present.”
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@4:15 PM, July 3, 2021
The image from the phone held safely in a couple tears in an empty drinks cup springs forward: the upper half of the 6 foot and damn-near 3 inches of Mitchell Quinlan stood in front of any of a myriad of grey cinder block walls within the arena.
“Alright, don’t expect this to be habit, but you never really realize how long eight hours is until you spend it just waiting for one moment. Soes I get to scrolling through, and find this one tweet from a guy named Harry: ‘Who the fuck is Mitch Quinlan?’
“First off,” all comes through a smile, “love the question. Feel like I could really get a good philosophical debate about the question of self and existence as a whole going, but we’ll pin that for another day.
“It could have done without the expletive, and the GIF of a guy miming masterbation,” a pause for not-too-deep reflection. “I know this place really ain’t big on thinking that anything of note ever happens outside of itself, but I think you want a little illumination, so forgive me for indulging. Promise it’s the Cliff Notes,” comes with the hand gesture that’ll tell you Quinlan never was a Boyscout in his youth.
“So this ball of potential hits the stage with the Vegas outfit way back in oh-seven. Nineteen and ready to talk the world on, before the rug got pulled and the organization went under. Had a cup of coffee in the PRIME-time, but got lost on the world tour. Bounced about the wider world and learned as much as I could. Spent one weird summer in Utah where they threw me under a hood and called me a saint. Eventually settled stateside in Kansas, had it good until a coffin caught fire and the place itself went all sleepy. World goes to shit for longer than any of us could think, and still kinda is in parts. Then, boom, here now.
“No resume of great success. No litany of unfashionable and nonfunctional belts. Little reason to crow, so why even bring it up?
“Simply as a testament to the faithful that if you find my history, you’ll know that I walk alongside the angels. I have never stooped to pucker any appendage that’ve made this journey easy. What’s fun about easy? A quick scan of just who holds rank in this outfit tells me just how many want easy for themselves, and joyless for you.
“I won’t promise you that I’m here to take gold. I can’t say that I am here to save this place from the rumblings of an indifferent god. I am here to do what I do in that ring, and give you just some reason to hope that good stands a puncher’s chance still. I’d ask to share with me your voices. I might be a Fool Saint, but what happens out in the twenty by twenty, surrounded by thousands, deserves to be done with a touch of respect.”
Plucking at his wrist in a moment of awkward silence, his smile is renewed and he pulls a twine bracelet away from the various rubber and leather ones around it. Thinking better of it, he glances down the barrel of the lense.
“Bobbo, I must say I’m a little hurt. Not that anyone here would want to admit that that Utah thing was ever any more than just some abduction no one is ever sure really happened, but hurt all the same. Here,” Quinlan pulls off the mostly black tee and fashions it around the top half of his face, “does this ring a bell?” Prop work over, the cloth gets tossed aside.
“But that was a whole life and half your weight ago. Damn, man. Dean done lost the weight and got in shape. I want to say congrats, but it’s a little too easy to bend into shape without a spine. Forgive me for fucking up and thinking fun-loving for meaning upstanding in any regard. I mean, how do you ever look at the perma-bitch face of Beckman and think that meant pants optional?
“But moving swiftly away from that visual, you tell me you blame me for not giving you the bullets to fire? For words? Fuck, what we do is out there,” and a point in the direction we assume is the ring. “I guess I don’t envy you, I wouldn’t want to walk into a fight with a guy I had plenty of tape on but forgot who he was; it’s a tough place to be. I would say that I tried to reach out, but it seems every greeting I’ve gotten in this place was as short as two words, and always the latter being ‘off.’
“But what now that I’ve ran off to join the circus that’s all to do with the High Octane ultraviolence? You mentioned an invitation to the dance? Let’s hope you know the Duchess of Queensbury two step. We’ll twirl and dip, and dive and hope for something of a crescendo. When the music stops, that’s when to worry about what comes next.
“It’s been too long since I’ve done this. Forgive me if I get a little caught in the moment, but for me the moment is what matters. When the world outside of the centre circle melts away, the fists and fur fly, each jumped by the noise, nay, movement of music of the faithful to will the spirit. That’s the moment I chase.
“A hat tip, I guess. When it comes time for the pinfall, I think we opt for something safer, like submission or TKO?
“And the rest,” he trails off. A defeated sigh escapes, and Quinlan is left shaking his head.
“Bobby, bring with you your best, because I am going to need it. No more words to fail.”
With that, he moves forward to cut the feed.
“Except for maybe one more,” he stops short, his barrel chest eclipsing the frame.