02-08-2022 | 02-09-2022
It’s the night after Refueled 86 and I find myself driving out to Las Vegas. Now, from Cleveland? That’s approximately a thirty-or-so hour drive. Flying would only take roughly four hours, but since I don’t do very well with the whole flying thing—hip, hip, hooray for the U.S.S. Octane when going overseas—I know I need to get a jump start on the trip. Especially if I’m going to make it to my destination and be back in West Lafayette, Indiana, on time for Refueled 87. So, because that drive is slightly under thirty hours, making haste with what I needed to do is of paramount importance to anything else happening at the moment. God knows, with challenging for the LSD Championship in the main event, being tardy for my first opportunity at said chance would be absolutely foolish.
Good thing I drive as if I took a Driver’s Ed course with Franklin from GTA V, because I made it in a brisk twenty-two hours. It’s also a good thing I downloaded ‘5-0 Police Scanner’ to my smart phone because otherwise they’d have most likely taken my license away and impounded my vehicle. I’m sure He would not have appreciated getting a call like that to help pay for the impound and ticket fees that I simply can’t afford, so hopefully someone can remind me later to give the app five-stars. Muah. Chef’s kiss.
After a long drive with only a handful of stops to fill up on gas, I finally pull up to the training facility in my shit box of a car- a 2002 Gecko Green Jeep Wrangler. There’s an acrid taste of disgust in my mouth that seems to travel from the back of my throat all the way down my cigarettes-and-booze-eroded esophagus. My gag reflex reacts poorly to this disgusting flavor, but I push the thought of hurling chunks out of my mind and into the stratosphere somewhere. Needless to say, I really do not want to be here. Yet, here I am anyway. Doing my due diligence for what will probably be the biggest match of my burgeoning career in High Octane Wrestling.
John Sektor’s the most dangerous submission artist around? Cool. Hard to ignore that fact given how many submission victories the man has under his (girder)belt. But I’m going to put that theory to the test and get some insight from a true submission GOD.
Of course, unless my father wasn’t around or forbid me from entering these sacred grounds.
“What a gaudy piece of shit.” I say out loud to myself as I tilt my head upwards and see the grotesque omnipresence of signage set alight with glass neon tubing. Embarrassingly, it reads, in all its revolting incandescence:
A Van Warren Family Training Xperience!
Yuck. Way to go, Dad. Had to replace a vowel with an ‘X’. You fucking trailblazer, you.
With a cigarette tucked between my lips and smoke billowing out from an unfiltered end, I step out of my Kermit The Frog on wheels and take one last drag before flicking it onto the parking lot pavement. As you may have noticed, I didn’t even bother putting it out. That’s because, with a little luck, some gasoline could pool around a leaking tank from someone else’s nearby shit box and the entire facility could ignite, successfully razing my father’s bullshit to the ground in ashes and sweat where it belongs. A bastard son can dream, I guess.
Rubbing the stubble from under my pronounced and pointy chin, I walk right up to the doors of ‘Champ’s Legacy’ and cup both hands beside my cheekbones and temples, blocking out any unwanted sunlight from my peripheral vision. Inside, I can see various independent locals all busting their asses to my father’s “Hall of Fame Regimen”, as he conceitedly calls it, in the multiple rings set up all throughout the endearing, custom-built warehouse. Supposedly, training in a warehouse setting gives its patrons a sense of grit and blue collar determination as they push themselves to their absolute limits. If you ask me, it just looks like a Whole Foods minus the shelving and numbered aisles mapping out the locations for its overpriced groceries.
“Well, here goes nothing..” I say, preparing myself for the absolute worst welcome wagon since German Soldiers returned to their country in 1945.
With a medium-strength tug, I open the glass doors. As soon as I step inside, undecided if I should be shivering or content at the room’s cool temperature, I see a couple of people purchasing post-workout refreshments from a juice stand. If there’s a sign that reads “No Judgment Zone” above a bowl full of candy with a sign that reads “GOOD JOB! REWARD YOURSELF.”, I will be on the phone with Arliss Peters quicker than Planet Fitness can say “cease and desist”.
“What the FUCK are YOU doing here?!” calls out…my Uncle Mike?!
Uncle Mike, who goes by Michael Van Warren—or MvW, not to be confused with that dumb fucking redneck promotion—is, confusingly enough, about nine years younger than me. He is the half-kid brother to my deadbeat dad, Eryk Van Warren. But that’s another story for another day if I ever feel like telling it.
“EY. I asked you a question, Arthur!” angrily calls out the booming voice of the six-foot five-inch, two-hundred sixty-five pound stud that would some day break out as a star in the wrestling industry.
“What? No ‘Hi, my favorite and only nephew!’? You’re sounding more like your idiot older brother every day.” I say, intentionally trying to piss him off. With how hot of a temper Mikey has, I know how unstable and volatile his nature can be. Drawing that out whenever I see him is as much fun as any family night at a Dave & Buster’s.
“I asked you a question.” he repeats, his tone growing more and more agitated.
“Calm down, Mikey. I’m not here to exacerbate any of the drama associated with the Van Warren family name. I don’t give a damn what you’ve been doing, what Eryk has been doing, or what any long-lost sister of mine that’ll show up in three promos down the line from now is doing.”
For the record, I don’t have a long-lost sister. I don’t think I do, anyway.
Michael eases up a bit in his stance. Looking into my eyes, he can tell I’m telling the truth.
“Fine. But you should know, your Father isn’t here.”
“Oh goody. You are, though!”
“Obviously.” my little uncle snaps back.
A smirk stretches across my pallid face and a frown grows upon Michael’s. The dichotomy between our demeanors is incredible.
“Then tell me, Mikey. Wanna spar with me in the ring to help develop some last-minute submission skills?” I ask, knowing the answer would be a full-fledged no. However, Michael looked around the facility, evidently seeking someone in particular.
“No, but I can put you with someone that can. I’m more of a power brawler, myself.” he says earnestly.
A belly laugh escapes me as I look up and down his ridiculously muscular, carved from granite type of frame.
“Really? You don’t say?! I would’ve never have guessed!”
Shaking his head, Michael leads me across the snooty ass performance center. Like anybody in pro-wrestling actually needs six wrestling rings set up. Pfft. I take a gander at several people on the way to wherever my uncle is taking me. I don’t recognize a single face amidst these up-and-coming warriors and, let’s be honest now, I doubt they’ll ever amount to anything other than a job behind a crimson mask with the EPU.
Finally, we reach the wrestling ring setup furthest from the entrance where an athletically gifted Black man with textured curls and faded temples for hair is on the mat with a slightly smaller, nearly orange-skinned Italian with long dark hair. One thing’s for sure is they both look like absolute dickwads and all it would take is one Calamity Pain, or Provocation kick, to end their miserable day in two-seconds flat. That fact notwithstanding, a voice inside me tells me… begs me, actually… to just be patient and give Michael a chance to explain why he brought me over to these two young gentlemen.
“Shoulda pivoted, man.” I can just make out from the Black man who controls the smaller Italian man.
“Hey Preston…” says Michael, barely looking up inside the ring with his tall frame, “Got a guy here who wants someone with some submission skills to show him the ropes. You down for the job?”
Preston lets go of the other unidentified man and stands up. Adjusting his baby blue short tights and one of his black knee pads, he nods at me. Oh yes, I’m your huckleberry, bitch.
“Yeah, man. He lookin’ for basic arm bars and shit?”
Finally, I decide to speak up.
“More like, I’m looking for moves to weaken or destroy someone’s knee and leg… and shit.”
Preston suddenly has a very worried look on his face.
“Yo, you’re Arthur, man. Arthur Pleasant. Eryk’s son.” continues Preston.
“And I have no fucking clue who you are, Preston. Life’s unfair sometimes.”
“Mikey, bro… this dude? I know what he’s capable of. I saw his nasty backyard bullshit before, and I don’t feel like havin’ my eyes gouged out or my face torn off so he can wear it for Halloween.”
“A., Halloween isn’t for like another nine months, and Two, I don’t gouge out people’s eyes. I simply push them in with my thumbs.” I say, making little flippy gestures as if I’m pushing the red button on a phantom switch with my thumbs. Michael looks uninterested in changing Preston’s mind. Shrugging, I hop up onto the ring apron, sitting Indian-style with my back turning to the kid.
“I don’t blame you. Submission isn’t really my thing, anyway. I’d much rather kick or headbutt or elbow a limb until it snaps. But I did have an idea for a leg maneuver. And, Preston…” I say, pausing mid-sentence.
I lean back, looking at Preston upside down.
“I must remind you, I drove thirty hours out of my way to try it out.”
“I dunno, man. I just… I dunno.” says a patronizing Preston as he wipes the sweat off from atop his head. The other kid he had been training with does the smartest thing he can do and rolls out of the ring. I sit forward again and look at Michael.
“Miiiiiiiiikey. When did all these kids coming up in the biz turn into such PUSSIES?! Jesus Christ!”
Preston’s stance changes, and he nods. Yes, Preston. Take the bait, you proud little cunt.
“I know what you’re doin’, man. Ain’t gonna work on me.” he blurts.
“No. Because YOU… you’re different, right? You will not let some garbage wrestler that everybody hates pull the wool over your eyes and sabotage your self-respect. Right? No, no, nooooo. Because Preston… what’s your last name, kid?”
“Alexander.”, he answers. Oh, you ARE a proud one, aren’t ya?
“Two first names. How unique. Got it. So Preston Alexander’s a different person than all the rest, right?” I say as acrimoniously as possible with a Cheshire cat grin glued to my face, like bits of newspaper to a papier mâché project. My jagged teeth emphasize my murderous intentions as Michael looks to step in before things escalate.
“That’s enough. Now get out of here before you regret making that long ass trip. Take some of your HOW money and go gamble with it for all I care. I hear MGM Grand has been giving away a lot of money.”
Ignoring Michael, I look up at Preston. He steps closer to the ropes when I suddenly jump up onto the ring apron.
“If you’re feeling froggy, then jump. Or are you just a poor little tadpole without a leg to stand on?” I say.
Before I know it, Preston grabs me by the hair and pulls me into the ring.
YES! That’s it.
“PRESTON! Stop. This is ridiculous..” chimes in Michael with no sense of urgency, watching another man beat on me.
With the toes of my black and white Chucks pressing against the top rope, stopping myself from being dragged any further, I laugh. Igniting a flame inside Preston Alexander, he knees me in the face. I turn away just at the right moment so that his knee hits me in my already mangled looking earlobe.
“OOF. You-” I pause, struggling to get out of this predicament, “-got some spunk in you, kid!”
I simply do nothing as Preston rips me from the ropes and into a belly-to-belly position. Before he can even lift me into the air, though, I open my jaw wide and bite down on his perfectly intact earlobe.
“GET HIM OFF ME!!! GET HIM OFF ME!!” Preston screams.
The taste of copper quickly floods my mouth and washes across the surface of my tongue. Pulling my head back, I can feel his earlobe stretching and ripping. Before I tear it off completely, Michael intervenes by sliding into the ring and pushes me hard. So hard, in fact, more than just a little piece of Preston’s ear relinquishes itself from his head and finds itself stuck between my jagged teeth.
The #97Red-curdling screams and horrific wails coming from Preston Alexander stop the goings on of the entire facility.
Looking at Michael with someone else’s blood dripping from my mouth so that it cascades off my chin, I shrug.
“Look what you did, Mikey. I was just about to let go, too.” I accuse my uncle, chuckling at the irony of it all.
Michael charges at me, but I’m savvy enough to recognize my impending doom and slither out of the ring like the snake I am. I make a beeline for the doors as the echoes from Preston’s screams fill the temperature controlled chasm of the training facility’s inner wrestling sanctum.
Thirty hours? For this?
For a kid to get fresh with me and try to impose his will like he’s my better?
To look Michael Van Warren in the eyes after I took a piece of this prodigy with me?
What about learning some submission stuff for an exposed knee?
Fuck it. Not worth exploring. A knee’s a knee until it’s not anymore.
But what just happened? Was it worth that long ass drive to and the long ass drive back?
It was worth. every. second.
Listen, Adam. I know we’re not competing against each other this week, but I need to ask you something. That is, of course, if you’re awake from that coma after what happened to you last week. So, if you’re up to the task, I want you to relay a message for me. To your mentor. To your… well, whatever else John Sektor, Hall of Famer, LSD Champion, The Machine, The Wrestling Purist actually is, or says he is, to you.
That message is simply this: I’m going to HURT him, I’m going to EMBARASS him, and I’m going to DEMORALIZE him. More than he already is or probably ever will be.
Not only am I going to do all of that after I further mutilate that crippled appendage of his, Adam, but I may very well end his career entirely. I’ve already ended one career in the short amount of time I’ve been back in HOW, so try not to take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. Or lightly. Or as a threat, even. No, Adam. Take what I say to you in regards to the great John Sektor as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God. Take what I’m saying to you not as an empty proclamation for a little bit of pain and a little bit of the “same ole same ole” that every unworthy challenger before me has issued, but as a harbinger of the bloody reality that’s on the horizon.
Actually, it’s not even on the horizon anymore.
It’s right around the fucking corner.
You see, it was a life-changing mistake for John to take on this match. He’s been limping his way through this bullshit title reign for so long that he forgot how exposed he is. How naked, figuratively speaking, he actually is. You can only be a badass for so long before your bones betray you. Before your age rapes you of your dignity. Before your momentum comes to a crawl and eventually just… stops. Like a few loosened cogs in an old clock that eventually falls off and puts an end to the whole machineworks.
Ask my idiot-loser Father sometime.
Oh and another thing, Anakin? Consider dumping Obi-Wan and finding yourself a new ward. Because one day? You will resent him. Badly.
For all the lies he constrained your trust with and coerced you to believe in.
For all the senseless beatings you had to take on behalf of his cowardice.
For all the practiced selfishness he revealed to you through his incessant deceitfulness.
You will hate him for all of it, Adam. You can…hehe… trust me… on that.
John Sektor is the threadbare rug that once looked magnificent in the almighty House of HOW but now needs to be thrown out because of a poor contrast with the current decor. There is nothing left in his tank or guts but rust and moist decomposition, Adam. Don’t be a victim of this sort of blight in a broken shell of a man. Get as far away from it as you can while the option is still there. When I put him down and my hand is raised as the victor? If you’re too close to the desperate pleas and woeful cries of a pathetic has-been… it will only oxidize your future completely.
John is one ‘loss of a championship he never deserved’ away from becoming a… hmm, how should I put this… a black hole filled with lifelessness that will suck you into nonexistence if you get any closer than you already are. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
When I shock the world and snap together each button on that championship belt so that it fits snug around my waist, do John a favor and simply walk away from what will inevitably look like a crime scene. A doe-eyed protégé like yourself doesn’t need such cacophonous images of a fallen legend to haunt you for the rest of your life.
You think you can remember all of that, Adam? Good. Because as heartless, soulless, and savage I may be as a person? I just don’t have that level of cruelty in me to deliver such a crushing message to him. Not with words, that is. No.
But if you don’t remember all of what I said? No biggie, friend. Besides, I know fully that there’s a good chance you have heard none of this. My actions at Refueled 87 will more than suffice as a hand-delivered message.
So let us all put our hands together. Like the true humanitarians we are, let us pray to Him that our favorite Hall of Famer physically survives this violent, yet transitory, moment in his life. Let us hope he will wake up in his hospital bed the next night with a new lease on life as he comes to terms with the fact that his reign as LSD Champion is finally fucking over.
Over and out.
End of line.
Pick one… but choose quickly.
‘Cause the extermination of John Sektor has already begun.