He sits on the edge of his seat in a darkened room facing a television, the screen not visible to the viewer, but bathing his face in a cool glow. It sits on a plastic maintenance cart, a DVD player perched atop it. The flickering light casts an almost spooky glow about the room, bouncing off silvered hooks at just above head height for most – chest high for his massive frame. He seems to be in a dressing room, a crowd cheering fills the room along with the opening riffs of “Love Spreads” by The Stone Roses.
Rick seems entranced by the set, watching intently, a Red Bull in his hand as Brian McVay’s voice cuts through the arena speakers:
“Introducing first, from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada… The Willing Villain… ALEXANDER! REDDIIIINGG!”
Just as his voice fades and the music continues, Alex Redding presumably heading towards the ring on the unseen screen, Rick’s phone rings. O’Canada blasts from a table beside him, and he quickly reaches for it, sending a small pile of empty Red Bull cans skittering to the floor with a metallic crashing cacophony. Rick quickly swipes the screen with his thumb and places it to his ear.
“Hey, dad….what’s goin’ on?”
A muffled voice, excitable and loud can be heard coming from the speaker of the phone, however the television’s volume prevents much more from being heard.
“Wait, what? Hold up a sec, I’m doing some studying…”
Suddenly, “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin begins, as McVay’s voice booms:
“Introducing second, his opponent for the evening…from Huntington Beach, California; he’s HOW’s #1 Dad in the WOOOOOOOOOORLD…..STEEEEEVEN SOOOOOOLEX!”
He removes the phone from his ear, touching the screen with his thumb, while simultaneously picking up a remote from the table and clicking it at the television furiously. Suddenly the cheering stops as Rick sets the phone down on the table beside him again.
“Did I stutter? You had better be studying this Alex Redding motherfucker if you wanna make it out of this group stage! This is just like math in high school, you were too busy smokin’ the reefer to bother doing your damned homework!”
Rick defensively holds his hands up, almost as if his father could see his reaction.
“Look, I made a LOT of money that year. Remember I took you out for that steak dinner for Father’s Day? Yeah…all from the electric lettuce. I was an entrepreneur – are you REALLY gonna give me shit about making money? You told me to do what I was good at…”
“I told you to not be a fuckstick too, didn’t I? What if one of the other kids ratted you out? Didja ever think about that?”
“Dad, I could bench press two of ’em in high school…they weren’t sayin’ shit. Most of ’em were afraid if I had to ask to borrow a pen – they definitely weren’t gonna rat me out for sellin’ a little ganja.”
“Look, this isn’t a game, ok? You said you were going there to make a name for yourself, right?”
Rick nods before responding.
“Of course dad, look…I think I’m doing alright. I mean, I won my first match.” Rick shrugs as he leans even closer to the screen, clearly trying to act out a defense to what he’s watching. He brings the Red Bull in his hand to his lips and tilts it nearly vertical, dumping the remaining contents into his mouth, after which he crushes the can and tosses it over his shoulder.
“Sure, you won your first match…then what?”
“Then I lost my second match…but it was close! Seriously though, I got caught with my kilt down.”
Rick reactively hangs his head a little.
“So, pull your giant head outta yer ass! Look, you know I’m only on ya because I want ya to succeed, right?
“I get it…what was it you always used to say when I was a kid? Something about chess? Remember?”
“Play chess while everyone else plays checkers…and don’t make your plan obvious.”
Rick smiles as he glances at the phone.
“Why do you think I’ve been studying? I mean…”
He stands, stepping towards the tv, picking up a pile of discs, dropping each as he lists them.
“…Alex Redding vs. Steve Solex, Alex Redding vs. Brian Hollywood, and Alex Redding vs. Buck Yates…all of his matches so far in this tournament. I’ve watched them so many times I see them in my sleep…trust me, I’m ready.”
The voice on the other end of the phone chuckles as Rick steps back in place squarely in front of the television.
“And you think that’s enough? Come on, Rick…you can do better than that. Isn’t he part of a tag team? Speaking of which, what’s going on with you and Matt?”
“Look, Matt’s still having a look. He’s happy with you guys back in DPW, as far as I know. I’ve talked to him about coming here but I think he’s weighing his options, ya know? Turn-It-Up Express isn’t done…I can tell ya that for sure.”
His father clears his throat, seemingly contemplating his words before continuing.
“My point is, kid, watch his tag matches too…anything you can get your hands on. You’ve got a chance to put a serious crimp in his style – you beat him, you have a chance to tie him…and you’d have a win on him, doesn’t that give you some sort of tie breaker?”
Again, Rick seems to be instinctively getting into the match, his massive body dodging quickly left and right, throwing punches at the air.
“Yeah, but a tie isn’t a win…and he’s not the only one I need to worry about. I’ve gotta take on a former World Champ after Redding.”
“Exactly. FORMER. Stop letting that sit in your mind. He’s just another motherfucker in the dressing room now…so you do exactly what you’re doing now for your last match, you pull out two more big wins, and you finish strong. You got this.”
Rick stops, slowly turning back to the phone again.
“Ya know what? The last time I heard you tell me I got this was right before that Tartarus Prison Match against Ultra Violence back in NFW…and what happened there?”
“You and Matty whupped their asses, bled everywhere like Flair after a shitty blading, and finally cemented yourselves as serious contenders…like I said…with this Redding kid? You got this. But hey…”
“…whether you win or lose, I still love ya.”
Rick smiles confidently, turning back to the television.
“Love you too, dad. I’ve gotta go…gonna finish watching this match, then I’m gonna call the archives department and see if I can dig anything else up. Maybe I can find something on YouTube too, I dunno.”
“Alright kid. Call me after your match, even though I’ll be watching to see if you’re on the show. Seeya, bud!”
“I’ll talk to ya Saturday, dad…”
As the phone clicks Rick is already back to weaving and dodging, much like a hyperactive child after a bowl of sugary cereal, all the while transfixed on the screen.
“Jesus fucking Christ, I need to stop drinkin’ them Red Bulls…”