This is how things always go.
Someone calls me, sweet talks me into missing something about the old days, throws some unmet challenge in my face. I have a soft spot for challenges, a soft spot for impossible odds, and I fall for it.
My best days in the wrestling business were spent alone, on top, no one to distract me, no one to bother me. I like not having to depend on someone else, and I detest having to babysit anyone.
Lindsay had stayed by my side in the business longer than anyone else for more than just reasons of being my wife’s sister. She knew how to navigate her own way in the business just as well as I did. I never had to tell her what to do or suggest an alternate plan. She was attracted to winning, whether I was there or not, and she had a soft spot for me, because I was the one to place her very first World Championship around her waist.
The truth is… at the time, it was the proudest moment of my career. I’d had enough of the spotlight, and I was proud, legitimately proud of her.
She didn’t need me, though.
And when I came back, I didn’t need her either, but she was smart, and she made sense. Doing this alone isn’t always the best decision, not when you have someone you can trust to have your back. She’s always had my back. I haven’t always reciprocated.
Eric Dane was always too goddamn combustible, and I fucking knew better.
I KNEW BETTER.
I knew he hated HOW, hated it with a passion, and I fooled myself — fooled myself into thinking, so what if he hates HOW, so what if he holds a grudge? It has nothing to do with me. I’ll just come in and fight. Just come in and do what I do.
I tied myself to a liar. He didn’t have to lie to me. He was lying to himself. He wanted everyone to think he was over it, that he just wanted to win and prove he could hang here. But he couldn’t. And when that became clear, the facade fell apart. He was exposed, and he almost dragged me down with him.
I agreed to fight War Games with him…. FOR him — and I tied myself to something I shouldn’t have wanted any part of.
It was a mistake.
But mistakes can be corrected.
When you screw up, you either keep plowing ahead blindly, or you make a change. I’m making a change.
I’m no longer here to fight anyone else’s battles. I’m no longer here to settle old grudges or fight for some cause that has nothing to do with me. I’m here for one cause and one cause only. I’m here for me. I’m here to get in the ring and fight. I’m here to toss people around and tie them up in knots just like I’ve done for 20 years.
Not being able to get the World Title off of Farthington — that was a wakeup call.
But, I’m no fool.
There’s so much work to be done, and I’m determined to do it.
I am the ICON Champion. This championship is more important, more prestigious than most World Championships, and I intend to keep it for a long, long time.
The other thing about Lindsay….
She’s always known how to bring me back to the brink when I flirt with self-destruction, or with the utter destruction of others, when I start to go too far. She’s always known how to appeal to the better part of me. She may have saved my life a time or two…
But the better part of me has been getting me nowhere lately.
Things are gonna change. Some of the people around me might change. The results most definitely will change. Failure is not acceptable.
Dan Ryan stomped his way angrily through gorilla, sweat beading up on his forehead. His music was still playing as he walked quickly past stunned HOW employees manning the sound and video equipment just backstage.
He kept his eyes forward, a frown on his face, and kept moving, reaching his dressing room within a few moments and pushing in. His phone was lying on the bench on top of some neatly folded jeans and a shirt, and he could see it already buzzing away.
Approaching and looking down he saw at least three unread texts indicated by the notification bubble inhabiting the bottom of the home screen. He picked it up, thumbed the screen on and realized it wasn’t three texts, but nine. Seven were from his wife. Two were from Lindsay.
He swiped the notifications from the screen, not bothering to read them, and threw his phone into his bag.
He picked up his clothing and started toward the shower, but paused, sighing. He turned and reached into the bag, pulling the phone back out and looked at the first notification. Alaina.
“You didn’t have to go so hard on MJ. I know you’re upset, but you can stop…..”
The message trailed off, the rest cut off by the space limitation of the notification. It was enough. He didn’t care to see anymore.
He tossed the phone back in the bag, then headed to the showers.
He was just getting started.
Did you enjoy your week off, Jack?
Did you have a nice rest and get that nasty eye injury taken care of?
I can’t say my week was too relaxing. I was too busy cracking MJ’s skull open.
Have you spoken to her since she said some stupid shit about me and then got planted in the ring? Probably not. She hasn’t said one word to me. I haven’t said one word to her either. That’s pretty much where we stand, with me waiting to see if she’s still hellbent on losing her goddamn mind. Maybe she grew the fuck up last week and is preparing to take on Mike Best. I wouldn’t know, and I don’t think I care.
How about you, Jack? Nah, stupid question. Has Jack Harmen lost his damn mind, too? That question is loaded. It’s happy go lucky Jack Harmen, then blood and guts Jack Harmen, crazy yell at pigeons Jack Harmen, and occasionally regretful family man Jack Harmen. None of them are really you, though, and yet all of them are. It’s a neat trick.
Let’s get everything out on the table, Jack.
Because that’s what this ‘group of death’ has afforded us here. Mike thinks this is funny, maybe less funny than he did before last week, yet still… funny. This is a wonderful chance for us to put aside all of this bullshit about being one big happy family and get some things out in the open. We’re either gonna sharpen the hell out of our bond, or we’re gonna torch the fuck outta this, but no matter the result, this is going down.
So come on, tell me what you want to say to me, Jack.
I think your willingness to be buddies and teammates and friends is a bunch of nonsense. It’s a bunch of crap.
STATIC – CUT TO: a piece of crap.
The last time we saw each other before you were pulled out of mothballs to join us in HOW, I was tossing your kid into a sea of fans and putting him in the hospital. And why? Because I trusted you to run a company without becoming a megalomaniacal tool, but you did it anyway. I damn near killed him, and you were INDIGNANT! How dare I take it out on the son you barely liked? How dare I injure the boy you turned your back on for your career? That poor boy, so desperate for his father’s love that he shoehorned his way into the wrestling business in a futile effort to earn your love and respect despite having a tenth of your talent.
You were so ANGRY, Jack. So angry. You flew into a rage and tried to rip my head off. You did not succeed, but you tried.
So I had a very hard time believing you when you sauntered into my living room all those months ago and were all… hey man… whatever man… I just wanna fight, man…. Just point me to the blood, man.
No, you are full of it.
Have you been domesticated, Jack?
Has Kate finally sobbed in your ear long enough that you’re ready to start building that cabin up in the Poconos you’ve always dreamed of, trading in your gear for a ‘kiss the cook’ apron and a weekly reservation at ‘Painting with a Twist’? You spend all of this time being a kooky weirdo, but mostly you’re just annoying people. You’re goddamned Yasiel Puig in tights.
Maybe focusing all of your pent up energy toward Max is good enough for you — or have you been itching to find the perfect spot to get some shots in?
Oh, but you’re a good guy, aren’t you? Yeah, you think you’re a good guy. Good guys don’t turn on their partners, do they Jack? Nah, good guys play well with the team like good guys do, even when they have scores to settle. You have some scores to settle with me, Jack. Let’s just be honest, because I’m getting really tired of all the pretending around here.
Lindsay pretended to be okay with me getting shots at Farthington before her. MJ pretended to be okay with it. How about you? Are you pretending to be okay with it, too?
This is the perfect chance for you to walk right up and take your shots, Jack.
I kinda like the idea, because maybe I have some shit to get outta my system too, eh? Do you know what my weakness has been, Jack? See, I don’t even mind saying this out loud because I’m purging this shit right now. My weakness has been that I cared about you motherfuckers way too much.
I cared about MJ’s little up and coming second generation star bullshit story. I cared too fucking much about just wanting to get along with your goofy ass. I cared way too fucking much about making sure I tip-toed around Lindsay’s feelings so she wouldn’t get upset with me, so my wife wouldn’t get upset with me, so we could all have nice little family get togethers and trips to the aquarium and everyone could just keep on tolerating that jerk motherfucker Dan Ryan.
Ah, well here’s the thing. Maybe that’s all I am, Jack. Maybe I am nothing more than an asshole jerk motherfucker who only cares about himself. Whattya think, Jackie? IS that me in a nutshell? I’m ready for another goddamn lecture from someone about how I need to apologize to you, or to MJ, or to Lindsay and her goddamn husband.
Now, the only thing that matters to me is defending the ICON Championship against you or whoever the hell else needs to get their faces smashed in or some ligaments torn. The belt is all that matters to me right now, and if you’re in the ring with me and that belt is on the line, I will kill you in the goddamn face if that’s what I have to do to keep it.
No more apologies. I won’t be listening to anymore advice and I won’t be putting up with anymore long talks about how I’m supposed to fucking be. I built a fucking legacy based on what I think is best, not on pussyfooting around a bunch of people and being led along on a leash.
It’s just like I told MJ, you guys can be here with me, and it’s all good and well, but we aren’t doing this… whatever this has been… anymore. We’re not doing it.
So here’s the thing. I know you’re probably not feeling this physically right now, but we’re gonna get in that ring and fight. The ICON Championship isn’t the only thing on the line this week. We have to get in there and fight this out, because it’s the only way any of us are getting past any of this. The eMpire has been punking us out for months, and I’m fucking sick of it. So you get in that ring and get at me.
Everyone’s acting like they’re fucking okay with losing, and losing, and fucking losing some more, but guess what? I’m fucking not. You lose MJ’s title for her, then lose again, then lose again, then lose again, and yet you’re smiling and screaming to the sky about love and dumpster fires and whatever the fuck else like some suited up dope who doesn’t realize he’s about to fall off a fucking cliff.
Lindsay fucking speaks down to me after our match then goes out and beats Mike Best by getting hit in the head with a fucking chair, but everything’s just fine.
MJ lost then ran off to fucking Flairapalooza to listen to some industrial metal bullshit band that her bestie recommended, then came back and talked shit about the rest of us, so I caved her goddamn skull in.
Well hey, Jack, here’s the thing. You think you’re a good guy, but I know I’m not a good guy. But if you wanna be a good guy, I’m gonna go ahead and MJ Flair you and stomp your face into the mat and maybe boot that eyeball the rest of the way out of your head. I’d say it’s not personal. I usually say that. But I’m feeling really fucking personal 100% of the time right now. I’m feeling a hell of a lot like mowing down everyone in my path, whether that path leads to another World Title shot or not.
I feel like defending this ICON Championship by hurting people, so I think…. yeah, I think that’s what I’m gonna do, Jack. That’s what I’m gonna do.
We’ve let ourselves get soft, but I’m not accepting that. I’m here to fight and I’m here to win, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Even if it means finishing what Max Kael started.