Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Sunday, June 11th, 2023
The routine sounds of a hospital weren’t unfamiliar, especially not for a professional wrestler. All of it became a low buzz in his ears, like an insect determined to drive him to the edge of insanity with its repeated torment. His head felt like it would explode at any moment; the worst headache he had experienced in his life. The neck brace doing its best to choke him didn’t make anything more comfortable in this situation.
This uncomfortable hospital bed had been his ready-made coffin for the last 48 or so hours. He had lost track of time. Everything was a distorted blur, his head felt like a grenade, post pull of the pin, inside of a fishbowl. How had he ended up here? He couldn’t tell you. Why he was still and when he’d be able to leave was also a mystery to him. Everything was either too loud or too bright for him to think straight. It was just him, the uncomfortable hospital bed, the darkness, and the pain that just wouldn’t go away.
The only thing stopping him from leaping out of the window in the room and hoping the fall killed him was the darkness. Any time someone entered the room was hell on earth for him, the light from outside was like an ice pick being jammed directly into his brain.
“Ughhh.” The groan escaped his lips as he squirmed defiantly, trying to find a spot on the bed that didn’t feel like he was trying to sleep on top of a boulder.
No television or music, and staring at a cell phone felt like a death sentence, leaving him no choice but to lay there waiting as time slowly ticked away.
Suddenly the door to his room opened and the light invading his sanctuary of darkness caused him to writhe like a vampire set to burst into flames. Eventually, the door closed and the unannounced guest approached the bed.
“Hey…” There was a sheepishness to the voice.
“What do you want?” Said with a hiss of disdain.
“Right…” After a pause and a gulp of the knot formed in their throat, the person spoke with more of a stiff upper lip. “I saw what happened to you and I wanted to check up on you, first and foremost.”
“Who are you?!” His patience had already worn thin.
“It’s me…” The reply was overtly cheerful which only irked him more. “Your old pal, Abby Choi!”
There was a thick layer of silent tension in the air. His head was throbbing but the words began to connect for him.
“Shelley?” He asked out into the void. “Shelley Greene?!”
“That is not my name anymore but I’m kind of wearing thin on the Abdullah Choi thing too.” He mused out loud. “I think it’s time for something different, something fresh. Something that screams…”
Choi was interrupted by a massive hand reaching out and taking a swipe at him. The man formerly known as Shelley Greene squealed but managed to jump back out of the way.
“Okay, time doesn’t heal all wounds, apparently,” Shelley muttered under his breath and then composed himself. “I know I’m not your favorite person after the whole STRONK thing but I can make that better.”
Jace rolled in the bed slowly, his one eye narrowed as he tried to make out the silhouette of Greene’s body.
“Make it better?” he grunted before raising his voice. “Look at me! How are YOU going to make any of this better?!”
Greene didn’t answer the question. Instead, he walked to the end of the bed and grabbed the clipboard hanging there. He used the light from his phone that he had fished from his pocket to read over the documents.
“Grade two concussion and possible neck and spinal trauma.” Greene read out loud as the former LSD Champion growled. “Rough but not impossible.”
Shelley placed the clipboard back into place and headed back up to the head of the bed. He placed both hands into his pockets before rocking back and forth on his feet.
“Do you remember anything that happened?” There was a fake softness to his voice.
Every fiber of his being wanted to reach out and grab Shelley by the throat. Every muscle in his body tensed and wanted to maim Greene for even asking that question. However, after a few large breaths, he managed to reply.
“I remember getting drunk at the arena.” He recalled the events from two days ago. “Everything else is just bits and pieces. Blurred illusions that don’t fit together at all.”
There was a sly smirk on Shelley’s lips that was hidden in the darkness.
“Tell me.” It was more of a request than a demand—the need to know versus the ignorance of bliss.
“Oh no, that is not a good idea.” Shelley waved a dismissive hand. “But the question is, do you want to get out of here? Do you want revenge?”
The edge came back to the former Champion’s voice as he roared. “Does it look like I’m on fucking vacation?!” His chest heaved labored breaths. The vise-like headache squeezed even tighter but he was far too worked up now; he had passed the point of no return. “Whoever and whatever happened to me is not just going to slide!”
Machines in the room started to beep and sound. The rush of his anger and his rising blood pressure would soon bring a stampede of nurses into the room. Something that Shelley did not want to happen. As far as he wanted to keep it, he was never here.
“Easy, easy big guy,” Greene whispered in a soothing voice. “I’ve been watching, keeping track and I saw you hit rock bottom. Admitting you’re a failure and all? Not a good look, not a good look at all.”
He could sense the anger starting to seep out of every pore of his former client and decided to get to the point.
“Whatever you decided to do or however you decided to tackle it. You know that HE is going to be there.” The emphasis on the word ‘he’ was all that was needed to confirm just who the man named Choi was talking about.”
“As you helped him get back to where he was and beyond.” He spat in disgust, remembering the feeling of betrayal even after he kept this man’s dirty secret.
“I did, you’re absolutely right and that was a mistake.” He was in full used car salesman’s mode. “However, since you told me to fuck off. I’ve been putting my nose to the grindstone. Tinkering away for hours on end just to even the odds.”
“The fuck are you talking about?!”
“I’m talking about the injection I gave STRONK Daddy.” There was a bit of glee in his tone. “It worked marvelously but it has its flaws. And I can guarantee that STRONK nor Papa Best know anything about it.”
“What good does that do me?”
“Not a damn thing.” Choi leaned back in case the former Champion decided to take another swipe at him. “Until now. I have perfected the concoction that I injected into STRONK and it’s better than ever.”
“Are you saying that you wan–” Greene cut him off before he could protest.
“I know what you’re thinking.” Miss Cleo over here. “There is no reason why you should trust me but what other choice do you have? You put STRONK through the top of that cage at War Games and all it did was make him take a nap. What I gave him has made stronk into STRONK. The only way to fight ungodly muscle is with ungodly muscle.”
Shelley strolled across the room until he reached the large window and blinds that were preventing light from entering.
“Concussion, spinal trauma? All of it can be fixed with one shot. Or you could just sit here and suffer.” Greene turned around and peeked through the blinds. “No real security here in this hospital. None that can stop a STRONK. Never know just when he or someone else could show up.”
He raised his hand into the air and tried to block the light from his eye while leaning to the farthest side of the bed.
“So…” Shelley moved his hand from the blinds and spun on his heels. “What do you say?”
Maybe it was despair, the feeling of hopelessness after hitting rock bottom. Perhaps it was his current situation, stuck in a hospital with nowhere to go and no idea who to blame. It was possibly the headache and grade two concussion that he now knew he had. Whatever it was, the decision was made deep down in this pit of his stomach.
“Do it.” The words were short and threatening. “Make it quick and get the fuck out of here, I don’t even want to smell you anymore.”
Choi grinned real wide and pulled a large syringe from the pocket of the cheap and dirty blazer that hung off of his scrawny shoulders.
“You’re going to just feel a little pinch.”
The Kingdom Training Facility
Monday, June 19th, 2023
The work had been put in. From the moment he got the news that he suffered no structural damage to his neck and spine, he decided to put Northwestern Memorial Hospital in his rearview mirror. Getting to toss that neck brace into the nearest dumpster, getting to sleep in his own bed. Two things he desired more than anything, two things he relished in for two whole days but then work had to be done.
The clanging and banging of weights echoed off the walls of the training facility that had him as the majority owner. He had been at it for days, only taking minor breaks to cover other commitments. Today, it was back to work, it was back to pushing himself beyond previous limits. The sweat poured from his body, and a majority of muscles in his body were screaming. It felt like his heart was trying to beat its way out of his body like some bad version of the movie Alien.
His mouth was parched but he grunted as he pulled himself to his feet, shaking out his arm to make the ache go away. Three short steps were taken until he started crumbling like a stack of cards in the wind. He managed to find some semblance of balance on one knee but everything was still spinning in orbit around him.
“What happened?” The voice of his concerned significant other rang in his ear as she hustled to his side.
“Just got dizzy.” The words came out rough, and the struggle to be coherent was evident.
“Here.” Samantha placed one of his arms over her shoulder.
She helped him back to the bench and lowered him down. She fetched him a bottle of water that he accepted as he would the key to the city.
“You’re pushing yourself way too hard.” Her words came out in a lecturing tone.
“Not hard enough.” He said between gulps of water.
“You’re too stubborn for your own good.” Her hands found her hips, the disapproval radiated from her. “You can’t heal properly if you overdo it.”
He shook his head vehemently but his hand gripped his knee and his body hunched over, trying to take in oxygen by the truckload.
“I did fine last Sunday.” Bringing up the match he wrestled post-hospital release. “I just…” He chewed on the words for a moment before finally spitting them out. “…I just thought I’d be further along than this.”
Sam’s demeanor softened; she leaned down and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“You were just in the hospital” Logic is what she thought would raise his spirit and bandage his wounded ego. “You can’t expect yourself to be 100% this quickly.”
He chewed on his bottom lip and side-eyed the bend of his arm. The same arm that was injected with whatever Choi had in that syringe. Or did he? Did all of that actually happen? Did Shelley Greene really appear out of thin air to poke him in the arm with 11 different gamma rays and spices? The mixture of pain medication and a grade two concussion seemed a likely cause for a hallucination. He couldn’t tell either way at this point but he would keep the truth or the fever dream to himself.
“You’re right.” He nodded his head slowly. “I just used to be able to do this workout no problem and–” Samantha cut him off and focused his attention on her.
“Give yourself some time.” Her tone was sincere but he just exhaled like an angry beast.
“Time is the one thing I don’t have.” He started to rise from the bench but the grip on his shoulder from Tolson told him that getting up was not an option. “I’ve watched the replay of what they did to me over and over again. I’ve watched it so many times that it runs on an endless loop in my mind.” His tone was serious, dark. “There are things that I need to do. Things that I have put off for way too long.”
“One day at a time.” Her words started to become rehearsed, generic. She didn’t know what words to choose to both comfort him and keep him from rampaging in sheer hatred.
“It’s more complicated than that.” He raised his tone. “SHE is just…” Samantha cut his thought short again.
“She?” One word, one question that was loaded like a military base.
He closed his eye and took a deep inhale. Holding it for a moment before blowing it past his lips.
“It’s not important.” Now was not the time to explain his history with Carey to her. “They booked me in an eight-person tornado tag match and my ‘PARTNER’ is a less-than-desired choice. I’ll make it work with her, somehow.” He took another gulp of water. “It’s the other people in the match that I’m focused on.”
Her hand moved his shoulder to rub up and down his back as he continued.
“I’m facing a mixture of veterans, friends, annoyances, and the people responsible.” He revealed as he gestured toward his skull.
The sound of ice cubes in a glass rattling broke the silence: the current notification noise on his phone. He leaned over enough to fetch it from its resting spot. A few swipes and he was in his text message inbox. His demeanor soured as he read over the responding text message from Carey.
“Is it something important?” She asked while scanning his face for any clues to the answer.
“No.” He said sternly before setting his phone back down. “It’s just not much time left before I have to start packing for the trip to Peru.”
He polished off the remaining water in the bottle before gently rising to his feet. Deliberately, he marched his way toward the locker room area, almost daring his body to try and betray him again. A hot shower was required to clean his body and clear his mind.
Saturday, June 24th, 2023
It was the day before Chaos would air live here in Trujillo and that meant the stars of the company would be shuffled in and out in front of reporters and media personnel. Each person would answer questions and do their best to promote their match on tomorrow night’s card. Currently, HOW Hall of Famer Jace Parker Davidson was in the middle of his session.
A lot of the questions had centered around the LSD Championship belt. What happened at War Games and then at Chaos 32? Jace had answered those questions as honestly and calmly as he could but all that changed when yet another HOW Hall of Famer decided to crash the party.
“I told you that we were going to do this together.” The boisterous voice of Nettie Carey echoed out as she approached her tag team partner for tomorrow night.
“Sorry, must be poor cell service out there in Peru. Never heard a word back from you.” The smirk on his face proved that he was lying through his teeth.
“You’re not amusing anyone but yourself,” Nettie remarked as she took a seat. She looked out over the media personnel gathered and waved her hand. “You can continue now that both of us are here.”
“Excuse me?” He tilted his head to look over at her and stare at the sheer audacity. “I’m quite suited to handle this by myself. We aren’t friends, we aren’t close acquaintances, we’re barely even a one-night tag team.”
“That’s for damn sure we’re not friends.” Nettie raised her arm and pointed her index finger at him. “Don’t think that I’ve forgotten about Rumble at the Rock or all the other shit. However, I being benevolent, and not Queen Petty, can put a pin in that. Right now? You need me, just like you’ll need me tomorrow night.”
All of the media personnel spoke at once but a question about Darin Zion and Conor Fuse catches their attention.
“Conor Fuse is a great man and a better friend. Him facing Mike Best for the LSD Championship belt…” Nettie stared directly at Jace as she said the words. “Will be a match for the ages. I fully support him in his quest to become an LSD Champion that we truly can be proud of.”
“You gotta believe at this point that Conor has made Mike his nemesis,” Jace answered while ignoring Nettie. “They are both in that fight forever mode and I’ll make for a great match come 97 Red. But Conor needs to focus on this match because it’s loaded. A lot of people in this match that could do a lot of damage if he’s not careful.”
“Conor will be just fine,” Nettie said in a snippy tone. “It’s his partner who is worthless. Seriously, who in their right mind thinks Darin Zion makes a good partner? Not for someone as talented as Conor Fuse! I would have been the perfect partner for Conor but Zion? That’s just an L in the making.”
“Zion is pretty much the anchor hanging around Conor’s neck in this match.” This time he looked over at Nettie as he spoke. “I get it, Zion shows up and he tries hard but success takes more than that. If you got to take Zion’s body, enthusiasm, and wrestling ability. Drop in a diseased brain of a feces-throwing chimp. THEN he’d have been HOW World Champion at least twice by now.”
All the media personnel start to talk over each other once again but a question asked about Rhys Townsend and his partner is the one that the two Hall of Famers choose to answer.
“Townsend is back, so… that’s a thing, I guess.” He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s who he is teaming with that has me confused. We all saw Evan Ward get his shit kicked in at War Games and now he’s dead but not dead? And he has some video where he says he’s going to continue to wrestle even though he’s well…”
“It’s Weekend at Bernie’s!” Nettie shouted. “I’ve said this already and this is not okay. Not that I care what happens with him cause he’s a total tool. But his corpse stinking up the show? Sweetie, I’m far too talented and I am not okay with formaldehyde to put my hands on a dead guy.”
“Yeah, but I mean then there is Trent,” Jace added. “I’m not familiar with him but he’s big and dumb which is par for the course if he’s working for Ward. How does this even work? Is Trent going to wrestle in the match and then grab what is left of Evan Ward and throw him onto someone until a referee makes a three count?”
“Not happening!” Nettie shakes her head vigorously objecting to the mere thought.
“Either way, you got Townsend coming back talking about a sixth World Championship reign.” Jace shifted in his seat. “He’s letting the praise for beating Kostoff Jr. and Scott Stevens go to his head. He’s on this ‘I wrestle more than you do’ thing going where he’s going to wrestle as many weeks consecutively as possible. The grind, yadda yadda yadda.”
“When you’re good at what you do…” Nettie interjected. “You don’t have to go out there every single week and prove it. People already know when I step into the ring that no one can bring it like I do. I have this Hall of Fame ring on my finger for a reason.”
“He likes to talk about us ‘Sports Entertainers’ like we’re suddenly beneath him.” There is a bit of disgust in his voice. “The man’s whole personality is weed. He goes around driving a taco truck, and he’s teaming with a human version of a muppet and his Jolly Green Giant lackey. They are like one of those edgy adult cartoons that fall flat on its face and get canceled after one season.”
“You know he said he doesn’t even really care about winning or losing?” Nettie questioned her partner. “He doesn’t even know everyone in the match. He’s been back since War Games and hasn’t figured out how to check out the roster page on the HOW website. Please, tell us how much you’re not interested in John Sektor again.”
Nettie mockingly rubs away pretend tears from her eyes as once again everyone tries to stampede them with their questions. One mentions the team of Dan Ryan and STRONK! Nettie leans back in her seat but Jace rage is written all over his face.
“Yeah, I know the both of them are the odds on favorites to win this match.” Jace spat the words out like they were bitter on his tongue. “I know exactly why Dan Ryan was placed in this match. He is there to finish what he started two weeks ago and more importantly, he’s there to protect STRONK!”
“STRONK! Doesn’t need protection.” Nettie cackled. “What he needs is someone who isn’t using him or lying to him for once in his life. Dan Ryan might have called the man beside me a threat but the only REAL threat to STRONK! is me.”
“Is that so?” He sarcastically asked his partner.
“Of course!” Nettie proclaimed. “If I could get STRONK! Face to face, just me and him? I could talk some sense into him. I could help him learn not to trust so blindly. I would show him there are people… correction… someone out there in this world that will be honest with him no matter what. He doesn’t need to be a steroid-infused, raging monster. He could go back to being the happy-go-lucky, love-struck man that we all prefer him to be.”
Jace shook his head.
“There is a measure of revenge that needs to be taken out on Dan Ryan.” He tried to take the discussion back to a serious tone. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you tomorrow night is that time or the place for that. I’ve been in the Alliances or Boards. I know Dan Ryan is just the next guy in a lineup of many that think he’s the right-hand man of Lee Best. What Dan doesn’t realize this that the more time goes on, the lower the slips down the totem pole of importance in the ranks of The Final Alliance.”
“Clearly, the World Champion is number one.” Nettie began to count on her fingers. “Then there is his son Mike after him is Solex. Hell, even Jatt Starr had the balls to call out Lee Best and get him to appear on a weekly show. Not to mention he got himself a reworked contract. Let’s not forget the fact that John Sektor is back now for another fifteen minutes of fame. If you can’t even crack the top five then what are you doing?”
“Dan is dangerous but Dan’s not motivated until Lee points his finger and lets him off his leash.” Jace continued. “But the elephant in the room is STRONK! He’s beaten my ass a couple of times and threatened me a bunch more. I put him through the cage at War Games and yet he still won the whole thing.”
“Nice going, proving that you suck,” Nettie mumbled under her breath.
“I don’t really have a lot of answers when it comes to Godson.” He admitted. “What I do know is that this is a fight that I’ve put off for far too long. I kept holding onto the past, I kept looking at him as the man that I considered my friend. That man doesn’t exist anymore, that man died at Rumble at the Rock. What’s left now? Is nothing more than a nuclear weapon that Lee Best has put into the hands of his brother. I’ve talked a lot of shit, I’ve been at the top of the mountain, and I’ve hit rock bottom.”
“Don’t forget trying to murder people!” Nettie chimed in with a sickeningly sweet but fuck you kind of tone.
“Sometimes… you just have to throw the playbook out the window,” Jace says solemnly. “There comes a time you just have to step up against an insurmountable opponent and just fight. Take your licks like a man and see if you find kinks in the armor before that opponent manages to put you down for good. That’s what I’m going to do with STRONK! That begins this week and then it continues moving forward. I’m going to keep coming at him until the wheels literally fall off.”
Nettie yawns obnoxiously and rises to her feet.
“This whole thing is great and all…” She motions to everyone excluding herself. “It’s just not great enough for me to sit here all day and pretend to give a rat’s ass. I have better things to do with my time here in Peru before tomorrow night.” Nettie points over at Jace. “You… just show up tomorrow night and try not to shit the bed or your pants.”
Jace rises to his feet and glares at Nettie until someone walks over and places his arm around her. There is a hush that falls over everyone as Nettie turns and smiles.
“Ready to go, my Silver Fox?”
“Certainly, my dove. I am absolutely starving.” The man that has been known to Nettie as the Silver Fox leans over and kisses her on the lips.
Pictures are snapped rapidly of the two of them together as Jace looks on in disbelief. The Silver Fox pulls away from the kiss and then turns his attention to Nettie’s tag team partner.
“Nice to see you again, son.”
Terrence Miles Davidson, the biological father of Jace Parker Davidson, wraps his arms lovingly around Nettie as Jace finally finds the strength to form words.
“WHAT THE F—”