That Best Alliance opening at Refueled 60 was…many things.
Funny. Sad. Exciting. Boring. Creative. Uninspired.
It was so fuckin’ good because it was so fuckin’ bad.
I personally didn’t get to witness it live, since I was chilling in the World Champions locker room and seeing how the other half live, but when I was given all the juicy deets from my fellow compadres, well, I just had to go back and watch that sumbitch. I thought maybe there might’ve been the slightest bit of exaggeration in its retelling, or maybe certain tidbits were misremembered, so I did my best to temper my expectations when searching for a full length clip on HOTv. As it turns out, I didn’t need to do that at all. Those opening minutes in Glendale were everything they were advertised to be.
For starters, I couldn’t help but laugh at the group of them lined up like a bunch of mindless twats behind the blind GOD they’re faithfully depending on to lead them into war. I’ve never seen a group of men so uncoordinated and uncomfortable in my life. I mean, look no further than our World Champion standing at the end of the lineup. He was sure to keep a safe distance between himself and the ‘soldiers’ that are more accurately described as the shitty odds and ends from some dollar store mystery bag. Those #97 Red T-Shades weren’t big enough to hide the disappointment in his eyes, the realization that his decision to join the ‘travelling sideshow’ was a terrible one.
I tell ya, the fuckin’ nerve any of them have preaching the validity of The 214, or christening us the ragtag bunch of misfits around these parts.
The sweet irony of the whole setup was beyond perfect.
Anyways, Lee goes on to give a deadline for his roster to choose sides, and gives a well rehearsed sales pitch to the holdouts with the temptation of a new wallet. Or maybe he meant he’d fill the wallet? But he signs all the paychecks regardless of affiliation, so I’m fairly certain it was a new wallet. Who the fuck knows. Or cares for that matter. Hey, I wonder if he has a stamp now that he’s visually impaired? As long as the checks keep clearing, I suppose it doesn’t matter…
Right. The awkwardness of the whole hootenanny didn’t get any better as he blindly, pun intended, held out the microphone for someone to take. Glances were exchanged, fingers pointed at chests, heads shaken no. I’m fairly certain I even saw one of them mouth ‘my line?’
What the fuck is this concept of “free will” you speak of?
Finally, one of the eight grabbed onto the talking stick, stepping forward with his tag team partner(s?) later in the evening. Ladies and gentleman! JPD and Steve Solex, the soon-to-be…er…your evening’s participation award winners. The most recent returnee from Lee’s rolodex spewed some generic garbage about being a King, while Solex for some odd reason was baby oiling himself up like he was about to perform on stage in Magic Mike Live.
Shawn Kutter must not have given him the memo that we’re in Vegas this week.
Next was Jatt Starr, the man who in the span of eight days, lost everything he held dearly. To me, ha. Curious what I’d take if we agreed to a trilogy? Gilda, perhaps? I’d happily send her back to whatever trailer park she came from, forever banishing her from network television. Don’t thank me yet, it’s unlikely he’d be itching to get back in the ring with me anytime soon. Anywho, that introduction and hypothetical is far more interesting than anything he had to offer as thumbs worldwide dangerously hovered over remote control power buttons.
Here’s a recap in one word: fopdoodles.
Whose fuckin’ idea was it to let the cowboy speak? The guy who’s had the least amount of success here was the one who had the most to say. That decision didn’t make a lick of sense, much like anything that came outta that chewin’ tobbacky holder of his. The only noteworthy tidbit I took away from his drawled ramblings is he can competently name four of the fifty states. Congratulations, Tex.
Oh, and mom jeans. Clever copy and paste, bro.
Hey, Harrison! Stop pissing everyone off. What the fuck is wrong with Arby’s? I’d say I’m surprised by his ignorance, but it’s no secret the guy is tasteless. I really thought the Best moment of the night would have been when he puffed out his chest and threatened to leave anyone who crossed him unconscious and in a puddle of their own bodily fluids. I say this, because that comment, like a bad tweet, didn’t age well in the least bit, as within the hour he proceeded to be left unconscious and in a puddle of his own bodily fluids. Fuckin’ hilarious! But not the Best moment…
We’ll circle back to that in a moment.
I can’t gloss over my dear friend Jiles opting to state what everyone else was thinking. Kudos to him, it’s why he’s the Champ. Well, that, and Sutler. And Mike’s knee. But yeah. Embarrassing? Check. Bed shitting? Check. Better chance of winning War Games with a couple henchman and a blind senior citizen? Discount double check.
Circle back time!
Say, do you remember that sales pitch promising maybe a wallet? Well if that didn’t tickle your fancy, maybe a public humiliation will! Take it away, Steve! Better yet, show us that rosy red cheek and those tear-welled eyes. Hey, hey…I’ve got a joke for you. How many slaps does it take for Steve to say ‘I got it’? The threat of being stabbed in the eye!
Fisher. Fucking. Priceless.
Hold on just a minute.
I knew we were missing somebody in all of this. No, not John Sektor. I promised I’d shut his dirty mouth, and as a man of my word, I followed through with it. So, no surprise there.
I’m talking about The Accountant. Wait, that was Ben Affleck.
The Taxman! That’s it. Hughie Freeman.
What the fuck? They couldn’t fit him in before the commercial break? If it wasn’t for that stupid Grady Patrick-esque bowler cap floating around in the background, I wouldn’t have even known he was present for whatever that car wreck was meant to be. I wonder if he was made aware that tax season was extended this year? He’s not out of a job just yet. He’s probably fresh outta ‘collecting’ themed quips though. That wannabe mobster schtick can only go so far before it traverses into the territory of rehashed gangster-isms.
And this is the guy Lee’s penciled in to try and take back the LSD Championship?
He didn’t even have stage directions in the script, let alone two words to speak. He went from number five in the Bee-Aye’s pecking order to number eight. That’s right, Clay Byrd has passed him by with his good talkin’ n stuff. The only thing Hughie’s collecting is coats at the door, because any wallet-seeking, bitch-slap loving employee that joins the fray is gonna leapfrog his ass when it comes to War Games relevance. That fact alone makes his appointment to challenger all the more curious.
And in the far corner, hailing from who gives a shit, NUMBER TO BE DETERMINED BASED ON PENDING APPLICATIONS!
Gimme a fuckin’ break…
April 28th, 2021
Las Vegas, Nevada
The Mob Museum
“Why’d you want to come here?” Larry asks.
“I dunno. That Glendale show threw off this kinda vibe, in a roundabout way,” I reply. “GODfather Best organizing his thugs, the handling of an internal conflict in a violent matter, tasking his hired gun Hughie to collect my LSD Championship.”
“That’s a bit of a stretch.”
“Come on, you can’t deny the parallels. This place is littered with stories of infamous criminals who ran the streets of Chicago. And where did they eventually make their way to? That’s right, Las Vegas.”
“I suppose I can see the angle you’re trying to come from,” he shrugs. “Kinda.”
“Plus it’s pretty fuckin’ cool!”
“As a member of law enforcement, I firmly disagree with your assessment of ‘cool.’”
“The history buff being discriminatory of certain time periods. Tsk Tsk.” I shake my head with feigned disappointment. “Thought you’d be all in on this…ya prude…”
We’ve just made our way to the second floor of The Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas, and I have to say I’m thoroughly enjoying myself thus far. Larry on the other hand, who flew out this morning to spend the back half of the week training with me, was less than thrilled at the prospect of touring the “glorification of organized crime” as he so eloquently put it, but agreed to tag along.
Turning the corner of the stairwell, the room we’ve stepped into is covered in a garish red patterned wallpaper, accented by chocolate brown trim and display cases. On the wall to my left, my eyes are drawn to the raised crimson letters attached to their metal-based backing.
‘We Only Kill Each Other’
Just below the attention grabbing header, a not-so-in-your-face sign reads:
‘For the Mob, murder was an all-too-frequent solution to internal conflicts. Mob bosses used violence to exert power and eliminate enemies. Up-and-comers displayed brute force to prove their mettle. Hit men earned a living by assassination.’
“Interesting…” I nod, paying specific attention to those last two sentences.
Hughie used brute force in his return to the land of High Octane when he left Scottywood laying in a puddle of his own blood at Refueled 55. He proceeded to attempt vehicular homicide on Zeb Martin to try and prove his worth to the Best Alliance at March to Glory. Desmond LeRoux and Simon Loveless have become our cautionary tales that you best not waste the boss’ money, or The Taxman will assassinate your career.
“Bullshit,” Larry scoffs.
“We only kill each other?” He looks down his nose at me. “You honestly believe that?”
“No,” I smugly reply, pointing to the words, ‘It wasn’t true’ that are inscribed not too far from the ominous claim. “I don’t. How about we pull that stick out now, mkay? Try to enjoy yourself, Sergeant Serious.”
“What’s there to enjoy about that?” Larry points off to his right, prompting my eyes to follow.
The copper accent wall is covered in black and white photographs, black text blocks describing each scene positioned below them. The wall is dimly lit by overhead recessed lighting, as if it wasn’t meant to be seen from afar. ‘Mob’s Greatest Hits’ pops out at the brightest point of the cast light, and slowly I edge towards the display, wanting the pictures to come into focus.
It’s a mistake.
“What the fuck?!” I spit, darting a few steps backwards, drawing the attention of a few fellow onlookers. “That guy’s got bullet holes in his face!”
“Pretty fuckin’ cool, huh?” Larry mocks.
“Shut up,” I turn to him, composing myself. “It uh, wasn’t that bad. Just wasn’t ready for it, you know?”
“Kinda like Bugsy wasn’t ready for that,” he points at the gruesome photo.
“Bugsy Siegel, one of the more prolific and powerful mobsters.”
“Wow,” I shake my head at this newly learned factoid. “A grim lesson for top dogs everywhere that even they aren’t safe. Eventually, all gangsters get got. Lee learned that one the hard way this week…”
“Are you seriously comparing your boss getting assaulted to that crime scene photo?”
I look at the photo, then back at Larry. I shift my eyes back to the photo squinting, then back to Larry.
“Given the choice of two bullets to the face or being locked in a room with Dan Ryan, a guy who embraces the nickname “Murder Daddy”…” I jostle my head back and forth debating the pros and cons of each. “…I’d say it’s a coin flip.”
“Being gunned down might be the quicker, less painful option,” he reluctantly agrees.
“So if that’s a big bad bad, or a Lee…” I take a final glance at the photo, before pointing over at one hidden in the shadows at the bottom of the display. Captured inside the white framing of the print is a zipped up body bag of a lesser known thug, whose name isn’t worth mentioning. “That’s gotta be the Hughie Freeman of the bunch.”
“I don’t recognize the name,” Larry replies, reading the description.
“Exactly,” I pat him on the shoulder. “I’m sure that guy did a thing or two in his crime career, but in the grand scheme of things, he was destined to be nothing more than a footnote in history…holy shit!”
Like a child in a Toys R Us aisleway, my attention is pulled elsewhere and I abandon the murder wall. Light reflecting off the glass of the mahogany display cases highlight the treasured items resting on the red velvet base. I clasp my hands on the upper edge, squatting down eye level, my nose grazing the smooth surface.
“Weapons…” I whisper.
“AHEM!” A tour guide coughs into her hand.
I look over at her, and she directs her eyes at a sign that reads ‘Please, Do Not Touch The Display Glass’. Almost immediately I feel Larry’s hand grab onto the inside of my left arm, yanking me up. He offers his apologies to the young lady as I wiggle free from his admonishing clutch.
“Hands off,” I say with a smirk.
He grits his teeth. “Act your age.”
“But…” I look down at the display excitedly. “Tools of the trade. Real ones.”
To the left is a black tray of prison confiscated shivs, crafted from various supplies ranging from bed frame parts to toothbrushes. The middle of the collection has wide variety, from candlesticks to rope to a suppressed Colt .22 – or otherwise known as half the ‘Clue’ collection. Off to the right is the real deal though, two items from the personal collection of Roy DeMeo: his machete and ice pick. DeMeo, according to this display, was a hitman for New York’s Gambino crime family, and allegedly ‘eliminated’ over a hundred enemies during his reign of terror.
“Now those are real weapons,” I look on in awe. “Really puts Hughie’s dumbass debit terminal and chip card to shame.”
“Do you actually expect him to,” he looks down at the instruments of death, eyes wide. “You know?”
“I’m just saying, don’t go around parading yourself as some hardened gangster when your trademark play is shoving receipts down dudes trousers.”
“True enough,” Larry agrees. “Think it’d be as weird if he shoved it in their mouths?”
“Less weird? Maybe. Less sexual? I think that depends on how he does it. Is it forceful? Do his fingers linger? Facial expression is key too.”
“You know,” I step back, crossing my arms. “I had no idea Babe Ruth was…”
“He’s ‘The Great BAMBINO’, you idiot.” Larry cuts me off.
“Come on,” he waves me on to follow. “There is something I’m actually interested in seeing here.”
“Hey Larry?” I ask as I begin to follow.
“Why do you think Hughie calls it ‘The Fatality Punch?’” I ask. “To my knowledge he hasn’t killed anyone with it. Talk about false advertising.”
“I don’t know, maybe he likes Mortal Kombat?”
“You missed it!” Larry’s muffled voice irritates my ears, followed by the sharp jab of his elbow in my ribs. “Wake up!”
“Ugh,” is my reply of choice as my eyes dart open as wide as can be. I straighten up against the oak backrest of the bench we’re seated on, blinking repeatedly as the lights come back on. “Is it over?”
“Thank god,” I groan. “Talk about boring.”
“Boring!” He gasps. “How dare you describe The Kefauver Hearing as boring.”
There’s my history loving brother.
“It was all a bunch of legal jargon and words that have no meaning to me.”
“They have no meaning because you’re an uneducated dunce.”
“Woah! Low blow.” I shift my eyes in disgust towards him. “Not entirely false, but low blow.”
“That hearing was the turning point of organized crime. It brought its existence to mainstream media, exposing the corruption that riddled institutions, including law enforcement.”
“Mmhmm,” I side smirk and nod. “Was it also the origin of the phrase ‘snitches get stitches?’”
“…no respect,” he mumbles.
I lean my head back, staring up at the cream coloured ceiling. A classic coffered design patterns its surface, adding to the prestigious atmosphere of the courtroom. The refinished original judge and clerks benches add authenticity to the room, and the faded yellow walls truly capture the essence of the fifties.
I know this because the tour guide told me so.
Looking over at Larry, he seems to be lost in the history of the courtroom. More so, he’s definitely lost in his own thoughts. His arrival in Vegas was a bit of a surprise, a welcome one, but spontaneous, which isn’t in Larry’s nature. When initially pressed why, his reasoning of training, albeit true, was shaky at best, and he evaded delving into it any further.
“You know you completely dodged my question earlier,” I say.
“What are you talking about?”
“Why are you here?”
“To train with you.”
“No, I know that,” I shift on the bench. “What I mean is, how are you getting all this time off? You were in St. Louis three weeks back, now you’re here. What’s up?”
Larry takes a deep breath in, then lets out a heavy sigh. “I’m on a leave of absence…a stress leave…and I’m not sure I want to go back.”
“I went on leave just before St. Paddy’s Day. It’s why I invited you up. I needed you there, I figured it’d help me decompress.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Say what? I’m sad? I only expected it to be a couple weeks, but the more time I spent away, the happier I was.” He looks my way with a slight smile. “Then I came out with Sock to train with you. It was just like the early days of your career. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. How much I missed being there.”
“Sure, it was a fuckin’ riot bro,” I nod with a smirk. “Could have done without the baseball bat, but a riot nonetheless. You still should have said something. If anyone would get it…”
Who has two thumbs and has been through alcohol rehab, drug rehab and on the regular therapist sessions? This guy.
“I know…” he laughs. “…I’ve been talking with Sock. We’re thinking about partnering up at his Gym.”
“You’re gonna quit and move to Montreal?”
“Funny enough,” Larry looks around his surroundings, arms outstretched. “He’s looking to distance himself from his criminal ties there. We’re discussing St. Louis.”
“It puts us a helluva lot closer to you and Chicago, not to mention all the potential clientele with MVW right there and The 214 ties.”
“Fuck man. I love it.”
“Fuck yeah!” I say a bit too loud, a slew of hushes coming my way.
“Sorry.” Larry apologizes on my behalf.
“My big bro back in my life on the regular, and he gets his happiness back to boot. Sounds like a win-win to me.”
“Nothing’s set in stone, so don’t get too excited,” he cautions with an optimistic tone. “But it’s very likely.”
“I’ll be sure to limit my social media posts,” I reply sarcastically.
I push off my knees, standing up from the not-too-comfortable bench. Reaching high above my head, I arch my back and let out a groan. More hushes are tossed at me, to which I offer an indignant look.
“The shows over, calm it down.”
Indignant looks are served back my way, but I choose to ignore them. Shuffling past the young couple seated beside me, I exit into the aisleway, Larry following closely behind, again apologizing for my behaviour. Walking towards the dual wooden doors, one of the museum workers pushes one open for the two of us to depart the least entertaining exhibit of this museum.
“You know, I gotta say,” Larry begins, nodding at the employee as he passes by him. “I’m surprised you’ve been in such a good mood.”
“Well, after what happened on Refueled.”
“My verbal jousting with Jiles?” I reply curiously. “His words didn’t get to me one bit. Sure, he got me thinking. Winning a Championship is one thing, keeping it is a completely different game…”
“Not that,” he cuts me off. “What Hughie did to Lindsay.”
I stop walking and turn to face Larry. My look is enough to convey I have no idea what he’s talking about, his look one of complete surprise.
“He clocked her when she wasn’t looking. Fatality Punch right to the side of the jaw. You didn’t see it?”
Does this look like the face of someone who saw it?
“I didn’t watch a replay of the brawl,” I bite on the inside of my cheek. “And when everything was going down, I had my hands full with John and Jatt.”
“And she didn’t say anything to you?”
“No,” I shake my head. “We all walked out with our lumps and bruises, but aside from saying she had a bit of a headache, she didn’t say shit. She was more focused on evading Dan Ryan related questions.”
“Yeah man,” Larry’s face scrunches as if he were experiencing discomfort. “Hughie stayed away from the brawl and let everyone else trade blows. When things were firmly in the Best Alliance’s favour, that’s when he picked his spot, snuck in and decked Lindsay. It’s literally the only thing he did.”
“Is that so…” I trail off, looking down at my boots.
I can hear Larry continue to talk, but I’m not listening or comprehended a word he’s saying. The people walking by us are a blur, some bumping shoulders as they pass by, no doubt the odd biting comment thrown in my direction for blocking the walkway. I can feel that burning in the pit of my stomach, and as I clench my eyes shut, I can visualize his bitch like tactic. It sounds as if I’m going through a tunnel, a loud whistle ripping through my ears until…
“Teddy?” Larry’s voice halts everything. I look up towards him, my expression blank. “You okay?”
I can’t help but think about the wall of gangsters who suffered less than ideal fates. Specifically, I’m visualizing the photograph of that stuffed body bag. The unseen gangster zipped tightly within, condemned to be forgotten, not worth a fleeting second thought from his rich and powerful cohorts. An unpleasant grin begins to crawl underneath my beard.
“Hughie’s a fuckin’ dead man.”