You know Jatt, like all cliches I blame my parents for what I have become today. Most of all I blame my Dad. Do you know what life advice my father had for me when it came to the subject of friends? I’ll tell you.
He said,’ son, you are entering the cut-throat world of business.’
Remember now, this was a time when my father was convinced he could brainwash me into following in his footsteps in the family enterprise.
‘In business? There are no friends. Everyone is waiting for an opportunity to step on one another and crush them for their own gain. If you allow yourself to believe you have a friend? Then you’re opening yourself up to get screwed over. Either that, or when the time comes for you to screw them over? You’ll find it much harder to live with.
If someone has some worth to you? Keep them close. But if you have an opportunity to improve and exceed and it comes at the expense of them? Don’t even hesitate to slit their throat. Because believe me, son, they’d do it to you in a heartbeat.
The only way to win at life is to look out for number one.’
Now, on reflection, that little touching moment of sound Dad advice has probably cost me every single important and meaningful relationship in my entire life. It’s probably what got me divorced. It’s probably the reason why I became an addict. It’s almost certainly the cause behind my own self loathing and painful loneliness.
Still, he was right about one thing. To win in life you have to look after number one. He may have been talking about the world of business, but it seems I sub-consciously applied that philosophy to the weird and wonderful world of wrestling.
And it paid off.
It wasn’t always the case, Jatt. When I left my family I could see the writing on the wall. I knew that if I followed my old man’s advice then I’d wind up the same way he did. A bitter, lonely and spiteful old man who my mother despised. So I tried to trust people.
People like Chris CK who fucked me the first chance he got to try and jump a rung above me on the HOW ladder.
People like my ex-wife who fucked the next door neighbour when she realised I was too beat up and tired to give her the emotional support she needed.
People like you, Jatt. You, who if given the right incentive and opportunity? Would have fucked me over. I just got there first.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you wouldn’t have. Maybe all the words you say about our friendship are honest. Maybe you’ve changed.
The Jatt I knew? When you were in your prime? You would have squashed me the first chance you got. The second you realised there’s a chance I could step above you, you’d stick the knife in my back and twist it real good. That’s how you got to be the man, Jatt. For the golden era of HOW, YOU were the pin up boy. You were Lee’s GUY.
You were Mike Best.
You didn’t achieve your Hall of Fame career by being a nice, humble, trustworthy guy Jatt. You earned it by being a ruthless cunt who would have fucked over his own mother to get a World title shot.
So when I fucked you over Jatt? I learned from you. I learned from the Best.
Only you know whether you’re still capable of that. If you’re not? Then you’ve gone soft and all hope is lost for you, my friend. Because HOW is a cruel beast and the only way to survive is by being ruthless.
So that’s one of the many questions that’s going to be asked during our match, Jatt. Are you ruthless enough to get the job done against John Sektor?
That’s the only way you’re going to beat me, is by doing the ugly things that I am certainly willing to do. I’ve given you all the motivation you need, hermano. If the LSD title isn’t enough then perhaps beating me is. Perhaps settling your debt with me is. Maybe, just maybe, proving that you are better than me is.
That’s just one of many questions that this #97 minute match is going to ask of you Jatt. And I look forward to finding the answers with you..
St Louis, MO
“C-mon, Sonny! Quit your grumbling and just get the fuck down here.”
I had my P.I, Sonny Fletcher, on the vid-phone. I couldn’t see him because only the avatar of his initials was being displayed. Sonny was an old school technophobe, who grew up on the romance of hard-boiled P.I’s like Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade.
“John, I told you, I’m busy with another case at the moment. It’s gonna have to wait,” he explained, as I could literally hear the sound of a bottle cap being unscrewed on a cheap bottle of whiskey.
“A case of Scotch, perchance?” I growled, clawing the hard wood of my desk impatiently.
“Ha! You caught me,” his grizzly voice replied.
“Look, if you book a flight right now and get down here I’ll double your usual rate. And I’ll throw in a five grand bonus if you find anything.”
“Such as?” he asked skeptically.
“Proof. That’s she’s up to something,” I explained, taking a deep painful breath.
“John, as much as I don’t want to talk you out of this, because I could really use your money,” he began to explain, sounding earnest. “I’ve tailed this broad once before and come up with zilch.”
“Yeah? Well maybe you didn’t look hard enough.”
“Or maybe she’s just on the level, John.” I heard him sigh deeply, probably cutting deep into his own self loathing. “Why’s this so important to you man?”
I shut my eyes tight and tried to remain composed. I could feel myself getting angry. I could tell he really didn’t want to come all the way from Miami to St Louis, so I took a deep breath and decided to come clean.
“Something, unexpected, may have happened,” I began to explain, feeling myself glowing warm with embarrassment.
“Oh, shit. You knocked her up?”
Another sigh. “I may be getting feelings for her.”
I could hear muffled laughter from down the other end of the phone, which was enough for me to curl my top lip back over my teeth. I just ignored it and waited for him to say something serious.
“Wow. Sorry, you caught me off guard there old pal. John Sektor and feelings are three words I thought I would never hear in the same sentence. Well, not since..”
I interjected. “Yeah, well, my gut is telling me something different. Which is why I need you to get your tired old ass down here and find a reason for me not to make the second biggest mistake of my life.”
“Alright, alright,” he sighed, finally relenting. “What is it you want me to do?”
“As I said. I’m leaving shortly to begin training for my next title defence. Whilst I’m out of town I want you watching her every move. I want to know where she goes, who she sees..everything.”
“Ok, you got it.”
“Good. Call me if you find anything interesting.”
“Will do. Adios, amigo,” he again sighed, before I ended the call.
I puffed out my cheeks and stood up from my desk, turning around to take a look out of the back window. It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with a dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues and black wool socks with my initials embroidered on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed LSD champion ought to be. I was about to begin training for the most gruelling match of my life.
I headed out of the office and down the clunky steel steps into the main gym area of the GSWA. The LSD championship lay draped over my shoulder, where it belongs. My second in command, Chris Taylor, was stood waiting for me by the empty training ring, all five-feet-ten of him. His arms were folded across his stocky frame as his thick neck struggled to turn to greet me as he heard my brogues tapping their way down the steel steps.
“Alright, guv?” he greeted in his tough British accent. “You’re looking facking dapper aren’t ya?”
“You sound surprised? This is how a champion should dress, Chris,” I explained, making no apologies for my appearance.
“Yeah, fair enough. What was it you wanted to see me for?” he asked, looking slightly worried. I’d come to realise that everyone around here was walking on eggshells around me, even hard asses like Chris. Seems my reputation for going zero to a hundred on the anger spectrum preceded me.
“I’m heading out of town. I need some space to train and mentally prepare for this match with Jatt. So I just wanted to make sure you were ok to keep things running in my absence.”
He squinted at me with a look of confusion.
“Yeah, of course, but why aren’t you training here? I mean we got everything you need.”
“Not everything,” I explained bluntly. “This place is still in its infancy. It lacks a certain ambience and history that I need for a match of this magnitude. This is for them, not me,” I continued to explain, making reference to the academy’s prospects.
He nodded, still looking confused by not wanting to push the subject any further. “Ok, well no problem. I guess good luck and I hope you snap that pervy-cunts neck,” he laughed, throwing out a hand which I duly greeted with my own.
I held onto his hand and made sure our eyes stayed connected with one anothers.
“If I come back here and all twelve of them still remain?” I began, narrowing my eyes a little. “Then you aint doing your job properly.”
He looked like he didn’t know whether to take me seriously or not. Eventually an evil smirk spread across his face, which warmed me to my very core.
“Oh don’t worry. Me and the boys have got a good read on all of them now. We’re gonna really zero in on their weaknesses and I guarantee we’ll break at least a couple of them in the next few days.”
“Glad to hear it.”
The violent shriek of the main entrance doors slamming shut broke us from our conversation. My young apprentice, Adam Ellis, approached us with his travel bag over his shoulder and an eager as ever smile on his face.
“Ok, I’m here,” he announced. “Where are we going?”
As he asked me that question I felt more warmth inside which brought a natural smile to my face.
“We’re going home.”
A few hours later we were over thirty thousand feet in the air in first class, on our way back to my old stomping ground. It had felt like an eternity since I’d been home to Miami and I was excited and eager to get started on the preparations for my match against Jatt. I closed my eyes for a second but a sweet smell soon filled my nostrils. I cracked an eye open to see the true beauty of a stewardess leaning over me and placing a little napkin down on my table, followed by my bourbon, in a real glass.
“Here you are sir,” she said with a painted smile. “Will that be everything?”
“For now, thank you.”
She smiled graciously and looked at my young apprentice, who was staring curiously at my drink.
“You sure I can’t get you anything sir?”
“No I’m fine, thank you,” Adam replied.
With a courteous bow of the head she left us alone. I lifted the bourbon to my nose and gave it a deep sniff. It was the good stuff. As I took a sip I savoured the taste and allowed it to coat my tongue and gums before swallowing it. It burned all the way down, radiating in my chest like it should.
“I thought you didn’t drink before a match?” Adam said, looking at me disapprovingly.
“If that were true then I’d never drink,” I grunted, placing the glass down carefully so as not to spill a single drop. “One won’t do any harm. Besides, a glass of whiskey is good for ya. Thins the blood and keeps it pumping nice and smooth. My grandma drank a glass of single malt every night and lived to ninety-four. There has to be something to that.”
I don’t know who I was trying to convince, him or me. Still, I enjoyed how it was relaxing me and that was one of the most crucial aspects of this training. I have to stay calm and relaxed. This match is becoming bigger and bigger with every passing second and If I don’t keep a lid on it then I run the risk of getting overwhelmed.
Ellis seemed to shrug it off, taking a look around the first class cabin.
“I thought you might have sprung for a private jet,” he joked.
“Christ, kid. How much money do you think I got?”
“Well, you are a champion..” he added, leaving that final statement dangling there as though he had the answer.
I gave him a good hard look in the eyes and that’s when I realised just how innocent he was.
“Jesus Christ,” I sighed, taking an instinctive slug of the bourbon.
“What?” he gasped.
I looked at him again and thought twice about whether to continue the discussion. But he needed to know.
“You think being a champion is where the trail ends to the pot of gold?”
He looked at me blank enough so that he didn’t actually need to respond.
“Look, kid, I don’t want to jade ya. But you need to understand how the wrestling business really works. Especially when it comes to the wrestlers and the pay days,” I began, narrowing my eyes to see if he was with me so far.
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean is that winning matches and titles isn’t what gets you the big money. Wrestling is as corrupt as every other walk of life and it all boils down to who you know.”
I’d lost him. He was frowning so hard I feared he was going to ruin those good looks of his.
“You’ve been to high school. You know what a cliq is?”
“Well it doesn’t stop there pal. No matter where you go in your professional career the money ends up in the hands of those who are rubbing each other’s backs.”
“MVW isn’t like that! At least, I don’t think it is.”
“It’s not. Which is why I’m keen for you to stay there and polish your craft before you take the plunge into the darkness.”
“So is that why you were in the BA?”
“At first, yeah. Every other company I wrestled at I couldn’t stomach getting in with the crowd who controls the money. Wherever I went it was a circle-jerk where the boss would grease the palms of his ‘friends’ and give them the main event spots, the title matches and even fucking rig the matches to ensure they got the result. At least Lee rewarded us out of loyalty. Lately, I was just repaying the loyalty he showed me during my darkest hours.”
He looked in pain as he tried to process this nuke which I had just landed on him.
“So now the BA has gone, so’s the money?”
“Pretty much. I mean, I still get a little more as LSD champion, but there’s no more back handers.”
“So what are you saying? If I wanna make good money I have a lick the boss’s asshole?” he asked, more like shouted. He was clearly angered by the prospect of selling out.
“No. I’m not saying that. Ultimately it depends how important the money is, and how desperate you are for it. You could try being a clean cut guy like Connor Fuse. Or Jatt Starr, apparently,” I snarled. “At some point or other, you need to play the game.”
He went silent on me for a moment after that. I just sipped my drink and allowed him to chew on it, hoping to catch a little sleep before we landed at Miami international.
“Why are you doing this?”
The air around me smelled like rocket fuel as I let out a deep bellied sigh.
“Look, kid, I told you I’m not trying to jade ya..”
“No, not that,” he interjected. “This match with Jatt? Why are you doing it?”
“You mean why did I challenge him?” I inquired, genuinely curious as to what angle he was trying to get from me.
“Yeah. Why him? You already hurt him. Why not just let sleeping dogs lie and face someone else?”
“Like who?” I grunted, feeling a little triggered. “Tell me, Adam. Who the fuck else is there who deserves this spot at Rumble at the Rock? Seriously, I’ll wait..”
I grilled him with wide eyes, watching as he struggled to find that answer.
“Exactly. There IS no one else, Adam. The only other person who deserves a monumental moment in wrestling like this is Mike Best and ONE, he’s already booked himself into the main event and TWO, he’s had enough moments to fill three Hall of Fame careers.”
Adam nodded, seeming satisfied with my response as I sunk back into my seat.
“Besides, I’m tired of waiting,” I continued.
“Waiting for what?”
“For Jatt! To come after me. I mean, holy fuck kid, I screwed him over and all’s he’s managed to achieve in the name of vengeance is a few childish insults and create a guy in a bunny mask who has a fucking lisp!”
“So, what, it’s like you’re paranoid that he’s gonna come after you and you just want to get it over with?”
“No, that’s not it at all,” I sighed, rolling my eyes and propping myself back up in my seat. “At first I put it down to Jatt honouring Lee’s code within the BA, which is basically not laying a glove on another member outside of a sanctioned match. But the BA broke up months ago and Lee hasn’t been seen since Mike decapitated him at Bottomline. So I waited, and waited, and waited..but nothing happened.”
“And you’re sad about that?” he asked in a high pitched tone, as though he was stretching for an answer.
“I’m disappointed. The Jatt I knew ten years ago would have come straight after me and took back his pride. Hell, he wouldn’t have even waited for the BA to disband. I know I wouldn’t. Let me tell you something, If Jatt had pulled that shit on me? I’d have come for him the following night! BA or no BA.”
His eyes rounded. He was puzzled. He was thinking. I could see, even after our short amount of time together, that thinking was always going to be a bother to him.
“Here’s the truth kid. When I started my career in HOW? I envied Jatt. I was jealous of him. But I also admired him because he had everything I wanted. He inspired me to reach his level. So now that I see what he’s become?”
I gasped and shook my head in disgust, wishing to myself that I’d gotten it wrong.
“I need to know. I need to know that it’s not true. That he hasn’t become a joke. That somewhere, inside of him, still beats the ice cold heart of a killer. What’s our motto, Adam?”
“Kill or be killed..”
“So does Jatt Starr really exist any more? Ninety seven minutes in the ring with me ought to answer that question.”
He went on staring at me, half frowning. Then said: “Can I ask you something else?”
The bourbon had loosened me up enough to talk candidly about whatever his young ears needed to hear.
He chewed his lip nervously and the strain of discomfort there to be seen.
“No, forget it.”
“Hey! Don’t start shit that you don’t intend to finish. Spit it out!”
He shifted uncomfortably in the seat, rolling his eyes with regret. “Fine, but it’s only hypothetical,” he emphasised. “Say you lose. To Jatt in this Iron man match at Rumble at the Rock. Then what?”
I stopped breathing for a second. It was a question that I hoped I wouldn’t have the face this soon in the training phase. Yet, it was the elephant in the room and something which indeed needed to be addressed at some point or another. I took another sip of Dutch courage before clearing my throat.
Adam beat me to it: “I mean I know it’s not something you’ll be thinking about. Because we stay positive right? And you’ll head into the match with the mindset that you are going to win and losing isn’t even..”
I interjected: “Bullshit!”
His face looked like I’d just slapped in on both sides with a cold fish.
“Yes, we kid our brains into thinking we are immortal. But I have to consider the possibility of losing to Jatt. Forget the fact that I am in arguably the best form and shape of my life. Forget that on paper that I’m statistically the favourite. Because when that bell rings? We are just two men. That’s all. And he has more than enough motivation to find a way of beating me.”
I found myself swirling what was left of my bourbon around in the glass, staring at it as I pondered the possibility of losing.
“I had to take losing into consideration before I even issued the challenge, Adam. Because the truth is, that if Jatt does beat me? Then what choice do I have from there.It’s a gamble. I’ve rolled the dice with my own career.”
“W-what are you saying? That if you lose, you’ll what, retire?” he laughed, as though it was too hard to hear as a serious threat.
“As I said Adam,” I began, turning to look him in the eye with a half hearted attempt of a smile.
“What choice would I have?”