June 1, 2021
Been a long time since I’ve been back here…
Light, salmon-tipped fingers smooth the hem of her simple, knee-length navy shirtdress; an outfit specifically chosen to show deference to Japan’s rules around business attire, while a small smile tugs at the corner of Lindsay’s lips. She allows herself this fleeting moment of reminiscence amongst the chatter swirling around her, knowing that soon, she won’t have the luxury to think about days gone by.
Ten days ago, when HOW held its go-home show to War Games inside the Madison Square Garden of puroresu, the Queen of the Ring’s fight was elsewhere: aboard the USS Octane in a Grapplers Local 214 vs. Best Alliance (and Son) HOFC team bout. She didn’t get to return and compete in Korakuen Hall, the hallowed place where her wrestling career took flight, and where she poured her heart and soul out in this intimate setting amongst the sport’s most respectful fans.
Back then, it was a different time, when women competing against men wasn’t as widely accepted as it is today. Lindsay worked the womens-only promotions when she first landed on these Eastern shores, but after some initial growing pains she eventually began running roughshod through rosters, asserting her dominance due to her sheer size advantage and by using her wrestling training and martial arts background to her advantage even against wily, popular veterans. As her star rose, she craved a different challenge, and promoters saw the appeal (and the money) in a 6’3” woman fighting the sterner sex.
Many years and many matches later, watching the Queen of the Ring battle her male counterparts in the squared circle became widely accepted and second nature. She would eventually leave the Land of the Rising Sun but every time she returned for tours as part of American companies, it was like she never left, no matter how much time had passed.
A gracious welcome, filled with excitement, every time.
Today, during War Games Press Week, it feels like more of the same. Members of the domestic and international press gather in the front two rows by ringside, notepads and cellphones in their laps, capturing sound bites from the Grapplers Local 214 members in attendance. Photographers politely hover, snapping pictures of the combatants as they answer questions and keep the atmosphere light. Behind the press in the stadium-style seating section, and in the smaller bleacher section on one side of the ring, are fans lucky enough to have scored free tickets to these sessions.
Unlike the Best Alliance’s promotional appearances for the pay-per-view, where a high price will surely be commanded to watch garbage fall out of the mouths of miscreants, the 214 collectively decided that anyone who wanted to watch their press briefings should be able to do so without paying a yen out of pocket. There are multiple interview periods planned…nine members on the team with various training schedules and other appearances is a recipe for a logistical nightmare, so three shorter meetings made the most sense.
Currently, Lindsay sits in-between Xander Azula and Arthur Pleasant, the latter having wrapped up a question on his time competing in the country previously, and the former currently talking about his short stint in High Octane thus far and how the end of this road tour marks his first time competing in Japan. Dressed in the ceremonial robes of the Eternal Circle, Azula appears poised, if not delusional, while Arthur wears a cheap black suit, a half torn orange tie, and the numbers “4-1-2” spray painted and then crossed out just below the breast pocket. Spray painted vertically underneath the crossed out number is the correct one: “2-1-4.”
“Psst,” Arthur says to Lindsay, leaning toward her, his microphone swaying above the wood floor. “I just wanna say that I feel privileged being here with you and the other talented assholes. Blessed, even. In fact, I think me, you, and young Jim Jones over there should hold hands and join together in prayer.”
As the translator repeats Xander’s response back to the audience in Japanese, Lindsay flips the switch on her microphone off, turns her head slightly towards the Provocateur and mutters, pointedly, “Can you not?”
This exchange does not go unnoticed. About a third of a way up in the stands, Kazuhiro Troy nudges his sister and motions down toward the ring with his chin. “Wonder what the creep’s saying to Mom.”
“Probably nothing good,” Ami sighs and shakes her head. “I still can’t believe he’s on the team.”
“There’s no way she can trust him. He’s a snake.”
“He is,” Clay Darcy quietly replies while typing an email on his phone. “And under normal circumstances, she wouldn’t. But the both of you know, because your mother’s been in two of these before, that War Games is a team event. It’s been made clear to Arthur as well, and he knows that there are eight other people that will have his and his hired muscle’s hide if he even thinks about Benedict Arnold-ing this.”
The twins give Clay two very dubious looks, which he ignores.
“Pay attention,” he continues. “Your mom’s being asked a question now.”
A slim, middle-aged man with horn-rimmed glasses is handed a microphone. “Bob Carpenter from Ringside Monthly. Lindsay, this will be your first time in the ring with your brother-in-law, Dan Ryan, since your Prison Yard match at last October’s Rumble at the Rock. Have you talked to him since he allied with the Grapplers and is teaming with him weighing on your mind at all given your more recent history?
The Queen waits for the translator to finish, then turns her mic back on to answer. “That’s a great question, Bob. No, I haven’t spoken to Dan, and I also don’t need to. Like me, he’s been in two War Games matches before; he knows what these entail, and I know better than anyone what he’s bringing to the table. He’s never once hidden his contempt for Lee Best and in my view, putting him in the tag portion of the War Games match with Conor will be an extra motivator for him and an added bonus for us.”
“Why is that?”
A knowing smile prefaces her retort. “Because Dan Ryan doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and two of the biggest fools in the Best Alliance are defending the tag titles on Sunday. Conor told the group that he wanted another crack at Jatt given how his own match with him ended at Alcatraz last year and Dan’ll want to pay Sektor back for that dick punch on the last Refueled. Dan will also see the very existence of Jatt Starr as an affront to whatever sensibilities he has left. Besides,” she motions to Arthur with her thumb, “if I can get along with Arthur for one match, I think I can get along with Dan again for one as well.”
“Yeah!” The Denizen of Decay leans forward, a wicked grin forming as he eyeballs Bob and the rest of Press Row. “Allow me to be serious for a moment. We may not look like a winning team… but we are one. So… we’ll play like one. Because if we play like the Best Alliance in here, we will lose to the Ya- we will lose to the Best Alliance out there.”
You can hear a pin drop as everyone looks at Arthur funny.
“Um…” Bob starts, “Did you just rip a couple quotes from Moneyball and change it from the Yankees to the Best Alliance?”
Arthur folds his arms incredulously. Lindsay looks to the ceiling, exasperated, while Xander eyes the Provocateur curiously.
“What? No. I would never,” Arthur proclaims. “But even if I had? Doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply here. Besides, this is the new direction of the Oakland A- I mean, the 214. We are card counters at the blackjack table and we’re gonna turn the odds on the casino.”
“All jokes and references aside,” Xander interjects, “my colleagues are absolutely right. For the different walks of life we come from, we all have a singular focus, one goal in mind: to take the whole system down. The Best Alliance is playing defense going into War Games, despite their claims to the contrary, and that’s the hole in their armor we can exploit.”
“Tami Matsumoto from Tokyo Sports,” a young woman in her 30s speaks up next after the translator finishes recounting Azula’s reply. “Any comment on the remarks made by Silent Witness the past few weeks, either on your odds in the War Games match itself or, Lindsay, on your abilities to lead your side?”
“Well, I think it’s important to remember that Witness’s current job, after re-emerging from nobody giving a shit about Ground Zero, is a website columnist on Lee Best’s payroll,” Lindsay says. “I fully expect him to be both loud and wrong in his comments about me or the 214.”
“But he’s a Hall of Famer with years of experience.”
“So is Jatt Starr who, by the way, also has multiple Razzie Awards.” The Queen looks out to the crowd and smiles. “If you don’t know what those are, they’re given to people who are very bad at their jobs.”
“Some members of the Best Alliance are also questioning your ability to perform well in War Games,” Tami presses further. “How do you feel about your chances?”
“I feel great about our chances,” Lindsay nods. “Better than great, actually. Grapplers Local 214 has been on this path for a couple months now. Teddy Palmer, Zeb Martin, and myself first banded together under a common cause of fighting against the machinations of Lee Best, and along the way found like-minded people willing to work as a team versus working as individuals, which is what the Best Alliance really is. I couldn’t ask for a better core group of wrestlers and allies to represent our mission in War Games.”
A tall man in a black sport coat and greasy, slick-backed hair lifts a pointer finger in the air before standing up. “Al Corsa from Spinebuster Magazine. That’s well and good, but the question was about your chances. Your individual performances in War Games have been, to put it bluntly, poor. You’re entering the weekend with a sub-500 record. Do you really believe you’ll turn it around and help the 214 achieve victory? Or, even walk out of the match with the World Title?”
The Queen tilts her head slightly to the left. “Is that a serious question?”
“Serious as a heart attack.”
She eyes the reporter like a ravenous wolf would a deer. “Sir, are you brand new?”
Al opens his mouth to answer, but is immediately cut off by a continuing Lindsay Troy. “Because if you’re not, you must’ve forgotten exactly who it is you’re talking to. It must’ve slipped your mind that I’ve built my entire career on turning tables in my favor, overcoming near insurmountable odds, and standing tall when things are all said and done. And sometimes, ‘when things are all said and done’ isn’t an immediate occurrence. Sometimes you have to weather multiple storms before coming out the other side, and Lord knows I’ve weathered more than my fair share in HOW. I’ve always been at my most dangerous when I’ve got something to prove, and not only am I motivated to see Arthur, Xander, and the rest of the 214 declared the winners of this year’s War Games, but you bet your ass I want to be holding what Cancer Jiles has right now. I consider it a personal failing that I haven’t been HOW World Champion yet by this stage of my tenure here. So yeah, I’m gonna ‘turn it around,’ Al. My ‘sub-500 record’ is gonna get a boost when my team wins this match. God willing, I’ll be the one leaving the Tokyo Dome with the World Title in my carry-on. And if for some reason I don’t? I’m making a promise, right here and now, that if I don’t win the belt between now and the end of the year, then I will not be renewing my High Octane Wrestling contract.”
There’s a brief beat of silence. Clay’s eyes fly open and he shakes his head, unable to prevent the double-take. Kaz’s mouth falls open slightly while Ami steeples her fingers against her mouth.
“Oh my God,” Ami whispers. “Did she…”
The rest of her thought fades away, drowned out by the braying and the bleating of the press’s follow-up questions.
Some time later…
“What the fuck was that?”
As soon as her part of the press conference ended and Lindsay walked up the aisle to meet her entourage, she could sense Clay, Ami, and Kaz brimming with confusion. Understandable, considering the magnitude of the announcement she made. So when she motioned for them to head back across the street to the 214’s base of operations at the Tokyo Dome Hotel, she also made sure to head all their questions off at the pass with a single word: Wait.
Wait, because she knew what was coming, and she didn’t want to have the conversation out in the open, in front of the fans in attendance, the press, and the rest of the 214. Once the door to her suite clicked shut, however, there was no need to hold back.
“Hello? Earth to Lindsay. There’s a big fucking question that needs answering,” Clay demands to Lindsay’s back. She’s just placed her keycard and phone, screen alighting with texts, onto the coffee table, then moves across the room to the bedroom, fingers deftly unzipping her dress as she walks.
Ami and Kaz look at one another, not quite sure what to make of all this yet, then at Clay, who has followed after their mother. Lindsay’s closed the bedroom door to afford herself some privacy as she changes, so Clay’s left to wait for her response through the barricade.
“I think Mom…” Kaz starts, before being cut off by Clay’s raised finger.
“I know what I’m doing, Clay,” Lindsay says, finally. Defiantly.
“Do you?” is his equally defiant comeback. “Because I’m not so sure. This is the second time in a week you’ve gone rogue and–”
“Do you know how many World Title opportunities I’ve had?” the Queen snaps at her accuser through the door, her voice taking on a hardened edge. “Three, and never in a one-on-one fight. They’ve either been in tournaments or at War Games at the same time as a slew of others. That reporter was right: I shit the bed in both War Games matches I was in, finishing either dead last or towards the bottom of the pack. I’m fucking better than that, Clay. I’m fucking better than only getting shots in clusterfucks, or watching ass-draggers like Scott Stevens and Brian Hollywood get ‘sacrificial lamb’ title shots while I toil away in the salt mines, hoping that hard work and perseverance alone will get me to the top of the mountain. What bullshit. What a farce.”
The bedroom door flings open and Lindsay reappears, purse in hand, out of her professional attire and in street clothes. In two steps she’s chest-to-chest with Clay, right fist clenched in rebellion, muscles taut and mutinous.
“I am the greatest female wrestler of all fucking time and I am goddamn tired of never being in the World Title conversation in High Octane Wrestling. So I made myself the conversation by making a promise at the press conference. I didn’t plan it, but it’s high time I start betting on myself…not just for me, but for the entire 214: the boys in the group, our fans, and those yet to come. I can do this, and I will do this, because for the first time in a year and a half my slate is clean, a weight’s been lifted and I’m going all the fuck in to make sure I get what I want.”
She steps around him, retrieves her items off the coffee table, and throws her arms around the now-beaming twins, pulling them in for a hug. When the family releases their embrace, Lindsay looks over her shoulder at her agent, the fire and fury having cooled just a little.
“We’ve been on this ride a long time, Clay. I’m long overdue to go on another tear and be called a World Champion again. If in six months I haven’t made good on my word, then I want to see how much smoke that bald-headed bitch is blowing. Lee always talks a big game, about how he can’t stand me but he doesn’t want any other company to have me, but when it really comes down to brass tacks and I’m about to walk? What the fuck’s he gonna do to try and keep me?”
A few seconds tick by before Clay nods his head, letting the Queen’s thought process sink in. “Okay. You’re the boss. I’ll get working on the hype and the spin.”
“I may just pull this off on Sunday,” Lindsay adds, a confident smirk appearing for the first time in awhile. “But if I don’t, then the next six months is gonna be nothing short of a rampage.”
What’s up, assbags? I’m sure you all figured I’d wait until the third one of these to spit the hot, hot fiyah and roast your asses, because that’s what I usually do, but not this time.
Not when I’ve just gone ahead and put my proverbial dick on the table and said, unequivocally, that if I’m not holding the World Title at some point over the next six months, I’m peacing out of this joint.
That’s right. Gonna give ol’ SkeLEEtor the middle finger and swagger out the door on my own terms.
It’s a bold strategy, Cotton, and it’s gonna pay off for me.
This isn’t a Mike Best Publicity Stunt either…you know the one, where he builds up the suspense, maybe tugs on your heartstrings a little and then drops the retirement threat for the Hail Mary and the win. “The Ol’ Reliable,” we call it. And since Mike is nothing but a liar who everyone knows would never follow through anyway, because he changes his mind more times than Scottywood changes his Pampers after dropping another sad sack promo that mentions a bunch of shit no one cares about, you all can rest assured that I intend to follow the fuck through…if I even let it get that far, because I fully expect to never come close to that six month deadline and will be sticking around for the long haul much to everyone’s continued fucking chagrin.
None of you will ever be on my level. You’ll never be as great as me, for as long as me, so no matter what you say to or about me, your shade will never diminish my light.
It’s called “betting on myself” for a reason, and I’m gonna be the HOW World Champion much sooner than December.
No one else in this match has the balls to do something like this, and that’s because all you dickweasels in the Best Alliance are simply content to float along like the bloated manatees you are, snorting Lee Best’s money and promises of power and ego trips into your snouts like you’re John Sektor falling off the wagon of his fifth redemption tour since HOW reopened two years ago.
What wild times we live in. I could’ve sworn I’ve seen you lean on this crutch before, buddy. What’s so new and different this time about “The Gold Standard” trying to get off the drugs and training real hard for a big important match? Oh, I know… have a Come to Jesus moment with Jatt, then throw in a black van and try to trick everyone into thinking you give a shit about getting Chloe back.
Out here lookin’ like a Scooby Doo villain…fuck outta here, hermano. Maybe you should’ve gone to Spooky Island and learned what it’s like to be a good father and a decent human being instead of continually being the sentient trash pile from Fraggle Rock.
Do everyone a favor: go on and drive yourself to rehab, Sek, fucking stay there, and try not to have a cocaine heart attack and crash into a light pole on the way. Then maybe once you’ve learned to love yourself, you can learn to love another person.
The only killer amongst the BA are the enlarged hearts from years of drug and alcohol abuse, and as far as I’m concerned you all can’t die soon enough.
What the fuck are you all gonna do to try and stop me, anyway? Send Jace Parker Davidson out to cut some more cringelord shit? Real good way to secure that Hall of Fame nod, my guy; I know Darin Zion’s thanking you for your service as we speak. God knows your bits have been lacking teeth, since you insist on using Madison as a mouthpiece for your misogyny instead of just coming direct with it.
You know what’s funny? I’ve been accused by other mediocre men of not being able to make it on my own, but you can’t do it either, can you? You needed your shitty ex-wife to help you in this place and now – as you tragically grasp at the last straws of relevance – you couldn’t even come back to HOW without some busted-faced side piece along for the ride. What’s Madison going to do after her meal ticket expires after you get sent out of War Games early courtesy of a brain-rattling head drop? Or when Lee never gives you that Hall of Fame nod after you crawled back out of the sewers to try and secure? She’ll have to find someone else to eat her out in the back of a limo, or go back to working for the escort service you’re borrowing her from?
There’s no shame in that, by the way; Salt ‘n Pepa once said that the only difference between a hooker and a ho ain’t nothin’ but a fee, and everyone needs to make a living.
My only occupation now is to be a monstrosity for each and every one of you from now until I get my hands on the 97Red belt. Jiles’ time as the World Champion is slowly winding to a close. JPD’s “best days ever” are long behind him and his Hall of Fame bid is now in Jeopardy. It’s my Hall of Fame bid now. It’s my World Title Road.
The High Octane Throne is about to be mine.