You know, you’re starting to piss me off.
Not with the content of your weak bullshit attempts to rile me up either, Jiles, so don’t get it twisted. You aren’t a puppetmaster playing mind games, you’re a fucking clown with belly button tattoo making balloon animals. The dumbest kind of fuck. A snarky, wannabe troll douchebag who thinks he knows how to press all my hot buttons. How long does it take you to choose a ball at a bowling alley, you incoherent prick? I only ask because it’s really evident that you can’t even pick a lane to save your fucking life.
It’s not the content, Jiles.
What pisses me off is that you don’t even have the balls to stick to your guns. The only leg you even had to stand on coming out of that first half-baked promo was the idea that you were half friends with my dead brother. So what do you do? At literally the first sign of resistance, you pull out like a seventeen year old boy afraid he’s gonna get his sister pregnant.
AHA! I only PRETENDED to be his friend!
To anger you, you see!
I threw you the world’s fattest softball and you hit yourself in the dick with the bat. Realized that you’d kicked a hornet’s nest and decided that rather than man up, you’d run from the bees like that kid in My Girl. You based your entire mode of attack on the idea that I murdered your friend, and then abandoned it with such “12 year old troll on Xbox” conviction that you could have won an Oscar for it.
Not the award.
The Grouch, cause that promo was trash.
Pretending to care about something and then not bothering to pay it off is all you’re fucking good at, Jiles. The only three settings you seem to have are “easy mode”, “lazy mode” and “disappear for eight months” mode, and I’m bored of it.
I’m bored of you.
I’m bored of wrestling in general, but especially you, Jiles. The try-hard non-conformist, wanting so badly not to be “like other girls” that your schtick has become tired and manufactured. You’ve decided that the square wheel still gets you into town, so there’s no need to reinvent it. You are everything that is wrong with the wrestling industry, and your willingness to just say whatever you have to say to get a cheap pop is just further evidence that you aren’t worth the effort it would take to bash your face in with a phoned-in series of elbows.
SNAPMARES INCOMING, BUD.
Everything that defines you is just a lesser version of something that a better wrestler has already done, with more one word sentences in it. You’re a Midget Mike, a Diet Dan, a Diluted Dane and a Fraudulent Farthington. A cookie cutter selling cardboard cutouts. A cheap, shitty knockoff that embodies every bit of the word HOAX– no wonder you sell so much merchandise to the rubes.
You don’t win matches with information, dickhead, you win matches by being good at wrestling. Or at least I do. You don’t really win matches anymore, do you? It wasn’t a Freefall, Jiles, it was Free Wins. The World Title isn’t on the line because anyone is being punished, it’s Lee’s Best Bet that you don’t just lay down and take a nap like the rest of the matches you’ve been sleeping on for two months.
Your strategy is to get me so angry that I make mistakes? My anger doesn’t lose me matches, dickhead, it loses me loved ones. If you think the best case scenario is that I stop locking chins and start checking them, you have highly estimated your chances of survival in a wrestling ring with me. I’m not gonna beat you in a wrestling match because I “need to control the monster”, I’m doing it because I don’t care about putting on a good show and I don’t respect you. It would take nothing to smash you in the face with a couple of knees, Jiles– I just don’t want to. I wanna beat you in a boring, mundane technical wrestling match, so that’s what I’m going to do.
Maybe I’ll use a long sleeper hold.
I don’t have another thing. I just wanted to remind everyone how easy your shitty, faux-edgy promo style is to reproduce.
LOOK AT THIS PONY STICKER ON MY TRAPPER KEEPER.
“I don’t love wrestling anymore.”
It’s the first time that he’s ever said those words out loud.
In truth, it had been a long time coming. The events of October 24th had perhaps been a catalyst for finally admitting it, but the truth was that his heart hadn’t been in it for a long time. His heart wasn’t in it when he was running the Florida Keys collecting a Fisher Price Hall of Fame ring. His heart wasn’t in it when he washed out of the LBI. His heart wasn’t even in it when Lee Best had made him a War Games captain, and sent him off to do battle against the great and powerful Redacted Murray. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he’d convinced himself that maybe this was it. Maybe the thing that he’d dedicated his entire life to was coming to an end. Maybe it was time to hand the keys over to Cecilworth and call it a day.
….and then he won.
He shifts uncomfortably against the cushion of the couch. This isn’t the kind of thing he’d ever subscribed to, for most of his life– a man is meant to keep his problems tucked away, deep down, for his whole life, and eventually he’ll die. Therapy was a tool for the weak; an escape to talk about your precious feelings once a week, so that some guy can tell you that you aren’t crazy and then charge you five hundred dollars. He didn’t like this uncomfortable couch. He didn’t like the aura of judgement. He didn’t like how fucking quiet and pensive the man listening to his problems seemed to be.
Him and his stupid yellow shirt.
“Okay.” Yellow Shirt nods his head, with a sideways glance. “So how exactly can I help you?”
What a stupid question.
The audacity. The HOW World Champion glances around the room, taking in all the cheap furniture and god awful knickknacks inhabiting the space. The whole place smells funny, like a weird mixture of low grade leather and overcooked meatballs.
This was a mistake.
“I’m sorry.” Michael grunts, staring up at the ceiling. “Am I gonna be cutting you a check for six hundred dollars today? Maybe you fucking tell ME how you can help me.”
“I’m just…” Yellow Shirt looks confused. “I’m not quite sure what you’re expecting me to tell you.”
If the Son of God had any intention of being fair in all this, it’s not an easy conundrum to unpack. When all you’ve done for your adult life is the same job, day after day, nearly to the point of mastery… does it matter if you still love doing it? What exactly was he going to do, start over and become a fucking accountant?
This is all he knows how to do.
For the longest time, it’s all he WANTED to do. Workouts in the morning. Workouts in the evening. Drilling in the afternoons, watching tapes at night. He had lived, breathed, and subsisted solely on the wrestling business for so many years that he didn’t know how to survive without it.
Fucking War Games, man.
That’s when it all really started. The feeling of absolute existential dread that came with holding the HOW World Championship. The panic that came with being the guy to follow Cecilworth Farthington, and the most dominant championship run of all-time. The hopeless spiral of realization that until he lost this belt, it wouldn’t matter how much he’d fallen in love with wrestling– he was the guy again. He was the captain of the fucking ship, and if it went down with him at the helm, it would be his fault. His legacy. The thing that he was known for, more than anything else. Brian Hollywood had watched HOW burn in 2016 as the champion, and even though it wasn’t his fault, he’d never gotten that stink off him.
The coke had helped for a while. You can forget about any of your problems if you medicate them hard enough. Throw in a little booze, and before you know it you’re sitting in Mario’s office like Tony fucking Montana and you don’t even know what day it is anymore. Doing a rail off the championship belt in front of thousands of screaming fans will really take the edge off…
… but it only does it for so long.
The mistake was medicating the symptoms and ignoring the problem. Escalating, week after week, month after month, slowly shedding your fucking humanity piece by piece until suddenly you feel invincible. Suddenly, you feel like a God. Suddenly, you’re cutting bullshit promos about immortality, and you’re not just saying it, you’re believing it. He bought his own bullshit, and everyone else in the world but him had paid for it.
He should have treated the apathy.
That was the real disease.
The second he fell out of love with wrestling, he should have packed up and went home without a second thought. The chaos and destruction brought forth by his own boredom with the game had been nearly immeasurable; Farthington would still be here, Murray would still be here, Flair would still be here. The Bruvs would still be here.
Max would still be alive.
There was no point now in some epic quest to destroy High Octane Wrestling, because he’d already done it through his own sheer selfish boredom. The roster was a fucking ghost town. Lee Best was deflated and damn near checked out. The Tag Division was dead, and ratings were down. Here he was lecturing Cancer Jiles about consumerism, but the capitalist monster behind the HOAX had already picked the bones clean.
Because of boredom.
Because of ego.
“I dunno, man.” Michael sighs, closing his eyes. “This shit was easier when I was still getting fucked up everyday. Been sober two weeks now. Promised myself I would, I just… you know, not the best timing.”
“Because of your brother?” Yellow Shirt asks, seemingly disinterested.
“Yeah, because of my brother, dipshit.” Michael scowls. “Did I come in here and start talking about termites in my fucking floorboards, or did I come in here to talk to you about my fucking dead brother? You ever had a family member beg you to murder them for six months, and then have to watch them kill themself in front of you on live television? And then have thousands of people chant “MURDERER” at you when you come out to honor his memory? Is that an experience you can empathize with, Dr. Dickhead?”
Talk about your rhetorical questions.
You could hear a pin drop, if it weren’t for the idle chatter wafting in from the next room along with the meatballs. The dull roar of easy listening music, slapping against the sides of his skull like a boat on choppy waters.
“That must be very difficult.” Yellow Shirt mumbles, softly.
Talk about your rhetorical answers.
It would be so easy to tear this motherfucker’s throat out right now. So easy that even his narrator is thinking about it. To just spring up from this couch and snuff Dr. Yellow Shirt out like damp fucking candle and remove him from his mortal coil. And why not do it? They all call him a murderer anyway. They all say he killed his fucking brother. They all think he’s a monster.
Why not prove them right?
“I just keep seeing it.” Michael swallows his anger, or at least it’s tone. “Over and fucking over again. Watching him slide off the end of that fucking IV stand. Right before he died, he… I don’t know, man. I think he told me he was sorry. I don’t know if it was him, or if it was… the other guy… or if they were both the same… fuck. I don’t know. I didn’t pull the trigger. But I may as well have. I could have just walked away. Why didn’t I just walk away?”
He hasn’t slept a full night in weeks.
Between the nightmares about his death and the nightmares that he might still be alive, the haunting sneer of The Minister seems to be the only memory Michael can conjure of his brother. Not warehouses and ninjas. Not eMpires and Best-Kael Accords. Just a haunting red eye, and a deathblow that would have killed the Son of God just as easily as it killed the man who threw it.
It’s not the way he wants to remember Max.
Maybe it’s a self-defense mechanism. Maybe remembering him as The Minister would be easier than having to picture that stupid, charming smile and all the weird times they had together on the road. Maybe that daunting red eye was the last thing keeping the walls from caving in, and sending him on a spiral that he can’t come back from. Maybe it was his own shattered memory protecting him from the only thing that can make this all worse.
He leans forward, sitting up on the couch and starting directly at the so-called therapist in the yellow shirt.
“Tell me what to do.” Michael swallows hard, his eyes near glazed over. “Tell me to quit, or to keep going, or how the fuck to ever be happy again. Hypnotize me or something, fuck. Make me love what I do, because I don’t know how to keep doing it anymore.”
His head falls into his hands, elbows stiff against his knees.
“If I just walk away now…” he trails off, pausing for a moment. “I mean, then it was all for nothing, right? He died for nothing. I let him die for nothing. But how the fuck do I keep carrying this belt around and pretending like I’m still the man I was? How do I pretend like I’m not completely, irreparably severed from who I used to be? Is it better to be a fraud, or the man who killed his brother for nothing?”
Dr. Yellow Shirt doesn’t speak.
What the fuck would he say, anyway?
He could end it all this week. In the back of his mind, he knows it, and to be honest, Lee Best knew it too. That’s why the title was on the line this week, when it wasn’t supposed to be. That’s why he was booked first show back, even though his wounds hadn’t healed. Lee Best wasn’t giving an opportunity to some guy who had fucked off for two months and stopped taking things seriously– he was giving his Son an opportunity to escape, and all he had to do was take it.
All he had to do was lose.
Three seconds of humiliation, in exchange for a lifetime of weight off his shoulders. For all the shit he’d talked about Jiles, the fact was that he was the ultimate torch passer. Taking a loss to Jiles wasn’t a career killer. It wasn’t a reputation buster. He was always just good enough to seem credible, and just mediocre enough to be safe. Losing the HOW World Championship to Cancer Jiles was a way to walk away without humiliation. Without losing face. Without losing his legacy.
And he resented every second of it.
The only feeling worse than apathy was pity, and spite is a powerful drug. The perfect way out, and he’d never take it in a million years. Whether it took a chinlock, a wristlock, or a fucking maglock in a sock, he wasn’t taking any charity from his father or from anybody else. He might not love wrestling anymore, but that doesn’t mean anyone else was allowed to fuck her just yet.
Least of all a fucking eGG Bandit.
“I know you’re going through a lot.” Yellow Shirt finally speaks, breaking the silence. “But, you know, uh… I have other people I need to help. Are we all set here?”
The Starmaker’s head snaps to one side, as he’s brought out of the near-trance of his own thoughts. His mouth is dry, and itchy– he can’t be sure if it was a few seconds or a few moments that he’d sat there, lost in his own mind. He looks all around him, finally noticing pockets of people wandering around him, staring at the furniture.
Why are they here?
He clears his throat, not saying anything for a moment. His insides feel hot, as he struggles to remember exactly how long he’s been sitting on this couch. Ten minutes? An hour? Three?
He needs a glass of water.
“Oh, yeah.” Michael nods, suddenly looking a little sheepish. “What’s the damage, again?”
His mouth is a fucking desert.
“After tax…” the man in the Yellow Shirt looks at the paperwork in front of him. “…Six forty four ninety nine.”
He reaches toward his back pocket, pulling his wallet out and digging inside for a credit card. He fishes out his American Express, shuffling it over to the man in the yellow shirt. The brightly colored logo on the front stares back into the face of Michael Lee Best, as he remembers exactly where he is and why he’s there.
“Alright sir.” Yellow Shirt brightens his tone, as he swipes the card through his tablet reader. “If you’ll just confirm the delivery address, we’ll have your new couch to you by the end of the day Friday.”
Michael nods, swallowing what feels like hot sand. His hand is shaking, as he clicks the confirmation button on the tablet in front of him.
A forced smile from the Sales Associate.
“Thank you for choosing IKEA!”