You’re right, Jatt.
This is a trap.
I’m not gonna treat you like you’re a moron. I mean, you are an absolute moron, but I’m not gonna treat you like one. Jace Parker Davidson and Stronk Godson versus you and I… you didn’t need much help reading between the lines. It’s a trap. The outcome doesn’t matter. Nothing you do matters. The Board is in charge, they make the rules, and last week you… upset us. You upset STRONK DADDY. You upset the natural order of things. You became the LSD Champion in a match wholly made to hurt and embarrass you.
What exactly did you think was going to happen?
I know what the move is here. I know how to sell a wrestling match. I know I’m supposed to pretend like maybe there is something underlying tension between The Board and I, or pretend like I’m disappointed in STRONK. I’m supposed to pretend like you and I can co-exist, and that I’m so competitive that I can put aside our differences and do whatever it takes to win. To retain my undefeated status here in HOW. But the truth?
Streaks don’t last forever.
They all end sometime.
Look at my dad. He didn’t take a legitimate loss in almost five years, but it ended. No one remembers it. No one cares. He banked every ounce of life energy he had into maintaining that streak, and when it ended… meh. It meant nothing. You think I give a fuck about staying undefeated, Jatt? Nah, look, I’ve already been written off either way. I’m the son of the son of the boss, and someday my kids are gonna be told they didn’t earn anything, too. It’s the way of the Best, and we all cope with it in our own way. My dad? He fought the trope. He went to war with my grandfather more than he didn’t, trying desperately to escape his shadow.
I like the shade.
I do whatever the fuck I want, whenever the fuck I want. I’m the HOW ICON Champion, a belt specifically brought back to High Octane Wrestling to rest over my shoulder, and that’s a lot more important to me than whether or not I happen to be standing on your side of a ring apron when you get pinned. Softening you up for our match at Dead or Alive, so that I can retain the ICON Championship? That’s my agenda. That’s my goal. That’s my core fucking drive, by any means necessary. So yes, Jatt. You’re right. This isn’t a match. This is a prison yard ambush. A contractually obligated hitjob. A lesson in what happens to a man who doesn’t know how to acknowledge his place and keep in line.
Shouldn’t have climbed that ladder, Jatt.
Should have just taken your lumps.
My grandfather would have just run you through the ringer for a few more weeks, beat you down, and handed you off to me like a half eaten sandwich to lose at Dead or Alive like a gentleman. Kept my ICON Title reign intact. But you just couldn’t help yourself. Had to climb the ladder. Had to reach for the stars. Had to grab that belt. And what did it merit you, for your efforts? All you did was win me a prize, Jatt. Guaranteed that you’ll drop good loot when I confirm my kill at DOA.
Assuming you even make it that far.
You don’t have a partner this week. I’m going to avoid tags. I’m going to ignore saves. I don’t mind mixing it up a little with Jace out there, but you think I’m gonna fight STRONK? Go fuck yourself, dude. The second STRONK is in that match, so you are. The second I feel a little bead of sweat run down my forehead, I’m tagging you in. If I get so much as an ominous sounding fortune cookie on Sunday, I might not even stick around ringside to watch you get your shit packed in. I really, really can’t stress enough that this match is a trap, Jatt Starr, and your little paintball guns aren’t gonna help you. Apparently your shitty little speech impediment rabbit that was literally never funny isn’t gonna help you. Your stupid little nicknames aren’t going to help you.
I’m not going to help you.
And this is gonna be VEWWY uncomfortable to watch.
“It’s called a gratuity, dude. It’s optional.”
Folding a crisp, fresh one hundred dollar bill in half, Tyler Adrian Best silently tucks it into the inside pocket of his jacket, as he lets the restaurant door slam shut without warning. His father, already looking annoyed, jumps as the glass door reverberates behind them.
“The fuck is wrong with you?” Michael asks, not even making eye contact. “Do you have to be a douchebag, literally all the time? You took my fucking tip off the table, it wasn’t even your money.”
The HOW ICON Champion shrugs weakly, as the pair make their way down the crowded Tulsa Street, toward the rental car.
“You tip for exceptional service.” Tyler says, blankly. “Did you feel we received exceptional service? Did our waiter fill your water glass exceptionally well? Did he do a real good job writing down your order? The fuck outta here with a hundred dollar tip. Did he win War Games?”
The young upstart pats his pocket, smirking as he gets a couple of steps ahead of his old man. Something had been off about Tyler from the very beginning, but as the weeks have drawn on, it was becoming very, very apparent that he didn’t have as much in common with his father as Michael had initially hoped.
As the father and son make their way down the street, Tyler’s nose suddenly turns upward, looking as he though he’s smelled a fart or tried to add someone to PWA without going on a seven week vision quest first. He quickly grabs hold of Michael’s jacket sleeve, pulling him toward the street and motioning that they should cross.
“What are you–” Michael begins, but then he sees it.
Tyler is avoiding the homeless people.
Two older men, one of them wearing a hat signifying that he’s a veteran, are camped out next to an alleyway, along Tulsa’s longest main drag. A shopping cart rests between them, holding a large blanket that is providing some shade in the midday heat. These men don’t look like they’re lazy and looking for a handout.
They look like they’re in trouble.
“Jesus, Ty.” Michael sighs. “Fucking veterans.”
He roughly pulls his arm away from Tyler, officially over the childlike antics. He reaches into his pocket, looking for some cash as he walks with a brisk pace toward the two old bums sitting against the building. No signs. No begging. No sob story. Just doing their best to get through the day, and they look fucking hungry.
“Hey fellas.” the CEO smiles, speaking quietly. “Why don’t you guys find someplace to cool down?”
He reaches into his pocket, pulling out whatever cash is left over after paying for lunch. A feeling of embarrassment comes over him, as he remembers that Tyler picked a cool hundo back up off the table as well, pocketing it for himself– Michael had always been kind of a dickhead in his own right, but who the fuck is rude to servers? Who disrespects homeless veterans?
He forces another smile, quickly counting through the cash.
About eighty bucks sits loosely in his palm, as he leans in to hand it over without much fanfare. Before he can complete his act of charity, however, Tyler steps between his father and the homeless men, a look of absolute disgust on his face.
“Nah.” the ICON champ shakes his head. “Look, guys, no disrespect. Thank you for your service or whatever. But I don’t think we were ever in any danger of speaking fucking Vietnamese or anything sooooo… good luck to you. There are programs for this. Find them.”
He tries to pull his father away once again, but Michael Lee Best firmly stands his ground, a look of pure disappointment and anger crawling over his face. Tyler again tries to pull him away, but Mike refuses to budge.
“Guys, I’m real sorry about this.” Michael apologizes, ignoring Tyler. “I don’t know what my–”
Something snaps inside of Tyler, his eyes going dark as he aggressively slaps the hand of his father away from the old vets, sending the twenties scattering into the breeze. He shoves his father backward, an evil smirk spreading over his face like a disease.
“Don’t fucking apologize for me.” Tyler laughs, cruelly. “Hey guys, you want some money? I’ll tell you what, let’s get you some fuckin’ money, alright?”
He bends down, picking up the scattered twenties and straightening them out in his hand. Thinking even more of himself, he reaches into his jacket pocket and produces the folded up hundred dollar bill, adding it into the pile. He leans in to hand it over, but suddenly pulls back.
“Not so fast.” TAB muses, pretending to think. “See, your generation… they told us to pull ourselves up by their bootstraps, right? Earn our money. So maybe you fellas should… earn… this money.”
Almost frozen in rage, Michael Lee Best grits his teeth. He speaks slowly and quietly, but with a new kind of anger in his voice.
“Stop it.” Michael spits, his words barely a whisper. “They served their fucking country, you ungrateful little shit.”
“Oh, MY BAD!” Tyler exclaims, with fake excitement. “I didn’t know that’s what those veteran hats meant, MY MISTAKE! You guys like to serve? Why don’t you go ahead and serve one more time then, so I can thank you for your service. Since my dad wants to give you guys some money… why don’t you… hmmm…”
He rubs his chin, pretending like he doesn’t already know what he’s going to say.
“Why don’t you fight for it?” the evil smile returns, bolder this time. “Yeah, I think I wanna see you guys fight over it.”
The two men sitting against the bricks haven’t spoken. Have barely reacted. The summer heat is taking its toll, and neither of them look like they’ve eaten in days. There is a quiet desperation in their eyes, as they slowly look at one another with an understanding.
Tyler looks like he might cum in his fucking pants.
“Guys, please.” Michael closes his eyes, rubbing the sides of his temples. “Look, he’s a dumb kid. I’m really sorry we bothered you. Please just take the money, and an apology, and–”
“SHUT THE FUCK UP.” Tyler’s head shoots around to face his father. “Just shut up. Shut your FUCKING MOUTH. We aren’t in an arena. I’m not in your stupid gym. You’re not the CEO or the head trainer or my fucking boss right now. You’re some guy who shot a load in my mother once and thinks he’s gonna teach me about life? Shut your fucking mouth. I have a hundred and eighty dollars in my hand, and if these gentlemen want it, they are going to FUCKING FIGHT FOR IT. They’re on board. I’m on board. So why don’t you just walk the FUCK away and convince someone else that you’re suddenly such a nice guy.”
No one speaks.
For a solid thirty seconds, but what feels more like an eternity, the father and son stare at one another, neither man willing to be the one who blinks. Michael swallows hard, feeling a lot of emotions all at once, as he softly shakes his head and turns to walk away. He slowly crosses the street, leaving his son to his cruel little game.
The CEO of High Octane Wrestling fishes the keys out of his pocket, unlocking the rental car on the other side of the road, his head spinning… there’s no way Tyler will actually go through with it, right? He’s testing his father. Testing boundaries. Going through his puberty years on a delay, on account of never knowing his own father.
After all… that’s what Michael did to Lee.
He opens the driver’s side door, before finally changing his mind and looking back at his son. What he sees is beyond horrifying… Tyler Adrian Best is standing in the center of the two homeless men, watching as they desperately swing at one another on the street. Both of them are weak. Desperate. Hungry. After a few sad swings in either direction, both of them sort of collapse into the shopping cart, looking sad and exhausted.
Michael sees red, slamming the door and stepping back out into the street.
This ends now.
“Great job, boys.” Tyler beams, pure evil in his eyes. “You both did an amazing job, so proud of you.”
The ICON Champion claps his hands, rubbing them together before pulling the money back out of his pocket. He holds it up in front of him.
“Honestly?” the God of Sons sneers. “Really, really hard to pick a winner here. How about we call it a draw? You guys can split the money.”
Without a second though, he tears through the bills, splitting them right down the middle and rendering them relatively worthless. Like a patron in a strip club, he throws the money into the air, making it rain over the unfortunate souls collapsed on the ground, laughing as it lands on all sides of them.
It’s at this moment that Michael Lee Best can see it for what it truly is. His son isn’t rebelling. He isn’t testing boundaries. He isn’t going through a phase. Something is intensely and deeply wrong with Tyler Adrian Best– something that makes him worse than his father. Maybe worse than his grandfather. Something that is going to be a fucking problem.
Seeing his father, Tyler’s sneer deepens.
“Oh, I almost forgot.” TAB leans in close to the men, but looks directly into Michael’s eyes.
“Thank you for your service.”