SOMEWHERE IN AMERICA
JULY 10, 2023
“WHAT IF … INSTEAD OF STRONK! SMASH, STRONK! … tEcHnIcALLy wReStLeS … BROTHER RYAN TO A fIvE-sTaR oNe-hOuR bRoAdWaY AND ALL HUMANS INVOLVED CAN GO HOME SAFE AND NOT PHYSICALLY OBLITERATED?”
Michael Oliver Best rolls his luggage through an airport, HOW World Champion STRONK! Godson by his side. Hurried flight attendants and frenzied business travelers rush past them. An unruly man seated in the lounge, his table littered with empty pint glasses yet to be retrieved by wait staff, screams obscenities and rants about chemtrails and abortion rights; a woman, his daughter, hides her face in shame.
“We can talk about that later,” Michael Oliver Best says, “but right now, we’re late and have an—… ugh… —commercial flight to catch, so get those knees up! Let’s go! These tickets are non-refundable!”
The two sprint through the airport, eventually arriving at their gate. To STRONK!’s surprise, they are, in fact, thirty minutes early. To Michael Oliver Best, however, they are thirty minutes late.
They stand in the sunniest part of the waiting area. STRONK! looks out through the glass, watching planes as they shuttle across the runway, thinking about how much he does not want to crunch Brother Ryan’s tender facey bones with his hulking, lunchbox fists. Oh, how sad that’d make him.
But at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, he’ll do it, no questions asked. STRONK! will end-of-fiscal-year, quota’s-due DRONE ATTACK Dan Ryan with looping bolo punches drawn from the South Pole and freight train shoulder tackles until he is a black-and-blue flesh suit of ravaged innards.
Sadly, the onslaught will crack Brother Ryan’s old man dentures in half, and he will need to crudely wire them back together using a strand of old Christmas tinsel awarded to him in a sideways, divorce-driven asset split.
Was Dan Ryan divorced? Did he have a wife? A girlfriend? A little old lady in a floral gown fished out of a thrift store bin, who fetches him the morning paper and serves him boiled meat and potatoes for dinner every night? To whom is he betrothed? Michael Oliver Best doesn’t care enough to know or to find out.
Either way, the simple fact remains, STRONK! will destroy the Final Alliance’s resident heavy, and he will undoubtedly feel very bad about it while it’s happening and immediately thereafter.
But over time, lifted by the inspiring, congratulatory words of the patriarchal Papa Best, STRONK! will forget all about the gratuitous punishment dealt to his stablemate by his own hands, and their dynamic will eventually return to what it was before the unfortunate, ego-busting trouncing occurred.
Except Papa Best and the rest of the Final Alliance will realize that, despite actually being physically bigger than STRONK!, Dan Ryan is no heavy—he’s a medium-sized man in a big man’s body. And he’s old and his joints are rusty and arthritic and his bones are slowly degrading in terms of density.
Sad as it is, such is the passage of time.
STRONK! had spent the duration of the walk through the airport, en route to security, ping-ponging between feelings of regret for what’s to come—what needs to be done—and wondering whether he can apply some submission hold that compresses Dan Ryan’s spine such that he loses about a foot of height.
While the things he covets are few and far between, the stature of the legendary Dan Ryan is certainly one of them. Fuck a low center of gravity; STRONK! would love to be Dan’s height. Just think of all the additional mass his frame could support!
That’s the way STRONK! Godson has felt over the past three weeks, though if you asked him to define the word, of course, he couldn’t.
Tired, now that would be the apt word to describe him currently.
Tired of the back-and-forth flights from Chicago to Hollywood. Tired of the back-to-back media interviews and the incessant chit-chat that goes part-and-parcel with them. Tired of being dragged away from his beloved dumbbells, barbells, squat rack, and DOG to take a meetings with failing NFT companies.
The last time we saw him, STRONK! was pitched three different films that would act as star-making vehicles for him. Michael Oliver Best said it best, ‘You’re the champ. Now’s the time to strike while the iron is hot.’
STRONK! didn’t understand, though; yes, he is the champ, but won’t he always and forever be the champ? Won’t the iron always be hot?
He hasn’t defended the HOW Championship since winning the belt at War Games in May, but Uncle Oliver mentioned to him that he would be booked on the upcoming CHAOS against a roster member ranked within the top five.
Earlier that day, while they rode in an Uber to the airport, Uncle Oliver read aloud to him the list of potential names from the Standings page of the HOW website.
Michael Best — his “brother”; biological son to STRONK!’s Papa Best. The most accomplished HOW wrestler of all time. The sharpest tongue in the game; he speaks so fast and fluid in his promos that sometimes STRONK! thinks Mike is bilingual, with English as a distant second language. To this day, STRONK! has never had an extended conversation with the man, but still he respects him greatly.
Steve Solex — COACH SWOLEX~! A master motivator, a diligent coach, as manly as a set of Truck Nutz hanging off the back of a Ford Raptor rolling coal in front of a throng of goofy libtard protestors. He was there for STRONK! when he was at his weakest and needed a guiding hand to lead him back to prosperity. STRONK! gives partial credit to the persistent mentorship and training of Coach Swolex for his War Games victory. This is, by far, the person STRONK! wants to face the least.
You don’t hurt friends… unless Papa Best asks nicely. Hell, even if he shout-asks amidst a torrent of profanities, you still do it. You just don’t have to like it. (Unless, of course, Papa Best asks you to like it… then you like it and shut your fucking mouth.)
Charles de Lacy — some guy with a stupid French name or something. Apparently he’s disgruntled about his contract, and of course this pisses off HOW’s head honcho. STRONK! would smash him with ease and toss him into the shallow end of a tepid pond to be molested by horny toads. Or something. Anyway, a complete and utter non-factor.
Conor Fuse — almost killed STRONK! at Rumble At The Rock. Almost killed by STRONK! when he passed out in the LOOP HOLD at War Games. Their grudge remains, it’s not even close to settled. STRONK! will relish the opportunity to smash the Vintage one more time and put a bow on their long-standing feud.
(Darin Zion may have factored in there somewhere, but who cares about him? What more needs to be said about a guy who has a multicolored propeller hat stitched directly onto his smooth brain?)
Dan Ryan – another “brother,” although more of a “step brother” as viewed through the prism of the Final Alliance; a man that is even bigger than STRONK! himself and with whom STRONK! tagged just a few short weeks ago. After the match in which they came up short (luckily neither of them were the ones that were pinned or submitted), Dan Ryan took him out to a little known but expensive steakhouse and suffered a sizable dent to his savings account after STRONK! proceeded to order seventeen thousand-dollar tomahawk steaks and a gallon of clarified butter to wash it all down.
STRONK! rolled these names around in his head for as long as his limited attention span would allow, and came to a firm conclusion:
The opponent DOES NOT matter.
Not one bit.
STRONK! actually, at one point, demanded that Michael Oliver Best call Papa Best and tell him to book the entire top five against him in a six-man elimination match. Give them all their fair shake, he thought. Knock off several potential title challengers in one fell swoop. Multiple birds slain with a singular stone (or boulder, rather, given the shape of Godson).
But MOB reminded STRONK! that (a) he should never, ever demand anything of his brother, and (b) one man is orders of magnitude easier to defeat than five. After an hour of MOB attempting to provide mathematical proof that five is greater than one, the HOW World Champion finally got it.
Now, here they are in a bustling airport, in an unfamiliar city, on their way back to Chicago from some paid meet-and-greet organized in tandem with a group of Instagram influencers unrelated to pro wrestling. From what Michael Oliver Best gathered through their short, stilted conversations, they all live together in a house in the San Fernando Valley, and spend their days pulling cruel pranks on old people, huffing dust cleaner, and posting thirst trap dance videos on social media.
Anyway, news of STRONK!’s opponent for CHAOS 37 came just as they were trudging their way through security—a text message containing two words
No more guessing. There it was.
A tall order, for sure. A potential spoiler of the 97RED main event between STRONK! and rival Jace Parker Davidson for the biggest prize in High Octane Wrestling.. A man that has seen it all and done it all in the sport of professional wrestling. And again, yes, as we’ve already been over, he’s bigger than STRONK! Far more experienced (twenty plus years to Godson’s one), better grappling fundamentals, and a possible strength advantage, all things that make this a very tricky title defense for the King Stallion. He must tread lightly, which is no easy task for a flat-footed, three hundred pound individual like STRONK! Thankfully, Michael Oliver Best is there by his side to do all the thinking. Rest assured, MOB is a genius when it comes to putting together an effective game plan.
Stood together with their bags by their feet, STRONK! and Michael Oliver Best wait for their plane to begin boarding.
“STRONK! JUST THINKS … MAYBE PAPA BEST DOES NOT WANT STRONK! TO HURT DAN RYAN VERY BAD. SO STRONK! SHOULD MAYBE gRaPpLe WITH DAN RYAN AND NOT SMASH DAN RYAN INTO STINKY OLD HUMAN MAN DUST,” STRONK! says, once again returning to the idea of having a catch-as-catch-can exhibition-style bout with his teammate, rather than bludgeoning him with his fists and twisting his big head off his neck with the LOOP HOLD.
Maybe he could even use a different finisher? Something ineffective that barely hurts. Or hurts just enough to put Dan Ryan on the canvas for the count of three but not do any significant, long-term damage. What’s Scott Stevens’ finisher? Shit, has anyone ever seen it? It’s like Big Foot—people have claimed they’ve been witness to it, there may even be some grainy, black-and-white footage of it, but you’re still left wholly unconvinced. It just… doesn’t seem real.
“Listen,” MOB says assertively, literally putting his foot down with an audible stomp, “I don’t want to hear any of that. Not a word, you understand me? Now’s not the time to get all up in your feelings and worry about injuring Dan fucking Ryan.”
MOB pulls a neck pillow from his bag and wraps it around the back of his neck, mentally preparing to sleep on the plane after a glass or two of red wine. He sticks up his index finger as he makes his final point, saying, “Believe me, Dan Ryan is not sitting back thinking about how he can protect you in the ring. He may genuinely like you as a person, Mister Godson, but that man… he’s been around the bend enough to know that you don’t waste opportunities like this. Dan’s old, he’s like a walking callous, and he has to know, whether he wants to admit it or not, that this could be his last chance at holding the most prestigious championship in our sport. So, no, you aren’t going to wrestle him; you’re going to do what STRONK! Godson does, and that’s impose your fucking will on him and teach him that this ain’t no country for old men.”
Looking into STRONK!’s dull, confused eyes, MOB asks, just as they are called to board the plane, “Do you understand?”
STRONK! enthusiastically nods. “YES.”
“Good. Let’s get the hell out of here already.”
Michael Oliver Best here. Can I ask who pissed in your shredded wheat this morning?
So ornery. Did you make sure to pop a Tums before you decided to shit all over the hard work of a man that has always treated you with respect and reverence even when he didn’t know or understand why?
Look, I get it.
This is it for you, Dan. You said it yourself. One final shot at the big one in HOW.
With a win over STRONK!, you cement your legacy here. A legacy you care more about than anything else in your life.
Am I wrong? Am I lying?
You want to be remembered for being the best. You want there to be a picture of you in the dictionary under ‘Longevity.’ You want to prove to all those ageist punks that called for your retirement that you still have a little bit more to give to the business.
I get it. We all do. This is important to you. You have nothing else to live for if you’re not pathetically glad-handing around a smelly locker room, begging for the slightest bit of affirmation from guys that are younger and more talented than yourself.
I know you consider yourself an elder statesman of sorts in this sport; it’s your entire personality. I don’t care enough to have looked into your personal life, but you don’t strike me as a person that is truly happy and content, so you suck all the enjoyment and vitality from those around you like an old, withered leech on the posterior of this business, Dan.
But what happens when your muscles begin to atrophy and your back curves and no amount of pills can get you out of bed in the morning? Because that time is coming, and it’s coming fast.
Maybe my brother will give you a sweetheart deal and pay you to dole out slurred advice to disinterested rookies while you sit there filling your Depends?
Have you saved your money, Dan? I’m sure you made a lot of it given all the belts you’ve won.
If not—if you’re even more closely aligned to the stereotype of the old broke and broken down wrestler that I originally thought—can you live off whatever loose greenbacks my brother charitably peels off his wad in tribute to your storied career and misguided loyalty? I just hope you’re financially secure; I’d hate to find you hocking signatures at fan conventions to make ends meet.
Honestly, I think all the vitriol you’re spewing stems from one thing and one thing only:
You’re jealous that it took STRONK! just over a year to capture a belt that still, to this day, eludes you.
Just over a year—and during that year, STRONK! never once challenged for the HOW World Championship. Out of respect for Christopher America. Even after several months of topping the standings, having only lost twice in singles competition, one of which was in his debut match against a proven dirty cheater, he still refused to entertain the idea of making a go at the HOW World Championship.
STRONK! never asked to be champion. Money and fame and accolades mean nothing to him. The belt around his waist carries significance for two reasons and two reasons only.
First, it makes him heavier. That’s it. Simple. The big man likes being big. We’ve heard it a thousand times. It’s the primary driver of everything Mister Godson does.
Second, it makes Lee Best happy. Lee Best likes STRONK! and, as I’ve said before, sees in him the potential that I see. A mega star the likes of which High Octane Wrestling has never had before. He likes STRONK! holding his promotion’s top title. STRONK! strives to do whatever possible to make Lee Best happy. And he’s doing a pretty damn good job of it, too, I might add.
Those two things. That’s fucking it.
They may seem as though they are shallow reasons for wanting to be and remain the champion, but rest assured, together they are more than enough to keep STRONK!’s death grip tight on that strap. It’s all he wants because unlike you, Dan, he doesn’t like to overcomplicate life. He wouldn’t know how even if he tried.
Believe me, I’ve tried to motivate him in different ways, and nothing works. But that’s all well and good when the desire to be big and loved is as strong as it is for Mister Godson. What else does he really need? He’s the most motivated, focused man I’ve ever met, but if it all went away tomorrow, he’d spend less than two seconds reflecting on it before hitting the gym even harder than before.
Now, you and Mister Godson did have your chat following your first tag match together. I wasn’t there, but someone who overheard it has since filled me in. And in your twisted mind, you probably remember it as a meaningful conversation between two peers. Maybe even, yuck, mentor-mentee?
Let me give you a splash of reality: the conversation consisted entirely of Dan Ryan talking about Dan Ryan, or as it is also known, Dan Ryan partaking in Dan Ryan’s favorite pastime. It was five minutes of you grandstanding and relating everything back to yourself and your stale career. I heard this from an unbiased third party, I’ll have you know! Someone who claims to respect you—and maybe they do to some degree, as you have admittedly accomplished a lot, just not in HOW—but who is also sick and tired of your bullshit ‘old grizzled vet’ presence in the back.
‘Blah, blah, blah, I started my career in 1860, when the Boondoggle Boys were running Indiana out of Texas. That was back in the early Old West Frontier Territory Days, when you could feasibly run a state within another state and pull walk-up crowds from six different continents without a single bout announced. I took a hundred thousand million bumps, I beat up your great-great-great grandpappies and sent them back to tilling fields, I rode in a horse-drawn carriage with the man that invented the telegram, and eighty four times out of a two hundred and fifteen I won some meaningless championship that made me not hate my life for a fleeting moment. SO RESPECT ME AND ALL THAT I HAVE ACCOMPLISHED OR I WILL WILT AND DIE AND CEASE TO EXIST LIKE A FAIRY WHEN KIDS STOP BELIEVING!’
That is you, Dan, every single time someone enters your orbit. I’m a narcissist and I’ll readily admit it, but I am at least a self-aware narcissist. You have no idea how blisteringly annoying your road stories are to people that weren’t even born when you first laced a pair of boots.
You’re the old man that yells at clouds, and even the clouds are becoming sentient just so they can evaporate quicker and get the fuck away from you.
I’m sure the nurses in the old folks home will find all your tales of Hornet or Bee or Dung Beetle, or whoever your old rivals were that are now dust in a box somewhere, to be really charming. The ramblings of senile old man with gig marks on his forehead. All I’m saying is save them for the people you will eventually have to pay to listen to you… because no one else gives a damn.
It makes sense that you would want something recent and relevant to talk about. Most of your stories are old enough to drive at this point. But you’re barking up the wrong tree, Dan.
You talk a lot about STRONK!’s shenanigans, deriding all of the things he’s done outside of the ring, much of which has fueled his growth in stardom. Yes, HOW has exploited the wild and wacky life of STRONK! over the past year, recording his every move, every word, every decision, every success, every failure. It’s supply and demand, of course, and my brother is just giving the fans what they crave most of all, and that’s STRONK! content. STRONKent? Whatever. You seem a bit jilted, Dan, and I think it’s because everyone—the fans, the wrestlers, probably my brother as well—all view STRONK! as perhaps the most entertaining phenom to enter wrestling since… well, I mean, there really is no fair comparison to make. Who else has made an impact like Mister Godson? Why do so few reach the heights he has in such a short amount of time? It’s likely because 99.997% of all the guys and gals that get into this business just want to win matches and collect titles.
They’re too scared to enter a cage and fight unless it’s surrounded by ropes and beholden to the tropes of pro wrestling but they also don’t want to open themselves up to the world and be someone people want to watch because deep down they know the well is dry. So unless it’s against a guy whose idea of a fight camp is writing five 750-word zinger-filled essays, they don’t want to scrap but they also don’t want to entertain, either.
STRONK! can do both, you know that. And he does it effortlessly. With a big ol’ shrug of his big ol’ shoulders he wins titles and amasses fans that you could only dream of.
So you look down your nose at his “shenanigans” because you either lack creativity or don’t have shit to show anyone outside of… oh, you’re going back to, like, an old gym? Like some type of Rocky ripoff? After you just shat on STRONK! for trying to better himself through training with other legends of the game?
Are you sad we asked Jeff Garvin to teach him some holds? Or maybe you feel like it shouldn’t have been Coach Solex, but Coach Ryan. You could’ve been up there on stage at the press conference where STRONK! weighed in for the first time, maybe even gotten some social media shine off of being in the vicinity of an actual star, but you weren’t, because we don’t need or want your advice, and never have. That’s why we traded up and left you in the dirt.
Taking advice from you is like researching surgical procedures in a medical textbook from the Middle Ages— that may have been how it was done back then, but we know better now. Thankfully.
I mean, I’m not gonna try draining blood from someone’s head in an attempt to release evil spirits because it might cure their cough. But that’s you, Dan. That’s you to a tee. Stuck in the past when we know the present and the future is far superior in every way.
We. Know. Better.
“I’ve seen more strategic thinking from a jelly sandwich” — that’s what you said, right? You said that? You put those chapped lips of yours together and made the sounds that formed the sentence I just quoted? Because it’s one of COUNTLESS examples that I could draw upon to show just how out of touch you are. Like, Dan, c’mon, that’s your A+ material as you stand on your soapbox squawking about how you want us to sink to your level and keep this SUPER SERIOUS AND OH MY THE STAKES ARE SO HIGH AND shut the fuck up. You’re causing me to curse more than I’d like, Dan, but I can’t help it; you frustrate me to no end. I mean, I’ve seen a slice of peanut butter toast that’s wittier than you. Heh.
I’ve yet to fill STRONK! in on all the unpleasant things you had to say about him, but I’m so glad you threw the first punch because now I can give the big man irrefutable proof that you are a piece of human garbage that is undeserving of any shred of mercy.
No mercy will be given at CHAOS.
To (once again, regretfully) quote you: STRONK!’s style is smash smash smash.
And that’s exactly what he’s going to do to you this Sunday.
Don’t worry, the HOW World Champion has already forgotten every hold that was taught to him in the lead up to War Games. This is not a match where STRONK! needs to evolve or else. No, this will be a classic showcase of the King Stallion’s brute force and unyielding will.
On the bright side, you’ll have a fresh new story with which to bore people, it just won’t have the ending you would’ve liked.
One more thing…
Dan, you mentioned STRONK!’s limited use of adjectives and tenuous grasp of sentence structure… in your wrestling promo? Like, I didn’t just hallucinate that, right? You said those words?
Yeah, I’m sure that’ll really talk the fans into the building, big guy.
Guess you can leave the promoting part to the main attraction. The ‘A side’ of the bill. STRONK! Godson.
Stick to wrestling; talking isn’t for you.
Maybe you can get an Uncle Oliver of your own?