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Los Angeles, California
Tuesday, the Thirty-First of March, Twenty-Twenty
Fifty-Six Minutes Past One P.M.
It’s a quiet sunny midday afternoon in California and no one is taking advantage of it more than James Witherhold who lays out in his custom designed pool. The temperature may be only in the high seventies but he certainly doesn’t care. Especially since the water is warmed to his exact liking. This is a time for reflection and relaxation. James is on his gold pool floating lounger with a tall cocktail glass in one of the cup holders and his feet dangling in the water with shades covering his face.
The best part? No cameras, no fluff, no bullshit. Just Perfection, his buttoned up seagreen Hawaiian t-shirt, white board shorts, and all the time in the world.
It’s only been a few days since March to Glory and winning High Octane’s tag team gold. Everything is lining up again for the once inactive wrestling superstar. Around the pool he floats until the mood is interrupted by one of James’ hired help that approaches him from behind.
“Mr. Witherhold, one Mr. Andy Murray is here to see you.”
Using one hand James starts to paddle himself around to face the direction he is being talked to.
“Thank you, Martin.”
Finally after all that one handed paddling he’s turned 180 degrees to face his guest.
Nothing worse than faux-shock after your help has already announced your guest’s name. That’s Witherhold though and to him it makes Andy feel special.
James looks through his tinted glasses at the tall Scot with a smile. This is the first time Andy has actually been inside Perfection’s house. Normally it’s all business- meet at the airport, fly out to Chicago. Meet at a restaurant, talk business, and go home. Not today however. Today Murray was invited to James’ residence, a privilege only a handful in the industry have ever had.
“My man, are you interested in one of these? What the fuck is this foo-foo shit called anyways, Martin?”
He says lifting the offset white colored drink on the rocks out of the cupholder and smelling it.
“A Toasted Almond, sir.”
Martin responds. James reacts as though he truly didn’t know the name. He did. He’s just putting on a show. Everything is a show to Witherhold when it comes to playing up his guests.
“Yes! Toasted Almond. Absolutely delicious!”
Andy barely looks over at Martin before starting to shake his head.
And he’s cut off quickly by Perfection.
“Martin, go get Mr. Murray a Toasted Almond. Thank you.”
James smiles toward Andy as Martin nods, turns, and exits out to make the drink. Once he’s left the area and out of hearing distance Witherhold motions to the lounge chair closest to him on the pool deck area.
“Please, Andy, sit.”
And Andy does. There’s a quiet that lingers for about ten seconds before James begins.
Andy looks confused and returns the question more perplexed.
James smiles before lifting his Toasted Almond and taking a sip.
“How do you feel, Champ? I mean outside of the entire ‘Cayle being a jealous fucking prick’… which is ridiculous. You’d think a brother would be more supportive than some guys you work with. I don’t have siblings, Andy. The ones I share a locker room and forge alliances with, those are my brothers. Sean Jackson, Claude, Eduardo, Mikey, Jesse… you.”
That one takes back Andy a bit.
“You what? Me?”
James shrugs before answering.
“We have tag team gold together, brother. Fly the G500 around almost weekly and here you are at Casa Perfezione. I’d throw you in that category. So, how does it feel? Being in that ring again with gold on your shoulder. Winning matches across the board. Traveling around with your brothers.”
Perfection is masterful at what he does. Right now that’s purposefully pitting Cayle and Andy’s relationship against each other. He doesn’t want to tear the family apart, that’s not anything Witherhold believes in. But to jam a wedge and pull Murray’s favorability in Kendrix, Mikey, and his direction? To make himself seem more trustworthy than Andy’s flesh and blood? That is something he entirely believes in.
And it does seem as though James struck a nerve or at least a point of contention. The wheels are spinning as Andy starts to answer.
“I’ll admit, Jimmy. I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen. I wasn’t expecting this though. I wasn’t expecting to win gold that fast but I’ll admit I’m a little hesitant still about Mikey’s intentions in all this… and yours.”
James nods, smart play by Andy. He has every right to question Perfection’s intentions. Witherhold isn’t the one who holds his North American contract rights- it’s Mikey. And it took very good maneuvering by Perfection’s team to navigate Lee Best’s waters to keep it that way. Now the only way to protect Mikey is to do what Perfection does best. Be a dick, stall, and make it about himself.
“I can understand that. Let me be clear, Andy. My intentions are to make money. Forget about the initial contract numbers that Lee Best offered, that’s pocket change. It’s the merchandise percentages we worked out that matter. Revenue sharing. All that jazz. We have to find a second supplier right now just to fill the backorders on the new Bruvs shirts. That’s what my intentions are. Not just for myself but for you as well.”
Perfection lifts his glasses and looks dead at Andy. Money makes the world go ’round. Especially for the financially struggling Murr.
“Titles, wins, honor, legacy, that shit is for the birds. That’s the shit you feed those clowns that buy the tickets so they come back again and again. I’ll be honest with you. You’re a cash cow, Andy. The golden fucking calf! Unfortunately for you, Mikey Unlikey owns your contract rights and any chance for us… more importantly you, to make max profits.”
Witherhold is just spitting it all out. In James’ head, who cares? If Andy doesn’t like it, he can bounce and never work in wrestling again.
“You make money, I make money, Mikey makes money, Jesse makes money. It all works out for each of us. That’s why I came and found you because I knew not only could you still work but that you were hurting beyond your knee.”
James rubs his thumb, index, and middle together indicating money.
“I knew you were hurting for cash.”
Looking in Murray’s eyes Witherhold can sense the ‘fuck you’ behind them. That’s fine. That’ll pass. It always does. James knows deep down that cash is truly king. Even to the ‘King of Wrestling’.
“When I heard you lost your wrestling school to foreclosure, I almost wanted to buy the property and turn it into a second Pinpoint Perfection school location. I even had my accounting team workout a line item just for you. I was going to offer you a job.”
Perfection pulls his sunglasses back down over his face again as Martin finally returns. It cuts off the conversation to a dead silence while the fresh Toasted Almond is served to the other half of the High Octane Tag Team Champions on a silver plate. Witherhold’s nature to buy Andy’s school out of spite is exactly the type of character he is and to say so to Andy’s face is just another tool of working Andy over to his side in a sick twisted way.
“But then I remembered Japan and the few words you had said to me.”
This has Andy’s interest. James never once acknowledged Murray existed outside of the ring back in Japan until the last day.
Witherholds free hand lifts up as a motion for Andy to take a sip of the drink.
Andy nods. James might be being an asshole but he’s not lying. Sure, Witehrhold is tearing into him but Murray did want honesty and that Perfection has provided. With that his guard relaxes, no more ‘fuck you’.
“Christ, that’s a belter.”
Perfection smirks. Damn right it’s delicious, it was made on his property. He also takes a sip while recalling the situation after a match they had won. The small but boisterous crowd cheering them before heading to the back and going their separate directions. Seconds after splitting Murray had said this at James. Maybe he thought Perfection couldn’t hear him or maybe Murr did and wanted to spark Witherhold. At the end, only he would know.
“Anyways, you asked, ‘Why can’t you work like this back in America?’ It was a fair question that I didn’t have an answer for at the time.”
Witherhold thinks back through Japan, his reason for going there, and at the end leaving before answering.
“Japan wasn’t this… it wasn’t and isn’t trying to squeeze every single penny out of the business. Japan was raw and real. Being in that scene, working shows that could fit in my living room… actually wrestling… the fans here stateside don’t deserve that shit. They deserve exactly what I give them- five minute headlocks, ring rollouts, biding my time, slow and stalling.”
Andy nods, he knows James is right in a sense.
“That’s exactly why I called them ungratefuls back in UTA. Hell, I still think they are, especially here at HOW… but, you know, the schtick comes first. Money is at play and that means playing up those dopes and making them think ‘whatever’ as long as dollars are being spent.”
James uses air quotes.
Witherhold shakes his head, chuckling a bit under his breath. ‘Grateful ones’, yeah right. Those scumbags are anything but.
“What dopes. Like I give a single flying fuck about any of those marks. But, like I said, play them. So, that also means giving them the man they’ve been wanting to see… Andy Murray.”
James is at it again. Blowing smoke and inflating egos to manipulate.
“Mikey, well he really couldn’t give a damn about you, bud. The only intentions Mikey has are whatever are best lined with mine. Which brings us to the reason we’re here.”
Andy looked down at the pool deck, he was waiting for it. He knew it wasn’t going to be a full day of chit-chat and rationed honesty. It never is. James doesn’t believe in chit-chat. He doesn’t believe in small talk. Especially when it comes to the thing he knows and loves most- wrestling business.
“When we have to defend the titles against M.J. Flair and Harmen we’re freebirding the belts.”
Andy’s head pops up and turns just a bit to the side.
Without skipping a beat Witherhold repeats in the exact same tone what he just said.
“We’re freebirding the belts to the Bruvs when Flair & Harmen challenge.”
Perfection sips his drink and sets it back in the cupholder. Andy is pretty reserved for being thrown that bit of news.
“I bust my ass in that ring with you as my partner and I’m meant to just give it to them?”
This causes Andy to stand up from his chair.
“You could have called me and told me this instead of having me come out here!”
This causes James to again lift up his glasses.
“Are you the High Octane Tag Team Champion?”
It’s a rhetorical question which seemingly throws Andy off.
“Are you serious right now?”
James’ pool lounge chair starts to float askew and he doesn’t really care.
“One hundred percent. Answer the question. Are we or are we not the High Octane Tag Team Champions?”
Andy sets his now empty Toasted Almond down on the pool deck before crossing his arms.
“Obviously we are.”
Witherhold then replies with a light and subtle response.
“Then why does it matter? Who cares if it’s you and I, Mikey and you, Jesse and I, whatever. When the time comes it’ll get done either way. We own the belts right now and not only that, we have tag team champion shirts hot off the press that are already bringing beaucoup bucks. Like I said- fuck honor, respect, dignity, all that bullshit. That’s in your past.”
This actually makes everything drive home to Andy. The prism of how James sees the world is disgusting but it’s fair. It’s honest.
“Sit down, relax, and let’s talk about your future.”
Andy accepts what is being said and sits as Martin returns just in time which causes a shout from Witherhold.
Martin nods in acknowledgement.
“Yes, Mr. Witherhold.”
James motions his hand toward Murray, his lounger still bobbing around offset. James knows that he’s got Andy fully invested and it’s time to get to work.
“Two more Toasted Almonds for the champs!”
Key Largo, Florida
Wednesday, the Fourteenth of April, Twenty-Twenty
Ten Minutes Past Twelve P.M.
The camera opens at the Ocean Reef Club, one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the country. Believe it or not, this is also Perfection’s winter retreat and the location of his second home. The only reason why he’s visiting was to shoot the shit with some of his local friends. Yes, if you can accept it Perfection does indeed have friends outside of the wrestling industry.
The time with friends ended about twenty-minutes ago. Now it’s just him alone with a fresh squeezed lemonade, a slice placed on the rim of the glass, wearing black slacks and a half-buttoned white dress shirt. Out on the patio deck of the club, the reflection of the course bounces off his aviator glasses. Already by his tone we can tell James is annoyed.
“All this fucking crying.”
Perfection shakes his head in disagreement. No one likes crying.
“Seriously, all I’ve seen over social media the last few days are complaints from some of you lot. Complaints over the way I handled High Flyer. Complaints that all I did the entire bout is hold a headlock for as long as possible. That instead of putting on a wrestling clinic, I put on wrestling naptime.”
A shrug and a purse of the lips. A sign that Perfection has accepted that truth.
“Granted, that’s all true, Grateful Ones.”
Witherhold puts up both hands.
“You caught me.”
Putting his hands back down he leans toward the camera.
“Can you blame me though? If your opponent decided to play you in chess and used a checkers strategy when you had already mastered the game, you wouldn’t correct them. You’d allow the slaughter to happen. Same thing with Flyer, folks. If I don’t need to showcase the greatest technical skill ON THIS PLANET then I simply won’t!”
James lifts up the fresh lemonade and takes and long, LONG, sip. Smacks his lips. Then gives us a drawn out ‘ahhhhh’ before deciding to continue. Lemonade headlock.
“That’s the way it’s always been and will always be. Why should I have to put all my effort out there? Expose my transitions and counters; for what? For the flash and spectacle of it all? Get outta here.”
He dismisses that entire idea with his hand.
“Listen, I get it. I really do. I don’t go to a MMA match to watch a dude lay on top of another dude. Maybe some of you do, I don’t judge this is a free country. But… I go to see someone get knocked the fuck out.”
With the same hand he points at the camera and moves it up and down.
“Same goes for you, Grateful Ones, I suppose. You don’t go to a wrestling match to watch a guy hold a headlock for ten minutes. You know, the very thing you bought a ticket to see… WRESTLING! You go for the flying around bullshit. You go so you can watch people like High Flyer go about the ring like a pinball…”
We can see that Witherhold is trying hard to hold in his disgust but it seeps through.
“And then you’re disappointed when not only they lose to me but lose because of… headlocks.”
James collects himself. Now’s not a time to be a dick to the paying rubes.
“I don’t do headlocks for you, Grateful Ones, or in spite of you. It has nothing to do with you. Believe me. I would never… EVER… attempt to cheat you out of a tremendous display of dominance! In fact, I even considered throwing a drop toe hold in that match just to watch you pop from your seats!”
The traditional smirk crosses.
“Again, nothing to do with you all but with the quality of difficulty Flyer dished at Refueled. No offense to him. He’s a high level, some say high classed competitor. But… come on. Hopefully, the next time we see each other he puts up a harder effort. It’s not my fault all you saw were headlocks- it’s HIS! Like I say, I LOVE a challenge!”
His hand comes up. Lemonade headlock, minus the ‘ahhh’- Shortside Lemonade Headlock.
“Now, the question you’re asking: ‘Will that change this week? Will you please… please Perfection give us more than headlocks?!'”
He teases a nod before just transitioning to a smirk.
Witherhold is owning every bit of the term ‘jagoff’.
“I guess it’s all up to chance isn’t it? The chance to be picked for whatever the hell Lethal Lottery is.”
Perfection sets down his drink, puts both hands up, and motions like he’s pumping the brakes.
“I know, I know. You’re very disappointed you won’t be able to take photos of ‘yours truly’ holding whoever was to challenge 24k in a perfectly executed headlock to defend the belts! No, instead of Andy and I, the Hollywood Bruvs, have decided to do their job as true tag team champions and the best in sports entertainment!”
The influence in his voice is hard to ignore. He’s selling hard that the Bruvs are the champions.
“They will defend the High Octane Tag Team Championship against whoever is drawn. It could be Dan Ryan and I. It could be Andy and Chris Kostoff. It might even be Andy and I. Imagine that…”
Deep breath and pause. Take in what Witherhold just said.
“Imagine being able to see 24k verse the Hollywood Bruvs again! Your fucking loins would explode, Grateful Ones!”
Both hands come together and mimic an explosion.- Booooom.
“You could only be so lucky. To be honest, us too. I’m sure that would cause Lee Best to use that Wild Card in his pocket- ‘Card Subject to Change’. So, let’s not get our hopes up.”
Perfection’s index finger comes up.
“Maybe… I won’t even be drawn.”
A cheap frown before sharply turning to that stupid fucking smile.
“But the fact that I can be. Well. That’s more exciting than a headlock.”