Despite what critics may say, Plan Z turned out to be a huge success.
Yes, despite having all of the gaffes of a Judd Apataow script come to life, Zeb Martin had been able to protect both himself and Bobby Dean from a permanent removal from the High Octane roster at the hands of the Hollywood Bruvs. While some aspects of the Plan never came to fruition…
- The duo, while intending to leave the city limits of Chicago, actually ended up closer to the Allstate Arena and thus in better proximity for the remaining 24K members to hunt them down.
- Bobby’s head injury went largely untreated despite his insistence that all he needed was a deep tissue massage. Surprisingly enough, a rigorous rub down did not exactly follow standard concussion protocol.
- Zeb and Bobby’s mutual disregard for food quality ultimately resulted in the equivalent of a two-week ayahuasca binge. Granted, thirteen days of it were completely voluntary, as the irresponsible wing of the Bandits knew full well the effects after the first go round, but their impulses got the best of them.
- Camping in an alleyway as a convenience to turn tricks was only intended as a last resort in case they needed gas money to get home. Since both could have easily just called literally anyone in the Bandits for a ride, Bobby’s transformation to an abusive pimp was rather unnecessary.
- Plan Z had originally involved a stop in Nashville. Since they didn’t make it out of Illinois, Zeb never got to prove to his friend that the sliders at Krystal were more superior to those from White Castle.
…the overall goal had been achieved. The Beautiful Man from Honalee was safe.
Alright, fine. So the Hollywood Bruvs had actually given up their search minutes after the two had escaped from the hospital, their Starbucks addiction being a sufficient enough distraction to make them forget about it altogether. The next day, the two had even passed by Qui Ney’s salon and remarked that Zeb’s pickup truck was in the parking lot. It was the only white Tundra in the city with a Georgia license plate and a “Wishin I Was Fishin” decal on the back window.
Whoops, forgot one.
- They never got an Uber to remain inconspicuous. On that particular evening, all ride share apps were on surge rates, and the two refused to use them based on principle alone. It’s the same fucking distance. Why force someone to pay more just because it’s nighttime?
All that really mattered was that the eGG Bandits were a homogeneous mixture of power and fellowship once again. Right?
“That was an awful plan.”
The current LSD champion and apparently a guy who has NEVER MADE A MISTAKE IN HIS LIFE didn’t seem to think so. Because all of his ideas were SO GREAT, like the time he made Doozer and Zeb “bond” while being tied together in a precarious position and proceeded to display several lewd photos on a projector. Or the time he made them get up at 1am to go on a 14-hour fishing excursion.
“Well, I reckon it ain’t go exactly the way I figg’red it would,” Martin admits. “But hey, ain’t that the way all our adventures usually go? Sumptin’ unexpected that adds a lil’ twist to it, a lil’ comedy, but yet ever’thang always works out in the end?”
Looking over to Doozer as the more rational voice of the group, Zeb had hoped that he could help cool the COOL. Although he had just slightly started an admission of agreement with a shrug of his shoulders, it was quickly extinguished by the sharp piercing tone of Jiles.
“What in the hell are you talking about? That has literally never happened with any of our schemes. Not once.”
Either the moniker of double-champion had gone directly to his head, or the Maestro was in serious denial as to the Bandits’ place in the professional wrestling hierarchy. Granted, it could have been both, with the recent defiance of all odds being factored in.
“We are a serious organization,” Jiles adds, pointing his index finger to the sky to emphasize.
“What are you guys talking about?”
Enter the Dean, as usual, coming out of the bathroom. He is presently wearing a knee-length baby blue T-shirt that merely asks a very important question in black iron-on text: Who Farted?
At this point, we might want to mention that Jiles also has on the exact same shirt, both in comically-large size and color.
“Look,” Jiles continues, completely ignoring Bobby’s emergence back in the main quarters of the eGG Den. “Zeb, you need to understand that my anger is coming from a place of love. You dropped the ball big time here, man. Do you realize that this could have ended up in a complete disaster for us? Imagine if we hadn’t found you two when we did?”
“Uh,” Doozer interjects. “You said in the car that you saw them at the spa like three days before we picked them up off the street.”
“Don’t be soft on him, Mother Hen. The boy has to leave the coop sometime,” Jiles fires back, impervious to Doozer’s point.
Despite the senior member of the Bandits coming to his defense, Zeb resembled a Basset hound who’d just peed on the Maestro’s favorite pair of loafers. His gaze aimed to the floor of the Den, he exhales his most sincere attempt at an apology.
“Dang, CJ. I shore am sorry. Y’all trusted me tuh do the right thang and I reckon I dun cracked under the pressure. I s’pose I got so much more tuh learn from y’all than I thought,” he pleads. “I hope this don’t mean yer go’n kick me out uh the Bandits, does it?”
“NO,” Doozer roars, firing a visual laser pointed directly at Jiles. “That’s not even a thought, Zeb.”
Bobby, with his lovable grown-up Dennis the Menace charm, lets a smirk spread across his face. “Mommy and Daddy are fighting!”
“SHUT UP!” The Maestro and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Jort both caw in unison. “Listen,” Jiles demands, “we’re NOT giving you the old Vaudeville hook, kid. And you need to calm down, Dooze. What I’m trying to communicate is that you and me, we know how to look after Bobby and rein him in when he starts to want to venture off the path. But what happens if the two of us are gone? Zeb’s got to be ready to take care of him in case that happens, and this proves he’s not ready to accept that responsibility.”
Bobby’s grin is instantly molded into a look of bewilderment.
“I’m not a baby, Jiles. I can take care of myself.”
“You’re a child in a man costume, Bob,” the COOLest declares. “A very attractive man costume, but still.”
“No I’m not! I mean, yes I am to the ‘attractive’ part of that, but no I’m not to the ‘man costume’ and ‘child’ comment,” Dean whines.
Doozer nods his head solemnly. “You’re right.”
“Thanks, buddy,” Bobby responds.
“I was talking to Jiles.”
The Maestro smiles. “Glad we can agree. So Zeb, I’m sorry to have to come down on you like this. But, the fact of the matter is that while you’ve been with us for a while now, it’s time that you cement your role with the eGG Bandits as indispensable. That means you’ll be spending a lot more time here in the Den, learning the finer points of all of our histories and how best to continue this legacy long after Dooze and I hang up the elbow pads for good.”
Martin tilts his chin upward and crosses his right hand over to his heart, just over the end of the ‘H’ and the front of the ‘O’ of his size XXXL baby blue Who Farted t-shirt. Like admiring a proud bald eagle soaring amidst an American flag skyline, he pledges his allegiance to his friends.
“Long shall we maim.”
“That’s the spirit,” Jiles praises. “And since this sacred place is going to be your second home, I see it only fitting that you be the one responsible for finding us a new couch. Do you think you can handle it, Watson Mill Kid?”
While the request itself was fairly ridiculous, Zeb’s level of motivation was now to the point of being willing to cover a grenade with his testicles in order to make these men revere his efforts. He could run for President. He could slay a dragon. He could purchase new furniture.
“I kin handle it, SIR.” the Dang Angler salutes.
“Excellent, soldier. Here is your weapon,” Jiles says, holding out a crumpled-up twenty dollar bill. “Wield it with the might of the cheapskates who have given their lives for a bargain, perishing at Black Friday sales across this great country. Use it wisely, like the mothers who remained steadfast when their children complained that they received Sketchers instead of Nikes because those were what was on sale at Ross Dress for Less.”
“I won’t let y’all down!”
With an added bounce in his work boots, the plucky country boy took off to the door with truck keys in hand and a gleam in his eye. Not only would he purchase the best sofa that twenty bucks could buy, but he would do it with pride. Once the remaining Bandits had heard the crank of the engine, Jiles breathes a sigh of relief.
“I told you that would work,” the Maestro proclaims.
“Yeah, but for a second there, I thought you’d really upset him,” Doozer adds. “Think you might have laid it on a little too heavy there.”
“So. He’s going to buy a new couch. I didn’t want to go and do that shit, did you?” Jiles quizzes.
Bobby shakes his head. “I sure didn’t. You two did great. Especially that part where you were kidding around about me being a man-baby: that was a nice touch!”
“Uh, yeah…” CJ murmurs. “A nice…touch. Of pure exaggeration.”
“Yeaaaaaaaaaah,” Doozer confirms, with a slight change of tone in his voice. “Way to kid around, Jiles. Hey, by the way, why didn’t I get one of those shirts yet?”
“Didn’t have your size,” Jiles shrugs. “Maybe next time.”
At nineteen years old, Zeb Martin had been given a golden egg. What it was that Lee Best and Scott Woodson saw in a barely-traveled yokel billing himself from a bale of hay remained a mystery to most. Did Mike Best accidentally run over a Martin while searching for the ultimate booger sugar score on the University of Georgia campus, and the signing was the most cost-effective way to settle the claim? Did the kid somehow manage to unearth revealing photos of Benny Newell and leverage them as blackmail for a contract?
No. It was neither of those things.
Truthfully, it was the long game that provided the most interest. A value pick in the latest round of the draft. In order for High Octane to survive, the suits in charge were well ahead of the curve in ensuring that grooming of younger talent was made a top priority. Leverage it by providing the platform and making sure that when the time came for the spotlight to shine, they had a healthy reminder of who brought them there. Especially if the spotlight was coming from another stage and accompanied an envelope full of money with it.
HOW management saw that lack of business smarts in their initial conversations. Combined with the look and the potential, it was a no-brainer. If they put a small bet on seven and the dice ended up with a pair of ones, it would be a just a minor hit to the financial statement. However, if the roll were a big red, they could reap the dividends and offer him just enough of a taste to keep him around. Coming from a background of near poverty and his willingness to appreciate anything he was told, they could pluck that morality banjo string and have him tap dancing in their show for as long as they wanted.
The one thing that no one saw coming was Zeb Martin becoming a champion after less than half a year.
Sure, you’d need to make that asterisk a little bigger than normal on that stat line, but the core group of the eGG Bandits made it crystal clear even before the win at No Remorse that two equals five.
Unfortunately, the pageantry that Zeb would receive also came with the very real threat that if he were one of the five to lose those tag team titles, there would be no asterisk there to soften the blow.
Martin hadn’t really “let Jiles down” as the Maestro would have led him to believe. As a matter of fact, going on a two-week journey where strange things happen with Bobby Dean was pretty much a rite of passage for any wrestler who wanted to call the Bandits a friend. But while the surface intent was to guilt him into purchasing a new couch for the eGG Den, there was a little bit of sound methodology that was mixed into the deception.
Zeb needed to feel that sense of responsibility for the successes of the group. So did Rick, to whom a similar scheme was already being concocted by the mad scientists to implement in the future, but in due time. Finding a piece of furniture for $20 was simply a metaphor for finding a way to defeat Brian Hollywood and Darin Matthews on Refueled.
To achieve both, Zeb would have to be frugal. He would have to utilize his bargaining skills. He’d have to lift something heavy and carry it before gently setting it back onto the ground.
OK, fine. While sitting in his truck and contemplating the potential outcomes of the Bandits’ first title defense, there was absolutely NOTHING similar between buying a couch and competing in a wrestling match. And despite the fact that this wouldn’t be the first time he’d been on the opposite corner against Hollywood and Matthews, there would be nothing similar to the previous contest that he’d had against them.
Darin Matthews had been reinvigorated after his tremendous war for the HOW World Championship. Now that he’d had ample time to recover, there was no doubt in Zeb’s or anyone’s mind that he would be looking for something shinier to accompany him to ringside than Meredith’s smile.
Though one parallel seemed to be that Brian and Darin still very much despised one another, they both had at least one match as a duo on their resume. This would be the very first time that Rick and Zeb were paired together. Sure, while Hollywood would likely prefer to tag in a festering corpse over that of Matthews, the desire of becoming one of HOW’s champions once again would far outweigh any hatred he still harbored for the man. All in all, motivation and skill were all they really needed to take what the eGG Bandits wanted to hold now and forever.
It was Zeb and Rick’s responsibility to make sure that didn’t happen.
“Reckon what Rick’s up to right now?” Zeb utters aloud over the chorus of Garth Brooks’ “Rodeo.”
No better way to cement a bond than to ask your friend to help you move some furniture.