I Had Such Grand Dream
“Come on, you can do better than that.”
Evan Ward sat on the turnbuckle of the ring in his personal, private gym. It was 2019, and had been over 4 years since he and his wife had bought their house up in the Welsh countryside. It was a point recently drilled into Evan by the fact his son, Aiden, had recently had his 4th birthday. It felt like only last week he was still a little bean in Sara’s belly and they were hunting around for a home to call their own. How time flies.
It had taken quite a while to get the barn converted to use as a gym. It wasn’t exactly your typical farmer’s barn to begin with, at least not the stereotypical image which conjures up in your head when someone says “barn” to you. It was more of a workshop-meets-warehouse sort of deal. A large building, two sets of tall, wide doors set on the one side which had obviously been intended for heavy machinery to come and go. Inside, an open vaulted roof hung above your head. Various forms of workbenches, shelves and racking haf lined the two walls, with the third having a rough staircase leading up to a storage loft above the apartment housed at that end of the barn. The previous owners had apparently built the barn with the intention of living in the apartment while they renovated the main house right up from the foundations. There had been a lot of work done to go from that workshop style barn into the gym Evan sat in today.
Where a half dismantled bob-cat digger once sat now stood the regulation sized wrestling ring. Gone were the workbenches and shelving, replaced with treadmills, weight benches and gym equipment of varying sizes and complexity. The apartment still stood, mainly used for a break room, with its kitchen and general facilities. The concrete underfoot had been covered with tasteful wood-effect laminate flooring, which itself was covered in many areas with gym mats, some relatively thin while others were thick crash mats. The walls also had a coat of paint, not to mention some plasterboard studwork on which to paint. The ceiling was still open, but some nicer lighting and ventilation was hanging from it. Everything was new and shiny, but still quite sparse and basic. Evan hadn’t bought in an interior designer or stressed about the aesthetics of it all. It was functional but comfy and that was all he needed out of it. This gym was for him and his family, and occasionally his friends like Townsend and Trent when they visited… Though he tried to not let Trent in there, the big buy usually broke things.
Today it was just Evan and Aiden. A little bit of father and son time. Aiden was still a little young but was enthusiastic about learning to wrestle. He had watched his father train and teach others, and had watched tapings of some of Evan’s classic matches, though they were obviously hand picked and censored so the kid wouldn’t be emotionally scarred. It had all made the kid want to be just like his dad. A fourth generation wrestling Ward. Evan couldn’t be prouder.
Right now Aiden was running the ropes as best as his little legs could take him. His problem at the moment was he almost came to a complete stop when he reached the ropes and just touched the bottom rope slightly before running the other way. It was cute. Ward started learning the ropes at around the same age as Aiden too, not that he could remember his early years in the ring. His earliest memories were of flying around the ringlike a bouncy ball in a Loony Tunes cartoon, but he was sure he was just as tentative to begin with as his own son… Only he didn’t have such a caring father to teach him. Ward’s own father was obsessive, pushing him to train harder than a kid should in hopes of vicariously reliving his past glories through his son.
Evan didn’t want that for his own son. He was overjoyed at the thought of Aiden following in his footsteps and excited to train him as he gets older, but it had to be his decision, his choice. Evan wasn’t going to pressure him into it if Aiden decided it’s not for him. If it was then Evan was happy to encourage and nurture the kid’s talent.
“Take a break, you two.” A soft voice came from the other end of the gym.
“Mummy!” Aiden squealed as he slid out the ring and fell flat on the mat. It didn’t bother him, he just got up and ran over to Sara, who was carrying a tray of drinks and snacks. He took a cup of juice from the tray and a bag of raisins. He toddled off to sit and enjoy it while Sara carried on towards the ring.
“Rhys called.” She set the tray down on the apron as her husband swung himself down from the turnbuckle to sit by the tray, taking a chocolate digestive. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
Evan looked sheepish. “I’m sorry, I only slept with her once!”
“Har, har, very funny.” Sara rolled her eyes.
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about it, but I guess Rhys let the cat out the bag.” Evan said with a soft smile. “Rhys is getting Ground Zero back together for another run at HOW, so obviously he’d like me to join him.”
“And what did you say?” Sara asked but already knew the answer from Evan’s grin. “You said it sounds awesome…”
“I said it sounds awesome.” He looked into his wife’s dazzling green eyes, getting lost in them for a moment. “I’ve not made up my mind yet. I’m still thinking about it and wanted to talk it through with you first.”
“Well, it sounds like Rhys doesn’t want to wait.” Sara chuckled.
“Yeah, he can be like that.” Evan shrugged. “It’s just a tag run, me and Rhys working through a tournament for the tag titles while Witness goes after a singles title… At least that’s what I think he said.”
Sara looked concerned, a shadow of doubt sweeping over her face. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”
“Totally, it’s not like I’m new to the business, I can handle getting knocked around.”
“That’s not what I meant.” She shook her head. “You’ve got a family now. Me and Aiden. If you get hurt… or worse. I don’t know what we’d do.”
Even hopped down and turned her face to his better half, putting their foreheads together. “I won’t let that happen. I’m not going back to chase the main event or get involved in some big drama. I’m just going for the enjoyment of it and to support my friends. I’ll stay out of trouble, you don’t have to worry.”
“Hmm…” Sara seemed unconvinced as she clutched at her cardigan anxiously. “I hope that’s true, I just have a bad feeling about it… And I’ll miss you.” She looked over at their son. “Aiden will miss you. He’s enjoying spending time with you so much lately, he’ll be so upset if he has to stop.”
“Then come over with me.” Evan suggested emphatically. “Bring Aiden, we can go over to America as a family. We can stay together, make it like a long holiday. I can spend time with you guys, take Aiden out to experience the world. You can bring him to watch the shows, he’ll love that, getting to see his dad in action.”
“I’m sure he would.” Sara smiled as Aiden ran over to the pair. “Let’s do it.”
“Yeah?” Evan looked surprised at the ease of getting his wife to agree. “You sure?”
“Yeah, really.” Sara nodded with a heart warming smile. “It won’t be long before Aiden starts school, this might be the last opportunity we have to do something like this.”
“I love you so much!” Evan held her head gently and kissed her passionately.
“Ew, smoochie kisses.” Aiden said, breaking the mood and causing laughter all around the happy family.
Those dreams are snatched away
Evan was in the Tennessee gym again. Like he always was. Sweating profusely, he was hammering away on a wooden training dummy, throwing flurries of punches and kicks and forearms at the solid oak. It shuddered under every hit, the occasional bit of red staining it from the bare knuckles which had hit it too hard a few too many times. The dark was closing in outside the boarded up windows and Evan had clearly been training most of the day. He was dripping with sweat, skin red from exertion, each breath heavy as his body fought to get enough oxygen to handle the stress he was putting it under by training so hard.
Evan’s strikes had been slowing, becoming steady and deliberate as if drawing focus in on himself. Then the intensity built and built, strikes flying and growing towards a crescendo, reverberating around the gym like a brain melting blast beat at a metal concert, and culminating in an open palm strike to the centre of the wooden pole, sending splinters flying.
He walked over to the ring and leaned against the apron, hunched over and breathing hard. He winced and rubbed the back of his head. The pain was getting to him again. It got worse after exerting himself like that. He took a handful of pills from the pot on the apron and washed it down with his water bottle. He breathed deep and tried to steady himself. He needed to get better, work on his stamina, his endurance. If he was feeling this shattered after just 8 hours of training, how on earth will he survive War Games? Ward knew he needed to push himself further, to dig down deep and work through the pain…
… But then there was sometimes a voice in his head asking “What the hell are you doing, Evan?” A part of him knew pushing so hard could be causing more problems than it solves. What would he do if he got in the ring after training too hard for too long and didn’t have the strength or energy left to compete? Most of his brain was just shouting angrily “Shut up, I need to get better! This is the way!” but it didn’t stop that little voice from quietly pestering him at the back of his thoughts. “THE FUCK DO YOU FUCKING THINK YOU’RE FUCKING DOING, EVAN, YOU CUNT?!”
Evan raised an eyebrow. That wasn’t the little voice quietly pestering him at the back of his thoughts. That was the loud, booming voice of a one eyed giant bursting through the gym’s door, nearly taking it off its rusty hinges in the process.
“What do you want, Trent?” Evan huffed a sigh as he turned to face his old friend.
“I just fucking told you what I want, ya fucking twat.” Trent growled. “I want to fucking know what the fuck you’re fucking playing at.”
Trent was a big man, a seven foot tall stoner in baggy jeans and a t-shirt depicting a gruesomely defiled corpse with an illegibly thorny band logo on. His standout feature, once you get past the stubbly bald head and the shockingly thick beard he’d decided to put into Gimli plaits, was the eyepatch on his left eye. These days everyone wore an eye patch, it had become an in-thing: get your eye poked out by Lee Best’s pen and wear an eyepatch as a battlescar. Trent was the first to tell you he had one before it was cool, and he didn’t lose the eye to some pathetic ballpoint pen like the pansy arsed twats around today. No, he lost it to a rusty fork in the middle of a match at Alcatraz and wrestled the rest of it with it hanging out the socket, then he was back in the ring the next week, like a real man.
“I’m training, what does it bloody look like?” Evan didn’t even look at Trent, he just headed back over to the training dummy.
“You fucking know what I mean.” Trent growled. A random observer might notice Trent was dropping the F-bomb with all the casual aplomb of a gentleman tipping his hat to every passerby on a busy London street. He could be perfectly calm, talking to a person dear to his heart about the thing he loves the most in the world and still pack more swear words into a sentence than most people use in a week. Obviously, this meant the fact he was swearing enough to make a sailor blush didn’t give any insight into the giant’s emotional state, it certainly didn’t mean he was angry. As it turned out, however, he was absolutely fucking livid.
“Dude, fuck off.” Evan glared at him. “You’ve spent the entire bloody time we’ve known each other saying I should grow a pair. You always told me to stop being a pussy with all those ethics and Ground Zero bullshit. Now I have, you’ve got a problem with it? Fuck you.”
“No, fuck you, Ward.” Trent stomped over to the Hall of Famer and towered over him. “You fucking joining the Worst fucking Alliance and start acting like those dipshits ain’t even fallin’ in the same fucking category dude.”
“Oh that’s rich!” Evan scoffed as he looked right up into Trent’s eye. “It’s not like you ever joined them, is it? Oh, wait, you did! God damn hypocrite.”
“You don’t fucking know what you’re fucking talking about.” Trent jabbed a massive finger into Ward’s chest. “I fucking love to fucking fight. Those twats just let me fuck up anyone I fucking liked. It was fucking bloody, it was fucking brutal… Sure, dude, I didn’t give a fucking shit about pussy arsed rules and fair fucking play but it was always fucking head on. It was fucking always against a cunt who could fucking defend themselves. I was never a fucking coward sneaking the fuck around, fucking cheating for a meaningless fucking win. What’s the fucking point in that?”
Ward smiled as if he had heard a joke which no one else heard. “The point is it’s fun, I thought you of all people would understand that.”
“Have you even fucking listened to a single fucking thing I’ve ever bloody told you?” Trent snapped. “I fucking taught you the fucking thrill of a balls-to-the-fucking wall fight. That’s what’s fucking fun. Fucking blindsiding that gamer cunt after he got fucking wrecked in a title match ain’t fucking fun. Stuffing the poor fucking bastard in a box was fucking dumb. Fucking cheating in that tag match? What are you, a fucking pussy arsed coward? And don’t even fucking get me started on that fucking disgraceful fucking bullying of that pathetic fucking maggot, Brian fucking Bollywood. What a fucking shit show, you’re fucking better than that, dude.”
“Fuck you, Trent.” Evan snapped back. “A fights a fight. Destroying him after the show was the best thing I’ve done in years!”
“You and your fucking new man-crush beating the shit outta him when the cock ‘ead couldn’t even fucking punch his way through a half fucking inch thick sheet of poly-shitting-styrene ain’t a fucking fight and you fucking know it.”
Evan walked away shaking his head. Disappointment radiated from him. “You’ve gone soft, Trent. You’ve smoked too many joints and eaten too many quadruple cheese burgers. Next you’ll be telling me you’re offended by what the alliance did to the entire roster up in Chicago.”
“What?” Trent raised an eyebrow, he was taken aback so much the scorn totally disappeared from his voice, but sadly for everyone’s ears the swearing stayed. “Nah, that was fucking brilliant. A fucking honest to hell fucking backstage brawl. Fuck I miss those. Nah, you’re fucking good on that one dude. I mean, fuck, you guys were technically fucking out numbered. Ain’t you’re fucking fault the rest of the pissheads on the fucking roster couldn’t get their fucking shit together.”
Evan sneered to himself. He was expecting to piss the big man off a bit more with that but it turned out he just made him nostalgic. Bugger.
“And don’t fucking get me started on what you did to those fucking snot nosed fucking sock shaggers. Fuck proms, man. You did those little shits a fucking favour.” Trent said, rather unexpectedly. “Fucking proms are just fucking indoctrination into the fucking classist elitism of the fucking capitalist society which just fucking oppresses the average fucking cunt…” Trent caught himself as he noticed the very confused look on Evan’s face. “No, no, shut the fuck up. Fucking stop it! I’m here to fucking be loud and fucking angry, not gush over wrecking a shitty fucking school disco!”
Evan groaned and wandered away. “Just shut up and get out of here, you fucking drunk. I’ve got a match to prepare for.”
“No, you shut the fuck up.” Trent stomped after him. “Fucking seriously, this ain’t you, dude. Much as I fucking hate to admit it, you fucking ain’t like me. You’re a fucking good guy, Evan, better than any fucker I know. You don’t need be a fucking twat and do all this fucking shit and you bloody well know it!”
“No shit! Of course I don’t need to do it. I don’t need to be going around, destroying every motherfucker who looks at me the wrong way. I don’t need to be part of the Final Alliance. Well done, you imbecile.” Ward rolled his eyes like a bowling ball slowly trickling down a gutter. “Like you said, I’m not like you, I’m more than good enough to rise to the top of this federation again trying to be the good guy you seem so bloody hung up on me being. So you’re right, I don’t need to be a twat, but I fucking well want to. I came back to HOW to dominate and have some good old bloody, bloody fun doing it. There’s not a single fucking thing wrong with that.”
Trent shakes his head. “Fucking pathetic, dude. So pathetic. Just because you got fucking dumped don’t mean ya can just fucking wallow in piss like a bloody turd, throwing temper tantrums, and taking it out on every other fucker in your life. You’re fucking throwing away every fucking thing you’ve tried so motherfucking hard to build. Fucking piece of shit. What the fuck would Sara fucking say about this?”
“Shut up.” Something in Evan’s eyes changed. This wasn’t an argument and it wasn’t a request. The calm, emotionless tone in his voice told anyone who was listening that this was dangerous, that they’d be a suicidal idiot do ignore what Evan just told them to do.
“Yeah? She’d be fucking disgusted.” Trent, of course, was an idiot.
“Shut. Up. Trent.” Ward turned away from the cyclops and walked towards the ring.
“Yeah, that’s it, just fucking walk away, fucking ignore your problems and just walk the fuck away.” Trent, like a dog with a bone, would not let it go and followed the Hall of Famer across the room. “Just like you fucking walked away from your fucking family to this fucking shit hole, you didn’t even fucking try to fucking fix things did you? She fucking told you to sling yer fucking hook and you didn’t even fucking stop to fucking ask why.”
“I SAID SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Ward yelled as he spun around and clocked Trent around the head with a large wrench which just happened to be sitting on the ring apron. Blood spatter flew. Apparently Ward had used it to tighten up the ring ropes earlier and now used it to loosen up Trent’s skull. Trent went down hard. “You!” Evan swung again. “Don’t!” And again. “KNOW!” And again. “A FUCKING!” And once more. “THING!” He threw the wrench down on Trent’s gut and started stomping away wildly on him.
Satiated, or just worn out, Ward walked away a few steps, rubbing his face with both hands in an attempt to massage the rage out of him. “You don’t know what you’re fucking talking about.” He said a little more calmly. He turned back to his guest to see him pulling himself up to his knees, dazed and confused, no idea what just hit him. Trent was up to one knee and, because this is Evan Ward giving the beatdown, received an Award Winning Knee to his face for his efforts,
Evan picked up a towel hanging from the bottom rope and mopped up some anger fueled sweat from his forehead. “You think you’ve seen everything I don’t fucking need to do, Trent? You think what I did to Fuse at the pay-per–view, what I did to Hollywood after Chaos, was the extent of my fucking temper tantrum? Fuck you, you haven’t seen anything. Just you wait. Me and that kraut bastard, Aceldama, are going to give Baby Kostoff a proper, brutal HOW welcome, we’re going to break that kid in two, Trent, so bad he’ll go crying to get a cuddle from his daddy’s corpse… But, Brian Hollywood, he’s going to wish for just a repeat of what me and Christopher America did to him. He’ll be lucky to leave Oklahoma with his life, Trent, and after everything we do to him, he might well wish we’d taken that too. Just you watch, Trent, it’ll be fucking awesome.”
He dropped the towel on the fallen stoner. “Mop yourself up and get the fuck out of my gym.” Evan walks away to the stairs leading to the apartment above, leaving Trent barely conscious on the floor, bleeding profusely from his bald head.