July 21st, 2021
Harriet’s Lounge – 1 Hotel Toronto
“Perfect,” I mutter.
After thumbing through the camera roll in my phone, cycling back and forth, left from right, I settle on one of the many selfies I’d taken moments prior. Cheeky smirk curled up the right corner of my mouth? Check. Middle finger extended and framed dead center of the photo? Check. Rapscallion of a wink to exclamate my point? Check.
“Number…One… In…The…World…” I speak as I type in the caption box. “Aaaaaand…post.”
It takes only a few seconds, but the image is sent off into the depths of the interweb, uploaded to my instagram feed.
“How’s that for your fuckin’ deadline?” I mumble, rhetorically.
Imagining the childlike tantrum our Boy Wonder Champion will throw when he sees my response to his deadline fills me with a childlike joy of my own. Satisfied with myself, I stuff my phone into my back pocket letting out a slight chuckle. For the briefest of moments, I’m able to forget why I’ve taken up occupancy at Toronto’s most popular rooftop bar, and take in the breathtaking scenery.
You’d think I was talking about the Toronto skyline with the backdropped sunset, but my eyes don’t wander much further than the scantily clad women lining the edge of the infinity pool.
“Teddy! My boy!” His voice acts like a pin to the balloon that is my enthusiasm. “It’s been far too long!”
Of course the first thing I notice is that goofy ass bowler cap. Next is his hobbled stride that is aided by his trusty oak cane. It isn’t long before his emerald eyes lock onto mine, and I’m left with little choice but to acknowledge the Irish prick.
“Fuck you,” I spit.
“Hey now, is that how you greet an old lad?” he shrugs his shoulders playfully with his free hand out to his side. “How’s the missus?”
“Single.” I dryly reply.
“Whaaaaat? Nooooooo,” he feigns shock, unsure whether this news is good or not. “What happened?”
Two Nights Prior…
‘I think we should see other people.’ – 11:57 pm
‘A long distance relationship just won’t work.’ – 11:57 pm
‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ – 11:58 pm
“That ought to do it,” I say, somewhat solemnly to myself.
Looking down at the screen, I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t know what to expect, not having been on this side of a breakup before. I’d heard it’s difficult, but it was actually much easier than I expected.
Just as that final thought creeps through my mind, a feeling of dread fills the pit of my stomach. Underneath my final text, those little typing dots appear. With little time to react, I click on Lindsay’s name at the top of the screen. Another quick tap of the info tab, I scroll through all the info she entered in my device about herself until I reach the bottom of the page and find the option I’m in desperate search of.
“Well that’s the end of that,” I wipe my brow with relief.
“You dumped her through text message?” Grady lets out a guttural laugh. “Ruthless, my boy!”
“You think so?” I ask curiously, before a quick shake of the head and hand slash signals to change the subject. “Forget about that. Again, I reiterate: Fuck you!”
With pursed lips and flared nostrils, an exaggerated exhale exits my lungs. My side eye targets his smaller frame as I make my way towards the glass paneled railing edging the roof. Digging the meat of my forearms into the metal handrail, I lean forward, staring down at the city lights that have recently lit up below us. It doesn’t take long, but Grady invites himself to post up beside me.
“Teddy,” his voice lowers, an unusual sincerity accompanying his tone. “I know the timing of this seems suspicious. I get it. You’re announced as Sutler’s next challenger, and I call within the hour…”
“Not fuckin’ sketchy at all…” the sarcasm oozes from my pores.
“You have every right to doubt my intentions. But that being said, you gotta believe me when I say I’ve been trying to contact you for months. You just so happened to answer this time.”
“Why would I lie? Sure, I have every reason to lie, but I’m not. I swear on my mothers grave.”
“She ain’t dead!”
“We’re getting off topic,” Grady brushes off my rebuttal. “The night you won the LSD Championship, I called to congratulate you. Gracie even texted you. You didn’t reply to any of us.”
“Gracie?” I ask, the mere mention of her name releasing all the tension in my body.
“Of course. That was a big moment for you,” he pats me on the shoulder before pulling his hand into his chest. “For us.”
And just like that, the mention of an ‘Us’ retrieves said tension. Sliding my arms back, my palms take perch atop the railing. My fingers curl into its side, and my thumbs begin to feverishly tap away. My tongue presses into the side of my cheek, and a slight rhythmic nod accompanies the beat.
“Us?” I quip, a couple tongue clicks following. “Funny. I don’t remember you being there. Nah. What I do remember is you walking out on me the minute I went down with an injury. You remember that, don’t you? You even had the nerve to ask me for the fuckin’ tights I was wearing so you could get your money back. Blaire saw my dick for Christ’s Sake!”
“You’re welcome?” Grady tests the waters to see if that was a good thing or not.
“I always knew you were a slimy piece of shit, but I thought the boundary was our friendship. Guess I was fuckin’ wriong, eh?”
“Is that how you remember it?” he asks, fully turning his body to face me. “I seem to recall you tossing me to the side for that Asian feller when you decided to change everything about yourself. You remember that, right? When you abandoned everything that brought you to the LBI Finals?”
“Don’t you dare take credit for shit,” I stick my finger into his chest, which he promptly swats.
“Tell me Teddy, where were we the night before you won that? Remind me.”
“…Getting fucked up in the hotel bar.”
“Uh huh. And how’d that night end?”
“…With me fuckin’ that broad who thought she was a Disney Princess.”
“Yessir. Oh, and how’d the LBI Finals pan out the following day?”
“…I beat Max.”
“The only fuckin’ time you ever beat him too! So why? Why in the fuck did you have to go and change every fuckin’ thing about yourself?”
“I DON’T KNOW!” I spit, saliva balling up on the hairs of my chin. “I DON’T FUCKIN’ KNOW!”
My outburst has caught the attention of those nearby as I can feel their sets of eyes locked on me. Clenching my eyes shut, I take a deep breath in, trying to compose myself. There’s no possible way he could have realized it, but everything he’s brought to the table are the same thoughts I’ve been struggling with as of late.
It took connecting with Conor to open my eyes.
Grady’s venom is the truth I needed to hear.
And here I stand, days out from a World Championship opportunity, at a complete crossroads.
“Hear me out. I’m not saying we partner back up. I’m not even saying we resume our friendship,” his sadness seems genuine. “But what I’m imploring you to do is be true to yourself. It was fuckin’ working.”
“It was…” I agree.
Opening my eyes, draped across the railing is a black T-Shirt. The fabric is crisp, the soft cotton blend emitting that brand new smell. Clipped to the right sleeve is an ‘HOW Officially Licensed Merchandise’ tag. A smile creeps across my face as I read the screen print scripted vertically down the front of the shirt.
“GOD I missed this.” I mumble, my thumb brushing over the bear head censoring the vowel in ‘Fuck’.
“That ain’t even the best part,” Grady winks. “Flip it over.”
Like a child on Christmas morning, I excitedly oblige. With a swift flip, I shake out the wrinkles caused by my brutish grasp. I pinch each shoulder seam between my index fingers and thumbs, extending my arms outward. The smile that had crept across my face grows into a full Cheshire grin, my lips separated and teeth showing.
What’s unique about this logo is the censorship. Rather than my trademark bear head, the ‘u’ in Fuckin’ is replaced with the center crest of good ‘ol #97 Red. As I admire the new piece of merch.
“Gentleman,” a soft voice interrupts this tender moment.
Briefly turning my attention, a brunette waitress stands beside us with a tray in her hand. Atop it rests two glasses filled with that tempting amber liquid I once indulged in on a daily basis. Grady happily grabs both drinks, and offers his thanks as well as her dismissal.
Unsure how to approach his next gesture, he timidly offers up one of the glasses. My hesitation is brief as I let go of the shirt with my right and grab onto the whiskey. With a slight head tilt as a means of thanks, he mimics my movement as if to say ‘you’re welcome’.
“It’s your fuckin’ time, Teddy. Go win the World Championship.”
Grady holds his glass high in salute, before taking a drink. I look down into my glass, the three ice cubes dancing about within it. The fluid sloshes dangerously close to the lip, threatening to spill if a sip isn’t soon taken.
One year, five months, and seven days I’ve run from you.
No more living this life for others. Fuck Bin and his inner peace bullshit. Fuck Larry and his unrealistic expectations. Fuck Lindsay and her aspiration for domestication.
“Fuck it all,” I scoff, tilting my head back and letting the smooth liquor flow down the hatch, warming my innards of my stomach.
“There he is!” Grady exclaims.
I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not.
“Let’s go win that fuckin’ Championship!”
July 23rd, 2021
“HEY, friend!” a familiar voice rings within my ears, not too far in the distance.
Rolling over in bed, my lips dryly smack together. My eyes struggle to open, and when they do, the light slithering in from the cracks of the curtains attacks them unforgivingly. Turning back towards the doorway, the bright smile of Conor Fuse is equally unforgiving. Conor muscles his way through the threshold, carrying a massive looking sack across his back. The Vintage struggles through the narrow hallway, bumping into pieces of furniture as he does so, knocking over a brass shafted lamp in the process.
“Are you fucking Santa Claus or something?” I moan, rubbing my face, trying to bring some life to it.
“Or something,” Fuse replies.
Conor slumps his massive sack onto the foot of the bed. Pulling myself up, I scoot backwards, pressing my back against the headboard. He shoves the canvas bag towards the middle of the bed and bounces down, taking a seat beside it.
“Or something,” Conor states again. “You asked me if I was Santa Claus or something. I’m not Santa so then, by default, I’m obviously something. Duh, dude. Get with it. Are you hitting the bottle again or what my little buddy?”
Fuse lunges forward, and is briefly successful in rustling his finger through my hair. My initial attempts to overthrow him are futile, but after a minor struggle, I’m able to disarm his handsy greeting. He fakes in a few more times, jukes to the side a couple, but my index finger held up keeps him at bay.
“Okay, okay. Just messing with you…” Fuse’s voice trails off. “Zion doesn’t let me tussle his head, either. You guys are dicks, LOL.”
“How the fuck did you get into my…”
Before I can finish my thought, the rumbling in my stomach begins to rise. The burning in my throat intensifies, and I realize I have mere seconds to react. Leaning over the side of the bed, I grab the waste basket beside it and expel the contents of my stomach with a furious roar. After a couple follow up heaves, I wipe the spatter from my beard, and sit upright once again.
“That was a wicker basket,” Conor says in disgust, quickly turning his attention away from the mess. “And, uh…right. The door was propped open. You do know it’s not safe to leave a hotel room door open like that, right? What if a burglar came in? Or a gremlin? Or even worse…SRK…”
“It was? Fuuuuuck me,” I dig my palms into my temples, trying to rub away my discomfort. As I do so, my eyes lock back onto the sack sitting a few feet in front of me. “And what the hell is that?”
“Well,” Fuse excitedly whips his fingers around in a circle, “so you know how I have like, literally, every single cheat code known to man on each High Octane wrestler? I thought I would share this with you..”
“Cheat codes?” I ask but he doesn’t answer.
Conor reaches to his side and opens the bag. Inside are a plethora of VHS tapes, the ones visible and facing label-up read “SUTLER OF CATAN” on them. He snatches one and holds it up, making sure I can read the label before dropping it back in the sack.
“That’s the name I used to use for my arch nemesis,” Conor giggles. “Now I just call him Sut, SRK or, dare I say it… his full name.”
Fuse takes a moment to tug the bag rope and close it. Conor leans forward, intently, trying his best to not to look down at the seeping basket below. His smile fades slightly, and he removes the silly tone in his voice.
“Listen, Teddy, I’ve been reading all the comments out there. All the websites, twitter accounts, etc. People think I actually wouldn’t be cool with facing you for the World Championship at Bottomline. Dude, I would love that. We’re friends; this is a Game, man. It’s always more fun to Game with your friends than to sit in your mom’s basement alone and fight a scary Level 8 Boss by yourself. Yes, Sutler Reynolds-Kael is my sworn enemy. We’re going to do this forever, I know it. I can FEEL it. He has his dumb Human Resources department and I have my surplus of Elders at disposal. When we wrestled in the middle of the War Games ring it was a-maz-ing… other than yours truly losing, of course.”
Conor takes a brief pause to catch his breath before continuing to ramble.
“I want you to win. These are all the wrestling tapes I have on Sutler. You can study them.” Fuse reaches into his pocket and pulls out a stack of handwritten papers. “You can use this information to navigate. I have timestamps across all the VHS tapes. From the bottom of my heart, bro, there is no jealousy if you win the World Championship before me. Or if you defeat me at Bottomline and I never get there. Bros before hoes! Sutler’s been banging a lot of those recently because he’s been #WINNING. NO NO. No more #winning when Theodore goes through that glass door!”
Conor playfully jabs me in the stomach, following up with a friendly laugh. Wrapping both arms around my stomach, I force a smile as I try to keep down the bile dwelling within.
“One last thing, buddy. I know I could’ve gone the DVD route or jump drive route. It would’ve been easier. But they don’t call me The Vintage for nothing. Am I right?”
Stay true to yourself, buddy.
“Thank you, Conor.” I exhale, pushing forward with sincerity, trying to mask this grimy hangover. “You’ve helped me more than I deserve.”
Conor tilts his head with a cheesy grin and pats his chest, right overtop his heart.
“I’m right here with you dude. Defeat the Boss. Become the Boss.”
His words are inspiring and uplifting. His cell chirps, prompting his immediate attention. As he does so, silence befalls us. It isn’t long before my mind begins to wander.
How the fuck am I going to watch those?
Is that a hickey on my nipple?
I’m not wearing any underwear, but for some reason socks…
You and I have it, Sutler.
Seven long, arduous fuckin’ months I spent on the sidelines. I became an afterthought when it came to High Octane Wrestling. I burst onto the scene like a bull in a fuckin’ China Shop, and then…I was gone.
Just like that.
I spent those seven months going through the trials and tribulations that come with surgery and the ensuing recovery. I became a man obsessed with the mark I’d make when I returned. Better yet, the mark that would be left when it was all said and done.
I set my sights. My target was acquired. And I worked my fuckin’ ass off.
I was going to win the Lee Best Invitational. I was gonna fuckin’ repeat, winnning the single hardest tournament not once, but twice. I was gonna cash in on the opportunity I pissed away at March To Glory.
It was gonna be fuckin great.
Then Lee pulled the rug out from under me.
The Lee Best Invitational wasn’t coming back. Rather, this time around the annual tournament was being replaced with the first ever DeNucci Cup. A change of plans, but fuck it, I’d roll with the punches. I didn’t opt for some surprise return and a cheap pop. Nah. I announced myself as the first entrant in the tournament. I announced myself as the first participant in the ICONIC Battle Royal for DeNucci Cup participants.
A match that was won by you, Sutler.
You slimy little prick, you fuckin’ won it. Not only did you win it, but you were the one who eliminated me. Now I know it’s a ways back, and given how you fared in the tournament, I’m sure you’ve repressed any memories associated with it. But I haven’t. I still bear the scar on my forehead from the kendo stick you broke across it. It stares me in the mirror every fuckin’ day.
But I wouldn’t let my redemption story end so abruptly.
I’d fuckin’ pivot.
My injury was suffered in a War Games qualifier. Now I’d heard through the grapevine that had I qualified that night, I would have been Lee’s selection. That murmur contributed to the mental mind fuckery I went through during recovery. So that’s what I’d do. I’d walk enter War Games and I’d win the whole fuckin’ thing. I’d exercise two demons for the price of one. I’d put the exclamation point on my recovery and I’d win the World Championship.
What a fuckin’ story!
But you went on to win that match too, didn’t ya Sutler?
And surprise, surprise, motherfuckin’ surprise. You eliminated me in that one too. And boy did I spiral. I had built so much momentum heading into War Games, and I squandered it. Fuck, I should have walked out of War Games with even more momentum and my head held high. I was the first entrant in that cage. I successfully defended the LSD Championship. I helped win the Tag Team Championships. I made the final three. I was in that cage longer than any of the other seventeen entrants.
What did I do instead? I gave John Sektor a shit effort three weeks later, and basically handed him the Championship I brought back from the fuckin’ dead. A Championship that hadn’t meant a fuckin’ thing around here since your dad last held it.
Sad, I know. But there’s a silver lining to this stroll down memory lane. You see Sutler, history often comes full circle. History likes to find a way to repeat itself.
That loss to Sektor was awfully reminiscent of a loss I suffered very early in my tenure here. Two weeks before the LBI Finals, Red and I challenged The eMpire for the Tag Team Championships. You remember that, don’t you? No? No need to apologize, most people don’t.
Let me sum it up in five words: I shit the fuckin’ bed.
Papa Max zip tied me to guardrail like two minutes into the match, and I spent the rest of my night a GODdamned spectator. I was fuckin’ useless. Grady Patrick produced more offense in that match than I did. Yeah, that kinda useless.
Obviously we lost.
And from that loss, a two word saying was birthed that almost bankrupted this company.
Heading into the LBI Finals, when it came time to predict the winner, that’s all Lee had to say when asked about me. Not Ted. The odds were fuckin’ astronimical that I was going to lose. Not only was I gonna lose, but I wasn’t even gonna make it outta the semi finals.
Well I did.
And it was fuckin’ heartbreaking to put down my best friend. But I did it. In Grandpa Lee’s mind, it didn’t matter though because the odds on favourite had come out the other side of the bracket: Max Kael.
Teddy Fuckin’ Palmer.
Good thing Uncle Mike has a gambling addiction and couldn’t resist the odds I’d been given, huh?
I ruined March To Glory’s planned Main Event of Max Kael versus Cecilworth Farthington. Lee was fuckin’ furious, and rather than give Max the customary ICON Championship opportunity, he said ‘fuck you’ and shoved him in a steel cage with three other men.
Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
I’m coming off my most embarrassing loss since I’ve returned. I’m walking into our World Championship with very little momentum. I’m the obvious underdog in this one. Fuck, Palmer always is when it comes to you pesky Kaels.
I’m gonna defy the odds once again. I’m gonna create another moment these fans will never forget. I’m gonna force Lee’s hand and change the advertised Bottomline Main Event. Lee punished Max for fuckin’ up, and they were on semi good terms. Your rejection of The Best Alliance ain’t looking too good right about now, is it? I can only imagine what he’ll have in store for you.
So enjoy these fleeting moments with your prized possession.
‘Cause come Saturday, I’m gonna choke you the fuck out. I’m gonna stare into your eyes like I did your fathers, and revel in the desperation as they slowly fade shut. I’ll in turn enjoy knowing what that final thought of yours will be before you slip into unconsciousness, and I take the World Championship from you.