Conventional wisdom has it that Andy Murray isn’t motivated for this match.
Why would I be? I’ve got the big boy War Games later in the evening. A shot at ending Cecilworth Farthington’s record-breaking World Championship reign and consigning his year-long undefeated streak to the junkpile is far sexier than beating a bunch of dudes I’ve already beaten – and Scott Woodson’s teen angst cult.
It isn’t as enticing as knocking down the very personification of this outlaw promotion, Mike Best, and putting a boot across the yelping pup’s throat so he may yap no more.
And it sure as shit doesn’t beat taking care of Dan Ryan and Lindsay Troy once and for all, particularly after the damage done the other week.
I hate teaming with Vanilla Joe. The partnership ends the moment we shed the Tag Team Championships, so conventional wisdom says I’m not exactly going to be upset if that pandering goof gets himself knocked out.
It tells you that the man with the bad knee has to conserve his physicality more than anyone else in High Octane Wrestling and isn’t going to overexert himself in the less important bout. If I hurt myself in the first match, I’m royally screwed for the second, so why wouldn’t I take it easy, coast, and actively avoid punishment?
Maybe the real reason The King of Wrestling won’t be fired up for the tag bout is that he is sick and tired of fighting his own stablemates?
Or maybe he knows there’s no point in going all out when the Freebird rule exists. He can technically “retain” the HOW Tag Team Titles if Kendrix taps Joe Bergman out or Mikey Unlikely puts him to sleep anyway, so why bother?
I’ve won the belts by beating myself once before. Why not do it again?
Conventional wisdom will tell you all these things and more.
“Andy Murray isn’t fired-up for this! He’s got his eyes on the main event! There’s no way he’s as hungry for the appetizer as the entree, nuh-uh…”
Sounds about right, doesn’t it? It’s logical, it makes sense.
Well here’s the thing about conventional wisdom.
Conventional wisdom is a crock of shit.
San Diego, CA | 8 June 2020
Sleepless nights were nothing new to a soul trapped in a body as broken as Andy Murray’s, though the past ten or so nights had been particularly brutal.
This new, recurring dream ended the same way every time: failure, the doctor’s room, and excruciating pain. Felled twice in the same evening, his War Games had become a nightmare. Whether it was RICK’s concussive power, the Bruvs’ guile, Cecilworth Farthington doing to his bad leg what he usually does to arms, or the Inner Circle finding their fangs, every repetition was a double serving of doom.
Visions of walking out a double champion became delusions. The King became a pauper and 24K a punchline.
It was over. Done.
And so was he.
He’d never been one to put much stock into such things, though the repetition was starting to piss him off. So Andy would judder to life, his body removed from a world of War Games failure and HOW medics flipping over the damage Lindsay Troy’s leg lock had done to his long-shagged knee, and drag himself to the en suite bathroom in the Pacific Beach home he sort of shared with his sort of life partner, Vivica J. Valentine.
Every morning, against himself, the struggle began over again. The struggle to be himself.
He kept battling, like a young actor struggling to memorise his lines, in the belief that eventually, if he sharpened his focus, he would play the part of “Andy Murray” convincingly again.
But the weight of War Games hung heavy on the head that wore the crown.
A mouthful of water went down Andy’s throat and coursed through his body. Lee hadn’t booked him since the Dan Ryan/Lindsay Troy incident, choosing not to put his handpicked monster at risk before the fight that mattered the most, and it was paying dividends. A second round of the stem cell treatment two nights after the Inner Circle’s beatdown had worked wonders on the stiffness and two largely restful weeks had eased much of the pain, but it was still there.
It was always there.
And so was the crutch in the bedroom’s corner: a reminder of what could happen if his War Games preparation wasn’t impeccable.
Andy had decided it’d be best to train for the pay-per-view away from the rest of 24K. The benefits were twofold:-
- The Hollywood Bruvs were his opponents. He wouldn’t disrespect Mikey and Jesse by not giving them the fight of their lives, and so he refused to show his hand by staying with them in the Chicago stayover house.
- Life with 24K was fun, lavish, and wild. But often empty. So, so empty.
Mikey, Kendrix, and Perfection measured their value in gold watches, well-pressed suits, and stretch limousines.
Andy measured his by his ability to physically dominate.
On the eve of war, he needed to tap into that more than ever, so he had to step away from the parties and bullshit. Murray had to get back to the core of what it meant to be Andy goddamn Murray.
But in those mornings, he didn’t feel much like the King of Wrestling at all.
Murray splashed his face with cold water. Streams ran down his craggy, battle-worn face, forming in droplets on his grey beard. “Everything okay?” asked a tired, feminine voice that sounded halfway from slumber in the next room.
“Aye,” was all he said in return, lying not only to Vivica but himself as well.
You specks of shit haven’t done your research. Embarrassing.
I’m not one to flex on my résumé but you don’t last this goddamn long – at this goddamn level – by taking nights off. You attack everything like it’s your final fight and you’re marching into your doom. The minute you start selectively caring about things, you’re screwed, because effort, hard work, and dedication are the pyramid’s bottom level. That’s what holds everything else up.
Take the foundation away and the pyramid tumbles.
I know this because I’ve done it before. In DEFIANCE, a few short years ago, I started telling myself “hey man, take it easy. Take the night off! You don’t need to fight anymore. You’re old, you’re tired, and you’re hurting. There’s nothing left to prove, anyway.”
And what happened? I fell down the ladder. I became Just A Guy while watching my little brother become The Guy, so the office gave me a pat on the shoulder, put on their sympathy face, and said: “how about this desk job instead?”
I literally became Scott fucking Stevens. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that is?
All of this speaks to the level of imbecile I’m dealing with here. The thing about people who are dumb as fuck is that they don’t realise they are dumb as fuck… because they are dumb as fuck.
Which brings me to the dumbest fuck of them all.
What’s up, Woodson?
In all my years in this sport, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a plank thicker than you, you 24-cents-short-of-a-quarter motherfucker. You traded 10% for a Tag Team Title shot. Alright, cool, you’ve still got power – I saw your flex at Refueled – but you don’t even seem to grasp why, exactly, this was such a colossal self-own.
It’s not because “you gave up too much”; it’s because you didn’t need to give up anything.
Rewind to March to Glory. 24K beat you up, put you on your ass, and took you out of the gauntlet. You and your goober mate Damien swore revenge the very next week but here we are, three months later, and you still haven’t done shit. Instead, you have fumbled around like a blind man trying to grab titty in a brothel, occupying yourself with small-fry goobers like Pumpkin Man and Mickey from Snatch, quickly forgetting about a revenge quest you never really wanted in the first place.
Chief, if you wanted a Tag Team Title shot… all you needed to do was ask. That’s what you wanted, right? To get back at us for fucking your opportunity away?
There isn’t a day of the week when I’d say “no” to fighting a record-padder like you, and Joe ain’t one to shirk a fight either. It’s a simple economy: man wants title fight, other man says yes, yet you chose to gift 10% to a dude who earnestly believed that giving me and Berg an entrance theme and making us wear suspenders would somehow make us besties.
I don’t have enough words for that level of idiocy.
HATE is a joke, man. You can still brawl, and shit, that sick of meat you’ve got following you around could probably pop my skull like a balloon if given half a chance, but your character is piss-weak. The past three months have taught me that.
You know you didn’t have the firepower to blast back at 24K so out went Ryan, in came some other interchangeable wankstains, and now it’s you and RICK.
Hughie Freeman? Yeah mate, that was a good idea.
You’re a bitch, you’re full of shit, and you’ll be shitting out your down teeth days after I’m done with you. That Frankenstein’s monster you’re roaming around with won’t do it. “The best tag team wrestler in the world” my arse: this world has Andy fucking Murray in it, RICK, you moron. Think before you speak.
If you’re even capable of that anymore.
Daddy’s sending you after me, is he? You’re going to take me out? Destroy me? Put me out of the main event?
How cute. Did you write that script in crayon, Scotty? Plagiarise it straight from page one of Baby’s First Battle Plan? I’ve fought monsters before, remember. I fought Dan Ryan two weeks ago, in fact, and he’s a hell lot more evolved than your walking sack of protein shakes and bicep curls.
Fuck it. It’s whatever. You and Frankenstein’s Dipshit are going to HATE what’s in store for you at War Games.
At least The Hollywood Bruvs know the score.
24K is a kinship unlike any other I’ve experienced. I don’t mean that as a fawning appraisal of some unbreakable brotherhood, or whatever, but as an accurate description of what this unit really is. I’m talking the non-compete, JFK’s drinking problem, the fucking off to Hawaii for two weeks to deal with a loss, the divergent personalities. There’s a power dynamic in play – but it jumps all over the place depending on the situation.
Mikey Unlikely exerts a certain level of control over my career because I signed a bad contract three years ago, violated a term that should probably be illegal a year later, then hired a serpentine lawyer who shat the bed on the stand. This comedy of errors left me drowning in debt and with somebody else pulling my wrestling life’s puppet strings.
Do you know how that feels? Not good, mate.
But it isn’t the only power dynamic within 24K…
San Diego, CA | Five Hours Later
Thank God for Lee Best’s dollar, Andy thought to himself as the doctor whose name The King of Wrestling couldn’t remember read the bill, knowing he’d never be able to drop the best part of a year’s salary before a pay-per-view without GOD’s assistance.
Not these days, anyway.
The HOW chief, to his credit and Murray’s surprise, was doing everything in his power to arm his team’s brute before storming the beaches of Normandy. Part of that was keeping him out of the ring after the beatdown; another was this essential appointment.
Andy was getting tired of talking about the part of his body he always talked about. Still, it was an unavoidable barrier to War Games success. Two of those matches in one night! A standard singles bout was tough enough at 42-years-old, let alone a double serving of one of the game’s most barbaric stipulations, so he had to take every step necessary to mitigate the risk.
If that was even possible.
“Forty grand seems a lot,” Andy told the quack. It didn’t matter – he wasn’t paying for it – but small talk is small talk.
“A mighty price for a mighty specification, my friend.” All tanned skinned, hair plugs, plucked brows, and teeth white enough to blind a man, the guy looked like he cared as much for his own appearance as he did the health of his patients. It seemed fitting, to Andy, that this was the fella providing the enhancement he hoped would see him through War Games.
“So, quick recap,” said the doctor, sitting down and grabbing a clipboard from his desk. A comfortable room with a neutral colour pallet and that new carpet smell housed his brand of mad science. “Mobility, protection, and security are key, right?”
“Right,” came the reply. The doctor grabbed his fountain pen and added to the notes as if he’d forgotten. “Hence the titanium plating.”
“Yup,” Andy nodded. This was unlike any other doctor’s appointment he’d ever had before – and Murray had had a lot. It felt more like he was sitting with an arm’s dealer. “That thing needs to hurt like hell when I crack it into Bobby Dean’s skull.”
“Without hurting you?”
“We’ll need a state-of-the-art padding system, then,” replied the doc. “I’ll spare you the boring details.” He waved his hand, knowing Andy wasn’t one to get bogged down in such bullshit. “I think we can put something together to fit your needs here. Some restriction of movement is unavoidable, sadly, but with the design I’ve got in mind, I reckon only about 10%.”
“And the security?”
Pearl whites beamed brightly as the professional’s lips were pulled into a smile. “Fort Knox, baby. You’ll be able to take it off at the end of the night but it’ll take minutes. We’ll lock this thing up tight.”
His interesting level peaking, Andy leaned forward in his own chair, brushing a few strands of grey hair away. “You know how much my usual knee brace costs?”
“About a hundred.”
A laugh. “This won’t just be a brace, Andy,” was the response as the doctor put down his clipboard, extending a hand over the desk. “This’ll be a work of fucking art.”
Who was the first guy Mikey called when his new group needed some heft?
Who pinned Mikey and Lindsay Troy at March to Glory?
Who is the only man to have comprehensively outwrestled the Hollywood Bruvs twice in the past, I dunno, five years?
You know the answer, motherfucker, and I hit that last point in less than three months.
Everyone who wrestles the Bruvs (or Jimmy, for that matter) talks about my brothers hiding behind me like I’m the meal ticket, ignoring the fact that they’re two of the craftiest pricks I’ve ever met and, indeed, one of this generation’s greatest tag teams. It’s a lazy, misguided oversight that ignores their strengths and breeds complacency.
There’s a reason things have gone the way they have so far, lads. I am the battering that broke through the gates and let the marauders spill through, but I’m more than that.
I’m the best.
And that’s the power dynamic that matters when the cell door shuts.
Lord knows what happens after the show but for now, fuck a Freebird. I’m not even thinking about that. The Bruvs know what I am, who I am, and why we will fight tooth and nail, blood for blood, at War Games. Professionals don’t lie down, and it’s to the Bruvs’ credit that they brought a killer with them rather than reaching for a wet blanket.
They knew what they were getting into when they made the call, and they know what they’re getting into at War Games.
And it’s a shame, you know. It’s a shame I have to stand between them and the Tag Team Championships because they came here for those belts. They want to hold doubles gold in the biggest promotion on the planet. Unfortunately for them, fate put us on opposite sides. The Lethal Lottery’s dice-roll landed on snake eyes and the King collected his winnings.
Those are my guys – and I’ll pick them up, talk shit through, and neck whiskies with them on the flight home – but first I have to send them to the shadow realm.
Provided we can prevent Bobby and Zeb from pulling a grand heist.
The eGG Bandits are disarmers. All of them.
I don’t know if they do this shit on purpose but man, it seems to be working – and I almost respect it.
Watch these guys fucking around with cardboard cutouts, ukeleles, and, you know, eggs, and you might take them for buffoons. Clowns, even. They fawn over this busted late-career version of Lindsay Troy like she’s the eighth wonder of the world. Max Kael, a man who crossbowed his own bloody stablemate the other week (when they were still stablemates), roams free in their dressing room. Zeb Martin has been here for months but he’s still on some gee-shucks-howdy-doody bollocks. It’s all nonsense.
But that’s the point. You take these guys for jesters and you have already taken your eye off the ball. You’ve fucked it up.
So I don’t question the ability or the credibility, because all the daft, egg-lobbing stuff is exactly what’ll get your ass kicked when you take these guys for dopes. What I do question, however, is the bloodlust.
Bobby Dean showed a whole lot of heart to get out of that hospital bed but I’ll tear the fucking thing out if he gets close and Zeb, mate, your rabbit-in-the-headlights bit ain’t gonna cut it in a cage full of killers.
Both of you bastards has the heart, the desire, the passion, but guess what? So does everybody else. That’s the bottom goddamn requirement in a spot like this. Even Stoovins has heart!
What else do you have?
Bobby says he’s willing to die in that cage? That’s cooler than Cancer, because I’m the guy who’ll test that resolve – and when I do, the Bandits will be found wanting.
Facts are facts, Bobo, and I remember what happened the last time you shifted weight and tried to level up. I wasn’t there, but I watched you surge back into That Other Place, 70lbs lighter from the liposuction Eric Dane bought you, and what happened?
You fell apart quicker than that busted old horse did here, my man.
Let me smack that fragile shell again at War Games. See if it cracks.
And fuck Zeb Martin too. Bergman’s already got that everyman routine locked down. He’s a clown too, but twice as tough as you – and he already kicked your ass.
Blinded by the spotlights, your “gee, shucks, I’m just happy to be here!” shtick is already played out. When this thing’s over, the only thing you’ll be happy about is that you made sure your medical coverage was on point before stepping in the cage. I’ll eat you alive, boy. You come at me with your weak, dopy bullshit, and this won’t just be a lesson: it’ll be a mauling.
Because I’m willing to put both of you goofs out of wrestling if that’s what it takes. Are you willing to do the same to me?
I doubt it – and that means you aren’t fit to dance in my ballroom. Prove me wrong.
San Diego, CA | Two Hours Later
The encouragement Andy felt from his consultation wore off 30 minutes after he got back to the house.
He was as happy as a salted slug right now.
Ryan and Troy outsmarted him a few weeks ago. Then, at Refueled XXIX, he had to sit and watch big Dan bust Perfection’s ego, before Mike and Farthington took care of Jesse and Mikey.
A vampire had found him. It bared its fangs the night of his first failure dream and they were in his throat now, draining his once-iron will drop by drop by drop.
Doubt was a motherfucler.
Though he’d still talk exorbitant amounts of trash before War Games – putting up the same brash, bellicose, battle-ready front – something wasn’t right within Andy Murray. 24K’s grip was wavering with Normandy on the horizon, and he didn’t like the feeling.
Something had to change.
This isn’t working.
This is High Octane Wrestling. This is where the best of the best are the worst of the worst. The things that worked for Andy for 26 years don’t work here. Not at this level, at least.
6-0 looks nice in text but it doesn’t mean a thing, really.
It masks the truth.
He thought he had adapted because he got meaner, nastier. He learned how to snarl and developed a taste for dropping dudes on their heads. Scumbags are his company now and he has shed your verbal filter, but what really changed?
Which part of Andy Murray’s fundamental core had shifted in any meaningful way?
In light of recent events, all he could see was cosmetics.
Basic head games don’t cut it here; he had to be more than just a different shade of the same person. The guy that won belts in PTC, DEFIANCE, and WrestleUTA won’t break through the self-set ceiling if he doesn’t let the devil in – particularly at this level.
He had to make a beast of himself.
MJ Flair was a nice little win, March to Glory was a tremendous display of elite endurance and ring smarts, and he had beaten the Hollywood Bruvs twice. Good stuff, good stuff.
All 6-0 says is that he had successfully navigated the middle tiers. That’s more than what a lot of people do in HOW, but it’s nothing compared to what was coming his way at War Games.
Though he’d never verbalise it, Andy, in his current form, was fucked.
Truth is, he’d been papering over the cracks since you got here.
The inferiority complex needed to die.
The King of Wrestling can’t sit on HOW’s blood-red throne without a self-revolution beyond the superficial – beyond the basic boo-boo shit he’d been on since arriving.
Dick pill gags, countdown clocks, dumb t-shirts, and played-out ruminations on a long-injured knee weren’t going to get him through this one.
This wasn’t a wrestling match.
This was war.
And, without a shred of hyperbole, the biggest fight of his life.