Can I be honest with you, Mike? I’m having trouble here. Not with coming up with things to say – because lord knows we could spit bullets at each other all week long – but with reconciling what I’m supposed to think of the yappy little dog himself.
Let me elaborate.
You’re not going to take this, but fuck it: I have wanted to fight you for the longest time, man. Of course I have! Scalps don’t come much bigger than Michael Lee Best’s.
Consistency isn’t a thing in wrestling. Companies come and go like shit-tier HATE members. Most promotions flame out in less than a year and wrestlers are flakier than Eli Flair’s unwashed scalp. Shit doesn’t last, generally, and everything is atomised, with legendary résumés built of bite-sized bursts of life in pithy pissant promotions.
Most “legacies” are just buffets of half-cooked, over-salted morsels riddled with bacteria and god knows what else. Not yours. You’re the most consistent fighter in the most consistent promotion of our time. Sure, HOW has come and gone a couple of times, but the House of GOD looks like death and taxes compared to 99% of the sport, and you’ve damn near always been the guy.
I respect that.
I’m coming straight from the shoulder when I say it, too. No lies.
And as much as you are an integral part of HOW’s identity, the ICON Title is an integral part of yours – perhaps even more so. Every drop of prestige that thing has, every association with grind and grind and whatever the hell else… Mike Best did that. You did that.
I have spoken, time and time again, about making this environment a product of me. Can that be done without kicking you in the mouth and taking the ICON? No, I don’t think I can.
And that’s where the problem lies, because if I leave with your belt, it means I haven’t done my job properly. It means I have failed. I wasn’t good enough to become World Champion. A strap that would normally spark elation – one that you have fought and bled for for years to establish at a level higher than most promotion’s “top” belts – is a consolation prize in Normandy.
If you leave with it, you, too, have failed.
That can’t feel good.
It fucks me off greatly because if we’re being real, Andy Murray vs. Mike Best should have happened ages ago. I get why it hasn’t – different circles, different scenes, whatever – but here we are, man! Finally sharing a ring.
And if I leave with your scalp, it’s a silver medal.
That strap is a fundamental part of your ego. Under normal circumstances, I’d be delighted to pry it from your broken fingers. Shit, maybe I still will be. But I’m sorry chief, you just aren’t the biggest game in this particular hunt.
I bet that fucking stings you. Mike Best, the ICON of HOW, the leader of the Group of Death, marching into a match he can only truly win by shedding the one prize he holds dearest. A modern-day tragedy. After a fortnight of reconciling his own brother’s betrayal, too. Deary me, Michael. What a mess.
Let’s make it worse.
Understand this: I will absolutely ruin you, cunt.
When that cell door shuts and I look you in the eye, you will realise that you’re not just in there with the best wrestler you never faced, not just the goddamn King of this sport, but the hammer to shatter your fragile ego, the stake for whatever’s left of your heart, and the steamroller under which your spirit will be utterly crushed.
You’ve stayed quiet so far but I’d advise you to choose your words with greater care than you choose your allies. Fuck the Group of Death, man. You are a reflection of Lindsay Troy: a mouthy little nonce who must surround himself with the “best” for security – and you fuckers do this because you don’t believe in yourselves. Not truly. Not when it comes to dealing with guys like me.
Besides, there’s no solace in the company of vermin.
The ICON’s idol is a man who shortcutted his way out of his first fair fight with Andy Murray. Me and my boys took a shortcut to the biggest fight in HOW on our very first night. Think about that for a second.
Don’t think beating the Bruvs gives you a leg up on me either. Different worlds, motherfucker. That’s one hell of a win, truly – they’re the best tag team on the planet – but we aren’t holding tag ropes and cutting off the ring in Normandy. We’re storming the beaches. We’re going to war.
You’re a cult of personality with the biggest mouth in wrestling, but I’m not coming to shut you up: I’m coming to batter you.
I’m not unique, I’m not special, but I am the best.
And I will take great joy in stepping over your twitching remains on my way to grabbing your best mate’s big shiny belt.
Call the guy you had revive Chris Kostoff’s rebar-impaled carcass a couple of years ago, dickhead. You’re gonna need him for yourself.
San Diego, CA | 11 June
The devil and god were raging inside Andy Murray.
War Games. The biggest match of his young HOW career. The biggest fight of his middle-aged life. The toughest, most dangerous physical situation he had ever put himself in.
Locked in a cage with seven straight killers, unsure if he could even trust the three on his side. There was no love for MJ Flair and Max Kael and though James Witherhold was his ally, his stablemate, Murray was under no illusions. He knew what Perfection was. Jimmy was coming in hot, too: fuelled by falls lost to Dan Ryan and Mike Best, he would scrap, claw, and struggle like never before.
But they had to fight together. There was no choice. Not only for prosperity, but survival.
The Group of Death was a murderer’s row.
Dan Ryan, a bulldozer.
Lindsay Troy, a sinew-snapping surgeon.
Mike Best, a symbol of High Octane Wrestling, and a force beyond mere violence.
And Cecilworth Farthington, a seemingly unbeatable figurehead.
All four were lined up before them. They would bring heat, thunder, and hellfire to one of the sport’s most dangerous match types.
A cage Murray had never stepped into before.
Andy had never been a “hardcore” wrestler historically. For over 20 years, he was a man of the mat, not cells. The most old-school of old-school wrestlers. Pins and submissions were his world, not blood and guts, yet he adapted. He grew. As his clock ticked towards 40 years Murray entered LoC’s lawless Underground division and thrived. In 2019, as his wrestling world collapsed around him, he played with barbed wire and razor boards in Japan, then hopped on a plane to swing wrenches at skulls in grimy Mexican junkyards, just to feel alive.
But this was a different beast. Cold incarceration, locked down with butchers who’d think nothing of ending his career.
And he had to do it twice.
A RICK, Scott Woodson, eGG Bandit, or Hollywood Bruv could prevent him from even making it to the Group of Death showdown. It would have been a sobering thought 15 years prior. Today? A horror.
Nothing else sat in his mind, now. It was all War Games everything. It had to be.
The fight of his career.
The fight of his life.
Slim odds of success, high chance of injury. But think of that success! Twice in one night. Two legacy-making triumphs when the world had spent two years trying to tell him he was finished. Though no longer a hero, Andy Murray would have never looked so heroic.
Fists flew from his body.
Straight. Right cross.
Jab, jab, jab.
Step forward. Short elbows.
Duck, bob, weave.
Sweat and fire from each hammer blow. Pure, righteous fury. Complete focus.
A straight left for Troy’s sharp-talking mouth.
An elbow to send Best to the shadow realm.
Jabs to keep Farthington at distance before the killer backfist.
An uppercut to knock Ryan out of his boots.
All War Games everything.
All Group of Death everything.
Back from the medical centre. Back from an anti-doping test he didn’t even know about two days prior. Every anxiety, stress, and pressure channelled into a beaten, battered heavy bag hanging in his basement. The only piece of equipment he’d salvaged from the Second Chance Gym and here, in this moment, the only thing he needed.
A right cross for that punk piece of shit trying to sue him in Chicago.
A left for Mikey Unlikely’s non-compete.
Another for Vivica J. Valentine walking out on him.
Fuck it. Fuck it all.
Intense, physical training. The only thing that kept the mud at bay ahead of the only thing that mattered.
The legal battles, his lawyer, his crumbling personal relationships. His cell phone blaring an incessant ringtone in the corner of the room. All of them could wait.
The King was possessed. He oozed volcanic machismo because he had to.
Had to keep the mud at bay.
Had to kill the fucking Group of Death.
Had to destroy the version of himself standing in the way of doing so.
The version that told dick pill jokes, hid in a luxury suite, and tried to play Superman.
It was pouring out of him with every swing.
And so we reach the monster at the end.
Gimme a minute first.
You know what gets me about these guys, above everything else? Their need for validation.
The Group Of Death only break their own shitty burial promos to crow about us not holding them in high enough esteem. This is a fight, dickheads! Pardon me for not saying enough nice things before we go out and try to break each other’s necks.
But when I praised Dan Ryan, he self-combusted. Got even angrier. It was like dropping caesium in water.
So which way do you want it?
It’s as if holding the top two slabs of gold doesn’t speak for itself. Holding the World Title for over a year, a sixth ICON Championship reign, being the consensus greatest female wrestler of all time, and the blueprint for all modern monsters isn’t commendation enough? Fucking idiots.
Cecilworth M. Farthington is something else.
Name me a more stunning career turnaround than his.
Actually, don’t even bother. You can’t.
Guy was a joke the last time I was working on this continent. You couldn’t pen a punchline funnier than his name, man. Before he learned how an arm breaks, Farthington was screwing around with comedy briefcase and butlers, doing a lame Bumbling Englishman bit. I come back and he’s the most dangerous champion in the sport and a bone collector par excellence. A model main-eventer.
He has taken every opponent’s ceiling and made it his floor. The jester has become an emperor.
It’s inspirational stuff. Gives you the warm and fuzzies. The kind of story that could probably land you a TED Talk deal when this is over for you, friend. Good for you.
By virtue of what you’ve done and by the status of what you hold, Cecilworth, you are “the guy.” You have redefined what it means to be HOW World Champion and you have done it on merit. But I know you’re tired. I know it grinds you down, this spotlight, and I know you feel the strain. You’d have to be inhuman not to.
I don’t, because I’m not sure how much humanity’s left in me anymore.
So I’m not intimidated by stepping into the lion’s den. I’m not overawed at the prospect of facing the great Cecilworth Farthington, or worried about stepping in there with a man who gets off on snapping limbs – because I am dauntless. I live for this shit.
I’d rather die than not do this.
I welcome the chase. I always have, and not in the goober Teddy Palmer kinda way either.
I know that none of what I’ve done here so far – and none of what I plan to do in the future – means a damn thing if I can’t fell the face of the Refueled era. And I will do so after wading through hell once already, no matter what the Hollywood Bruvs, HATE, and eGG Bandits try to put me through.
I shall weather their storm knowing that no matter what they have planned, you are capable of much worse.
You’re willing to kill to leave that cage with your reign intact, aren’t you?
Good. I’d expect nothing fucking less, even from a vain little shitebag like you. Anything less would be cause for offence.
War Games will render you a fool in the King’s court. You stumbled here last year and you shall stumble here again, your taste for violence leaving your body when I beat you back to the jester you used to be, because you’re only the man until the next guy comes around.
Patrick Bateman’s life started unravelling when he murdered a colleague in his apartment; HOW’s British Psycho’s commenced when I decided he was the opposing force.
There isn’t a person you have faced that you haven’t proven you can beat, Cecy, but we’ve barely breathed the same air thus far. You’ve done a great job of shielding yourself while Mike, Dan, and Lindsay march off to war. How did you con your “best friend” into thinking that he’s the one in charge anyway? It’s quite impressive.
You can spit whatever you want about “earning shots,” or whatever. I don’t care. I have reached the monster at the end now: and I’ve got a silver bullet for his head.
Catching up was fun. Now, watch me lap this guy.
San Diego, CA | Minutes Later
This was the brightest, lightest, and most welcoming home Andy had ever lived in, yet the basement was grim. Once home to trophies, awards, belts, and photographs – the echoes of the man he used to be – it was now a furnace.
A forge in which the beast that would conquer War Games would be formed.
Struggling stands of light broke through the two long windows by the roof, providing little illumination. The frenzied King was swinging in the middle. Wearing only black fight shorts, handwraps, and grip shoes, his hair was a matted, sodden mess. Sweat beads danced in the fleeting light with every explosion. Each blow was a mortar blast to crush bones and rupture organs, and the bag at never known surge force.
Its aggressor was possessed.
High-decibel strike after high-decibel strike. The supporting chain rattled with each one, though the King took no stock.
It was becoming clearer, now.
The mud was shifting.
Andy Murray, the wrestler, had no chance.
Elbow, elbow, elbow.
Andy Murray, the most old-school of old-school wrestlers, had even less of a chance.
Sharpening his technique and drilling holds served no purpose this time. Each of his HOW victories to date had been won through skill and craft, though those traits had little place in the death cage.
Jab, jab, jab.
Murray’s pulse was pounding through his chest.
And he realised.
He didn’t need to be at his best in Normandy.
He needed to be at his worst.
He had to be the Andy Murray who ostracised his own brother, Cayle, for daring to show concern when the man who’d shepherded his own life from the brink of destruction fell to darkness himself. Andy chose 24K’s wickedness over his flesh and blood’s warmth, and he felt nothing. Absolutely nothing.
The man that ostracised his elder brother, Sid, when he returned from a four-week tour of Japan to find the gym dishevelled and disorganised under his custodianship. A very explosive, very public confrontation followed, almost erupting into violence. The elder Murray siblings didn’t speak for three years and have only made contact thrice since.
The hard-driving gym dictator who hired a big, stiff lump to batter prospective new recruits in an attempt to weed out the weak, resulting in untold amounts of injuries. It was the way things were done decades ago, but not now. That he hadn’t been hit with a dozen lawsuits was miraculous.
The guy largely responsible for his ex-wife’s addiction, but cut his payments for the treatment she couldn’t afford.
He who just made Vivica walk out the door over a fucking wrestling match.
Less human than any other human in the match. The devil.
This was the difference between Andy’s destruction and theirs.
Over the years he had become very skilful at going beyond what was expected of him, regardless of his own needs and wishes. He had never gone out of his way to spark joy or anger, love or hate, euphoria or dismay. Instead he had only known the anxieties of performance; this was true now more than ever.
Searing pain shot through his entire body from you know where. Red hot barbs that would cut him down if not for his feral, bag-pounding state, and pills were no longer an option.
So he fought against himself, against his fears, and against the mud held at bay by every weakening strike.
Today’s testing centre was like walking into an anxiety farm. Murray wondered if he was doing as good an impression of a man holding it all together as he thought he was, though the trembling hand that scribbled his signature upon arrival told a different story.
But he got through it.
Now, the addict awaited his results.
Failure meant the end.
It pushed him harder and harder, like thoughts of Farthington and Mike and their shiny prizes.
Like the idea of those fuckheads, Troy and Ryan, somehow getting the better of him again, or Kael, Flair, or Witherhold being the one standing with the HOW World Championship held aloft, not him, while the shell that was Andy Murray lost plasma in a medical room.
His pulse still pounded like a jackhammer. Andy’s blood, hot and aggressive, surging through his circulation system.
Burning limbs full of lactic acid were starting to fail. His punches, forearms, and elbows had lost their zip, barely juddering the heavy bag and the kicks became shameful taps, mere whispers of violence.
He was dead to the world – and everything else but the moment.
Dead to the numbness, the dizziness, and the failing physical form.
Murray’s hands were a bloody mulch of meat and material, the line between hand wraps and torn flesh now unclear, leaving hot, fleshly bursts of red on the bag.
Down to his knees. Time slowed, eyes closed. His face hit the bag as he went down in stages, then the floor, and it was only darkness.
Once more his phone buzzed across the room, dying for his attention. But Andy was gone.
The Group of Death is like a relationship born of adultery: not built to last.
How can you dickheads trumpet any kind of togetherness when your union began with a knife to the back? Two of them, actually. Dan Ryan and Lindsay Troy dropped Jack Harmen and MJ Flair like candy wrappers and you guys want to act like any of you can be trusted? Really?
The first thing big bloody Daniel did when I prodded him after the Hollywood Bruvs beat the Inner Circle was throw his own sister-in-law under the bus. Literally the first thing he did! And you’re telling me this is some tight, cohesive unit? You’re telling me this is a family? Come on, now.
We already saw what happened with Max. Granted, nothing that guy does can be forecasted, but you fannies were spouting this shit long before The Minister returned to the pulpit. You, like us, are a group of individuals. That’s it. There’s no such thing as a permanent alliance in this sport and there isn’t one of you that wouldn’t Judas Iscariot the shit out of the others if an opportunity arose, though I look forward to you trying to prove me wrong.
I don’t think you can.
And I’m not even going to bother pushing any kind of “togetherness” on our side because I’m not a goddamn liar. Max has cracked, Eli Flair’s Dipshit Daughter probably wants to drive a knee through my skull and a knife through Perfection’s heart, and lord knows the feeling’s reciprocated. I’m only telling you the truth.
Your position at the beachhead was strong and well fortified, but now it’s exposed. The son-in-law’s betrayal saw to that.
Now I’m coming through with the force of 150,000.
From Industries to eMpires and now GoDs, this shit has gone too far. The jig is up.
The bookies have you as the favourites. That’s fair. You’ve got the top two belts, a guy who hasn’t been beaten since before the wheel was invented, and two recent wins over 24K.
Good, I say. I welcome these odds.
Two War Games matches in one night?
It has never been done before.
It will be never be done again.
The lot of you are fucked – and if it comes to it, I’ve no problem ending MJ Flair’s latest fairytale story, blasting Kael so hard that mechanical eye starts picking up radio signals, or putting down a brother and a stablemate.
And remember: I don’t make threats, I make promises.
San Diego, CA | ??? Later
He awakened with no concept of space or time, Andy: knowing only that his senses were slowly returning to him.
Stars twinkled around the edges of his blurred, hazy vision and tinnitus screamed through his skull, subsiding slowly as awareness returned. Details became clearer: the bag, no longer swinging, the closed door, and the empty shelves that housed souvenirs from his past life as Andy Murray, Pro-Wrestler of the People.
The sky was growing dark outside yet he still had enough light to see. Carefully, Murray rolled onto his side. There was a Saharan dryness to his mouth and everything hurt, from his minced knuckles to the dull ache in his feet, though the shattered, human wreck lying on his basement floor was free.
There was no mud, now. Only clarity.
Far beyond driven, Murray climbed to his feet. Joints clicked and muscles wailed as he did so but soon he was at his full 6’7”, swiping away strands of hair clumped together by long-dried sweat. The room was a mess. Its floor was baptised in the sweat and blood of a creature who’d pushed himself to the point of full collapse, all in the name of war.
An onlooker would’ve considered it a horror scene. Andy? He smiled. It was a small, inhuman smile, but a smile nonetheless, and soon he was shambling across the room like a risen zombie, slumping back down in the corner where his phone and bottled water lay.
Big gulps of aqua got the blood going again. His breathing slowed with his pulse. The blinking green light on his Galaxy was begging for attention like a desperate hitchhiker but he picked it up only to swipe the notifications away. They were dozens, and a new one flashed up as his thumb did the work.
Murray accidentally answered the call. It was the first time he’d reached the outside world in days.
“Hello?” said a distant voice on the other end. Calmly, Murray pulled the device to his ear.
“Is this Andy Murray?” The tones on the other end were soft and careful, but weighty.
“I’m calling from Sharp Memorial Hospital. We’ve been trying to get hold of you for a few days now and well, I’m afraid things have taken a turn for the worse.”
The King offered no verbal response: just let the words hang and the caller continue.
“Are you sitting down? I’m afraid I have tragic news…”