Max lost a lot of battles, but he won the war.
Honestly, you’d think I was some kind of a fucking idiot. I’m not. I’m not a stupid person. You don’t make it as far in life as I have being a goddamn moron, no matter how well I play one for the cameras sometimes. Truth is, I’m whatever you need me to be. To sell tickets. To sell t-shirts. I’m malleable, because that’s the nature of the game. But the real me? The real, honest to God, gloves off Mike Best?
He’s a smart dude.
Ask Dan. He’s one of the few who really knows me. Shit, you don’t even really have to ask him— he’s happy to tell the world all my dirty tricks and secrets. And I don’t begrudge him that, either, cause he wouldn’t tell you anything about me that would make a difference. It can’t make a difference, cause he’s right.
We’re a different class of human being than you are.
Not a lot of guys like us on the planet, and maybe that’s for the best. Dan told me to go ahead and tell him if he was wrong, and I can’t argue with most of what he said. But there’s one thing he got wrong for sure, and it’s the same thing I got wrong for a lot of years. The same thing that is about to cost me everything– it’s not just Dan and I at the top of this mountain.
Max was there, too.
The difference is, Max was never a wrestler. Not really. Wrestling was a means to an end for the Kaels, and I may never entirely understand what it was that kept him in the ring all those years. The truth is, Max Kael was a psychotic, sadomasochistic, disgusting… genius. For all the warehouse ninja, Safety Division, silly ass bullshit he liked to pull over the years, beneath the surface he was scary fucking smart. Scary calculating. He and The Minister, they may have been the same thing all along– there’s a real good chance that the only difference was his mood, and he had us all conned from the start.
I mean, he for sure had me conned.
The fix was in long before I ever even knew the rules of the game.
It was The Minister’s final act of revenge– the vessel he inhabited knew everything about me. Access to my financial records, social security number, and everything else he could have possibly needed to ruin me financially. He could have taken out a million credit cards in my name and blew up the balances. He could have taken out a second mortgage on the Academy, cancelled the insurance, and then burned it to the ground. He could have skull fucked my entire existence with a couple of strokes of the pen, and there wouldn’t have been a damned thing I could have done about it. But he didn’t do that, because he didn’t want to ruin me.
He wanted me to ruin me.
Honestly, if I wasn’t so royally fucked, I’d be kind of impressed.
Max burned down my home, trashed the only property I owned in Florida, and took out four life insurance policies in my name before he died, ensuring that I’d be flush with pure cash and have almost zero debt to try and offset it all. You can’t just start giving your shit away so that you can’t lose it in a divorce, either– turns out that’s called fraud, and it doesn’t work. Hiding assets? Fraud. Every idea you can possibly come up with to worm your way out of paying your judgment is fucking fraud, because if it wasn’t, everyone would do it. Shitemoore and Fartharder know where every dollar is squirreled away, because they’re the ones who set up the accounts. They know where all the loopholes are, because they helped us find them. They have every dirty dollar accounted for, and they’re the ones standing guard and making sure I can’t launder so much as a fucking sock without them knowing about it. This fucking divorce isn’t about making sure that I have no way to escape financial ruin–
It’s about making sure I only have one way.
It’s called an Irrevocable Trust.
See, once you put an asset into an irrevocable trust, it’s just that– irrevocable. Nobody can touch it. Not you, not me, and not a fucking California judge. The ridiculously wealthy use them all the time, mostly to keep from paying taxes on the money they’re leaving their shithead kids, but like any good legal loophole, there’s a couple of downsides– first and foremost, the trust would already have to exist. If I just set up the Michael Best Trust Established 2020 For The Benefit of HOW, three days after being served divorce papers, the judge would dissolve it faster than an Alka Seltzer in an acid bath. Won’t hold up in court.
But what if the trust already existed?
Let’s say, hypothetically, that the year is 2014. You had just won your first ever War Games, and not only that, but you’d won the biggest prize there was to win– you’d just become the sole owner of High Octane Wrestling. Two hypothetical lawyers, let’s call them Shitbag and Fart-eater, might have sat you down and filled your head with a whole bunch of scare tactic legal mumbo jumbo about the dangers of having any loose ends, like a hypothetically spiteful wife living halfway across the country. And then, out of the hypothetical kindness of their hypothetical little hearts, what if they offered you a solution to your problem?
The Rasheem Capital Trust.
Essentially a legal game of whack-a-mole. The trust would establish a shell corporation in Nevada, legally funneling divested funds and assets into itself through an anonymous series of tubes that would make it untouchable by a judge. And of course, these hypothetical lawyers, they would have convinced you that it was in your best interests to let THEM assign a third party agent to control the trust, because if you didn’t know where your money was going… how could a judge ever take it from you? Hypothetically speaking, they fucked you.
I didn’t even have to call Elenore Kael; she called me.
That’s how rigged this game was from the start.
Max knew what was tied up in SixTime Academy. He sat on the Board of Directors, right alongside our father and I. His lawyers know the financials, they know the deals, and they know the rights we hold. They know what it means for High Octane Wrestling if some stupid cunt in California gets half of everything I own, and no matter what I decide to do, they win. See, that’s the thing about an irrevocable trust– the reason it works is the same reason I’m fucked. When you put an asset into the trust, you aren’t just storing it in an account.
You’re giving up ownership.
For six years, the Rasheem Capital Trust sat dormant, a bear trap pretending to be a lifeline, and now that I have to reach for it, it’s clamped down on my fucking arm. I can either divest everything that I’ve worked toward for fifteen years into a trust set up by the fucking Kael family, or I can watch it all go up in smoke– either I lose everything, or Max Kael’s final wish is granted, and HOW is finally burned to the ground once and for all.
I fucking hate losing.
I fucking hate losing.
I FUCKING HATE LOSING.
“Jesus fuck, he just folds up like an accordion.”
Six foot three, two hundred ninety three pounds. That’s the official height and weight of a man who, back in the old days, had taken Michael Lee Best to his physical limits on more than one occasion. Doozer was a quiet behemoth– built like a brick shithouse, despite only being a couple of inches taller than the HOW World Champion. He hit like a truck, and it wasn’t unheard of for him to launch the Son of God across the ring like he was a fucking beach ball. Six foot three, two hundred ninety pounds, and Dan Ryan powerbombed him out of existence like he was made out of cheap plastic.
And Doozer was his partner.
“MOTHERFUCK, IS HE DEAD?!”
It’s all just idle noise to the Son of God, as he leans forward in his chair with his elbows pressed into the desk. Worn out knuckles press divots into his temples, as he stares down two distinct piles of legal documents on the table in front of him. For all intents and purposes, they could be the exact same documents– whichever he puts his signature on, the outcome won’t be much different.
He’s going to lose basically everything.
Across the tiny, smoke filled office, Jack W. Adler puffs away on a cigarette, his eyes glued to the television screen in front of him. He rewinds the feed for the ninth or tenth time now, watching again as Dan Ryan hoists his own tag team partner into the air and obliterates his existence from the neck bones outward. Doozer explodes against the guardrail, immediately losing control of all motor function and melting into a limp puddle of unconsciousness.
“Are you fuckin’ watching this?” Jack grumbles, snapping his fingers at the champion. “Ain’t gotta worry about a divorce if you die in the ring, kiddo. This motherfucker steals souls.”
“Yeah, Jack.” Michael doesn’t even look up. “I was in the match. Saw it. Shit my pants. The fuck you want me to do? I’m busy.”
Adler shifts uncomfortably in his seat, moving from the arm of the couch down on to one of the cushions. His cigarette ashes into the couch, as he completely forgets that it was lit in the first place— his eyes are fixated on the hulking mass of the ICON Champion, and the utter bloodlust in his eyes.
“Busy?” Jack almost laughs, his eyes not leaving the screen. “With what? Simple decision. Forfeit your assets, dummy. Why the fuck am I watching tape and you’re reading legal papers?”
An annoyed scowl from the champion, as the television rewinds once more.
“You don’t train for Dan.” he huffs. “The fuck am I gonna do? Practice not getting thrown into the sun? Dice are already on the table. Heart of a champion, eye of the tiger, blah blah blah. Leave me alone. I’m reading.”
As Doozer’s corpse collided with the steel, it turns out to mercifully be the last time. Jack Adler clicks the power button on the remote, setting it down on the stand next to the television. His knees creak as he makes his way back over to the desk, putting a hand on Michael’s shoulder.
The Son of God is a fucking mess.
Hair dishevelled, eyes bloodshot all to hell– he’d gotten maybe a half hour’s sleep all night, and it was right here at this desk. True to form for HOW’s thriftiest Hall of Famer, he’d been stressing harder about losing his assets than he’d ever been about a fight to the actual death. Inside the ring, everything had always come pretty naturally– never one to overplan, or overthink. For fifteen years, he’d been getting into the ring and doing what he does best, and somehow it had always worked out. A few stitches here, a few bruises there, but all things considered, he’d made a hell of a career out of trying as hard as he can and hoping for the best.
This was the shit that ruined him.
“I brought you back for a reason, Jack.” Michael pulls his elbows off the desk, leaning back in the chair. “You’re not gonna bullshit me. Let’s say I take the bait. Let’s say I close my eyes, sign the papers, and put everything into the trust. How fucked am I, really? Worst case.”
Adler’s brows furrow– the forced smile on his face goes stiff and straight.
“Worst case?” he rubs the back of his neck, half shrugging his shoulders. “I mean, the worst case is pretty fucked. You’ve got everything tied up in SixTime– all the rights agreements, the investments, your salary. That’s the problem with this kind of slush fund, kid. But I wouldn’t focus on the worst case. It all depends on who is at the bottom of that rabbit hole.”
Jack grabs his pack of cigarettes off the table, lighting another one up and taking a long puff.
Most of today’s Octanites wouldn’t remember the First Church of Lee Best, but Jack W. Adler certainly does. He may have been the loudest motherfucker in the room when it came to voicing his concerns about it in the first place– the official, legally recognized establishment of Bestianity, with Lee Best himself as the figurehead God of an actual nonprofit church. Fans laughed it off as a dumb gimmick, but behind the scenes, the Best Family wasn’t joking.
It was the HOW tax shelter.
From the ashes of the church came FiveTime Academy, and then Six, but the basic tenant never changed— students of the Academy weren’t just training to wrestle. They were members of a Parrish. ChristPlow, Kneesus, Pope Bishop Steel… they weren’t just punchlines for the fans. They were establishing legal boundaries in the event of an IRS audit. When Michael Best won HOTV at War Games 2019, it was sold to the Academy for $1. When he became the highest paid athlete in HOW, it was tithed to the church via direct deposit. All of the copyrights were in the church’s name, and that church was SixTime Academy. The same SixTime Academy that Shitemoore & Fartharder helped fill out the paperwork for. The same SixTime Academy that was currently on the chopping block for fifty percent. He could risk taking it to court, but if he loses? She won’t just be taking half of Michael Best’s assets.
She’ll be taking half of HOW’s.
“Way I see it.” Jack shrugs, blowing smoke out the side of his mouth. “If the Kaels are running the trust, there’s gotta be a beneficiary, right? And don’t get all up in your feelings when I say this but… not a whole lot of Kaels still alive, these days.”
The grim feeling of bile burns up from the bottom of Michael’s stomach, as he chokes back the anger in his throat. Even despite the less than ideal circumstances of his entire life’s work burning to the ground, it’s not like he’s suddenly ceased to care that his brother is dead.
Nonetheless, he nods his head in silence.
It’s not like Adler is wrong.
“Fifty fifty shot, Mikey.” Jack smashes the butt end of the cigarette into the ashtray, wiping his hands clean. “If it’s the cunt, we’re fucked. If it’s the kid, we’re off to the races. Fifty fifty beats the shit outta the one hundred percent chance that you get cleaned out by a California judge. You’ve been running a fake church for over half a decade– half a little faith.”
The HOW World Champion reaches for the pen, his hand hovering over the dual stacks of papers as a long, difficult breath escapes him. There has to be another way, right?
He’s Mike Best.
There’s always another way.
Always some last second deus ex machina– any moment now, Cecilworth Farthington is bound to come charging through that door with a bunch of foreign souvenirs and the answer to all of this nonsense. Max Kael will pop up from behind the couch, announce that he’s still alive and reveal that this has all been a really fucked up episode of Punk’d. There’s always something. Always some unfair bullshit technicality that magnetizes to the golden horseshoe up his ass.
Any second now, right?
He touches the tip of the pen to the paperwork for the Rasheem Trust, signing his name at the bottom and printing once below. It feels unreal– like he’s watching himself fill out the papers from above, a helpless ghost watching himself die over and over again. Fifteen years down the drain. Fifteen years of clawing, and scraping, and climbing his way over every hurdle and every obstacle, just to be clotheslined at the finish line by the only family in wrestling more fucking disgusting than the Bests themselves.
He drops the pen after he’s finished, feeling somehow… exhausted.
“It’s the right thing.” Jack Adler sighs, patting his friend hard on the back.. “It’ll all work out, right? Always does.”
Gathering the paperwork, Jack squares the trust agreement on the edge of the desk and tucks it away into the stiff legal binder from wence it came. He tucks the whole package beneath his arm, sliding the pack of cigarettes in front of Michael Lee Best, whose face has gone abhorrent pale.
“Yeah, Jack.” Michael replies blankly, as he stares off into the distance. “…always does.”
Adjective. Of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an icon.
If you’d have told me fifteen years ago that someday I’d be headlining the biggest show in professional wrestling against the man who inspired me to get into the business in the first place, I’d like to say that I’d have laughed in your face. That I’d have told you you were crazy. That’s probably the answer that most guys would give you, anyway– that’s the reasonable answer. The respectful answer. It’s what you’re supposed to say.
Personally, I’ve never had much use for humility.
I’ve always told myself that the second I no longer think I’m the greatest wrestler on the planet, I need to hang up the boots and retire. That I was never gonna be one of those guys who hung on long enough to start doubting himself. Whether I was wrestling in dusty high school gyms, shitty flea markets, or sold out arenas, I have never for a second doubted my talent inside of a wrestling ring— if you’d told me fifteen years ago that someday I’d be wrestling Dan Ryan for the two most prestigious titles in pro wrestling, at the biggest show in the business, I wouldn’t have laughed at you.
I’d have told you I was surprised it took me that long.
All this talk about legal bullshit and paperwork and trusts, and it’s all just another distraction from the task at hand. Truth is, the only trust that matters is the trust that I put in myself, and in my abilities, and the rest is all just material bullshit. The Mike Best Trust To Benefit Mike Best was established fifteen fucking years ago in a parking lot at the Meadowlands, and you signed as a witness. You made it real, Dan. You instilled the power and the confidence and the drive in me that would someday make me the greatest wrestler on the planet. I will owe you an eternity of thanks for helping me to become the man I am today, Dan Ryan. And it’s out of pure respect for you that I make it clear that it’s all I owe you.
This is the clash of the titans.
You said it yourself, Dan. We may not have been willing to sing and dance for the peasants for the last six weeks, but deep down we both knew all along how big a deal this match is. You’re not gonna hand me anything and I’m sure as fuck not gonna hand you anything, and it’s gonna get brutal out there. It’s gonna get violent, and mean, and messy. We are going to get hurt out there, and there’s a good chance that when it’s over, neither of us will ever be the same again. No matter the outcome– no matter who is recognized as HOW’s final ICON Champion– this match is what will make you an icon in HOW. This match is what you’ll be known for in High Octane Wrestling. You were comfortable admitting that this is the biggest, hardest, toughest match of your entire career, and I feel more than comfortable saying it’s the same for me.
This is ICONIC, Dan.
Fuck the money. Fuck the school. Fuck the copyrights, and the house, and the shitbag 2009 Toyota. Fuck the fifth ICON Championship, they can HAVE IT, because I’m coming for the LAST ONE EVER. They can take whatever they want from me. They can come for my assets, they can come for my trophies, and they can have them. They can rake me over the coals and leave me on the fucking streets without a penny to my name if they want to. I signed my name on the dotted line and gave up possession of the world I’ve spent fifteen years building– none of it is mine anymore, Dan. The Group of Death, SixTime Academy, my own name and likeness no longer belong to me.
And I fucking hate it, Dan.
I fucking hate to lose, and I lost.
But they aren’t getting everything.
The Kael Family has my money, my dynasty, my dignity… but try as Max might, he never could take the HOW World Championship from me. Not in life, and not in death. And you can’t do it either, Dan. Because fifteen years ago, a trust was established between us that would set me on a path to achieve everything I ever wanted in this life. No judge, no attorney, no man and no fucking MONSTER can take this title from me. I AM the best wrestler on the planet. I AM the man who tears himself down so that no one else I do it. I AM all of the things that you told them I am, Dan, and after December 19, I will be the last ICON Champion in HOW history.
I will be… AND STILL…. The HOW World Champion.
Trust me, Dan Ryan.
I am irrevocable.