High Octane Wrestling houses one of the most impressive collections of talent I can recall in over a quarter-decade in this game. Spend more than a minute walking around the Allstate on show night and you’ll bump shoulders with Hall-of-Famers, cross paths with World Champions, and share space with a bunch of men and women who helped define what it means to be a pro-wrestler in 2020.
A shame they’re all such cunts.
Their cuntery comes in different ways, don’t get me wrong, but this place is infested with the kind of wanker that has always made me want to ball a fist and start taking teeth.
I used to have to bite my tongue with these people. Used to have to stand there and blurt lines like “well gee fans, that Dan Ryan sure is unsavoury, but he’s one hell of a competitor and I’m gonna give it all I got!”. Used to have to pretend my first instinct wasn’t to pick ‘em up and spike ‘em on their thick goddamn skulls.
American wrestling has been infiltrated by five-star fuckboys in my absence. A few years ago, this would’ve boiled my piss; now, it gets me going.
So yeah, I’m fired up for March to Glory. Not only because it’s a chance for me and Jimmy to bust heads and tear tendons again, not only because there are four of us in this thing, and not only because the man upstairs saw fit to throw gold at us in our second match… but because the GOD of HOW has lined up some of the worst of the worst to knock down, and I can’t think of a better pair of twats to take our first slabs of gold from than Lindsay Troy and Dan Ryan.
Chicago, IL | 21 March 2020
“God, this sport.”
Dr. Mark Harris pressed his thumbs into his temples, his whole body deflating with a long, defeated sigh as he eyes ran one last scan through the medical report’s final page.
“I don’t know how I’m going to fix all this.”
“Too much of me’s broken, lad,” Andy Murray replied. “Don’t sweat.”
Doctor’s offices. Andy’s third decade in this line of work brought a new one every other month, it seemed, and this one was no different from the rest, with its tiled floor, white walls, whirring equipment, and horrible, frigid atmosphere.
The King of Wrestling’s 6’7” frame was sat uncomfortably in a grey seat. Across from him, Dr. Harris wore a sky-blue shirt with cream slacks, his white coat was hung over his own chair. His brown hair was receding from the front only, leaving the line stuck in no man’s land at the top of his head, and the moustache was halfway between pornstar and French poet. Weird looking fucker for sure.
“We can make a start at least,” Harris said in his soft midwestern tones. “How long were you in Colombia for?”
“Just a couple days,” Andy said, “right after my first match. It’s why I haven’t wrestled since the first week of March. Two-to-three weeks’ rest and recuperation, I was told. Still went up and down to Chicago though because, y’know. My guys like starting fires.”
“I’m fascinated to talk more about how this treatment has affected you, but we’re on the clock.”
The stem cells had made a difference, even after this short length of time. Murray’s energy levels were up, his flexibility was improving, and the numbness was all but gone from his left arm for the first time in years. He was desperate to get back in the ring and see how everything felt in combat.
Still, much of Andy’s 42-year-old body didn’t work the way it should. His right knee was a disaster. It had been for years and while the pain was more manageable on some days than others, the missing cartilage wasn’t going to magically grow back. On top of this, Murray’s right shoulder hadn’t had full rotation since 2007, his neck got stiffer by the month and, most worrying of all, his short-term memory was starting to go as well.
Professional wrestling. Gotta love it.
“So this is our fourth appointment,” Harris said, skimming back through his papers. “Last time I showed you a few things to loosen up that shoulder a little, though I imagine the cells are helping with that. I also prescribed a maximum round of painkillers for the knee. How’s that holding up, by the way?”
Andy thought this a silly question, knowing that Harris knew it could never fully recover. Regardless, it was why he’d flown up to Chicago in the first place.
“About those,” Andy said, looking around the room. “This is a patient/doctor confidentiality type deal, right?”
The doc nodded.
“I’m gonna need you to up the dose.”
Harris’ face tightened a little: him and his wacky moustache weren’t used to such demands. “‘Up the dose?’ Andy, those were high-strength opioids.”
“And this is a highly screwed-up joint.”
Murray tapped the troublesome knee. Damn thing had almost ended his career more than once, but he kept fighting. His last permanent doctor told him he’d be lucky to get 12 months before it exploded on him again. That was two-and-a-half years ago.
Borrowed time, baby.
“We’re going to have to think of something else,” the medic said dismissively.
A twang of pain shot up Andy’s leg as Harris spoke, as if on cue. It was nothing compared to the battle Murray fought to get out of bed every morning, particularly the day after a match, when a brutal cocktail of 45 minutes’ of willpower, grimacing, and gurning and a handful of pain pills wasn’t even guaranteed to do the job.
Now it was Andy’s time to groan. “Fuck’s sake.” Harris wasn’t getting it. “I need something else, laddie. Something more. Do you understand?”
It took Harris a second or two, but yes, he understood – and he was aghast.
“I’m not that kind of–”
“We’re done,” Murray grunted to his fifth doctor in seven months. His fucked knee clicked and cracked as he rose to his feet, throwing a few wayward strands of greying hair aside. “Nothing personal, Mark. Stay an honest pro. Stay out of these murky waters.”
Andy remembered when he, too, fit the description of an “honest pro.”
It almost made him feel nostalgic.
The two-time Hall-of-Famer didn’t even pause for Harris’ reaction as he closed the office door behind him, their business concluded. It seemed like he was going to have to take James Witherhold’s offer up after all.
Let me tell you something about Lindsay Troy.
Lindsay Troy can’t say a thing about me.
She fancies herself a big bad wolf but she’s all huff and puff. She lost her ability to rattle this house’s rafters, let alone blow it down, when she and big bloody Daniel ditched the family blood feud and decided they were pals again.
Last time we shared a workplace, I watched these two dopes try to put each other in a wheelchair. I had front row seats. Fast-forward a few years and I’m supposed to take these fannies as some kind of unified force?
Fuck off, man.
Listen, I love my younger brother, but if he even thought about trying to cripple me with a Burning bloody Hammer through wood and steel, I wouldn’t rest until he was finished. And I mean finished. Not hurt, not sorry. Finished.
But that’s LT in a nutshell. She may fancy herself the Queen of Snark but there isn’t a principal she won’t throw away if it means not being on her own… because the concept terrifies her.
Lindsay can’t survive without her little harems. Look at PRIME, LoC, DEFIANCE, here… everywhere she goes, she transparently builds a group of “friends” she can pet the heads of when she needs to feel important, then click her fingers and summon to her side when she’s got a problem too big to solve alone. The goddamn ‘Queen of the Ring’ can’t handle her own business. I know because I was one of those “friends” for a long, long time, and at March to Glory, I can’t wait to smack the snideness out of Lindsay Troy, then leave her in the same state as her broken dipshit of a husband when he left the biz.
And you know the only fucker with less self-security than Lindsay? Her wankstain brother-in-law.
Dan Ryan is dangerous, sure. His pedigree speaks for itself and yeah, I’ve seen him break a bone or two. I take that guy seriously but here’s the other thing about Dan Ryan: he’s a coward, just like his partner.
This is a guy so fragile about himself he had the HOW record-keepers knock a couple of years off his age when he got here. When we were in DEFIANCE, big bloody Daniel was a year older than me; now, four years later, he’s two years younger?
Big, brainless, Benjamin Button bastard.
I’ve seen a lot of insecure bullshit in my time, mate, but really?!
‘The Ego Buster’ is an all-time great wrestler, but Dan Ryan is a straight-up bitch. Never before has such a large man been so goddamn small. Guy stands in the middle of the ring talking about people seeing the Group of Death, taking shots to make a name… motherfucker, I have a name, and it’s no less decorated than yours. Difference is I believe in mine, lad. You, clearly, do not.
And you can talk all the shit about my partners you want. You can get all up in your feelings because Jimmy didn’t take your little Group of Death pageant seriously enough, you can rip on the Bruvs, whatever. Just understand that when you talk to me, you’re bringing beef to a slaughterhouse. Watch your words. Make your choices carefully.
If you don’t, it’s gonna be a simple conclusion for both of you dopes.
Match. Head-drop. Ambulance.
Chicago, IL | 21 March 2020 (Later)
“Jimmy, put me in touch with your guy.”
That was the text. Murray umm’d and ahh’d over it for a few minutes before firing it off to Perfection. Fuck it, he thought. No need to pretend like you’re some paragon of virtue anymore.
The hotel room was nice; nice, but cold and empty. And soulless. Andy had booked it using leftover Airmiles. The carpets were navy blue and largely untainted by excessive footfall and the furniture made of mahogany and similarly pristine, telling Murray the place had probably been fixed up recently. Light poured in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The place was probably a travelling businessperson’s dream; to Andy, a prison.
But so was everywhere at the moment.
High Octane Wrestling had and 24K had had more of an impact on his life than he’d expected. Murray’s San Diego home had become an island, with the belts, trophies, and awards his Wilson the volleyball.
His younger brother, Cayle, effectively lived in Japan these days, having struck big as Tokyo Pro’s leading gaijin. Their interactions were largely down to the odd text exchange or Skype call, though even those were growing sparse.
Big brother Sid wasn’t much for bullshit catch-ups that didn’t really mean anything. Never had been, never would be.
Jason Natas, Andy’s best friend, had moved back to New York a year ago, ready to carve his own wrestling legacy once more.
Friends he’d made in promotions like GCW and DEFIANCE – the Jordan Whites, the the Impulses, the Monte Burnses – had gradually drifted out of his life, increasingly so since he hit the scene with Mikey Unlikely and co.
The few students that stuck around when the gym closed had all gone, betrayed by a man who’d sold out every principle he preached all day at training. Andy wished he could tell them about Mikey’s non-compete. Wished he could show them the big, red bank balance that necessitated his compliance.
But it was what it was.
Where once Andy Murray was one of the most popular men in the business and a guy who couldn’t catch 15 minutes of rest without at least one person bothering him, now, he was alone – save for a single notification on his phone.
“You got it,” it read. “See you later?”
Maybe you will, James. Maybe you will.
I take this craft very, very seriously. I have to: it’s the only one I’ve got.
When I was 16, all I wanted to do was elbow people in the face and win shit. 25, elbow people in the face and win shit. 35? The same deal. Now I’m 42 and guess what? The will has never been stronger.
Doesn’t matter who they put me opposite, whether it’s Dan Ryan and Lindsay Troy, or a gang of jesters like the eGG Bandits.
I understand that these guys are under the cosh at the moment, but Lee Best’s right to be turning this particular screw. I’ve watched Cancer Jiles, Bobby Dean, and Doozer for a long, long time and fecognise that behind the act, these guys are as crafty as they come. They’ll roll us up and put our shoulders to the mat if we don’t watch ourselves on Saturday.
They’re also flakier than a big old sheet of puff pastry. All three of them.
“eGG Bandits” is an appropriate name for these dickheads; put the slightest bit of pressure on them, and they burst. I remember the last time Bobby Dean tried to get his shit together, man. WrestleUTA. Aligned himself with Eric Dane and all, and the guy couldn’t hold it together beyond a couple of weeks. Part of me wishes he was in the ring with us on Saturday, you know, but I’ll settle for knocking his goober mates around instead.
You seem to be having a good time, lads. Throwing your eggs, screwing around. It’s whatever.
Let me complicate your lives with violence. Let’s see how that goes.
“Egg Raid On Mojo” is a terrible Beastie Boys song anyway.
And “HATE?” Jesus fuckin’ Christ, man. Did you guys write that name in crayon when you came up with it? No matter, edgelords: I’ll knock you all the way back to the ‘90s. Maybe you’ll throw on some rap metal, dye your hair green, and rechristen yourselves Justin Sane afterwards.
Please, tell me about your wallet chains and Coal Chamber tape collection.
That being said, I guess I should have expected this from an office guy who still wears an anarchy symbol on his gear. You’re a co-owner, Woodson, you moron. You can’t rage against an authority system you’re a goddamn part of, so tear down that Che Guevara poster and get your shit together.
Dusting off the corpse of Damien Ryan won’t help you on Saturday. You guys have got pedigree and that’s cool, but guess what? So does everybody else in this match. So does everybody else in this promotion.
The question after that is what else do you have? On recent form, an impotent trickle of flexing and power moves.
Does calling yourselves “the most formidable alliance HOW has ever seen” make you feel good inside? If so, keep saying it. There’s not gonna be a lot of sunshine left in your world after Saturday, boys. You’re going to need all the warm and fuzzies you can get.
Chicago, IL | 22 March 2020
Every week, 24K took a private jet from Los Angeles for whatever was on the High Octane calendar. The idea was they’d get to the Windy City a couple days early, enjoy it for a while, then get down to business. This time, obviously, it was Chicago to Rome. Murray couldn’t figure out if this was a Perfection or a Mikey Unlikely deal, though Witherhold had made it clear that the door was always open.
Probably not from the warmness of his heart, but whatever.
Andy had never taken them up on that offer. Not once. Instead, he travelled alone. This was a business arrangement, not a personal one. He couldn’t be fucked with “gluefists,” “strippees,” and all the other bollocks that spewed from the Hollywood Bruvs’ mouths, as much as he was bonding with Witherhold.
The journey to March to Glory was different.
24K had to work. If it didn’t, Murray was finished on this continent. An obligation to Mikey and a heavy debt had brought him to this particular dance and there was no doubt in his mind that those guys were using his brawn as a tool to advance through High Octane Wrestling, but fuck it. Without this, it was back to underpaid Japanese curtain-jerking spots, crippling debt, and failing to adjust to a world that was forgetting about his heyday.
So off Andy went to the airport, unannounced, with nought but a bottle of cheap whiskey and a holdall full of gear and clothes.
Murray got to the runway just as they were fixing to leave. Kendrix was stood at the door, his jaw almost hitting the deck as the Scot stomped up the steps, though this quickly turned to a grin. A deceptively smart man despite his rampant douchebaggery, the Londoner recognised his unlikely stablemate’s worth.
JFK barked something in cockney that Andy paid little heed to. Mikey’s response was less expressive, acknowledging Murray’s “boys” with a nod, while Perfection broke from his phone call for a fistbump and a promise to catch up later in the flight. Andy got the impression they were waiting for Witherhold to hang up before taking off.
And so Murray sat, alone, at the back of the jet. The feeling was one of overwhelming weirdness so he drowned it in liquor, meditating on March to Glory strategies while the rest of his group japed, capered, and screwed around. Lee Best’s “card subject to change” announcement made anything beyond basic gameplanning pointless, of course, but Andy and James had spent the past few days bouncing ideas back and forth to each other regardless. Later, they’d build on that over a few drams.
But not before Mikey Unlikely got hold of ‘The King of Wrestling.’
‘The Hollywood Superstar’ took the plush leather chair opposite Murray’s as the plane soared across the United States. He was on the whiskey himself – bourbon, two ice cubes. “Murrphus,” he said, looking at the man he’d coaxed back into the American mainstream through the most dastardly means.
“Unlikeable,” Andy responded, burning the back of his throat with a big sip.
It was the first time the two had been anything close to alone together since 24K debuted. Murray looked into a face he’d thought about punching a million times over, unsure what to make of the approach, a spiteful flame still burning somewhere in his core.
“So what are you gonna do here? Just climb aboard the jet for the first time and sit in the back, not talking to anyone?” Mikey asked, dropping the Bruvs’ facade.
“Obvs,” Andy said, almost snorting. It disarmed Mikey a little.
“Very good,” Unlikely said where he’d usually throw down a “totally.” The talk soon turned to business. “This is a good deal for you, you know,” he said. “Big title shot on your second match back, headlines, money, the lot. You know what’d make it less good?”
“Tell me, oh doyen.”
Mikey leaned in closer, lowering his tone so as to not be heard by the others. “Winning.”
Murray figured this was coming. Ego was always going to come into it with two 24K teams in one match, and Mikey still had him by the purse strings.
“Would it now?” Andy asked.
“I’m just saying, things might turn real bad for you if you get selfish,” Mikey said, raising his hands with faux innocence. “You get an opportunity to score the fall, you give it up, even if that means dragging me or Kendrix over one of those Group of Death goofs or Woodson or whoever. Got it?”
Unlikely had the power to ruin him, Andy knew this. He also knew that his old foe probably thought he was doing Murray a good, honest favour by having Witherhold rope him into 24K. Mikey walked into this exchange expecting the Scot to roll over and submit.
Not this time. Andy had a card to play.
“Tell me what James thinks of this plan first.” Murray knew there wasn’t a hope in hell Mikey had a
un this by Perfection, and even less chance of Witherhold agreeing to it. “Fuck it, let’s just ask him–…”
Andy started rising to his feet but Mikey grabbed him immediately, stopping the 42-year-old. Neither Kendrix nor Witherhold noticed.
Unlikely said nothing but sat back down, balling a fist. He wagged a finger at Murray, his face growing redder as he looked for the words, before admitting defeat with a sigh. “Well played,” he said.
“You out-motherfuckered me once, man,” Andy asserted. “You won’t do it again.”
Part of him wondered if a mind like Mikey’s might respect the chess move.
The other part wondered if him and Kendrix planned on sticking a knife between his shoulder blades on Saturday.
There was no use wasting time on such things, though. The real enemies were Group of Death, the eGG Bandits, and HATE, not those he shared a flight with. Maybe that would change later down the line. For now, all Andy Murray was focused on was getting that gold.
And finishing that bottle of whiskey. It’s a long flight to Rome, after all.
In this match full of industry guys and wannabe industry guys, I’m a shot of reality.
On night goddamn one 24K knocked every High Octane wrestler worth a fuck stiff; at March for Glory, we start taking scalps.
I’m tired of lifting others up. I’m tired of making stars. I’m tired of stepping aside because after a quarter-decade in the sport, “it’s the right thing to do.”
But most of all, I’m sick and tired of pretending I’m not fucking dangerous.
Understand that I have swam down Shit’s Creek and came up clean. ‘The King of Wrestling’ is back and ready to turn this twisted Son of GOD Appreciation Night into a 24-karat coronation.
You’re gonna need a bigger boat, lads: you’re in trouble.
And that’s not a threat. It’s a promise.