National Geographic Presents:

National Geographic Presents:

Posted on January 23, 2020 at 8:01 pm by Alex Redding

January 13, 2020

January, and a frost has come to grip the land as the polar air creeps its way south. Soon all would be covered with snow, and survival in these harsh conditions are being made unfavourable. To avoid this white terror, many mammals have taken to a deep sleep-like state of hibernation. Our subject is no different.

Sleep is a beautiful thing. All that much more beautiful when my body is working three hours behind whatever the clock says.

Much work was done in the months leading up to make oneself fat, insomuch as would be needed, even though the body regulates the metabolism and temperature, bidding it to slow, and it to lower.

I was back home for the first time in three months. Working out on the left coast – stuntman for all? …most of the productions filming around Van City – I had made my bank account fat enough, indeed. It’d survive the winter lull. But for now? All my contracts had wrapped, and I wanted nothing more than to melt away in my own bed.

The den prepared, the sunlight barely makes it through. It is important that the subject does not get disturbed. The energy cost in waking, and again falling to sleep, could mean the difference between surviving the long Canadian winter and not. It has been observed in studies how large mammals, such as black bears, do not react to either sound or light touch.

My phone buzzing away, I thought at first to be some part of a dream. Nightmare, perhaps. Blessedly it stops, and I don’t make any motion of waking.

Until it starts again.

Without opening my eyes, or peeling the pillow from over my head, my left hand searches clumsily for the blasted thing. I find purchase, but do not manage to dismiss the annoyance, but knock the whole thing to the floor.

Sleep. Go away noise, I must sleep.

To wake up before the frost had cleared, and food again plentiful, would mean certain peril.

A loud banging this time. Rhythmic, each thud threatened to pull me awake.

“If you’re here to rob the place, just take the TV and go!” I offer to whomever is on the other side of my bedroom door.

“Alex! Get up! Grady’s been trying to get ahold of you for an hour now!”

The voice, soft and feminine, belonged to my sister. At once I was at peace that I was not in any physical danger, and ignored her rousing. Let him call at a decent hour: Two? Maybe three o’clock?

“And he’s starting to annoy me now!”

Grace, my dear sister: block his number; send him to voicemail. Just let me lay.

“I hope you’re dressed: I’m coming in!”

Dreams of dreaming dashed, I turn my attention to why on Earth I ever gave my baby sister a key to my supposed fortress. I don’t move, dignity safe, not to mention psychological damage abated, all by my collapsing into bed in the fading hours of morning still in the outfit I had hopped off the plane in.

“Come on, up we go,” she says, pulling the left mitt still hanging over the edge. I was six years her senior, but she still looked at me as some baby, a thirty-one year old infant that needed mothering. “It’s 10:30 already.”

“Uuhhhrrghhh,” my highly articulated rebuttal.

But, rather than sandbag, I make a show of getting up. All of the sudden I was taken with hunger, so I would rise for now, and plan on napping the afternoon away.

“You look like death warmed over,” my eyes now open to see her deadpan delivery.

“Good to see you too, Gracie,” I say with jest, so much so that I catch wind of my own breath and am very much awake now.

“When did you get back?”

I try to remember the last thing I saw before conking out, “I think it was 5:30?”

And here’s to why my sister had a key, and indeed, her own bedroom in my humble, Mississauga, two-story detached house. We were both the travelling kind, and barely home enough to call it home. I had my fight choreography/stuntman work, and she was a journalist; fashion for now, but bigger things awaited her.

Empathy flashes to her face, “I’m sorry, but I think you really want to hear this one.”



11:05 AM

Bundled into the front passenger seat of a Lexus IS 300, I wave goodbye to my sister in the doorway as Grady does the same, if only a tad too long. She was just thin enough, and just symmetrical enough to be a pain for the protective older brother I thought myself to be.

“So,” I bark to get him to stand down, “you’re going to have to go over this one one more time, Grady.”

He tosses the overpriced sedan into reverse and stares down to the backup camera display. “You do trust me, don’t you?”

I don’t know that I laughed, or he did.

“Okay, don’t answer that. Just listen. I’m glad that you’ve got that work diving through sugar glass and getting globbed in Vaseline and set on fire,” he says in a tone that’s anything but glad. “But, you and I both know you’re not happy throwing fake punches.”

He’s not wrong.

“That’s why you keep going out to those bingo halls every time anyone offers you a spot.”

Nine years since I’ve done this full time, but that doesn’t mean the magic left.

“Well, this HOW place is offering you an audience ten times that,” not to mention the gate, I knew he thought, but left out.

“I get that,” I try to tell him, and myself, “but where I’m struggling is to why in the exact Hell this Best guy is willing to throw out a one year contract to the guy that hasn’t lasted in any place a month since Caldera went and shuttered up GCW?”

Grady, now having come to rest at an intersection, looks at me, ashamed at my lack of confidence. Or, maybe he was just stalling to come up with an answer himself. “Listen, they are kinda in a rocky place, financially,” and if he offered every off-the-couch vet like me that type of salary, I understand why. “He’s been trying to dig up old fossils like yourself to get the nostalgia engine to drive the gravy train.”

I wasn’t as ill informed as I had lead on earlier. Of course as soon as he told me the name of the promotion I went immediately to their website. I saw names like Dan Ryan and Lindsay Troy on the roster. Hell, I nearly lost my spoon in the bowl of Cap’n Crunch to learn Flyer was still alive.

“So, he watches a DVD from GCW and gets excited enough to overlook MY reputation of professionalism? I don’t get it, why not any of those guys? I mean, shit, Terror?” the former World’s Champ.

Without taking his eyes off the road, “Stage four.”

“Fuck,” I offer my condolences to the memory of a guy I haven’t talked to in about a decade. But thinking on it, I can’t remember a time I didn’t see a cigarette hanging out of Jay’s mouth. Dude smoked like it was the cure to cancer.

I break the moment of silence, “What about Frosty, then?”

“Triumph? I heard he’s stashed up on some island in the Mediterranean without extradition laws. IRS would love to get a crack at him,” Grady let in just a hint of jealousy to imagine himself so rich, even if it made him captive.

“Tax evasion? Yeah, I guess if it was good enough for Capone.” I gritted my teeth mentioning the next name, “Murray?”

Andy Murray, umpteen time World Champ and HOFer in a handful of promotions. Not the tennis player.

“Retired,” he says with the appropriate amount of surprise. I didn’t think any of us actually stay retired. “He’s running some dirt sheet YouTube channel, now, I think.”

Having each suggestion batted down, I am happy to relent, but with my own charm. “All I was saying was that I thought someone would sooner send an envoy into the forest of Kansas looking for Shaman before they’d come calling for yours truly.”

Without missing a beat, “They did. He hasn’t been heard from or seen since.”

Poor bastard. I bet it was the Viking that cut him down.

Several intersections pass. 

“And this Lee Best Invitational, another World Cup style tournament?” I less asked more than warned the payer of paychecks I hadn’t even met.

“What?” Grady was took aback in my dour tone. “The last time you were in one of these things, you ran through everyone in your bracket.”

The last time was ten years ago. Another person ago.

“It killed the town,” and the whole fed, really.

“You killed the competition,” he pivoted at breakneck speed. “If I remember correctly, most of those guys never wrestled again after wrestling you.”

I was no sadistic monster, something out of the swamps that hunted men for sport in my off days. I saw enough of those creeps. But the result was something the same, when some brash, indifferent hothead didn’t handle his opponents with care.

“I just hope these people know what they’re getting themselves into,” again warning a straw-man.

“They even offered Ted a spot.”

I smile, but don’t say anything. There’s that old confidence. Red & Ted, back to the business of fucking up people’s shit.

“I imagine you’ve weaseled yourself an onscreen gig?” I knew if there was money to be had, he wasn’t about to be shy. 

“You boys, without me? It’d be like the Rolling Stones with Jagger.” Sure. 

But with business discussed, though not fully, this strange sound came from the speakers. I swear I know the chords. And it hits me, even before the vocals out of your confused childhood crush, actually a guy, Taylor Hanson: Mmmbop.

Now, I knew the song. I knew most of the lyrics, if anyone could understand the gibberish in the chorus. If forced under threat of torture might even admit to liking the track, or in the company of good friends and brothers share this as some guilty pleasure.

But, this was not that kind of relationship.

“Hey!” the pilot of this excursion started to protest the channel change, before feeling a growing sense of shame. “I mean, whatever you want to listen to, I guess.”

I searched through the presets for something more masculine as this cab ride to somewhere, I don’t know exactly where, rolled on.



11:35 AM

I enter this office muttering to myself, “A physical,” and think of how I might not have hopped into the car with Grady had I known. Grady, who, as a rule of germophobia and generally not liking other people, offered to stay in the car and instead of company, gave me hollow encouragement to go get this done.

The place looks sterile in aesthetic: gray carpets running along to a lighter shade of gray walls, that themselves stretch up to a white drop-ceiling. The overhead fluorescents only further added to the look. But, it was the six rows of chairs, and the people sat in them, that betrayed this sterility.

Getting back my health card from the not-even-lunch-but-so-ready-for-the-day-to-be-over receptionist, I give a nod of solidarity. It was now my task to find the seat furthest from any other human being. The plaque on the front with eight MDs’ names meant this waiting room was around half capacity on appointments alone. Finally I take a place on the back row, five down from the mid-forties couple there.

I settle in for a wait and pull out my cell. I was almost ready to cry when I saw no connection: the place too full with microwaves and x-rays and walls thick enough that no carrier would be able to break through. Worse, the place didn’t even offer a guest Wi-Fi.

Thirty seconds in, and defeated, I looked to the table of year old magazines and week old newspapers. I don’t dare more than raffle through the lazy stack, figuring the puzzles almost certainly filled in already, and thinking that I may have caught a touch of Grady’s germophobia.

Nervous, impatient, wanting for sleep, I shake my leg up and down, unconsciously at first. I pick up my head to scan the room. Quickly, to not catch eyes with anyone else, I plaster my vision to the flat screen hung from the west wall. It was tuned to the twenty-four hour news station. Seems nothing in the world was new since I last checked in the air last night. But, at least the long-range forecast was calling for sun on the weekend.

“Alex?” calls a nurse in royal blue scrubs.

Saved, I think. I only lift my right cheek from the seat when I see a woman stand, and the nurse flash a smile of recognition. I even my posture and silently curse the first woman to name her daughter after a man, for now my name might be confused for a woman’s.

Time goes and my attention wanders. I finally let my eyes rest on the other souls waiting for the appointment that should have started ten minutes ago. Their stories seem easy enough to read from their appearance alone. There was the little girl with red forehead and running nose; a teenage boy with his forearm plaster cast; the woman with the chronic sore back here to have her breasts reduced; the guy in a wig here to get a set of his own. Still, the strangest sight for a doctor’s waiting room must have been me, the fit and healthy thirty something. I wonder what they imagined wrong with me.

I spent what felt like an eternity waiting, but checking my cell again, was clearly only ten minutes.



11:47 AM

It’s been two minutes since Kelly, the mid-thirties nurse, lead me to this smaller room. She’s recorded my weight, a respectable 233 lbs and I think how I’ve gained five since I did this last. She took my blood pressure and noted it a little high, though I didn’t let on it was because she shared a first name with my first wife. She left the room a minute ago with a curt smile and a promise the doctor would be along shortly.

This place is slightly more cheery, daring to have a pale blue wall and a window. That wall has posters of health and general wellness I am sure we’ve all seen. On the cork-board I see Grady’s insistence to get me to this place on time: failed appointments will be charged $50 if not cancelled 24 hours before scheduled. I dangle my leg over the edge of the table I’m sat on.

Then the door pops open, and I to my feet. I guessed by the lab coat this to be the doctor before he introduced himself as “Dr. Wells. And you must be,” looking to his chart, “Alexander? Or is it Alex?” He looks younger than I do.

“Anything but Xander or Lexi,” I extend my hand to greet.

But he doesn’t take my hand. Of course he wouldn’t. I pull it back and sit back down as he sits at a computer.

“Okay, so, let’s take a look here Alex. Your history looks good. No major injuries or illness. Good, good,” I know, but still expect some curve-ball to someone reading my own history to me. “Let me ask, any allergies?”

“None that I know of.”

He types away, then stands and turns to face me. “Turn your head as far as you can to the right,” Simon says. “Good, and to the left.” My neck is fine, and now he knows it, too.

Requested of me next is to pull the hoodie and undershirt off to stand bare-chested. He doesn’t touch me but still mumbles a remark. “Turn around, please.” So I do. It’s here that he finally lays his icy touch on me. Why is it every doctor has cold hands? “Okay, raise your arms to the side as high as you can. And now to the front, again as high as you can.” And when my arms are back to my sides, “good. Okay, you can put your shirt back on.”

I waste no time in getting my warm clothes back over my body. I note how in this conversation no talk of the prostate is mentioned, and I appreciate not having to tell the guy to go fuck himself.

“But there is this matter of slightly higher blood pressure than I would like to see you have.”

“It’s nothing Doc, I was just nervous: I hate places like this.” Dare to make me think of my mortality, will they?

“All the same, I think I want to send you downstairs for an EKG. Need to make sure your heart is healthy enough to withstand a taser shock.”

“That’s,” my surprise catches my tongue, “really something I have to be concerned with?” I wonder if it’s a joke, or I should be considering exactly what I’m about to agree to.

Downstairs I meet a cute med student who fumbles with the electrodes. She bashfully asks if the problem continues, if I’d mind having my chest hair shaved. Fuck, I’m going on the road again, anyway.

By the time I make it back outside, I see no sign of the silver Lexus. Finally a cell signal and the message from Grady: “Something popped up. Funeral for some schmuck that got crushed in an industrial accident. Wasn’t rich, but the life insurance and the wrongful death suit are going to make for a very wealthy, confused widow. Get an Uber, I’ll pay you back.”

I didn’t believe it. Not that Grady would go hunting for the misery and misfortune of others, but that he’d ever pay me back for any debt. Grady Patrick, the slickest, slimiest prince of a bastard Ontario, maybe all of North America had ever seen. My manager, my agent.

I think of texting back to ask if he was trying to get into the widow’s wallet, or her panties, but I knew the answer was probably both.

So, instead I open up the app and hail a ride home. Some guy named Brian will be here in eight minutes.

Awake and hungry, our subject will have to fight to make it to the spring. 

—- posted January 23, 2020 @ 7:30 PM 

Okay, High Octane, it’s time I say hello. 

And with the introductions out of the way, let me tell you what you’ve bargained for. I get it, you’re going to look at my accomplishments and discount them because I never held the big belt, or I worked for the wrong promotion. You’re going to overlook this never-was as some relic, ten years out from any footage you can find on YouTube. That’s fair.

You see me as some stepping stone for your one time Ace to get his shit back together. This Brian Hollywood that is now so focused as to do what your POTUS wouldn’t, and divest himself of riches. And even come crawling to the feet of an enemy? And it’s this once – and maybe once more – Ace, that I am supposed to show up, smile and lay down for. If you only listen to your own title holders, you need it for this place to have something of an upper card.

Problem is, Hollywood, I’ll just as soon shake your hand as slap your face, stomp your toes and dump you on your head.

What High Octane is going to get, what you’ve bargained for is a man bent on achieving his goals. And it’s great, I know, you would say the same thing, Hollywood. I just need you to know that vague goals get vague results. Me? 

Me, I have a plan. It starts with proving to everyone how sorry their one time Ace is. Ain’t you the guy that held all the belts when business was so poor they shut the doors? Hmmm?

By any means available to me in that 20 by 20 squared circle, I will take victory from you, Hollywood. And from there, my focus goes week by week to each of the gentlemen unfortunate enough to be in my Narcotics bracket.

Please think these idle words. Please. Please look at me as this never-was with the audacity to come to Chicago and give these people a reason to be excited. Lord knows Ryan & Co ain’t exactly doing the job.

I’ll be laser focused and as mean as I need, because High Octane, you brought my brother with me. Because Teddy Palmer and I made a pact to be the best you’ve seen either of us. The best you’ve seen.

Hollywood, go ahead, turn to your enemy. Turn to the boss’ son. Me? I’ll be bringing with me my brother.

See ya Saturday, Acehole.



Your Willing Villain