Wednesday April 21st
Missouri Valley Wrestling Headquarters
St. Louis, Missouri
Hallway just outside Ray McAvay’s office. Ray McAvay leans against the open door of his office, one foot inside the door and the other foot in the hallway with one hand clutching his rolling luggage. He’s casually dressed for travel, jeans, a nice shirt, not so nice tennis shoes and ready to leave to catch a plane at the St. Louis Lambert International Airport to fly to Arizona for Saturday night’s HOW show.
But before he departs, Ray has to check in with his administrative assistant. She peppers him with questions in rapid-fire fashion. Finally Ray tries to answer them in an equally fast method.
Ray McAvay: Yes, I’m leaving to go to the airport. Yes, I’ll be away for a few days. Yes, everything is all set for the weekend. Yes, I’ve signed off on the payroll.
McAvay holds his cell phone up to show his assistant.
Ray McAvay: And yes, Laura knows how to get a hold of me.
His assistant is satisfied with McAvay’s brisk series of responses to her queries and Ray flashes a thumbs up in return. He steps completely out of his office and hurriedly begins to head down the hallway towards the exit.
Several feet down the hall he hears a very familiar voice call out him…
Female Voice: Well, well, well.
Damn. Ray closes his eyes and braces himself. Why? Let’s just say the voice calling out to him is a voice of a person he once knew in a very intimate matter.
Ray McAvay: Hi Dawn.
McAvay then faces his ex-wife- Dawn McGill.
The first thing he notices? She’s bruised and bandaged up from a cage match she’d wrestled the weekend before against MVW’s Women’s Champion ‘The Iron Butterfly’ Graysie Parker. Parker was the dominant women’s champion who’d pretty much steamrolled through the women’s division going up against McGill who hadn’t wrestled competitively in a couple years. Suffice to say, the match didn’t go very well for Dawn, who’d turned heel for the first time in her wrestling career and accidently knocked out Parker two weeks before with a chair shot meant for someone else, and she received a heaping helping of retribution at the hands of The Iron Butterfly in a match that Ray booked.
The second thing McAvay notices is the two men standing behind McGill. Both are big, burly, and dressed as if they’ve just arrived out of the backwoods of a Kentucky holler- which in reality they’d just did. The two men were very well known in MVW as the Kentucky Redneck Mafia- Cletus T. Johnson and Enos T. Johnson, and both had just returned to action from concussion protocol courtesy of Graysie Parker’s former manager Eric Dane.
Yes. That Eric Dane.
Once the ex-couple lock eyes on each other, McGill gives McAvay her ‘death stare’- a particular facial expression he’s become very familiar with following their divorce. After a few painfully awkward seconds where each person waits for the other to start the conversation, Dawn puts her hand on Cletus’s big, brawny arm and points to a nearby lounge.
Dawn McGill: Y’all just move along, I need to talk to Ray for a second.
Both Johnson boys grudgingly comply with Dawn’s request. They may or may not have growled as they brushed past McAvay and headed towards the lounge.
McAvay looks at Dawn quizzically. She’s speaking with an Appalachian accent?
Now alone in the hallway and waiting for the other to start the conversation in earnest, there’s the additional extra, tell-tale awkward span of several seconds of silence before Ray finally tries to break the ice…
Ray McAvay: What.
…well, kind of.
Dawn McGill: You know what.
He knows. But…
Ray McAvay: I probably do but-
McGill snaps off a volley of invectives.
Dawn McGill: What the hell? Booking me against Graysie Parker in a cage?
McAvay proceeds to calmly explain how Dawn brought it all on herself which results in a flash of anger that illuminates Dawn’s face.
Dawn McGill: You didn’t have to book the match!
Ray nodded in the affirmative.
Ray McAvay: Oh yes, yes I did.
Eyes widen. Eyebrows raised. Her face pops a look of total incredulousness.
Dawn McGill: Why?
Ray McAvay: Look, I didn’t intervene when you decided to make a list of people you wanted ‘retribution’ on a number of people who’ve ‘wronged’ you. I didn’t intervene the first time you took someone out with a chair shot during a title match. However, when you messed up a title match for the second time after taking someone out with a steel folding chair, you forced my hand and you know it. Except, this time you fucked up and took out Graysie Parker by mistake.
Dawn McGill: But-
Ray McAvay: No. This was always going to escalate- remember what Eric Dane did to Cletus and Enos in that hotel room last month after that incident? Dane doesn’t take this shit sitting down. Then you had to go out and make a half-assed attempt to apologize for what happened and treated it like a joke. I knew Graysie was going to hunt you down if I didn’t book you two in some sort of match. You didn’t give me a whole lot of choice.
Following his thorough rebuttal of Dawn’s objection to his booking decision, McAvay checks his watch while McGill continues to glare at him. He waits to see if Dawn has a response.
She doesn’t. Just a continuous withering glare meant to express her innate displeasure with Ray.
Thirty uncomfortable seconds later.
Ray McAvay: Well okay. I suppose I’m on your ‘list’ now too.
And just like that, the withering glare melts away like Marvel Comics’s Dark Phoenix regaining her senses right before she says an emotional farewell to Cyclops and activates an ancient Kree weapon that disintegrates her.
Okay, that may be a little melodramatic and over the top. In actuality, McGill shakes her head, takes a deep breath, realizes she was in the wrong, and then makes an admission to him.
Dawn McGill: No. If anything, I should be on your list.
McAvay softens his stance right away. He asks Dawn if the Johnsons are ready to compete again. She confirms they are.
Ray McAvay: Good. Then I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do…
McAvay checks his watch again.
Ray McAvay: …and I really have to get to the airport.
Dawn McGill: I know.
So with that little bit of unpleasantness over, Ray again makes a mad dash for the exit.
Dawn McGill: Hey Ray?
McAvay stops and turns his head back.
Ray McAvay: Yeah?
McGill pauses before she finishes her thought.
Dawn McGill: Good luck this weekend.
McAvay grins back.
Ray McAvay: Thanks. I’m going to need it.
* * *
Ray McAvay. Back in High Octane Wrestling.
Who in their right mind would have thought that nearly five years after my final HOW match- against Scott Stevens- that I ever would walk back into an arena, one more time as a HOW wrestler.
I certainly didn’t.
So what was I thinking to myself as I walked with Zeb Martin towards the entrance to the stage?
Here we go again.
My first competitive match in two years. The last time I’d stepped into a wrestling ring was as one half of MVW’s Tag Team champions with Rah to take on the challenge of the Sports Entertainment Corporation’s ‘Dastardly’ Dave Miller and ‘Dangerous’ Dan Williams for the title.
Deep down in the back of my mind, I wondered what kind of reception I would get when I stepped out onto the stage at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona with Zeb. To say that the I was just a little overwhelmed at the response of the fans last weekend would the understatement of the century.
The first three members of Grappler’s Local 214- Lindsay Troy, Teddy Palmer, and Conor Fuse, had each received a much deserved hearty ovation from the fans when the trio appeared on the stage and walked down to ringside.
When Zeb and I walked out next and then headed down the aisle towards the others, a most remarkable thing happened…
♫ “Do you hear the people sing? – Singing the song of angry men?”
A small group of people- I think in Section 110 of the Gila River Arena, located coincidentally below… you guessed it… Section 214- spontaneously broke out in song.
♫ “It is the music of the people. – Who will not be slaves again!”
As Zeb and I continued down, more and more people joined in, singing acapella in unison and the next thing we knew, it spread throughout the arena like wildfire. For a split second, it felt as if I’d been transported back in time to 2016. I could visualize walking to the ring from the ‘Les Misérables’ section of the Best Arena followed by Dawn McGill, Bert the Janitor, and several others walking together to ringside as a group- the way it used to be.
♫ “When the beating of your heart – Echoes the beating of the drums – There is a life about to start – When tomorrow comes.”
But then I’m snapped back to the present. Zeb elbows me and I suddenly realize that everyone at the Gila River Arena is singing. I leaned over to and told Zeb ‘well, this is going to piss Lee off’ as we continued to walk down to the ring. We met up with LT, Teddy, and Conor at ringside and then we waited… and waited. Why? HOTv went to an extended commercial break because Lee did not want any of the Grappler’s Local 214 entrance to be televised.
Then there was the match itself versus Jace Parker Davidson and Steve Solex. All I’m going to say is this… Jace Parker Davidson did a lot of talking about winning the match and Grappler’s Local 214 did their talking inside the ring and won the match. I got the pinfall on Solex after hitting the McGill Bomb and that was that.
That felt good.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get much of a chance to celebrate in the ring because, of course, JPD had to have the last word and swooped in to attack me from behind – just like the movie Conan the Destroyer where the thief Malak always snuck in and stuck a small knife into of the corpse of someone Conan the Barbarian had just killed.
But again, whatever.
Jace, every time you attack me like that the only thing that you are accomplishing is strengthening my resolve. It’s like this- you hit me- I will hit you back. Period. I may not be Eric Dane but I ain’t Joe Bergman either. Dawn McGill found out the hard way how retribution feels after Parker tossed all over the ring and slammed repeatedly into the side of a steel cage for payback. At some point Jace, the receipt is coming, the same penny is going to drop, and the hammer is going to come down on you.
* * *
After Refueled LX
In Transit to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Ray leans back on the plush back seat of a sleek 2019 Range Rover with an ice bag on the back of his neck as the commercial vehicle roars eastbound down Interstate 10.
Also in the back seat, Ray’s valet Barbie-Q aka Caroline Lewis- otherwise known as Joe Bergman’s sister. She’d wrestled in Normal, Illinois earlier in the day and thanks to McAvay found herself whisked to Phoenix, Arizona for the HOW show.
Barbie nodded off for a quick power nap while Ray checked his cell phone for messages. Mentally formulating responses to the various messages, he also sent a text to Laura Bergman to see how the MVW house show went earlier in the night.
Then he smiled. It was a congratulatory text from Dawn McGill.
With the lights of the Phoenix skyline looming larger in the distance and as the Range Rover passed under the big downtown interchange at Interstate 17 just north of Phoenix’s Central Industrial District, Ray deleted several emails and texts and tried to relax. He’d be in the air by midnight Mountain time and return to St. Louis very early in the morning. Then something on his phone caught his attention.
Ray McAvay: Wait a minute. Mel’s Diner? THE Mel’s Diner is just a block from here?
Mel’s Diner was a retro American diner that serves breakfast & lunch. It is also known for the fact it’s exterior was used in the 1970’s TV series “Alice.”
Ray McAvay: Hah. Who’da thunk that?
Ray prepared to turn his phone off but a ring tone sounds and ‘Lindsay Troy’ appears on the display. He pushes the green button with his thumb to take the call.
Ray McAvay: Lindz, what’s up?
Lindsay Troy (via phone): Hey, I know you needed to head right for the airport but I wanted to check in. How are you feeling?
Ray McAvay: I’m a little sore but it really felt good to get the win.
Lindsay Troy: You and Zeb did great out there. Might need to pick your brain before the next show. Leecifer gave me Jace.
Ray McAvay: Oooh. I can’t say I’m all that surprised after that little backstage thing earlier tonight.
Lindsay Troy: I know. Mind if I ask for a favor?
Ray McAvay: Yeah. What do you need?
Lindsay Troy: Madison’s going to be a problem and I can’t be worried about breaking her face when I need to break Jace’s. Would Caroline mind coming out to the ring with me? Call it an insurance policy.
Ray McAvay: Well…
McAvay glances over at Caroline (Barbie-Q). Eyes closed. Mouth open.
Ray McAvay: …she’s asleep right now but I’m sure she would agree to be in your corner next week. She has no love for Madison either.
Lindsay Troy: Thanks Ray. I’ll owe you one. Oh. Lee’s got you defending the tag belts again, this time with Conor.
Ray McAvay: Again? Against who?
Lindsay Troy: Pizmo and the punching bag of the Best Alliance.
Since Ray’s extremely tired as well, he doesn’t quite connect the dots.
Ray McAvay: Who huh?
Lindsay Troy: Steve Harrison and Cancer Jiles.
The synapses fire up, the neurons connect, and Ray understands who she’s referring to.
Ray McAvay: Oh. The Miracle Man and the Egg Bandit.
Lindsay Troy: To Jiles’ credit, he got his head out of his ass. Harrison, though…he’s reeling. No better chance than this week to keep his downward spiral going.
Ray McAvay: Okay. All right.
Ray pauses to regroup. He was not expecting to wrestle in consecutive weeks.
Ray McAvay: Lindz, I have to take care of business in St. Louis so I will meet up with all of you in Las Vegas Wednesday night and we’ll put together a game plan for next week’s show.
McAvay nods as he listens to LT.
Ray McAvay: Right.
He continues to take in information from Lindsay.
Ray McAvay: Okay. Talk to you later.
* * *
Well Steve, since you mentioned it…
Yes. Once upon a time, 2016 to be exact, High Octane Wrestling was basically running on a week to week basis and everyone always wondered if would make it to the next pay per view show.
Yes. There was a few of us, Scott Stevens, Darin Zion, Ryan McKenna, Reggie Rivid, Electra, David Black, Scottywood, yeah, even Brian Hollywood among others who stayed loyal and continued to press on. You can mock that all you want but the bottom line was when the going got tough, we didn’t leave for greener pastures, we didn’t skip pay per view shows, and we didn’t leave High Octane Wrestling’s fans high and dry.
Indeed, the ones who stayed worked their asses off when things looked bleak to keep HOW going in its darkest moment.
During that time, this little group called the Les Misérables came to life and in January 2016 took flight. I embarked on what was the best run of my HOW career and won the ICON title. Then one week before March to Glory, I lost the ICON title to Darin Zion and after the match, Lee decided to unleash the Best Alliance on Darin and myself, using the occasion to introduce Brian Hollywood as a new member. There was one hell of a silver lining that came out of that incident- it galvanized something inside of me and more importantly it galvanized the Les Misérables. What had been a rag-tag group of people became a force and I used what happened that night to take my career to whole different level. With the support of the Les Misérables behind me, I somehow managed to win War Games 2016.
By the way Steve, have you ever won a War Games?
And now five years later, I have the same feeling flowing through my vein and I have one man to thank for that- Lee Best. It’s patently obvious that the biggest reason Lee brought me back to HOW now was a pretext to lure Jace Parker Davidson back to the fold, holding up a carrot for him to return and correct the ‘mistake’ made in 2016 when I won the HOW World Title at War Games.
Lee Best decided that someone who’d no-showed two consecutive HOW pay per view shows while holding the top HOW title- *koff, koff- JPD* was not going to win the War Games match and leave with the HOW World title. Lee thought that with Brian Hollywood holding the World Title for the Best Alliance, that the battlefield was prepared and set for a big victory for the BA at War Games 2016.
Except for one little thing.
Lee was wrong. He didn’t count on Ray McAvay being there at the end and not Brian Hollywood.
Last week, Lee stuck me in a match with Zeb against JPD and Steve Solex to defend the tag team title Lindsay Troy and Teddy Palmer won the week before. Lee thought JPD and Solex would take care of business and bring the title back to the Best Alliance.
Again, Lee was wrong.
So now Lee decides to send me out to battle again to defend the HOW Tag Team title on behalf of Lindsay Troy and Teddy Palmer and teams me up with Conor Fuse to take on Steve Harrison and HOW World Champion Cancer Jiles. Once again, Lee seems to think that I won’t be able to rise to the occasion.
Once again, Lee’s going to be wrong. He didn’t think I’d walk through the door ready to go. He didn’t think I was ready for a fight; he didn’t think I had the stomach for a fight.
Lee thought I’d just come in and go through the motions, wrestle a few matches, collect the easy cash for my efforts, and simply return to my day job.
I think he may have slightly miscalculated there. It’s evident that Lee thinks I’m the weak link in the group.
Lee didn’t count on me remembering just how much I loved the adrenaline rush of being in the middle of a heated battle. He didn’t count on the fire rekindling or that in the heat of a match with a cold blooded killer in JPD and the oiled up, Magic Mike-wanna be Steve Solex that I would remember everything I used to love about wrestling.
He didn’t count on me pinning Solex for the win.
This week- Jiles and Harrison. I guess now I’ll have to prove him wrong again.
However. Jiles… golf smack? Really? Here’s a hint- it’s not 2016. Plus, ‘Disney smack?’ If you really did enjoy watching the Wizards of Waverly Place, I promise you I won’t judge.
You could have joined Zeb and Lindsay- and Jesus Christ how much and how long did you beg and plead for LT to join the Egg Bandits– in Grappler’s Local 214. Instead, you sold your soul to the devil and took the easy way.
Here’s a scoop for you Jiles, Ray McAvay has never been about doing things the easy way. Ray McAvay has always walked on the road less traveled. What I lack in talent I make up for in a strong work ethic and boundless determination. While you’re collecting your thirty pounds of silver, I’m getting ready for a war against a World Champion. I’ve made a good living in the ring on the ability to outwork, outheart, and outwill my opponents- or as the shirt says ‘Show up. Punch in. Shut up. Get to work.’
I’ll give you this much Jiles. At least you’re not going full Brian Hollywood. I remember the time Hollywood actually said the following, “I’m trying to create a world of order in HOW, one that WILL oblige to obey and follow the ruling of the layout in the land of HOW. If the GOD of HOW passes down a commandment to be obeyed and followed exactly how he wants it than it’s passed down to me, the right hand of GOD, to make sure that people follow that law and make sure everything comes to pass as our God has instilled.”
Whew. I’d actually take the Rat Pack version of the Best Alliance over that.
So have fun Jiles, I think you’re going to find out that being in the Best Alliance isn’t all that it’s… cracked up to be.
Oh. Look. See what I did there?
And you Harrison. The only thing missing from Lee Best bitch-slapping you all over the place last week was hearing you shout ‘Thank you sir, may I have another’ a la Kevin Bacon when he got his ass paddled by Douglas Neidermeyer in the movie Animal House.
George Patton once said, “An army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, and fights as a team. This individual hero stuff is bullshit. The bilious bastards who write that stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know any more about real battle than they do about fucking. And we have the best team—we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit and the best men in the world. Why, by God, I actually pity these poor bastards we’re going up against.”
Oh yeah. You guys looked like total team players up there last week (sarcasm intended), passing the microphone back and forth and muttering a collection of bizarre and incomprehensible fopdoodle against our united team at War Games.
At least we have a common purpose… to win War Games. You guys looked like a low rent version of the Rat Pack on the stage last week. I mean, I seriously thought someone was going to break out in song at one point. You came off like a bad comedy troupe you’d find at amateur night at some comedy club who tell a bunch of bad jokes, get booed off the stage, and even get… eggs thrown at them.
Sorry. Had to do it.
So go ahead Steve, go ahead Jiles, throw everything but the kitchen sink at me. Try and throw me off my game. I actually pity the bastards we’re going up against Saturday.
Why? Because Ray McAvay doesn’t give a damn and he’s ready to seize the moment.
I may not have the talent and wrestling ability of Jace Parker Davidson or most of the wrestlers in this company for that matter, but even after being on the shelf for two years, I still have something many of them don’t have- heart, a commitment to purpose, and the ability to will myself to rise to the occasion.
Harrison. Jiles. At least we look the part.
We look like a team.
We act like a team.
Because we are a team.
In fact, dare I say we look like we could be… the best team.