Real fuckin’ hard, here.
Trying to tow the line.
To be the Eric Dane that I need to be right now.
To be the Eric Dane that other people need me to be.
Trying to find my place, a quarter of a century later.
Truth be told, I’d rather be trying to get back to my old ways. You know, back when *I* was the guy with all the hot-selling corny t-shirts and honking blow off of title belts. Back when Eric Dane was the best wrestler in the world and everybody with the balls to challenge that found themselves upside down, unconscious, and low on red blood cells.
To say the least.
Things are different now, though. For starters, I’ve lost a step. Maybe two. Maybe more. There’s no more beating around that bush. For fifteen years I told anybody that’d listen that I didn’t cheat because I had to, but because I enjoyed the look on their face. Every single time, same story, no matter how many times I would blatantly tell some jerk-off challenger or flavor-of-the-month would be destroyer that I would happily cheat my way to victory and there wasn’t fuckall they could do about it but get pinned with my feet on the ropes after taking an eye full of thumb and a kick to the balls.
Anymore, I’m lucky if I’ve got the wind left to get my feet on the ropes. There’s a certain surge of strength that comes with adrenaline, but it’s taking me longer and longer to recover these days. I used to go an hour a night, four and five nights a week, and my recuperation was an eight-ball and a happy horde of hookers. These days, a twenty-minute match or a quarter-gram key bump, it’s all the same, it takes me damn near a week to come back from anything.
Nevermind actual injuries.
It took several off the books trips to Mexico and a couple of quote-unquote “friendly doctors” to get my knees back in the same timezone as the rest of my legs. I’m not saying stem cells, but, seriously, stem cells. I take a look around these days and everybody and their brother has a brace on. It’s like everything I do, no matter how painful, six people are gonna come after and try to do it better.
Well, you can’t just get a shot of stem-cells after every match.
Or devil’s three-way.
It’ll probably take a good month to come back from this fight with Lindsay. And not because she’s such a force to be reckoned with, either. No, 2020’s version of the supposed Queen of the Ring is a boring, predictable, mildly functional fighter at best, and that’s when she’s actually paying attention and at least mildly invested in the situation at hand. No, it’ll take a fuckin’ month because I’m planning on going out of my way to prove a point to her, to the people around me like Graysie and Angus, and to my contemporaries and so-called peers.
People like Mike Best.
People like Cayle Murray and Dan Ryan.
People like Lee Best.
That point? That until the day that somebody kills me inside that wrestling ring, not only will Eric Dane be a goddamned fixture at the top of any card that he’s on, but he’s a dangerous motherfucker to have kicking around looking for points to prove. I’m gonna beat Lindsay Troy into a coma (mostly) inside of a wrestling ring, and I’m gonna do it not because I hate Lindsay, I really don’t, but because it’s the position that I’m in at present.
There is an actual goal in mind, I promise. A light at the end of this particular tunnel; but blocking me from that next evolution with her cute little red and black curls and that stupid Karen smirk on her face is what’s left of the woman that I was brought back into the fold to take out of HOW. Hopefully once that’s over, and recovery is done, I can finally move the fuck on to the next phase.
That’s the plan, anyway.
So everyday I try a little harder.
Not in the gym, I fuckin’ hate the gym.
And not really so much in my personal life. That ship sailed a long, long time ago. No, the whole point of all of this is that I’m trying maybe harder now than I ever have to do the right things for the right reasons, and the first reason…
The one that Lindsay Troy can’t seem to figure out.
Is to become invested.
To be involved.
To give a shit about any of this.
Otherwise, and I hate to beat a dead horse here, but maybe it’s time to pack it the fuck up and settle for the convention circuit. I guarantee you that neckbeards and internet marks across the globe would line up for miles to give you a hundred bucks to sign their shitty replica belts and pose for an awkward, cringey picture with them. Think about it, that’s all I’m saying.
When you get there, while you’re signing everything known to man and getting mildly groped by the entire 18-49 demographic, I want you to take a few minutes to remember that time heals all wounds and give ol’ Uncle Eric a phone call. We’ll laugh about all this shit, you know, like you and Dan laugh about that one time. Or that other time. Maybe I’ll sit in on one of your signings so you can double your rate, know what I mean?
Maybe we’ll call Mike, get some blow, and work on that Devil’s Three Way!
Or fuck off into oblivion. I don’t really give a fuck what you do after No Remorse, Ma, because the other dead horse that I keep beating is that none of this is personal, Lindsay. It’s not even the fuck about you. It’s about me. It’s about the things that Eric Dane has to do to get the things that Eric Dane wants, and the first thing Eric Dane wants is for Lindsay Troy to show the fuck up and remind the whole goddamned wrestling universe why she’s even here in the first place.
Some of this can be about Lindsay Troy.
August 09, 2020
-New Orleans, LA
–Cafe du Monde
It was good to be home.
Good to get back into the normal routine.
I really ought not lie to myself. The routine has been out the window since I sulked away from HOW over a year ago. I went back on the road, fell back into old habits and worse, old addictions. Sure, I took Graysie under my wing and I tried to do right by her, but I’d also taken to whoring and drinking and acting like an otherwise unsavory and unlikable piece of garbage. None of my doctors, all of them specialists of one type or another, have been very impressed with my lack of progress over the last year.
The hypertension hasn’t gotten any better, my blood pressure is so goddamned high right now that I’ve got nitroglycerine in three separate pockets as I sit here at Cafe du Monde and sip my sixth cup of mud of the mid-morning. You know, just in case. That’s not all, either. My A1C has been creeping up, turns out I’m pre-diabetic on top of everything else.
Don’t even get me started on the CVD or the COPD.
And don’t tell Lee.
Turns out a couple of decades of Camel Filters on top of all the weed, coke, pills, booze, questionable decisions, and loose women I could get my hands on had done more of a number on Eric Dane than any of a hundred would be big shot wrestlers had ever been able to accomplish. Life is funny like that. I’ll have a goddamned heart attack in the middle of the ring trying to give Dan Ryan a Stardriver before Dan Ryan ever puts a dent in Eric Dane, that’s all I’m trying to say.
Where was I? Oh, right, home.
Graysie, standing over me, scowling.
Hell, that part may have been the string holding this whole routine bullshit together. It’d certainly become a major part of the story of my life ever since we went on the road last year. I can’t lie, it’s gotten worse since I quit her last job for her and have yet to produce another one to replace it.
Today, of all days, I’m quite sure it’s going to get worse.
I’ve been sitting here at my usual table in the courtyard at the bustling cafe, drinking thick coffee and pontificating since I left this morning’s press conference. You know the one, where we made the announcement about HOW signing a quasi-student of mine, Ryan John McKinney. I’ve been here figuring on it being easier to lose myself in the crowd then find an excuse to not get home until late because no matter what, I know Graysie’s gonna find out and I know she’s gonna be pissed.
And rightly so.
What I can’t get her to understand is that there isn’t a fuck of a lot I can do about that right now. If she would just understand this would all be so much easier.
I can feel my teeth yellowing from the acrid brew that I’ve been drinking like it’s the fountain of youth for longer than I can remember. It’s the only addiction I have left, the only one I can allow myself because it’s the only one that has never and will never cost me anything but the price of a cup of joe. Of course, I barely remember what sleep is like, but I blame the years of cocaine and untreated sleep apnoea for that. Seriously, when I sleep, it’s in a mask. Without my CPAP I’m little more than a sack of meat and bones wrapped around a burned out excuse for a nervous system.
Jesus Farrakahn Christ, I’m a mess.
Now, where was I this time?
Ah, Graysie, standing over me and scowling.
“Hello, Gra-” She cut me off with a single finger.
“I’m trying to compose myself,” she explained.
Shrugging, I let my eyes wander until I found the little waitress who was the last one that would deal with me. Gladys. She’d been slinging bad coffee and deep fried dough right here for decades. She’d seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Big Easy and she was the last one left who tolerated any little bit of my shit. I raised a hand, smiled, and mimed at her to bring two more cups of the good stuff, nodding at Graysie who looked like the last thing in the world she wanted to do was sit down and have coffee with me.
“You didn’t want to maybe tell me?” Graysie asked. “You know, maybe give me some kind of a heads up before embarrassing me in front of the whole world?”
“Kid, I really doubt that the entire world saw that presser.”
“It was on HOTv!”
“HOTv is a subscription service.”
“IT. WAS. ON.”
She grabbed the chair and spun it, sitting backwards in a way that couldn’t have been comfortable. I didn’t answer her, of course, preferring to pretend to go back into the morning’s copy of the Times-Picayune than to look her in the face and admit failure. She might have been the most stubborn person I’d met since Lindsay Troy herself, but Graysie had nothing on me in that department.
Gladys delivered the coffee. Over the years she’d grown to understand that I did a fair amount of business right out there in the open, and so to not be surprised when strange people did strange things around me. She grimaced as she walked away, hobbling along back into the more air conditioned areas of the establishment.
I took a scalding sip. It was glorious.
Graysie did not. Her scowl persevered.
I sighed, folding the paper in front of me.
She interrupted again.
“Just… stop. I can’t…” she trailed off.
And then, just like that, it all made sense.
June 28, 2020
–The Parking Lot
“This could’ve been a phone call, Eric,” she spit, already red hot and looking for a fight. “The hell are you doing here? You’ve got no business up in Chicago.”
“Oh,” I hissed under my breath. “But I do.”
“What, training to be a creepy fuck? We couldn’t have met for a two-hundred dollar steak in air conditioning?”
She had no way of knowing that her shots, warranted though they may have been, were only making this easier on me. The longer she stood there all self-righteous with that scrunched up judgy look on her face and spitting hot fire at me like we were trying to sell tickets, the more I wanted to split her like a cantaloupe and see what was really on her mind.
“And where’s Graysie? Why wasn’t she the one texting me, huh?”
I let the pipe slide into view. It glints in the night and I could see the recognition start to register on her face.
“Oh,” she almost chuckled. “It’s like that?”
I returned the sneer.
“It’s like that.”
She shook her head, not so much in shock but disbelief. Not even in me, this is obviously the kind of thing I’d do. Nah, she couldn’t believe that she fell for it.
“Boy, did you pick the wrong fucking-”
She made a move. So did I.
Lindsay had always been fast, faster than a lot of people realize. She feigned a left and I dodged but then she lifted a knee to knock the pipe loose; if I didn’t have a death-grip on the thing it would’ve sailed out of my hand and then I’d have been fucked.
So I slapped her, and put my whole body behind it.
Before she could react, I kicked her right between the legs, lifted the pipe, and brought it down.
She fell like she’d been shot.
“I’m sorry, Ma.” I meant it. “I really am.”
She looked up at me from the ground, her skull sufficiently split and it was definitely oozing. I didn’t get her as good as I should have, otherwise she’d be out and there’d be more blood. Being the relentless type that she is, she reached up at me, snarling through the blood as it ran down her face.
“Bull…” Maybe I hit her harder than I thought. “…shit…”
This wouldn’t do.
Leaning down, I grabbed her by the right ankle and I stepped over. If we were inside the building, in the ring, it might have looked like a garden variety Single Leg Crab. We weren’t though, and I was legitimately trying to rip her fuckin’ leg off. I pulled backward with everything I had until I felt an audible pop. She gave a grunt on the ground beneath me, but the fight in her didn’t fade.
Only the ability.
I could sense the jamokes running before I saw them. An entire camera crew barreled toward me, I was half surprised that Blaire Moise or what’s his name, Brian something or another, wasn’t there with a microphone to shove in my fuckin’ face.
All of a sudden I was sick to my stomach.
I was done with it, all of it.
I had done the deed, I was ready to be paid.
Looking back on it, it’s amazing how wrong was about that.
Standing up I wanted nothing more than to get away from there. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to drink myself into oblivion and bury my head in a hole somewhere. I couldn’t, though, everything I’d done that night I’d done for a reason.
There was no turning back.
The camera jocks got there just in time to catch me squat down in front of the Queen of the Ring. I whispered one last thought to her as the medical types came rushing onto the scene too. I kind of wonder who tipped them all off so quickly, and then in the back of my head somewhere I kind of didn’t, because I already knew.
As in all aspects of HOW, as I have come to understand, the will of GOD had been executed on that night. With that knowledge comes this: Nothing happens in HOW without the blessing or the curse of Lee motherfuckin’ Best.
The quicker I let that sink in, the easier this whole thing would be.
So of course, I balked at every single step of the journey.
It’s getting closer now, Lindz.
Can you feel it?
The buzz in the air?
Electricity running from your fingertips down to the soles of your feet?
Probably not, you’ve been coming off like a soulless bitch for a few years now. Maybe none of this does anything for you. If not, that only solidifies the idea that maybe it’s time for you to hang it the fuck up. It occurs to me that your lack of passion likely stems from some subconscious connection to the rotted out husk of the cubic-zirconia encrusted turd that your career has evolved into.
That’s where we are now, Lindz, poop jokes.
Is it because I’m that derivative?
Maybe a little.
Is it because you’ve given me less reason to care about you leading into this than a stuck piece of meat gives me to buy floss. Sure, I’ll make it through, I own a toothbrush… but that floss… It sure is nice, ya know? So fresh and so clean.
So go on, Queen. Go shopping with your girlfriends or go fuck Mike on a wet blanket with his face printed three feet wide on it or go ask your sister why Dan Ryan probably killed her, I don’t give a fuck. Go find some washed up piece of shit that nobody’s ever heard of and let him teach you all the secrets to beating other washed up pieces of shit like Eric Dane.
You do you, Boo.
But if you didn’t know, all you had to do was ask.
Fuck, I’ve been telling you for half an hour now.
Just show up.
Give a quarter of a fuck.
Surely you’ll breeze through my broken down ass on pure talent, mean girl grit, and the vague notion that in the mid-2000’s you were hot shit in some Primetime bullshit or another. Just get here, act like you fuckin’ belong, got it? Do I need to send you a fuckin’ uber? Can you borrow Mike’s private jet or did he snort that up too? Is there not some kind of plane, trane, or automobile that can get your head out of your ass and deliver it to me in Chicago so I can take it off your shoulders again?
All poking and prodding aside, do yourself a favor. Wake the fuck up. Splash some cold water on your face. Brush your teeth, take a shit and a shower, do whatever the fuck it takes to get you up and at ‘em, and then come see me in Chicago this weekend. Mind you, I’m coming to town to make a statement out of you, and if you’re not ready for that I’m gonna put you in a coma instead.
If they ever let you out of the hospital, give me a call.
I’ll tell you everything. I’ll spill all the beans.
Or, and much more likely…
I might just ghost your ass, just like your boy toy and your husband before him.
August 09, 2020
-New Orleans, LA
–Cafe du Monde
“This was a bad idea.”
Graysie stood up, her coffee untouched, fully intent on leaving.
“Sit down,” I said. “I need to tell you something.”
As indignant as I ever was, she stone-walled me.
“Nah, I’m tired of listening to you and your bullshit.”
“Sit down, Graysie.”
That was me pleading. She wanted nothing to do with it.
“To hell with you, old man, I’m out.”
She turned away from me.
“Grayson Marie Parker.”
Yeah, I went there, full name and all. It was about to get real.
“Turn your ass around and sit it the fuck down.”
I’d never spoken to her that way before, with the whole dad voice and all. Sure, I’d yelled and I’d screamed and I’d berated her, I’d been a fucking taskmaster in the gym and in the ring. This was different, though. This was a demand. A line in the sand. I could feel her tense up.
Finally she turned around, stared holes into me, and sat herself back down.
“You’ve got two minutes. Don’t waste them.”
I couldn’t help but giggle, a full on gut-buster of a laugh.
“That’s what she said,” I managed to say through chuckles.
The look on her face reminded me that she had no idea what the fuck I was talking about and probably figured I was either trying to bait her into another fight or just being an absolute prick for no reason. I fought the laughter away the best I could.
“Eric, seriously. This is getting out of hand.”
I reached into a pocket to retrieve my phone. A couple of taps later and I handed it over to her. She read for a moment and scrunched her eyes together. I could read every single emotion in her eyes as she tried to put it all into something tangible.
“What…” she barely had the words. “What is this?”
I took back the phone, she cocked her entire head at me.
“It’s how I got Lindsay into that parking lot that night. First thing she told me was that I had two minutes and I’d better not waste them.”
In the throes of misunderstood confusion, she quipped back, “You sure took that to heart!”
I shrugged, that was one way of looking at it.
“But…” The gears were turning. “You told her it was about me?”
“You used me. As bait.”
I took a sip, the coffee had cooled so I killed it in one swallow.
“When lying to someone who knows that you’re a liar, the only path to success is to make it as real as possible. I had to lean on familiarity and that whole Mom aura she’s got about her. When setting a trap for someone who is noted at sniffing out traps, you’ve got to lean hard on the truth and have a lot of faith in your own charisma.”
She couldn’t understand why I was turning this into a lesson instead of just coming out with it. I had no way of telling her that it was just in my nature. I’d made a career of proving points and teaching lessons and old habits die hard.
“Why are you telling me all of this?”
“I need you to understand.”
“Everything. All of this. I’ve been keeping the truth from you because I thought it’d be too much for you. Turns out, keeping you in the dark has done entirely more harm than good and it has to end if I’m gonna be able to do this thing at No Remorse and ever be able to come back from it all.”
She stared back at me, trying to piece it all together.
“None of this has been about me-”
That got her attention back.
“I am so tired of-”
The look I gave her shut that shit all the way down.
“Goddammit, Graysie, what’s the first thing I told you the first night we were on the road? In that first locker room?”
“Keep my mouth shut, and my ears open.”
“Right. So shut the fuck up and pay attention.”
I could see her bristling. She was more and more like me with every passing day. Somewhere in the back of my mind I felt a little sorry for her about that.
“Busting her in the head with a pipe. Trying to tear her knee out of it’s socket. My contract. Probation. Every last bit of that was forced on me by a megalomaniacal motherfucker of a man who I just can’t wait for you to meet. His name is Lee Best, and a bird doesn’t fart in the Chicago sky without asking Lee for permission first. Nod your head if you understand.”
“I was retired kid. You know, you were there. I was even starting to like the idea of not having to kill myself once or twice a week to make a paycheck anymore! Twenty-five years is a long time, kid, all that piss and vinegar that you can’t wait to unleash on the world turns into bad knees and a fused neck and numbness in the fingers and insomnia real fuckin’ quick-like in this business if you’re not careful, and I’m trying to teach you how to be exactly that, careful!”
She nodded again, determined to let this play out.
“I didn’t go to Chicago and beg Lee for a job, kid. I went to Chicago and begged Lee for a job for you.”
Her eyebrow shot up. The look on her face told me she wanted to call bullshit again.
“I’ve burned more bridges in this business than most people come across, kid, and the landscape ain’t nearly as plentiful as it was in my time. There used to be two-dozen places where a kid like you could go to work and make a name. Anymore there’s two, maybe three, and none of them like me.
But I went.
And I begged.
And I pleaded.
I showed him tape of your matches.
Lee Best didn’t give a single shit about you, Graysie. All he cared about was watching me grovel at his feet, begging for scraps. So he made me a deal. Come back to work for him. Teach Lindsay Troy a lesson, maybe give her some of that good ol’ fashioned High Octane perspective. Along with that, I had to do the ninety-days to prove that Eric Dane had the defiance beaten out of him.”
The spark of recognition glimmered behind her pupils.
“Okay,” she said. “And for all that, what?”
“All of that was the price for your contract.”
There was a moment of silence.
I let her work her way through it.
“…I don’t have a contract.”
“Yeah, I know. My probation is up after No Remorse.”
It was her turn to nod.
“And Auntie Lindz is still alive and kicking.”
The look of confused understanding plastered across her face told me everything that I needed to know. Graysie Parker had just taken her first lesson in High Octane politics. I couldn’t tell if she was more surprised or disgusted, but what I could see behind her eyes in that moment was a fiery understanding.
The kind that breeds determination.
Now I just had to figure out how to channel that.