May 12th, 2021
Los Angeles, California
KTLA 5 News Station
Coming out of Refueled 62, I was contacted by High Octane’s Media Relations Department, and offered the opportunity to appear on the local KTLA 5 broadcast to promote our upcoming show on the USS Octane and our final stretch towards War Games. Given my high profile contest with Clay Byrd, as well as the personal tear I’ve been on as of late, I gladly accepted the offer. And if I’m being honest, I was flattered I was their first choice.
I wasn’t told that, but it’s the narrative I’m choosing to believe.
I wasn’t given much in the way of instructions, other than being explicitly reminded that this wasn’t HOTV, so there were rules that needed to be followed. Specifically, it was stressed that this interview wasn’t an anything goes type of segment I’d grown accustomed to participating in the past year and a half. So in other words, I was tasked with watching my mouth.
The lead news anchor, Brock Thompson, had recently cut to commercial break, and as soon as that final word left his mouth, I wasn’t so much ushered onto set, but rather dragged to my seat to the right of the burly host. He offered the briefest of pleasantries before diving into the papers in front of him, whereas I sit, propped up like a mannequin on my stool. A young woman, who has introduced herself as Mia, is stroking my face with some sort of brush all the while giving me a complexion complex in the process. A ding alerts the production crew, and the accompanying vibrations atop the glass table I’m seated at perk their ears. My iPhone lays there on the smooth surface, the nearby production crew members glancing at it before staring at me with condemnation in their eyes.
Apparently I’ve already broken a sacred rule.
“You’re going to have to silence that immediately,” Mia chastises while I swat at her hands, trying to knock the brush free from her grasp.
“I kinda picked up on that,” I sarcastically reply.
I pick my phone up off the desk and click the switch on its left side, muting the device. The screen illuminates, and the text alert is from Larry. There’s no subject line, and below his name it simply reads ‘1 attachment’. I swipe the phone open out of curiosity, and quickly realize I should have left well enough alone.
The picture sent with the caption ‘my new profile pic’, is a selfie Larry took from our hike at Switzer Falls. He occupies the bottom left of the picture, with a look of confusion plastered across his face while pointing back at me in the background. There I lay flat on my back amongst nature, passed out on the dirt path, pitching a medium sized tent in the front of my nylon shorts.
“Fuckin’ prick…” I spit.
Another sacred rule has been broken.
“This is daytime television, watch your mouth,” Mia orders, taking a second to look at my screen. “Ha, I saw that earlier.”
“Sorry…” I begin sheepishly, before her comment sets in. “Wait, what?”
“Larry posted that on his Instagram account. Your brother is hilarious.”
“That…” I cough, mumbling non-daytime television expletives. “Since when does anyone know who Larry is?”
“Everyone knows who Larry is,” she finally concedes, holstering her tool of the trade. “He has like seventy-eight thousand followers.”
What the fuck?
I’m not afforded anymore follow up questions as Mia bolts from the set, joining the whirlwind of moving bodies behind the cameras. As I’m left to ponder how Larry grew a larger social media following then me, Brock stiffens up beside me, becoming the posterboy for professionalism. Looking ahead, I notice we’re being counted down by some dude in an obnoxious headset, ending with his finger pointed in our direction.
“This was not a requested introduction, but a necessary one,” Brock begins in the fakest of fake voices. “He is a one of High Octane Wrestling’s megastars, Teddy Palmer is here.”
Megastar. I’ll allow it.
“Thank you.” I reply, my first sentence a success.
“HOW has taken to the road, leaving Chicago behind the past few months, and has left behind a trail of mayhem. In the midst of all of it, you’ve been center stage, tearing through the competition placed in front of you. First off, congratulations.”
“Again, thank you.”
“Secondly, what do you attribute your success to?”
“It’s all in my mindset,” I tap on my temple. “There was this saying I heard when I was first breaking into the business that I’ve never forgotten: ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’ Our roster, top to bottom, possesses the most talented athletes in the world, and I consider myself lucky enough to have been blessed with that talent. It really is an even playing field, on paper. It’s the work ethic that divides us into categories.”
“Can you elaborate on that.”
“If you’re not willing to put the hours in, if you’re not willing to shed your blood, sweat and tears, if you’re not willing to outwork the guy standing next to you, you’ve already lost. It’s as simple as that.”
“That’s an excellent lesson for all our young viewers out there,” he excitedly shouts, pointing at the cameras. “Put the work in!”
“If you’re not willing to, don’t waste your time.”
“Now this week, you and the rest of your peers board the USS Octane, setting sail on the Pacific Ocean with Japan as your destination. But this won’t be your typical cruise, will it?”
“It most certainly will not,” I shake my head with a smirk. “We will be airing our next edition of Refueled Live from Lee Best’s private vessel.”
“And there have been some big time matches announced already. Cecilworth Farthington makes his anticipated return, competing in HOFC action. Xander Azula will challenge the king of that division, Champion Michael Lee Best in a highly anticipated rematch from the DeNucci Cup. And of course,” he places his hands out in front of him, looking my way. “You’ll be Main Eventing the evening, defending your LSD Championship against Clay Byrd, a man who’s been on quite the rampage in own right.”
“That he has. He’s been impressive from the moment he walked into this company.”
“Something’s going to have to give when the two of you collide. Someone’s momentum will come to a screeching halt,” he says matter of factly. “Give us your take: who outworks the other man.”
“Clay is a different breed. Those categories I spoke of, he’s in that upper tier. Not many men on this roster can brag that they concussed The Son of God, and took him to his limit. But Clay can. If it wasn’t for a knee out of desperation, you could argue it might very well have been Clay defending the HOFC Championship this weekend.”
“The man is as scary as they come,” Brock says, feeling the need to hear his voice.
“He established himself early as man not to be fuh-messed with,” I catch myself. “And has made it his mission to remove heads from shoulders. Darin Matthews, Lester Moregrimes and my 214 OG Zeb Martin have all become trophies for Clay to display at his ranch. If I’m not careful out there Saturday night…”
I reach behind my back and unclasp the strap to my LSD Championship. It releases from my waist, and I grab on the ridge of the center plate with both hands, pulling it up within view. I gently place it on the glass table top, making sure it’s facing the camera for every viewer at home to clearly see.
“This won’t be the only thing I lose,” I caution myself, leaning back on my stool. “That being said, back to your original question: Clay Byrd’s not going to outwork me. I’m not going to lose everything I’ve scratched and clawed for. I’m going to continue building steam heading into War Games. I’m going to continue sending my message to Lee Best until it finally sinks in.”
“And what would that message be?”
“That I ain’t the man to be fucked with.”
And just like that, you can hear a pin drop.
I was so close…
May 13th, 2021
Los Angeles, California
“I can’t believe that Larry is more popular than me,” I sigh, still hung up on Mia’s comment from yesterday.
Looking through his Instagram account, it’s littered with motivational quotes and pictures of his culinary creations. It’s total bullshit. First, all those quotes are plagiarized so he should have to take them down. Secondly, when the fuck did he become Chef Boyardee? Having had enough of torturing myself over his following, and my lack thereof, I toss my phone onto the green tiled bar top that highlights this quaint cafe’s conundrum of being stuck in the eighties.
“Oh, heaven forbid anyone should be more popular than you…”
“Hey, don’t get it twisted. I’m not jealous or anything like that. It’s just,” I stumble over my words defensively. “I just wanna know how? And when? Have I been living under a rock all this time?”
“No, you throw rocks, not live under them.” Lindsay’s quip is accompanied by a smile as she takes a sip of her coffee. “It’s OK to be a little envious, Ted. You’ve been the one in the spotlight and here Larry is, being remembered by the makeup girl as the funny one.”
How dare her.
“How dare you,” I gasp. “That had nothing to do with it at all. It could have been some regular joe blow stagehand and I’d have reacted the same way.”
“So, you are jealous of him…”
That smile again.
I try to mean mug her, but can’t quite sustain the look I’m going for. A slight smile begins to crack, and I shake my head. “Let’s just change the subject, alright?”
“Okay, if you insist.” She unravels her silverware from its napkin enclosure as our breakfasts are set in front of us. “Your interview segment went well.”
“You’ve got all the jokes today, don’t ya?”
Grabbing my recently discarded phone from the bartop, I unlock the device and begin swiping through the menu. A few finger taps deep into the phone icon brings me to my destination, and I turn the screen to show Lindsay what I’ve pulled up.
“You see that? Eleven missed phone calls and five unheard voicemails, all from a 312 area code,” I pull the phone away as she goes to swat it out of her face. “Surely that’s head office, and something tells me they ain’t calling to congratulate me on a job well done.”
“When did you start caring what the ‘head office’ has to say?”
She’s not wrong.
“Huh,” I ponder her response with squinted eyes. “I suppose I don’t. But that’s not the point.”
“Then what is the point?”
“I tried my best to remain professional, but I just couldn’t hold it together,” I slouch down, elbows resting on the greasy green tile, fists pressed underneath my chin. “Not even for five fuckin’ minutes.”
Lindsay chuckles, her hand reaching over to fall softly on my arm. “For four minutes and fifty seconds, you gave them what they wanted. And in the end, you were unapologetically yourself.”
I shift my head atop the knuckles it’s perched on, looking her way. “I suppose that’s one way I can look at it. What you see is what you get.”
“Besides, since when does HOW care about decorum anyway?” Lindsay reaches into her bag and produces her iPhone that had recently dinged, opening the screen to a text from Larry. Imbedded in the message is a YouTube link, which she clicks and the app is subsequently opened up.
“Look,” she continues, placing the device in front of me. “You’re just as popular as your brother.”
Looking down at the video entitled “HOW Superstar’s F-Bomb On Local News Channel”, her finger hovers over the view counter.
“Two hundred and sixty one thousand views,” I read while shaking my head before glancing over at the thumbs up icon. “And nearly half as many likes.”
“See? Are you cheered up a bit now?”
I won’t admit it, but yes. Yes I am.
You don’t want to call me Teddy? Ain’t hurtin’ my feelings Big Tex, it’s not for everybody. Funny thing about your little rant though is when shit got real in between the bedsheets, those ladies you alluded to were more likely to moan ‘Oh Ted’ than anything else, so the joke’s on you, fucker. What won’t be funny is when I make you moan it too, but through a clenched jaw and for VERY different reasons.
Listening to you ramble, I made like Sherlock and keenly observed your obsession with mentioning Ms. Troy. I can’t help but suspect that The Watson Mill Kid would have been proud of my investigatory skills. Anywho, it’s quite troubling that she earned more mentions than the combination of Ted, Teddy, Teddy Bear, Palmer or Sexton Hardon.
I should note that last one you never mentioned, but I’d be remiss not to mention the ladies have called me by that name too.
I’m gonna go ahead and give you a pass on that and offer up my forgiveness, because otherwise I’d be a dirty ol’ hypocrite. You see, I gotta admit something to you. When our pending fisticuffs was first announced, she too was the first thing that popped into my mind. More specifically, March To Glory and your big boy moment of beating her down and joining The Best Alliance. I’d be lying to you if I said that sequence hadn’t been stuck on repeat in my head until I had an awakening of sorts.
The single greatest thing in my personal life had the potential of becoming the downfall in my professional life, through no fault of her own. Not being able to separate Lindsay the wrestler from Lindsay my better half had started to divert my methods of approaching fights. My focus veered from strategizing opponents towards obsessing over moments and instances, and it began to create the perfect storm for disaster to strike.
It was leading to my world inside that ring turning inside out.
The more thought I gave it, the more I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t the only one having trouble separating the two. John Sektor made that error not once, not twice, but thrice. I’ve made him tap, I’ve had him down for the count, and now he’s currently chasing me while threatening to ‘take my woman’, clearly not having moved beyond the early two thousands. Jatt Starr wasn’t as much of a fucknut, only making that error twice, but he had to watch his entire world crumble before his eyes, losing both his Championships in the span of eight days. Hughie Freeman, you could argue, was the smarter of the three, having made that error only once. Unfortunately for The Taxman, it proved to be all that was needed to send his sorry ass back to ‘wherever he may roam’.
It seems that when it comes to The Best Alliance, history is doomed to repeat itself.
And you’re no different, Cowboy. You’ve gone and made the same fuckin’ mistake. You’ve spent more time focusing on her than the man you have to throw fists with. A very dangerous, motivated man you’re paying no mind to much like that warning label on your tobacco tins.
If you ain’t careful, that shit will kill you. I just might too.
Now of course you’ll go on and say what needs to be said, claim that it’s only about you and me standing across the ring from one another, but I’m not buying what you’re selling. Your physical skill set and tree trunk arms are the very obvious threats to my reign, but you’ve gone and decided to travel outside your lane. You’ve decided you want to try your hand at playing mind games. Fuck buddy, talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight. You want to push the narrative that I’m dead in the water without Lindsay by my side. That I have no chance in hell if she doesn’t lay my clothes out for me the morning of and put a love note in the lunch she packs for me.
That’s fine. Tell yourself what you want to hear. Maybe if you say it enough, it’ll come true. Maybe it’ll turn out differently for you than it did the others. Afterall, you ain’t Sektor, Starr or Freeman, are you? That much you’ve cautioned me, as if I couldn’t spot the obvious differences. You’re a different kinda inbreed. Wait, just ‘breed’, sorry. Well Hoss, I’m afraid that doesn’t mean fuck all. I don’t care about your past, present or future. I don’t care what you think your purpose around these parts are. I don’t care about your wants, needs and desires. None of it means a single, solitary fuck because there is one simple fact you’ve been neglecting to acknowledge this entire time:
You ain’t Teddy Palmer.
I’ve climbed too fuckin’ high to stumble and fall now. I’m not your mountain, and you will not climb me. I worked my ass off to blossom into one of the premier stars in this company, and it sure as hell didn’t happen overnight. I won’t be the launching pad for some late bloomer, so don’t count on a star being born this Saturday. War Games is on the horizon, and you’re just another hurdle in my travels. I’m walking into the Tokyo Dome with my head held high, a target on my back and this Championship around my waist.
Well I’m not so sure you’ll be walking at all come War Games.
And you’ll have served your purpose.