”Together, they would watch everything that was so carefully planned collapse, and they would smile at the beauty of destruction.”
– Markus Zusak
THE SHOT HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD
March 16, 2023
The Law Offices of Vinson & Elkins, Chicago Branch
“Things are in motion regarding the restraining order.”
Bryan Loocke, the managing partner of Vinson & Elkins, LLP, sits behind a big executive desk in front of floor-to-ceiling windows. Downtown Chicago spreads out all around from one end of the view to the other. On the other side of the desk in a very large high-backed leather chair is Dan Ryan, fully dressed in business attire, the reflection from the sun gleaming off of his sunglasses.
Dan nods in response to his attorney’s comment.
Loocke looks down at the file on his desk, no emotion present, and produces two large packets of paperwork, each with several plastic flags designating a need for a signature.
“As you know, the divorce decree needs only your signature to make things final. Is that what you want to do?”
“No,” Dan responds sternly. “I intend to contest it.”
“Well, I’ve known you for many years. I thought that would be the case, so I took the liberty of drawing up the paperwork for that, too.” He pulls out another stack of papers, also with signature flags. “All I need is your signature on each of these pages. As for the restraining order, I should receive a hearing date any day now.”
“Good. You do understand the reasoning behind all of this, don’t you?”
Loocke smiles. “As I said, I’ve known you for many years.”
Dan looks forward through the attorney, his mind racing, his emotions barely held in check.
“She has no idea how to win a war like this. She’s never seen me backed into a corner. I have chosen to take so much, and let so many people say I deserve it. Eventually, she always goes too far, and now a lesson has to be learned. I’m a fighter, and I’m fighting back. Right or wrong. I’m nobody’s punching bag.”
Loocke smiles, then pushes the papers across the desk. Dan picks up the pen clipped onto the top and begins signing his name at each flag. He does this in silence, then pushes the documents back. The attorney stuffs them back in the large manila folder and places the folder back inside his briefcase, popped open next to him on the desk.
“I’ll have this filed immediately…”
He stands up, and Dan stands in response. Loocke walks around the desk and reaches out his hand to his much larger client, and Dan Ryan firmly grasps his hand and shakes it. Both men walk to the door of the office and step out into the outer office where a secretary is on the phone. She looks up at them only briefly, and the two men walk past her to the elevator down the hall.
Loocke smiles and drops his guard a bit.
“Let me know when you’re able to get back to Houston. We’ll catch a ball game.”
Dan smirks. “Thanks, Bryan. I appreciate all the work you’ve put into this.”
“Hey,” he replies. “That’s the job.”
Dan smiles and, as the elevator opens, steps inside. He watches his attorney walk away, then as the door to the elevator closes he looks down and chuckles to himself.
“Number one by whose definition….?”
I felt it.
Boy, it’s been a long time.
But it’s happening again.
A little over a week ago I had my first singles match since 2021. I didn’t ask for or demand a title shot. I don’t think Lee intended to give me one. That wasn’t the deal, after all. I was promised nothing. Keep your head down, work hard, and re-earn your place. That’s what he said. Be a killer. He also said that. That’s how you come back. You remember who you are. If you do that, the rest will come on its own.
But fate has other plans.
Story of my life… for some reason.
My whole life I’ve gotten away with things I shouldn’t have gotten away with. I’ve gotten away with saying things I shouldn’t have said. I’ve gotten away with doing things I shouldn’t have done.
The truth is, nothing about my life or my career has been fair, and I’m not talking about being fair to me. I’m talking about being fair to everyone else.
I’ve seen over the years the frustration of talented men and women who weren’t getting ahead while I excelled. I’ve seen people with their arms crossed over their chests as they internalize their lack of opportunity when I seem to snatch them up by the carload. Even when I finally face consequences for my actions, I get a chance to come back, not by my own doing, but by the actions and grace given by someone else. That has been the story of my life.
March to Glory was the latest example. It became a title match due to circumstance, and once again I was in the right place at the right time, ready to capitalize on ‘fate’.
Teaming with Jatt Starr… that’s another moment marked by fate. It’s not something I would have ever thought to pursue. But the Lethal Lottery does not give you what you want. It gives you, not what you need, but what fate requires. Jatt Starr is a Hall of Famer who is not shown the proper respect that a Hall of Famer should receive. I know I’ve spent a lifetime taking without giving back, so now… I’m gonna give a little. Before my time in this business is over, I will leave a legacy of building something substantial, not based on words, but based on action. That’s how I was raised. It’s just… I never really listened until now.
I plan on working to make this the best tag team that High Octane Wrestling has ever seen, and that’s a huge statement to make. There have been a lot of great teams in this company, and yet I want to surpass them all.
Ray McAvay, I want to speak to you directly.
I’m not giving any attention to those two tilt-a-whirl operators you call a ‘gang’. You’re the businessman. We speak the same language. You’re runnin’ all that shit, so you listen to me and listen good, alright?
First of all, let’s be entirely clear about one very specific point. If this match is happening in Paducah, Kentucky around a bunch of farmers and local union members and all of their cousin-wives, it’s because Lee Best agreed to it. Don’t try to paint this picture like you put your foot down and made demands. GOD owes you nothing, you understand? And you’re standing there in your little ring running your mouth for two reasons. One, because it costs him nothing, and two because he knows what’s about to happen.
I don’t know why you think you got one over on us because you’re forcing us to go to your home turf. And I’m not concerned that you hold house shows in tiny little locations with a couple of hundred people. Quite frankly, I’m a little surprised and relieved that you don’t hold shows in the hunting section of a Walmart.
And don’t think you can parade your entire tag team division out on HOTv and intimidate anyone. Where do you get all those idiots, anyway? When you need a new team, do you just take your spitoon, pour all the used chaw into a big wad on the floor, and then one at a time mold it together into a couple of rednecks to get a new duo like a big, inbred Zeus making his own Appalachian Wonder Women?
You know what this really is. This is a chance for you to pop the biggest gate in the history of your little regional company. But make sure you always remember that Jatt Starr and Dan Ryan could run through all of the guys in the ring with you the other night like they’re wet tissue paper. Right? Remember it.
You can say whatever you want to pump up that local crowd, but this isn’t gonna be a good night for you. It’s a coronation for the Final Alliance, and it’s the last time we’ll ever have to see the Alabama Gang on HOTv. You can head back to obscurity where you’re happy, where you belong. Fate doesn’t favor the weak.
Did you see what happened to Clay Byrd last week? Did you see Jace Parker Davidson? Xander Azula? Brian Hollywood? Darin Zion? How about Scott Stevens? Bobbinette Carey? Little Zach Kostoff?
Do you think your Alabama gang bang has a single solitary chance in hell of coming out of this better than any of them?
See, for a businessman, I think you haven’t fully wrapped your head around the realities of the situation. What happens, Raymond, if someone just… writes a check… scoops up all of your local advertising rights, maybe buys up a few arenas, and offers your ‘business partners’ all kinds of money to hand over the reins to someone who has an actual track record of running a large multinational wrestling corporation, someone who can do more for them than they’ve ever dreamed? Trust me, I can write a whole lot of zeros on a check, and they’ll take it. Trust me, they’ll take it. And you and your boys will be shoveling sheep shit back on the farm to pay for shoes.
I’m a helpful sort of fellow, Ray. So I just want you to keep all of these things in mind when you make your plans. If we want to put Missouri Valley Wrestling firmly and permanently into the past, we can make that happen. All you have to do is say the word.
We can have a match, and hey… may the best team win, but don’t get cute, man. Don’t get cute. It’s not gonna work out for ya.
I’m here to make a legacy through action, remember? You just better hope that doesn’t mean destroying yours.
The buzz of excitement is still palpable, even outside, as staff and crew start to file out of the building. Most are making their way to St. Louis immediately, some in chartered buses and others taking an Uber to the airport. Scott Stevens is probably taking the ‘red eye’.
A faint noise can be heard in the background, music from groups of fans tailgating after the show.
A long, black limousine is parked just by the main exit from the hallways where the locker rooms are, idling.
After a few moments, the door swings open, and the Mayor of Jattlantis, Hall of Famer Jatt Starr walks out, beads of sweat still present on his forehead, fresh off of making a statement alongside the rest of the Final Alliance. He glances at the limo but walks around it. Behind him, he hears a clicking sound. He turns and sees the rear window of the limo rolling down, followed by Dan Ryan peering out at him.
Jatt frowns but listens.
“Get in the car. We’re gonna go celebrate…”
The Starr of BattleStarr Jattlactica is taken aback slightly, not knowing what to make of this. But Dan looks happy enough, another thing in and of itself off-putting, but still, what’s the worst that could happen? So he approaches the car. Again Dan motions his head toward the car, kicks the door open, and scoots inside allowing Jatt room to sit.
Jatt approaches slowly and climbs inside. The car is absolutely decked out. A wine rack is on one side and a fully stocked refrigerator on the other, plush leather seats, 8K television, and best of all, cup holders. Dan gets up from his seat, crouching, and moves to the bench seat opposite of where Jatt is now sitting, and takes his sunglasses off, setting them on top of the HOTv title belt, now resting on the seat next to him.
Jatt looks around a bit and watches Dan as he turns and taps on the tinted glass behind him, signaling for the driver to get this show on the road.
For a moment he stares at Jatt, who is clearly untrusting, or at least unsure, and then finally smirks slightly.
“Okay look, I understand how you feel. I do. We have a… very checkered past, you and I…”
Jatt’s eyebrows go up and he nods as if to say “duh”.
“That’s on me. That’s entirely my fault. See, when someone goes after a friend of mine, sometimes my overly loyal instincts kick in and I need to destroy that person. And then, unfortunately, sometimes it turns out that friend is utterly and completely full of absolute crap. Thus was the case with Curly Sue.”
“Nevertheless, you and I were thrown into the situation as tag partners, as members of the Final Alliance, and it is my full intention to make sure we are as successful as we can possibly be. I know you don’t trust me yet, and that’s fair. But when the chips were down at March to Glory, when the moment came, you showed me how selfless you can be when you held Joe Bergman at bay and prevented him from stopping my pin on Captain Pinkeye. So what I want to say is… thank you. It didn’t go unnoticed.”
Jatt Starr seems genuinely surprised. “Really….”
Dan nods in the affirmative.
“I mean… really? I don’t know, man.”
Dan holds up a hand. “What can I do to prove my sincerity? Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted that I can make happen, something I can deliver on and show my dedication to this team before we go take those tag titles away from the gang bang.”
Jatt peers out the window wistfully. He thinks of a Spring meadow, then a small butterfly landing on a tiny branch. Then out of nowhere a giant eagle swoops down and rips it in half with its talons. What the hell? Jatt shakes his head and turns back to Dan, who’s still looking at him waiting for an answer. Suddenly, Jatt’s face lights up.
“As a matter of fact… there are some things I’ve always wanted…”
Dan sits back, smiling. “Hit me.”
Jatt is giddy as a schoolboy.
“Okay okay… here we go… What about… matching ugly sweaters…”
Dan cringes. “Oh no.”
“NO, NO WAIT! A hooker named Bunny O’Callahan!! She can be a furry, I don’t discriminate…”
Dan is regretting all of his choices in life. “This was a mistake…”
But Jatt Starr cannot be deterred.
“I know… a flux capacitor!! NO WAIT!… A pomeranian named Ruffles! OOH OOH!… Photos of Lindsay Troy naked!”
Dan scrunches up his face. “I absolutely promise you, I have none of those.”
“Not even just some side boob?”
Jatt doesn’t believe him. “I don’t believe you.”
Dan rolls his eyes.
“Believe what you want.”
Jatt looks up slightly, digging deeper into that beautiful mind of his.
“How about a Party Bus we can call the Jattmobile!?”
“OH! Name a USFL team after me! The Jattlantis Stars…”
Dan starts to reply, but Jatt interrupts.
“Oh… I’ve got it… “
Jatt seems so happy.
“You let me name our tag team! YES. That’s what I want! I want naming rights!”
Dan actually laughs a bit. “Okay, fine… You can name our team… I retain my right to veto though…”
Jatt mopey frowns.
“That’s not fair.”
Dan waves him off. “Just… tell me your ideas…”
Jatt rubs his hands together.
“Okay here goes… this is so exciting… here goes… so good…”
Dan sighs yet again as Jatt starts to rattle off names in rapid succession, pausing only long enough in between each suggestion to allow a comment from his partner on each one.
“The Fabulous Besty Boys!”
“Key and Peele.”
“That’s the worst one so far.”
“Is that a real show?”
“The Bull and Scones Society”
“National Awesome Dad Society… aka… THE NADS!”
“Yep, this was definitely a mistake.”
“The Anti-Fopdoodle League!”
“Is that a real word?”
“Big Puss, Little Puss.”
“That’s a Sopranos reference. Also, not a puss.”
“Okay okay… I’ve got it. Hold onto your butts…”
Jatt holds his hands out in front of his face like he’s unveiling the new iPhone.
“Here it is… ‘MIKE BEST AND CECILWORTH FARTHINGTON!’”
Dan just blinks. “I’m… pretty sure that’s already taken. Also, our names are not Mike Best or Cecilworth Farthington.”
“No no no…” Jatt shakes his head. “You don’t understand. That’s our TEAM name… so for example, when we are announced, BryBry McVayVay is all… ‘Introducing first, from Jattlantis… and from somewhere where they have lots of cows… Jatt Starr… Dan Ryan…. MIKE BEST AND CECILWORTH FARTHINGTON!!!”
Dan squints. “So which one of us is Mike Best.”
“Neither of us is Mike Best. It’s our TEAM NAME!”
Dan starts to get what Bobby Boucher’s momma would call ‘the brain pain’.
“Look, no… ok, forget it. Forget a team name for now. We’ll come up with that later. In the meantime… as I said, we need to celebrate…”
Dan thinks for a moment, then a big smile crosses his face.
“I know. We’ve got all week before we’re scheduled to be there for Chaos… I’ve got the best present for you of all…”
Jatt’s eyes go wide.
“Jatt my friend… before we go to St. Louis… or… Paducah…” He closes his eyes briefly, disgusted. “First… I had my guys pack all of your stuff in the back on the limo… we’re going straight to the airport and taking a little side trip… to Las Vegas…”
The Jattlantican is THRILLED.
“WHOOO!!! VEGAS BABY!!!”
Dan Ryan shakes his head but smiles as he watches Jatt look out the window to the road like a kid on his way to Disneyland.