June 6th, 2021
Post – War Games
“Horseshoes and hand grenades,” I mumble, not necessarily in disappointment, but matter of factly.
I don’t even offer so much as a side glance to the employee who offered his congratulations at ‘how close I made it’. I don’t alter my path to avoid him, rather forcing our nearest shoulders to collide with one another, my weary legs continuing to stumble onward. The leather strap to my LSD Championship is clenched tightly by my rigid left hand’s fingers, the metal clasps on the other end scratching across the concrete floor. As my feet drag further away, what I’ve come to anticipate is heard softly in the distance.
Those fuckin’ murmurs.
“Why didn’t he save Ray?”
“He let greed get the better of him.”
“I would have never pegged him as a traitor.”
The most common trait shared amongst the masses began to rear its ugly head the moment I pushed my way through that black curtain into the bowels of the Tokyo Dome.
And they don’t see the fuckin’ irony of it. Not one bit. To my face, each and every one of them are building me up. They tell me I was a warrior out there. They remind me I took a path inside that structure no other man had been forced to take before. They excitedly ponder the what if, having almost pulled off the unthinkable.
But then the minute my staggering silhouette begins to fade in the distance….
Those fuckin’ murmurs.
Well fuck ‘em.
I don’t owe anyone an explanation for what I did in that cage. The only person I have to answer to is the man staring back at me in the mirror. The past three months the Two One Four has had one mission, and one mission alone: Make sure The Best Alliance doesn’t win at War Games.
And we did that.
I did that.
Sutler may have won the World Title, but the Two One Four won the War.
Eliminating John Sektor was The Best Alliance’s deathblow. Now, did Ray need to be sacrificed in the process? Speculate all the fuck you want. I knew at that moment whatever I did would forever be questioned. I also knew I had next to nothing left in my tank. My hand was forced, and I had a decision to make.
And I chose to finish what we started.
I chose to outsmart The Gold Standard.
I chose to be the ultimate team player.
My stamina is completely drained, and I’m bordering on complete dehydration as I’ve slumped against the white wall leading towards my locker room. With my free hand, I rake my fingers through my knotted damp hair, pulling it back from my eyes. Sliding along the wall for the final stretch, I eventually reach the blue door, jiggling the brass handle to pop it open. My pride forced me to make that walk, but beyond the threshold to privacy, I collapse to my hands and knees, my prized Championship fumbling towards the center of the room.
“Finally,” I exhale.
It takes a few moments to collect myself, but I crawl across the rough carpet towards the cypress panelled locker that’s home to my possessions. Tilting my head upwards, I notice a brown paper bag resting atop my wooden seat as I inch closer. It stands crisply without the slightest wrinkle, the overhead recessed light shining brightly down upon it. I pass the partition separating my stall from the next, and in doing so reveal behind said bag, the word ‘Coward’ spray painted vertically down the back rest. The letters are #97 Red, and streaks roll down the panelling like bloody tears of betrayal.
Grabbing the bag by its side, it crumples inward, blanketing the bottle within it. I clench my eyes closed tightly as I drop my ass to the floor, twisting to rest my back against the rounded edge of the seat. Reaching in, I grip onto the neck of the bottle, the liquid splashing against the interior. I’m slow to slide it out, not wanting to open my eyes, but fairly certain as to what is firmly in my possession.
With a deep breath in and wide open eyes, I say hello to a familiar friend.
Pressing my tongue deep into my bottom lip, I can feel my blood begin to boil. The air in my lungs is forcefully expelled, my tolerance escaping with it. I squint, staring at the black and white label, the amber liquid washing each way like some blond who’s come back to haunt me, expecting to welcome this reunion.
And it’s tempting. Fuck me, is it tempting…
With an exaggerated pullback and a launch that’s equal parts shoulder and waist, the bottle flies across the room. I watch it enroute to the wall with mixed feelings, its flight seemingly lasting an eternity before shattering upon impact. Glass shards rain down amongst the carpet as a light mist sprays back my way, the majority of No. 7 cascading down the wall.
“FUCK,” I bellow from the depths of my stomach.
Coward? Are you fuckin’ kidding me? This Secret Santa, be it Clay Byrd or Ray McAvay or Lee Best himself, can fuck right off. It’s not like I stood by idly during a public execution. I watched Ray tap out to a submission. For fuck sakes, John watched Jatt get decapitated. You can’t even begin to compare the two.
I retained the LSD Championship.
I helped win the Tag Team Championships.
I beat The Best Alliance.
Who? Teddy Fuckin’ Palmer! That’s who!
I did what I had to do.
Reaching forward, I claw my fingers against the wet carpet, soon hooking one of my digits behind one of the rounded clasps on the weathered strap. Pulling it my way, my Championship slides across the ground and I corral it onto my lap. With the back of my hand, I brush away bits of glass from the golden plate, wiping the alcohol off the eagle with the weight of the world on its wings. Placing my hands under the backside of the belt, I pull it tightly into my chest, never wanting to let go.
“I did what I had to do,” I say to myself, trying to convince the naysayers who aren’t listening.
June 17th, 2021
Liar’s Club Bar
“Deja-Fuckin’-Vu,” I shake my head with annoyance.
Five fuckin’ times. After Refueled 65, John Sektor and I will have locked horns inside a High Octane ring five times since Refueled 54. It’ll be the fourth match between the two of us as we jockey for more than just bragging rights, a Championship the apple of our eyes. Hell, I’m beginning to think you could make a legitimate claim that he and I have been cheating on Jatt and Lindsay with one another. We’ve built this explosive chemistry with one another that has torched the High Octane landscape, something this company has been desperately lacking in recent months.
Attached at the fuckin’ hip we are.
Do I like it?
Do I get it?
This company is in a transitional phase. The HOFC Division is on life support. Mike is its King, and nobody is stepping up to challenge his throne. We just finished a successful cycle of chemotherapy, killing the Cancerous tumour that was Jiles’ abysmal World Title reign. And our Gang Warfare has come to a brutal end, multiple High Octane careers perishing during the historic War.
But Teddy Palmer and John Sektor?
We are the constant.
We drive ticket sales. We put asses in seats. We’ve kept the Tag Team Championships out of retirement. It’s no coincidence we were opposing forces in that division more than any other duo since the New Year. We’ve given the fans a reason to tune in, week in and week out. We’re the two best technicians in that fuckin’ locker room. We’re universally disliked by the majority of our peers, but we’ve mastered our craft and that’s earned us their respect. Whether he’d admit it or not, it’s earned Lee’s respect. And we’ve begrudgingly earned one another’s respect.
It’s a real shame I hate the fuckin’ guy…
“Here you go,” the blue eyed waitress says with a warm smile.
She gently reaches over top of my shoulder, placing my glass atop the bronzed aluminum tabletop. Her long black nails seductively scrape along the outer surface of the glass, her pullback drawing my eyes to follow her movements. She places her hand on her hip, and stands close enough inside my bubble that it’s evident she’s fishing for more than a healthy tip.
“Thank you,” I smirk, flattered.
“Can I get you anything else?” her brows dance.
“If I think of anything, I know where to find you,” I wink, harmlessly flirting.
She takes off with a skip and a hop, heading back towards the rear entrance of the outdoor patio. Pulling the pack of Marlboro’s out of the breast pocket of my coffee toned leather jacket, I pinch one of the filters between my lips, removing it with ease. A quick flick of the wrist lights a match, and with a couple puffs in, the sweet relief of nicotine courses through my veins.
It only acts as a brief distraction from the drink I ordered out of instinct. The house whiskey chills on the rocks, condensation forming on the exterior of the glass. I’ve found myself here on a nightly basis, staring down past the rim of a glass into the liquid that hasn’t touched my lips in some fifteen months. I have yet to break, but I know that if this pattern continues on, it’s only a matter of time.
Was my life really that bad prior to quitting?
It’s a question I find myself pondering as of late. Much like I ponder the ever obvious what if. What if I saved Ray? Would the outcome have been the same? Would the three of us have survived?
The more I ask, the less I care.
I’m starting to think I’m no better than John Sektor. I’m starting to believe I’m The Gold Standard of this Era.
And that might not be such a terrible thing.
“Why didn’t Palmer save Ray?!” Joe Hoffman’s voice screams through my phone’s speaker.
Looking down at the screen with a smirk, it never gets old watching the wily veteran make his fatal mistake. John’s Cheshire grin directed at Ray as he’s rolled out of the ring by medics was the exact opening I needed to drive my knee into his temple. Dazing the Hall of Famer with that blindside blow opened the door for me to hoist him up and drop him on his head. Hortega drops down for the count, and the fans visible at ringside wear masks of shock on their faces.
“John Sektor has been eliminated by Teddy Palmer!” Bryan McVay announces, as I press the lock button on the side of my phone, disconnecting from the video.
Never. Gets. Old.
Slumping down into my chair, a cloud of smoke exits my mouth. Flicking the ash off the end of the cigarette, it flutters down towards the pavement. I find my right hand free and along the side of the cool glass, my index finger soon skirting around the rim hypnotically.
One drink wouldn’t hurt…
“Still enjoying that, huh?” an unfamiliar, husky voice asks.
My trance is broken, and I find myself searching for the owner of said voice. Turning around in my chair, a stocky man from the table directly behind mine stands up. His pursed lips and feigned chuckle carries a combative vibe, and he saunters over to my table. The fingers on both his hands curl into fists, and he digs his meaty knuckles into the aluminum top of my table, causing it to tilt his way.
“What would that be?” I ask, humouring the big man.
“Backstabbing your brother,” he’s blunt with his response.
“Is that what you saw?”
“Yeah, it is,” he nods, his eyes refusing to break contact. “You were a fuckin’ coward out there.”
There’s that word again…
“That’s a lofty accusation from some fat fuck whose opinion doesn’t matter,” I hold my glass up to salute him. “But thanks for sharing. As you were.”
He doesn’t depart to resume his meaningless activities at his own table. Rather, he slaps the whiskey I’d yet to sip from out of my hand, unprovoked might I add. Biting the inside of my lip, I nod, and can’t help but laugh at the brazen gesture from the stranger. I too decide to stand up, and find myself looking down at the bowling ball, owning a few inches on him in height.
“In our MC Club, we don’t…”
“Let me cut you off there, Mkay Chief? I couldn’t give two fucks what you and your butt fuck buddies don’t do. And guess what? I don’t give a shit what you do either,” I create a circle with my index finger and thumb, sliding my other index in and out repeatedly with enthusiastic vigor and a sarcastic smirk. “You do you. Live your best life, no matter how shitty or inconsequential that existence is. Me? I’ma live my best life, and do what’s best for me. Cool? Cool.”
He’s less than impressed with my insinuation and overall lack of interest in his opinion. He begins to suck air in through his nose, rattling it in the back of his throat. I cock my head to the side, and slightly roll my eyes.
“Don’t,” I hold up a pointer, hoping it conveys the seriousness behind my demand. “Just don’t. It won’t end well.”
The rattling gets louder, and his chest begins to inflate. His beady rodent-like eyes remain locked onto mine as if they were heat seeking missiles. His nostrils flare as they greedily hog the surrounding air.
“I’m serious. I will fuck you up.”
He obviously doesn’t believe me. His bottom lip curls in and his head pulls back. I notice his fists clenched shut and his back as stiff as a board. That rattling rolls atop his tongue, and with impressive velocity, his wad of spit fires like a speeding bullet, landing on my right cheek bone.
As the slimy blob hits my face, my calloused knuckles collide with the ridge of his nose, the force of the blow no doubt cracking it. His nostrils release a steady flow of blood. His eyes roll back into his head. His joints lock into place as he bends at the waist, falling backwards with the grace of an obese not-so-tough toughguy.
“I fuckin’ warned ya,” I shrug my shoulders before scraping the loogy off my face.
“Shouldn’t have done that,” another voice serenades my left ear.
Turning to the left, I have enough time to notice the tattooed fingers wrapped around the neck of a green beer bottle. I do not, however, have enough time to react to the downward swing screaming towards my face.
This is kinda like the end of War Games, eh?
I take down Sektor. Sutler takes me out.
“You have reached the voicemail box of ‘Ray McAvay’. At the tone, please record your message. When finished, hang up or press pound for more options.”
We’ve gotta address the elephant prancing around the Two One Four locker room. I want to apologize to you. I really do. And I wish I could. But I can’t.
I’m not sorry.
Not one bit. I’m not sorry for the decision I made. I’ve pondered what could have been had I acted differently. I think we all do that when it comes to anything in life. But the more thought I give it, the more confident I am in my decision. It was the only play I had left. I rolled the dice, and luckily it paid off.
For us, Ray. For us.
I got Sektor, and WE beat The Best Alliance. WE achieved our goal. When you came out of retirement to join the cause, you outlined your role with crystal clear clarity. You said you were here to mentor the Two One Four. You weren’t waltzing in to steal the spotlight from the next generation or trying to relive the glory of War Games past. And you, my friend, are a man of your word. You helped us more than words can possibly convey. You were that grizzled veteran we needed.
We learned from you. You cultivated our growth. We won with you.
So why would I apologize for any of that? Why is this even an issue that’s still being discussed almost two weeks after War Games? I don’t hear people bitching about Conor not making it to break up Sutler’s pin on me. And I made damn well sure to let him know after the fact that we were cool. Fuck, I don’t even know if this is an issue with you, or if it’s just everyone else running wild with this story, throwing fuel on the flames.
What I do know is you haven’t done anything to extinguish those flames.
Maybe you’ve been busy?
Tell me this though. Did I hold it against you when you and Conor lost mine and Lindsay’s Tag Team Championships? Not one fuckin’ bit, Ray. And it’s simple as to why. Oh so fuckin’ simple: They were our Tag Team Championships. What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. So yeah, Teddy Palmer eliminated the last member of The Best Alliance. But in the grand scheme? The Two One Four beat The Best Alliance.
In the end, did we feel like winners watching Sutler raise the World Championship and our brother Conor fall short? No, because we lost sight of what’s important. We won the team portion. The World Championship isn’t ours, but it ain’t theirs either.
You know what we do have though?
The LSD Championship. The Championship that was the undeniable, most prestigious prize heading into War Games. The World Championship had become a fashion accessory. My Championship though? I defended it almost weekly in some of the most brutal matches leading up to War Games. I walked into that cage with it, and I walked out with it, against all odds.
And I’m gonna pick up where I left off. I’m gonna put on a technical masterpiece with Sektor. I’m gonna lean into the barbaric nature that the LSD Championship breeds. I’m gonna have those styles clash like peanutbutter and fuckin’ jelly.
My reign as King of this division ain’t ending anytime soon.
For the Two One Four.
For you, Ray.
I’m gonna make you proud.