This run is turning into quite the shitstorm.
It’s not that I didn’t expect complications – I came here because of a contract clause, forced to bend to the whims of a man most thought had a knife at my back – but Jesus Christ, these past few weeks.
I rolled into the Lethal Lottery hoping to pop Best or Kael and left having technically, uh, beaten myself to “win” a belt I already had. A mindfuck.
A bigger mindfuck is that I now have to share the strap with a dope who represents everything I had to live behind to move forward: Joey Beige, this milquetoast nerd who thinks currency in the bleachers means clout between the ropes.
And an even bigger mindfuck is the ghost from my past that showed up to really spoil the party right at the end. I’ve known Mario Maurako for 20 years, and never wanted to do anything but punch him in the throat. Can’t wait to see what he’s got planned for this division – my division. Truly, I’m sure it’ll be Perfectly Marvellous.
So. As you can imagine, I’m not in the best of moods right now. I’m not coming into Refueled full of the joys of spring.
That’s good news for anyone looking to get their head kicked in.
Flair, Flyer: you’re up.
Chicago, IL | 20 April
Never in his life did Andy expect to spend an evening in a grimy Chicago holding cell, but there he was.
While night was turning to day outside, The King of Wrestling was wallowing inside, staring at the same spot on the wall he’d been locked on for the past two hours. He was surrounded by filth. Third men, not one of whom had said a word once the giant Scot passed into their world, and each of them stuck in a different state of depravity.
One had hair longer, shaggier, and greyer than Andy, but maybe a tenth the number of teeth. Another stunk of cheap vodka and piss so strongly it stung the nostrils to sit even ten feet from the fucker, while the other was bald, moustachioed, and portly, and had rocked himself back and forth with worry until he’d finally fallen asleep.
Three scumbags, Andy approximated, and yet tonight they were on the exact same level as this national television star.
The cell itself was grim. There was no window for the day’s first strands of day to shine through and the room’s lighting was so sharp, so oppressive, that rest, for Murray, was an impossibility. Said light bounced off the pale blue walls but not the dirty, filth-encrusted bars containing Murray and the rest of the scum, while the cop that had booked him in sat a good few meters away, flipping through a notepad from behind the safety a desk. The man looked terribly pleased with his night’s work.
Andy? He was a furnace of venom and bile.
What would the dirtsheets say? Moreover, what would the actual papers write about him, the fallen wrestling hero bumping shoulders with junkies and petty criminals?
Would Lee Best even give a shit? Andy had no idea, but that was worse than not knowing.
Joe Bergman would shake his head and tut, but Murray figured he couldn’t lift a finger without that guy finding a way to get preachy anyway. Fuck it.
And Perfection, had checked his voicemail yet? It had been a couple hours since Andy used his one phone call on his 24K brother, yet there he was, still trapped between still and concrete.
The King leaned forward on the bench, pressing his thumb and fingers into his tired, greasy temples. His face was cloaked by trouble and anger as he cursed himself for the thousandth time that night.
Why did he let that piece of trash get under his skin?
Fuck the narrative of this match, by the way. Fuck it through the floorboards.
I can already hear the lines these two goofs are going to spew at us this week so let’s just debunk them before they get out of their goober mouths, eh?
People have been asking “but how are Murray and Bergman going to coexist?!” from the moment my music hit in the Lottery and they’ll keep doing it as long as we hold the belts, be that another couple days or a goddamn year. A fair question, sure, but one that ultimately doesn’t matter.
Because we beat one of the best tag teams on the planet in our first goddamn match together. Granted, the bout was 10 minutes of the Beige’d Crusader getting his arse kicked and 1 minute of me winning it for us, but still.
Besides, people have been asking this kind of question about Andy Murray for years, and here I am, man. Still at the top of the game. Still the best. Still the fuckin’ King.
“How is Andy Murray going to keep going past 40 when his body’s as fragile as fine China?”
“How is he going to get back into American wrestling with that non-compete looming?!”
“What hope does he have of surviving people like Lindsay Troy, Dan Ryan, and MJ Flair after so much time away from wrestling’s highest levels?!”
“How could Murray possibly coexist with scumbags like Perfection, Jesse Kendrix, and Mikey Unlikely?!”
And that’s just the past three months!
Consider those situations for a moment, then circle back to me and Bergman. If you’re not being intellectually dishonest with yourself, you’ll realise is about time you stopped questioning me, motherfucker – whoever you are.
So no, I don’t like this situation one bit, and I’d be a lot happier about it if I was rolling into Refueled with Witherhold by my side, but getting through shit like this is how you get to the top and stay there. It’s why I’m standing here right now, undefeated and in the form of my life, ready to rip MJ Flair and High Flyer’s hearts out and shove ‘em right back down their throats, man.
And yeah, the factors that brought us to this place are a little out of my control and god knows what Maurako has planned next, but all of you need to understand this one thing.
The High Octane Wrestling tag division is my world now.
I am not a product of this environment; this environment is a product of me. That’s the reality of it now, lads. There are only two directions for the rest of you to go now – sideways, or down – so accept your role as con artists or step forward and get left leaking on a stretcher.
I’d like to see the Dipshit Daughter and Cracked Jack to question me after that, huh?
Chicago, IL | Four Hours Prior
Andy Murray and James Witherhold were in no hurry to get back to their respective corners of California after the Lethal Lottery episode of Refueled.
The duo decided to stick around Chicago for a couple of extra days, drinking, training, and regrouping after a difficult night. Lord knows if Kendrix and Mikey Unlikely had flown west yet, but it didn’t matter. Those two were part of the night’s problems.
It wasn’t that The Hollywood Bruvs had effectively lost one of 24K’s Tag Team Championship belts; Andy was in that match, and Andy always fights to win. That was just shitty luck. With Witherhold taken out of the Lottery in the opener, the draw could have thrown out any other combination and everything would have been fine – the Bruvs would have taken care of it – but no. It was Murray, and Murray doesn’t lie down.
The match wasn’t the problem; the diva strop after it was.
Those two fuckers literally stood there bickering over who screwed up, who did this, who did that, and whose fault the whole deal was. They were pissing and bitching like the only reason why lost was because one of them “took their eye off the prize,” or whatever. Like the outcome had more to do with their shortcomings than the victors’ strengths.
All while Andy was sitting right there in the very same room.
These fucking guys. Unlikely and Kendrix: they still didn’t believe in Murray, yet he was the one still holding gold.
He was the one going 4-0 while they dropped the second straight L.
All this, plus Mario Maurako, plus holding a championship with his diametric opposite, meant Murray was still blowing off steam several days later.
He and Perfection had gone to the same bar three nights running. With its low ceilings, dim lighting, and blocked-out windows the basement spot was a dive, but a quiet dive. That was critical. Witherhold’s radiant affluence meant he stood out like a wolf in a flock of geese though Murray fit in well. The King of Wrestling had long since ditched flashy attire for t-shirts, jeans, and leather jackets, and a drunken, squinting patron may have even mistaken him for the scraggly-haired bartender if not for the size discrepancy.
They’d spent a couple hours talking shop, hashing it out, and figuring out what to do next. In truth, Perfection was there as a sounding board. 24K could coast through this. They both knew this, but Andy, who was already starting to feel like the group needed to start doing things his way, was more insistent they change.
And Perfection listened. Say what you will about James Witherhold, but he always does what’s best for his home team. Right now, that meant listening to a man who could offer a shitload more if he wasn’t stuck under Mikey Unlikely’s thumb.
Murray had beaten Mikey twice, yet this motherfucker still had him by the balls.
Andy unloaded for two solid hours but offered no complaints when Perfection sauntered off after nursing his way through a couple of drinks. He knew Witherhold’s vices had brought him to the brink of ruin in the past. Maybe Murray left his heart in DEFIANCE, but he and Jimmy had an understanding.
If only they were teaming against Flyer and Flair.
It took only a few moments of solitude before the bag of meat that had been eyeing the 24Kers all night from the other end of the bar piped up. “Shit, fellas, that’s that HOW guy, right?” he said to his buddies, making it loud enough for Murray to hear.
Andy half-expected this once Perfection split. It’s what happens when you’re in this profession: “tough guys” try to test you, like they’re proving something by stepping to a professional combat athlete.
Idiots, the lot of them, though how these interactions ended depended on Murray’s fuse and how long or short it was that night.
“Hey big guy,” the guy called directly at The King of Wrestling. “Where’d your buddy go?”
“Fuck off, pal.”
Andy looked down into what remained of his whisky, hoping his snap would dissuade this dude and his dumb, drunken bullshit. It didn’t. Emboldened, this chimney stack of a human being rose from his barstool. A few inches shorter than Andy but considerably wider, Murray assumed him some kind of college football type – one of those players whose role it is to tear around the field barging into people.
“Did you hear that, boys?” this bald, gargoyle-faced twentysomething asked his generic Rent-a-Meathead pals. “Washed up Andy Murr-Gray from High Octane Wrestling wants me to ‘fuck off’ from my ‘bar.’”
Hear that? That’s the sound of Andy’s internal cringe-o-meter breaking.
Catching this aggressor stomping towards him in his peripheral vision, Andy rose to his full 6’7”, necking what little fluid was left in the glass. The barman hadn’t interjected yet but clasped his fingers around the baseball bat he kept out of the patrons’ sight, just in case.
“Make me ‘fuck off,’ bitch,” this mutant said, planting his pointing finger in Andy’s chest. Murray’s face remained stoic.
“Hey, Jesse, hold on now–” started the man behind the bar. He was interrupted.
“Nah, nah, this TV tough guy doesn’t get to talk to me like that,” Jesse said.
These fucking idiots, Andy said internally. Maybe it was the booze compelling this guy to get in his face. Whatever the case, this wasn’t worth it. “Consider yourself lucky,” grunted Murray, pulling small bundle of twenties out of his wallet and tossing them on the bar. “Keep the rest,” he said to the bartender, turning for the exit.
Jesse roared some bravado at him but Andy didn’t listen, just kept his head down and got outside. The Windy City was living up to its name that night, blowing cold, piercing speaks of rain against his face, worsening an already foul mood. Fuck it, Murray thought, zipping his jacket for the first steps on the long way back to the hotel.
“Where you going, pussy?!” came the voice from behind. Andy recognised it immediately and turned around to see the good from the bar, arms outstretched, his two mates flanking him. “I guess it’s true what they say about you fuckers. Pretend tough guys! Stuntmen, not fighters!”
His buttons pushed and his face turning to thunder, Murray stormed back across and caught his tormentor by surprise, shoving him to the deck with both hands. “You fucking MORON!” he roared through the night, bearing teeth. “Stay down, ‘cause I won’t be the one paying your hospital bills.”
Decked, soaked, and emasculated in front of his friends, Jesse aimed a targeted upkick straight at Andy’s right knee – the one marked by the bulging brace beneath the jeans. Pain erupted up Murray’s leg as the man’s Adidas Superstar glanced across the right and something else took over as he leapt to the ground, landing a lunging elbow strike right on the mouth.
“Oh shit!” one of Jesse’s sidekicks yelped.
“Cops!”, said the other.
A siren blared and flashing blue lights illuminated the alley. Blood spurted from the felled jock’s mouth as Andy pulled away from his fallen body. Too late, though. His face was pressed against concrete and ‘cuffs were snapped around his wrists before he could even take stock.
Now he, not Jesse, was the “fucking moron.”
I’ll say one “nice” thing about Flyer and Flair, though: they present an interesting puzzle.
Granted, I solved the MJ-shaped side of that a few weeks ago, but not without a longer-than-expected stint in the medical bay. Thanks for that, cunt.
The thing about facing someone twice in such quick succession is what the hell do you do when you won the first time? You can’t just go out and fight the exact same way because your opponent will adjust, particularly when they’re learning under someone as sharp as Eli Flair. A winning strategy becomes a losing one when the winner gets complacent. At Refueled, I’ve got to figure out a different way to fight against MJ while she can look at the shortfalls, study them, learn from them, and try to make sure they don’t happen again.
If she’s even capable of that. I’m not so sure. Remember, she’s got two tasks occupying her this Saturday: trying to beat me and Bergman and serving as Jack Harmen’s carer.
Me? All I have to do is beat up a couple of gutless little arseholes who still haven’t taken a pound of flesh back from the Group that sentenced them to Death on the undercard. Seems to me Flyer and Flair are content with living in that shadow; seems to me they’re dead set on failing.
And you know… I used to roll with Jack Harmen. Matter of fact, we were both part of one of Lindsay Troy’s little harems in another life and another place, so I’m familiar with the guy. We’ve travelled a few roads together, shared locker-rooms here and there. The usual.
But I think where we are today speaks volumes of our differences in character. Me? I broke out of that subservient grind, man. I stood up and said “fuck second place.” I rediscovered what it meant to be the King.
Jack? Apparently he’s fine being the second guy on the fifth-best tag team in High Octane Wrestling.
He’s right when he says that he’s stronger by MJ’s side than going it alone, but that ain’t saying much. Harmen’s the kind of guy you can’t let walk around outside on his own anymore because he’ll probably walk headfirst into oncoming traffic. You’re cracked, Jack, and clinging to Baby Flair isn’t going to save your failing legacy.
Flattening the Tomato Can Express doesn’t make you fit for this uphill climb either. This isn’t your ball, Cinderella.
You’re on some fantasy shit, but you can’t fight in glass slippers.
Eli Flair ain’t no Fairy Godfather: he can’t get you to the ball.
You will walk into Refueled, you will face Andy Murray and Joe Bergman.
And you will find that the slipper doesn’t even fit anymore.
You’re a good team. Truly. If you weren’t, neither of you would be in this promotion. I truly believe that HOW is the pinnacle.
But I am the pinnacle of that pinnacle. And Joe? He was World Champion here, don’t forget. I don’t like the guy and frankly, I can’t stand the idea of even breathing the same air as him, but at least I know the guy can handle his business when the bell rings.
That’s more than I can say about you two deadbeats.
Hope you like the taste of knuckle meat, dickheads, because you’ll but sucking it through whatever remains of your teeth after we’re done.
Back In The Cell | 20 April
Andy’s clothes had tried and the pain in his leg had eased off in the hours spent in that holding cell. He was exhausted, spent, and utterly fed up, yet held aloft by spite and rage, waiting for the call to come.
Waiting for Jimmy to get him the hell out of there.
Waiting for 24K to bail him out of a shitty real-life situation.
It was around 6am before that call came. That sickly smug guard who Murray had spent much of his night ignoring walked up to the cage flanked by two burlier officers. Pulling the keys from his belt, he looked the Scot straight in the eye.
“Time to go,” he said, slotting a key into the lock. “Bail’s been posted.”
“Finally,” Andy Murray mumbled to himself, rising slowly. That old frame wasn’t the most flexible when sleep deprived and running on fumes.
Murray’s thoughts were elsewhere as the cops ran through what happen next. He couldn’t blame Perfection for not getting there earlier – he’d called in the middle of the night, after all – but goddamn if he wasn’t cranky.
A potential assault charge to add to the bonfire of bollocks he’d built over the past couple of weeks. A week-and-a-half before throwing down with Flair and Flyer, too.
Andy trudged through the station and took the to-go cup of coffee handed to him by his stablemate in the lobby. “Thanks, Ji–” he started, then snapped back to reality. “Uh, Mikey.”
“You look like dirt,” said Unlikely, throwing a mouthful of iced skinny Oreo frappedoodlewotzit down his throat. “I’d have got you a frappe but you’ve never seemed the type. Hey, did you know HOW has a machine now?!”
The first drip of espresso helped Andy judder back to life, though he still couldn’t make sense of the situation.
Stablemates they were, yes, but it was an allegiance of convenience.
The second mouthful of caffeine helped Murray think clearer. “How did you…?!” he started, but the words tailed off. “The hell are you doing here?”
“Bailing you out, obvs,” said the smaller man as they stepped out into the blinding morning light. Murray squinted as it burned his corneas. “Look, I spoke to Perf last night. Twice, in fact: once after you guys left the bar, then about an hour ago when he got your message.”
Andy’s thoughts immediately turned to the debt. “Guess you’ll be adding however much this cost you onto my arrears, then.”
“Nah,” Mikey answered immediately. “Don’t worry about that.”
“Kidding me?” Andy asked, his face warped with disbelief.
“Would I do such a thing?”
“Okay, I totally would,” Mikey conceded, half-smiling. “But not this time.”
“A genuine act of kindness from Mikey fucking Unlikely? Let me just call Satan and see what the weather’s like in hell.”
The first time maybe in recorded human history, the two shared an honest, genuine laugh.
“Look, this is what it is,” Unlikely said, momentarily dropping all semblances of Hollywood C-Lister guff. “I’ve come to realise a few things after the Lethal Lottery. Taking another fall, arguing with K-Biscuit… this won’t do, so let’s fix it, let’s get behind each other.” Mikey swung his arm back towards the station doors. “This is an olive branch.”
The King was sceptical, because of course he was. The man before him had spent the past few years dangling a guillotine over his career, yet there he stood. Whatever was driving Mikey Unlikely, he who’d dragged Murray back into the American wrestling mainstream seemed as genuine as Andy had ever known him.
He thought, at least. You can never be too sure with a Hollywood Bruv.
“What did Jimmy tell you?” Andy asked.
“Everything,” was the response. “Everything you guys spoke about.”
“Huh.” A few seconds passed before Murray continued. “So, this is it?”
“This is it.”
“You’re getting behind me?”
“I’m getting behind you… pause. Just, maybe don’t get arrested again?”
A simper stretched across Andy’s cragged features. He held out a fist for Mikey to bump. The Bruv did so, then struggled to pull it away.
“Not yet, man,” Andy shake, shaking the attempted gluefist off.
“Too soon. Ask me three months from now, when this whole goddamn promotion is lying at our feet.”
I’m glad Joe Bergman clapped back at me last week, truly. It showed he has backbone. It showed that as wet as his Bruce Springsteen shtick is, he’s got the fight in him. The fight you need to at least keep up with a man like me, you know what I mean? Jellyfish don’t survive in my world. You gotta have some spine.
Can I trust him not to fuck it up? I don’t know. Do I trust him to do everything in his power to ensure he doesn’t? I think so.
All I know for sure is that I’d rather have that big, dopy schmoozer in my corner than either of the gimps we’re facing.
Jack, MJ: come forth and get fucked up, then do me a favour and leave my division for good. This scene is passing you by, and one of you is only 20 years old. Think about that for a minute.
Fuck the legacy I left behind: this is my new one, and it’s built from the bones of hacks like you.