The wrestling business is trash.
I’ve been pretty direct about that lately. Don’t give a fuck enough to pretend I feel any other way about it, this industry chews you up, spits you out, and forgets about you. We’re a disposable, renewable resource, and the guy at the top rakes in all the cash. No insurance, no paid time off, no benefits of any kind. At least you fucking Wal-Mart greeters have a retirement plan that doesn’t involve exploded knees, right? Not us– 90% of “retired” wrestlers are eating tuna out of the can in a shitty one bedroom apartment five years out of the game, and that’s the lucky ones. Half these guys who get back into the ring, time and time again, they aren’t doing it to chase glory. They aren’t doing it to relive the old days. They aren’t doing it for “one last run”.
They’re doing it because they HAVE to.
You think “homeless Silent Witness” was a fuckin’ gimmick? A High Octane Hall of Famer… a living LSD Legend… biggest hero I had in this business not named “Dan Ryan”, forced to get back into the ring and ruin his own legacy because if he didn’t, he’d have been sleeping in a tent for the rest of his life. I’m not exaggerating. Johnny O’Dell, practically living on the street. Eric Dane, signed the smallest HOW contract in history… literally what the referees made…. because he was legit living in a halfway house and didn’t have the luxury of saying no when Lee Best came a-knockin’.
Lee doesn’t give a fuck if you’re homeless.
He doesn’t give a fuck if you’re gonna eat tomorrow. He doesn’t give a fuck about you at all, and he’s no different than any other wrestling promoter out there either. OCW shut down with negative twelve seconds notice, because the owner was a shit drunk who made his money and got out. 4CW lost its smile and Perry Wallace disappeared into the ether with millions in unpaid funds to his roster. The entire wrestling industry is garbage, and if you don’t have the foresight to save your money, you’ll be living in slavery until your joints turn to sand.
But not me though.
I got money, don’t you worry about ME.
I could comfortably live for the rest of my life off what I’ve made just the last couple of years alone. Highest paid guy on the roster, and minus one burned down townhome, I don’t spend SHIT. Grew up poor, kept that mindset, and I’m a shrewd, penny pinching motherfucker– I took a zero dollar OCW contract that put ten years of escrow funds into paying for my travel, which means that those fuckin’ rubes will still be footing the bill for my trips on the HOW jet for eight more years. I tuck every dollar I make in HOW into a high interest bearing savings account, and live off the royalties I make every time some neckbeard dickhead buys something with the Group of Death logo on it. And shit, don’t even get me started on the sweetheart tax breaks I get out of SixTime Academy– no seriously, don’t get me started, because if this High Octane Pyramid Scheme ever falls down like a house of cards, we’re all fuckin’ going to jail.
What I’m getting at is that I don’t need any of this.
I don’t NEED to wrestle. I don’t NEED to put my body on the line.
So why do I do it?
Why do I subject myself to this trash business, filled with trash companies and trash promoters, doing all the work and seeing a pittance of the profits, when I could walk away now with these award winning knees intact? The short answer, if such a thing exists in my world, is that I don’t. I don’t stick with shitty companies. I don’t stick with shitty promoters. I don’t stick with the shitty wrestling industry.
I stick with HOW.
Yeah yeah, rah-rah GO HOW! Blah blah, this isn’t some fucking pep rally. It’s a shitty death match company, no matter how angry that sentiment makes my father. Used car salesmen don’t like to hear that they sell shit cars, but it doesn’t make it any less true. HOW is about as carny as it fucking gets, but there’s something about this place that no other company has ever measured up to. Something about HOW that makes everything mean a little more— something that makes that plastic Hall of Fame ring I got out of a quarter machine in Key West mean even less than the foam World Title I carried around for a year.
There are no handouts in HOW.
Period. Full stop. End of sentence. You earn your place on the roster. You earn your place in the title picture. You earn your way onto the poster for the pay-per-view. There is no “chosen one” around here, not even me. I’m the son of the fuckin’ boss, and it took me a full year to earn a shot at the HOW World Championship. Took me a full five years to make it into the Hall of Fame. Lee Best is the ONLY wrestling promoter who has never given me special treatment for being his son, and that’s why I stay. That’s why I’m still here. That’s why I’m so desperate to hold on to a piece of leather with a gold plate on the front of it that I sit on it like a dragon guarding his fortune, spitting fire at all those who dare to enter my fuckin’ cave.
Because I EARNED it here.
Maybe that’s why I was a little hard on Dan, the last time I spoke to all of you. It isn’t his fault that Lee spent the last year treating his ICON Title like a fucking EBT card. It isn’t his fault that Dad was so focused on helping the HOW World Championship recover from playing second fiddle that he accidentally threw the ICON under the bus. It isn’t his fault that it became established as the belt that guy number two wears, when he can’t when the big one. Dan Ryan just did what Dan Ryan does– he was scheduled to fight, and he fought.
And he won it twice.
You could do a lot worse than winning your first ICON Championship from the second greatest wrestler of the Refueled Era, Dan. You could do a lot worse than winning your second one by destroying a wrestling dynasty, too. It might not be your fault that you inherited a diminished title, but you can certainly help me make sure that it goes out with a bang. At ICONIC, there are only two outcomes– you either unseat a man who hasn’t been pinned, knocked out, or made to submit in over FOUR YEARS… or you end your second reign as ICON Champion to the same man who ended your first. The ONLY man who could end you. You don’t want a hand-me-down championship. You don’t want a free ride. You don’t want to have a wrestling match with me, Dan– you want war. You want to step into a battlefield, see red, and wonder whether that thing lying in your hands at the end of the match is a championship belt, or the bent, twisted framework of a man you used to call your friend.
Because this is how we like it, Dan.
Fuck the wrestling industry. Fuck the fans. Fuck the bullshit. The two most prestigious titles in wrestling, and one man earns them both, no matter the cost. And a cost WILL be paid, Dan Ryan. A cost MUST be paid, because this is HOW.
“He brings the kid and I’ll snap her fucking neck.”
The words drift out of a stone face as lightly as a summer breeze, as though he was speaking about what he’d had for lunch. While the words might not have felt off putting leaving his mouth, the denizens of normal people standing around the HOW World Champion don’t share his lack of a soul– casual, wanton threats of child murder tend to make heads turn at your local grocery store.
Carts are frozen around the express checkout, their wielders frozen in horror as Michael Lee Best stands in the center of the line with a basket in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Shoppers share awkward glances with one another, unsure how to react to the sociopath with the Group of Death mask over his mouth and nose.
Honestly, he loved the masks.
Unpopular as his opinion may be, COVID made it easier for him to go out in Chicago. No one was talking about it in HOW because CoCo was the big bummer of the year, and the idiot HOW fans were still coming out to the shows like a pandemic wasn’t murdering people by the day, but the truth is that it had made the life of Michael Lee Best better in almost every way. No more annoying mandatory appearances at shitty conventions. No more being hassled while he was taking a shit in a restaurant bathroom. No more looky loos at the gym. On top of it all, even the Group of Death mask on his face still made him all but invisible— we’ve been unconsciously identifying people by their mouths our whole lives.
He glances down into his shopping basket, quickly tallying up the number of items in his head. A couple of discount proteins. Three bags of rice. Seventeen Greek yogurts. His eyes glance up at the sign— 10 items or less.
Whatever, the yogurt is all one item.
“Nah.” Michael shakes his head, pulling the mask down off his face. “You didn’t fucking hear me wrong. Tell everyone. Tell Lee. Tell the ring crew. Tell the referees, and the commentators, and I’m gonna tell Dan himself. If that little Malibu Serial Killer Barbie cunt comes out to that ring and starts going all Harley Quinn, I’ll cut her head off her shoulders and stuff it in a fucking mailbox. Dan’s a smart guy. He knows I don’t make empty threats. Make sure he knows.”
He takes a big step forward, as the concerned mother in front of him drops her shopping basket and pulls her children away from the man currently threatening to murder children. He shrugs his shoulders, thankful for the small blessings in life as he begins plopping his items down on the counter one by one. The old woman directly behind him in line with her singular item– a gallon of milk– grumbles to herself as MIchael dumps all seventeen of the yogurts onto the conveyor belt, but what the fuck is she gonna say?
He’s threatening to murder children.
“How’s it going.” He grumbles to the cashier, more a statement than a question.
The cashier doesn’t bother to answer, and Michael doesn’t bother to make eye contact— the death of small talk was yet another COVID death gone unappreciated. The whole world has streamlined, HOTv numbers are up, and no one wants to ask about your day in line at the grocery store.
“Make. Sure.” he goes on, still prattling into his cell phone. “This is between me and Doggie Daddy, tell him that Augie Doggy stays home or I put her the fuck down. They don’t make a Hallmark card that says ‘Sorry I chair-fucked your daughter but hey I warned you’, so unless you want his little Zodiac Killer to start accompanying him to the ring via a FUCKING URN, I suggest you relay the FUCKING MESSAGE. In fact, if she shows up at ICONIC because you DIDN’T relay the message, I’m gonna hold you just a res–”
“Aren’t you Mike Best?”
He pulled down the mask.
“Shit.” he grumbles, closing his eyes in frustration. “I gotta go. VERBATIM, Brian.”
As he shoves the phone back into the pocket of his jeans, his eyes fall to the source of the voice– almost immediately, the annoyance leaves his face.
Well, at least what he can see of her. Since 2020 has us all dressed up like fucking beekeepers, most of what he can see is the piercing green of her eyes, framed perfectly by a playful ginger ponytail. He wouldn’t often find himself paying much attention to anything above a woman’s neck, but this is basically the Holy fucking Grail. An actual natural redhead. This is the dream. This is the fantasy. This is basically 90% of the porn he’s watched since Aceldama’s kid murdered his ex-girlfriend Riley a decade ago, which is a much longer story that he should mostly save for IKEA therapy. Can grief make a man horny?
Tune in next time to find out.
Almost instinctively, his posture straightens and the smirk grows over the corner of his lips. Full douchebag predator mode has been activated, as Michael Lee Best shifts from jilted child-murder afficianado into grocery store Don Juan.
“That’s me, love.” he shoots her a little one-shooter finger gun.
“As in, Michael Lee Best? The wrestler?”
Okay, that’s a little backhanded.
How many famous Michael Lee Best’s are there in the world? He’s obviously that Michael Lee Best. He tries to hide the instant irritation that he feels, however, because he’s mostly focused on whether or not he’s going to be able to have sex with this woman in the next thirty to forty five minutes.
“Yep, one in the same.” Michael nods. “What can I do for you, gorgeous?”
He stuffs his debit card into the reader, finally paying for the items that have been successfully cashed out now for nearing two minutes. The line behind him is growing restless, as he swipes the bag from the top of the conveyor belt and takes his receipt.
“The same Michael Lee Best who resides at 437 West 97th Street?”
He pulls his card out of the reader, letting out a sigh.
“Well, not anymore cause it burned down and I–” Michael stops, snapping his head upward as he processes the question. “Wait, what the fuck? Who the fuck are you?”
Reaching into her jacket, the woman produces a manila envelope from within and shoves it into his chest. He can’t see her face through the mask, but he can only assume that she’s smirking a mile fucking wide from beneath as she does it.
“Thank you, Mr. Best.” she shoots him back a finger gun in kind. “You’ve been served.”
In 2010, I made the biggest mistake of my life.
It wasn’t stabbing Bethany Sparrow in the face with a ballpoint pen to gain the approval of my sociopath father— that turned out pretty well, actually. It wasn’t driving around Europe with the rotting corpse of Bishop Steele in the trunk of my car like a weird Fisher Price Weekend at Bernie’s, either— that led to my first ever pay-per-view main event and actually kick started my whole career. It wasn’t even getting my ass handed to me in the Yard by the beast incarnate known as Kostoff— the wars I’d go on to have with that man would break records, hearts, and skulls, and I could never regret it a day in my life. Nope, the biggest mistake I ever made in my life didn’t take place in a wrestling ring— it took place in Las Vegas, Nevada.
That’s when I got married.
Tara Cherry. Could have married her for the name alone, to be honest. Not a stripper, not an escort, not an entertainer— that was her honest to God birth name. Still is, too, because I’m pretty sure she never actually filed to become a Best. I say PRETTY sure because I haven’t seen her in almost a decade to the day, and I’d honest to God forgotten that I married her until The Minister pulled her out of my old box of shitty decisions and tried to wave her in my face. I skipped out on the honeymoon to make it to ICONIC, won the Best Ladder Match to become HOW World Champion for the first time, and just… never went back.
Turns out, you can’t just… do… that.
Turns out that the state of California has some of the most stringent divorce laws in the country, and treats all property and assets obtained during the course of a marriage as community marital property. Turns out all that marital property gets divided equally between both partners, even during the course of a no-fault marriage. Turns out that you can do better than just a no-fault marriage when you can claim spousal neglect, emotional abuse, and prove that your husband has committed adultery on NATIONAL TELEVISION on more than a dozen occasions for the entire duration of your marriage.
TURNS OUT I MIGHT BE FUCKED, BOYS.
Ten fucking years, and not a word.
We get married after a three day bender in the city literally made for bad decisions, and this fucking dipshit bides her time and just waits. Thinks she’s entitled to half my shit and she only knows my middle name because it’s plastered across her television screen every week? So that she can get a fucking handout, because everybody is looking for a handout. Because everyone is looking for a shortcut to the top. Because no one wants to fucking earn anything anymore. The fuck did she do for the last ten years that should entitle her to half of an empire I created? Fuck, half of an eMpire I created, too, cause I own the copyrights to that. I own the… look, I own a lot of copyrights on a lot of shit. A lot of loopholes. A lot of revenue sources, okay?
I told you, I’m a shrewd motherfucker.
I’m driving a fucking 2009 Toyota because I didn’t want a car payment, and I own maybe three of the five most lucrative rights deals in the history of professional wrestling. This wasn’t an accident. She didn’t hit me when I was worth half of this a year ago. She didn’t hit me two years ago, when I was trying to figure out where my next paycheck was coming from. She bided her time like a fucking snake, and she doesn’t even have the balls to make a phone call first. Just sends the papers to the fucking courts so that they can send some little redhead cunt to hunt me down somewhere in Chicago?
Stupid fucking soulless ginger slut whore process server.
I hope she drowns in a bucket full of half-hard uncircumsized dicks. Who the fuck hits you with divorce papers at a goddamned Trader Joe’s? I’m just trying to buy some GODDAMNED YOGURT before one of the MOST IMPORTANT NIGHTS OF MY LIFE, STACY, why not hand me a manilla envelope with a FUCKING DEATH SENTENCE INSIDE OF IT? I bet you give lousy fucking head, Stacy. I bet you barely even put the whole head in your mouth, and then just stare back at whatever poor soul is charity banging you this week while you make that sad, half hearted jerking motion with your hand until one of you cries. I hope that nothing good ever happens to you for the rest of your life and then one night you get too drunk at a party and get fucked by seven guys who all blow loads into you and then your step sister calls you Maytag at Christmas and everyone laughs and you pretend to laugh too but really you go into the bathroom and call your sponsor because you’re having a “really rough time”.
Fall off that wagon, bitch.
Now you’ve been served too.
“Shitemoore and Fartharder.”
For the first time in history, Michael Lee Best hates the existence of those names just as much as his father does, as he reads them aloud from the top of a rather dapper looking cover letter. This wasn’t bad news— bad news was being served divorce papers two weeks before the biggest HOW show of the year. Bad news was the divorce being filed in the state of California, even though he was pretty sure Tara lived in Texas when they met. Bad news was the open and shut nature of the case in the first place. Shitemoore and Fartharder weren’t bad news.
They were the fucking apocalypse.
The vicious ace attorneys of Maximilian Wilhelm Kael were death and pestilence incarnate– the two most decorated soldiers in The Minister’s war on the legal world. These were the men that had secured a three percent royalty on Cayle Murray’s legal fucking name, because they convinced a civil jury that it was a breach of their client’s intellectual property. These were the men that had free Max Kael from murder charges twice using the concept of diplomatic immunity, which was literally a made up concept from a Lethal Weapon movie. These were the men who had successfully gotten Max the rights to print the phrase “Imperial Star Destroyer” from a very stubborn mouse who does not like when people abuse their fucking copyrights.
And now, they were his wife’s divorce attorneys.
“How fucked am I, Jack?” Michael slumps down into his chair, staring at the floor.
For the first time in the history of their relationship, Jack Adler, Esq. has no words. And it doesn’t appear to be limited to Jack– the small office holds a veritable buffet of questionable legal associates, and none of them want to be the first one to speak.One Eyed Brian, so called because he was recently maimed with a ballpoint pen by the Son of God, pretends to check e-mails on his phone. John Eric Peter Watson, famed HOW alumni and all around sketchy, brilliant attorney at law, gives Michael a little pat on the back and shakes his head. Even Jerry Barkin, the attorney who made his fucking bones famously freeing Lee Best from prison nearly a decade ago, doesn’t seem to have a lot of optimism to the table.
High Octane attorneys. Sketchy Saul Goodman types. Representatives from SixTime Academy. Seemingly every lawyer, paralegal, or vaguely Jewish sounding person that Michael Lee Best has ever met have been assembled together like some kind of super team answering the call of the Bat signal, and no one has the fucking answer.
“Come on, guys.” Michael stares blankly at the letterhead. “This list of demands is fucking ridiculous. There’s no way she’s gonna get all this, right?”
It’s all laid out there on the front page.
Behind the cover letter, dozens of pages are attached– it’s all legal mumbo jumbo that he can’t even begin to decipher, but Shitemoore and Fartharder had gone out of their way to make his misery clear as day: a list of items that Dr. Tara Cherry wanted out of the divorce, without negotiation, and a promise that the legal proceedings would not be settled until she got them.
“Half of the estate.” the Son of God reads down the page. “Alright, fine, we were married a decade, fair play. But SixTime Academy? She’s not getting half my fucking school. She’s not getting all these copyrights. How the fuck does she even know I OWN them?”
He asks, like he doesn’t already know.
These weren’t divorce attorneys with a knife to his throat, they were Max’s attorneys, with their boots on his balls. Tara hadn’t come after him for a divorce for ten years, and now Max has been gone for two months and he’s served with papers? This wasn’t about her, it wasn’t about her lawyers, and it wasn’t about a divorce. This was about the same thing that the last ten years of his life had always been about.
This was about Maximilian Kael.
“She doesn’t want half the school.” Adler sighs, speaking quietly. “She wants the whole thing, Mikey. Just… just keep reading, alright? This is bad.”
Half of the estate. Half of the net worth of the copyrights at current value, plus future royalties. The rights to SixTime Academy, including rights to operate. Half of all vested interest in any High Octane properties, including High Octane Television. His eyes scan down the page, his face white as a sheet the further down the letter he gets. But as his eyes settle at the bottom of the list, he doesn’t just go pale– he freezes in place.
The fifth ICON Championship.
“No.” he tries to swallow, but there’s no saliva left. “No, no fucking way. Zero percent chance. The fuck does she even want with it? She’s not getting–”
“Listen, kid.” Adler cuts him off, his voice sounding sad. “It’s shitty. It’s petty. It’s fuckin’ ridiculous. But there’s precedent. She’s arguing that allowing you to live your life for the last decade basically made you who you are. That a divorce might have changed your course and made you less successful. Literally she’s arguing that by leaving you alone, she made Mike Best, and should be entitled to anything that came of it. All those belts you kept are marital property, and she wants THAT one.”
He stares at the floor.
“Bullshit.” the World Champion leans back, crossing his arms. “You’re fired, Jack. Again. Get the fuck out of here.”
“Get it together, fuckhead.” Jack snaps, his tone drastically changing as he raises his voice. “You married some dumb broad you knew for three fuckin’ days, abandoned her on your honeymoon, and cheated on her on LIVE FUCKIN’ TELEVISION. If she tells a California judge that she wants to watch you get fucked by a bunch of truckers dressed up like Oompa Loompas, you’re gonna end up with yer fuckin’ chocolate factory stuffed full, so GROW THE FUCK UP and take this seriously.”
Ten years of saving.
Ten years of building an empire, just so that the ghost of his brother’s schizophrenia could fuck him out of half of it. He washes his hands over his face, rubbing his fingers into his temples as he tries to wake himself up from whatever bad dream he’s having. There has to be a way out of it, right? He’s Michael Lee Best– bad shit just kind of has a way of working out in the end. There’s no way that he’s scrimped and clawed and scraped for ten years, just to lose it all when he’s so close to retirement that he can smell it, right?
“Alright, look.” Michael softly nods his head. “Everybody just… take five, alright? Go grab coffee or something. I need to make some calls and just… think about this.”
He stands from the chair, and the attorneys follow suit– one by one, they make their way back out of the office, until only the Son of God stands alone. He stares at the cheap panelled walls, still holding out a little bit of hope that someone is about to shake him awake. The Best Family is known for a lot, but dealing with the consequences of their actions has never been one of them– there’s always someone to bail you out. Always a trump card up your sleeve. Always a nuclear option.
He reaches into his pocket, pulling out his cellphone as he heads for the speed dial. Taking a deep breath, Michael Lee Best presses a name on the screen and holds the phone up to his face– it rings through a couple of times, before the voice on the other end picks up.
“Elenore. It’s me. I’ve considered your offer…. let’s do it.”
It’s time for for the nuclear option.