I know there’s a lot of other fellers in this match, but I wanted ta start off addressin’ you. It’s been a long year Michael, a long, strange year. We’ve had some moments, haven’t we? ‘Member back when I was some dumb new guy who thought because he knocked Sektor out, he stood a chance in hell in an HOFC cage with Mike Best?
I remember that feller, things were different back then. This place… hadn’t infected me yet. Have ya ever sat back and really thought about how this place changes people? Our first encounter I was fightin’ ta be noticed, beggin’ fer a deal. Yer old man called me and asked me ta cut a little promo, just talk about anythin’ he said. So I sat in a field at the ranch and talked, I talked ‘bout an infection that High Octane had. A stinging sense of entitlement among its upper echelon. And I was determined to stamp it out. I was talkin’ ‘bout the ‘perception’ Michael. I was gonna end it once and for all. But… there’s always a but in these stories aren’t there?
Yer father called me back and made me an offer, and if I had known what that deal entailed I would have never accepted. Sure, I had heard the stories, sure my own trainer warned me about Lee Best. But I didn’t listen, I thought I was smarter than everyone else. Sure, Lee has more bodies at his feet than most criminal organizations but that wouldn’t happen ta me… Besides, Lee would never have asked me ta do somethin’ that wasn’t absolutely necessary, right? In the blink of an eye I’m on television at March To Glory beating a woman with a steel chair and screamin’ ‘bout equal rights.
That’s how fast I changed Michael, I got a small taste of the riches your father offers to his loyal servants and I turned into an absolute animal. I fought fer yer family Michael, I fought fer yer Pa like he was my own. I’d have killed fer yer family. I ruined Teddy Palmer’s relationship and career, I almost killed Lester Moregrimes.
I became something, something I wouldn’t be proud of, something I didn’t even recognize.
Now, to be fair, I have always had a predisposition to violence. It’s how I’ve always prefered ta solve my issues. But each week I pushed my personal comfort level just a little bit more. I let the uncomfortable become the new normal, why? Why would I do that Michael? I was as capable as any other man that has tried ta stand up ta The Best Family.
Sure, their winning percentage isn’t high, but I’m a believer. In my heart, I believe in myself, Michael. I should have believed in myself at that moment. I should have taken the deal and became a member of The Grapplers. I should have told Lee Best to stick that contract up his ass. I should have been fighting against injustice and tyranny. But because I was part of it, because I was part of the infliction, and a benefactor of the situation it created. I swept it all under the rug. When you put one skeleton in your closet, more are sure to follow.
And boy oh boy did they ever follow.
I did all of this Michael, this is my fault. I know that. I know that better than anyone else on the planet. My hubris, my confidence, my belief in myself to still be a good person after a year serving yer father, it was flawed. If your master is corrupt, you should rebel. I stayed the course like a good soldier. This carnage, all of this blood, all of this suffering I’ve caused? It’s on my hands.
But when you had Cecilworth Farthington attack me from behind with a piece of rebar. When you took aim with the knee that paved the way to glory through this era of High Octane and tried to cave my skull in. I had an epiphany Michael, I had a sudden realization. When I looked up into your crazed eyes, while you were imploring Farthington to break my arm.
I knew the look in your eyes all too well. It was the same look I saw when I looked in the mirror. We’re both clinging to something Michael, we’re holding on for dear life. I was trying to hold onto the ‘good ol boy’ part of myself, and you’re tryin’ ta hold onta the #97RED lady. So ya had Farthington break my arm, but why Michael? Why would you do that? Why would you break my arm? You’ve already beaten me twice this year, you’ve already conquered Clay Byrd. So why break my arm Michael? Did you see something you didn’t like?
Thank you for showing me how desperate I was to hold onto that part of me. Thank you for showing me what High Octane does to its most loyal servants. Thank you for having Cecilworth break my arm. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Las Vegas, Nevada
“Mother fucker…” Clay said as he stepped out of his black F150 into the Las Vegas sun. It wasn’t super hot outside, but by the expression on The Behemoth’s face he was talking about something he was looking at. The #97Red highlighted black Best Alliance t-shirt wasn’t going to cut it walking into this place. He opened the back door and rummaged through his bag with one arm, half of the bag was full of Best Alliance clothes.
“You had to start working fucking here…” The Monster from Plainview said as he angrily slammed the door to his truck in frustration. He’d been stealing the biggest size clearance t-shirts for months, but clearly nothing that wouldn’t alert someone. He sighed and looked up at the sign one more time to make sure he was reading it right.
TROY COMBAT SYSTEMS
“Son of a fucking bitch…” Clay mumbled under his breath as he approached the block building with the “NOW OPEN” banner hanging underneath the gym’s name in big blue letters. He adjusted his hat, and tried to scratch under the cast to get some relief. He’d only had it on for a week at this point, but it drove him insane. Everything about the situation infuriated him, and walking into this building was probably going to make it worse. He pushed the glass door open, and was at least relieved by the cool air inside the gym lobby. Every eye inside turned toward The Behemoth as he walked to the counter. A young woman was working feverishly there, every motion was a blur.
“I’ll be with you in a few minutes.” The Behemoth went to say something but the young woman interrupted once again.
“I’ll be with you shortly.”
Clay glanced at the second set of glass doors. He knew he could just walk through them, find the person he was looking for and have a conversation. But judging by this woman’s attitude, the police wouldn’t be far behind that second set of glass doors closing. The Behemoth backed off and slid himself into a lobby chair that was way too small for him. He kept his eyes open for anyone he recognized. As long as she didn’t come waltzing through into the lobby this might actually work. After what felt like an hour, The Behemoth sat some pointless wrestling magazine down and walked to the counter.
“I’m here lookin’ fer one of yer trainers Ma’am, if ya could give me a hand in findin’ him it would be a big help… Feller’s name is Claude,” Clay said as he approached the counter. The place reminded him of going to the DMV at this point.
“We don’t have any trainers here by that name…”
“Now, listen dahlin’. I saw his old Cadillac with the Texas plates outside before I walked in…” Clay responded. Perhaps someone had seen him at the counter and informed this young lady to not let him through the glass doors. Maybe they had a top ten people never to let in the building behind the counter somewhere…
“We have a janitor named Claude that drives a Cadillac… I could get him into the lobby for you?” the young lady said, Clay was shocked. Claude? A fucking janitor? He’d trained wrestlers for twenty years, he’d spent the last five years training on the ranch and running the ranch. He paused for a moment and collected himself. If Claude saw him through those glass doors the man would turn around screaming for the police to be called.
“Any chance I could sneak in and surprise him? He’s an old friend from back in the day…” Clay asked with the most possible charm he could muster. Which, besides his accent, the man had never been known for being Rico Suave. The young lady in front of him sighed and picked up the phone. Clay’s eyes narrowed onto the bank of cameras behind the desk, each one placed on a different part of the school. The camera in the lobby looked directly at The Behemoth.
“Yeah, hey sorry for bothering you… Yeah I know… I got some giant guy wearing a Best Alliance t-shirt and a cowboy hat out here…” Clay knew he was fucked. Absolutely fucked. He looked at the glass doors again, if they were locked he could throw the desk through them. But storming in there like a murder cowboy, like one of Lee Best’s hired thugs wasn’t going to get Claude to train him.
“They said you need to leave or they’re calling the cops…” The tone of the lady’s voice caused Clay’s hand to twitch. He could throw her through the doors instead… That would make quite the scene…
“Aight, well, have a nice day then,” Clay said, tipping his cowboy hat and giving a small wave to the camera. He walked back out into the Vegas sunlight. The Behemoth analyzed his surroundings, across the street was a small diner with a parking lot.
“Now I’m in a fucking stake out… I should have just tossed that bitch through the window,” Clay mumbled furiously as he wedged himself up into the cab of the Ford F150.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Clay had sat in the 50’s style diner for the better part of seven hours before the bar stool became so uncomfortable that he could hardly function. Nobody should ever drink that much black coffee, or eat that much diner food in a sitting. The last three hours he’d sat in the back cab of his truck, with his legs flung through the middle of the cab to the front seat to fully stretch out.
He could just barely see the front door of Troy Combat Systems and the gold Cadillac parked outside of it. He’d watched person after person walk out of the gym, and then watched car after car pull out of the parking lot. None of them had been Claude, and none of them had even walked near the gold Cadillac.
“He either fuckin’ lives there or it’s broke down,” Clay mumbled as he carefully pulled himself over the center console into the drivers seat of the truck. Just as he started the ignition he saw the lights shut off inside the gym. There was a critical time to approach someone when you have them between their car, especially to force them to confront you. You want to make sure they cannot flee to the vehicle and get away, and you want to make sure they are far enough away from where they came from that they cannot go back. You have to set a trap. Clay saw his target walk out of the gym and was able to slide into the gym parking lot, right between the man and his vehicle.
“Erin told me you showed up!” Claude shouted as he frantically reached through his pocket looking for his cellphone. His last encounter with The Behemoth hadn’t ended well for either of them. Clay had failed in challenging Sutler Reynolds-Kael for the World Heavyweight Title, he had also destroyed a young trainee and Claude had seen enough. The next day he was on his way out of there, and as far away from Clay Byrd as he could get. How do you get as far away from The Behemoth and High Octane Wrestling as possible? Working for Lindsay Troy had seemed like a good start.
“I’m calling the fucking cops!” Claude shouted as he felt an enormous hand on his shoulder. He hadn’t seen Clay come across the parking lot, The Behemoth had almost appeared out of nowhere.
“You can call the cops if ya want bud, I just want a few minutes ta have a conversation and that’s it,” Clay said while he rubbed the man’s collar bone for a moment before patting him on the back. Claude looked down at his phone, and at the enormous Monster from Plainview. He had 911 already dialed. All he had to press was the green call button.
“I ain’t here ta hurt ya, plus what are ya gonna tell ‘em? The one armed man is attacking you?” Clay said with a laugh and a smile. Claude looked at Clay with a smirk shaking his head. He knew he was going to regret this.
“So what’s up?” Claude sighed through the words as he slid his phone in his pocket. He stepped away from The Behemoth and walked over to the hood of his old Cadillac. He sat down on the hood, waiting for Clay to speak.
“I need someone to set up camp for me. I need someone ta help me get through this rehab on schedule, ta figure out a way ta keep my arm strength up while we’re on the run-in so I can get cleared as fast as possible…” Clay was interrupted before he could finish.
“Yeah that’s all great, but I’m a fucking janitor now because of you,” Clay went to talk but Claude put his hand up to stop him.
“You’ve shit on me for years, you buried my fucking career, and when it mattered most, when I told you I didn’t like the direction we were headed you shit all over me. When I did the one thing I could do in good conscience in the situation you put me in, you called me on the phone and told me you were going to fucking kill me. Then you burned down that fuckin ranch and everything we had ever worked on together,” Claude slammed his fist on the hood of Clay’s truck.
“I know and I…” Clay tried to say something but Claude just kept talking over him.
“And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it happen again Clay, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to work my way up here, and become a trainer once a spot opens up. I’ll be damned if I’m going to follow you into the fire for some bullshit reason. What, you think Lee Best is going to magically resurrect himself and save you at ICONIC because of your loyalty? So you can go back to doing terrible fucking things for him? I’m good, Clay… I’m REAL good on that…” Claude was almost shaking with anger. Clay took his Cowboy hat off his head and put it on the hood of the truck.
“I fucked up Claude… I ain’t been thinkin’ right, a lot has happened between us you’re right.” Clay paused for a moment to collect himself, it’s hard taking criticism, it’s hard to embrace it. It’s hard to admit you’re wrong.
“I was fuckin’ wrong Claude, and there ain’t no excuse that’s gonna make it right. I flew in like a fuckin’ pigeon and shit all over everything. I did that on my own, and I have ta accept it. I can’t change it though, it’s already happened. I understand that, all I can do is try to be something different… something better… I wanna do it yer way this time…” Clay said, letting the words trail off. He looked at his friend and at the diner across the street.
“Wanna grab somethin’ ta eat and talk ‘bout it? On me? And even if ya say no, that’s fine. I just miss havin’ ya ‘round.” Clay somberly picked his cowboy hat up off the hood of the truck and placed it back on his head, brushing the hair out of his eyes.
“We can get some food, just not over there where coffee tastes like battery acid…” Claude said and Clay smiled.
“Thank God, is that’s why my stomach is fuckin’ killin’ me?”
Oh, you thought because I said thank you I was done? I can’t be done, not now. Not yet. Not until I have what I want. See, what I wanted before Cecilworth broke my arm was to be called the best. And I knew there was one way to get it. I had to beat you Michael, I had to beat Michael Lee Best in the ring. I have to take the object of your infatuation from you, to destroy you I have to take everything.
I have to take the belt you’ve fought and won ten times, it’s the one thing that keeps you coming back. It’s your addiction, and I can respect that. I understand that. You’re obsessed with being the best, that’s why you’re so great. You build up that proverbial chip on your shoulder until you’re ready to burst. You stack the odds against yourself so high that it’s almost impossible for you to climb. Because you fucking live for it.
You’re our Tom Brady, our MJ, our Icon, hell you’re greater than an icon, Michael. You’re the greatest wrestler to ever grace High Octane Wrestling. You’re the greatest wrestler to ever grace our business in any promotion, in any universe, ever. Most of the people in the back don’t like you, or don’t like the way you got there. They despise ‘The Perception.’ But they respect you. They respect everything you’ve done. They are infatuated by your unconquerable drive, they are mesmerized by your skill, you are the GOAT. And you gladly wear that cross and all the negativity that comes with it.
You’re an unbelievable competitor Michael. I should know, you’ve beaten me twice. I’ve climbed the mountain twice and found you waiting for me, and with one swift knee, back down the side of the mountain I fell.
But I keep climbing back up.
I’m stubborn like that, I’ve been stubborn like that my entire life. I’m sure at some point during this you’ll call it stupid, I’m sure at some point during all of this you’ll make some prospector jokes and have a great time at my expense. And that’s fine Michael, because there’s nothing more that you can do to motivate me. I’m at my zenith. I’m at the height of my motivation. I’m sitting here with a cast on my arm frothing like a rabid dog trying to get into shape for Iconic.
You made me this way Michael. You did this to me.
You could have looked me in my little prospector eyes and laughed. Belittled me, smacked me in the face. We could have had an encounter right there on Refueled, and you could have tried to put me in my place by showing me how I didn’t deserve it. How beating the corpse of Jace Parker Davidson’s career didn’t justify the main event of Iconic. I might have believed you Michael. I might have fallen for the mind game. I might have sat here wondering if I was good enough, if I really belonged. I might have panicked and let you lead me down the path of whatever little dance recital you and Farthington were planning.
But instead, you made me this way. You showed me my flaws, laid them bare for the world to see on television. You broke my fucking arm Michael. Sure, Farthington might have been the gunman, sure he might have been the one that pulled the trigger. But you’re just as guilty, it was on your order.
Now I’m going to break both of you.
Michael, you’ve given me the greatest form of clarity. A lot of people talk about incredible feelings, unbelievable moments, providing them absolute clarity. There is nothin’ for a boy from West Texas like lightin’ the fires of revenge.
I’m going to mangle you and your best friend in the ring at Iconic, I’m going to tear through you like a polar bear. I’m not just going to prove to the world I’m better than Michael Lee Best, I’m going to show the world I’m better than Cecilworth Farthington. And I’m going to walk out of Iconic with that #97Red leather belt and watch the two of you chase after me, begging, and pleading to whatever GOD you can find for another shot at the title. And you can retire from singles competition if you want, you can say you’ll never compete for the world title again if you want. You can tell me the only person you’ll ever wrestle again is Cecilworth Farthington. you can make whatever claims you desire for this match.
We all know how these things work Michael, you’ve played them all out. You’ll come back for it. You always do. And my revenge will be that I’ll be the man standing there waiting for you.
To kick you back down the side of the fucking mountain.