Part of me wonders if this was a good idea.
Only time will tell.
Lingering doubts aside, with each stride I take my nerves double in strength.
Over the river, and through the woods, to HOW’s Graveyard I go.
Where the Beast roams.
YOU are why I’m here…
He who shall not be (last) named. And his big, beef-eating buffoon of a bodyguard.
The full moon illuminates the resting places of many talented wrestlers who built High Octane’s unrivaled history. I recognize a name here and there as I carefully choose my steps. I smirk, thinking about how Stevens could probably tell me all their records. The 97RED jumper I’m sporting shines in the twilight. A matching, drawstring sack hangs over my shoulder. Out of nowhere, the crunch of dead leaves right behind me sends all positive vibes out of my body in the blink of an eye. I freeze, then slowly turn my head to peer over my shoulder…
A mysterious fog suddenly envelops the ominous landscape around me. This wasn’t a good idea, but there’s no going back now.
I return my focus to the path ahead. A single bolt of lightning, accompanied by an instant and deafening crack of thunder, strikes a nearby tree and sets it ablaze. The bright flames reveal the silhouette of an unmistakable man in the distance.
I march forward like a one man army.
Perched upon a large, dead stump, the menacing mug of Chris Kostoff scowls down at me.
“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” The words boom down from the High Octane Hall of Famer, rivaling the thunder from moments before.
“Well, I ain’t dead.” I declare, looking up at the daunting figure above.
The Beast chuckles at my response in a way that makes my skin crawl. I expound, “I don’t care what I was, or what I become. I just want your help. I just want to beat the-”
Kostoff releases a frightening bellow, cutting me off mid sentence.
“You came to me?! For advice on how to beat Mike Best and Dan Ryan?” He snarls. “I didn’t think you were as dumb as your friends.”
I fail to contain the sneer that grows across my face.
“You didn’t let me finish.” I retort. “I just want to beat the ever loving shit out of them.”
Kostoff stands up straight. He cocks his head to the side. I can feel him staring into my soul. Scanning me. Studying me. Then he nods, and breaks the slightly awkward silence.
It’s not every day you get the up and down from a straight dude known for hospitalizing people.
“Did you bring the sacrifice?”
He grins. “Good… good. Over there.” The Beast points to a nearby altar.
As I approach the structure, I notice the thing’s made of bones. Not only that, but an equally as grim scale sits atop the bone altar. I take the sack from my shoulder and remove a wrapped up package. Rusted out and covered in cobwebs, I carefully place the offering on the scale. I eye the measurement like a hawk until it reaches the agreed upon weight.
“There. A pound of Bobby Dean’s beautiful flesh.” I state while wearing my best poker face. He doesn’t need to know it’s really a pound of fresh beef that may or may not have been intercepted on its way to Mr. Dan Ryan. I divert my focus back to The Beast and point up toward him. “Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Got it?”
Kostoff cracks a sadistic smile, then opens both arms and bows slightly in an inviting manner.
A fleeting feeling of nervous trepidation rushes through my veins as I step up on the stump with High Octane’s most feared talent.
I cut to the chase, “Alright, I held up my end. Now it’s your turn. Tell me your secrets.”
There’s that boisterous bellowing again. Honestly, it gives me the creeps way more than the graveyard in general.
“There are no secrets, fool.” Kostoff spits the words at me. I can’t help but feel overwhelming disappointment.
I shoot up a single eyebrow, furrowing the other. “What do you mean? You trolling me, Kostoff?” I twist my neck, while keeping eye contact, until it cracks. “Because I don’t take to-”
An open hand, from the Beast, raised in front of my face stops me from finishing the threat.
“All this time? All your experience failing? And you still haven’t figured it out, huh?” The insulting accusations from the Hall of Famer raise my blood pressure. “You’re never going to get what you want out of High Octane without cutting the bullshit, finding what makes you tick, and going all in.”
The Beast pauses a moment and sucks in his teeth.
“I thought you would’ve figured that out at the Lethal Lottery. It looked like you were finally starting to get it, at lea-”
“This is bullshit.” I lash out, turning my shoulder to Kostoff in lieu of leaving. “Thanks for noth-”
A strong hand grabs my shoulder. The Beast spins me back around, in place, like I was a little kid.
“Look, I hurt people.” His eyes grow distant, probably picturing some of his best work, as he grins. Within the blink of an eye, he snaps out of the daze and continues, “That’s what I do. That’s what motivates me. Not winning, not entertaining, just inflicting the most pain I can before the bell rings. And sometimes after.”
I squint with a screwed up face, trying to make sense of Kostoff and his rambling. Then he shoves a pointer finger into my chest so hard it sends me back a step.
“That’s not you, though. Even I know that.” He summons up some lung butter and hocks a loogie larger than Mandingo’s load. “You get your rub from the fans. When they get behind you… well, that’s when you go into YOUR Beast Mode.”
I push the pointed finger off my person and cackle sarcastically. “Easier said than done at High Octane, bub. Trust me, more than anyone, I wish every person in that seat was an Octabandit… but that’s just not-”
“That’s not the point!” He quips, interrupting me yet again. “Our fans aren’t loyal to a name. Don’t you see? Whether that name’s Mike, Max, Dan, Scott, GOD, HATE, whatever.” He shakes his head emphatically. “They just want a show. They want to see you out there, giving them everything you got. They don’t care if you’re the biggest prick in the world, or Ghandi reincarnated as an egg tossing idiot.”
He brings back that fucking pointer finger, poking me with each word to come…
“They. Want. Your. Best.”
Dramatic pause for obvious reasons.
“And. You. Haven’t. Given. It.”
I can feel my blue eyes electrify as my blood boils and my face turns lobster red.
“Fuck Winning. Fuck Losing. Fuck. Your. Revenge.” A sinister smile sprawls from ear to ear across The Beast’s maniacal face. “Give them your all… and they’ll give you what you so desperately need.”
I couldn’t find the strength to say the words aloud, but I knew Kostoff was right. I realized this plenty of times before, but lied to myself each time after about how to achieve it.
I tried ostracizing them.
I tried pandering to them.
I’ve tried everything I could think of…
Yet, I never considered laying it all out one the line and exposing myself for them. Like I did for Bobby when HATE tried taking him out again.
From here on, the High Octane faithful is my Bobby Dean.
From here on, they see what The Dooze is all about…
A ringtone, emanating from my backpack, ruins the moment. “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon is the guilty tune. Kostoff looks at me cross as I raise my pointer finger, requesting a moment.
I reach into my bag, pull out the cell, and answer.
“Sup, Dean?” A brief pause. “You want to do what?” I ask, a little caught off guard. “Do I even want to ask?” The answer was definitely a no. “Alright, fine.” It was easier than arguing, since I already got what I needed from The Beast. “Yeah, I’ll be right there, Bob.”
I end the call and look back up at Kostoff.
“I gotta go to the beach, I guess.”
The Beast scrunches up his scarred face.
“I don’t understand those idiot friends of yours.”
I smirk while thinking of my fellow Bandits.
“Me neither.” I audibly puff air out of my nose like a bull. “But they’re my idiots.”
With that, I extend an open hand to The Beast.
He stares at the offer, then reaches out with his own and grabs it. I give him a firm grip to show respect, something my dad taught me at a young age. He reciprocated, nearly breaking my hand.
“Time to give High Octane a show. Time to go to War.”
The Day After Refueled XVII
Welcome to One Bandit Way, AKA the eGG Den.
And to the grand master suite of the luxury Al Capone mansion in which the Bandits have set up shop. With all half-dozen eGGs on the card, they needed a place to congregate.
Little fun fact about the mansion, it was Brian Hollywood’s childhood home.
Well, that might’ve been a little white lie. The Hollywood’s would never lower themselves to living in a mansion. Oh, and it’s not even Capone’s. There’s also nothing really that grand, or suite about it. But is it a structure with windows… and at least one room large enough for all SIX active wrestling Bandits to gather?
That room, repurposed for today only, is their War Room.
You can tell by how it is.
The center of the room could almost be mistaken for a classroom. A large table stands, lined with chairs, in front of a white board. Around their perimeter, the walls are barely visible due to the cartons of eggs stacked from floor to ceiling. In one corner stands a fully loaded Crakken. Another corner features a treadmill. In the third, sits the famously fake fern Jiles so loves to keep around. Last, but not least, the fourth corner houses a Bobby Dean.
The Beautiful One’s dressed head to toe in baby blue sweats. A matching headband keeps his gorgeous, blond locks out of his eyes. His arms are crossed. He doesn’t look pleased.
Dean releases an aggravated huff, then raises his left arm and pulls back the sleeve. He checks his white gold Rolex and snarls, “What the shit? He’s never la-”
As if summoned by the almost-accusation, Doozer bursts through the doorway Kool-Aid Man style… you know, if the door was just a wall.
Bobby looks The Dooze up and down, giving the wrestling vet a thorough once over. He’s head to toe decked out in Army General garb. From the big, black boots with green pants tucked into them to the matching button-up shirt with various flag badges pinned on his chest and the helmet strapped to his head… The Dooze looks ready for War.
“How long was I in that coma? I didn’t realize it was Halloween, man.” Dean hopes out loud.
The eldest eGG Bandit lowers his head to inspect himself. After realizing nothing was untucked or out of place, he returns his focus to Bobby.
“What? Does this look like a joke to you?” Doozer’s scrunched eyebrows reinforce the sincerity of his question.
“Well just call me Seaman Dean, reporting for duty, sir!” Bobby, quick to adapt, shouts while offering a crisp salute to his General.
The look Doozer offers in return has Bobby suddenly wondering if he might be better off holding the jokes for later.
“Sit.” General Dooze orders.
Dean, understanding the gravity in his friend’s tone, complies. The General, not in any mood for insurance jokes, gets straight to business.
“As you hopefully know by now, we’re booked against Dan Ryan and Michael Lee Best.” As the words leave Doozer’s mouth, Bobby’s concern grows exponentially. He’s never heard his friend say Mike’s full name before. His relatively new full name, at least.
“First off, Robert, I need you to understand one thing.” The General raises his index finger. “Our loss to HATE has absolutely no bearing on this match.”
Bobby scoffs sarcastically and offers an eye roll that would invoke pride in his buddy Cancer Jiles. It evokes a glare from Doozer, however, but the General decides it’s best to no-sell beyond that.
“Look, they came out wanting to win more than we did. You know it. I know it. Hell, they NEEDED to win that match. We, on the other hand, didn’t bring our best.” The General points to Dean. “You were still getting the rust off. Plus, you were trying to fight like you were still over three hundred pounds. Doesn’t quite work when you don’t have the weight.” His pointer finger retracts as he extends his thumb and points it toward his chest. “And I couldn’t remember how to fight beside a skinny Dean.”
General Dooze waves both hands in front of him while shaking his head.
“But this isn’t a time for excuses.” He pauses for dramatic effect. “This is our time for payback.”
The words finally caught Dean’s attention. He leans forward, finally showing interest in his old friend’s diatribe. The General marches on.
“My due justice, long awaited, for losing one of my favorite rivals of over twenty years.” Doozer’s words seem to send Bob back into confusion. “You see, when Mike came to HOW… and became a Best… he killed my biggest, and most revered enemy. The only guy I considered a true equal in the squared circle. I never battled to the bone against Mike Best.” More head shaking. “No. I went to war a decade ago with a PLOW. And since I’ve been back in this hell hole, I’ve had to pretend that was the same guy we call GOD’s Son.”
The General spits off to his side in disgust.
“That weasel might’ve taken away an important part of my past… but it was nothing when he almost took your entire career.” Doozer’s blue eyes fire up. “And now he’s no better than MJ Flair. Just another member of the lucky sperm club.”
Dean can’t hide the grin growing from one side of his mouth. Doozer pretends he doesn’t notice.
“Now this Era of Tough Love, while it’s nice to see and all, doesn’t scratch the itch.” He pounds a closed fist into his other open hand. “It’s a step in the right direction, for sure… but this Saturday? I take it a whole new level.”
Bobby raises a hand. Doozer knows better. The hand slowly lowers
“No, Robert. No jokes. This is our War Games.” The General leans down, causing Dean to jump with a pounded fist on the table. “This is where we give Lee a reason to draft one of us to his team. Better yet, this is where we get our vengeance.”
And there’s Bob’s hand again, in the air.
Doozer relents, “What?”
“Just one thing, old friend.” Bob cautiously continues, “What’s the plan for the muscle? You know this isn’t a handicap match, right? Dan Ryan’s going to be there, too. And I mean, the REAL Dan Ryan. Not our cardboard friend.”
The General smiles. It gives Bob the shivers.
“Don’t worry about Dan Ryan. He’s mine, Bob.” Doozer begins to pace back and forth like an actual Army General. “That’s the best part about the plan I’m about to lay out in front of you, my friend. While I want nothing more than to face the man who stole my old enemy, and send him to the hospital like he did you… Well, let me just put it like this. Whether or not the ambulance shows up? That’ll be up to you.”
Bobby cocks his head.
The General elaborates, “You saw what I did to Rick Dickulous during our last match. I’ve still got the guns.” A quick flex. “I’ve seen enough of Dan Ryan to know what I’m up against. Every chance I get, you BEST believe I’ll put a hurt on Mike…” His eyes fade as he pictures ripping the ICON Champion apart.
Dean snaps his fingers to bring The Dooze back to reality.
“Thanks.” The General shakes the fantasy out of his mind’s eye. “But my main mission will be to incapacitate The Ego Buster. Whether we take the victory, or drop endless elbows, that decision will be entirely up to you. As it should be. My job will be to make sure you get the opportunity to choose.”
Bobby shoots a skeptical look at his fellow Bandit.
“I know.” Doozer feels the disbelief. “Easier said than done. But I’ve got a trick up my sleeve.”
A single, raised eyebrow is Dean’s way of asking for details.
The General shakes his head.
“I can’t tell you what exactly, but I’ve got a plan. Let’s just say… I may or may not’ve found Dan’s online account for Butcher Box dot com. I know when his next delivery of sirloins arrives. He orders them by the pound.”
Bobby looks more confused than ever.
A twinkle forms in Doozer’s eye.
“Just think The Last Dance. And pizza.”
A wink sends chills down Dean’s spine. Then The Beautiful Boy smiles, as he connects the dots.
“Your Best Plan yet, Dooze.”
The General nods, pride leaking out of every orafice.
“Correction, Mr. Dean. Because no matter the outcome of the match, in the end it’ll be…”
Doozer extends both arms to his sides, spreadeagle style.
“The Best Loss.”