Monday, March 8; Evening
“…classes for my minor ended Friday. From now until graduation I have two projects due and two large research papers in lieu of final exams. I’ll be so glad when this is all over…”
Ami’s voice chirps, exhausted, through the iPad; the trials and tribulations of a college senior in a rigorous academic program is apparent in both her tone and on her face. Lindsay sits cross-legged on her beige sofa, cradling the tablet in her hands while watching her daughter blow her hair away from her eyes.
Several times a week, Lindsay and the twins have a Facetime call. With each one being in a different time zone and all having various priorities (school, training, traveling, wrestling), sometimes “several times a week” only ends up being texts in their group chat. Still, the three remain inseparable despite the distance and their schedules.
“Hang in there, kiddo,” Lindsay says, and offers up a reassuring smile. “You’ve got two months left until graduation.”
“I know. This quarter has felt like it’s dragged, though.”
“And your last one will fly by, just watch.”
“I hope so.” There’s some rustling as Ami adjusts her screen. “Kaz probably isn’t going to join us, is he?”
“I don’t think so. He said he was staying late at the gym and then going out with some of the guys after.”
Ami nods, secretly glad that her brother’s wrestling training will be keeping him away from their group call tonight. Not that she doesn’t want to talk to him, it’s not that at all, but she has something that she needs to get off her chest and she knows that he isn’t going to like it.
“I can always catch up with him after, but there’s something that’s been bothering me that I want to talk to you about, Mom, just you and I.”
“Hm, alright….” Lindsay purses her lips together, equal parts concerned and curious. “What’s going on?”
“Well, I was talking to Dad last week and he brought up your HOW match with Steve Solex…”
Instinctively, and momentarily forgetting that Ami can see her, Lindsay feels her brow furrowing and her eyes narrowing. Things with her and Tyler Rayne have been frosty for a year. The two remain separated, with him refusing to sign divorce papers in hopes that she will come around and want to work things out, and Lindsay having no interest in doing so. They only speak to each other when they need to regarding the kids, and any other matters are handled through the lawyers.
Kaz barely talks to Tyler anymore. He considered him his hero, and he hasn’t been able to let go of his anger towards his father for breaking up the family. Both Lindsay and Ami have asked – pleaded with – him to let go of his animosity, but Kaz won’t hear it. Ami, while still upset, has forgiven her father and still talks to him.
The way Ami starts off this part of the conversation, however, gives Lindsay pause. “Oh, he did?” she leads. “What did he say?”
“Well, I had said that he’s a real asshole and things got pretty brutal between the two of you at the last show.”
Not untrue. Even though the High Octane Faithful are firmly on Lindsay’s side, a Fans Bring the Weapons match is a recipe for utter chaos.
“Then he said he knew you two were going to have another violent match, and that you needed to be careful because you keep being put in those and you’re going to wind up really hurt.”
This is also not untrue. Lindsay bites her lip and nods her head, recognizing the accuracy of the statement, and also the utter passive aggressiveness behind it.
For years, well before they ever met, Tyler Rayne made his bones on the deathmatch scene in Japan. His body was a canvas for brutality, and he craved the violence of it all. He yearned to see both his blood and the blood of others mixed together on the mat, and there was no weapon he didn’t love, no scar made too deep. So for him, all of a sudden, to raise concern for Lindsay’s well-being, especially with their daughter is, to put it lightly, more than a little suspect.
Lindsay doesn’t raise this point with Ami. She simply files it away; a reminder for another time. Instead, she asks, “Are you afraid that I’m going to get really hurt, Ami?”
There’s a brief silence. Then, “Sometimes.”
The Queen of the Ring nods. Her face softens, a gentle smile sweeping across her lips and up to her eyes. “It’s okay for you to tell me. Nothing’s more important to me than how you feel and what you want. And I want you to know that if there ever comes a time that you don’t want me to do this anymore, I won’t. Alright?”
“All I want is for you and Kaz to be careful and come home every night,” Ami says. “That’s all. No matter who you face and what kind of match you’re in.”
“I do my absolute best to do that every single time I walk through the curtain, baby.” There’s an air of confidence in Lindsay’s statement, even though professional wrestling is an unpredictable beast and there are never any guarantees. “And I know your brother is going to do that too.”
Wednesday, March 10
New York Hardware and Locksmith
A “Fans Bring the Weapons” match may be a High Octane Wrestling first, but this is not the Queen of the Ring’s first time at this particular rodeo.
The last time she found herself two-stepping to this violent dance was over two decades ago. Lindsay wasn’t a rookie, but she was certainly a young, up-and-coming talent, fresh off stints in Mexico and Japan. Her star was on the rise, and the ownership body of the U.S.-based Extreme Wrestling Alliance was over the moon when she inked her name on the dotted line.
“The boys” of the EWA, not so much.
While the business of professional wrestling had long been considered an “old boys club,” it was women like Troy who were reshaping the narrative in the late nineties and early 2000s. When she returned to the U.S. from her overseas excursions, Lindsay yearned for competition that existed beyond the strict traditionalist boundaries that Mexico and Japan employed. Her time spent there was valuable, helping hone her already well-rounded and deadly fighting style, but she ultimately grew bored of running roughshod through women’s locker rooms.
She needed a new kind of competition.
EWA was more than willing to give that to her. At 6’3”, they loved her look and, since she would be the only woman in their locker room, she’d be afforded the opportunity to compete against men her own size – or bigger -, her own strength – or stronger -, and stand or fall on her own. No kid gloves, make or break time. And while many of the boys didn’t like this infiltration … a hen in their fox den, so to speak … they liked it even less when they couldn’t run her out of town, their wins against her weren’t guaranteed or as easy as they thought they’d be, and their losses hurt far, far worse.
It was during a swing through the Rocky Mountain states that the “Painslayer” Nick Nuke, the promotion’s Hardcore Champion, grabbed a mic and proceeded to dress down the Queen to a resounding chorus of boos and overpriced beer and butter-soaked popcorn thrown at his head. ”This ain’t the kind of place for the likes of her.” he’d said. ”EWA has a standard to uphold; we’re the toughest fuckin’ promotion in the world today and we’ve gone soft by allowing the so-called ‘fairer sex’ through our doors. And what, we’re going to disgrace our championship histories by giving her title shots? What if she wins?!”
By the time Nick got to the part about ”And if you sweatpants-wearing mouthbreathers think a woman should ever hold a man’s world title…” the Queen had heard enough. It was exactly the reaction he wanted out of her, anger to the point of a response, but not the challenge he was expecting.
As far as she was concerned, she was a breath of fresh air to the place. He didn’t have to like it, but acceptance is the first step toward change, and she’d be more than willing to help him along that path. The fans too, by the looks of it, so how about he puts up or shuts up. The two of them, for his belt, in a Fans Bring the Weapons match.
It was a bloodbath two weeks later in Denver. The weaponry brought in from the barbaric fans eager to see Nick get his comeuppance ranged from barbed wire baseball bats and brooms, to pepper and hairspray, to light tubes and nails and glass shards on 2x4s. Lindsay and Nick brawled all over the Pepsi Center; inside and outside the ring, through the crowd, up to the suites, across the concourse, and even outside. In the end, after she creamed him with a tire iron and Nick pummeled her with a loaded sock full of quarters, the two found themselves tumbling down some stairs and knocking themselves out…with Nick’s hand on Lindsay’s sternum for the three.
A disappointing ending to a hellacious fight. Even though she didn’t win the match or the belt, Lindsay did learn some valuable lessons in the end. One, never let some fuck get away with running his mouth. Two, learn to pick your spots. And three, always come prepared, and control your environment as much as you can.
Hence the hardware store, three days before March to Glory.
She landed in the Big Apple the previous night, and after a morning run through Central Park to get her cardio in, she ventured over to a local mom and pop hardware store to gather some weapons of war.
HOW’s first PPV of the new year looms like a dark cloud on the horizon, as does her impending battle with the Sergeant of the Best Alliance, Steve Solex. To the average New Yorker, or the elderly shop owner who greets her with a smile and a nod upon her entry, this is just another day in the big city; the thaw of winter finally giving way to the sunny, warm beginnings of spring, greenery bursting forth from the trees, flowers popping their colorful heads up through the ground…the promises of life once again beginning anew. But to Lindsay, this is a chance to start the year fresh and wipe away all the personal and professional disappointments of the previous one.
This is her first match back in a HOW ring after plummeting 30 feet off the scaffold at ICONIC. While it was a miracle that she didn’t suffer serious injuries from the fall, the fallout that occurred was far more prejudicial. Lee Best refused to book her, despite her being cleared to compete. Not only that, but he also denied Lindsay a rematch against Jatt Starr, opting to protect the Best Alliance’s golden calf and his newly-won prize.
The fires of conflict between the GOD of HOW and the Queen of the Ring continue to grow with each passing day. And since he opted to persist with his toying, and his needling, Lindsay took it upon herself to find someone else with which to pass the time.
The Best Alliance’s aggro-alpha male, recently bested by Joe Bergman, would do quite nicely.
The store’s shop dog, Juniper, a petite black and white cookie of a terrier mix, follows Lindsay dutifully through narrow aisles as she pulls supplies off the shelves and into store-branded tote bags. There are only a few other customers in the place, and the ones who are there pay her no mind as she weaves around them to collect her mish-mash of goodies. A spool of barbed wire, a hammer, packages of nails and tacks, a bottle of Gorilla glue, a cowbell (gotta have more cowbell), heavy duty yellow leather gloves, electrical tape and wiring, lightbulbs, batteries – both for industrial and every-day use, a box cutter, and other assorted items find their way into her sacks to be taken back to her hotel room and assembled into ammo for combat.
She’s no mechanical genius like her daughter. When Ami graduates college and makes her way into the world, she’s destined to do great things with the stellar education she’s received at MIT. And that could have been Lindsay, too, had she not decided to make her mark inside a squared circle instead of a boardroom.
What would her life have been like if she traded in spandex for a power suit, boots a couple times a week for heels Monday through Friday? Would she be as respected as she is feared? Vilified as she is lauded? Would she win Women in Business awards instead of championship belts?
There’s always a different path to take; another course to choose. Lindsay has sailed these choppy, boiling seas over half her life; she’s faced a hundred Nick Nukes, a hundred Steve Solexes…men who don’t think she belongs, never want her in their hallways, and refuse to acknowledge her talent. And while she doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore, she still derives immense pleasure in knocking them all down a peg. Or a flight of stairs.
She approaches the register and places her parcels on the counter while Juniper trots around the counter and lies down in her bed. The owner wanders over, places his glasses on his nose, and begins pulling items out of the tote bags.
“Find everything alright?”
“I did,” Lindsay replies, fishing out a credit card from her wallet.
“Gotta lot’ve random stuff in here.”
The Queen chuckles, the beginnings of a smile forming on her face. “Gotta lot of random needs for them this weekend.”
Her smile is returned, but before either can continue the conversation Lindsay’s Apple Watch lights up to indicate an incoming call. She peers down at the screen to see Clay’s name in large white font.
“I’m so sorry, I need to take this,” she tells the owner. “Here’s my card so you can ring everything up. And I’ll take the tote bags too.”
“Put everything back in the tote bags?”
“Yes, that’s fine, thanks.”
Lindsay steps out of line and walks to a front corner near the door and out of the way. “Hey, Clay, can I call you back in ten?”
“Where are you?”
She pauses and laughs, like she knows he knows where she is. “Uh, I’m in New York? High Octane show on Saturday?”
“I know that,” he says. It takes a couple seconds for Lindsay to hear the car horns honking in the background and to realize that her lawyer sounds agitated. “Where are you?”
“Hold on, I’m going to switch this to my phone.” She grabs her cell, taps the watch screen, and switches the call over. “I’m at a hardware store. 37th and Broadway. Wait, are you here?”
“I just landed, I’m in a cab on the way to your hotel. We need to talk right now.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Lindsay sees her bags being moved down the counter a bit and the store owner waving to get her attention. In his weathered hand he holds her credit card, the receipt and a pen, needing her signature to complete the transaction. She nods and holds up her finger. “Oh…kay. Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”
“It’s Tyler. He’s going to sign the divorce papers.”
For a moment, the world stops turning and Lindsay can’t muster any breath. The revelation is astounding, and Lindsay almost thinks that she’s misheard Clay. For Tyler to finally concede and agree to formally end their marriage is something that has felt like a long time coming.
The Queen inhales, deeply and bittersweetly, then releases the air slowly. “I…” she starts, shakes her head, and walks back toward the counter to sign for her purchases. “I don’t know what to say, Clay.”
“Don’t say anything yet.” There’s an unexpected edge to his voice. “There’s a catch.”
Lindsay tilts her head, confused, as she takes her credit card back in exchange for scribbling her name on the small white voucher. “What do you mean, there’s a catch?”
“If you want out, you need to give something up. And he wants you to give up the gym…”