Let me reassure you, this isn’t professing a hidden crush. And I know you’re probably struggling in your head reading this, trying to match my accent to the words and wondering where the “yalls” and “aints” go. Maybe even surprised that I’m capable of actually writing. Hopefully you’re in the right mood to be capable of reading it.
Back in May was when you first told me in so many ways that I didn’t need to accept my role as simply the sidekick in the eGG Bandits. Bull by the horns, get in there with both hands, other phrases that stuck with me sitting out there with you. Truth be told, I heard you. But I didn’t really listen. I was still just happy to be a part of something. Riding the board behind the wake of a ski boat that was rocketing straight back to the glory that you, Doozer, and Bobby had achieved before and wanted again. I didn’t need to be the one carried off the field like Rudy. I was content doing the carrying and celebrating.
Though after War Games, there wasn’t anything to celebrate. Yet you were still the one there to keep mine and Bobby’s head held high despite all of it. You’ve always been there to motivate even in the shortcomings since I’ve been tagging along with you all.
Even when I couldn’t keep Bobby out of trouble, you were ready to pull us up. Sure, there was a little tough love behind it, and god knows I deserved it for letting you all down. But at least it came off like you actually cared, actually wanted to bring us together for the greater good.
Up until recently.
And I feel like I’m partially to blame for that.
There’s only so much weight that can be carried. I get it. And a taste sweeter than honeysuckle that’s followed by an uncooked turnip green probably doesn’t do much for morale. It’s frustrating to come crashing back down to Earth when you’ve been weightless for a spell. But once Rick and I failed to keep the tag titles against Darin and Brian, it started a chain reaction.
Maybe I am fully to blame for it. You told me to step up multiple times and I just didn’t do it. Excuses are many here, CJ. I wasn’t ready for the pressure. I didn’t have the experience to not let the big moment get in my head too much. Number of things I can probably claim, all of which could have been avoided if I’d just spoken up and told you that Zeb Martin wasn’t the man for this job. And that’s something I’m going to have to reconcile in my own head, probably for years to come.
But, I feel like I need to remind you of something.
It was all your idea in the first place.
You were the one insistent on enacting the Freebird rule, knowing exactly that we didn’t curry much in the way of favor of the folks that make the booking decisions around this place. Mr. Maurako made it pretty well clear that the Bandits were not within the line of vision that he had when he was charged to revitalize the tag team division. And although I assume a small part of Mr. Best might have enjoyed seeing Cecilworth’s reign come to an end, it definitely wasn’t in his cards to have the man who can’t even call him by his first name to be the one to do it.
We were already going to be in the crosshairs. Loudly proclaiming that we were all going to carry that gold as one only put bigger antlers on the buck. So why wouldn’t they put the two least experienced members together and call that bluff? I’m not college educated, but I think I have enough common sense to know that smart business decisions always win out over inflated ego.
Rick and I lost against the Hollywood Boyz. I’m here to shoulder that blame. But the eGG Bandits lost the tag team titles, and you need to accept some responsibility for it, too.
And a month or so ago? You would have.
Up until recently.
You made the decision to point the finger at every person who’s had your back, and you strutted into a steel cage like a peacock in heat confident in the fact that it didn’t matter that you’d burned all your bridges. That you’d just flap your wings and fly over the river. Only thing is, CJ, peacocks can stay up in the air for a little bit, but it’s not too long until their ass end weighs them down.
And you fell.
This time, though? There wasn’t a Bobby or a Doozer or a Zeb to blame.
Where I’m from, we don’t much care for the “stones in glass houses” analogy. It’s a little too Yankee for our liking. But god damned if you didn’t point a twelve gauge directly at a mirror and pull the trigger.
Anyway, I don’t know if you came looking for me last week. I had the night off. Spent the week back home. Made a new friend who’s in the same spot I am in this business, and gave me a real opportunity to take the time out to appreciate how far I’ve come so far. Not just here in Chicago, but getting older and a little wiser in general. The cracked shell that we’ve left on the kitchen floor, waiting on someone to come clean it up — that’s the first heartbreak I’ve ever had in professional wrestling. I’ve been sad about it, been replaying scenarios as to what I could have done differently to prevent it, been flat out angry, and then finally just came around to accepting it for what it is. And learning that while this was the first time an ally turned their back on me, it sure won’t be the last.
Then, I turned on High Octane TV that Saturday night. Apparently I’d gotten a little farther in the stages of loss than you have based on what I saw in the ring against Lindsay. I was about half and half on one of those little scales of justice when that match ended, but it didn’t last for too long. The selfish part of me that enjoyed the misery got flat out smothered by empathy.
You and I might not ever be sharing the hull of a bass boat again, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean I want to see you in this state. Letting the talent and fucking unbelievable charisma just go to waste in desperation, like you’d given up on searching for a lost hound dog.
It bothered me so much that I had to go back and look up who won between Mike and Scott a couple of days ago, because I’d plum forgotten. Well, that loss and what happened after that match.
I had to sit and watch from afar what played out before the show closed.
And I’m still processing it. Still trying to wrap my brain around exactly what’s going on here.
Doozer won’t answer my calls. Bobby’s echoing the same from him. I’m sure you haven’t had any better luck than us, either.
Something tells me we won’t figure out what’s actually going on until Rumble at the Rock.
But this is what I do know, CJ. That night after Refueled 39? You both walked out of that locker room.
But only one of you stayed behind.
I know in your own Maestro way, you stuck around that parking lot to try to hash things out the only way you knew how: strapping on a helmet of feces to proudly display your shit-headedness.
Fact is, I got a call from back home that threw me off guard, and combined with the added temper tantrum you’d already thrown that night, I wasn’t in any mood to listen to you.
That said, even though both of us have had a chance to cool down, I think you know full well that us sitting down man-to-man and hashing it out isn’t going to resolve our issues. First reason being that you know me well enough to understand that I’m not the best at talking on the fly, and everything I want to say to you would likely get lost in the gobbledigook. (Yes, I had to look up the right way to spell that.)
Second reason is that I know you well enough to know that I wouldn’t get a word in edgewise anyway. You haven’t been in the right headspace to listen to anything but your own rationale, and I can’t fully trust that you are back to normal yet. Hell, I’m rolling the dice in even thinking that this will get through to you. But if I don’t try, I’ll have to sit with that what if for the rest of my career. Rather know you crumpled up this paper than to have not gotten my feelings out on it at all.
Let this letter be my way of trying to repair this between us. You, me, Bobby. Quite frankly, after what the Best Alliance did to Bobby after our match and Doozer still finding some reason to get in their good graces, I trust you more than him right now.
I hope we can have a cold beer or five soon.
Her eyes drifted from the paper and down to Zeb, who had been waiting with anticipation for her critique. Mimicking the fold lines as best she could, Lindsay Troy handed the letter back to him.
“Won’t lie to you,” she comments, “but I feel the same way he probably will when he reads this.”
Zeb casts a quizzical glance back toward her. “Too mushy?”
“No, I was talking about the fact that it’s really hard to read this and make it sound like it’s coming from that accent of yours.”
He chuckles, shrugging his shoulders.
“Honestly, if this is what you really want, then I think it’s a classy move. You told him how you felt. For once,” she clarifies. “But is this really what you want? Or are you just clinging to this for fear of having no one else in your corner?”
“Not shore,” Zeb admits. “Like goin’ tuh Golden Corral. Cain’t decide.”
“I mean, if you’re going to use that analogy,” she jokes, “then I’d choose nothing. I think you really need to figure out exactly what’s holding you back. Then you’ll know what the right thing to do is.”
Zeb rises up to his feet, taking the folded letter and slipping it into the back pocket of his jeans.
“Think I’mma wait to see what happens Saturdee. If it ain’t feelin’ good after that, well…reckon I dun wasted a tree.”