“My name is Andy Murray, I’m a compulsive gambler.”
Is what I might say if my kind of addiction could be cured through Gamblers Anonymous meetings or getting myself banned from casinos.
I’m hooked on a different kind of game – one that tumbling dice and flopping cards could never satiate. More importantly, I’m used to putting everything on a single hand, man.
Chances are if you’re listening to this, you are too, but not like me. We’re playing the same game with different stakes. I don’t care who you are – whether it’s Cecilworth Farthington or Dan Ryan, Black Mamba or Brian Hollywood – you’re playing with Monopoly money.
Me? I place bets that can’t be quantified.
Not because I have to, but because I have no choice.
Understand that none of you motherfuckers will ever know what it means to be Andy Murray on fight night. Nonetheless, if you’re even though to begin to fathom why I’m coming to win big – why I’m the last name anyone should want to draw in the Lethal Lottery – you gotta know the stakes I put up every single time I step up to the table.
Maybe then you’ll realise why I’m the only guy capable of striking the jackpot in the House of GOD this Saturday.
WAGER ONE: THE CORPOREAL
Two days removed from Refueled XXI and Andy Murray still felt like death.
The King of Wrestling awoke to a familiar pain shooting from his right knee. Barbs of white-hot agony pulsed through his body, rendering movement beyond his sweaty, angry pit impossible for at least a half-hour. It was a war he fought every day – and one he’d keep waging until the day he finally bit the bullet and had the damn thing replaced.
That would mean the end of his professional wrestling career. Such surgery would render him bedridden for weeks – months, even – and the journey towards even half his old range of motion would take the guts of a year. Perhaps he’d be able to walk, jog, and stay upright without the agony again, though it’d be replaced by a stiffness and rigidity that’d make professional combat impossible.
Besides, a plastic kneecap would paint a target a man like Mike Best or Dan Ryan would pop as soon as their crosshairs focused.
So surgery wasn’t an option. For now, all Andy could do was grunt, groan, complain, scoff a fistful of pills, and wait for it to subside enough for him to get on with his day.
A mouthful of last night’s lukewarm tap water washed down the drugs. Fuckin’ Flair, Andy thought to himself. The little shit had given him a tougher fight than he’d expected, unleashing a brutal, targeted assault on a joint she knew was held together only by spit and sawdust. That Figure Four around the ring post reintroduced him to a level of pain he hadn’t known in years.
One of HOW’s medical team hurriedly approached him after the bout. Murray was getting himself checked out, as he always did, when the doctor (whose name Andy didn’t catch) pointed out that maybe – just maybe – competing in something as unpredictable as Lethal Lottery wouldn’t be such a smart idea after Flair.
“You’ve got a week, sure,” said the bespectacled thirtysomething in a light accent The King of Wrestling couldn’t quite pinpoint, “but that was gruelling. I’d have you taken to the hospital if it were up to me. Plus, you essentially worked three times at March to Glory.”
Andy’s breaths were short and jagged as he pushed the ice pack against his leg. “Remind me, what’s on the line?”
That he sat there a sweaty, spent lump of humanity probably didn’t help the case he was readying to make.
“Shots at the ICON, LSD, and Tag Team Championships,” said the medic. They were speaking just minutes after Mike Best’s announcement had hit the airwaves and Murray hadn’t had a chance to catch the clip. “War Games spots too.”
Murray took a moment to steady his breathing and his heartbeat. The pain hadn’t yet overcome the adrenaline, though it soon would. “Shit,” he said, “and you expect me to step aside?”
“I would be wise for you to pull out, I think.”
“You’ve just told me the Tag belts are on the line.
“Mikey and Kendrix are up.”
Andy paused not because he was considering the doc’s advice, but because he was surprised the Freebird rule had kicked in so swiftly.
“You’re banged up, Andy.” The pleas continued and while the guy was just doing his job, all Murray wanted to do was spike his face into the wall. “You need a couple of weeks off. Get some rest, keep it elevated, and take it easy. Let’s not risk something more serious by stretching even further beyond your limits. I’m sure Lee will und–”
“Brother, listen,” Andy side, stifling a pained groan as he rose to his full 6’7”. He towered over the doctor and his dark brown curls and goofy white coat. “I’m on this road until the wheels fall off. Understand? I know what I’m risking, I know the gamble. What you need to know is that I’m way, way too deep in this game to stop – if it kills me or not. Besides, I think tonight proves I’m still the baddest guy in this game.”
Murray remembered thinking he was done. He patted the medic on the shoulder, turned, and head for the door, only to be stopped by a simple question. “What if you black out again?”
A momentary hex overcame Andy, replaced by a tight anger on his face and in his chest. He slammed the door behind him without looking back.
Cheeky little cunt, Andy thought as he reflected on the situation 48 hours on. Murray hadn’t suffered a blackout since his last GCW World Heavyweight Title run – and that was 2011. Still, it was a constant worry, and a black spot on his medical sheet that would never truly go away.
“Potential brain damage,” is what they told him at the time. That’s what he faced. That’s what forced him from the business a few short months later.
And yet here he was in 2020, still going to war. The knee, the head trauma: he carried them and their worries – their risks – to the ring every single time, knowing there was a chance each new fight could be his last. A slim chance, but still a chance.
The pain in his leg had finally subsided enough for Andy to move. His bones cracked and muscles tensed as he rose, running his tongue back and forth over the loose tooth he’d forgotten about after going to bed. Thanks, MJ.
Murray made a mental note to call the dentist (and Witherhold’s pill guy) as he shambled towards the bathroom.
I walk into every new battle knowing I may not walk out.
It used to terrify me. Maybe it still should, I don’t know. All I can say is that the war I fight with myself every day as is great as any that you fuckheads could possibly bring to me in the ring and sometimes, I fall. I don’t get back up. Sometimes I lose those battles, but here I fuckin’ am, man. Still standing, still swinging, still an animal.
That’s why I go straight for the throat now. That’s why I’m with 24K.
Night one we dropped the biggest bomb this place has seen in years. Fast-forward a few weeks and Lindsay Troy, Dan Ryan, MJ Flair, Cancer Jiles, even the Hollywood Bruvs… all their heads are trophies on my wall, and they’ll stay there because I don’t have the luxury of time.
Which is why I’m about ready to skin that rat bastard Mike Best alive right now.
It’s because of this yappy little dog – this dried fleck of shit who got dropped right on his head the first night we showed up – that I can’t hunt the biggest game in the Lethal Lottery. The highest risks demand the highest rewards and motherfucker, you’ve taken that away from me. You’d best believe I’ll be praying we draw each other in this thing.
Fuck your appreciation month if it means I can’t batter Farthington and snatch his World Title.
But no belt embodies High Octane Wrestling like the ICON Championship, I’m told, and no man embodies that belt like Mike. All the more reason to take this smug prick out, I say – and if the dice don’t fall that way I’ll gladly part Max Kael and his LSD strap instead. I’ll smack King Jong Cunto so hard he’ll start seeing out his goofy eye again.
Maybe this used to be the House of GOD, but not anymore. Ask Dan and Lindsay about me, lads. Ask them what happens when you step to the King.
Shit, maybe you already have. It’d certainly go some way to explaining why neither of you bitches has even fought about striking back since we put you in the ground.
But yours aren’t the only titles on the line in this Lottery. The Tag Team Championships complicate matters.
Look, I have the utmost faith that Mikey Unlikely and Jesse Kendrix can get the job done. They’re pieces of shit, but they’re my kind of pieces of shit, and the only time I’d consider betting against them is if they’re facing Jimmy and me. Doesn’t matter if they end up facing Zeb Mulkey and Scott Woodson, or Kostoff and Redding – those belts are going home with 24K, baby.
And if I have to face them? Go ahead and replay that first fall from March to Glory.
Those are my brothers, but brothers fight sometimes.
And my fight matters more than anybody else’s.
Inside the ring and out.
WAGER TWO: THE MONETARY
“Well, it’s looking a whole lot better than it was a few months ago. I’ll tell you that much.”
Lance Mulkey was Andy’s financial advisor of about six years now. The accountant had seen it all on Murray’s books, from the seemingly inexhaustible stream of endorsement cheques and Second Chance Gym membership fees that once pushed the Scot towards Scrooge McDuck territory, to the massive six-figure swing that left him in the red last year.
“Couldn’t have gotten a whole lot worse,” Andy said, pulling his feet down from the older man’s desk.
While Murray had once considered cutting Mulkey from his circle when things got extra tight, the man’s services were invaluable. Andy had never had a head for numbers. He tried for a while but staring at bank statements, ledgers, and profit and loss accounts twisted his brain into fusilli, so he gave Lance his custom in 2014 and staved off the urge to cut him when hard times hit.
Mulkey was the only paid associated Andy kept on when Mikey Unlikely’s no-compete brought him to ruin.
“Just a couple of things to go over,” Lance said, looking at The King of Wrestling through silver-rimmed glasses. They were perched neatly on a face distinguished only by a bristly gold moustache and cheeks potted with light acne scars. “We’ve got a $1,000 cash withdrawal unaccounted for on April 4th,” he said, sliding an account sheet over to Andy. It may as well have been written in hieroglyphics.
“Where’d that go?” Mulkey asked.
Andy shrugged. “Had some fun on the road, I guess.” His pulse raced a little bit faster. Andy knew the real reason, of course. He carefully slid the almost-empty painkiller bottle deeper into his pocket so it wouldn’t fall out.
“Well you’re already over budget in that area and another grand is a hefty amount for a man in your situation,” Mulkey said, taking the sheet back so that he may apportion the cost on his open MacBook. “Be careful. This is your first major blip since the HOW cheques started coming in.”
Murray nodded in response. The truth was that he hated being told what to do by anyone, but he was 42 years old and still had no idea how to handle his own finances. Lance was invaluable.
“The big plus is that you’ve got a steady, reliable cashflow again,” Mulkey said, then cleared his throat. “High Octane might not be the biggest payday of your career but you and Mikey Unlikely are down to five figures now. We’ve still got a few years to go before you’re out of the woods but you’re definitely on the right track.”
“Uh-huh, uh-huh,” responded Andy. His advisor knew of his disdain for financial minutiae and wouldn’t bog the King down in it.
“What’s less encouraging is the endorsement side,” said Mulkey, readying himself to drop a negativity bomb. “That these companies don’t seem to want to sponsor you anymore means I’m going to have to ask you to live even deeper within your means. We’re two months deep now and I don’t think Nike are any closer to picking the phone up again, if you know what I mean.”
Turns out marketers don’t want you advertising their products when you make a villain of yourself. Andy was learning that the hard way: sure, 24K were flying, but he was the bad guy now. Ability aside, there’s a reason Leo Messi, not Luis Suarez, was the face of Adidas.
“And another thing: merch sales,” Lance said. “We got a little spike when you first showed up in HOW but your numbers have been trending downwards since then. They’re good overseas – presumably because of your nationality – but here, in the US? I can’t recall them being this low.”
“I guess nobody feels like walking around with a bastard’s name on their chest.”
“I guess not.”
“So what you’re saying, chief,” Andy said, leaning forward, “is that if the HOW payday goes away, and I can’t work anywhere else, I’m–”
“Fucked, yes. Royally.” Mulkey clasped his hands together on his desk. He was one of the few men who still had the confidence to stare Murray dead in the eye. “One of two things needs to happen here: either you convince your new buddy Mikey to drop the debt, or you find a way to make this income stream last another four years.”
He nodded, Andy. Slowly. Contemplatively. “And that’s the game I play.”
Understand that the stakes have never been higher in the career of Andy Murray.
I’m not in the best shape of my life, it doesn’t take a doctor to figure that out, but I’ve never been so dangerous. I’ve never felt so alive.
Perhaps that’s because I know hell is right around the corner. Perhaps it’s because I’m only ever one wrong move away from ruin: financially, physically, and mentally.
But that keeps me going. It keeps my head sharp, my blood pumping, and gives me the will to wake up each morning, tear through whatever barriers await, and put my fist in the face of anyone dumb enough to get in my way.
I have lost twice as much money in this game as most of you dipshits will ever make. I have built an empire, one that would sustain me long into retirement, and watched it fall because I didn’t read the small print on a contract with a wolf – and he preyed on me. Oh, lord, did he prey on me.
Things are different now. Now I’m the wolf, and HOW is my hunting ground.
I know there’s a chance I’m going to walk up to the arena and get told my number wasn’t drawn this week and yeah, that’ll piss me off. It’ll piss me off to watch a dipshit like Teddy Palmer bumble his gee-shucks-didn’t-I-try-so-hard bullshit into an ICON Title shot because his roulette landed on black when mine was on red, but I’m walking into Lethal Lottery expecting a fight.
Whether that’s a title match or a War Games shot, I don’t give a fuck. The end result’s gonna be the same whether I’m busting Joe Bergman’s goofy ass up and packaging the remains back to his “People” or showing this Max Stryker dipshit that the real greatest wrestler alive throws Lariats and speaks with a Scottish twang.
Alex Redding isn’t fit for War Games; I’ve run alongside that little pube in three separate feds now and he’s flunked his way out of each one. Failure is a disease to him, and one without a cure. A tiger can’t change its stripes and a Willing Villain can’t topple a King.
Then there’s Rick Dickulous, who I’m told still exists. Cool.
I could go on, but I won’t. It doesn’t matter who you are, really. I fuck people up.
Directly or indirectly, I fuck people up.
WAGER THREE: THE INTERPERSONAL
The third (and most valuable) thing that Andy gambled every time he set foot in a professional wrestling ring was his network.
The people around him.
In his house with a trophy room filled not only with the trinkets and titles won in 26 years of full-time professional wrestling, but reminders of the things that mattered most to him. For a while, that was a collection of photographs 20 deep, though it was time for some spring cleaning. Time to purge that shelf of the people who’d purged themselves from his life when the lifelong babyface stepped out with 24K.
His younger brother Cayle was the first to go in Andy’s black bag. It was a nice backstage shot of the two from their time in DEFIANCE, though it was clear from recent interactions that the rift between them couldn’t be closed. The younger Murray didn’t approve. The younger Murray could go to hell.
The next seven were easy. All trainees who’d “graduated” from his Second Chance Gym, each had put their problems to the sword and scored well-compensated full-time gigs with stable American wrestling promotions – all under Andy’s tutelage. None had returned his calls since he debuted in HOW. One, Dylan Starling, had publically smeared Murray in an interview with a dirt sheet, burying The King and his school six feet deep to bolster his own name.
Andy kept his photo aside so he could burn it later.
Into the refuse sack went Josh Allen, Jack Sullivan, and the crew he used to roll with in OCW. Ancient history.
Elder brother Sid kept his spot, as did Andy’s best friend, Jason Natas – a man with even fewer scruples than the fallen King. His long-gone parents were a given too.
The missus and son? Goes without saying.
Murray tied the back and tossed it on the floor, coming to terms with the cost of his reality. His continued association with Unlikely, Kendrix, and Perfection would leave the shelf even barer by year’s end, but it was a price he had to pay.
Without 24K, he was bankrupt. The faces in his bag might argue he’d already gone that way, at least morally, but morals didn’t put food on the table or money in the bank. Not anymore.
For a moment, Andy wondered if he had a problem. Considered that maybe, just maybe, he was heading down a slippery slope he could never climb back up, and that all he’d lost so far was just a dusting compared to the avalanche to come.
Then he shook the thought away, remembered the HOW Tag Team Championship belt in the next room, and realised who the fuck he was again.
The King of Wrestling.
These are the prices I’ve already paid to walk into the Lethal Lottery.
These are the stakes that make me the most dangerous gambler at the table.
There isn’t a length I won’t go to to make this work. Not one. My livelihood’s on the line every time I tape my wrists and tie my boots and now that you’ve seen what I’m willing to do in a “regular” match with a Scott Stevens or an MJ Flair, imagine what I’ll do in the Lethal Lottery. Imagine the lengths.
To most of you fucks, this is just another fight – one with a fancy gimmick. To me, it’s one step closer to freedom and never having to play these games again.
Until then, you’d best believe I’m the man to beat in this Lottery. Not Mike, Max, or even the Bruvs. Me. Andy Murray. The goddamn King.
I’m orchestrating a grand heist in the House of GOD on Saturday, and I never call; only raise or throw down. The Lethal Lottery is made for me.
And I shall leave it with pockets full.