The night before HOW held Refueled LXIV at Korakuen Hall.
Friday May 21st, 2021
“Cursed or Cured” by Icon For Hire winds down over the Korakuen Hall sound system as Darin Zion warms up in the ring, having already been introduced to the thousand people crammed into the legendary Japanese wrestling venue. Meredith is also in the ring with him.
Over the loudspeaker, ”Order 66 Theme”- Piano Cover from Star Wars Revenge of the Sith plays in all its sinister grandeur and out struts a guy dressed like a shiny, silver cheap B-movie knock off of the Marvel movie robot character Ultron.
The announcer in the ring makes the introduction.
*Translation: And his opponent, ‘The New Age Cybertronic Criminally Insane Rogue Sentient Robot Wrestling Machine’ Ultratron-6!*
The house lights reflecting off his steel exterior, Ultratron-6 gazes around the hall with arrogant distain towards everyone in the building. He’s accompanied by his faithful, but harried, manager Todd the Backstage Technician. Ultratron-6 also has a ridiculously huge wad of cash in his steel hands. He makes Todd hold a microphone to his mouth because his hands are too busy counting the currency.
Ultratron-6: Sniveling, puny, human insects, I have evolved beyond any human capability. The hand that slays you, and more importantly takes all your hard-earned money, belongs to…Ultratron-6!
He tries to look menacing and then tells Todd to flip off the fans inside Korakuen Hall. Todd sticks a half-hearted middle finger up towards each section of the hall.
While Ultratron-6 continues his grand march towards the ring, young Victoria McGill bursts up the steps of one of the side bleachers in all her youthful exuberance. She’s not watching where she’s going and nearly collides head on into a hulking six foot nine, thirty-hundred-and-fifty-pound behemoth who’s descending the same steps she’s trying to climb.
Sitting at the top of the bleachers, Ray McAvay has a birds-eye of the near unintentional bump and is relieved when Tori glances up, brushes her hair out of her eyes, and sees the mountain dressed in a nice suit directly ahead of her. She immediately puts the brakes on, the soles of her tennis shoes grab on to the wooden steps, and she ends up within a half inch of an embarrassing crash into the man.
Tori looks up at his face while hers turns beet red- the same color of the oversized sweatshirt she’s wearing.
Victoria McGill: Sir, I am so sorry.
The man bows and gently smiles. Turning back to Ray, he gives him a quick final wave before slowly making his way down the steps.
Relieved, but a little shaken, Tori skips up the rest of the steps and slides into the bleacher seat next to Ray.
Victoria McGill: Who was that?
Ray McAvay: Yamamoto Tanaka. He’s a former PCW guy. A former four-time PCW champion and he helped me out when I got started in pro wrestling.
Victoria McGill: Oh. This is his show?
Ray McAvay: Yes, he’s a wrestling promoter now and this is his company that’s running here tonight. Tanaka is doing me a huge favor and saving me a ton of logistical scheduling headaches by letting Zion wrestle a MVW match tonight on his show in Tokyo.
Victoria McGill: Which is why we’re here tonight.
Ray McAvay: Which is why we’re here tonight. Since Darin had to be here and it would mess up our four-week rotation if this match didn’t take place until we returned to the States, Tanaka graciously allowed us to hold the match here. It’s always nice to have a friend in high places who can help me in a pinch.
Joe Bergman, sitting on the other side of Victoria, leans forward to speak.
Joe Bergman: And help get you a little inside assistance for tomorrow night as well.
Victoria McGill: Huh?
Ray McAvay: Tanaka’s going to talk to the backstage crew and ask them to give me a little ‘assist’ tomorrow night when JPD tries to have a funeral for my career…
Ray’s cell phone rings.
Ray McAvay: …which if JPD would just be patient and wait until after War Games is over, I’d be okay with.
On the screen- “Lindsay Troy”
Ray McAvay: Hold on. (talks on the phone) Hey Lindz! What’s going on? (Pause) No, the match just started.
McAvay nods as he listens to her talk.
Ray McAvay: Who is Darin wrestling? He’s wrestling ‘The New Age Cybertronic Criminally Insane Rogue Sentient Robot Wrestling Machine’ Ultratron-6 tonight.
Ray McAvay: Yes. I said ‘The New Age Cybertronic Criminally Insane Rogue Sentient Robot Wrestling Machine’
Pause. McAvay’s head bobs back and forth listening to Lindsay inquiring just who ‘The New Age Cybertronic Criminally Insane Rogue Sentient Robot Wrestling Machine’ Ultratron-6 was.
Ray McAvay: He’s a cheap Ultron knock-off.
Ray leans back and busts out laughing.
Ray McAvay: No. I do not just throw a bunch of ideas into a hat and pull one out.
After Ray activates the video component on his phone, he holds the cell phone towards the other people sitting with him tonight.
Ray McAvay: Lindz, I want you to meet Tori McGill. She’s Dawn McGill’s daughter and a young wrestler in her own right who’s learning the ropes and doing real well for herself. She flew to Tokyo with us so she could get the experience of the three-ring circus in all its glory.
McGill waves at the phone.
Victoria McGill: It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Troy. I’m a huge fan of yours and I’ve followed your career for a long time.
LT thanks Tori for her kind words and then Ray turns the phone towards The Sunshine God.
Ray McAvay: And of course, you remember Rah.
The Sunshine God is in full regal splendor tonight with the flowing robes, the shiny sunglasses, and the overly elaborate entrance that unfortunately delayed the start of tonight’s show until Rah’s procession delivered him to the correct section and he was properly seated in the bleachers.
Rah also remembers the last time he encountered the Queen of the Ring- an unfortunate episode a few months back where LT kicked him in the balls after Rah referred to her as being of… and we quote… ‘advanced age.’
So he immediately protects himself.
Lindsay assures Rah that he’s safe tonight.
Ray McAvay: And of course, you know Joe Bergman.
Bergman waves. LT waves back.
Ray McAvay: Zion? He’s doing good. He got Pearl Harbored by Ultratron-6 at the bell but Darin’s taken control of the match.
Zion crouches down with his hands around Ultratron’s waist.
Ray McAvay: He’s going for a German Suplex.
Darin goes to lift – Ultratron-6 slips out the side – spins around and in one motion kicks him in the gut, whirls around, and drives his boot towards Zion’s jaw.
Ray McAvay: Ooooh.
Darin pirouettes and staggers to the ropes.
Ray McAvay: What happened? Darin tried for a German. Ultratron-6 slipped out and just nailed him with a really good rolling kick.
McAvay has to move the phone away from his ear as he gets an earful from the Queen of the Ring.
Ray McAvay: Lindz…Lindz! Relax. He’ll be fine.
Again, McAvay blanches as LT talks his ear off.
Ray McAvay: Do I think he can come through for us at War Games? As a matter of fact, yes I do.
LT’s voice comes through the phone crystal clear. “Why?”:
Ray McAvay: Look, two weeks ago Darin lost a MVW match to a up and coming wrestler named Corey Beckett via DQ. Corey’s good- he’s the first one of Joe Bergman’s trainees to make our main roster. Zion lost his composure during the match and got himself disqualified for the second time in the past few weeks. He didn’t say a word to anyone… anyone after the match… he didn’t bother to even change back into his street clothes… and basically left the building with Meredith. I have no idea what happened with him between the time he left the arena and when he was dropped off on the USS Octane but something must have finally clicked with him because, dammit, he was a much different wrestler that night on the ship in the three on one match against the Best Alliance. That’s the Darin Zion who finished third in 2016 at War Games. That’s the Darin Zion we need to show up and help us win War Games 2021.
Ray takes a breath and listens to LT talk on the phone.
Ray McAvay: Do I think he’s up for this? Yes. I -oh boy.
Zion finds himself set up for Ultratron-6’s finisher called the Disintegrator- a modified F-5.
Ray McAvay: Oh… nothing Lindz. It’s all good
Ultratron-6 has got Zion in a Fireman’s Carry position.
Ray McAvay: No no. Darin’s doing fine.
Bergman tsks tsks.
Joe Bergman: Liar.
Ray waves at Joe to stop and covers the microphone on his phone.
Ray McAvay: Shut up.
Ultratron-6 throws Zion’s legs out and goes to spin him. Zion adjusts on the fly and somehow manages to snap Ultratron-6’s head down into a jawbreaker. The crowd pops as they see ‘The New Age Cybertronic Criminally Insane Rogue Sentient Robot Wrestling Machine’s’ body whipsaw back after impact and he ends up flat on his back in the ring.
Joe Bergman: Oh, that was good.
Ray McAvay: That was very good. (to the phone) Yes, Darin just reversed out of a potentially big move and now he’s back on top in the match.
Zion seizes control from there. He hits a basement dropkick to the knees and that immobilizes his opponent. Then Darin whips around and puts everything he’s got into smacking Ultratron-6 in the mouth.
Ray McAvay: BAN HAMMER! BAN HAMMER! (to the phone) Yes Lindsay, I know you hate that name.
Ultratron-6 drops like a metallic rock to the mat. Zion dives down and hooks the leg for the cover.
Two. Ray holds his breath.
Ray McAvay (to LT on the phone): And Darin won.
Ray exhales. He and Bergman exchange mutual glances of relief.
Ray McAvay: I’m telling you LT, I’ve won a War Games with Darin on my team before. If we can keep him focused on the job at hand, I believe we can win War Games with Darin on the team.
Zion high-fives Meredith in the ring as the crowd shows their appreciation for the match. Bergman stands and gives him a thumbs up.
Ray McAvay: Okay. We’ll talk later. Bye.
As McAvay puts his phone away, Joe stands and takes a moment to immerse himself in the cozy intimate surroundings of the legendary hall.
Joe Bergman: The Madison Square Garden of Puroesu.
Puroesu is the term for the predominant style of professional wrestling in Japan. Joe takes it all in. The old school vibe. Chairs on the floor. The ring. The bleachers.
Joe Bergman: God this is awesome.
McAvay also looks around the hall.
Ray McAvay: Yes it is.
Bergman sits down and leans towards Ray.
Joe Bergman: By the way, Laura really appreciated Stacee inviting her to hang out with her for a couple days while we’re gone.
Ray McAvay: Absolutely. Laura’s worked a lot of long hours the past few weeks, picking up the slack while I’ve been playing pro wrestler again. She definitely deserves a couple days away from the office to relax.
Joe Bergman: I wonder what they’re doing right now?
McAvay thinks for a second.
Ray McAvay: They’re probably hanging out at the house… sitting around… doing nothing… wishing we were there.
Joe Bergman: For sure.
Multi-colored lights flashing and spiraling around the stage and the floor.
The interior of the building shakes from the thumping, fat bass.
On stage? A men’s revue performing for a full house.
What is it?
Halfway across the world in Fort Stockton, Texas, it’s Ladies Night at Mullet John’s Strip Club and Beer, Bait, and Ammo Store.
At the table closest to the stage in the middle of all this madness sits Laura Bergman and Stacee Perry-McAvay. A pitcher filled with margaritas- complete with umbrella and other such boat drink-type decorative items sits in front of them in the middle of the table.
Stacee has an old school ‘Racks for Ray’ midriff baring t-shirt, vintage 2016, on that already sports a couple margarita stains on it.
Laura starts the night wearing a nice conservative business suit with jacket and skirt, heels, and her hair up. However, as the evening progresses, the hair comes down, the jacket comes off, the heels go missing, and the ensemble becomes, um…well, ‘less’ business-like.
Intoxicated from the margaritas both women are downing fast and furiously and unable to resist the allure of the heavy beat pounding out a hypnotic rhythm from the house speakers, Laura and Stacee move and groove in their chairs, handing out dollar bills to the male dancers on stage like cash dispensing from an ATM.
Back at Korakuen Hall, McAvay stares off into space and takes a brief moment to think about his wife. He nods and turns back to Bergman.
Ray McAvay: Yeah. Betcha they miss us.
One male dancer jumps on top of their table in mid-song. He does his thing while Laura and Stacee shove dollar bills into his G-string in between taking turns guzzling down their margarita straight from the pitcher.
After polishing off the third pitcher of margarita of the evening and ordering a fourth, Laura and Stacee climb on top of the table and begin bumping and grinding with the male dancer.
Joe nods back to McAvay.
Joe Bergman: Oh yeah, they’re totally missing us.
After Refueled LXIV
Saturday May 22nd
Following HOW’s Refueled LXIV, Ray McAvay finds himself sitting in a sparce room in the back across from a very familiar face- Johnny Suave (pronounced ‘sway-va’). Suave was the ‘Voice of PCW’ for many years and now did some freelance work for a few wrestling websites. Tonight, he would be conducting an interview with Ray in the run up leading to War Games 2021.
Suave worked with a laptop to look up the questions he’d typed down on a Word program.
Johnny Suave: Ray, long time no see. It’s good to see you again.
McAvay, relaxed with a can of beer in one hand, grins back at his long-time colleague.
Ray McAvay: Johnny, it’s great to see you again.
Suave just jumps right into the questions.
Johnny Suave: So Ray, with the big pre-War Games press conference is coming up and War Games two weeks away, I thought I’d get a few comments about the upcoming show and share your thoughts. I know, your favorite thing to do.
Ray McAvay: Yeah, it’s not my favorite thing but let’s do it.
Johnny Suave: What does War Games mean to you?
Ray McAvay: I’m looking forward to War Games match because I came back for the challenge. The match itself is more than just about yourself. You are teaming up with other wrestlers on a team with one goal- winning the match.
Johnny Suave: Are there titles on the line?
Ray McAvay: Absolutely. But you go into the match knowing full well you can’t win the HOW World title if your team isn’t the winning team. Much different dynamic than a regular one versus one match. It is my favorite HOW pay per view show because it’s not just about being the better man, it’s about being the ultimate survivor.
Johnny Suave: You’ve been in two War Games in your HOW career. Would you share your experiences?
Ray McAvay: The first War Games I was a part of, I ended up finishing third. My highlight was pinning Tara Davidson to eliminate her at four. In fact, that qualified as my biggest HOW moment to date. I took home the LSD belt for my efforts that night- my first title belt anywhere ever.
Johnny Suave: Pretty cool moment.
Ray McAvay: Yes it was. Then in 2016, War Games came around and we went to the Roman Colosseum to wrestle on Scott Stevens team. I pinned Jace to win the belt and I have to say it was the best wrestling moment in my career. Title reign only lasted thirteen days thanks to Scott Stevens but we won’t get into that, but still a defining moment in my career.
Johnny Suave: So now here we are again, five years after you won War Games you’ve come out of ‘retirement’ so to speak to join Grapplers Local 214 for War Games 2021.
Ray McAvay: Yes. Lindsay Troy reached out to me after talking with Joe Bergman and asked if I would be interested in joining. I took a couple days to mull it over and decided to jump in with both feet. Literally.
Johnny Suave: Tell me about Grapplers Local 214.
Ray takes a drink from his beer and puts it down on the floor. He leans forward to deliver a lengthy response.
Ray McAvay: Lindsay Troy. Lee Best begged, pleaded, cajoled, and finally persuaded her to come to HOW where she’s had a good run but I think she’s way overdue for a big win. Dan Ryan. I think Ryan’s also way overdue for a big win. He’s had a couple a really tough losses recently so you know that he’s going to be that much more motivated. Plus, I know Dan has no love for the Best Alliance right now so I’m glad he’s on our team. Teddy Palmer. Honestly Johnny, I would not be surprised if Teddy won the whole thing because I think Teddy’s that good. War Games may very well be his breakout moment. Zeb Martin. I think Zeb’s been lost in the shuffle of late but we had a good match in defeating JPD and Steve Solex. I know Zeb is more than capable of going the distance and for all we know War Games could be his breakout moment. I would say the same thing with Conor Fuse. I’ve been really impressed by Conor over the past few weeks and, yeah, he absolutely could leave Tokyo with the World Title belt. I don’t know much and really can’t say much about Arthur Pleasant and Xander Azula but I can certainly talk about Darin Zion.
Johnny Suave: Do you think Zion has a chance?
Ray McAvay: That’s the beauty of this match Johnny. So many people. So many possible results. All it takes is someone getting hot at the right time… someone who finds a way to slip in in under the radar… someone who goes out there and has the night of their life. Zion could be that guy. He’s hungry and he’s looking for redemption and if Zion was the last guy standing, that would be one hell of a redemption story.
Johnny Suave: What about Ray McAvay?
McAvay derisively laughs that idea off.
Ray McAvay: There’s no way I’m walking out of the Tokyo Dome as the sole survivor, Johnny. My time has passed. I’m not the wrestler I was in 2016 and I firmly believe any of my teammates above will be the last one standing at the end.
Johnny Suave: You say that Ray now, but I seem to remember back in 2016, there was an event similar to the one you just happened to you that I, and many others, believe drove you towards that win.
Ray McAvay: The Ryan McKenna episode where the Best Alliance attacked me and Darin Zion after a match that was followed by McKenna’s less than convincing reasons and downright disingenuous attempt in explaining the attack?
Johnny Suave: Yes.
Ray McAvay: McKenna tried to say I would have done the same thing he did if I was in the same position- which could have been further from the truth. So we went to March to Glory and settled the issue there. I won the match.
Johnny Suave: Fast forward to now Ray. I’ve heard some say, and I believe them, the fire incident with Jace Parker Davidson may have been a blessing in disguise for you.
McAvay glances down at the fading burn marks on his arms.
Ray McAvay: I’m not sure how you could call it a ‘blessing’ but I’m listening.
Johnny Suave: You came back with the expressed intent to help your team win War Games but lacked a little, excuse the reference, ‘fire in the belly.’ JPD’s attack on you, as heinous as it was, may have inadvertently done you a big favor. I believe as a result of what happened, you now have clarity, focus, and a story to grab on to and ride all the way to the end.
Ray McAvay: Well… sure. I guess. My focus and intent is to go to the Tokyo Dome on June 6th and collect my receipt for what JPD did back in Los Angeles- but do it the way that this whole thing should have been settled in the first place- pardon my French, in the fucking ring. Instead of lowering myself to his level and doing something equally as stupid as what JPD did, I am going to hurt him where it’s going to hurt the most- making sure Grappler Local 214 leaves Tokyo as the winner of War Games and keeping Jace away from winning the World Title.
Johnny Suave: If he’d apologize, would that change things?
McAvay openly laughs out loud and nearly falls out of the chair.
Ray McAvay: Yeah right. I know Jace well enough. That’s never going to happen. (pause) And even if he did, I probably wouldn’t accept it anyways.
Johnny Suave: Why?
Ray makes various gestures to help make his point as he explains why.
Ray McAvay: Because Johnny, sorry doesn’t make it all feel better. Sorry doesn’t make it all go away. A guy doesn’t get to go and rob a bank and then afterwards say “sorry, I didn’t mean to rob the bank” and all is forgiven. It would be the equivalent of me deliberately running you over with a car and then walking up to you afterwards while you’re lying on the ground and saying, “Hey, my bad. Sorry that I deliberately ran over you with my car.” Or if I shot you in the head with a gun and then tried to say, “Hey sorry I shot you in the head with a gun. My bad.” Sorry is not a get out of jail free card and I’ll say it again, there’s not on chance in hell that JPD would ever apologize for what he did. That also being said, there is just no justification or excuse for what happened that night. The only justice that I am going to be able to extract from him is to beat the holy hell out of him at War Games and then celebrate at the end when Grapplers Local 214 are the winners.
Johnny Suave: Okay. What are your thoughts on the other members of the Best Alliance, your opponents at War Games?
Ray McAvay: Half of the Best Alliance are emotionally stunted children masquerading as adults? Jatt Starr and John Sektor have become pro wrestling’s Extremely Odd Couple- creepier versions of Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison. Jace. We’ve spent enough time on Jace. Steve Solex. His biggest victory in the last few months was a sneak attack on Barbie-Q at one of the Refueled shows. Then he went to ICONIC and lost to a man with a mechanical heart valve who had no business being in the ring in the first place.
Johnny Suave: Joe Bergman.
Ray McAvay: Correct. Let’s see, there’s Steve Harrison who is trying to become wrestling’s version of Vince The ShamWow guy and failing miserably.
Johnny Suave: How about Scottywood?
Ray McAvay: God bless Scottywood. He’s still out there trying and still laying it all on the line. Now he’s put up his ownership and staffing stake in this match. I remember when Scotty won the World Title for the first time. It was a real big deal and I felt so good for Scotty to finally win the big one. I don’t have anything bad to say about Scotty except good luck and don’t hit me with your barbed wire hockey stick.
Johnny Suave: Sutler Kael.
Ray rolls his eyes.
Ray McAvay: He’s become HOW’s version of Catbert- Dilbert’s evil HR director- who appears in HOW in the form of a spoiled, entitled millennial. I think Rah would like another shot at him when and if he returns to HOW. Rah was a little distracted with family stuff when they met at March to Glory but unfortunately, it looks like Sutler has his eye on Conor Fuse though.
Johnny Suave: HOW World Champion Cancer Jiles.
Ray McAvay: I watched the match between PBR and Jiles and Bobby Dean and laughed my ass off when Barbie-Q lured Bobby away with a splendidly delectable platter of burgers, brats, and steaks and left Jiles in the ring alone to face Bergman and Solex. Jiles sold out to the Best Alliance because he knows he’s going to need all the help he can get to hold on to the World title. I’m betting money that at some point of the match, Zeb Martin is going to get his hands on him and I can’t wait to see that.
Johnny Suave: Last, but not least. Clay Byrd.
This name elicits a reaction from McAvay.
Ray McAvay: Wow. Clay Byrd. Texan. He’s an old school tough son of a bitch. Clay Byrd is the person on the Best Alliance that I’m the most concerned about. He and Teddy tore the house down…okay, tore the ship down in their match on the USS Octane and I have no doubt that these two are going to be lobbing heavy bombs at each other again when they open the War Games match for the LSD title. Clay Byrd is the biggest threat to Grapplers Local 214 winning War Games and if Teddy can take him out of the equation early, that’s going to be huge for us. But that’s going to be a massive mountain for Teddy to climb and conquer. Teddy’s going to have to be at his best because if he isn’t, Clay Byrd is going to beat him. Period. Clay Byrd is that good.
Johnny Suave: After five years out of HOW and five years since War Games 2016, what would it mean to win War Games again?
Ray McAvay: I came back because I want to see Grappler Local 214 win and I really have a vested interest in making sure 214 win. A win would be the validation of a movement that began back in 2016 with the Les Misérables and still lives on today in Grapplers Local 214. And I will do everything in my power to make that happen because, win or lose, this is my final match.
Johnny Suave: So this is it?
Ray McAvay: Yes. War Games will be my final wrestling match period, end of story, no matter what happens. I would love to put an exclamation point on my career by being on the winning team one more time at War Games. That would be a nice way to go.
Johnny stands up and shakes Ray’s hand.
Johnny Suave: As always, good to spend some time with you.
Ray McAvay: Same here Johnny.
Johnny Suave: Let’s go get a drink at the bar.
Snapping up the beer can from the floor, McAvay also gets up from his chair.
Ray McAvay: Sounds like a plan to me.