”You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”
– Carl Gustav Jung
It’s hard enough to do this when you’re at your best. I think that when you are young and feeling invincible, there is a great lie inherent in your thinking. You suspect life will get easier. You expect challenges will be easier to overcome. You think wisdom will follow mistakes and that it will help you grow.
You don’t expect to make the biggest mistake of your life in your forties.
As with any mistake, the proper thing to do is stand up like a man and take ownership, accept responsibility, find a way to grow and evolve and do better when you come out the other side. But some mistakes hurt you more than others. Some hurt people around you more than others. I stand here now unsure if my marriage is savable. I haven’t spoken to my daughter face-to-face in nearly a year. My relationship with my best friend in the world may be irretrievably broken. I’ve been through the stages of grief and I felt them all very strongly. Denial, anger… all of it. Acceptance. I want so badly for things to be different.
When you’re down in that dark pit in the days, weeks, and months after, you start to wonder if anything matters anymore. Maybe you think your entire life has been a lie. Maybe you thought you stood for something important, but when your soul has been stripped away, you find an empty pile of nothing.
That’s more disconcerting than the mistake. You can’t even lie and pretend to be okay. And no one gives a shit, because your mistake hurt them so badly. They don’t care if a person is broken inside to the point of total collapse because then, they’d have to admit that they too have made mistakes. They too have hurt people before. They too have been responsible for pain. But they don’t care… because now they question if you are worth saving, and there’s nothing at all you can do to make any of it better.
I used to think of myself as a cold, hard son of a bitch. But it turns out I care deeply about myself, about the people around me and the choices I’ve made, and what has become of me because of those choices.
I thought I had to be hard to survive, and even looking back now I don’t know if I would have been able to endure the ups and downs of my career without having that attitude.
But I don’t think that attitude serves me well anymore.
Even now I’d rather suffer forever than spend the rest of my life crying about it to people, looking for some sort of external salvation. I’m writing this down because I’ve been told it helps. I have to deal with it, face it, and that’s the only way to come out stronger on the other side.
Toughness isn’t about being an asshole. You can be a man, stand up for yourself, stand up for the people you love, and simply give a damn about the world without being considered weak. I’m a fighter. I’ve always been a fighter, and I always will be a fighter.
But I’m finding a new kind of strength. It’s the strength to face… not the world… not your enemies… but the strength to face yourself.
I’m being tested even now. I know what my job is at War Games. I know that I’m not meant to win. I will fight hard and fight to win, but in the end, I will do what needs to be done.
Jatt is right. Neither one of us is being asked or expected to win the HOW World Championship at War Games. He’s smarter than people give him credit for. The World Champion may be indignant about it, but he’s probably not leaving War Games with the World Championship either unless the rest of his team is wiped out. Evan Ward will steal her away if that team wins and he survives. He won’t even think twice, because he’s the slimiest little shit that ever was shat. But America is the champion for a reason. He knows he can only trust himself on that team. I won’t be surprised when someone forsakes the good of the Alliance for his own interests. Thus we are, in chaos. Doesn’t matter. I’m not concerning myself with things that are out of my control.
Everyone has a role. Some know what it is and some march blindly into enemy fire. I’m not Christopher America. He is a standard at this point in time that everyone wishes they could reach, and he is a test. He is a test of ego and a test of will. It isn’t time for me to be what he is, not yet. Maybe one day. Maybe not ever. Nevertheless, there’s so much work left to do.
I’m a heavyweight soldier in the fight, but I’m not meant to raise the flag at the end. That’s not our job. It doesn’t mean that I’m not gunning to win the championship. If you’re not competing for 97Red, what the fuck are you even doing? I’ve proven already that I will do what is expected of me. I protected the World Championship for the Alliance at ICONIC, and I’ll do it again because all I am and all I will become from now forward I owe to one man and one man only. I will not fall victim to greed and ego again. The price is far too high. But I will fight. I will always… always… fight.
It matters who you really are. It matters that you do what you say you’ll do. And, when my time comes, I will not fail.
There is only one GOD, and he is not made of gold and leather.
Choose today whom you shall serve.
”Erase una vez, me encontré en México.”
Translation: “Once upon a time, I found myself in Mexico.”
Lomas De Chepultepec, Mexico City, Mexico.
May 16, 2023
Birds are chirping overhead in the trees over a dark-tiled patio. On one side is a concrete wall covered in foliage that extends from one end of the house to the other in a parallel design. The house itself is a boutique home located in one of Mexico City’s best neighborhoods, set inside a larger boutique hotel with a private restaurant attached.
The patio is occupied by only three people. Phyllis Anderson, Dan Ryan’s long-time personal assistant, Craig Massey, his business partner, and Dan himself, plus some waitstaff at the far end near the kitchen entrance.
At the end of the patio is a black-stoned staircase leading to the upper reaches of the house, and set on the patio itself is a long table with a tablecloth. On one side, sitting against light blue pastel pillows are Craig and Phyllis. In a high-backed chair across from them, Dan Ryan sits, a bottle of Glenfiddich 26-Year Grand Couronne Scotch Whisky.
The open-air environment allows for a cool breeze to blow through, but all three are dressed for warm weather, suitable to the temperature.
Craig looks at the bottle on the table. “They have pretty damn good tequila here, you know. You didn’t have to import a thousand-year-old bottle of Scotch all the way to Mexico City.”
“You want tequila?” Dan looks back at him, with no expression. “Get yourself some tequila, I won’t stop you. I’ll stick with the whisky.”
Craig smiles slightly, then gestures to an attendant. The attendant nods, then looks at Phyllis.
She smiles. “Sparkling water for me, thank you.”
“I don’t wanna waste too much time,” Dan says, cutting in. “I came down here early for a reason. I assume you’ve been able to set up some meetings, yes?”
Dan looks at Craig, who nods in response. “Yes, of course. I’ll shoot you a text with all of the details.”
“Good,” Dan replies. “And the training schedule?”
Craig waves his hand as his drink is placed in front of him. Dan holds up a hand, gesturing for Craig to wait until the waiter walks out of earshot.
“I made some arrangements. I have some ideas for getting you ready for a match like this. I know you’ve been in these before, but I think there are some specific points we can address that will help you be more successful this time around.”
Dan takes a drink from the glass in front of him. “Good. After these meetings are finished, I want to spend as much time in the gym over the next week and a half as possible. Whatever happens in that match, I want to be ready for it.”
“You know I’ll do my part, boss.” Craig smiles.
“Phyllis,” Dan says turning to look at his assistant. “Any other news I should be made aware of? Have my local contacts reached out to you yet?”
She nods. “They have.”
“Good,” he responds. “I want you to make sure that particular meeting is recorded for our purposes, but I don’t want them to suspect anything either.”
Phyllis shrugs. “The meeting will be here in your private home, so it shouldn’t be any trouble to have things recorded. They won’t have access to any of your systems.”
“Good. I’ll leave those arrangements to you.”
Dan starts to push his chair back as though preparing to stand, but as he looks across the table at his two companions, he takes note of a glance from Phyllis to Craig. When she does so, Craig quickly averts his eyes and looks up at his boss quickly, then immediately back down to his lap.
“Phyllis?” Dan smiles a big insincere smile and leans forward on the table. “Something you’d like to share with the class?”
She stares at him for a moment, thinking hard about her word choice.
“As you know, I’ve always handled the processing of official documents for your family… passports, contracts, among other things. You gave me strict authorization to do these things so that you would have someone you can trust handling your affairs.”
Dan stares at her, waiting. Phyllis sighs slightly.
“This authorization has never been revoked, so there has been the possibility that I would become privy to certain… sensitive materials.”
Dan’s eyebrows shoot up, his interest piqued, as she continues.
“Recently I received a routine notification of a passport renewal that was processed.”
“A passport renewal?” Dan says, his eyes now narrowing slightly.
She looks over at Craig again and he raises both hands as if to say, ‘don’t bring me into this’. She shakes her head, then turns back to Dan.
“It was Cecilia’s.”
Dan frowns as he listens to her response. She maintains eye contact.
“The paperwork came through last week, and it had been in the works for a few months at least based on typical lead time. I don’t know where she’s going, but she’s headed out of the states somewhere.”
Dan continues to look at her, thinking, then turns to Craig who has an almost sad expression on his face, but says nothing. Dan looks back at Phyllis.
“She’s a grown woman now. She’s free to do whatever she wants and it’s none of my business. Thank you for the heads up, but I don’t want you to pursue it any further. Let her live her life. That’s what she was raised to do. And besides, I’ve got too much on my mind at the moment as it is. I need to focus on where I am and the work that needs to be done. It’s important.”
Phyllis’ voice cuts through suddenly. “More important than her?”
Dan looks legitimately wounded. “That’s not fair.”
“Life isn’t fair, boss. Eventually, it’s gonna be on you to make it right.”
Dan grunts, frustrated. “I can’t make it right when she doesn’t want me anywhere near her. It’s not something I can do right now. I have to give her time. You can’t force things on Cecilia. She’s my daughter. She needs to figure everything out for herself. And, if there is an opportunity to talk things over, I will absolutely one hundred percent do that. But that time is not now. Wherever she’s going, she’s got her own business to attend to I guess, maybe it’s just a trip to get away for a while, I don’t know. But wherever she’s going, she deserves to be able to do it without us prying into her personal affairs. So please, again, thank you, but no more. Put it away, and let things be.”
Phyllis makes a ‘my hands are clean’ motion. “Understood, boss. I just didn’t want you to find out some other way later knowing what I know.”
Dan nods, then pushes himself back and stands to his feet. He looks inside through a large sliding pane of glass and starts to turn to walk inside, but Craig speaks up again.
“You don’t think she’s coming here, do you?”
Dan stops in place. This is something he hadn’t considered, and the thought bothered him, concerned him even. On one hand, would it be such a bad thing? What would she want? Does she want to talk? On the other hand… it feels way, way too soon.
“I don’t know,” he finally replied. “And I don’t care. It’s out of my control. I have a match to prepare for, the biggest match I will have had since coming back. I need to train, focus and do what I’ve set out to do.”
He picks up the bottle of Scotch, making a gesture to suggest, ‘almost forgot’, turns, and walks inside the house, leaving Craig and Phyllis behind.
After watching him go, Phyllis swats her hand at Craig’s arm.
“Ouch, hey!” He says, grabbing at his left bicep. That might be a bruise.
She rolls her eyes.
“You could have helped me back there. You knew how he’d react. Why do I always have to be the one who gets the lecture?”
Craig snorts, laughing slightly. “You knew how he’d react too. You aren’t new. Don’t act all surprised.”
Phyllis stands now, preparing to leave. She heads toward the far end of the patio, throwing a last comment over her shoulder.
“Don’t forget… dinner at Golanga in Roma Norte… and don’t be late.”
She meets up with the staircase leading to the upper level and disappears out of view, her heels clicking on the stone as she goes.
Craig stays seated, stares at his tequila glass, and takes another swig. He snorts derisively.
“Whisky… pfft… what is he thinking?”
”Brave words are only brave when they birth the actions that they speak of.”
– Craig D. Lounsbrough
III. EL CAPITANO ONE
Evan, here’s the thing, because I wanna address each of the captains this week, and you’re going first. First, but not the only one, so don’t start thinking you’re all that special.
I’m gonna start with the obvious.
Can you possibly, maybe go five seconds without making some sort of borderline or not even borderline comment insinuating some sort of gay angle to something? Is that even possible for you? It’s your absolute first instinct all-day-every-day go-to move and it’s both fucking pathetic and tragic. Your shit against Clay… and man, I don’t agree with Clay on pretty much anything, was cringeworthy to the absolute highest degree. How fucking embarrassing can you manage to be? Have you hit rock bottom yet? I know how badly you’re desperate to use the British slang for cigarettes. I’m just waiting for that shoe to drop.
You’re a fucking captain.
And Clay put your fucking head in the dirt. But you won’t learn, will you? Because you are incapable of learning. You gots da brain pain, as momma said in The Waterboy, and I think there’s some of that water on your brain too based on every fucking time you open your mouth.
Listen up, Austin Powers, just because Lee unfroze you from the time capsule you walked into back in the 60s doesn’t mean everybody else wants to hear your backward-ass low-level cringe fucking snarky insults, you low-energy sack of absolute shit.
But you don’t give a fuck anyway, do you, Evan? Nah, you don’t give a fuck. You’re about to die, so it seems, and while an entire chorus of violins plays for you in the background, allow me to fucking vomit at your tired retread jokes and your hacky premises and your reminiscent wonderings of what used to be, back when you were a World Champion… and won War Games… and won this and won that… and please, do tell me more, but while you do, why don’t you give us some insight on why you haven’t won a fucking match since you’ve been back? A couple of tag team matches where your bullshit can be hidden behind someone with actual talent, and one damn singles match, and of course, when it’s one-on-one finally, you get shitkicked to hell.
You snarky worthless little shitstain.
You think you’re gonna run the table and shock the world and walk out of “Ward Games” with 97Red while Christopher America sits, mouth agape at how he could have been so foolish as to trust you. OH, THE BETRAYAL!!!
Christopher America doesn’t fucking trust you. He doesn’t fucking trust anybody, but you’re gonna waltz in here with your dumb fucking accent and your Megan Kelly haircut and fool everyone.
You aren’t fooling anyone, Evan. You’re not even smart enough to fool anyone. Every single thing you’ve done or said since coming back is recycled garbage from someone else’s dumpster. America is gonna drop you like a fucking bad habit the first time you look at him sideways, believe that. Know it, and believe it. It’s not even possible to trust you, because no one can trust that you can get the job done when it really matters, when you have to hear the bell ring and face off with the people you’ve run your shitbox about. And we’re done with it. Truly, fully done with it.
And do give us another ten chapters of you talking to Hodor about how bad your head hurts and how your wife doesn’t love you anymore and how you have nothing left to live for and fuck the fans and fuck everybody and ”I’M NOT WHINING LIKE A BITCH, YOU ARE!!!”
Loyal readers have been pissed off about George R. R. Martin not delivering the next book in the saga for many years now, but in your case, I think everyone would just like you shut the fuck up and actually DO SOMETHING. Do something besides popping off your fourth-grade schoolyard insults and threatening people with your knee. We get it… you’re mister danger-knee 2.0. Everyone’s got a goddamn knee but eventually, you have to actually hit it and win some shit where you do some actual work. You just talk about it.
But hey, maybe I’m being too harsh. The last thing I want to do is bruise your little high-toned British sensibilities. Or maybe who gives a fuck? Maybe go drown yourself in the Thames, maybe go shove Big Ben up your ass since you’re so obsessed with that sort of thing. You may be part of the Alliance, you little shit, but don’t even concern yourself with the big dramatic moment of you winning Ward Games because as soon as I get my opening in this match, I’m going to mash your fucking face into mincemeat pie. How about I kick your motherfucking teeth in and then peel the skin off of your fucking head, you half-witted garbage ass little fuck? How about that? How about I roll you up in a goddamn body bag and send you back to Ham-on-Rye Wales or wherever the fuck you’re from, and you can make some fuckin’ sandwiches, then get back to slowly dying instead of making everyone else wish they could.
You fucking annoy the shit out of me, and unlike you, I’m a goddamn monster, and I’m a man of action. When I say I’m gonna do something, you can bet every last shilling you have left that I’m gonna fucking do it. So go ahead, go ahead and make some smart remarks. Test me. Fucking do it. Say something clever, if you’re capable. So you think you’ve got nothing to lose? Join the fucking club. Run your fucking mouth, but I’m gonna close that bitch for good down at the Arena, you understand? You’re gonna be sucking down local cuisine through a straw. You’re gonna be inhaling taco smoothies while laying in a hospital bed counting the little plaster sheetrock dots on the ceiling.
You walked into the hornet’s nest, you cocky little bitch. I’m not the one to fuck with, and if you’re gonna sit there and smirk at that, ask around. Or don’t, I don’t care. Either way, you fucked around, and you’re gonna find out.
You screwed up coming back here as you have, and that doesn’t mean you can’t reverse course and get your shit together. But that doesn’t mean you get to escape the consequences either.
I’m Team ALLIANCE. I’m the motherfuckin’ Hammer of GOD.
And it’s time to fuckin’ pay for your sins.