I should have been there for you. I was the weight on the scale that tipped the balance. Sure, Sutler Reynolds-Kael won War Games but I destroyed the Grapplers. I forced you to be the flag bearer, Conor, I forced you to be the last one standing. I took Teddy Palmer out like yesterday’s garbage and I left you with Darin Zion.
I left you with Darin Zion as your only friend.
I don’t know if we would have been friends if I had chosen a different path. I mean you have an innate ability to be annoyin’, and I can be irritable and brooding. But I think we could have fought on the same side of that encounter. I like ya kid, ya got a lot of fire. Ya got heart, not many fellers would have kept fightin’ after havin’ stakes driven’ through their hand and bein’ nailed to a cross.
But you did.
You fought like a fuckin’ demon. You electrocuted Michael Lee Best. You gave it everythin’ you had, and nobody can take that away from ya Conor. Nobody can say yer some little shithead that doesn’t deserve ta be here. ‘Cause ya danced with the #97RED lady this year. Ya showed us all what a driven, motivated man can do. And yes Conor, you are a fuckin’ man. You aren’t some child like everyone plays you up to be, you’ve grown up. I guess you would say you leveled up.
Don’t let this place change you. Don’t let this place make you less than what you are. That’s what it does, the violence, the brutality, everything High Octane Wrasslin’ is known for, it eats at you. It tears at your soul.
I can see it startin, Conor.
Ya can mature, ya can move forward. But don’t stop fightin’ fer the right reason. As someone who made that mistake, it’s a sharp cliff and it’s awfully hard ta come back from. If ya have any ill will towards me, I understand. I understand completely. I can accept that. I wouldn’t expect anythin’ less.
But you’re the best of us fer a reason. The kids chant your name because they see that joy you have, they see that spark ya have. And they love you for it. That’s why they put you on the cover of the video game, that’s why they made Rumble at The Rock about you. You’re the only person that can really inspire.
I’m broken Conor, I always have been broken. I’ve been broken since I left the University of Texas without a look from the NFL. The day I blew my knee to shreds, I became jaded. I made excuses, I took shortcuts. Lord knows I took a lot of those.
But I got somethin’ I need ta make right kid, I got somethin’ I need ta drive home in this match. It’s my turn ta carry the standard, take the beatings, be nailed ta the cross. It’s my burden to bare. I know that now. I need ya ta stay out of my way in there, in this madness we’re about to embark on, I need ya ta let me do what I need to do. Because if ya don’t Conor, I’m goin’ to have to hurt you. I’ll have to be part of what keeps changing you.
Then there’s that guy you keep calling Grandpa.
You know, Jatt, you’re fuckin’ insane.
But I see why Lee keeps you ‘round. You’re loyal, you care, and you’re a team player. You tried to amuse me on that boat, you knew I had gone through somethin’ and now when I look back at it you were tryin’ to comfort me.
Do you know why I didn’t accept that olive branch you put out to me, Jatt? When you started claimin’ I was some kind of folk hero, that I fought the kraken in the water when I fell off the Octane. That I was some type of legend back in Plainview, that I was wrestlin’ grizzly bears, that I was the all conquerin’ Clay Byrd. Frankly, you hit a little close to home.
See, when I was a young man I was a heavily recruited football player. I was six-foot seven, I was two-hundred and sixty-five pounds. I had long arms, my wrestling background let me get low and have leverage. If GOD himself had made a defensive linemen that had a future in football, Clayton Byrd was it. So when it came time for me to sign my letter of intent and commit to a university the entire town showed up at the school.
There were signs, the local television station was there. I signed autographs for hours, so many people came up to me and said the nicest things to me, kids were playing football with their friends pretendin’ to be me.
I was a folk hero, Jatt.
Things happen though Jatt, not every four or five star recruit pans out. I got hurt, I lost some speed, in my time off the other guys I was practicin’ with caught up. They got better, they kept improvin’, and I didn’t because I was on the sideline. The University of Texas was a great school, but it wasn’t today’s Alabama. The NFL scouts weren’t eyein’ up every feller on our sideline seein’ if Mack Brown missed somethin’.
I went from folk hero to ‘coulda been.’ Old-timers sat ‘round in the bar talkin’ ‘bout how great I was, and how my Pa was a real good man and how hard I worked. They talked ‘bout how if that injury doesn’t happen I woulda been playin’ on Sundays. Then I debuted on television and beat a High Octane Hall of Famer. I remember walkin’ round town, people comin’ up and askin’ me for my signature, takin’ pictures. I was a hero again.
And then I smashed Lindsay Troy with a chair and yelled “EQUAL RIGHTS BITCH!” while I did it. Overnight I went from the guy who finally made it to the scum of the earth. People crossed to the other side of the road when they saw me walkin’ down the street, they talked ‘bout me in hushed tones.
I was the Monster of Plainview.
Jatt, you bleed #97RED more than any other man on the roster. There’s never been a trip to UTAH, there’s never been a doubt in your mind, you work for Lee Best. You’re the stalwart, the ever-present. You’re a fuckin’ legend. But you do as you’re told, Jatt, and I know you’re gonna step between me and my redemption.
I’m sorry for what I have to do if you make that decision. But I will show you what a man who fights a bear looks like in the flesh, I’ll rip you ‘cross that ring like a piece of garbage. Turn your back, get knocked out, do whatever you have to do, but keep the fuck away from me in that ring.
Then we have the wrestlers of the year, the men who beat enough Eli Dresden’s, Darin Zion’s and Xander Azula’s to fill up the standings as fast as they possibly could. Congratulations, this is where the rest of us have been all year. Fightin’ like dogs for the biggest prize in High Octane. It’s nice of you boys to join us.
There’s no apology for either of you two mutants.
Jace, what the fuck are you even doing here? Didn’t you lose your opportunity to main event ICONIC? Did you subscribe your way into this match? You had to pay someone off, or you had to deepthroat somethin’ other than that microphone you took down your gullet. There’s no other way, because I swear I beat you to get here.
Oh wait, right, fillin’ the stat column by smashin’ cans.
I guess ‘King of Everything’ does include cans.
I respect the effort, Jace, I respect ya comin’ all the way to London to have your career ended. ‘Cause someone in this match will do it to ya Jace, someone in this match will hurt ya worse than I did in that Infirmary. These are the best wrestlers in the world, they aren’t the Doozer’s and Jiles’ of the world.
These men are killers. And someone is goin’ to hurt you Jace, whether it’s me, whether it’s JJR, whether it’s Mike Best. Someone will finish the job in the ring, someone will finally rid this place of Jace ‘I’m full of shit’ Parker Davidson. And sure, since the serial killer isn’t winnin’ this match you even get a participation trophy.
Yeah that’s right you mangey fuckin’ dog. Hired help pile of filth. Was Charles Manson not available? Could we not hire Berkowitz? At least he had a demon dog for a best friend. You’re just a bland version of an A&E documentary. I fell asleep to a special about you once. That’s how fuckin’ borin’ ya are. How’d you get caught again? Did you do some stupid shit like BTK and run ‘round braggin’ ya did it? Or maybe you just pulled the usual jerkin’ off on your victims corpse and gettin’ grabbed by some DNA. That one is a Classic.
I’m not goin’ ta whine and cry like the two men I want to actually physically disembowel. I’ve been lookin’ for a chance ta punch your smug fuckin’ face. I’ve been lookin’ for a reason ta have a problem with ya, because your just the next Jace Parker Davidson. You’re the catfish of High Octane Wrasslin’. The ultimate bottom feeder, swimming along and eatin’ all the little fish the big boys already dismantled.
I don’t know if you caught my drift yet, Roberts, but I do not fuckin’ like you. I do not fuckin’ respect you. You’re the replacement enforcer, a clear downgrade from the previous one. You’re just the easier controlled model, you do what your told because you can’t do anythin’ else. You don’t have options, you don’t have choices, you eat what they say to eat. You wake up when they say to wake up. You might as well shit when they tell you to shit, because they already get to pick where you shit. Do they tell you to sit down to pee?
Stay as far fuckin’ away from me as you can get, Roberts.
All four of you, understand. This is the last time I’ll say this. If you try to stop me, if you step in my way, if you think you can walk away with the World Heavyweight Championship… understand this. I will not hesitate. I don’t care how much I respect you, I don’t care how many regrets I have.
I will do what I have to do. I will take what I want.
“Every situation we’ve been working on is useless…” Claude says into his hands. He looks up at The Behemoth sitting on a couch in the London flat they had rented. Clay sat with a bag of ice on his testicles.
“I told you, it wasn’t worth it. We could have stayed here, kept preparing, told everyone we were cleared and we were going to be in the match at ICONIC. We would have had Mike and Farthington and that’s it,” Claude pushes his laptop to the side of the kitchen countertop he’s leaning against.
“Yeah, only the two best wrestlers to ever step foot in High Octane… The ultimate technician and the ultimate striker. We would have only been up against them.” The Behemoth sighs as he pulls the ice away from his nether regions.
“Clay, there’s six other people in that match! And with God as my witness, all of them have some reason to want to kill you,” Claude is in a full blown tirade as he paces to the middle of the living room.”
“You almost killed Jace Parker Davidson at Rumble At The Rock, you’ve belittled, abused, and ignored Jatt Starr’s attempts at friendship. You beat the living hell out of Conor Fuse’s friends and left him with just Darin Zion to hang out with. And last but not least, JJR is the hired SERIAL KILLER of your boss who hates you!” Claude stomps his foot in the middle of the living room trying to get anything other than an agonizing groan to come from The Behemoth’s lips.
“Yeah, it sucks, it is what it is,” Clay rewound the episode of Refueled on the DVR again. He watched as he snuck up behind Farthington and Best, just as the music hit he watched himself explode through Cecilworth Farthington and Mike Best. Specifically he watched his casted left arm level the smaller man.
“Will you stop mentally masturbating yourself to that tape already?” Claude said, he was exasperated. All the planning, all the work they had done, had been flushed down the drain. Everything they had prepared for had been blown up, and Clay didn’t even care. He just wanted to watch the video over and over again.
“What are we gonna do ‘bout it? Sulk in the corner and cry? Sulk off and complain about not gettin’ the match we wanted in a series of blog posts?” Clay gingerly set the ice pack on the table and looked at Claude.
“It’s High Octane, when you want to be a hero, when you want to challenge the status quo, when you want to make a difference, this is what happens to you. There’s no gettin’ ahead, there’s no magical answer at the end of the rainbow. When you finally even the odds, ‘nother set of chips get sat down at the table against ya. That’s how the system works, that’s how the oppression continues, that’s the machine Claude,” The Behemoth looked Claude directly in his eyes.
“The conveyor belt of heroes comes in, and they try ta fight the symptoms. They battle over and over again. But ‘nough bodies, ‘nough ruthless mother fuckers get thrown at ya that ya can’t even breathe Claude. That’s how it fuckin’ works. That’s what we signed up fer. If yer not part of the machine, yer against it,” Clay snarled as he picked the remote backup and rewound the recording again. Each cast shot to Mike Best’s face excited him. Each blow provided a small feeling of euphoria.
“So how do we win this war we’ve gotten ourselves into?” Claude shuddered to himself. Clay looked different, something was off with The Behemoth.
“This match at ICONIC is just the first battle, the first in a long line of battles. Claude, maybe I was wrong to bring you into this. Maybe I was wrong to ask you to be here with me,” Clay continued to be mesmerized by the happenings on the television.
“Fuck that, Clay. I made this choice as much as you did, we’re going to do this together. Like your Dad would have wanted. I’m going to be by your side until we win this. We just need to break Michael Oliver Best, we just need to push him, we need to take something he wants from him…” Clay looked up at Claude and smirked while shaking his head.
“Do you want me to be honest with you, Claude?” Clay scratched under the plaster cast again. The confinement drove him mad. Claude nodded his head ‘yes’ in response.
“We can win some battles Claude, we can have some glorious victories. We can have our name put down in all of the records of High Octane, and it’ll be there ta spite Lee, ta spite Michael Oliver Best, it’ll be there ta spite Mike Best. But every hero, every single one here eventually fails. For every action, there’s always an equal and opposite reaction, Claude. This is a war of attrition and they have more bodies. If these bodies don’t get the job done they’ll get new ones to run at us. It won’t stop. There is no victory, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.” Clay paused for a moment taking a deep breath.
“There’s just the struggle, Claude. That’s how we get remembered. It’s just the fight we put up during it, what we leave in our wake. There’s no winning the war. But we can win a pretty big battle at ICONIC, and that’s what we have to focus on. Are you sure you’re okay with it?” Clay sat forward, he was deathly serious with Claude for the first time since the day he burnt the ranch down.
“So I’m going to train my best friend so he can go suffer? End up broken and battered? Beaten down and destroyed?” Claude asked back, a small tear in his eye. This is what he wanted, he had wanted Clay to go to battle, and now that he had it, now that it was happening. It ripped him apart.
“Claude, eventually this will kill me. But I deserve that, for everythin’ I’ve done. For everythin’ I’ve fought for. That’s an acceptable outcome. I deserve it. But I’m goin’ down fightin’, I’m goin’ down like a fuckin’ maniac. I’m takin’ my pound of flesh on the way out this fuckin’ door. They’ll all remember Clay Byrd. Every man who walks through that door and signs that contract, they’ll know me. If Icons are made at ICONIC, I will become one.”