Everyone deserves a second chance.
That’s what they all say. All you have to do is show a little remorse, toe the line, be a good boy and play by the rules. Where professional wrestlers are concerned, it means you put your head down, work hard, and don’t make waves. Find something to fight for, and fight with everything you have.
How fucking honorable.
They don’t, though.
What did Max say? It doesn’t matter what you deserve. It only matters what you want. And he was, of course, correct.
All I did was make waves. I ruined lives, ended careers, held people in the palm of my hand, and squeezed until I felt the life drain out of them.
And I fucking loved it.
I made my name as a killer, as someone not to be fucked with. I never hesitated to pull the trigger, never once considered anyone’s future, never considered anything other than what I wanted. That’s all that ever mattered.
Eventually, there was nothing left to do, and that’s the most dangerous position you can ever find yourself in because all of the sudden new thoughts start popping up in your head. Maybe I should try and leave a legacy behind that’s more than destruction. Maybe I should be remembered for more than being an unrepentant asshole.
I decided to pursue something better than what I’d been, teaching and training the next generation, running a company to give those people a chance to be part of the future of this business.
A second chance.
But what was it really?
A lie, that’s what.
I let someone convince me that I needed to grow up. Grow up, they said. I started a new family, developed a circle of friends I could trust. I don’t know how I feel about any of that anymore.
Eric Dane attacked Lindsay Troy backstage last week and someone asked me why I didn’t punch him in the face the moment I saw him outside our dressing room. I felt absolutely no need to. No rage, no anger, nothing. I felt nothing. I got a note that I should consider sending Alaina and Cecilia with Lindsay while she completed her rehab, to keep them out of The Minister’s reach.
But not out of concern.
Because I didn’t care either way. Five years ago the thought would have terrified me. Five years ago I was a weak, pitiful excuse for a man, concerned about what someone might do to my poor family. My poor family isn’t here anymore. They’re gone. I don’t know where they’re staying.
I DON’T CARE.
I realized I don’t care.
I wonder if my marriage is over. I wonder if my daughter is about to become another boring depressed teenager with a father who isn’t there for her, doesn’t pay attention to her. I take it back. I don’t wonder at all. That’s the thing.
I DON’T CARE.
Sometimes, when people don’t really know you, they think the stories are exaggerated. They hear about what I “used” to be and they don’t believe it, because there aren’t really that many people left in the business who were there. They only know Dan Ryan tamed, happy to get in someone’s face, run his mouth and color between the lines. They use it as a punchline because it’s a story told to scare children instead of a real and present fear.
You don’t have to believe it to fall victim to it though. You may not have been there. But I do believe it. I was there. I remember it. I live with it every day in my head. All this time, it’s been there, suppressed, longing to be let out while I told everyone how much I’d changed, how much I’d grown. I just want a fight, I’d say. Within the last month I’ve said it.
Oh, what a liar I can be.
To my family.
I’ve gotten so good at it that I almost start believing it until I’m stuck in a room talking about some fucking family-time bullshit and get so bored out of my goddamn skull that I wanna burn the place down.
I don’t want just a fight. You know those assholes who look for a role in society with some authority, so they can take their worst impulses out on their fellow man? I’m that guy. Does that push your buttons? Are you triggered by that? Is this not a good time for that level of honesty?
I DON’T CARE.
Save your stories and your attempts to reach me on a human level. Don’t try and figure me out. Don’t try to relate. I’m not a good guy. I’m not nice. I’m not just an asshole. I’m devoid of any feeling for any of you. I know who I am, and that’s all I’m gonna be from now on.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m not gonna spoon feed you if you can’t complete the simple task of just paying attention.
If you weren’t there the first time, don’t worry….
This is your second chance.
Do you know what my first memory of you is, Jiles?
You were the World Champion.
I saw you as a target, as someone to keep an eye on. People talked about you like you were someone to be respected. And now, you tapioca-pudding-brained waste of a roster spot, what are you?
You’re an egg-throwing comedy act, part of a troupe of guys who everyone wants to see do well because you’re so damn funny, so damn entertaining. None of you can beat anyone whose last name isn’t Hollywood or Matthews. Bobby beat MJ Flair last week, but every-fucking-body beats MJ these days. She goes to the goddamn refrigerator to get a drink, trips, and gets pinned by her living room rug twice a week. She could be stuck on her back in her hallway getting tapped out by her cat right now for all I know. No one’s heard from her since Bobby shoved her head between his gigantic thighs before pinning her last week. It was that embarrassing.
You stand there and brag about getting a cardboard cutout over, but fail to grasp the irony that you used a literal photo of me on a piece of paper to do it, and it’s more popular than you are.
My image got you over.
You treat that thing like it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever seen. CBD this, CBD that. You’ve got CBD oil all over your face, you blow it so much. But my image isn’t being chosen to be on the winning side of War Games. That was me. My image hasn’t been wrestling main events and title matches. That was me. You’re sitting there, proud of throwing an egg at me and hitting me with it, while I was wrestling in the main event.
All you knuckle-dragging fuckstains who can’t beat me in the ring have some nerve judging me while you all play backstage jerkoff over who gets the funniest lines this week, and who did the best job cleaning Bobby’s bedpan every day while he was doing his Terry Schiavo impression. And like his bedpan, all you are is full of shit. Shove your eggs up your ass. You don’t get to lecture me on anything. You do SNL skits for a living and take part in funny commercials so the fans can take a shit without missing anything important, and worse yet, you’re fucking happy about it. You’re proud of it. So fucking miss me with your condescension. Miss me with your hot fire promo in defense of paper. You bring fire like Lucian Santangel brings fire, only he at least had the decency to fucking go away.
The fact that I walked into your dressing room with absolutely no resistance and tore your stupid cheap pop prop in two is the most important thing in your world. That’s the saddest fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and my parents and first daughter died in a car crash. Sound cold? I certainly hope so, because I’m the coldest motherfucker you’ve ever met. I simply do not give a fuck. You run around backstage like you’re in a fucking Benny Hill credits sequence looking for that goddamn thing because Mikey Unlikely stole it two weeks later, yet all I care about is making you bleed all over your stupid sunglasses.
Do you know what that cardboard ripping moment meant to me?
Fucking less than nothing.
I did it just to see Bobby’s eyes pop out of his head because it was fucking funny to see, and I knew that you weren’t gonna do a damn thing about it — not because you failed somehow — in fact, it was the smart thing to do, because you already know that I would’ve ripped your goddamn head off just the same. You weren’t gonna do a thing about it, because this is who you fucking are now.
These are the things you’re concerned with because you aren’t even a serious wrestler anymore. You’re one step above the guy who sells cheap knockoff Oakleys at a flea market in South Chicago. If no one mentioned your name, we wouldn’t be able to tell you apart from some syphilitic hobo getting a blowjob in a back alley, but because you amuse the boss, people let you stick around and drive your reputation into the ground with impunity. You used to be a big deal, but now you’re barely a threat. Your entire career in HOW has been nothing but you realizing you weren’t as good as you used to be and leaning into it like a good boy who just wants to keep earning a paycheck, so don’t put on your titanium clip-on balls this week and think you’re suddenly gonna make me pay for my crimes.
Congratulations, you can do your little cheap humor punch-up routine this week and pop some rube by saying “hamster of GoD” and showing us all your bullet point presentation on how to beat Dan Ryan. But I’m sorry, buddy, you’re not in that band, and you never will be.
You wanna go avenge Lindsay Troy? Maybe you should stop embarrassing yourself by slobbering all over her panties every chance you get. If she had any fucking interest in any of you, you’d know it by now. She tolerates your happy-go-lucky bullshit, but it’s creepy as fuck. She’s a goddamn elite professional wrestler, not some bit player improv hack.
Everyone’s so damned worried about my reactions to what happens to Lindsay. It’s almost like I’ve known her for fifteen years and know she can fight her own damn battles. I’m not her white knight. Eric was right. She’s gonna want to take care of him herself, and I’m happy to let her. But you? You’re not gonna do a damn thing about it but talk, because you already know that the moment you try, Eric Dane handles you no problem. Again, you were a goddamn World Champion, Jiles…. In Eric’s company. You know how a toughened war veteran looks at a guy with a man bun? That’s how Eric Dane looks at you.
But you know what? I’m kinda glad you’re standing there getting your shits and giggles in. I’m glad you’ve got your little jokes, you’re having your little strategy session with people I’ve already beaten multiple times, and your insults are straight from the 2005 edition of ‘how to insult wrestlers better than you’. It warms my fucking heart that you think so much of me that you decided to be the forty thousandth person to call me a coward or tell me I’m old, or tell me what I’ve lost, or any number of things concocted to prompt me to roll up in a corner like a child and cry myself to sleep at night over the sad state of affairs that I’ve become.
The problem with that strategy though, Jiles, is that I don’t have the capacity to give a single fuck what you have to say about the state of my career. I don’t feel any more likely to want to break every bone in your body than I ever did, because I don’t give a fuck about you. And it’s not because I don’t think you’re any good. I’ve known you too long, and I know what you used to be capable of. I want you to do well because I know you had talent, I know you were somebody, and despite your best efforts to be a middling clown, I know you once had greatness inside you.
But because I don’t give a fuck about you, your insults, or your stupid feelings, I was already planning to force your goddamn shoulder out of socket, then hit you in the face so hard, you spend the rest of the Summer in the Bobby Dean coma suite at Northwestern Memorial. Been trying to get those last few stubborn pounds off? I’m here to help, buddy. It’s your job to stop me, but nothing has changed, so keep on keepin’ on with your standup comedy bullshit. Come in the ring and tell me a joke, motherfucker, and I’ll bash your goddamn brains in.
Now, won’t that be entertaining?
The remnants of Lindsay Troy’s fire just outside Dan Ryan’s property in Chicago were still scattered about the grounds as he walked up from the Ford F-150 parked in the circle drive. He didn’t look up as he walked through the middle of it all, the sound of a charred wedding album crunching under his feet as his boot hit it on his way through.
He shoved his way through a door on the back of the ranch-style home into a living room, where at least half a dozen people were milling about, pulling things off the walls, ripping down decor and shoving it all into big cardboard boxes.
They all stopped for a brief moment, looking up at the hulking man in the doorway, frowning as he watched. It was as if time had stopped for a few seconds, before restarting, and they all continued bringing the house back to a near-empty state. Lovely blue curtains, Alaina’s favorite color, were pulled from the rod over the main window to the backyard and stuffed into a box with no care taken to prevent damage. Knick-knacks were pulled from the mantle and tossed in a pile to the side, with no care shown in the haphazard way they were discarded.
He’d left simple, direct instructions. Get rid of it. Get rid of it all.
Don’t put it in storage.
Throw it all out. It doesn’t matter where it goes, but it had to be out of the house by tonight.
He watched as box after box was taken through the door, scanning the empty walls, and perceived, slightly, someone approaching and stopping next to him. He ignored it, still taking his time to look around, making sure everything was gone, then slowly, reluctantly, turned his eyes downward and looked in the eyes of a very nervous gentleman. He struggled to hold the weight of the box in place as he stood there, and with no shortage of nervousness, stammered as he spoke.
“I uh… that is, I mean… my boss said to just take everything out without question, but I couldn’t help noticing this box full of… well… mementos I guess? Do you want me to set it aside for you?”
Ryan held the uncomfortable stare much longer than was comfortable, then slowly averted his eyes downward toward the box, where he saw some handmade drawings on top of a pile of papers, something with a house and several stick figures next to it, another of some sort of vehicle driving down some imagined country road, three smiling faces inside. A lovely image, to be sure.
“Get rid of it.”
His stare rose roughly, the corners of his mouth downturned into a very annoyed scowl. The smaller man flinched, unsurprisingly.
“Are… are you sure. It would be a real shame to…”
The front door slammed shut as Dan Ryan came through it, making his way back toward the driveway where his truck remained, where also, the workers from before finished dumping the contents of the boxes into the back of a modified garbage truck.
He headed in the general direction of the men, then made a beeline for the one nearest him.
The man, a middle-aged gentleman dripping with sweat from a hard day’s work, realized he was the target, and steeled himself for the encounter.
Ryan approached, then stopped a few feet away, looking down at him with the same scowl from before.
“There’s someone bleeding in my living room.”
He looked back toward the house, then back at the terrified worker, whose wide-eyed expression betrayed his obvious fear. Ryan looked him up and down, then snorted derisively as he turned to walk away.
“Get rid of it.”