Dan Ryan stops short, his driver waiting with the door to his limo open. The hustle and bustle of the airport drop-off area is loud. Ryan squints for some reason, as if squinting helps anyone to hear any better, and puts his off-hand in his ear, trying to hear from the cell phone held up against his other ear.
It quickly dawns on him that it may be quieter in the car, so he glances up at the driver and climbs into the back.
Alaina Troy-Ryan is already there.
“Nice of you to join me.”
Ryan holds up a finger, still trying to focus on the phone conversation.
“Surprising, but not unwelcome.”
Ryan sighs. “Yes, Lindsay, I’m aware it’s a double negative.”
Ryan takes the phone from his ear and mouths “your sister” to his wife. Alaina smirks.
The phone goes back to his ear.
“Thanks for giving me a heads up. Tell Eric I’ll give him a call as soon as I get to my place…… Yep. Alright…. Bye.”
Ryan looks across at Alaina as he tosses his phone to the side. “Well well well….”
Alaina glances at someone trying to sneak a peek through the tinted window. They give up quickly, however and move on. “What’s up?”
“It turns out…” Ryan adjusts and crosses one leg over the other. “..we have a tag team title shot next week.”
Her eyebrows raise slightly. “Oh? That’s… interesting. And by ‘we’ you mean you and Lindsay?”
Ryan winks. “Actually, no. Me… and Eric.”
“Wow.” Alaina nods. “Do Zion and Hanson have up-to-date medical insurance.”
Ryan smiles. “Not my concern.”
“I didn’t realize the two of you wanted to go for the tag belts.” She replied, absent-mindedly moving a strand of hair from her eyes.
“We didn’t.” Ryan caught himself. “Well, that’s too strong of a way to put it. More like, we didn’t ask for it. But you know me. I never turn down another shot at a championship.”
He paused, as a thought suddenly struck him.
Alaina noticed. “What?”
“Nothing.” Ryan smiled. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if this was what Eric had in mind when he started antagonizing these guys.”
September 11, 2019.
Sitting on a balcony overlooking Beale Street, Dan Ryan leans forward, his elbows resting on his knees as he looks down over the hustle and bustle of the city life below.
I don’t know why Eric’s got such a bug up his ass about this place. Seriously, the things that guy lets himself get worked up about.
Guys, I’m gonna say it.
This is quite the opportunity. The truth is, I never take any championship opportunity lightly, and if anyone ever does, it’s because they don’t truly understand the honor involved in representing a company as their champion on any level. I hear a lot of people referring to various championships as beneath them, and that’s because those people are losers.
Noah, I’m gonna talk to you first.
Ryan shifts his weight slightly.
I know you’ve been at this a long, long time. Pro Wrestling X, right?
And here you are, tag team champions with a guy you don’t even like.
I get that. Believe me. I get that.
You didn’t want this, and here you are, suddenly champions in a company that has historically hated you, bemoaning your fate and wishing for the good old days, I’m sure. But, look on the bright side. Maybe they weren’t that good really. Maybe you’ve got a little Mandela Effect situation going where you remember those days differently than they really were.
It kinda seems like you’re used to getting your face kicked in. It’s all you and your boys talk about pretty much, right? Overlooked, mistreated, disrespected.
But look on the bright side, right?
Tomorrow is another day. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Love is a battlefield.
Still, you are the tag team champions, and holding gold in any company I work for means you have a target on your back. See, I don’t look down on any shot at gold. Or silver. Championships are kinda what I do, ya know? It’s in my DNA.
You guys — I mean, you kinda fell down a hill into this. You didn’t set out to be this formidable team, hell bent on dominating the tag team division for years to come. You didn’t set out to do anything at all, except maybe force Mike Best to max out his Best Buy credit card to get some new sound equipment.
We are setting out to win these championships of yours. This is your lucky day, because Eric and I discussed it, and we are willing to beat you and relieve you of the burden of teaming with Zion. Not much longer will you have to waste all your fifth grader sexual innuendo insults on him. Soon, you can turn your attention to something more your speed, like maybe a Stranger Things themed improv group where saying “vagina” still gets you the stifled chuckles you’re used to.
And speaking of your partner……
Ryan sits up straight and sighs deeply.
Karen Zion, you are dumb. You are so dumb, for real. You are like a walking internet meme for dumb. If you go anywhere on the net, to any forum or message board on a variety of topics, from video games to sports to effeminate My Little Pony cosplay, people know what “pulling a Zion” is. I look at you and I think, he’s not so bad. I listen to you and I think, yes, he is.
It’s a good thing I’m old enough to remember the old Bill Cosby and the Cosby Kids cartoons from the 80s. Because of that show, I speak fluent mush mouth and can thus translate your tomfoolery to my stablemates. Poor High Flyer looked like his head was gonna explode listening to you speak. I had to give him a warm milk toddy and a hot compress for his head and put him down for a nap or else I fear he was on the path to a stroke. See what you do to people? You’re endangering the health of your co-workers. Not cool, man. You need to keep that shit in the ring.
When you do keep it in the ring, you’re a passable professional wrestler. You beat Eric. That’s no small feat. People can laugh all they want about it, but he’s a legend in the business, like him or not. Luck or not, you did it.
But when you open your mouth to speak, that’s when the magic happens.
And not the good kind of magic. You’re like the guy in a lounge act in Vegas pulling quarters from behind a stripper’s ear while mumbling into a microphone covered in two-day-old beer stench, before missing the edge of the stage and tumbling into the lap of a fat talent agent who suddenly wishes he got tickets to see Carrot Top.
Ryan leans forward again, this time leading to one side slightly.
I’m gonna let you in on a secret, Karen. And when I say secret, I mean readily available public information that anyone who feels like making an effort can discover.
I spent over a decade looking for, signing and cultivating professional wrestling talent. I ran a company for ten years because after dominating my corner of the world, burn out became a very real monster to defeat. I stepped back, then I gave back. I had a hand in the development of some of the greatest in our sport — the least of which being my sister-in-law Lindsay Troy, whom I was proud to present her very first World Championship so many years ago.
Why am I telling you this?
It’s a glimpse. It’s a tiny glimpse into a small part of a complex and world-spanning twenty plus year career. There’s so much I could say, so many stories to tell. But I’d rather you do your own leg work.
I’d rather you do your own leg work so you don’t say some of the overly simplistic shit you just said about my life in this business.
No, I’m not gonna go over all of that again — but neither am I gonna sit by and let your foolishness go unanswered.
You have never…. ever dealt with my kind, Zion. Never. There are very few men in the history of our sport who breathe the air that Eric Dane and I breathe. Let me be blunt and let me be clear. You are not one of those men. I speak with absolute confidence. You are a simpleton if you identify that as arrogance. I’m confident that the sun will come up tomorrow, Zion, because I’ve seen it come up every day for all forty-two years of my life. I’m confident that I will hold championship gold in HOW…. because that’s what always happens.
I don’t really care if you or anyone else thinks that I’m arrogant. I really don’t. Your opinions are meaningless to me. This isn’t some Impractical Jokers punishment shit. I’m not going through the motions here for you. I’m here to win the tag team championships because they matter; because they’re supposed to matter.
Do you really wanna match up wins and losses with me? I don’t think you do. You, another guy who didn’t earn a spot on a War Games team to begin with, running his mouth about what I wasn’t able to do on the big stage. Point me to your big stage, Karen. Point me to that moment in time when the whole world was watching you lay it all out on the line, no matter the result. Show me, just one time, when you were front and center making your mark and claiming your moment.
You won’t. You can’t. All you can do is talk about it.
I don’t go around ‘flaunting’ the past — other people do. Why do you think that is? Why do you think I was invited here in the first place? People know, or at least the smart people do. You don’t, so what does that tell you, you uneducated potato?
How are you…. you who has never had the weight of a company on your shoulder, you who has never held the lives and careers of other men in your hands…How are you gonna sit there and tell me what lessons I have or haven’t learned? Who the hell are you to tell us what we value?
Here’s what you and your little bargain basement Dr. Phil partner need to understand — Eric Dane and I are the titans of this industry through years of hard work, relentless dedication to our craft, endless study of this sport and a refusal to accept defeat. You keep going on and on about all the hardships you have to face and you’re right, we don’t relate to that shit, because we have consistently done whatever it takes to get the job done.
Don’t tell us what’s going through my head. You’re not smart enough to psychoanalyze me, Zion.
Every championship matters.
Do you hear me??
Every championship matters. Believe me, we’re not out here to mindlessly beat you up. We’re here to beat you up with a very specific purpose — to win the HOW Tag Team Championship.
You go get that sleep now.
Disappointment is easier to accept when you’re fully rested.
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