May 1, 1997
Los Angeles, CA
Craig leaned back and lay in the lap of his pregnant wife, who was sitting on the couch. She sat there, her eyes closed and seemingly deep in thought, and calmly started to run her fingers through his dark brown hair. Craig could only imagine what she was thinking about, and as of late, Rebecca hadn’t been in a sharing mood. As he lay there, his eyes closed, he thought about the coming months for them. Craig knew the road schedule would be ramping up as his bookings increased thanks to his recent cover on PWI, courtesy of making the top 500 wrestlers of the year rankings. He’d been surprised when he received the phone call, and since then, every promoter was eager to book him.
On top of that, Rebeccas would be due in the next two months, and he couldn’t wait to meet his baby daughter. His mind wondered about a life where he would come home, and she’d be ready for tea parties and playing with her dolls. He didn’t care in the least bit; it’s what he was most looking forward to. For him, wrestling was an end to a mean, a way to provide for his wife and daughter; his family. Still, his focus remained on honing his craft as much as on his home life.
Lying there, he knew how much he wanted this family, how much he would give for them, and it filled him with a love he never knew. A love he never received from his parents, from the foster system, or from anyone else he’d met before.
She loved him for him, which made every moon seem much brighter to him.
‘How you doing, love?’ she inquired.
His eyes slowly opened, and he gazed at her, her facial features seeming more attractive by the day. He’d heard from the other boys on the road how she would glow, and they didn’t know how right they indeed were. Yet, her beauty, love, and grace wrapped themselves around him, and he was safe in her cocoon.
‘Just fine, you know. Just thinking about the future.’
She smiled. ‘Same here. Just picturing painting her room, getting her first set of baby furniture, her going to school for the first time.’
Slowly he sat up with a peculiar look on his face. ‘That’s quite the jump.’
Her laugh rang through the living room. ‘No, no. I just am realizing how quick it’s all going to go, you know? They say they grow up so fast, and I just don’t want to miss a moment of it.’
‘Well,’ he began before reaching over to the water bottle. ‘I think you skipped a few big moments.’
‘You don’t think about that kind of stuff? Almost like you can see their life flash before your very eyes? I don’t know, but I’ve started to have those thoughts in my mind. I can just see her bringing me all of her problems as a teenager and how I will have to coach her without coaching her. Or her first steps. Or getting married. Becoming a mother.’
Craig shook his head. ‘I’m just scared shitless of her being here more than anything.’
‘Why?’ she responded, her face becoming confused.
‘You know,’ he began before taking a sip of his water. ‘It’s not like I had the best upbringing. I didn’t really have parents who loved me. Or I guess parents, for that matter. Dad overdosed, a mom who ran away with some other guy. So it’s just, what can I offer?’
Rebecca shook her head and inched towards him. ‘You don’t get it. You have so much to offer her and not just love and Daddy Tea Parties and threatening the first boyfriend with your bare fists. You can help prepare her for a sad and broken world that is lost and forgotten. You can show her your pain, so she is empathetic and thoughtful. You will raise a smart daughter, not just book-wise, but understands people.’
She grabbed his hand. ‘She will get to know a man who puts their wife and daughter first, shows unconditional love, works for what they have, and puts in a hard day’s work. You will be the very bar that she measures every man against.’
‘And what if I fail?’
She shook her head, the palm of her hand gracefully running down his cheek.
‘Baby, I promise you. You will fail. A million times over.’
Craig choked on the laugh that threatened to explode out of his mouth. ‘Well, that’s confidence-boosting right there. I remember why I married you all over again.’
Rebecca shook her head. ‘Quiet. You will fail because you’re not perfect; you’re not infallible. But, you don’t shy away from your mistakes. Instead, you will lean into them and show her how not to make the same mistakes as you do because she certainly will. But, you will teach her how to continue fighting through them and come out the other side stronger for it.’
He shook his head again. ‘I don’t know. What if that’s not enough for her? What if I fuck her up beyond all belief?’
Her eyes, hazel and soft, locked eyes with his, and she smiled warmly. ‘Then you will do what you do best. You will swallow your pride, you will apologize, and you will make it right to her. You will come to her as a man should when they’ve messed up, contrite and honest. She will look up to you and adore you beyond measure. Don’t ever doubt that even when you doubt yourself.’
She leaned in and kissed him on the lips.
‘Now,’ she continued after breaking it. ‘I need wings. Now. I’m hungry. Your daughter is hungry. Go. Now.’
Craig laughed as he stood up and made his way to the front door, grabbed the keys off the table, and looked at his wife, thankful for his time with her.
* * *
I have suffered many injuries in my career, had more surgeries than I care to remember, and have experienced pain beyond belief. I’m confident I’ve had quite a few concussions to boot.
Nothing felt like what happened to me at Culture Shock, though. The repeated choke bombs, the kicks to my ribcage, the incessant words coming from a man’s mouth clearly too high on himself.
The doctors told me I had a concussion and bruised ribs from the attack. For days afterward, it took everything for me to open my eyes and ignore the pounding in my skull, courtesy of said attack. In addition, I would violently vomit my empty insides into the toilet several times daily. Can you imagine the added pain of trying to throw up when your ribs are bruised?
I have a million things I could say about Phil Atken, but I need time to gather my thoughts and ponder my next steps. Retribution, for sure. For both Atken and Hank, for their grotesque display.
I have no ill feelings towards Tapioca Puddings. I would look towards Muriel, but I feel like having to live with… herself… is terrible enough; there is no need to pile on. No, my fury and anger are saved for those two men. Because their time will come, that is for sure.
I’ve clearly been too nice for too long; time to remind them why I’m a former two-time Intense Champion and what comes along with that.
Soon, Phil. Soon, Hank.
I’ll see you at ReVival.
* * *
March 25, 2022
Craig leaned on the back porch of Rose’s home, a glass bottle of beer in his hand, and he took a long sip from it. He felt the imprint of Rose’s hand still against his cheek and slowly shook his head. He’d pushed her too hard. This is the ‘stuff’ he wasn’t good at, the things he knew he would never be good at, and yet Rebecca told him he could do it.
I wish you were right.
He sighed. The truth was, he didn’t care if she was right or not.
I just wish you were here.
Every so often, he entertained the idea of Rebecca being alive and the life they would have led on the fringes of his mind. One with far more highs and fewer lows than the life Rose, and he, lived thus far. Family dinners, outings around the world, and maybe one more kid.
There should have been one more.
Once again, he shook his head, clearing the thoughts out of his mind. His free hand ran through his white hair, and now, more than ever, he felt the age he was. Aches in his bones as a slight chill ran up his spine.
Standing there, lost in his thoughts, he was unaware of Rose opening the patio door and silently closing it behind her. She walked over to her father and took the beer bottle from his hand, and took a long sip from it herself. She leaned into the wooden frame that wrapped around her house, the frame her father built when she bought this house.
‘Sorry,’ she muttered, not fully believing in it, but knowing it is more than owed.
He looked over at her and rolled his tongue inside of his mouth. ‘I probably deserved it.’
‘You didn’t,’ she retorted. ‘I mean, at one point, you probably did. I don’t know if calling out facts is exactly a reason for slapping you, no matter how much your words cut through me.’
‘I didn’t mean for them to cut through. It’s just—,’ he sighed. ‘I see who you are and what you could become. It scares the ever-loving shit out of me. I’ve been down that road, battling depression and suicidal thoughts. Drinking every ounce of feelings away, hoping that I would wake up and just forget, or better, it was all a horrible nightmare that I’d been trapped in for far too long.’
She looked at him, tears filling her eyes. ‘I never knew.’
‘I hid it from you. You’d already lost your mom; you didn’t need to see me grieve.’
She shook her head. ‘That couldn’t be further from the truth. Because I never saw you grieve, I thought I had to hold everything in, even years later when I felt her absence in my life, during the most vital moments. My first period, my first kiss—’
‘Who kissed you?’
‘Dad,’ she chuckled. ‘Not tonight. I needed to see that it was okay to cry and feel every emotion I was feeling. Because I felt like I was going crazy. I was young when she passed. You had more time with her than I did, and if you weren’t grieving, I thought I shouldn’t either.’
He nodded his head slowly, recognizing the flaws that became more visible with each passing day in how he raised her. ‘Yeah, I guess that’s just how we did things back then.’
‘I know,’ she rubbed his arms. ‘You’re not of this generation where it’s okay to feel your feelings.’
‘Dumb shit,’ he responded, a chuckle escaping from his lips. Rose laughed back at him before she polished off the remainder of the beer.
‘There are so many questions that I have,’ she continued. ‘About mom, about what happened that night.’
The words stung as he felt the fresh memories on his skin. He closed his eyes, and a swell of emotions caught in his chest as he remembered vividly when everything fell apart, when Rebecca was no longer there.
He then felt Rose’s arms wrap around him. She pulled him into her and hugged him tighter than he could ever remember someone hugging him.
‘It’s okay, Dad,’ she whispered, the massive figure of her father leaning into her and her doing everything she could to stay upright. The two remained like this for a few moments before a stiff breeze blew through the backyard.
‘One day, I will tell you everything,’ he informed her as they broke their embrace. ‘Just not—’
‘No, I know.’
The two stood there in silence. ‘I’ll talk to Brian,’ she offered. ‘Let him know I’ll be okay. I think, at least.’
‘If I can offer anything, you won’t ever be okay. You will always feel a gaping hole in your heart. The positive is each day, it gets a little bit better. You’ll still lapse and seek, but you will be able to cope more and more as long as you have the space to talk about it. I promise you, I will give you that space.’
A smile filled her face. ‘Okay, enough sappiness for one evening. Let’s go inside and eat that dinner you cooked. It smelled delicious.’
‘Thanks, I hope it’s still good.’
‘Same here, and while you’re at it, could you teach Brian how to cook like that? I didn’t even know you knew how to cook like that. Going to need you to come over and cook for us more often.’
The two laughed as Rose led the way back into the house. Craig paused at the threshold; a certain warm feeling washed over him as he felt another breeze, softer than the previous one.
‘Thanks,’ he whispered before he walked back into the house and closed the door behind him.
* * *
I have a match against Teddy Palmer. In between throwing up my guts into a toilet or trash can and fighting off the headache from hell, I’ve managed to watch some tape on Palmer. He’s come into PRIME on a mission and has looked good while doing so. He was one step away from competing in the Universal Championship if not for a red-hot Cancer Jiles. Unfortunately, he fell short in the Universal Titles Contender Match against Anna Daniels, Julian Bathory, and Impulse.
Needless to say, everyone is on notice when it comes to Teddy Palmer. Looking at the tape I’ve been able to watch, it’s clear that while I will have the size and power advantage, Teddy will have the speed and agility market covered compared to what I’m bringing to the ring.
What I’ve been bringing to the ring is a sore subject with me these days, considering I’ve only been able to pull out one victory since I’ve been here. Add in the vicious display from Hank and Phil Atken, and needless to say, I’m feeling somewhat embarrassed suddenly. I’m in a backward slide, and facing off against Palmer is not going to be a walk in the park, to say the least.
As the road to Great American Nightmare is underway, and with my own unique set of problems, I have to make a statement and remind everyone exactly who I am and who they’re messing with. I’m not a former two-time Intense Champion for nothing. I haven’t earned respect and adoration from the fans for nothing. It’s because when I’ve been in that ring, I’ve managed to fight through adversity and come out the other side better for it, with my hand raised high or a title wrapped around my waist.
Palmer hasn’t done anything wrong to me, but I have to make an example out of him. I can’t do the same thing I did with Tapioca Puddings and let him hang around. I simply have to put him in the ground and exert my power against him. He wants to strike with one of the best strikers in the game, then he’s going to feel every single shot as it collides with every one of his organs.
Teddy feels like Lindsay is the reason he’s not the Universal Champion, that he’s not getting a fair shake. That sounds like the words of someone with a bruised ego who can’t handle a loss. That tells me not only the kind of man I’m dealing with but also the intensity he will bring to this match. Lucky for both of us, I know a little something about intensity.
Keep your words and whining in the back where they belong and prove your worth. There’s no doubt you have skill and talent, especially getting a victory over Anna Daniels. Still, now it’s time to show you have longevity and perseverance when you’re met with adversity. Unfortunately for you, I’m the very definition of adversity for you. I’ve got no time for your bullshit and blubber. So square up, or I’m going to knock that block off your shoulders.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt a particular fire in my gut, a desire to bash someone’s skull. I’ve done it before, so I’ll do it again. Spend your time looking over your shoulder, yelling about how Lindsay Troy doesn’t love you. You’re preaching to the choir because Troy and I have never seen eye-to-eye, yet I’m standing across from you in the ring in Vegas in just a matter of days. What does that tell you?
I know what it tells me. You’ll blame anyone but yourself when your back is against the wall. I can’t stand people like that. You remind me of Phil Atken in so many ways, and I’m looking forward to unleashing my rage towards Atken upon someone like you.
Get in that ring, Teddy, and I’ll really give you a fight; I’ll provide you with something to honestly complain about. You won’t be able to blame Lindsay Troy. You won’t be able to blame the referees or the Bandits. Tell your partner and manager to stay in the back and take notes because you’re about to step in the ring with a beast you’re not quite ready for.
I’ll see you in the ring on Friday, Teddy. Come prepared or don’t come at all.