MGM Grand Garden Arena
Las Vegas, NV
April 22, 2022. 11:45 PM PDT
I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself,
And falls on th’other. . . .
It’s been years since Teddy Palmer had the misfortune to feign interest through grade 10 English class, but somehow the Bard’s words haunted him across the cool concrete halls. He had wandered far from the familiar felt palace and found himself in the darker corners of a building that routinely happily took the last pennies of the miserable. Be sure, there was no Red on his hands after he had secured his two-man stable-mate’s first victory in PRIME.
The problem was, could he play Lady MacBeth for a second show, especially with the Lady of PRIME no doubt watching?
There were other means…
“If you gentlemen would like to give a brother some room. I need to talk with your boss,” Ted brought out as much charm as he cared for a bunch of suited creeps. Lord knows he’d struggle to stay around Grady Patrick for long without Redding there to calm him, or something stronger.
Unsurprisingly for the friendly nature usually found nowhere in a wrestling locker room, neither man does more than glare a warning to turn back.
“Don’t be so protective before one that comes to us too stupid to be anything less than an inconvience, but maybe a friend,” came in that South African accent. Ted has an ear for that.
“That you back there, Jules?”
Not ignoring their orders, the two made room enough for at least visual confirmation, though they kept their eyes trained and hands at the ready.
“Tidy little win, tonight. Congrats, I guess.” Ted was half remembering the sandwich technique, before he thought about his empty belly. Vain compliments to open, regardless.
The Carpathian Devil studied the Almasy Invitational semi-finalist for a passing moment, and returned, “Forgive me if I don’t think I need to thank you for stating the obvious.”
“Hmm..” this was proving harder than Palmer thought, time to bring out the big guns. “I’ve seen your little brochure being handed out around backstage. Nice little golf course you run there.”
“It’s not–” Bathory caught his tongue.
“Sure, sure. But, I think you guys might be able to do me a favour. See, I need a little help.”
This brought Julian to his feet. “MESSIAH is always looking to help lost souls like yourself.”
“Me? God no. I’m fan-fucking-tastic. It’s Red.”
A step backward, and the not-so-hench-men tensed, too.
“You see, he’s kind of been an embarrassment to himself here, you know? We’re used to breaking into a new territory and raking up the wins before inevitably being endeavored because some people just can’t take a joke. I’ve held up my end, but I don’t think I can keep holding up his, too. I mean, he almost lost to that OTHER cult guy, and I mean, wow.”
“And you are proposing that I take up that cruisaide in your stead, to leave you free to go on flaunting Troy’s rule?”
“No offense, but I don’t think you and yours are subtle enough to trip on a dude’s skull like moi. No, I was kinda thinking of enrolling him in your little retreat camp. I need my friend to get his head right. Especially after Grady got in his ear about that 5 Star stuff..”
“Oh. MESSIAH isn’t in the business of turning away honest intrigue, but what you are asking for is a miracle I doubt even Mr. Shanahan could pull off in two weeks.”
Dejected and turning on a heel, “Worth a try, at least,” Teddy Palmer left Mr. Bathory to have a conversation with his help about being more selective with who gets a pamphlet.
April 27, 2022, 11:45 AM
Since before I made the call, I’ve been watching.
Since before it became evident that I wouldn’t have been the one to Shock the Culture and steal a golden win in that five-way at the beginning of the month, I’ve been studying.
It’s only my studious habits that keep me building and reiterating upon a dossier for the men and women I share a ring with nagging at me again.
And I’ve been impressed. I couldn’t help but be.
But can we cut it with the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed routine?
That kept grating away as I watched the fifth playing of your match with Dusk, Johnny and the since departed Mathematician. The mahogany desk was in danger of cracking as that ‘happy to be here’ smile stayed peering out from the brave and accomplished look even as you raised that title overhead for the first time.
I clearly needed a second set of eyes before mine went bloodshot, or redden entirely. So I leaned on my best friend.
“Yeah, that sick ‘tache is going to be a slippery devil – TOP SHELF!” his extended fist is met.
As is tradition, film study with Ted lasted all of one half hour before attentions diverted to a good game of CHEL.
“Nice one. Ah, look at it, they’re pulling him!” A true sign of defeat when they send up their prayer the tender swap would spark something out of the skaters.
The 50” 4K in the living room got great detail of the home crowd cheering before it was back to centre ice once more.
“Does the kid remind you of anyone?” gets ignored as the puck had drifted in our zone and the computer-controlled defense always leaves the slot wide.
“Hmm.. I mean, my mustache in GCW was way, way more rider friendly.”
I was awfully familiar with that playbook: Break in as this greener than the pines standing out against the white stuff of winter; Before anybody has the time to question why you got to the national stage, you’ve already piled up plenty of wins to shut ‘em up before they ask.
I had done it with a little more mud, and spit. Grit, I think they call it.
Catch Johnny on a lucid day and he can tell you about the two-man stable tearing up GCW on its glory run, when we thumbed noses, and other parts, PRIME’s way.
*KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK*
When destiny knocked, I kicked that door in. I left careers broken in my wake.
“Ohhhh, you order us a pizza?” Ted teased like he forgot I wasn’t allowed carbs on the week of a show.
“Nope. You didn’t order something else to my house?”
“At this hour?” Ted laughed like he hadn’t pulled such unscrupulous acts in the past. “I don’t know, is it Grace?”
“She’s not in town for another week, at best,” I cast a gaze at the titles kept in a box beside the console, mostly of the plastic and Styrofoam variety she’d been known to try to motivate a younger me. “And she has a key.”
*KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!*
“Alright, alright. Pause it, could ya?”
“Sure,” Ted had already dived into his phone before I was vertical and towards the front entry.
“You’re getting slow, old man,” I’m attacked, pulling open the door.
“Sock? The Hell are you doing in town?” I step aside to let the legend step through.
“Nonna’s 90th. I couldn’t live knowing I missed it.”
“Is that Nicky?” Ted hollered down the hall.
“I see all the scoundrels are gathered at one spot,” he chuckled, following me into the first floor living room.
“As I live and breathe,” the southern lily bell routine Ted would trot out whenever us three reunite. “You’re looking good, Sock.”
“As do you, boys. What’s this I see about someone shaking up the title pictures down there in Vegas?” I nearly get double over, though the ghost of Houdini tells me to keep my midsection clenched.
“Well, it seemed like the nice guy routine was getting me precisely nowhere. But enough about me, how are things in la Belle Province?”
“The gym is busy, always. Could do with a few guest trainers from now-and-then, however,” you wouldn’t take seriously from any other guy in business casual.
“And what? Swim the St. Lawrence when it wasn’t just a degree above freeze-your-nipples off?” I hear that would be right up Jiles’ alley.
We all looked toward our palms.
“Ah, sorry to cut this short, gentlemen. Pops needs help picking out a gift,” Sock didn’t need to apologize.
“What do you even get someone that old?” Ted tried his best not to picture himself wrinkled and hunched.
“I don’t know why he’s making it this hard. I just got her some top shelf bourbon. Those PSWs won’t know what hit ‘em.” got us all a’chuckle.
“We’ll have to schedule something, sometime,” I was the adult in this group.
“Not a chance. We’re doing dinner, us three, tonight,” Sock seemed determined.
“But, your Nonna?”
“She’s 90. Dinner will be done at like, 5, tops. I’ll be good to dine again by 8, easy. I’ll trust you boys to figure of out the where, and just let me know.”
“Will do,” Ted was clasping an arm around to walk Sock out.
It was a minute before Ted stepped back inside.
Somewhere Along Highway 401
April 27, 2022, 10:54 PM
“And that’s when Sock tosses this jackass through the glass. And I mean launched,” I motion as much as the seatbelt and tight confines allowed for.
“With the fork sticking out of his thigh,” Ted loved that detail.
The driver beside Ted, who’d called shotgun as we exited from The Keg a few pounds heavier, and a few dollars shorter, tried his best to ignore the telling of old glories.
“He was being a dick to everyone, what was I supposed to do?” Sock undersold it.
“Speaking of, don’t think I didn’t notice you giving the waitress a little more than just the tip,” Ted’s tongue clicked against the inside of his lip.
“And here I was thinking I ordering off menu, just to see the waitstaff trail you into the men’s room.”
Without a blush, but just a smile. Sock’s casual adultery was mostly charming at this point.
The mood was jovial. It’d had been almost since our senior year, members of a stout St. Mary’s Falcons defense that carried us to Provincials can I recall being this carefree. We’d never lose that bond, but everything just became task oriented.
I was the emancipated 17 year old working graveyard. I was the first one to put up that distance. Then the wrestling, and Ted followed. Sock caught on with the MMA, a real thumper that the UFC would never give a second look to, his piss being nuclear. Then he caught on with some characters in Quebec. Worked a few camps with GSP, then took over a gym.
I’m just saying that it’s nice to revel everyone once and a while with no ulterior motives.
“Ted, where are we headed, anyway? It feels like we’ve been in this car for a half hour already,” a check on my phone proved Sock right.
“We left the cars at my place, and it was ten minutes to get there,” my math wasn’t adding up, some variable was missing.
Come to think of it, Ted was the one who put in the order for the ride.
“Not much longer now,” Ted had a surprise planned.
I felt a situation upcoming. Grady might be working late tonight.
The exit off the highway. Two rights and a left. Street corners were looking familiar, if a little dated.
“Here we are,” the driver popped it in park and waited for us to get out.
With hesitation I do, the last to part with a shaky, “Thanks…”
“Just as I remember it,” Ted shut one eye and framed it up. “The Twisted Ace Gym.”
“Every inch the rundown old factory I remember,” the exterior lacked greatly for curb appeal.
“This is where you two..” Sock was peering through a window, and back to us.
“The humble, very humble, beginning to the story,” nostalgia is a strange drug. Standing in the middle of this mostly neglected factory district of Kitchener-Waterloo wearing those rose-tinted glasses, my head wandered to happier days.
“Rough old bastards were the just the thing to put that fire in your gut, and hate every veteran you came across,” Ted wasn’t wrong.
“Did you drive us out here to just look at the outside?” Sock’s eyes glimmered with mischief.
Before the pair of them went looking for a discarded brick, or stone large enough to create an entrance, I offer, “You don’t think?” And walk to the potted plant used as an ashtray. But sure enough.
“Wait, is that the key?”
“Old dogs, new tricks,” I shrug, sinking the key into the handle and the door opens with a jiggle.
“Cheap old-timer couldn’t even install an alarm,” Ted made sure to look around the entry, with only the streetlights lending any illumination.
“What in here would be worth stealing?” It’s sense memory these fifteen years plus on, “And we have light.”
“Wow,” Sock is taken aback at the bareboned operation in all its glory. “Every weight is rusted. How?”
“Uh-huh,” in unison grunt Ted and I.
“Oh, hey!” Ted found maybe the one thing to change since we graduated early to bigger and better. “I really am that handsome.”
Framed and hung along the west wall was every past enrollee to earn a dime in this wild world or professional wrestling. Ted from a time known as Dixon Seider, lifting up the combined Hardcore and TV titles from our early days in PTC. Me with the US title I stole once upon a time.
“They even had that flighty fruitcake Quinlan, shesh.”
“And that must be where you guys trained?” Sock took to sitting on the apron of the 18’x18’ erected at the back half of the building.
“I don’t think I’ve found a canvas stiffer, praise be,” I lean on my forearms, watching ghosts run through the rope drill.
Ted rolls in, and posts himself to perch on the top. “Man, really makes you reconsider how far we’ve come, don’t it?”
“What, the twenty some drunks we’d draw for those first few not matching up to twenty thousand per and all the bells and whistles?”
“They do at least have a bucket,” Sock didn’t wander far to find it.
“Ted?” he’d climbed down and rocking off the ropes to test their fitness.
“Ted told me about your little performance issues, and we’re going to make sure to get you ready for that main event, Red.” Sock slaps my shoulder.
“That was a waste of an $80 12 ounce steak, wasn’t it?” draws nods, but no laughs.
I’ll ask you to please not confuse me with some of the headcases Troy has called together. Her chance to run PRIME, and it’s filled with at least three vaguely veiled cults, a pair of hobos, and the utter disappointment of whatever the Amazing Life Partners are.
You seem to be bright enough for that.
Now if you’d only wise up some before some veteran with ill intention makes you learn the hard way.
I’ve been there.
Hell, I’d tell you I am still there, staring down the grey heads sitting atop the good favours list. I think you’ve struck up a friendship with a couple. Those ugly veterans that care only for themselves, and that means holding down the future, as they can dig fingernails in, holding on to faded glory.
I’d think if it were up to me, I wouldn’t have to be the guy to take that 5 Star title away from you.
Blame Troy’s indecisiveness. If only she was as fast at naming your challenger as she was hopping into bed with champions everywhere she ends up. I mean, wait, this isn’t some sort of Bad Bosses situation with you, is it?
This ain’t nothing personal, I just have plans. And you retaining the precious shiny ain’t among them.
You want to play Bambi? You act like some Goddamned Disney princess, I’d swear. That’s fine, all’s good.
It’s just that the Man has come back to the forest, and I’m coming fully loaded. I’m untied from those commitments that bound me to brass rings. I’ll be who I am, let me at least be honest.
This will be a battle of wills, and brother, I hope you have the spirit. Lord knows how stubborn I can be.
I’ll dutifully discharge upon you the knowledge of just what makes the difference between winning a title, and defending it. You’ll be better for it the next time your time comes around.
Friday night ends just the one way:
Long live the Villains.