Tact swings with a lariat but Dusk ducks under. Tact continues to the ropes but Dusk slams on the brakes, Tact comes back off the ropes and starts to dive for a spear but Dusk absolutely crushes him with a superkick. Tact explodes backwards like he was shot out of a cannon, and slams into the canvas. Dusk drags himself over to the ropes and leans against them. He looks back towards Tact while Nixon starts to count.
“What a superkick from Dusk there!” Nick roared into his microphone.
Richard sat there, in disbelief. “I can’t believe he can get his leg that high still.”
Craig heard the count of Nixon and watched as Tact slowly sat up. He looked at Larry’s eyes and could see a bit of fire still there, but it was quickly going out. As Tact rose to his feet, Craig wasted no time and connected with another superkick, this time to the side of his opponent’s skull. Blood caked on his face, he stumbled to the corner while he watched Tact collapse to the mat once again.
“That superkick from Dusk was brutal!” Nick yelled once again, the roar of the fans behind him forcing him to increase his volume.
“LET’S GO TACT!” Richard responded, willing the man to his feet while Elvis Nixon finished counting to two and was beginning to count again as Tact sat up.
“THREE!” Elvis yelled out, holding up the appropriate number of fingers to boot. Tact looked out of it. He looked groggy. He looked worn out from this battle. Craig stood there and watched as a voice echoed in the back of his mind.
You’re not done yet.
The voice played on repeat and he felt the adrenaline as it coursed through his body, no longer hearing Elvis as he continued his count, no longer hearing the thousands of fans as they screamed his name, counted alongside Elvis, and jeered Tact. All he saw was Larry and he was going to finish this once and for all.
His final match. His final stand.
Slowly, he crouched down, and began to yell for Tact to get to his feet. Blood continued to stream down his face, but he didn’t feel any of it; didn’t feel the pain in his skull. Directly behind Larry, he saw his daughter. Rose stood, with her hands over her mouth, but happiness and tears in her eyes.
He wanted this for her. Tears built up in his own eyes as he saw his daughter, and then directed his energy towards Tact.
“GET THE FUCK UP!” he yelled with every ounce of fury that remained in his body. As if on command, Larry did just that, but as he did Craig expolded out of the corner and connected with another superkick. The move he’d held back for an occasion just like this.
He didn’t need to watch as Tact collapsed to the floor. Craig stumbled to the corner and pulled himself up using the ropes. He didn’t need to hear Elvis counting or the sound of the bell. As soon as his boot connected with Tact’s jaw, he knew that was it, that it was all over.
He was the last man standing. As the bell rang, he collapsed to his knees, and felt a rush of emotions come over him. This was it, he told himself. This was your last match and you reminded everyone exactly who you are. The buzz in his ears quickly became an explosion of cheers from the fans and he was no longer holding back his tears as he felt the heat of them as they streamed down his face. As he looked up and locked eyes with his daughters, she was doing the same.
Except, he saw pride in her eyes.
“I love you,” she mouthed to him and he smiled at her before he tapped his chest.
“Not as much as I love you,” he mouthed back. Before he knew it, he felt Elvis wrapping his arm around him and helping him up to his feet. The adrenaline was still there, but thirty years in this business had told him how he would feel in about thirty minutes time; exhausted, sore, and in a hell of a lot of pain.
For one last time, he was victorious, and it might as well have been the sweetest victory he’d ever experienced. As he stood in the ring, he looked out at the fans, and wished the moment could never end.
Sadly, it had to. Even as the voice continued to ring in the back of his mind.
You’re not done yet.
TWO HOURS LATER
Craig sat inside of the medical room in the MGM-Grand Arena, a room he’d become too familiar with over the past nine months. The adrenaline was officially gone and all he could feel was the soreness he knew he’d feel a couple of hours ago. The medical team had spent the time taking his vitals, cleaning him up, and closing his wound.
For now, he sat there alone, and let the moment of it all wash over him. He felt a deadly cocktail of emotions as he let the past thirty years of memories come over him and as much as he wanted to stay and continue to wrestle, he also wanted to walk away in the worst way possible. He’d done what he set out to do and there was something magical about that.
Still, something lingered in the back of his mind, the very words he couldn’t quite shake himself of.
As he sat there, lost in his thoughts, a soft knock upon the metal door alerted him to the presence of another. He looked up and saw Rose standing there. A smile appeared on his face.
“Hey,” she breathed. “How are you feeling?”
She walked into the room and immediately hugged her father tighter than he’d ever remembered being hugged before. He wrapped her arms around her and pulled her in tighter, not wanting this moment to end. Ever.
As she kissed his cheek and the embrace broke, she looked him over. “You look like hell.”
“Well, thanks. Put you in the ring and let’s see how you look afterwards.”
She shook her head. “Never,” she joked. “That’s all you. Well, was all you.”
He nodded his head. “Very true.”
“How do you feel?”
He took a moment to consider the question. “You know, I can’t believe it’s all over. When you start down this road, you’re never ever to see the end of the road and how it will go even though after that first time, you’re that much closer to the end.”
“Well, that match was truly something else.”
A smile appeared on his face. “It was, wasn’t it?” She chuckled at him. “I would imagine Larry is rethinking some of his life choices right about now.”
“That old adage of ‘you should see the other person’ applies here. I happened to walk by him as he walked out. I don’t think he recognized me though. He looked rough.” A smile appeared on her face, the pride that he saw at the end of the match returned to her eyes.
“Can I ask you something?” he inquired and she simply nodded her head. “That Twitter thing you’re always on—“
“I think I’ve been on there like once—“
“Yeah, whatever. Can you look up how Jon is doing?” His words are heavy as he sat there and she looked at him before pulling out her phone. She began to swipe through.
“Looks like he’s been taken to a local hospital. Word is that he has to have surgery. It didn’t look good from what I saw at the ringside.”
Craig shook his head. “It’s not good. Not good at all. That kind of injury to his neck. I saw him as they wheeled him past. He might be paralyzed.”
“Fuck,” she whispered.
His head dropped and he wiped the back of his hand across his face, removing the tears that’d appeared. She pressed her lips against the top of his head and wrapped her arms around him.
“It was always my biggest fear,” he whispered. “That something would happen and that would be it. That I wouldn’t be around to take care of—“.
He isn’t able to finish his words though. Instead, she just pulls him closer.
“Don’t worry, Dad. You’re not done. Not done by a mile. You’ve got so much life to live and that didn’t happen.”
He simply let her hold him as he felt guilty not only for the fact that he was able to end his career on his terms, while Jon couldn’t, but for the fact that he was relieved it wasn’t him tonight or any other night having to face that grueling road ahead.
TWO DAYS LATER
Two days after his victory against Larry Tact, Craig sat in the living room of his three-bedroom suite, staring out the window. The sun hung high, the heat radiating even through the window, and Craig found himself retired. To say it was a surreal feeling would be an understatement. Something in Craig’s mind kept wanting to make him get up and hit the gym, but somehow he’d been able to tamper that down thus far. Each afternoon, he went to watch tape of his previous match and had to be reminded he didn’t need to do this any longer.
It would be another day before the family would take their trip to Japan. While he had to remind himself, repeatedly, about this trip it was fair to say that this trip was on the forefront of the minds of everyone else in his family.
“Alright,” Rose started as she walked out of one of the bedrooms with a large suitcase. “This bag is ready to go.” She then held up a small notebook. “I’ve taken the liberty to put together some places to go see, restaurants to eat at, all of that. I’ve already booked us our hotel in Tokyo.” As she walked over to her father, he saw that the entire notebook was filled with her notes.
Maybe fair to say was an understatement.
Rose looked at her father and rubbed his shoulder. “You doing okay? You’ve looked a little loss these last couple of days.”
He nodded his head before he looked over at her and smiled. “Sorry. Just having to break some old habits.”
“Well,” she started as she sat down across from him. “If it is any consolation prize, I thought you looked pretty good in that match. Maybe the best I’ve seen you thus far. What do you think the difference was?”
A sigh escaped from his lips. “I think I finally removed the shackles that were limiting me. Like I had freedom for the first time to not care about if I could make it to the next match. To open up the arsenal just a bit more.”
“That’s what I thought as well. You weren’t sticking to just the ground game or pounding your opponent. I got to see you do some things I haven’t seen you do in years.”
Craig silently chuckled to himself. His eyes glanced over to his phone, waiting for the call to come in he’d been told to wait for.
“Still no call?” she inquired. He simply shook his head. “What do you think she wants?”
“You know, if I knew how that woman thought, I would be able to tell you. Considering I’ve never quite understood where the two of us stand with each other even fifteen years later, I think we’re both going to be left in the dark.”
Rose watched as her father disappeared into his memories and rubbed her fingers over his callous knuckles, the skin around them raw from his war with Tact.
“Well, maybe it is for a backstage role? Something to keep you busy, but without having to be in the ring?”
The thought had crossed his mind and he didn’t know if it would be wise for him to accept such a role. Being near the ring would simply fuel the desire to be back inside of it. If he was going to retire, he needed to retire for good.
Then, as if on cue, the phone began to buzz. Craig looked over at it and lifted it slightly so he could see the screen. A smirk appeared on his face.
The Caller ID screen read “Your One and Only Queen”. He looked over at Rose before he stood up and began to walk out of the room as he answered the phone.
Thirty minutes later, the phone call with Lindsay Troy ended. The first few minutes had been a bit of ribbing between the two as she called him Old Man, he tried to figure out how the saved name of LT had changed to ‘Your One and Only Queen’ (she said it must have been Nova or Wade, but had a feeling that wasn’t the entire truth).
Then, the reason why she wanted to talk to him came out. And stunned silence wouldn’t begin to describe the words that came out of her mouth. He now found himself standing on the balcony that extended off his bedroom. His forearms leaned against the white barrier.
In his right hand was a glass half-filled with scotch, which he took a sip from him.
In his left hand was a piece of paper. A piece of paper with three names on it; three names for a farewell tour that would conclude at Colossus IX with one final opponent. His true final match.
He looked at the names on the paper, all would be matches on Revival. The final opponent wasn’t revealed to him as of yet.
One final match. At Madison Square Garden.
Craig took another sip of his scotch, paused, and then polished off the remainder. As he stood there, he found himself with the most difficult decision he’d ever been faced with while four words haunted him.
You’re not done yet.