“So… to what do I owe the pleasure of this call, Saori?”
When we last left Ryan Edward Andersen in his restricted office at the Icebox Wrestling School, he was blindsided by a call from Saori Kazama, who was smoldering on the other line in palpable anger.
“Pleasure? Don’t you dare say anything about pleasure, Ryan. I’m going to assume you haven’t kept up with David and Henry’s lives since you went back to Philly?”
“You would assume correctly,” Ryan meekly replied; in his long career he had encountered scores of violent characters, streetwise sharks, and world-class athletes that outmatched almost everyone they faced, Ryan himself included. However, there were only two people in the wrestling business he could say with a quiet conscience scared him.
Both of them, interestingly enough, were women.
One was, when he last heard, his former tag team partner and best friend’s boss.
The other, of course, is his former tag team partner and best friend’s wife.
“David is thinking about retiring,” Saori seethed.
“Well, I don’t see how you’d be upset about that,” Ryan coolly responded, “you must be relieved to not have to worry about your husband getting splattered in the ring, or falling prey to another one of his self-doubts when he shouldn’t be.”
“Self-doubts that you placed in his head, Ryan. You know he still has nightmares about that match with Mushi in Toronto? And about that time he was almost killed in the ring, after the two of you left him to fend for himself?”
“What good were we going to be for him after Toronto, Saori?” Ryan snapped, “you think I didn’t know about the drug issues? The fighting between you two? I tried to fix them, Saori. And I’d say I was pretty successful. You’ve been married for what, three years now?”
“Doesn’t change the fact that you broke him, Ryan. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Henry. Ever since he started talking…”
“…wait. He dropped the act?” Ryan sat stunned as he leaned into the desk.
“Uh-huh, and he’s back to finding his footing again. He’s lost his touch. And against someone who’s been dogging him and insulting him, he came up far too short. That’s where you come in.”
“Where I come in, huh…” Ryan sighed.
“Yes. You’re going to step in and fix him. NOT with the old antics, either. Take him back under your wing, and make him the hero he wants to be.”
Ryan chortled at the thought of putting on the white hat. Him, the former Eddie Dante, debonair diablo of the squared circle, the Minister of Ungentlemanly Warfare, reforming? There was a reason why he departed from DEFIANCE shortly after the Dangerous Mix was formed, and it wasn’t just so he could help train his nephew Alex.
“Whoa, whoa, whoawhoawhoa, back up a bit,” Ryan pushed back, “you really think that I can just easily change my approach from being the smarmy prick with tricks up his sleeve and be a good influence? I’m not even trying to perform again, not anymore.”
Good,” quipped Saori, “you can stay behind the scenes and push him along. Not as some stunted man-beast-thing, but as a man. You broke Henry. And you will fix him.”
Frustrated by the tongue-lashing he’s currently getting on the phone, Ryan stares at the wall as Saori continues her vocal rampage.
February 2, 2014 | Dusseldorf, Germany
Eddie Dante had studied the legendary brawls of the Southern territories in the US, but he never imagined in all his years he would ever BE in one.
He stumbled along the halls of the Mitsubishi Electric Halle, hopping on his good leg. Not long ago, he was forced into a hellacious brawl throughout the hall by his former tag team partner Troy Matthews, who blinded Eddie’s other former tag team partner and current client Mushigihara with a surprise attack of red mist. The fight eventually spilled into a nearby concession stand, where Matthews slammed a fridge door onto Dante’s leg, and then onto his head. Several times.
Eddie got a good look at the damage when he came to, and it was definitely enough to shock him, but in that inimitable Dante way he gathered up his confidence and swagger and grinned as he moved along. Eventually he made it to the door marked “medical,” and rolled in chuckling at both DEFIANCE Wrestling’s lead physician Dr. Iris Davine, and his own client, Mushigihara.
“Osu!” Mushi exclaimed, as Dante stumbled just a little, before landing next to his client on the examination bench.
“Alright, Eddie,” the ever-curt physician said to her newest patient, “I know you had a rough night out there, we should check you out.” The aristocratic Dante shook his head and replied with frigid hauteur.
“No, my good Doctor,” he answered, pointing at a pile of clothes with a cane sticking out over them, by the lockers, “I would once again prefer to seek my own medical counsel. Just hand me my belongings there and all will be well. I insist.”
After a long argument the good doctor eventually relented, giving Dante the usual warning about being careful. With a nod and a smile, he sent her on her way, leaving him alone with his God-Beast, who was witnessing it all through stinging red eyes.
“Osu…?” the monosyllabic Kaiju turned to his manager, his mask hiding his confusion.
“Well, Mushi,” Dante said, “one of the most useful skills is villains can have in wrestling is…”
Eddie Dante awkwardly rose to his feet, favoring his injured leg, before leaning on his cane and lifting up a pant leg long enough to reveal a bent prosthetic, which he then tapped three times with the cane.
The ting, ting, ting of metal on metal shocked the God-Beast, but Dante smiled that snaky smile.
“Always make them think they have you.”
Ryan Andersen stared at the bent prosthetic leg on the wall, before looking down at his own lap and raising his pant leg up, revealing a new prosthetic.
“You seem to be so sure that I will do these things, that I will manage Mushi again and get him on the right path,” Ryan muttered, “but why do you seem so sure?”
“Because you want to do good after all, Ryan,” Saori replied, “because you want Ashley to look down on you and be proud.”
His blood froze, and his head flooded with memories of that day his life changed forever.
And he muttered curses under his breath, as he knew she was right.