We’re Gonna Be Alright
Posted on 04/29/23 at 10:58pm by Hayes Hanlon
Event: ReVival 27
“Wow. That’s, ah, that’s some real news.”
“Big Timber” Luke Knapp dragged a big paw down his face, over a ruddy nose and through his red brillow pad of a beard. He kept his cell phone pressed to his ear, eyes pinched shut and rubbing the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger.
“Yup. Yup, I’ll let him know. He’ll, ah…”
The Bulldozer from Blackrock peaked into the Silverton High School gymnasium, where members of his meager roster were hard at work assembling the ring for the evening’s show.
Chief among them, “Hammerin'” Hayes Hanlon, sharing ideas with his friends and fellow showmen, full of youthful exuberance and creativity for the small collective known as Pacific Northwest Wrestling.
It almost broke Luke’s heart.
“…he’ll be thrilled.”
I was ready to lose.
The Champion takes labored steps through the sand, each stride inching him further through the dust storm.
I was prepared. Mentally. For Ivan to bury me. For Rezin to slither his way to victory. For the Event Horizon to transform into the Black Hole.
He battles forth, forearm protecting his eyes, gripping tight to the gleaming belt on his shoulder.
But that’s not what happened. I didn’t expect to see the Goat Bastard crash through the cage. I didn’t expect to be nearby as he thudded into the mat.
The storm swirls, and forces him to stop in his tracks; a tornado of sand surrounding him entirely.
I didn’t expect that I’d be the one to steal the belt from the Russian Bear.
He clings tight to his prize, eyes pressed shut.
But I did. But did I? Did I steal it?
I won it.
In a sudden shift, the dust storm loses momentum, spreading out into the wind.
I dug deep into places I didn’t know existed. I found a version of me I’d never set free.
His sight restored, the Champion gazes upward. To a structure now revealed. A temple.
Or a tomb.
Held up by powerful marble pillars. Beckoning him into its halls.
You expected me to climb the Mountain again.
With a deep breath into his broad chest, he drives forward through the sand.
But that was never the point…
While Hayes had extended his burgeoning career to a few different independent organizations, PNW was always home, and he never missed a show.
Most feds in the circuit were the real deal, where the bumps weren’t bumps and the spots weren’t spots. Where a punch in the nose probably meant blood, where a good suplex could put your lights out, and where a Boston Crab could threaten a healthy spine if you didn’t tap out or reach the ropes. These were the places where Hammerin’ Hanlon would hone his skills and showcase his raw strength, power, and talent. They taught him how to sharpen his sword.
Pacific Northwest Wrestling, however, taught him how to put on a show.
Luke Knapp’s PNW was a work, where the story took center stage. That didn’t mean the inexperienced roster would walk away unscathed. Quite the opposite. But it attracted the more dramatic and less physically gifted athletes, while the monsters and heavy-hitters would drift elsewhere where they didn’t need a theater degree.
The arrival of Hayes Hanlon delivered the best of both worlds, and the small production had grown steadily ever since. From 30 or 40 teenagers to over 200 attendees on any given show, it allowed Luke to pay his wrestlers that much more, at least enough for gas and groceries.
But of course, nobody on the roster did it for the money.
“Hey Luke, got a sec?” asked Hayes, poking his head into the Silverton High athletic office, generously offered to Knapp when he was in town.
Luke flinched, caught off guard. He’d been staring through his phone since the call, but managed a smile for his current PNW Champion.
“Of course, kid,” he replied, rolling back in his chair to make room. “Whatcha got?”
“Alright, check this out,” said Hayes with a bright smile, quickly taking a seat. “I think it’s important to keep Jetstream involved in the story. So what if, during my match with Corey, we set it up so that Jet can swoop in and…”
The words tumbling out of the young man’s mouth fell on deaf ears. Luke feigned attention and focus with the occasional nod, his mind still very much on that phone call. That, and on the young man in front of him.
He’d had a front row seat to the incredible evolution of Hammerin’ Hayes over the last five years, watching him grow from a lean, somewhat lanky kid to a man shaped from granite. A full, near-black beard replaced what used to be light stubble. The way he spoke, always with a flourish. and the confidence in his voice commanded attention from the roster he shared a locker room with. The energy he put into each show, the work done backstage to make it as bright a spectacle as he possibly could, even for house shows in a high school gymnasium.
To tell the story. To put on the show.
But the gleam in his eyes had never changed. Not from day one. Ever present and magnetic.
Luke was going to miss that.
“Hayes, listen…,” Big Timber interrupted, reaching a big hand out to pause the mess of excited hand gestures. “I gotta tell ya something.”
Hanlon went silent, his expression shifting immediately from buzzing passion to genuine concern.
“What’s up? What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing,” said Knapp, holding up a reassuring palm. “Nothing’s wrong. Just a phone call is all.”
“What about? Was it the school? Because dude, I promise I didn’t leave that bottle of vodka behind after the last show…”
“Hayes. PRIME called.”
Hanlon was frozen. Luke could hear the sound of the light bulbs buzzing. The word itself pulled the air out of the room, like a ghost story, or some legend or myth revealing itself to be true.
The young man sat back in the office chair, mouth half open, brow furrowing, completely confused.
Ten years gone. Knocking at the door.
“I…I don’t understand,” he said, softly..
“Wasn’t expecting that call either,” said Knapp, fixing the cuff of his flannel shirt. “From Killean Sirrajin himself, if you can believe it.”
“Killean Sirrajin??” Hayes blurted, awestruck. “What’d he say? What are they doing? Are they coming ba…”
“I don’t know,” said Luke, honestly. “But they’re putin’ on some sort of tournament. In Almasy’s name, actually. Not sure if it’s a one time thing, or if they’re gonna start tourin’ again. But they’re hitting up the indy circuit lookin’ for talent. And…”
Big Timber paused, taking another somber look at his protege. His friend. Hayes was locked in, wide-eyed and waiting. Luke took one more breath.
“…he asked ‘bout you. And only you.”
Hayes slumped a bit, the words almost failing to translate in his mind. He was a kid again. Cross-legged on the white carpet of his home. Glued to the images of Wolfenden and Tsonda flying through the air. To the power and might of Hessian and Chainz. To the charisma and leadership of Tchu, and Troy.
“So…what’s that mean?” Hayes asked.
“It means you send in a tape. Highlights, a promo or two. And if they want ya in, then you’re in. And if they decide to keep it goin’ after the tournament, then…”
“…then that means I’m done. Here. Doesn’t it.”
Luke took a moment, looking away through the wall, breathing deep into his wide nose.
“PRIME’s the big leagues,” he replied eventually. “At least it was. Wouldn’t expect anything less from a second go’round, though. And if that’s the case, there ain’t much room for anything else.”
Big Timber turned back to Hammerin’ Hayes, and exhaled through his nose.
“So…yeah. It means you’d be done here.”
A pregnant pause. Five years worth of story hung heavy in the air between them. Five years of hard work, of growth. Of friendship and leadership. All building to that moment, nearing the end of the road.
But then, perhaps out of a left field all on its own, Hayes offered a nonchalant shrug.
“I mean, that’s cool and all, but it’s a long shot, right?” he saids, holding his palms up. “Besides, I wanna stay here! We’ve got a good thing going, and it’s only getting bigger…”
“Hayes,” said Luke. “C’mon, kid…”
“No, I’m serious!” Hanlon replied, standing from his seat abruptly. “We’ve got work to do, Luke! That locker room has given so – much. So much to this thing! I’m not about to leave that behind for some…pipe dream!”
“It’s not a pipe dream!” Knapp bellowed, knocking over the desk chair as he stood. His mountainous frame towering over Hanlon’s. Luke’s eyes were glistening fire, lips curled in. “They want you, Hayes! They want YOU!”
“Well maybe I want THIS!” Hayes roared back. “I belong here! I’m a leader here! I matter here!”
Enough to force a break. Every muscle in the young man’s body tensed, right up through his neck. Sharp breaths forced themselves in and out through his nostrils.
“Fuck, man,” he released, despondent. “You’ve given me everything, Luke! C’mon!! Let’s keep going! Let’s keep writing your story!”
“IT’S NOT MY FUCKING STORY!!”
Those deep, powerful words from Big Timber thundered through the walls. His barrel chest heaved with the weight of it. Young Hanlon stood speechless, perhaps rattled by the big man’s booming voice.
“IT’S YOUR FUCKING STORY!!” he followed, just as loud, just as deep. He shook his head, frustrated. “For fuck’s sake, Hayes, you have a shot! THE shot! Take it! Live your god-damn dream! And don’t spit in my face by trying to live mine!”
Hayes had nothing to offer. No retort. No argument. He wondered if the crew in the gym could hear them, or if they already knew about the call.
He wondered if they knew he was about to leave them all behind.
“I don’t know what to do,” said Hayes, quietly. “I don’t know how to…”
“This is what you’re going to do,” Luke interjected, stepping forward and gripping Hanlon’s shoulder like a vice. “You’re going to send in the highlights, and send in the promos.”
The Bulldozer from Blackrock leaned in close to drive the point home.
“And then…you go. And stand with giants.”
Hammerin’ Hanlon managed a nod, but struggled to steady himself. So Luke did it for him, and gave him a hard shake of the shoulder.
“Kid. This is it. You’ve got to take it. I’ll be fine. The team will be fine…”
Hayes offered one more nod, then threw an arm around his friend, embracing him for every chance. Every moment under the spotlight. Every opportunity to tell his story.
And Luke Knapp embraced him in kind.
“…we’re gonna be alright.”
The jarring buzz over the intercom made her bones vibrate. She stood deathly still as a massive, pale blue metal door unlocked, slowly swinging away from her.
She set her jaw and lifted her chin. Steady breaths through the nose.
“This way, ma’am.”
A stocky security guard on the other side ushered her through, and she followed, hands folded across one another as her heels echoed off the concrete walls. Her sharp blue eyes stared dead ahead, through the back of the guard’s skull.
“Have a seat,” he said, gesturing toward a beige plastic chair in front of a narrow shelf, and in front of a large sheet of plexiglass. It was one of eight identical bays, all with black telephones attached to metal cables, mirroring the ones on the other side.
She sat gently, scooching in.
“We’ll bring him out in a moment. You’ll have ten minutes.”
She replied with a short nod, and the guard stepped off down the hall. She chewed the inside of her lip, and fought the urge to bounce her knees.
She wouldn’t give him an inch.
A minute or two later, a flash of orange entered the frame of the window. She reset her shoulders, and lifted her chin just a little bit more, eyes unblinking.
Not. One. Inch.
A broad shouldered man grunted, taking measured steps thanks to handcuffs around his ankles and wrists. His hair was near black, with a heavy beard to match. His skin had a light tan, despite the minimal sunlight offered at Washington State Penitentiary.
He sat heavily, and a pair of dark, deep set eyes leveled with the piercing blues through the glass.
A guard followed him in, and the man lifted his restrained hands, his gaze never wavering. Soon his cuffs were unlocked, and the phone to his side was placed in his hand.
“Ten minutes, Castellanos.” She could hear the guard’s faint, tinny voice from her end.
Slowly, Toby Castellanos lifted the phone to his ear, heavy breaths accompanying his heavy glare.
“Well wouldja look at that,” he growled, his voice almost mechanical through the phone. “My lovely daughter, come to visit.”
“Dad.” Her acknowledgement was flat, and cold.
“Did ya come to wish yer old man a happy birthday? Hate to disappoint ya, but that was last month.”
“No. Nothing like that. My…therapist says this is part of my…”
She was breaking. An amused grin was pushing through his black beard. She needed to reset. Another adjustment to her posture.
“Actually, it’s none of your business.”
“Yer fuckin’ therapist,” he grunted, leaning to spit on the floor. “Ain’t that a fuckin’ treat. I’m the one who’s been wastin’ away in this god-damn hole for twenty-somethin’ years, but by all means, let’s hear what a fuckin’ quack has to say about it.”
Sofia parted her lips, but words wouldn’t form. Her father squeezed his fists, turning his knuckles white.
“Yeah…yeah! Let’s go then! Let’s play fuckin’ doctor! Let’s make sure we get that brain of yours all fixed up! Ol’ Dad will help!”
He slammed his heavy hands to the counter, his voice reverberating, teeth grit.
“This was a mistake,” she said, standing from the plastic chair. “I shouldn’t have come…”
“Ya know, I won’t be in here much longer,” he said, suddenly calming, the words pouring out like slow dragon fire. It froze her, body tensing, heart racing. And forcing her to keep the phone to her ear.
“Yeah…” he continued. “Won’t be long now…”
She swallowed. “Goodbye, Dad…”
“I’ve seen the kid on TV,” he interjected. Like a knife in the belly. “The young one, Hayes. Makin’ quite a name for himself. Can’t wait to spend some time with him, get to know him…”
Toby stood from his chair, his wide, heavy frame taking up most of the plexiglass, looming over his daughter. Her blue eyes followed upward as he stood, her lips pressed together.
“…and he sure looks a lot like me. Don’t he.”
Sofia could feel the rage rising from her stomach. Her entire face shook slightly. Fingers twitching. Her mind raced back to her conversation with Hayes a few weeks prior, where there were signs of better days ahead. She wanted to scream. To break through the glass and strangle the monster on the other side. To roar in his face, and tell him how she wouldn’t let him get to her youngest son. Not now. Not now that there was some hope.
She wanted to tear him to pieces.
Instead, Sofia Hanlon leaned against the counter with one hand, and burned holes through the glass with her fierce blue eyes.
“Don’t forget who put you in here,” she said, like a jagged blade.
She set the phone on the counter, not bothering to put it back in its place. Toby’s malicious grin faded to a wretched scowl. With pursed lips, she shot him another set of daggers through her eyes, then turned away, wrapping her long duster around her body, heels clicking away to the exit.
He could hear the buzz of the door opening on the other side, and with one last deep growl, struck the counter with the phone, breaking it in half.
…it was never about the Mountain Top.
The soft steps of black wrestling boots echo through a long hall. Black tights clinging to strong legs striding past towering Roman columns, all chiseled from stunning, shining marble.
It’s a long climb back after the fall. You have to scratch and claw for every inch.
A shining belt rests over the bare shoulder of a broad, powerful torso, swaying slightly with each step.
The young man reaches the end of this mythic hall, the contents between the pillars hidden in darkness. But here, at the end, a mountain. Made of clay. Ever looming. A low rumble shakes this temple, and from the mountain’s peak, two shapes form in the clay.
The Bear, and the Goat.
The taste of victory is sweet, once you get the blood out of your mouth.
The Bear and the Goat then slowly crumble, bit by bit. Pieces rolling down the slope and collecting at the bottom.
But even then, the wolves are always at the door.
A new shape forms, rising from the wet earth. A young man, barely a man, with a snake-like smirk, and a winged chest.
The climb so far has been a story of the New. Of what’s to come. Of this new era of the ReVival.
The Champion draws his dark eyes across the clay form at the peak, his mustache jeering at its stillness. Mocking him.
But like I said. It was never about the Mountain Top.
The figure, like the Bear and the Goat, crumbles away. Falling apart head to toe and pouring down the mountainside.
Because I want to be a part of the Foundation.
The hall begins to shudder and shake, until the mountain itself begins to give way; cracking and splitting, great chunks and pieces breaking off over rumbling earth.
And yet, it takes form.
Into The Tower.
This. This is where the doubt comes to die. In the history.
In unison, bright lights snap to life, illuminating the cavities between the massive pillars, revealing intricate statues of titans:
The Golden Boy.
The Wrecking Ball.
And The Tower.
With these names. These giants. I’ve spent my life dreaming of standing with them. To fight alongside them. To be them.
With a low, ominous tremor, a crack forms in The Golden Boy’s smirk. And a piece breaks away from The Wolf’s wave of hair.
But then again…
Another tremor, and a violent shake. The hand of The Citizen breaks away, shattering against the floor with a tremendous roar. The Wrecking Ball fractures at the knee.
…maybe I’m something else.
The Queen’s throne snaps at the backrest, careening to the marble floor with a rumbling quake.
Maybe I don’t need to be them. At all.
A fissure ruptures through The Starchild’s beard.
Maybe I’m better. Something greater.
At once, the monoliths collapse; gargantuan pieces of granite erupting against the floor, debris shotgunning in any and every direction. stone heads and limbs groaning to a stop, and a cloud of dust filling the hall in its wake.
Leaving only The Tower.
I’ve climbed the Mountain. I’ve fallen from its peak, and climbed it again. I’m already the tip of the Vanguard. The sharp edge of the ReVival.
The dust settles. The young man stands tall, unwavering among the rubble and wreckage.
But if I am something greater?
The Tower looms, strong against the quaking of the hall.
If I am able to topple the Tower of Babble?
The young Champion tenses, and stomps his foot into the floor with a throaty grunt, breaking a fissure into the floor, crackling like lightning through the marble and into The Tower’s base, shooting through its foundation. Through its neck.
What does that mean for the rest of you?
It gives way. The Tower buckles, concussive cracks sounding through the hall as it crashes to the ground. The inevitable cloud of dust rushes forward, swallowing the Champion within.
It means you don’t stand a fucking chance.
Luke Knapp lumbered his way through Silverton High. The students and faculty were gone for the weekend, and Pacific Northwest Wrestling was poised for its monthly visit. The big man turned a corner, and opened the door to the athletic office.
Hayes was already there, waiting for him.
Big Timber knew exactly what the young Champ was about to say. So he offered a smile.
“I got in,” said Hayes, barely believing his own words.
“I know,” said Luke, and he was quick to wrap up his protege in a strong bearhug. He held him at arm’s length, and gave each shoulder a hearty clap.
“Now, let’s close this chapter.”
That night, at Pacific Northwest Wrestling, Hammerin’ Hayes Hanlon dropped the belt to Jack “Jetstream” Mason.
It’s still the greatest show the small promotion has ever seen.