Private: Alexander Redding
Harry Reid International Airport – Terminal 3
Las Vegas, NV
May 7, 2022 @2:05 AM
“Have you seen it yet?”
It had been posted less than a half hour ago, and here was Grady, expectantly waiting for confirmation.
“You know I don’t follow the dirt sheets,” was only a half lie. Listen, when you are a self-promoter, as all of us independent contractors must be, it necessitated keeping one toe in that sess pool. Plus, the initial bluff draws the huff I was counting on.
“Troy, in the press scrum after the show,” came almost breathless through the cell’s speakers.
“I’m only busting your balls, Grady. Of course she puts me and the kid back in the main event. Just better not get shafted with some just-out-of-diapers ref again. Speaking of which…”
“Ryan’s kid. That going to be a problem?” carried the weight of the soft-core snuff film that was Dan Ryan in HOW Grady had backstage access to when I, then Ted alone, wasted away a year waiting for a stage not tilted towards some blind GOD.
“Little Miss Murder, again?,” I avail myself a glimpse at the desert, lit by moonlight and light standards, beyond the two inch windows, “Nothing I can’t leverage.”
“Shit,” Mr. Patrick usually wasn’t upset with my bravado. “I’ve got another fire to handle here.”
“I’ll let you know when I get a chance to talk to someone,” wasn’t a no.
There wasn’t a goodbye. Never was with Grady and I. ‘See you further along that road’ went unsaid in that few seconds before disconnecting the call.
The souls sat awaiting the red-eye were a mix of toe tapping and associated fidgeting among the hundred or so cursing the bodiless overhead speaker for not yet announcing boarding to YYZ.
I reached back for the phone, it shaking again in my pocket, surprised when it wasn’t Grady calling back with details. “Hello?”
“It’s been a while, Red,” rattled in the back of my mind, the last ghost I expected to have haunt me.
“Ace,” I spat.
“Really happy for you, kid,” came through the fake smile I could hear on the other end.
“Cut the shit. What do you want, old timer?”
After a few seconds of feigned innocence, my old trainer came out with his motive, “It was funny to find the two most successful students coming back to our humble gym, and after hours, at that.”
“Like fuck,” I protest. “What makes you think I’d dare getting tetanus, or worse, stepping back into that rundown piece of trash you run?”
“If you found your place broken into, it was probably just some drug addict looking for scrap metal to sell.”
“Now, that’s the funny part. I didn’t see any signs of entry. At least, until I went to review the previous night’s video.”
I try to fight it, but my mask slips some as a grunt escapes, “Your.. cameras?”
“You see, an old dog can learn new tricks. And you just know that I’d hate to see your run cut short because of troubles with your VIsa, but I don’t know what a breaking-and-entering charge would do.”
Knowing that the legal trouble I’d invite by telling this guy to shove his head somewhere dark and foul would be just the thing that’d let Troy flex more leverage, I bargained, “What makes this go away?”
“I knew you were the smarter one. Everyone always said Ted had all the talent, but you were the brains,” I struggle to let him peacock this victory lap. “Nothing much, really. Just think this place could benefit from a guest coach for a weekend. Maybe make an appearance on the show.”
“When?” comes loaded with snark.
“May Two-Four weekend work for you?”
“Passengers departing for Toronto – Pearson International, please begin lining up, boarding will begin shortly,” was met by the tired travellers with near as much joy as this call was giving me.
“That’s just prime…”
Châteaux de Redding
May 21, 2022 @9:15AM
“So, wait, he said that he only caught you guys because Ted had signed something?” Grace calls from the front porch.
Still shaking my head in disbelief, I confirm, “Yep.”
“You guys must sign a hundred of things every show,” she takes another gulp of this morning’s third cup. “Why would a signed poster somehow be what caught you red handed?”
“They… typically don’t sign the outside of the frame,” I huff, loading the last box into the back of my modest ‘16 Malibu. Some small sense of release comes, slamming down the lid to see my baby sis now with that shaking disbelief.
“So, the first day I’m back in the city in five weeks, and I’ve got the house all to myself?”
“I don’t have to tell you to not burn it down? Right?” I’m making my way back to grab the gear bag sitting just outside the door. “How were the travels, anyways?” I’m only just realizing I hadn’t asked prior.
“It was good,” she always says. “Got the time to head back to Calgary for Mother’s Day.”
“Don’t,” I warn.
“Would it kill you two to try to actually talk with one another?” Then, “Oh, come on,” came when I took the time to consider the scenario. “You are her kid, too.”
“She-who-shall-not-be-named has not been my mother in any legal matters since the week after Dad was sentenced,” I counterargue. Though any satisfaction for being factually correct fades seeing Gracey stare a whole through my forehead, “but, I am glad you still enjoy a semi-functional relationship with the woman.”
Rubbing at her knuckles because she didn’t think I’d tense knowing the punching in the shoulder was coming, Grace knows a lost cause, and shifts tone, “So, do you really think you’ll need all of that merch?”
“Home town boy made it big? People just eat that shit up. I’m not sure that’s enough, really.”
Twisted Ace Gym – Parking Lot
May 21, 2022 @10:30 AM
“You know that Hanlon is going to hand you your ass?” leaps from across the table I’m parked behind. This neckbeard already sporting the early signs of rings around the armpits I just cannot take seriously.
“Now, I know you’re probably going to just toss this up on eBay,” this being the recent release, ampersand floral print, “but I think it could really be the thing that brings your mother’s basement together.”
Maybe he didn’t expect that trading trash talk with a professional wrestler was a bad idea, but we shouldn’t let ignorance become an excuse. Foregoing the selfie, neckbeard takes the tee and disappears to God knows where.
“Oh, hey,” I turn my gaze up to a pair of blue eyed beauts. “And who am I making this out to?” The 8 by 11 glossy of Ted and I PRIME had made up before they knew we’d decline entering that rat race that was Survivor.
“Amy, you said that Teddy was going to be here,” the strawberry blonde turns to the platinum blonde.
“He was on the advertising,” Amy reassures her bestie.
Turning to the handler of this little shindig, Joker, strapped into the scouter he shrugs, “I thought Ace was supposed to have changed that.”
“Sorry ladies, no Teddy Palmer. Is there something I can write on this for you?”
Light bulb brighter than her 1,000 megawatt smile goes off, and Amy asks, “Can you just write Ted’s number on it, maybe?”
“Yeah,” Miss Strawberry Blonde was sharing the vibe.
So rather than disappoint, I scribble digits in the corner and slide the photo back. Excitedly the nearer one grabs it and scans to make sure it was ten digits. Passing the test, I get squeezed for the selfie and they take their prize.
“You’d actually give them Ted’s number?” Joker sensed something up.
“No, but Fr. Matthews is going to be confused why a pair of impressionable young women are calling the rectory at two in the morning,” I chuckle through the second half of that sentence.
I think I got TJ with that one, rubbing away tears from his eyes as he calls for, “Next.”
“Go on, sweetie,” the early forties something was sure to encourage the not-at-all needing it nine year old.
“Hi,” I know the kid is at that age where the last thing they’d want to be treated like is a kid, but big damn adult she wasn’t, either. She had the pink ampersand.
“Do you know that your merchandise is terrible for the planet?” levels the young Captain Planet.
“A fan, huh?” I ignore the barb.
“I’m going to be so happy when Cecilia beats both of you boys and is the champion.”
“A really cavalcade of diversity, the PRIME roster,” I patronize.
“Even room for pigheaded meanies like you, for now,” I don’t know what this kid was angling at.
“Listen, adult,” I look to the helicopter, “what are we doing here? I signing this? We taking the photo?”
“Oh,” she fumbles with her cell getting to the camera. “Take a photo with the wrestler, honey.”
Out of my seat and around front to pose for the pic, wouldn’t you know it, but the prepubescent Princess sneaks an elbow low.
“Son of a bitch.”
Just seventy more minutes of this.
Twisted Ace Gym
May 21, 2022 @11:45 AM
“Son of a bitch.”
“I know. Who’d thought Ted would have such lovely handscript?” Joker wheeled beside me.
There we were, the west wall, covered with posters framed in dollar store frames, and Ted’s John Hancock in Sharpie on the glass of his.
“And where would Palmer be, anyway?” joined in Ace.
“Not here, is he?” I’d ask if he had eyes, but I didn’t want to open up the litany of injuries the duo claimed. Hell, Joker was still recovering from the new hip.
“I thought I told you I needed both of you,” Ace tried to play big, almost as big as that beer gut.
“I don’t know what to tell you, but I definitely don’t think I can repeat what Ted said when I relayed the request. Something to do with Nantucket.”
“Smart ass,” Ace always had a soft spot for Ted.
“The Ace of Pain and the Twisted Joker,” to use their full gimmicks, “When was it I’d see this batch of hopeless your harangued?”
“Kids should roll in any time now,” TJ craned to the clock on the north wall.
“And I just what? Give a motivational speech then watch?”
“And if you see any of them that might actually have something, you take some film to the suits down there in Vegas.”
“Can’t keep trading on the idea that Ted and I spent a miserable two months in this place before moving on to more reputed places, fifteen years later now?” I prod Ace.
Twisted Ace Gym
May 21, 2022 @12:22 PM
“That everyone, Joker?”
“One or two missing, but we’re good to go, Red,” he assures.
Rocking my back against the ropes, sat on the arpon, I hop off to address the dozen hopefuls all sat Indian style in a semi-cycle. “Lady and gentlemen, pleased to meet you. My name is Alex Redding.”
“We know who you are,” pipes up the peanut gallery.
“Okay, but, I don’t think you know the full story. See, I started out here just like you guys, but I was signed to the hottest promotion just one year later. Was on national television regularly six months after that. I’ve wrestled around the world, on some of the biggest stages there are. But before I was main eventing in PRIME, I was just like you guys. I was the unknown redhead these two probably couldn’t handle back in the day.
“I am the example that you can make in this industry. With enough grit and determination, all of you can find success,” I lied, like I had been lied to back then.
Seeing a few eyerolls, I keep on, “I want to see what you guys have. I want to know which one of you,” I cast a finger around the semi-cycle, “will be the next one to break out big.”
“Thank you, Red,” Ace claps me out. “Let’s get to work, pissants.”
Twisted Ace Gym
May 21, 2022 @1:32 PM
“You’ve got to be shitting me,” I pull Ace aside.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“You want me to try to pass any of these saps off as ready for the bright lights and sold out arenas?” I start in a hush.
“Well..” the weasel gestures.
“I’d be laughed out of the offices, fuck you very much. I mean, shit, what have you been teaching these guys? How long have they been here?”
“I… I mean, we’ve had them for maybe two months?”
“Two months and they can’t even throw a headlock?” I was no longer in hushed tones.
Whistling, “People! People! Gather ‘round.” My head in my hands as a walk to stand at the head of the crowd, this time with honesty brimming through and about to burst.
A few ‘hums’ and ‘whats’ were panted, and they formed up, standing in a sweaty semicircle.
“I hate to do this guys, but, honestly. You, bitchtits,” they all turn their attention to the lad unfortunately labelled for the rest of his time, “You were gassed running the ropes for two minutes. Do you honestly think there’s a place for your out of shape ass in the ring with any professional?
“And before you cry, ‘but, but, Bobby Dean is in PRIME,’ Bobby Dean is in many places. He is the exception, not the standard. And Bobbo regularly spends his nights looking up at the lights.
“I see you snickering, little five foot nothing, Miss not-enough-makeup-in-the-world-to-make-me-a-six,” they all stare at me, knowing there was only one in the group without a pair hanging between the thighs. “How do you think you will go anywhere, not even being even lift Slim over there?”
“Red?” Joker tries to interrupt, but I am on a roll.
“Joker, save it. I mean, what are you guys paying for this privileged education from two never-been washed up bums? None of you display an aptitude for the simplest aspect of this sport, before even getting into the fact that this is a BUSINESS. This here is a BUSINESS. And a fucking God-awful one at that. They are stealing your money. If you think you truly have the passion to get anywhere, get away from this place. Find someone that really can help you. Fuck it, Best has a school. Troy has a school. Rhine has a school. Get yourselves into any sort of ring shape and go to someone that might actually be able to help you”
Looking out at jaws gaping, I feel the pull to relate, “I am not saying this to try to hurt feelings, or feel good about myself. There are snakes in this industry that will squeeze you for everything you have and leave you with broken dreams having done nothing.”
“Red,” Ace puts a hand on my chest.
“You decrepit fuck. You time stealing, soul sucking motherfucker. If you are thinking I am going to apologize for telling these helpless idiots the truth, think again.”
“Damn it, Red, just–”
“Why don’t you just go ahead and burn this thing down already for the insurance money, but I will never let your lazy ass tarnish the reputation of MY business,” I shove his hand away and grab hold the gear bag towards the exit of this rundown factory turned nightmare.
“Well, that was Red,” Joker tries to give me an outro, but no one is clapping.
So, it’s round two, only this time it’s a three way.
I’m sure Ted would call it the Devil’s Triangle, but ain’t no one getting frisky out there come Friday. And the only one getting fucked is Hayes when I walk away with his Five Star Title.
Hanlon, you showed you had heart a month ago. Heart, but not exactly all the brains. I actually thought you might have it in you to take the double-count out and run away. Does that make me the fool, or you? I mean, it has to be you. Why would you give me a second chance to strip you of the only thing that makes you relevant in this promotion and send your rookie ass back to curtain jerking? And this time without disqualifications and fickle officiating to save your title run?
Ryan Jr, I would stop snickering, if I was you. Or please, go on again and tell us how hard privilege is. The girl that grew up the kid of a legend, being spared exactly all of the grind most people have to take to get to a place like this, let alone a main event. Do not mistake me, I see that same fire in your eyes as Dano had, just none of the balls to do anything with it. Understand that you are the odd one out in this fight.
The kid earned his way to the title.
I took my opportunity to be the one to take said Five Star.
You? Were handed this position by your dear old Auntie. Just the fucking poster of nepotism alive and well in PRIME.
I’d give you the solace, both, that hey, you’re young. Time’s on your side. You’ll have a decade of chances ahead of you. But this time, and this opportunity, will be mine.
Say it with me, boys and girls:
Friday ends the way it should.
Long live the villains.
Your Willing Villain.