”You made it.”
Dan Ryan swung open the door to his suite at the Westin Melbourne, pleasantly surprised.
Lindsay Troy returned the smile, but only for a moment. The tall, athletic, former multiple time World Champion leaned against the handle of her suitcase and puffed at a curl dangling in front of her eyes.
“You couldn’t have invited me to a show in the States?”
“These people like to travel. What can I say?”
“You can say you booked me my own suite to go put my stuff in.”
Ryan nodded in the affirmative. “I booked you your own suite to go put your stuff in.”
Troy nodded back. “Good. I’ll head down to the desk and take care of it, then I’ll unpack and get settled in. Dinner afterward? I have something I wanna run by you.”
“Fine by me,” Ryan shrugged. “You know I like to eat.”
Now it was his sister-in-law’s turn to smirk. She turned to walk away. “Yeah. I know.”
Ryan gave a little wink, then gently closed the door.
”If you search your soul hoping to find yourself, whatever you see inside, believe it.”
”Pain may be inevitable, but misery is optional”
A table in a hotel room....
Upon it are several old portraits....
To those who take care to inspect closely, they are obviously photos of the man that the wrestling world knows as 'The Ego Buster'......
A younger face appears in these shots....a more carefree face....yet not without trace of worry even then....
Still, a smile is present....the type of smile that the wrestling world never sees......
Not a smirk....
An actual smile....
On one heavily muscled shoulder, held up for the photographer to see is the reason....a young girl.....
Obviously she favors her father, yet a hint of her mother's Asian ancestry is clear....
Before scandal took hold.....
Before the business.....
Before many decisions that would forever render that smile unique, forever lost in a past unable to be recaptured......
Dan Ryan staring at the photograph. The worn edges are musty, twenty-five years worth of time tucked within a very old wallet. There is no expression on his face.....that well known smirk still not present..... The photo is placed to the side and Ryan turns his face to a recording device in his hand.
It's interesting, isn't it?
For all of the ways that every one of us who live this sport come into our demons, it usually is traceable back to the same basic issues.
Has that thought ever struck you, Shadow? Ataxia? How ‘bout you, Duce?
Have you ever sat back and thought of the perils of this sport? How many of us simply fade into oblivion....sad shells of our former selves?
How often do we achieve great professional success only to go home to a bottle....or a pill? How often do we return to empty homes and ghosts of former lives and find ourselves full of regret?
How common is it?
More common than any of us would believe going in....
I entered this business out of a pure love for the sport. I wrestled as an amateur from the time I was old enough to join a wrestling team until I graduated from high school. I would have continued to the college ranks had my family situation not so drastically changed.
My parents moved to Japan....and I was happy to go with them. The pure art of wrestling is highly respected in that country and, though I was not one of them, I fit in rather well.
My parents disapproved, naturally.
But when you have a burning desire to eat, sleep, and breathe everything about the art form....every hold....every joint lock that renders your opponent unable to do anything but tap....not to mention....when you're 6'8” and almost 280 as a high school senior.....
Well...it was damn near impossible to steer me into just about anything else.
Those days were the days where a career in professional wrestling seemed like a dream. My family was comfortable...not rich, but they wanted for nothing.
But I insisted on making it by my own merit and by my own hand.
I was poor. But the poorest person is not the one without a nickel, it's the one without a dream.
Does that overly romanticize things for the three of you?
Do I sound like a cliché?
Maybe it's because we all go through the same struggles. Me in Japan....the three of you…. wherever the hell you were at the time...
But no matter where it lies....where it is born....it pushes us forward to the same choices.
As success comes, everything else in your life takes a back seat.
Show me the person who has avoided the pitfalls of this business without temptation or regret, and I'll show you the one true person in this business who deserves to be applauded.
It can't be done.
But sacrifice must always be made. Blessing can not come without sacrifice. If you've succeeded without sacrifice, it’s because someone else has already made the sacrifice for you.
But more often than not, it is we who willingly make the choice...we who sacrifice a life we would later wish to embrace...at an irreversible cost.
My cost was a life as a father....a life as a son.
The sacrifice made was my purpose as a father who showed a daughter the attention she deserved.
The love was always there. The pain and bitterness, unfortunately, was allowed to overwhelm it.
When do we see what we've lost?
When do we truly understand the price of our choices?
I was a miserable human being prior to January 13th, 2003 -- prior to her death.
I was successful. I was strong. I was a multiple time World Champion even then.
But inside I was weak.
What could have been crippling was turned into the one thing that made me stronger than I ever conceived I could be.
I have no business being here today. I have no business being alive. The guilt and self-loathing should have killed me. Instead I became a monster.
Once upon a time, in a situation much like this one, another man once told me....that no matter what I do from here until my last breath...I will still always be a failed father...a failed son.
Maybe so.....it's true that some things can never be changed.
But maybe some things can. Maybe sometimes, those things which seek to destroy a man actually make him infinitely stronger.
And I am stronger. I'm stronger as a man, stronger in the knowledge of who I am as that man....stronger in my profession.
You all know pain, too. If it's truly clicked for you, all the better.
But what loss have you truly suffered for your craft? Hmm?
I'm sure you wonder.....who is this guy to tell me I haven't suffered for what I do? What right does he have? Every one of you -- your melodramatics are laid bare for the world to see every week on television. But that’s not really what we’re talking about here.
I only speak the same thoughts you take with you to bed every night.
You come into this battle feeling reborn....as a phoenix taking flight into bold new frontiers.....not out of the flame....but into it.
Sometimes the fire does more than refine.
Sometimes the fire melts you down into the basic elements in all of us, exposing our inner faults for the world to see. Are you prepared for that? Ataxia likes to talk about making things beautiful.
A broken heart…. A broken mental control....are you sure that there isn't something more?
What of the pressures of living up to expectations and not yet achieving that level of success?
What of the ever-present search for what and who you really are?
What of the all too real possibility that the new relationship that gives you something new to live for....may end the same as the last?
Humble is something I will never be. I am what I am, and as I believe myself to be the best in the world....I expect to face this challenge head on as I have all the rest....and I expect to come out the other side victorious.
Remember....every time that a night ended with me holding a World Championship over my head….. they said I couldn't do it. It started with doubt. It always starts with doubt.
But it’s the people who have never done anything who insist that something cannot be done.
There must be a vision of something bigger than today……
The camera jostles slightly as Ryan moves it from one hand to another.
That moment in time, if it could not break me then nothing can. Losing my family molded me in a way you can’t possibly understand. Gaining a new one has forged me in iron, strengthened me in ways that none of you could imagine.
So you’ll all have to forgive me if I don’t cower in fear at the endless maniacal rantings of the bagman. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t kneel in awe and wonder at your druids, Shadow, or the mysterious Welsh girl at your side. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t believe that ‘nobody has more juice than Duce’ or whatever other fuckin’ stupid shit he has to say.
The magic and mystery is lost on me, because quite frankly I’ve seen it all. I’ve risked it all, lost it all, and won it all back.
The honorable man somewhere deep inside me wants so badly to compliment you on your professional wrestling acumen, Shadow. I really do. I can tell you’ve worked hard at this. Before the eyeliner and the desire to express yourself solely in stares like a Twilight vampire, I can see that you’ve studied the game. I’m not foolish.
But the real me simply cannot.
See, the absolute bottom line in all of this is that I simply do not care to have a gentlemanly exchange of glances across the ring where we acknowledge each other as equals, then engage in gladiatorial combat like men. I see your knowing glances, and I reject them unequivocally.
I really don’t want to get into this thing with you where we come to some sort of understanding, then something comes between us, your heart is broken, my heart is broken, one of us ends up with a sack on our heads… probably a paper one this time since burlap’s been done… and there’s this company-wide build to our ultimate confrontation a year from now in… I don’t know… Africa maybe?
You know, since flying all of this gear and all of our jetlagged asses 20 hours to Australia hasn’t been inconvenient enough.
All I need from you is that belt around your waist, and I’d just as soon dispose of you now.
It’s all I’m here for and all I care about. It doesn’t really matter to me how I get it. I know you’re all conflicted (Confliction, get it?) about how you won it in the first place. But the way I see it, you’re spending far too much time on internal angst over winning the belt from the mean girl instead of the nice girl. It all makes me wonder whether you even know who you really are. You, the only man going through his teenage emo phase as an adult.
It also makes me wonder why you think we all need to know the inner workings of your psyche as explained through you standing in a poorly lit room talking about how you feel about your emotions --- talking about whether or not your parents loved you enough, what you’re having for dinner that day, whether you should go ahead and spring for that timeshare in the Poconos and a hundred other random bullshit topics for two hours on our TV screens when you could’ve used summary hands and wrapped it the fuck up in 15.
And then there’s Ataxia.
And Ataxia, I know English isn’t your strong suit. While Mr. Shadow mostly gets his rocks off by finding a new Oxford word of the day to incorporate into his weekly recitations of Beowulf, then hops up and down gleefully for mommy to give him a cookie for succeeding, with you it’s a little more…. yes…. CRAAAAAAAAZY.
With you it’s all about how often you can use words that don’t mean what you think they mean, filled in with mumbled references to cumming on things and playing with dolls and discarded mannequins from the “EVERYTHING MUST GO” closing sale at your local Sears.
But I have to say, my favorite part of you is how you take such pride in getting beat up. It’s like your entire aura is predicated on the idea that if you keep getting beaten up but still come to a vertical position afterward, even if you then fall back on your face, that makes it all…. UNSETTLING.
Now, let me tell you something.
Walking into your parents’ room while they’re having sex is unsettling. You getting back up after I punch you just means I get to punch you some more. You sitting up like a cockroach that just got stepped on after I suplex you off the stage onto your neck just means I get to do it again.
If the only thing I can do to make you stay down forever is to murder you, and I’m not a murderer, it only goes to follow that I have to keep punching you and punching you in an unlimited fashion, and I don’t ever have to stop.
Forgive me, but that sounds a lot like Christmas to me. Sure, you have to unwrap a brown scratchy bag instead of pretty wrapping paper, but in the end there’s still happiness inside.
Ryan looks away wistfully, pauses, then looks back.
Sorry, I got really happy for a second there.
Hitting you in the face again will be a pleasure, my friend. And, trying other body parts will be a nice adventure too. Broken arms, broken legs. These are all happy possibilities.
And Duce Jones….
This is low hanging fruit, I know, but apparently we all have to drop a Duce to win this match.
You named yourself after a turd.
That takes balls, and for that I want to say I commend you. I’m gonna assume right off the top that you can probably fight. Duce isn’t even your given name, so for you to start your wrestling career and be like “Yo, my name is Allen, but deep down inside I feel like ‘Duce’. That’s right y’all. I am a turd. But like, a fuckin’ badass turd. Probably like the baddest fuckin’ turd dat ever live, dawg. This Duce don’t eva turn white!!” -- you gotta be able to throw down.
All that aside, I just wanna say…
I’m excited to have our first interaction in this match. I think it’s flush with possibilities.
Ryan uses both hands to steady the camera and gives a long serious look
So how is it that a man like me stands here and speaks as an educated man about pain, suffering and loss, and then deconstructs everything about all of you? Am I insane? Do I open up myself to ridicule? Do I whine and complain? Or do I simply make it clear to the clever among you that I am a man who has already lived a lifetime in this business, already been through the wars, ready to go through them again?
Tell me, is there even one of you who has done what I’ve done to be the best, given up what I’ve given up…. sacrificed their soul to stand on top of the wrestling world?
I’ve done these things more than once. And that’s the sad truth of my existence. I am built and destined to repeat this cycle forever, always fighting, always battling to be the best no matter what anyone does or says. Until I am in the ground, I will always keep coming, and I will not be waterboarded by your boring soliloquies and spoken to like some freshman year psychology student. I’m two steps ahead of every single one of you. Step up your fuckin’ game.
Follow the leader.
I cannot be kept from my ultimate goal. It simply is my destiny to be the best wrestler you’ve ever seen.
Ryan leans back, relaxing somewhat.
Here we are and the time is now. So much talking, so much preparation. I have a dinner to get to, and the Queen hates to be kept waiting.
As a wise man once said -- The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged. It’s now time to see if you can dance.
CUT TO BLACK.