4 Weeks Ago.
@ Hardcore House VII (a bi-weekly independent show based in The Bronx, New York).
“What the fuck is Youtube, Mike?” McKail asked, wandering into the locker room with a towel over his shoulder and his wrestling tights only half done up.
Mike stopped fastening his wrestling boots and just glared at him. “You fuckin’ with me, Jake?” He shook his head and continued working on his boots. “Ah shit, you gotta be fuckin’ with me. Nobody’s that out of touch with society.”
“Heard some kids talking about it in the shitter,” McKail said.
“Yeah,” Mike said. “Happens a lot. It’s all some of these assholes have got.”
“Well fuck,” McKail said, sitting on the bench next to Mike. He reached into his duffel bag and subtly popped some nicotine gum. If Mike noticed, he didn’t let on.
Mike was a good kid. Not like the others, despite being pretty much a clone of them.
They all looked the damned same these days. All deep brown tan and luminous white teeth. Couldn’t do shit in the ring. They were more concerned about slapping each other, rather than actually kicking ass.
It made McKail sick.
But Mike was different though; he still had an old school mentality; he knew how to work the ring and the crowd. He was tough too. Had a bit of substance about him, beyond the glare of his teeth.
“So why do they do it?” McKail asked, still struggling with the concept.
“Exposure,” Mike said. “These guys think the more eyeballs they get on them, the easier it’ll be to hit the big time.”
“Not gonna help them if they’re the shits, though.”
Mike nodded. “Exactly right, my friend.”
“Kids these days, man.”
“Tell me about it,” Mike said. “Tell you what. I’ll show you out it goes. I’ll record your match tonight and put it on Youtube.”
“How the fuck are you gonna do that?” McKail said. “Can’t see a video recorder in your kit bag.”
Mike scrunched up his face. “Video recorder? What are you talking about? I’ll just use my phone, man. This isn’t the 80’s.”
“Your phone can do that?” McKail said. “I thought they were for making calls?”
“Jesus Christ!” Mike said. “Are you fuckin’ with me?”
McKail grinned. “Absolutely.”
“I hate you, man,” Mike said.
“I know and I love it.”
“MCKAIL!” The voice screamed. It was whiny and full of stress; from that alone, he knew it had to be the booker.
A couple of seconds later, a big guy wearing a massive cornflower blue shirt that barely covered his gut and a pair of tan chinos that couldn’t possibly fit into any normal-sized wardrobe walked into the locker room. His face was red and covered with a thick layer of sweat. Pit stains were large and in charge too.
His name was Monty, but he liked people calling him “Big M”.
“Ah, McKail,” he said as he got closer. “You’re on first tonight. Your guy shouldn’t cause you too much trouble, but I want you to blow him up good.”
Blow him up good was code for fuck him up a little. Monty liked keeping McKail around for that. He knew not many on the roster could touch him, but because McKail didn’t play up to the audience, he wasn’t all that popular. And if you weren’t popular, you didn’t draw. And if you didn’t draw, you didn’t get anywhere near the main event. It was simple business that McKail understood all too well, but didn’t care all that much about. Those days were behind him.
“Okay,” McKail said, “Why?”
Usually, Monty kept his cards close to his chest and liked to tell you only what he thought you needed to know, but the smile on his face suggested he was going to be forthcoming.
It took a couple of beats for McKail to figure out why, but when it clicked, it fucking clicked: the asshole wanted everyone in the locker room to hear him.
“The kids a cocky little asshole, who needs to be put in his place,” Monty said, his voice a little louder than usual. “There’s an extra sixty bucks in it for ya.”
The money wasn’t necessary but it was welcomed and McKail wasn’t going to argue. “Sure.”
Monty grinned and waddle off further into the locker room.
“Wonder what that kid really did?” Mike asked. “Because we’re all cocky little assholes here.”
“Probably complained when he caught Monty looking at his dick while he was getting into his gear,” McKail said. It was a guess, but a good guess based on strong locker room gossip.
“Well shit,” Mike said. “Look on the bright side: Youtube is going to eat this shit up.”
“If you say so, man.”
3 Weeks Ago.
@ McKail’s apartment. The Bronx, New York.
“Ugh,” McKail mumbled, stumbling through his apartment door and dumping his duffel bag on the floor. He back-heeled the door shut, placed both hands on his lower back and stretched out the best he could.
After a couple of seconds of doing that, he kicked his duffel bag to one side and wandered into the kitchen.
His apartment was pretty much all open plan and small, which suited him just fine.
Four steps got him to the kitchen, where he grabbed two large bags of ice from his freezer. Four more steps to his bathroom, he ripped off the tops off the ice bags and dumped it all into his tub, filling up the rest of the tub with cold water.
Grunting and groaning, he managed to shed his clothes and climb into the tub. He winced at the instant shock of the cold, but his body had become well-versed to it by now and quickly compensated. His back quickly numbed and the pain drifted slowly away.
Then, the phone rang.
“Fuck that,” McKail mumbled, submerging his head in the tub for a couple of seconds. There was no way he was getting out now. Whoever the hell it is can just fucking wait.
The answer machine clicked on and he heard his pre-recorded voice say, “Well talk then, dammit!” followed by a beep.
“Nice, McKail,” Mike began. “Real nice.”
McKail grinned, it was the first time Mike had called. McKail wasn’t even sure how the little prick got his number.
He was glad he didn’t bother getting out of the tub now.
“Good news, Bro,” Mike continued. “You’re famous.”
The fuck are you talking about, Mike? McKail frowned.
“That video I shot of you, ahem, blowing up that guy last week - I put it on Youtube and the viewing figures are crazy. One hundred thousand views already, man.”
McKail sat upright in the tub and craned his head to listen better. What the fuck did he just say?
“That’s right, you old fuck. One. Hundred. Thousand. Views. And those numbers are just going up, man. I’m was booked on a show in New England last night and that match was all the locker room could talk about. The booker said he wanted to talk to you about a couple of spots too. Better money than Hardcore House, too. A lot better.”
“Anyways,” Mike said, “see you at the show next week, Mr Big Time.”
Imagine how much ice I could buy with a few extra bucks in my pocket.
2 Weeks Ago.
@ Hardcore House VIII (a bi-weekly independent show based in The Bronx, New York).
McKail leant against the wall out back of the small venue, smoking a Malbrough and watched as more people joined the queue to get in.
The nicotine gum just wasn’t fucking cutting it anymore.
He stood a fair distance away from the crowd, behind barbed wire and black heavy iron railings, but he could see them well enough to know it was a bigger crowd than usual.
The show didn’t start for another two hours and already they were queuing to get in.
The show was lucky to get people queuing at all, never mind this early on and certainly not this many people.
It looked to McKail as though it was already double the size of a regular crowd. “What the fuck is going on?”
“You’re famous now, asshole,” Monty the Hardcore House booker said, emerging from the venue back door. “That’s what’s going on.”
McKail shook his head. “The fuck I am and this crowd ain’t here for me.”
Monty chuckled, “You can tell yourself that all you want, for whatever reason you want, but you’re what these people have come to see.”
“You are,” Monty said. “That YouTube thing took off. My nephew says they got so many questions about whether you’re going to be on the show tonight, the Hardcore House social media fucker had to put your picture right there in the banner on BookFace or whatever the fuck it’s called. Whatever the fuck that means.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Fucked if I know,” Monty said, “but it doesn’t matter. Look at the crowds you’re drawing.”
“You think this is all me?” McKail said. “Seriously?”
“Absolutely,” Monty said. “Think it so much, I’m putting you in the main event tonight.”
“You heard me,” Monty said. “That’s a two hundred dollar pay hike for you, old man.”
McKail frowned. “That’s more than the main event guys usually get.”
“Don’t I know it,” Monty said. “These crowds are much bigger than usual, plus I’m hoping you’ll remember us when you hit the Big Leagues.”
“All these assholes are knocking on the door now, McKail,” Monty said. “I hear the CWF are having an event. Golden Inseminations or some shit. I hear they want you to compete.”
“You should really check your email from time to time,” Monty said, sighing.
McKail grinned. “The fuck is email?”
Monty shook his head and turned to walk away, “Fucking dickhead.”
McKail took another drag of his cigarette and watched the more people join the back of the queue. Maybe there’s something to this Internet thing...
1 Week Ago.
@ Reddit AMA in /r/SquaredCircle.
u/McKail: I’m Jacob McKail. Ask me Anything.
u/SlurpyTits: Why did you fuck that kid up in the Youtube video?
u/McKail: It’s my job.
u/SlurpyTits: Seemed more brutal than usual?
u/McKail: He needed it.
u/McKail: He was a cocky little shit.
u/SlurpyTits: Are there any cocky little shits in the CWF that need it too?
u/McKail: All of them.
u/FeltchingLegend: Do you miss wrestling for PRIME?
u/McKail: I miss the paycheck.
u/IShatOnUrMom: Is it true you’re going to enter the CWF Golden Intentions Invitational?
u/IShatOnUrMom: Goddamn! That’s great news!
u/McKail: If you say so.
u/IShatOnUrMom: What do you think of your competition?
u/McKail: I’ll let you know as soon as I see any.
u/IShatOnUrMom: * entire CWF roster right now * oooof.
u/McKail: Don’t know what that means, but ok.
u/PhantonBorker: What do you think of Noah Hanson?
u/McKail: She’s terrible.
u/AngellaDeville: You’re the best, McKail!
u/McKail: I fucking know I am, thanks.
u/BoobyMcCoy: What do you think of Dan Ryan?
u/McKail: Who’s he?
u/BoobyMcCoy: The CWF World Champion.
u/McKail: He looks like a cock with a nose.
u/McKail: No, a cock.
u/Argyole: Are you looking forward to possibly facing off against Lindsay Troy again?
u/McKail: Who the fuck is she?
u/Argyole: You were both in PRIME.
u/McKail: You sure?
u/Argyole: Yes. She was the champion for a time.
u/McKail: If you say so.
u/Argyole: Can you remember anyone from PRIME?
u/McKail: Only the talented ones.
u/RentAZero: Do you remember Brandon Youngblood from PRIME?
u/McKail: See above.
u/KidBlunder: Do you remember Julian Bathory from PRIME?
u/McKail: You’re just making these names up now.
u/RethSollins: Last year, one of your fellow GCW Alumni Andy Murray won the match - can you emulate his success this year?
u/McKail: I thought he was a tennis player.
u/RethSollins: Different guy. This was the Scottish Guy who used to wrestle in GCW.
u/McKail: You sure he didn’t play tennis? Because he wrestled like a tennis player.
u/McKail: Wanna do better than that asshole. When I win, I’ll have the bollocks to actually have the title match I earned.
u/RethSollins: Double ooof.
u/KasperSkoi: How do you think you’ll do in the Golden Intentions match?
u/McKail: Fine, thanks. Walk in the park. Might stop for ice cream half-way through.
@ McKail’s apartment. The Bronx, New York.
Another day, another ice-bath.
McKail had just lain there for three hours - 2 hours longer than normal. He couldn’t feel anything below his chest anymore and that was just fine by him.
He’d need all the benefits he could get out of his ice baths soon, because when June 12th rolled around he was going to put his body through a fresh round of hell.
No matter how much he liked to play it down, McKail knew that CWF Golden Intentions was going to be something else entirely. It was going to be a lot more physical for a start and it was certainly a lot grander than anything he’d been involved in for quite some time.
It’s gonna be a time to shine, Mike had told him.
Fucking kids, McKail thought, shifting in the bath. He winced as the remnants of an ice cube brushed against his left testicle.
McKail knew Golden Intentions wouldn’t be his time to shine; he didn’t shine. He grinded. He just turned up and kicked ass. In those terms, it was just another day for him.
It would just be another day, with more eyeballs on him.
That was fine by McKail; he wasn’t interested in fame all that much, but he was interested in the paycheck.
You’re a mercenary, McKail, Mike had once told him. He was right. Because you had to be.
In this line of work, you’re earning ability has an expiration date. You live on paycheck to paycheck like a fucking grind. Once your time is up, you’d better have looked after your money right. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself mopping the local McDonald’s shitter until you’re eighty fucking years old.
Kids like Mike haven’t worked that out yet, but he would. Soon.
Tomorrow, he would start his journey to New Orleans. The grind would continue.
But where would it end?