”It’s times like these….”
Downtown Houston, Friday, June 21st.
The CWF World Heavyweight Champion Dan Ryan is home for one last night before flying out to Puerto Rico. It’s hot outside, with temperatures easily touching the mid-90s. Even inside the Revention Center, the air conditioning struggles to keep up with the heat, and not entirely successfully.
A local promotion is running a show in town tonight, and with Cecilia Ryan heading off on a school Summer trip while her father flies down to the Caribbean, it’s one last chance for some father-daughter bonding.
Ryan and his daughter wander up to the back of the concessions line. Ryan pretends not to notice as person after person fails to avert their gaze from the huge professional wrestler in their presence. He plays it off. Well, not really plays it off, more like ignores them entirely.
The arena is a small one, and as such there’s only one concessions area unless you want an alcoholic beverage, which Dan Ryan does not. One concessions area means one very long line. Tonight, one very long line means one very large Texas standing out among the public for a very long time.
Most of the locals are used to the sight of Dan Ryan, but it doesn’t take long before someone with less understanding pipes up and asks for a photo.
Ryan waves him off. “Sorry man, I’m out with my daughter tonight. No pictures.”
The college age kid is a bit startled. Ryan is a big presence, even when being polite. “Oh… of course. I understand.”
Cecilia leans in. “You can take a picture with him, dad.”
Ryan shakes his head. This isn’t new.
“Not tonight. I want my focus to be on our last night in town. There’ll always be time for fans later.”
Cecilia shrugs back as she turns to look at the “menu”. “Maybe not for him.”
Her father looks down at her, then makes a “whatever” expression.
Despite his request for no photos, the college kid pulls the old “turn around and take a selfie trick” and gets his photo anyway, just subtle enough to do the trick, but not subtle enough to go unnoticed.
Ryan only glances at him for a moment, and the kid’s smile disappears immediately. He seemingly no longer wants anything to drink, because he walks away like Scooby Doo hurrying off to find clues.
Cecilia Ryan looks back, chuckling while her father grunts under his breath.
She looks back at her father, amused by his mild irritation. “You know, you could have probably gotten us in through a back door somewhere if you didn’t wanna be bothered.”
“I think you mean ‘should have’. This is your mother’s influence you know. Before she came along, you’d have never caught me dead standing in line with these people.”
An older lady in front of them overhears and frowns as she looks back.
Cecilia socks her dad in the arm, raising a finger to her mouth telling him to be quiet.
Dan Ryan rolls his eyes, and they finally reach the front of the line. Time for a ten dollar chicken finger basket.
Three days later.
In the Presidential Suite of the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dan Ryan strolls through the open glass patio door to the seating area overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
Ryan sits on a white sofa and peers through sunglasses out at the water for a moment before looking down at his phone. A couple of bleep-boops later and Lindsay Troy is on the other end of the line.
This room is really nice.
Hello to you, too.
I was worried there wouldn’t be any decent rooms in this town, but the view is outstanding.
I sorta assumed you’d know what your view was gonna be before you booked the place.
Alaina booked it for me. Big brownie points. Almost makes up for that shit hole in Boston last year.
I booked that ‘shit hole in Boston,’ although I have a sneaking suspicion you’re trying and failing to be funny.
Wrong. I’m trying and succeeding at being sarcastic.
Yeah, well, I’m glad this one meets your approval.
Splendid. But you didn’t call me to chit-chat about the room.
I didn’t call you to only chit-chat about the room.
LINDSAY TROY: (ignoring him)
You ready for Harley Hodge?
I did my homework.
They did, for some reason, bill him as ‘arguably the most decorated World Champion of all time.’
We hear an audible cringe sound.
That sounds like a pretty bad idea. Like, 10 out of 10 on the Charles Barkley “turrible” scale.
I mean, I dunno. They can say what they want. I might want to break his hip and then crack him over the head with his own walker now, though.
You can’t hit him over the head with his walker. It’s not a no-DQ match.
The hip thing then.
Sure, the hip thing.
And what about you? You all set for your scintillating four-way danceathon with the ‘today’s letter is the letter A’ squad?
Are you referring to the match with four of the most talented wrestlers in CWF today?
The very same. I can be out there if you need me to.
Quite tempting, but not necessary.
Fine. You have all the fun. I’ll just hang in the back and wait for my match with Old Man River.
There’s a pause while Ryan picks up a bottled water and takes a swig.
Anything else, your highness?
Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. But let’s talk about it face to face. Maybe we can get dinner here later. There’s a restaurant downstairs.
Fine. I haven’t eaten in hours.
It really is a nice hotel.
Ryan smiles as he clears the call from his screen, then gets up and walks back into the room.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
June 25, 2019
The camera clicks on.
Dan Ryan is stone-faced, intense, wrapping his wrists and adjusting a knee-pad as the pre-show music blares out in the arena. The buzz of the crowd is palpable, the locals hungry for something other than the local scene.
Ryan gets up and starts to pace back and forth, not looking up as he speaks.
Well what do we have here?
Ryan keeps pacing, a somewhat sadistic smile coming across his face. But he doesn’t stop and he doesn’t look at the camera. He marches back and forth like a caged lion, his focus somewhere out in the air in front of him.
Why, I do think we have ourselves a legend, right? Harley Hodge. A certified one-hundred-percent guaranteed legend of the ring. Not only a legend…
Perhaps…. THE MOST DECORATED WORLD CHAMPION OF ALL TIME!!.... That kind of legend. That kind.
Oh, I like that. I like that very much, Harley Hodge. I’ve been waiting for someone to feed another legend to me. I’ve been waiting. I went to war with The Shadow. I went to war with Ataxia. I went to war with Duce Jones, and I survived them all. I bided my time with Silas Artoria and Zach Van Owen. Oh but now…
Someone they say is worthy of my attention.
THE MOST DECORATED WORLD CHAMPION OF ALL TIME!!
Ryan stops, leaning in and staring into the camera.
Ryan nods, a wide eyed expression on his face.
But hey, you’re just a little past your prime, aren’t you? At Golden Intentions, I don’t remember.... you weren't in the ring at the end, were you? Were you even in the final four? No? The Final six? No? The final 8?
I saw MJF clothesline you over the top rope, Harley. I saw it.
I listened to the inspiring story of Harley Hodge, all cleaned up and ready for one last run. I know all about the storied career, the championships. I know all about the fall, the descent into drug use and self-destruction. And I heard how you cleaned yourself to come back at Golden Intentions, the conquering hero ready to make one last impact.
I heard it, and it makes me sick.
Ryan sneers and shakes his head in disgust.
Boy, did you fuck up and pick the wrong dude to come back and fuck with. This may not be for the gold, but I’m gonna make you a promise right now. I’m not gonna remind you of the good times. I’m not gonna remind you of those days when you stepped through these ropes a God, when you walked in the ring and had no equal. I’m not gonna remind you of what it felt like to be on top.
I’m gonna remind you of what it felt like just three short weeks ago, when you were face down in a hotel bathroom, white powder on your nose, vodka on your breath and one eight-ball and a bubble bath away from pulling a Whitney Houston in the tub.
Ryan’s eyes narrow and he steps closer to the camera, at once getting more calm and more intense.
You already know your best days are behind you. I’m not telling you anything you haven’t already come to terms with. But this charade, this fantasy you have in your head where you waltz back in here, get a bunch of fat little Puerto Ricans to chant your name, and head home with a fire in your belly and a love of the game rekindled…. Is absolute fucking folly.
Tonight, you’re getting in the ring with THE BADDEST MOTHERFUCKER IN THE SPORT.
I didn’t sign up for your feel-good tour, and I’m not here to slowly dance with grandpa at the family reunion and ‘look how cute he is’ while you hobble around the ring trying to hit me with your old 90s music wrestling moves.
Ryan smirks, letting out a little chuckle with absolutely no humor behind it.
Tonight? Harley? It’s gonna be bad.
And if you’re smart, the way a lot of people around here seem to think you are, you’ll take what happens tonight to heart, and you’ll go back home and enjoy that well-earned retirement.
Ryan smiles, fake-sweetly and takes on a mocking tone.
We’re all so very glad that you’ve cleaned yourself up. But now… it’s time to go home.
Ryan’s face contorts back to one of disgust.
If you’re lucky, maybe I’ll let you walk there.
Ryan walks off-screen, the door opening and shutting with a slam.