I jerk my head around erratically, not entirely sure what I’m looking for.
I can feel my stomach turning over onto itself.
A chill forms at the base of my spine and spreads quickly. Something doesn’t jive though, because I can still feel the sweat and blood slicked to my face and chest. I turn and walk, leaving the curtain behind me like a fading memory.
My fucking head…
I can hear the electricity that normally jumps between synapses in my brain as it reverberates through my entire existence. I think I’m going to throw up.
The last thing I remember was my face bouncing off of the entrance ramp. Blood is crusting in my hair and congealing to my face. I must look like the last guy left in a SAW right about now…
Everything is static, my depth perception is fucked.
Stumbling around the labyrinth of hallways backstage of the Dunkin’ Donuts arena I begin to realize that I hadn’t seen a single soul since I came back from the ring. There were no staff or agents anywhere to be found. Evolution couldn’t have gone off the air more than ten minutes ago but the building seemed like a long-abandoned catacomb to me. At least, that was the thought process that I kept trying to get to jive in my head.
All of a sudden there was another burst of pain coming from somewhere deep within my head, like a tiny explosion of agony. I fell against the wall and staggered forward, almost falling over a trash can before I could gather enough wits to throw up everything I’d eaten this week into it.
It didn’t help.
Nothing would help.
I know that I’m in the throws of another concussion, but fuck if I can remember what I’m supposed to do about it.
I want to go home.
Why can’t I remember where my dressing room is?
Where the fuck is everyone?
I can feel myself blacking out, can’t let that happen. Suffering through the pain of shaking my head to loosen the proverbial cobwebs gives me just enough wherewithal to make the turn in the hallway and head to where I’m hoping and praying is either my own dressing room, a shower, or a hospital bed.
I don’t even care at this point.
It hits me how dry my mouth is, my tongue feels like an over-abused sponge keeping me from getting the precious air that I need just to keep my bearings. I can taste the coppery tinge of blood mixed with the foulness of vomit and it makes me sick again.
Rounding another corner I can feel Angus before I can see him. There is no doubt in my mind that he’s bursting with high-fives and awesome this and gruesome that and he wants nothing more than to congratulate me again on whatever it is I’ve done since he’s last seen me. I’ll lose my fucking mind if I have to talk to him right now, nevermind he’s the first person I’ve seen in several minutes…
“Hey!” He starts. My grimace tells him everything I need to know. He looks concerned, and why wouldn’t he? My face is mangled, leaking, and I’m stumbling like a drunken sailor through an empty hallway.
I throw up a hand, tense, fingers splayed. Angus is nowhere near bold enough to protest as I shoulder past him and continue on my way down the hall. I can feel his empathy and exasperation haunting me from behind as I trudge onward, looking for…
I continue to twist my way through the hallways of the building, unsure of where I’m going but knowing that if I don’t get there I’ll pass all of the way out and I may not remember to wake up when this is all over. Finally I find myself in front of a door that I’m vaguely sure leads into my dressing room. Once across the threshold I can feel a tightening in my chest and my universe revolves around the strain for fresh air.
I’m having a heart attack.
I swear to Jesus, Joseph, and goddamned Mary that I can smell burnt toast. I can’t feel my left arm. Twenty years in the business, more drugs than I can remember, benders to end all benders, and my goddamned heart is gonna pound its way out of my chest over a fight with a bunch of wannabe cult cronies. I’m hot, drenched to the bone with sweat and still bleeding. I have to be losing too much water. I’m going to dehydrate.
My heart is a twisted knot of death, beating a hole straight through the front of my chest.
I can’t breathe.
Staggering toward the bathroom the thought strangles me that maybe I shouldn’t have blown off Angus so quickly. He’d always been there to keep my shit together for me in the past, so why didn’t I let him help me now?
I’ll be fucked if I know.
I can’t feel my fucking face. Only fire and pain and ice and hell.
I find my way to the sink. The knobs refuse to work for me, I can’t deal with this. No water, no air. No nothing but me in this tiny fucking room with no fucking window and a sink that doesn’t even respect me enough to work.
It hits me all at once like a shotgun blast to the chest.
I can’t breath.
I can’t feel my face.
Everything is black.
Somewhere off in the distance I can almost hear Angus screeching out as he watches me slump forward face-first into the mirror, but I won’t remember any of this because I’m pretty sure my body and brain just made a blood oath to give out on me simultaneously.
May 30th, 2018
The Day after Evolution 21
Angus Skaaland had shown up at TC’s Pub unannounced on the night after Eric Dane had debuted in CWF and he’d sat there all night long, eating chili-cheese fries and downing pure American pisswater. He’d come to this particular dive bar in this particular part of New York to find a particular young lady, one Rosalyn Callasantos.
You may know here as Calico Rose, you may not.
So Angus had sat there, drinking and eating bar food and running off the regulars with his general demeanor until closing time had come and gone. He’d waited patiently while Cally did her duties, closing down the bar, and they left together. A short walk later and they’d both procured enough beer to make it through the night and arrived at the third floor walkup that Cally shared with her boyfriend and on-again-off-again professional wrestler Randall Knox.
AKA Impulse. AKA The Marathon Man.
Young RK was nowhere to be found, though, presumably he’d been off doing something impulsive. Get it? Cally unveiled a batch of freshly baked pot-infused cupcakes and the two had partaken with enough of the cutely iced pastries to put anyone on the shelf but Cally had a sense that Angus had come to her not just to hang out, but as a friend in need. Something was on his shoulders and she was bound and determined to let him figure out how to unload it on her so that she could be of some help.
“Fuckin’ Christ,” he’d mumbled at one point. “You can taste the chlorophyll in these!” She smiled as he savagely ingested another and then another.
The two of them had found themselves on the fire escape of the second story walk-up. Angus had fully known that the “smoke” from his vaporizer was in fact water vapor and completely harmless, but Cally’d had a long run of lung issues over the last couple of years and he didn’t feel like going through the speil of trying to explain the whole vapor thing.
Besides, he’d been used to having to find a spot ever since he’d taken up cigarettes as a teenager. The habit, much like the habit of smoking, had died hard and he was perfectly comfortable sitting outside with his rig blowing clouds of vapor out that were thick enough to fill a room had they only been in one.
“So. What’s the haps?” Cally asked.
Angus evaded the question by taking another slug from the beer that Cally had picked out on the way home from TC’s. It was some kind of an IPA or another, he couldn’t tell and didn’t care. At this point they were going down like water and taste hadn’t been a factor in quite some time.
Cally punched him in the shoulder.
“HEY!” She chirped. “I’m talkin’ at you!”
“Eh, it’s just…” Angus trailed off.
Detective reasoning not exactly being her strong point, Cally took a shot in the dark. At this point she was prodding him and she knew it, but he had obviously wanted to talk and now her interest had been piqued.
“Wait a tick, I’ve got it!” She exclaimed. “You’re having lady problems and you’ve come to your ol’ pal Cally for help with the fairer sex?”
Again, he didn’t answer. An awkward air filled the gap between the two of them. Cally was on her way to giving up when Angus’s face softened a bit. He nodded to the negative and let loose a giggle. Sheepishly he shot a glance at her that she couldn’t quite read. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was the weed, but either way she-
“Oh…” It was Cally’s turn to trail off. “Oh!”
“Who is he? Do I know him? Gimme all the deets, Maurice!” Of course Cally was absolutely full of questions and as much as Angus would have loved to have sat there and had a girls night that ended with his hair braided and her toes painted, he knew that this wasn’t what he’d come to the city for.
Besides, there was always time for braids and toenail-painting.
“That’s, eh, not exactly why I’m here. I mean, I thought you knew about that, and I promise I’ll tell you all about it… just not now.” Angus’ pleading eyes met Cally’s, she immediately let it go.
“Alrighty then, what’s up? You sat in the bar all night slurping down the worst kind of abomination that they bottle and sell, we’ve come here and split an entire batch of cupcakes and another dozen dead soldiers. Something is up, now drop the beans!”
Angus considered this. She was right.
“The BAWS?” She asked? “What’s wrong with him?”
“Oh, nothing’s wrong. It’s just… we’re back on the road.”
Cally scrunched her face a bit. “Cool! Do you need to get the Noodles back together?”
“Nah, I don’t think so. ‘Sides after that bull-fuckery that was the Anzac tournament Eric probably figures Knox wouldn't even take his calls, let alone come back out from under his retirement rock. But that’s just the thing. SWAT wasn’t the end for us, he’s trying to get his Glory back or some shit or another, which puts me on the road with him, and I’m just…” He trailed off again. It was becoming annoying.
“Say the things, Angus. Auntie Cally make it better.”
“I dunno, man, it’s just weird. A few years ago when we did the whole Utah thing there was at least Team Danger there if we got backed into a corner. This is Eric’s first real run back in the ring since Andy Murray’s little brother broke his neck for him in DEFIANCE and… Fuck.”
“What is it?” She coaxed.
Finally, Angus laid it all out on the line.
“What if he doesn’t have it anymore?”
Cally cocked an incredulous eyebrow.
“Das BAWS? Not have it? You are too high!”
Angus rolled his eyes.
“I’m serious. He’ll be forty-seven this year. Both of his knees are shot, I swear one of them is only held together by spit and Spanish moss. On top of that he just had his neck fused last year! Sure, he’s a stubborn fuck, but who can come back from all of that at fifty fuckin’ years old?”
Cally let that one percolate for a quick minute.
“Never underestimate the power of Spanish moss.”
Angus raised his eyebrows, but Cally wasn’t done.
“Seriously, though? If he can’t come back from it he can’t come back from it. But you know how the things are - you used to wrestle. What’d be more damaging to the BAWSman? Making a comeback at eighty years old and realizing he doesn’t have it, or NOT making a comeback at eighty years old and spending the next two hundred years wondering ‘what if’?”
That one sunk in. Angus genuinely felt like she was on to something there. He drained the final beer and felt a little better about things. He almost looked perky.
“So,” she began. “Where are you and the BAWSman terrorizing the children and salvaging Spanish moss at now?”
“We just started last night in this CWF place that’s all the rage. Apparently-”
Cally cut him right off.
“CWF - CWF? That place? Holy hamburgers, you’re working with the little princess!”
“Yep. MJ Flair. The Second Coming herself.”
Calli laughs and shakes her head, leaning back.
“She’s a sweetheart, but she’s her parents’ kid. Her dad’s temper and her mom’s energy. Make sure you take care of her, okay?”
“She’s a former World Champion, yanno, just because she’s twelve doesn’t mean she’s not perfectly capable of taking care of herself.”
Cally considers this.
“Well then… tell her to take care’a the old man. We like having the BAWSman around.”
Angus nods as he takes another gigantic drag from his douche-flute. Seconds pass and he fills the alleyway with another giant plume of vapor-smoke. Cally giggles a bit because it smells purple.
Suffice it to say, the cupcakes had done their work.
June 12th, 2018
Roughly 90 minutes after Evolution 23
The melee in and around the ring had finally been contained. Most everyone involved has gone off in their own directions, or at least the direction of the people providing their particular brand of Kool-aid. It had taken a while, and it had taken every bit of personnel that the CWF had even remotely on the payroll that night, but in the end order had been restored and nobody had died.
These are all things that Angus Skaaland and MJ Flair had been told by the various people who had poked their head into this particular area of triage in the backstage area of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. They’d been mostly left alone with the unconscious body of Eric Dane since a trainer had looked at him and judged that he’d live and went on about his merry business.
Things had been out of control.
People had been hurt, blood was everywhere.
That The Only Star had managed to get himself away from ringside, through the backstage area, and into his locker room before he’d collapsed had told the medical personnel on duty that Dane was a big boy, and though he was covered in blood and catatonic, he would likely be just fine.
Angus wasn’t sure. He’d seen the BAWS come back from worse.
MJ was downright apoplectic.
She poked him.
She shook him. Hard.
Anger flashed in Angus’s eyes. He jumped up and pulled Flair off of his boss and friend. With a grip that she’d have never thought he could maintain Angus whipped the former World Champion back and into the chair she’d been occupying only seconds before.
“Are you out of your RABBIT ASS mind?” He put himself between MJ and Dane, unsure of what was about to go down but all the way protective of his boss and friend.
“The fuck is wrong with you?” She barked.
Skaaland was indignant. “Me? What the fuck is wrong with you?! You don’t shake a guy who’s probably sitting there with a goddamned concussion!”
She hadn’t thought of that. The fight drained from her as she sank into the uncomfortable plastic chair. Angus was very suddenly filled with regret as well.
“Look,” MJ started.
Angus cut her off.
“Don’t worry about it.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “It’s cool.”
The air was thick, tense.
“I’m sorry. I’m just so fucking frustrated. These assholes keep doing anything and everything they want and they never have to pay, they never get what’s coming to them.”
She blew out her breath, exasperated.
“It’s just… no matter his reasons, he came here to help me. It’s hard to look at him like this...” She nods in Eric’s direction. “And not think it’s all my fault.”
Angus paced, and he shrugged.
A moment passed.
There was a gentle cough, followed by-
“You two little girls done fussing over me yet?”
The Only Star tried unsuccessfully to pull himself up. Angus reached out and grabbed his arm, helping his mentor sit up straight on the stretcher he’d been left on.”
“Take ‘er easy, boss.” Angus chided.
“Don’t be such a pussy.”
Right here, right now.
Let be be real, real fuckin’ honest with you. I don’t remember a Goddamned thing that happened at Evolution past that DDT on the ramp. I could really give a good fuck less about Revenant choosing a side and joining the Ouroboros, besides who didn’t see that coming from ten thousand miles away anyway?
I mean, really.
But for dropping me on my fuckin’ head, on the ramp, like it was nothing but another day’s work at the ol’ Salt Mine? Oh, you’d better fucking believe that there is a Receipt coming with his stupid fucking name on it in big, bold print.
Maybe I shouldn’t take it so personally.
Maybe I should just charge it to the game, right?
It’s not as if I wouldn’t have done the same or worse to him if given the same opportunity. The difference is I would have made sure he was donezo for realsies had I decided to drop a motherfucker on his head on the ramp. You see, I’d have done it the right way, made sure his head was all the way sticking out and his neck was firmly cradled in my own arm so that when I drove him into the steel he either got brain damage from the impact or or a spinal cord injury from the sudden snap of the neck as everything went black.
I’d have ended his whole big dumb career.
But no, this big fat fuck, too full of his own shit to bother applying the maneuver correctly, fucked around and let me pancake out and get my hands out for protection. Yeah, I took a shit of a DDT right there on the ramp for everyone to see, but I managed to get out of it without much more than a splitting headache the next morning and concussion number who the fuck knows.
So sure, maybe I should just let this one slide.
I’m not going to though. What I’m going to do is take a piece of his ass come Golden Intentions, and no matter what else happens that night in that ring with all of those fuckin’ people, I’m gonna make sure that Revenant’s night ends early. There’s no way that prick sees the main event of Wrestle Fest.
Not while I’ve still got breath in my lungs.
But I digress.
I can’t go into a thing like this with a single-minded obsession, can I? There’ll be two or three people in this match with me that have the fuckin’ chops to put my dick in the dirt if I’m not paying attention, right?
The Shadow? Ataxia, maybe?
Cassandra and the many-headed-monster that is however many of the SSRIentists decide to show up and join the fray? More than fuckin’ likely. I hope those shit-dick motherfuckers do decide to show up, I’ve got a li’l somethin’ somethin’ each and every last one of those brainwashed sons’a bitches.
Bronson Box? Fuck knows he’s the wildcard now.
I know I can’t trust him, but can I count on him?
Will the Banff Bruiser do what’s good for business when it comes time? Absolutely the fuck not, that’s for sure. He’ll find himself in some kind of a blood-trance and he’ll revel in the sheer violence and humanity of it all. I’ve got to keep him on a short leash if I’m gonna get the most out of him before I have to put him down…
I can’t remember most of their names.
Am I being an arrogant asshole? Probably. It’s not my fault, though. I’m new here, right, and I have yet to meet or be introduced to most of these guys and girls. Sure, I’ve shaken two dozen hands in the dressing room, but I’ve shaken two million hands over the last twenty-five years.
Hate to be this guy, but those faces start to blend together over the years.
Hell I’d be willing to bet a stack that at least two of them quit when they don’t win this Rumble. It’s just the nature of these things, really. Some douche like Clark Steele will come in and claim that he’s the end-all-be-all of professional wrestling and he’ll get dumped on his head within two minutes of entering the goddamned thing and he’ll quit like a bitch before the show even goes off the air.
I can feel you asking yourself:
“But Eric, why are you so sure about yourself going into this, your first big time Pay-Per-View match with the CWF?”
Well, that’s pretty simple, really. Over the years I’ve gotten to be pretty fucking good at one-night-tournaments, multi-cage clusterfucks, and rumble style matches. It’s something about the psychology of a clusterfuck if I had to put a finger on it.
That is to say, I know how to turn a bad situation into an advantage. I know how to take advantage of stupid people, and I know when to press an advantage and turn it into a win.
It’s not about sportsmanship.
It’s not about skill.
Stamina helps, but it’s not about that either.
No amount of charisma will help you in this situation.
A good manager or fourteen stablemates aren’t going to do the trick either. I could go on at length about what won’t win you one of these matches but none of you will listen to me. You’ll all go on with your stupid little game plans, you’ll get yourselves all worked up about how and what you’re gonna do when the fact of the matter is you don’t know if you’re gonna draw number three or number twenty-nine.
You could be in there for ten minutes or an hour.
There could only be three guys left by the time your buzzer goes off, or you could have to put hands on all twenty-nine opponents just to be there at the end. You never do know, the only thing that you can count on in a match like this is luck. You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time, and you’ve got to have the synapses firing to make the right move at the right time.
What I mean is, you’ve got to be lucky, and you’ve got to be smart.
Me, I could claim to be either and all it would be is me flapping my lips just like the lot of you, talking a bunch of shit that nobody is really listening to. I’m not going to do that, though. What I am going to do is make you a promise.
At the end, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, the last two or three or four people left, I can guarantee you I’ll be there. When everyone else is sucking wind I’ll switch it into high gear and I will get shit done.
Do you hear me?
Are you paying attention?
Do you understand?
Fuck around and underestimate me.
Fuck around and trust me.
You’ll find out when it’s all said and done that in the end this is all business, and believe me you thick-skulled sons of fucks, I’ve got a Masters Degree in this kind of Business, with a Bachelors in Right Place/Right Time.
The Main Event of Wrestle Fest IV belongs to Eric Dane.
Who I share the ring with on that night doesn’t matter.
In the end, the only thing that matters is that now we all know the date and time in which Eric Dane is crowned World Champion once again.
Sorry, not sorry.
Deal with it.