Reputation is a Fragile Thing Aug 12, 2019 19:14:48 GMT -5 Hazarrd and M̷͇͙̱̏͜͝ͅ3̵̈̐͘̚͜͝S̵̡̝̺̖̑H̸͙̊͋̂ like this
Post by Thunder on Aug 12, 2019 19:14:48 GMT -5
April 24, 2014
The lights were so bright.
He hadn't expected to see the light twice in one weekend. The first one was the only one he needed, the one that was necessary for him to move on and face the world anew. How sweet that was, to know he could finally walk away from the ring and be okay with it. But when he thought of all that, he wasn't expecting to see this light. As much as he said he would be okay with it, that's not the way to story was supposed to end. On his back, the strains of someone else's theme music ringing out. He wanted to retire on his own terms, as the WFWF champion. The perfect comeback story was almost written, a remarkable battle royal win to get back to the main event and the title one more time.
But there were no storybook endings. He should have learned that long ago.
He dragged himself out of the ring as soon as he felt ready to go. Those final seconds in the ring were the hardest of all. He wanted to soak it all in, the way the crowd looked as all their eyes were on you, the feel of thousands making an arena vibrate.
He couldn't soak it in, though. It wasn't his moment. No one was cheering for him. No one was even looking at him any more.
In the storybook ending, he'd be climbing the ropes and celebrating as he looked at the throng of fans. In reality, he found it hard to even look back at the ring as he walked up the ramp. There he was, Shawn Malakai of all people, holding the title. That's not how it was supposed to go. He even turned on his long time friend just to risk getting this shot one more time. It was painful, dealing with the physical agony Malakai put him through afterwards, along with all the emotional baggage. But maybe it could have all been worth it if it meant getting that title again. Instead, all for nothing.
From the top of the ramp, he looked back at the ring one more time. He tried to feel something, anything, positive. Relief that he could finally put this behind him, happiness that Malakai succeeded in his last chance at the title. Instead, there was only profound heaviness. Of the things gone, already lost and things that would be lost.
Thank god his sister was waiting for him when he stepped through the curtain. Some moments call for a friendly face. She reached out and hugged him before he even had a chance to say anything.
“I'm so proud of you.”
“Eh, I failed,” he shrugged.
“Stop it. You didn't fail. And what happened in that ring tonight was what mattered the least. I'm proud of you for everything. For finally walking away and putting this behind you. This is going to be so good for you. This is finally going to be your chance to grow and being the father and man you should be. I'm proud of you for that, because I know this wasn't easy for you. But you did it.”
“Thanks. And you're right. I just wish I could have gotten it done,” he said, shaking his head.
“I know, I know. But you've got nothing to be ashamed of. Just getting back here was a high note, and you've already done it all before. And now it's over. This isn't who are you are any more. It's who you were. Congratulations on a job well done.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that.”
“Just promise me one thing,” Robin said. “Promise me that you're really done.”
“Scout's honor. I don't need this any more. But man, I wish I would have won.”
“Shh. No more of that, it's done now. You know what's really good about this?”
“From now on, you don't have to do anything.”
“That does sound pretty good,” he said with a smile. “I'm sick of all this road stuff anyway. How about you say we get something to eat?”
“Sounds good. You can pay with your social security check.”
They laughed and headed off into the sunset. Finally, it was all over. No wrestling ever again. The final chapter had been written, for sure.
Excerpt from The Rolling Thunder Revue, page 302
Was I disappointed at all by how the last match went? Not at all. I never understood what it meant to say “it's an honor just to be nominated,” but now I totally understood. Just reaching that stage, the main event of Superbrawl again, was reward enough for me. For a while there, it felt like I would never reach that moment again at all. I'd been so, so low, as much as I hate to admit it again. But there I was. I made it again.
And yes, I lost in the end. I didn't get the job done. That's how it goes. Don't let anyone tell you I've ever had regrets about it, because I sure don't. I left one happy man, and I'm totally satisfied. It's not like it's something I ever think about and wonder about at all. The career is done and that's it, the chapter closed. And hey, it could have been a worse result. At least Trace didn't win.
May 6, 2016
May 6, 2016
“Dad, come over here! Look at this one!”
Michael trudged up the hill to wear Aaron had landed. Most parents would probably be a little concerned about their kid being this excited by a cemetery. But there were signs that would be a lot more alarming than this, like abusing animals or rooting for the New York Mets.
Aaron pointed to what was hardly an ordinary, weathered headstone. At it's base was an orb, a bluish hue slightly clouding what was inside.
“Look! There's a picture of a kid in that! A dead kid!”
Michael kneeled down, although he hardly needed to. He'd seen this long before, as a macabre child himself. Hopefully such things weren't a gateway into joining bad wrestling stables later on in life.
“Oh yes, I know this well,” Michael said. “That's bubble boy. See, that's a picture of him in his coffin they put in there. And there's a lot of legends about him. Some people say . . .”
“Michael!” Robin called out from further down the hill.
“It looks like your aunt doesn't approve, so we'll save that for later. She's no fun anyway.”
Aaron giggled as they headed back down to meet Robin at the freshly planted flowers.
“What are you two laughing at?” she asked with a wry smile.
“Nothing at all,” Aaron replied, zipping his mouth up in dramatic fashion.
“You know, Michael, I almost forgot to mention something I noticed. Shawn is also here too.”
“Oh, is that so?” Michael shifted uneasily from leg to the other, his eyes now looking beyond Robin and not at her.
“Don't you think you should pay your respects while you're here?”
“I don't know,” he replied with a sigh large enough that it could have swayed the trees. “That would seem a little . . . weird.”
“Oh come on now. Don't tell me you're still hung up on all that stuff from back then. I know things were complicated and ugly, but you guys were friends.”
“I know, I know. And it's not like I'm bitter or upset with him still or anything. It's just, I don't know, I feel a little bad about everything. I just . . .” he stopped, seemingly fumbling for some other thought. Instead, all he did was rock a little more while staring even further off into the unknown distance.
“Hold the phone. Do I dare detect you displaying guilt?” A smile grew across her face. “Next thing you'll be telling me you are capable of other miracles, like maintaining another steady relationship.”
“I guess I could maybe, possibly, concede I feel a little bad about the way I may have acted at times,” he winced even having to utter such dreaded words.
“Well, I for one am glad you are somehow evolving. Just like you, Shawn was actually a good guy. Just . . . a little flawed at times.”
“Oh yeah, he was great!” Aaron suddenly exclaimed. “He's the one who left me all that money, right?”
“Pardon?” Michael asked, snapping back into reality in an instant.
“What happened to keep your mouth zippered?” Robin asked, her head also whiplashing in Aaron's direction.
“I think I need an explanation here.”
“Oh, it's nothing.” Now it was her turn to rock and look off in the distance. Whatever was way far out yonder, it sure looked interesting to the distressed members of the Knight family.
“Well, you see, what Shawn died he left a good deal of money for Aaron.”
“Excuse me? I mean, that's nice of him and all, but why? And why didn't I know about it until just now?”
“Well, uh,” she briefly stopped, rubbing the back of her neck. “Promise you won't get mad?”
“I'm making no guarantees at this point.”
“Well, the thing is, he, uh, left the money in my full control. I guess he entrusted it to me and not you.”
Robin took a step back, already wincing at what was about to come. But what did come was a little unexpected. All at once, laughter exploded from out of Michael. Robin took an even further step back, not getting near this strange storm. He pounded one foot into the ground and shook his head from side to side. Only after a few moments did the laughter somewhat subside.
“He got me again,” he said, still shaking his head. “I can't believe it. He even screwed with me from beyond the grave. Let me guess, he said something about how I couldn't be trusted with the money or something, right?”
“Well, I don't know for sure . . .”
“I think I do. But you know what, I'm gonna show him. I've already changed and I'm just gonna keep getting better. I don't even care about that wrestling junk any more, and look how much better I'm doing with the family.”
“I like guilty you better than . . . than this. It's a little like bitter, wrestler you.”
“No, no. I'm good. All good, all better.”
“Well, we'll head back to the car and give you a minute alone,” Robin said, whisking Aaron back to the car a little fast. Michael hardly noticed.
He knelt down and wiped the bits of grass away that were left on the stone. Now it looked better, the way it should look. And yet . . .
And yet he still felt his chest caving in when he looked down at the words before him.
Loving sister, partner and mother.
Of course all those words needed to be there. But the last one, the last one still made him zoom in on the cruelty of it all. It wasn't fair that she never got a chance to be a mother, to experience all the simple joys of it. It wasn't fair that Aaron was left with only one rather flawed and insufficient parent. It wasn't fair that on every birthday, holiday and big moment the thought still buoyed to the surface, I wish Stacy could see this.
“But hey, at least I'm doing better now,” he spoke out loud, trying to smile a little. “You might even be a little impressed by me. And don't worry, I won't tell him about the spooky ghost story I almost started. Well, only if he begs a whole lot.”
All those promises he made to himself, and to the family, rushed back over him. Yes, he would continue to get better and be the man and father he should be. For him, for them. For her.
“Happy Mother's Day.”
Excerpt from The Rolling Thunder Revue, page 305
Retirement really is a good thing, and more people should try it sooner, especially in Congress. And sure, it took me a long time to come away from it and accept that it was done. Lord knows WFWF wrestlers never know when to hang it up. It usually takes a death for someone to finally retire for good. Luckily, I got away before that had to happen.
And now I really am done for good, and for only the best reasons—family. They mean so much to me, and it's time to finally be there for them. I often look at my son and think of the times he missed both of his parents, which just isn't right. Well, no longer. He'll always have one around, provided he doesn't get sick of me.
I've still got a lot of catching up to do, but I'm going to keep working on it. I can provide him the best life he can all around. Luckily, he's always going to be set financially too, although that's not all my own doing. But I think the certain individual responsible for that would be pleased with how I'm handling things too. He would have seen I'm better than I once was.
October 2, 2016
October 2, 2016
They all cheered when he walked in. Man, it felt good to hear a pop like that again. Granted, Michael spent a good portion of his career getting jeers rather than cheers. And granted, two hundred people at a bookstore cheering was a little bit different than ten thousand people in an arena. This was the best he was going to get at this time in his life, though.
He walked past first the people who were jammed against the back wall, nearly knocking over the bookshelves behind them. Next he worked his way through the aisles of chairs, finally making his way up to the lectern set up for him. To the left was the table he'd later sit, lined with Sharpies of all different colors. With this many people here, he was probably going to need all of them.
And for that to be the case after all this time still felt pretty good. Before the book had even been written, he wondered who would still know and who would care. And here he was, two years later, sitting in his hometown while the people still flocked to see him. And even better, they were buying the book. That was even nicer for his bank account. Retiring didn't seem so bad now, now that he knew no one had forgotten him. His career did still matter to this people. Seeing all that, it was more apparent that there was no need to have regrets about how things went or ended up.
Well, except maybe for the t-shirts he had throughout his career. God, there were some ugly designs out there in the crowd. Horrible colors and patterns, only looking worse on people who outgrew the shirts years earlier. Mistakes were made.
“Thank you to everyone for coming out,” Michael began to applause from the assembled. “Honestly, this means a lot to me. After years on the road, I wasn't sure if I wanted to embark on a book tour and do all that promotion again. Next thing I know, my agent has booked me in places all over the country. But hey, it's good news for the people of places like Kansas and Rhode Island. At least something exciting will be happening there for once.
“But in all seriousness, I really wanted to do a book event right here in Pittsburgh, my home. This is the one that really meant a lot to me, and all of you have always meant a lot to me. Hell, sometimes you were the only ones who would ever cheer for me. You were the only ones who had the good sense. So thanks, I really appreciate it.
“So anyway, I'll give you all the rundown for whole this is going to go. We can start out with a question and answer session, and I'm happy to answer whatever you want to know. And after that, we'll start signing. Hopefully you all have my great book to get signed, but I'll gladly sign anything you have. Well, except for pictures of Alex Sean. Those I'll just spit on. So if you have a question, please just stand up and I'll get to you.”
Michael directed traffic, pointing to the first man who stood up. Quite a few people stood up right away. He would be here a while at this rate.
“Okay, I just want to ask the obvious question. Do you think you'll ever come back for another match?”
A small of pocket of people began to murmur “one more match,” not quite a chant, if a chant was really possible in a room of this size. But at least they were densely packed, unlike a Marlins game.
“I knew this was coming,” Michael answered with a chuckle. “And before you all get too excited, I want to set the record straight. Under no circumstances am I ever coming back and wrestling again. I know, I know. Retirements in wrestling never mean anything, but this one is for real. There's nothing left for me to accomplish. Sure, my final match didn't go as planned, but I did go out mostly on top, and I'm grateful for that high note. As much as I really enjoyed wrestling, I've done it all. I built my legacy and reputation, and I don't know that I could ever improve on it. This is for real, and nothing would ever compel me to come back.”
Some light boos rang out, and Michael chuckled.
“For the record, I could still kick all their asses now.” That was good enough to end the booing and get a smattering of laughter and applause. “Who's next?”
“What would you say your favorite match of all time is?” a woman towards the back asked.
“Now that is a tough one. The one that obviously springs to mind right away is my first title win against Obo at Scars and Stripes 2007. But of course even that one is a little tainted, what with me getting beaten up afterwards and forgotten about. That still has a lot of historical importance for me, though, and that was a great performance on my part. So I'd probably say that or my retirement match against Yukio Blaze. Yes, you in the back.”
“How do you feel about the WFWF Tag Team Championship being retired? Those titles were so big to your career.”
Michael stopped right in his tracks. He was expecting all kinds of softball questions, but not a bombshell dropped on him like this. It didn't even make a lick of sense, what he just heard.
“I'm sorry,” he managed to get out. “Did you just say they got rid of the tag team titles? Did I hear that right?'
Half the room nodded. He scanned the room, looking for someone to disagree with what had been said, to dispute it somehow. Maybe this was just one of those times where the tag division wasn't particularly active, but it still existed. But no, that wasn't the case. Everyone was in agreement on this. Now this crowd no longer felt like an asset to him. He need nothing more than time alone to grasp this information and digest it. But no, now he had to respond to it in front of a group people. This is what I get for leaving the house, he thought. He took a breath and just hoped if he vamped enough an acceptable answer would come out.
“I didn't even know about that. And to be honest, I'm a little shocked. It's sad to me, it really is. The tag scene was so vibrant for a long period of time, and I'm proud to say I was part of that. Those tag titles always meant a lot to me, and they were a valuable notch in my belt. I don't know what to say. Except, I guess, that I'm disheartened and disappointed."
The next person asked some question about toughest opponents, which he hardly paid attention to. The Michael in the room went on autopilot, delivering a good enough answer without thinking. Meanwhile, all he could think about was those tag titles. Things change over time, but that? That was just a change. That was an erasure. And in turn, an erasure of some of what he had accomplished, a tag division he helped breathe life into. All gone, and he feared part of his legacy gone with it.
And that, just like getting rid of the titles, would be unacceptable.
Excerpt from The Rolling Thunder Revue, page 57
That first tag team title win felt huge at the time, and it still does to this day. It's one thing to be the fresh young face with lots of potential. But hell, I wasn't even fresh at that point. Three years is a long time to wait for a breakthrough. The last thing anyone ever wants to be is someone with a ton of potential that flames out. No one wants to be the Marco Rubio of any place.
And there's overall a satisfaction in knowing I was a great tag team wrestler overall, someone who was able to hold the titles with a wide variety of different partners. Sure, you could find enough people to a football stadium that say I'm a prick. And sure, some of my partnerships didn't exactly end up smoothly. (Except for Ripp Jackson, who I can hardly remember, to be honest. Sorry dude) But I was still able to accomplish great things over many years in the tag division. It wasn't just a stepping stone. It was a cornerstone of my career. I'll always happily hang my hat on that legacy.
March 4, 2018
March 4, 2018
Michael stared at the blinking cursor on the blank page. His eyes drifted slowly from his desk to the TV mounted into the wall. Maybe he could just put on something for a few minutes, get the creative juices flowing. And plus, he always heard it was better to walk away for a bit. There was no way you could just force the issue when things weren't coming naturally.
A second book sounded like such a good idea at the time, especially when all those zeroes were put on the end of the check. But maybe he was someone who only had one good book in him, like Harper Lee or James Patterson.
He continued to wonder which show he could use to make him forget he had work to do when the phone rang. A quick glance showed him it wasn't a number he had saved. That was at least good news. Thank god it wasn't his book agent calling, unless she'd now resorted to calling him from different numbers as a ploy to get him to answer. Nice try, fat chance.
Michael let it go to voicemail, and then hit play on the message.
“Oh hey, Michael. This is Vince Metzler of the Wrestling Spectator. I just, uhh, you know, wanted to talk to you about the, you know, breaking news, if possible. Give me, uh, a call back. Thanks.”
Michael's mind started racing, trying to figure out who died. That seemed to be the only reason Metzler would be calling him at this point. By now he knew very well Michael was not going to go on his podcast or anything of that sort. And it's not like he had any recent presence in WFWF. It had to be call about something out of the past. And now he felt like he had to find out. As the phone rang, he started to regret calling back already. Googling the answer would have been much easier.
“Hey Michael, how's it going. Thanks for returning my call,” he began before Michael could even get a word out. “So, uh you know, I just wanted to hear what you had to say about the whole news today thing, because obviously it's quite the the huge deal and you you know, like, uh, what are your kind of thoughts on it? Because it's, you know, one of those things that's kind of a big deal when you look at things from a historical perspective, you know what I mean? It's like, you know, when in the early 80s . . .”
“Sorry to cut you off,” Michael said, rubbing his temples. He now had every intention to get the information, if that was possible, and the immediately hang up. He didn't need this. “But I don't actually know what news you're talking about.”
“Oh my god! You don't know? Huge fricking news. I thought you would have known for sure. I mean, you of all people would know about how big of a deal this is, coming from all the stuff you've, you know, done and . . .”
“Oh, right. The WFWF got rid of the Hall of Fame. Now, from your perspective, what are you thoughts on it as far as . . .”
The phone dropped right to the floor before Michael could hear any more. No, not that. It couldn't happen. Anything but that. It didn't even make sense on any level. He wished there was someone to talk about it and explain, but it was clear that wasn't going to happen with the schmuck on the phone.
“Dad, are you okay?” Aaron said from the doorway. Of course, the one time he forgot to shut the door, this had to happen. “You look like you've seen a ghost.”
“Yeah, yeah. I'm fine. Just give me a minute here and I'll be with you after that.”
As soon as Aaron stepped away, Michael dragged himself over to the door to shut. What he really needed now was a couch or something to lay down and collect his thoughts. Instead, he chose the next best option available to him. Soon enough he found himself pacing from one end of the room to the other, the wood creaking underneath his feet. He only hoped Aaron wouldn't hear that and have even more questions.
This wasn't happening, there was just no way. No way at all that they could flush away a giant piece of WFWF history. It was the only way so many names from the distant past stayed alive. So many greats would have faded into the background if not kept as part the WFWF's hallowed halls. No one would ever forget their names because they were enshrined in such a prestigious group. Without it, they could be forgotten.
And then, an even worse thought: did that mean he could be forgotten?
No, couldn't be. No one would ever forget about Thunder. Nothing could ever diminish his legacy. Then again, they'd already tried. No more tag team division still stung a little. With the memory of those titles slowly fading away, so too would his accomplishments as one of the best ever in that division. The company had somehow first made the titles meaningless, and then let them disappear entirely. Now who could even care, see them as important now?
That was one blow, but one he could recover from. But this? This was taking away the immortality he'd worked so hard for. They were trying to erase everything he fought for for decades. And he couldn't let all he worked for go to waste. It couldn't all be forgotten, the reputation and the legacy he built.
But there was nothing he could do about it now. It's not like he was ever going back to plant his flag or accomplish anything new again. He tried to remember the things he still had, the stuff they couldn't take away: three times a world champion, a grand slam champion, the longest reigning International Champion. Those were important, and those were safe.
And yet. And yet it still made him sick to his stomach. How dare they do this to him and his legacy.
Excerpt from The Rolling Thunder Revue, page 232
It's no secret to anyone that I've always had a chip on my shoulder. I've always walked big and talked bigger, let people know how good I was, and rubbed it in their faces when I succeeded. And they can all say that was me being an arrogant douchebag. And okay, so maybe I don't have a leg to stand on to deny it. But I wasn't just doing it to be a prick. I did it because I got sick and tired of no one believing in me and what I'd done.
It didn't matter what I accomplished or who I beat. My first WFWF Championship was even overshadowed by people who though I didn't deserve and that they should be the center of attention. Even when I made it to the top of the mountain, people acted like I belonged on the top of an anthill. And that's why I've always bragged about what I am and what I've accomplished so much, because I got sick and damn tired of being told that I wasn't good enough and that I didn't belong. Well, guess what? I did. I was that damn good. I am the man who became a grand slam champion. I am the man who main evented every show and won every title. I am who beat EBR, Obo, Calvin Lee, Yukio Blaze, Shawn Malakai and an endless number of nameless, faceless goobers this company threw act me for over a decade. I was always that good, whether anyone liked it or not.
When I got inducted into the Hall of Fame, it all felt . . . better. That was the validation I needed all along. Now I was in the same place with all the greats, where I knew I belonged all along, and where so many doubted I should be. No one could doubt me any more. Respect and recognition was all I ever wanted, and I finally got that when I went into the Hall of Fame.
I am Michael “Thunder” Knight, and I am a WFWF Hall of Famer. No one can ever take that away from me now. And as long as I have that, I'll always be satisfied with my career.
February 3, 2019
February 3, 2019
Michael hardly even noticed when Robin walked into the room. He was too busy engrossed in very important matters, like if he should bother to watch the Karl Malden Unsolved Mysteries episodes or just stick to the Robert Stack ones. Retirement had its benefits. When she started talking, he jumped a little and noticed her presence for the first time.
“You know, if you want me to be your agent, you should really start giving me more stuff to do,” Robin said.
“I mean, what do you expect? At this point, there's just not going to be a lot of offers that I'm going to be interested in. Lord knows I'm not going to be hitting the autograph circuit to sit next to Immune for three hours.”
“Well, if you ever finish that next book, there can actually be more productive things to do with that product.”
“I'm working on it,” he said, Robin rolling her eyes before he even finished getting the words out. “Granted, not at this exact moment. But I am. I'll get there.”
“I'll believe it when I see it. I did get a weird call today for you, though. From Ryan Riddle.”
“You know, the WFWF announcer.”
“I'm sorry, I don't think I'm familiar with him.”
“You know him. He was the real dork annoying guy no one liked.”
“Ooooh right. Bryan.”
“Whatever,” Michael said. “What did he want anyway? That's out of nowhere coming from him.”
"Oh, I guess he was calling about Superbrawl coming up in a couple months. I guess it's the tenth one, so they wanted to see if you'd make an appearance."
"Hell no. I hope you said no to that."
"Of course," Robin said.
"They should know better by now, I've turned them down plenty of times. Like I'm going to show up for some legends battle royal."
"Oh, I know. But I don't think it was like that at all. They just wanted to get a bunch of legends to show up, do a promo video or whatever, stuff like that. And in your case, get a comment on the International Title reign of Frank Lynn."
"I guess because he's approaching a year with the title. Getting pretty close to your reign, and with how rarely they run shows now, he could get to it pretty soon."
The glass Michael was holding flew out of his hands, crashing onto the carpet.
"Wow, you're getting hit with arthritis at an early age," Robin said.
"No, that can't be right. He can't be getting close to my record."
"Look, I don't know these things for a fact. I'm just telling you what I was told. No need to pop a blood vessel over it."
"Hey, do you think you could get me Riddle's number?" Michael said, attempting maintain some semblance of composure as he picked the glass up off the floor. "Just to, you know, shoot the breeze. Catch up on old times."
Her eyes narrowed, staring at him. She knew him too well by now. There was no way she was going to fall for such a flimsy excuse, but he had to stand his ground and go with it anyway. He had to get more information out of Riddle.
"Is that right?" she asked.
"Uh huh, yeah."
"Seems a little strange to me, seeing as you never want to talk to anyone. And you didn't even remember him two minutes ago."
"That's all it is," Michael replied. "Scout's honor."
"You know, you always say that. But you weren't even a scout."
"Can I please just have the number?"
"Don't do anything stupid," she said as she handed him the number.
"Of course I won't. Anyway, gotta go, I'll talk to you later."
He bolted off the couch, leaving Robin in a cloud of dust as he headed down the hall for the privacy of his office. He slammed the door shut behind the second his feet hit the floor. There was no time to waste. If he wanted to calm his nerves down, he had to act now. Or so he hoped.
"Hey Ryan, this is Michael, err, Thunder."
"Woah, I wasn't expecting to hear from you. Your agent shot me down fast. She sounded like a real . . ."
"Let's cut to the chase. Is it true this Frank Lynn guy is close to breaking my record?"
"Nice to hear from you again too," Riddle said. "Well, he's still got quite a ways to go. But Superbrawl is his next biggest hurdle. With the way things move, if he wins there, he may only need to defend the title one more time to get there."
"Jesus, that's not good." The pacing across the floor increased, making circles around the desk in the room. This was not good at all. When Robin said it, it sounded bad enough. Now it was getting really dire.
Little did he know that would get much worse.
"And here's the thing," Riddle continued. "I'm not even sure there's enough challengers for him to even have another opponent."
"Come on, now I know you're pulling my leg. There's no way there'd ever be a shortage of contenders."
"I'm serious. It's crazy, but somehow that's the case."
It was almost too much to process. He'd gotten a lot of big WFWF shocks over the years, but this, this was a whole other crazy thing. Not only that, it was the last thing.
"You still there?" Riddle asked.
"Yeah, I'm here. You know what, I will appear at Superbrawl. I'll do a promo with you."
"Damn, that's fast. You must be upset about that International Title record."
"N-no . . . Not at all," Michael stammered. "I just want to be there to see how it goes."
"And to scout him?"
"Absolutely not. I'll see you there. And don't tell my agent."
Michael hung up and slumped into his chair. No, there's no way it could come to that anyway. Surely he'd lose at Superbrawl. Surely.
Excerpt from The Rolling Thunder Revue, page 71
It goes without saying that the first International Title win cemented me as a singles star and changed my life forever. It was one thing to win a tag team title, but a whole other kettle of fish to win a singles title. And I can't exactly throw my TV Title win from 2004 in that caliber. Even I know I didn't deserve it then.
That first International Championship validated that I was going places, it felt more than ever before that could be “the guy.” Now people could start respecting me and I could start getting more opportunities. And I sure did. In retrospect, it's amazing how quickly I won the the WFWF Championship after winning the International Title. I got catapulted so hard and so fast, and I owe it all to the International Title. That first reign is one I'll never forget.
June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
"And we're off. Thanks."
The cameraman put the camera back down to his side and walked away. That part had been easy enough, and almost a little fun. Slipping back into a TV personality was surprisingly easy. Some things you never forget how to do, like riding a bike or burying Ryan Riddle. But now was the bad part. Now he had to talk to him.
"That went really well!" Riddle said.
"Oh yeah, definitely. Thanks for that. Well, I guess I better . . ."
"Before you go, I just have one question."
"What are you gonna do if Lynn wins tonight?" Riddle asked.
"There's nothing I can do. And I'm not even worried about it."
"That's a good one. You ain't fooling me. It's been obvious you're worried from the start. So what are you going to do? Are you going to let him walk into the record or are you going to try to stop him?"
"Listen, I'm retired. End of story. I would never consider coming back, never. No matter what. Even if . . ."
"Even if you needed to beat him to keep your record?"
"Shut it," Michael shouted. At the same time, he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. "I have to take this call."
Once he actually saw who was calling, he hovered over the ignore option. There was no way in hell he wanted to deal with this now, even if it was clear from the start this would come up at some point. He just didn't count on it happening so fast. Damn internet.
"So, Twitter tells me you were just on Superbrawl. Is at true or was it just an eerily similar doppelganger?" Robin asked.
"I just decided at the last minute to do that. Just a fun nostalgia thing."
"That's weird, the one time we talked about it you shot it down right away. What changed?"
"Nothing, nothing at all," he replied.
"Michael, I'm begging you. Don't get roped back into this wrestling. Forget about that title and the stupid record. It doesn't matter any more."
"It's more than just that, but nevermind. I'm not going to do anything anyway."
"I hope so. I gotta go, just wanted to check in on this. Bye."
I'm not going to do anything anyway. The thought ran through his head. Could he even be so sure about this now? What the hell was he going to do?
Excerpt from The Rolling Thunder Revue, page 211
I'd like to think I was already seen as the greatest International Champion prior to my record breaking reign. But I imagine a lot of people didn't share that opinion with me. For the record, I do still stake that claim and always will. I was always an all time great International Champion, and I carried that title with distinction.
But once I broke the record and held the title far longer than anyone else, it could no longer be disputed. There it was, in plain black and white. You can only discount me for so long, but when I'm holding the damn record, everyone has to shut up. And that means the world to me for that reason.
I am the greatest International Champion of all time, and I dare anyone to suggest otherwise. I have the track record, I have the reigns, and I have the record. And I doubt anyone can ever take a run at me for that.
July 1, 2019
July 1, 2019
God, he hated every single thing about this place. It was no wonder he stopped coming. Every piece of furniture and trinket just made him want to barf. Right at eye level was that same stupid poster, a unicorn laying on a couch. Meanwhile, the quack in the chair is saying "you've got to believe it yourself." What a crock.
He thought of the times his eyes wandered around this room first to avoid eye contact and then the stupid poster. He must have logged hours staring at the carpet or out the window. And somehow he was right there again.
"It's good to see you again, Michael. It's been quite a while. What brings you back?"
"No particular reason."
Nothing really pressing going on that made you feel the need to stop in?"
"I wouldn't say so. In fact, maybe I should just go. It was good to see you."
Michael began to get up from the couch, but stopped upon hearing her talk again.
"Don't just go running off like that. Let's just talk, Michael. If you came to see me I know something must be wrong. And I'm determined to find out what it is. Going through a rough patch thinking of Stacy?"
"No, it's about the usual with that. I think I'm still managing that well."
"Good, I'm glad. Any relationship troubles?"
"Just a series of bad dates, but I'm used to that by now," he said with a little smiled. She cracked a little bit too. He could never tell if she actually found him funny for real, or just because he was paying her.
"Everything good with the family?"
"Better than ever."
"Excellent. Well, that leaves only one option I can see. Tell me what the problem with the wrestling world is."
"What? How?" he stammered. "How do you know?"
"You only ever get mad at like three things ever, and this has been a pretty big one. So lay it on me, champ."
"It's just been building for so long, so many things piling up over the years. You know much I pride myself on what I did, and my legacy and reputation mean a lot to me. It's slowly being chipped away at.
"First it was the tag team titles going away. That sucked, but minor in the grand scheme of things. But the hall of fame going away, that gutted me. That meant more to me than anything else, that I was finally recognized alongside all the greatest. Now it's gone.
"The one thing I had left was the International Title record, that I was the greatest champion of all time. And now it looks like someone is just going to walk across the finish line to that claim without a challenge. And then I'll lose that too."
"I understand, Michael," she replied. "But I want you to think about this for a second. You still accomplished these things. What's the danger of a hall of fame no longer existing or now only having like the second longest title reign."
He paused, looking to the floor and then the window. There were no other places left to look, and he was left looking right into her eyes.
"I don't want to be forgotten. If everything I've worked for is gone, what if I just disappear from memory? Everything I worked for will be wasted. And even worse, it'll mean I wasted all those years. And that's time I should have been with my family."
"Michael, who says you're going to be forgotten? That only exists in your head, you're being your own worst enemy. Some accomplishments go away, but you still did them. And they're all still there, no one is taking them away.
"But let's assume the worst for a minute, Michael," she continued. "That you are somehow forgotten, through collective amnesia or something. Would you still be satisfied with what you did? Would you feel proud? Would your family feel proud?"
"Of course. I'm extremely proud of everything I did, and satisfied with it. And I know my family would love me no matter what."
"Then where's the problem, Michael?"
He sighed. "You're right. And as much as I want to go and face Lynn to try to defend my record and my supposed title of the greatest, I know I can't. I made too many promises to my family that I'd never do it again. And then that would just prove Shawn right."
Shawn? Shawn who, Malakai? Tell me what this is about."
"I found out that he left Aaron a considerable sum of money, but left Robin in charge. All because he didn't trust me with it, or to put in a dig in on me at the end. Probably both, I don't know."
“Has this bothered you for a while?” she asked.
“For about three years, yeah.”
“Well Michael, I think you just found the thing you really need to address. Whatever you're still feeling about Shawn, remorse, anger or whatever, you need to confront it. It's time face it.”
Excerpt from The Rolling Thunder Revue, page 298
It's easy to say now that I should regret the way things ended between myself and Shawn Malakai. And sure, it must look very bad from an outside perspective. But I can't spend time reflecting or second guessing that now. That kind of introspection can be a dangerous thing.
July 2, 2019
July 2, 2019
It all looked the same to him, and he was starting to wonder if he was even in the right area. Well, maybe it was better to head back before he got lost and wasted a whole lot of time. But no, that wouldn't do at all. This just had to happen, and he had nothing but time. It had been long enough. It was time to really face things.
Just when the terrain looked totally unfamiliar, he finally spotted the tree he'd been looking for. There it was, the landmark that would lead him down the right path. Even if it didn't feel right, it certainly was right. It would only be five away from the tree. He counted it off and then found himself where he wanted to be.
Shawn Malakai, with his daughter next Xana next to him.
Sometimes he forgot that Shawn had suffered such a loss. How had he ever recovered? Now that Michael was a father, and a better one at that, he couldn't even begin to fathom it.
Well, he was here now. That was the easy part. All he had to do was show up, seeing as he knew Shawn wouldn't have wanted him planting any flowers for him. But now came the part that would really be the challenge, the stuff that he did want to face. Here goes nothing, he thought.
“So, I guess there's a lot I should say,” Michael began. “For starters, it took me way too long to come here and do this. Hell, it even feels weird now, sitting here talking to a damn headstone. But I guess I do that a whole lot nowadays. And you know me, a day late and a dollar short as always. All the same, it's time I say what needs to be said.”
He took a breath and looked around. Well, at least no one was watching.
“I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything. No qualifiers, no exemptions, I'm just plain sorry. Things never should have been as bad as they were between us, and I know that blame falls right on me. I know we were enemies a lot, but at the end of the day, we could have remained friends. But then I had to go and ruin in one more time. Good old Michael, selfish as always. And as always, I learned the hard way. It didn't even work out for me, and it just ruined things far too late in the game.
“And you know what, you were right all along about leaving Robin in charge of the money. Even if I thought at times it was just a way to get back at me, you reason to do it. Lord knows I never inspired confidence in you that I'd be a better man. But I am now, I genuinely am. And not even to prove you wrong or anything, just because it's the right thing to do. I think you'd be proud of me for that, once the shock wore off. I even decided against coming back just to defend my International Title ego. That would be the biggest shock for you of all, stepping away from a chance to brag about myself again. But I guess time does change things.
“So thanks, thanks for everything. And I'm sorry again for how it all ended. I didn't make it right then. But I can make it right now.”
Michael sighed and walked away. It didn't feel better now, but he knew it would soon.
July 2, 2019 – later that day
July 2, 2019 – later that day
Michael hadn't specifically identified the right comfort food for an emotional day. There wasn't really a Pinterest board for “food to eat after you talk to a dead friend” either. But a big, hearty, way too heavy breakfast sounded like a good idea. And that's how he ended up at Pamela's why a pancake the size of a flying saucer.
He tried to distract himself some with his phone, but that wasn't exactly doing the trick. Twitter did find a way to make him think even worse thoughts than he was already working on, which was quite the feat. Somehow processing the things he'd just been through would be preferable to this.
But he didn't get a chance to do that. Little did he know what was about to walk through the door.
He didn't even see them come in, thanks to keeping his head down and buried in some awful news story. When he finally looked up, there they were right in front of him: Robin and Aaron.
“What are you two doing here? How'd you even know I was here?”
“You know, you're pretty predictable,” Robin said. “You only eat at like three restaurants.”
“I've been hearing that a lot about myself lately. A little concerning, but oh well.”
“There's something we want to talk to you about,” she continued, as they both sat down on the other side of the booth. “It's about you possibly challenging Frank Lynn for the International Title.”
“You don't even need to say a word. I decided not to do it. It would go against every principle I've set for myself over the last several years. I just can't. But thanks for the concern.”
“That's not it,” Aaron said. “Dad, I want you to take the match.”
Michael's eyes nearly popped out of his head. Luckily, there was no glass in his hand to drop this time.
“I . . . I don't understand. Why would you want me to take it?”
“Two reasons,” Aaron continued. “First off, I know this means so much to you. You're hiding as best you can, but Aunt Robin and I know how much it's driven you crazy. If you don't go and face him, you'll always wonder forever what could have been if you had faced off with him. And it'll bug you if he just gets to walk around and call himself the greatest without having to earn it.”
“You're probably right about that, and I appreciate it. But there's other things to consider here too. How devastating will it be if I come back and just lose out there? That'll hurt me too, a bad result.”
“It won't. I know that.”
“How can you know that?"
“Because you wouldn't let me say point two,” Aaron said. “The other reason I want you to do that is so I can see you wrestle one time. I've always wanted to be there to see my dad be the ass kicker I've seen in videos and read about. And now's my chance. I can be there to see you do what you do best.”
“And it seems to me,” Robin chimed in, “that there's no bad result as long as you've got that kid sitting there proud of you.”
“So that's how he convinced you, huh?” Michael asked.
“It was hard to argue with that logic. So are you in?”
He paused to consider it, even though the answer seemed clear now. All he had to do was say it.
“I'm ready. And now I know that no matter what, I can't lose."
Michael hugged Aaron and the weight lifted off his shoulders.
Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm what a real International Champion looks like. Now I know what you're thinking, Frank. When you walk down to that ring with the belt around your waist, you sure look and feel like a true champion. You're the only one who's believing that. Your own mother would sooner list Yukio Blaze as a great titleholder over you. I'm sorry, I don't want to be rude. I really do want to congratulate you on being both one of the longest reigning and least relative International Champions of all time. At the risk of committing copyright infringement against a far greater champion, I'd like to christen you the CLT—the Current Little Thing. Truly no light shines brighter in this very, very dim box of bulbs.
I'd say you're a big fish in a small pond, but most ponds have a more vibrant ecosystem. You're never going to believe that, though. No, you think you're a big star and a remarkably tough, fighting champion. You're the hardest working man in show business. But you and the WFWF are more like James Brown after he died rather than the living thing—being dragged around long after the expiration date. No matter how many new outfits you throw on it, you're still the champion of bloated corpse of a company.
You don't believe me? Just take a look at the main event this godforsaken company had at Superbrawl: two legends from a different decade. And it's all because WFWF couldn't find a new star with the Hubble Telescope. So now you've decided to try the same thing yourself, Lynn. You begged and pleaded for someone with even an ounce of star power to face you, and now you've got it. I'm afraid I've got some bad news for you on that front. My presence in the ring with you isn't going to somehow change who you are. Legacy, stardom and ability aren't contagious. The only thing you're going to catch from me is an ass kicking.
But I'm gonna go ahead and let the world in on your little secret, Frank. You never counted on me answering a challenge. You just wanted look like the brave, valiant, fighting champion you think you are. And when I didn't show up, everyone would look at you and think “well, he tried.” What a boost to your reputation that would be, laying down a gauntlet to a non existent challenge and then claiming victory when nothing happened.
And even if I did decide to show up, you weren't worried. Hell, you're probably not worried now. How hard could it be to beat up a guy that hasn't been around for four years? What an easy task, just beat a washed up guy with name value.
Here's the reality check. This was never going to work out the way you hoped. Whether it ended with you yelling at an empty chair like a senile Clint Eastwood or standing across the ring against me, you were never going to get the legacy and respect you wanted.
I'm not going to let you make a name off of me. You know what you did? You offended me. I worked too damn long and too damn hard for over a decade to have some punk try to dunk on me. This company has done enough to try to erase my legacy, and I sure as hell am not going to let you be part of it. I worked my ass off for years to build a reputation in this company. I was counted out from the start and every step along the way, but I made that reputation.
When you stand in the ring with me, you're going to be looking at the man you wish you could be. A hall of famer. A grand slam champion. Three time world champion, three time tag team champion, three time international champion. This hellhole can try to get rid of the tag titles, they can try to get rid of the Hall of Fame, but they can't get rid of my legacy. And neither can you, Frank. I am the greatest of all time, and I've beaten everyone that's come at me. And now because you decided to run your mouth, I get to prove it again. You swung at god, and you better not miss.
I almost feel bad for you. Imagine how crushing this is all going to be for you. You worked so hard on this, fighting to be the greatest International Champion of all time, building a great reputation for yourself. And now I'm just going to walk in and take it from you. All that work gone, all that talk worthless. It hardly seems fair. But I am a fair man, Frank. I'll give you a replica International Title after I defeat you. It's not worth much, but it's what you and this company deserve.
Just picture it for a moment, Frank. Picture what that moment is going to be like. Laying there, realizing that you failed when it mattered most. Knowing that you were a sham all along, a mediocre substitute to the real thing. Knowing that this wasn't the way the story was supposed to end.
The lights will be so bright.