The thwacking and thumping of skin hitting skin are heard loud and clear in the Wrestlezone. Only four folks are even in the UTA facility in Florida.
There at the two unrecognizable men in the ring, throwing everything they have at one another. One ducks a clothesline, rebounds off the ropes, comes in hard, and for his efforts gets Hip Tossed to the mat by the other, who quickly spins up ready to dish out more punishment. Watching them, road agent Johnny Legend, keeps notes in his head. Nodding when he sees something he likes, scowling when he sees something he doesn’t.
Rounding out today’s attendance is the THRILLmaker himself, Will Haynes. Haynes wears light workout attire. Today that consists of a gray cotton t-shirt and a pair of black wrestling shorts. He has knee pads on, elbow pads, his ankles and wrists are both heavily taped. He brings his hand into his palm, making sure the tape is tight. The last thing Haynes needs heading into Monday night’s Main Event is an injury.
Haynes: “Eric, it’s okay t’ admit it - we all know.”
Haynes: “You’re scared.”
Haynes opens his palms up, extending them to the camera trying to calm the Only Star down.
Haynes: “Don’t get me wrong Eric, I’d probably be too. If for the first time in my life I wasn’t the smartest guy in the room, I’d probably be a little scared as well.”
There’s a smirk that dances across the face of the Challenger.
Haynes: “N’ Eric, it’s not JUST that you’re scared whoever got Thorpe will get you. It’s not JUST that you’re scared that Sean Jackson will cash in at a time that ain’t convenient for ya. It ain’t JUST that you’re scared that history will repeat n’ I’ll find some way t’ take that World Title off your shoulder.”
“Just ain’t those things. Nah. It’s the sum of all three a’ them.”
He holds up three fingers.
Haynes: “Honestly, Eric, I don't want your head in the clouds. I don't want you distracted by what happened t' Colton Thorpe, I don't want you distracted by Sean Jackson. I wanna be able t' beat you, when all your attention, all your focus is FIRMLY on me."
Haynes begins to lace his boots as he speaks. First the left. He runs the laces in, then out again. He wants them snug to his ankle.
Haynes: “Eric, I ain’t no fool. I know that I got a better shot at beatin’ you when you’re distracted. I know I got a better shot at beatin’ you NOW, then when this match was first made.”
“After all, those numbers you thought you had, they sure are dwindlin’. Ain’t they.”
The eyebrows raise. While Haynes is a little disappointed he didn’t get to end [REDACTED]’s career, the loss of him and Thorpe really has made this “anyone’s game.” At least from a numbers standpoint.
Haynes: “But I don't wanna take a shortcut, Eric. I wanna EARN this Title. I don't want you t' have a single thing t' say after I end up beatin' ya. Not a single thing t' point to or fall back on. When you lose it won't be Sean's fault, or the Mystery Man's fault. Eric, it'll be one one person.
The left boot is done, Haynes moves onto the right one. Same process.
Haynes: "I'm gonna come at you with one hundred percent, Eric. Might even throw in some stuff you've never seen before. Hell, why do you think I’m here?”
He throws his arms to either side as he asks that question. Looking around him as he does. Half expecting someone to answer. Everyone else is busy though. Tryouts don’t run themselves. Then he finishes up the boot.
Haynes: “I’m here cause over the holidays I’ve been bustin’ my hump inside the ring t’ come up with some new things for ya, Eric. T’ develop a few little wrinkles you might not have seen outta me yet. N’ frankly, t’ keep my mind off the holidays this year.”
“I ain’t used t’ that. Spendin’ the holidays alone. Hell, I didn’t even get t’ see Slaw this year. His Mom’s Shoo Fly pie used t’ be a staple on the day after Christmas. It’s sad, but hey what can you do.”
Haynes shrugs his shoulders.
Haynes: “A lot has changed in the last year.”
He thinks about it for a second.
Haynes: “Hell the last six months even. Some for the better, most for the worst.”
“Ya can’t get down about it. You can’t let it throw you. Nah. You gotta get up, dust yourself off, n’ keep grindin’. Ya gotta keep workin’. I mean, if I wanted t’, I could’ve taken significant time off. I could’ve been out to All or Nothin’ or somethin’ insane like that. But that’s not what I wanted, Eric. That’s NOT what I wanted at all.”
Haynes rolls his neck to either side, cracking it. He slept on a new bed last night, taking some getting used to. He had to nix the tempurpedic. Unloaded for some quick scratch.
Haynes: “I WANTED t’ be in the Chamber Match fighting for the right to draft a roster. I WANTED t’ be in the Ace in the Hole Match fighting for a shot at the World Title. I WANTED t’ hit more dates on the International Affair tour, but I couldn’t now could I, Eric? What would’ve stopped me from any a’ that?”
Haynes asks and pauses as if Dane will answer him this second.
Haynes: “Most people will say Mikey Unlikely, but most people don’t remember the Stardriver I took from you, Eric. Right after I beat ya. Caught my head right on the edge a’ the ring mat. Concussion, possibly neck ligament damage. I had t’ hide it in order t’ make it on that next show. They caught it right at the last second n’ I had t’ send Slaw in for me.”
“Damage was already done. I missed the Ring King Pay Per View n’ you used the momentum to waltz into International Affair n’ pin La Flama Blanca, something I should’ve done myself.”
Haynes punches his palm, the noise of which echoes through the empty WrestleZone. Only Legend adverts his eyes, the two in the ring stayed trained on one another. Haynes waves him off.
Haynes: “I wanted t’ end that masked coward, Eric. I wanted to. N’ I didn’t wanna break him down on the microphone or lay waste t’ him in the promo booth. No!”
“I wanted t’ end him in the ring. I wanted t’ break him. That should’ve been me. I owed him that. I owed it to him!”
Haynes shakes his head. He’s letting this get to him when it really shouldn’t. He begins lacing the boot again, finishing it off quickly.
Haynes: “Blanca n’ I had a history. I would’ve just liked the chance t’ have been the one t’ end his title reign, Eric. But instead I’ll have t’ settle on ending yours.”
Haynes smiles, nodding his head. He’s confident heading into this one. And with All or Nothing around the corner why shouldn’t he. There’s a chance he’s World Champion in a few weeks even if he losses. It’s almost as if the THRILL is playing with house money.
Haynes: "Gonna be interestin’ t’ see if ya can keep anythin' goin' now, Eric. Now that all your yes men are outta the picture, what are you gonna do?
"I mean you dominated the Chamber Match, you've only be dealt one loss. AND you're a legend in this industry, you’re clearly a force t’ be reckoned with.”
“There’s a reason why the World Title is around YOUR waist, Eric. N’ not around mine.”
Haynes smiles again. He knows that soon enough that equation could be inversed.
Haynes: “But it’s not for lack of tryin’, it’s not for lack a’ work, Eric. I worked my tail off this last year. Anyone will tell you that. Hell in the lead up t’ International Affair alone I was puttin’ in two a’ days, sometimes three a’ days. I needed t’ get back to a hundred percent, I didn’t want them t’ bump that match.”
“That beat down that I tossed Mikey, that was a long time comin’. He deserved every once a’ that, n’ people are talkin’ that it could be Match a’ the Year, Eric. I worked my TAIL OFF t’ be able to compete in that one.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I work my tail off for every match. I study tape, I rewatch promos, I look for anythin’ I can use t’ help me get an advantage in that ring. Hell sometimes I used t’ project the stuff on the wall n’ shadowbox the tapes a’ some a these matches. It’s all about the timin’ man, all about the timin’.”
Haynes bats a hand toward the camera.
Haynes: “Ah why am I tellin’ you this, Eric? You’re the seasoned vet. You’re the business pro. I’m just the guy who’s running his body int’ the ground until it finally gives out on him. N’ I know someday that’ll happen. Someday I’ll be forced from this sport. Forced t’ give it all up. That’s why I gotta perform NOW. That’s why I gotta beat you on Monday, Eric. Cause I don’t know if a one on one shot at the World Title is gonna fall int’ my lap like this, ever again.”
Haynes nods his head. He’s serious about that. The defenses for the World Title are often sparse, throw in Ring King and All or Nothing and who knows how many title shots there’s room for. Plus if he loses the THRILL knows it’s to the back of the line again.
Haynes: “I gotta captalize. N’ right now I think I got the best chance t’ do that, Eric. You’re gonna be distracted, by something, n’ quite frankly I don’t know if anythin’ less than your best is gonna get it done this time Champ. I mean Perfection, the idiot that he is, basically did half my work for me. He listened t’ the outline I tossed him when we went toe t’ toe n’ he almost followed it to a ‘t.”
“I didn’t mean t’ play him, it just kinda happened that way. Happy accident, I guess.”
Haynes shrugs his shoulders. It’s true. the THRILL did lay out how he managed to best Dane this past Summer. It was a blueprint that Perfection followed almost perfectly. A blueprint that almost saw Jimmy reunited with his World Title.
Haynes: “Work your knees, make sure you gotta keep up with me. The longer this thing goes the more it only benefits you. Ain’t gonna see a lot a’ rest from me when we get in that ring, Champ. Not at all. I’ll be too excited. Too amped up.”
“I ain’t been this close t’ the World Title since All or Nothin’.”
Haynes grits his teeth. The events of that night still make his skin crawl. Sean Jackson has Simon come out. Simon dumps Haynes over the top rope. Jackson wins the World Title. Simon gets in a car accident weeks later.
Haynes: “This is a long time comin’, Eric. I been waitin’ nearly a year t’ get my shot at this title. N’ to get it clean. One on one, just me n’ you, Champ. No Leather Straps. No WTFC. No Team Danger. Just Dane vs. Haynes, Part Two. Stakes are high, can’t get any higher. The World Title is on the line.”
“N’ Eric, you’re scared. Scared of this mystery attacker, scared of Sean Jackson, scared a’ me upsettin’ you again. But most importantly, Eric, you’re scared of failin’.”
“Scared that without your gold, you ain’t gonna be validated no more. Not with the fans, not with the boys in the back, not even with management. N’ Eric, if I would’ve burned more bridges down than I built since I got here, I would be scared too.”
“But lemme tell ya somethin’, you’re the Champ for a reason.”
“You’re a legend in this industry. In this business. You’ve held countless titles. You’ve ran successful promotions. You’ve been the man. You’ll be the man. You’ll always have some a’ that with you.”
Haynes begins to wrap up.
Haynes: “So how you gonna show up, Eric? How is the CHAMP gonna walk int’ this one?”
“Is he gonna come t’ the ring ready t’ bring everythin’ he has? Is he gonne come with a focused mind? OR is he gonna come t’ the ring distracted; come t’ the ring scared?”
“Champ, only you can decide.”
"If you looked this good, you'd understand. Course no one has ever looked this good so no one understands baby."
- Lucius Jones