[BATTLEBORN] “Awakening, Ascension and Alliances…” [FYA]

By: Dane Preston

Date: 12th Oct 2021

MY AWAKENING
Beware the sleeping dragon, lest it awake.
– Napoleon Bonaparte

I never realized before just how soothing the whirring sound of helicopter blades slicing through the air can be, the gods above know that I could use all the comfort and soothing there is right now. For the last six months, my life has been a living hell. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some wonderful moments and bright spots strewn in the messy darkness, but not quite enough of them to deter my focus from bringing this chapter in my life to a close. I hope this brief trip proves fruitful and contributes to that closure.

Joe Montuori has been the single biggest thorn in my ass, the shit that he’s done to my life, and my marriage trumps all of my career experiences with Morbid Wolf, Johnny Stylez and Odin Balfore, so that’s saying something. But there has been something weighing heavily on my mind since all this shit popped off, and I decided that I would do a little digging. I needed to know why.

The helicopter pilot informed me that this trip from Manhattan to the Hamptons would take 45 minutes to an hour. It took less time to find out where I needed to go in order to get the information I was after. When the chopper touched down, there was a car already waiting for me. It seemed that my host was gracious enough to have me driven to their location.

I had no clue what possessed me to finally pull the trigger, but I had to know what it was that made JMont tick. What compels someone like him to do the things he did to me, to my wife, to my family. I was taken aback when my host was not surprised to hear from me when I phoned them, truth be told they wondered why it took me so long to seek them out.

When the car pulled up to the gate leading to the estate, my breath escaped my chest, I was in absolute awe at the sprawling mansion before me. A large horseshoe shaped, gravel covered driveway, a roundabout with a gorgeous Italian marble fountain and statue, and a main house the size of a godsdamned football stadium. I’ve seen and even lived in homes like this, but nowhere near as large or grand.

This was a retirement community for some of the wealthiest people in the country. It was like the world’s largest cruise ship run aground and turned into a party resort for the rich and elderly. The driver informed me that an attendant would escort me to the library, where my host is awaiting my arrival. When I introduced myself to the attendant, she took my peacoat and gave me a coat check tag then escorted me into the library.

The attendant leaves me at a table where a petite, silver haired woman, classically beautiful, rose from her chair and extended her hand. Cautiously I took hold of her hand, not nearly as frail as I would have thought for a woman her age, then she gestured for me to have a seat.

DANE
Thank you for agreeing to meet with me Mrs. Montuori.

MRS MONTUORI
Think nothing of it, the timing simply worked out. I must admit, if my husband hadn’t gone to Italy, this meeting very well may not have happened. For what it’s worth, I wish we were meeting under better circumstances.

DANE
You already know why I’m here?

MRS MONTUORI
“Of course I do Mr. Preston. I follow both my sons’ careers closely. Well, their wrestling careers at any rate. Joey’s shady business and Paulie’s other career I pay no mind to. But they’re my baby boys, and I will always keep a watchful eye over them.

DANE
Wow…

MRS MONTUORI
Surprised?

DANE
Considering my past experiences with Paul and what Joe has put me and my family through these last six months, you strike me as a loving and caring mother. It’s hard to imagine why either of them have done the things they’ve done having been raised by you.

MRS MONTUORI
Ah well, I was young once, too you know. Truth be told, that’s their father coming out in them. He does things that are in step with his own music, his own tune. Much like both of my boys do.

DANE
But to the lengths that Joe went to? I mean, he spent millions of dollars to buy my wife’s affection. That’s not a ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘he’s his own man’ kind of behavior, ma’am. That’s behavior reserved for those with a very weak connection with reality, to put it as kindly as I can…

MRS MONTUORI
Joey’s always pushed the envelope, taken things to one extreme or another. He’s had to. His father. Well, his father is a very powerful man. So, he’s had some very large shoes to fill and to do so, like I said, he’s had to take things to an extreme and push past them. Granted we didn’t expect him to push his extremes into his wrestling career. Nor on you and your family and for that I apologize.

DANE
I appreciate the apology, but it wasn’t your doing. I don’t know if you’re familiar with my father in law, but he and his longtime friends and allies had many wars with Joe and Paul and their friends over the years. My father in law has taken this whole ordeal to heart, feeling responsible for not retiring Joe years ago. So many folks are shouldering the weight of responsibility but the guy who is responsible. That’s what has led us to our upcoming match at Ascension.

MRS MONTUORI
I know of Mr. Riggs. Like I said, I’ve been watching my boys’ wrestling careers, and have for a while. You should tell your father in law, this was not his fault. He couldn’t have known that Joe would do something like this. I don’t think anyone could have known. She smiles faintly. I know about your upcoming match. And I wished it wasn’t coming down to this, but it’s the life he chose when he decided to become a wrestler. I can’t make up any excuses for what he’s done, but I will still support my son. I will support both of them.

DANE
That’s understandable. It’s funny, my mother left our family when I was very young. Joe and Paul are fortunate to have such a loving and compassionate mother. Please know that I have to finish this with him in the ring, and it won’t be pretty. I don’t do this for my pleasure or enjoyment, I do this because the universe demands balance. I won’t expect you to forgive me for what comes next…

MRS MONTUORI
You must do whatever you need to, Mr. Preston, I hope it rights whatever has wronged you and puts that balance you need back in your life. But I am not too worried about my Joey in the ring, like I have said already, I’ve been paying attention to his career. I think he will hold his own just fine, despite his competition, I’ll have you know I do follow a great many careers, including those of you and your wife.

DANE
If that’s the case, you’d know the last time I was in the ring with Joe, he couldn’t beat me even after a low blow, brass knuckles and four others –Paul included– jumping in to save him. I don’t see what everyone else does, what I see is a man running scared, and I have since the very beginning. Whatever issues he’s got going on in his head, he may want to go and get those addressed after I’m done with him.

MRS MONTUORI
Do you truly believe that he isn’t aware of that which plagues his mental health? How else do you think he was on a first named basis with Irina Firstein leading into Toxic Tag? She was his first psychologist, he began working with her back when he was in high school. Unfortunately his vanity and narcissism wore her patience down, he wasn’t making any progress with her, especially after a physical incident between the two of them. My Joey doesn’t handle rejection very well.

DANE
Hell, who does? I’m still dealing with the baggage of having an absentee mother and a father who drank himself into an early grave. I know I have my own demons to deal with, and usually I wouldn’t be quite so judgemental…

MRS MONTUORI
Joey hurt your family, nearly ruined your marriage. I understand. I truly believed it was all a, what do you call it in the business, a work?

DANE
That’s the right word, yes.

MRS MONTUORI
I thought it was all for storylines at first, but when I saw some of the large withdrawals from business accounts, and then the jewelry and cars, I realized it was much more than that. But what I don’t understand is how he would go from trying to woo your wife, to this Mia girl…

DANE
With all due respect, ma’am, Mia is a blessing in disguise for my wife and I. Not only did she prove that Joe’s feelings for Allison were not sincere or genuine, she proved that I was right all along. I’m not trying to gloat or say I told ya so, but you have to understand the satisfaction and relief that washed over my body when Mia entered the picture and the results of the Maury Show tests being revealed to have been faked by him. It was like the world was lifted from my shoulders. I could breathe again. But Allison and I are still working through things…

A familiar buzzing can be heard as both Mrs. Montuori and I reach for our smartphones. Seeing that it isn’t my phone, I look over to see Mrs. Montuori put the phone on speaker.

MRS MONTUORI
Joey! How nice of you to call.

JMONT
Hey ma, I just wanted to check in with ya. I got a call from Mariah, one of your attendants that you had a visitor that wasn’t on your usual list…

MRS MONTUORI
That’s correct, he’s sitting with me now, she says with a smile.

JMONT
Who is it? Tell me it’s Tom Sinnery, I know he lives upstate now. That’d be just like him…

MRS MONTUORI
It’s actually Dane Preston.

And in that brief moment it felt like the world froze, time didn’t move, and there was utter silence. And then it snapped back to reality.

JMONT
Tell me ya joking ma, you’re joking with me right?

MRS MONTUORI
He’s really here, we’re actually about to have tea.

JMONT
Put his ass on the phone right now, ma!

DANE
I can hear you fine Joey, your mother has us on speakerphone…

JMONT
Don’t you fuckin’ call me that. I don’t know what sick fuckin’ game you’re playin’ right now. But you need to leave my mother the fuck out of our shit.

DANE
Like you left my wife, kids, and in-laws out of it, right? I smirked, because it was at that exact moment that I knew I’d crossed the line and he was about to snap. But as your mother said, we’re about to have tea, so let us finish up with our brief visit and I’ll be on my way. She’ll call you back then.”

I ended the call and put her smartphone in airplane mode. She looked at me with her brows furrowed as the attendant came up with a tea cart. We were served cookies and tea cakes and a couple lovely cups of tea. I showed Mrs. Montuori photos of Allison and the twins, pictures of the Chevelle I built Allison for a wedding gift, a photo of Allison, Bella and me from our tropical weekend getaway where we first bumped into her. Then I showed her a video of Sahara and Allison beating the hell out of each other with pillows before turning them on me. That last part made her chuckle.

MRS MONTUORI
You have a lovely, yet unorthodox family Mr. Preston. I can see what it is that you’re fighting for. I wish my boys had something like that…

DANE
I appreciate you saying that. If it’s any consolation, Paul is a wonderful father. Maddy keeps him on his toes. And if Joe and Mia wind up working out, you very well may get your wish. I’d like to thank you for your time and for the tea. I didn’t exactly get the answers I was looking for, but it’s nice to see that even Paul and Joe have a kind and caring mother.

MRS MONTUORI
That’s kind of you to say. Best of luck to you at Ascension, I hope my boys don’t hurt you or your precious family too badly.

I look at her with a surprised expression and she gives me a wink and waves ever so gracefully. I couldn’t help but smile and wave back as I made my way to the attendant’s desk to retrieve my coat. I opted to catch an Uber Black back to Manhattan. I was lucky enough to have a Towncar pick me up, one of those nice ones with the privacy screen, which I immediately took advantage of. So I took out my phone and started to record a video to send in for Ascension.

I had a lovely visit with your mother, so let that be a lesson to you, Joe. We can find and gain access to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Fortunately for you, I don’t hurt innocent folks, nor would I ever order anyone else to do so on my behalf. But you do you, continue to think me an evil man. I AM NOT YOU! I don’t need to employ deceit, subterfuge, gaslighting or manipulation to get people to like me or to get what I want. I will admit, however, after everything you’ve done to me, to my wife and to our family, part of me wishes that I had given that order.

In every war there must be a victor and there must be a loser. Since the very onset of this war between you and me, you’ve done everything you could to prove to the world that you already were the winner. You’ve got more money than me, you claim to run New York, you tell me I have no friends. You seduced my wife with rumors of adultery, planting seeds of doubt in her head. All the while the only thing I did was fight to keep my family together. Something I would think that even you could understand, what with having such a loving mother and all.

But I’m no fool. I know that this whole ordeal was a ploy to get Damon to come out of retirement, and I was nothing more than a stand-in to you. But the fact is, he beat your ass, while he was battling cancer just before he was forced to retire. And I know that fact eats a hole inside you the size of Manhattan Island. So what did you do? You went after his family. MY family.  You made this elaborate plan to seduce his daughter – something you tried and failed to do with both VooDoo and Jenna well over a decade ago. That’s when this was no longer about Damon. That’s when I forcibly took on the role that Damon’s health prevented.

You see Joe, we knew all along what you were trying to do. Allison and I just wanted to beat you at your own game, while at the same time proving that this generation of the Riggs wrestling family didn’t operate the same way as the old one. We wanted to show the world that we could work with everyone. Sadly, you proved us wrong on a couple of things. But I’ll give credit where credit is due, Toxic Tag was a wild fucking ride and we – you and me – we owned the fuck out of that tournament. But that’s where the fun and games came to an end.

Ascension Night 1 is the culmination of our war, a final battle if you will. Our first one on one match in over six months. I’ve been party to your downfall Joe, from screwing you out of the Islands Tag Titles and winning my wife’s heart again, creating doubt in you which inevitably leads to you losing the Manhattan title. Then what did you do? You started hanging out at the Velvet Rabbit, drinking your sorrows away and throwing money at strippers. But you also started going a little crazy didn’t you? You couldn’t accept the fact that a guy like me, was more deserving of Allison and her love than you.And so you began threatening to kill me, bringing the FBI and NYPD down on FIGHT! Tower. But I’ve got a little revelation for you, I’ve been more than simply an observer to your downfall Joey…

I AM THE ARCHITECT
…and you’re falling down one last time…

You are the current Queens Champion, the King of the Losers here in FIGHT! When we step inside the ring, I want you to meet me face to face, eye to eye. In that moment, I want you to take a good, long look into my eyes. You’ll see no fear, no doubt, no remorse, no pity. I don’t need FXR anymore, because I’m in control. And I’m damn near bursting at the seams with rage and anger wanting to break out and unleash ungodly amounts of violence and destruction upon you. This, Joey, this is what I have been waiting for since this all began. A single opportunity to go to war with you, one on one, no crutches, no saviors. Just you and me, hand to hand, taking care of business like real men are supposed to. Though, I use the term real men loosely in regards to you.

I’ve been at the top before Joe, I know what it’s like to be thee guy in thee company, even without thee strap. Hell, you might even say that applies here and now. I refuse to lose Joe, especially to you. When you and I last fought one on one, you couldn’t beat me. You tried everything, from brass knuckles to a low blow and even a gang attack and still you didn’t beat me. But you see, this whole event, it’s about rising up, breaking out of your comfort zone, and reaching for the stars. I aim to grab hold of two of them, I’ll call them Night 1 and Night 2, and I’ll shove ‘em in my pocket and call them my own.

It’s gonna go down like this, first I beat you Joe, then I’ll reach the top of the Tower and along with my family, we will once again find ourselves at the very top of the business. You see, my success spreads to all the people in my life, my guys back home workin’ hard in my shop, my brothers in Phoenix Squad, my extended family in FYA and my family with whom I share my heart and home. I will prevail, we will prevail, and then we will wine and dine like Kings and Queens in our own little kingdom. Heh, and after our match Joe, you will be on your knees humbled before me, in defeat. And while you’re there, I will lay your Queens Championship on the mat before you, and I will stomp your fucking face into that worthless piece of pot metal and fake leather to forever remind you to never, EVER FUCK WITH MY FAMILY AGAIN!

The towncar came to a stop, and there was a rap on the privacy screen. Lowering it, the driver informs me that we’ve arrived at FIGHT! Tower. Odd, I thought I’d punched in the address to the apartment. No big deal I suppose, I can pop my head in and check on a few friends before heading back to the apartment. I decided to head up to my private locker room and lounge to fix a protein shake and grab a piece of fruit or two.

When I entered my locker room, I saw that the panda costume was still where we last saw it. Someone is trying to send a message to me and Sahara. She doesn’t think it’s JMont, too obvious she says, but this is one of those things that I wouldn’t put past him. After what happened to Mia, Joe was beside himself, he attacked me by jumping over a group of security guards, he has threatened to murder both me and Sahara because of the attack. At this point, I wouldn’t put anything past Joe, he’s so enamored by his new lady, and his mental state while at work is on the verge of breaking at any given moment.

In order to mitigate any destruction Joe will be able to contribute during the Ascension match itself, I’m going to have to pull out all the stops in our match during Night 1. I don’t want to see someone I care about get seriously hurt by him, when I could have put Joe down if I’d fought a little bit harder. I see that guilt in Damon’s eyes every time he looks at Allison these days. He truly blames himself for what JMont did to us, but like Mrs. Montuori said, how was he supposed to know how Joe would react? I won’t give him the chance to hurt anyone else, especially after the beating I throw his way in our one on one match.

MY ASCENSION
You lift me and I’ll lift you, and we’ll both ascend together.
– Quaker Proverb

It’s almost 2AM and I’m wide awake walking through Central Park. Back in the apartment lie those I care about more than anything. Allison, our twins Luke and Layla, Bella and Lauren. It’s surprising that someone who was once a rival of mine has grown so close to my wife and I that I would do anything to protect her and not let her down.

Earlier Lauren ripped into me with such ferocity that I was reminded of the guy I used to be. The guy who, alongside Murphy, went to war against the House of Hate in the now defunct EWA. At that point in time, while the two of us were trying to make a name for ourselves when we were outnumbered 2.5 to 1, Sahara was a member of that group. Her tongue lashing was very reminiscent of the days when we were at odds with each other.

It’s no secret, when Murphy and I burst onto the scene, we came in hot, we ruffled management’s feathers, we gave no fucks about the status quo, we refused not to be seen or acknowledged. They wanted us to start at the bottom and make our way up the proverbial ladder. That didn’t last very long and eventually I wound up in a main event spot taking on their World Champion. While I didn’t make it out with the win, there’s no doubt in my mind that I left a lasting impression on NOTHING and his crew. I know Sahara and Murph will confirm that if anyone dares to call bullshit.

It’s who I was in EWA that attracted her to me in the first place. Brash, unapologetic, hungry and willing to fight the world head on if it meant ASCENDING to one of the top spots in the company. I am not a background extra. I never have been. For whatever reason, I’ve forgotten who I am, whether from fear of failure or fear of the people I care about getting hurt. I noticed a few Occhi equipped drones hovering around me, and I lost my shit.

Godsdammit!!!! I shouted at the top of my lungs. Four fucking matches! FOUR!. I am not even going to make excuses. I’m going to make a motherfucking statement. To the puppet masters, to anyone and everyone who’s paying attention. I’ve heard it in every sit down with management since the day I broke into this business.  ‘You’re not angry enough’ or ‘You should be more like Damon’.

I don’t know what the fuck you people want from me. But I know what the fuck you’re gonna get.  I’m not HavoK. I’m not Damon Riggs. But Damon Riggs ain’t me either. Not a godsdamned one of you but me and Murph can say that you spent years of your life behind bars and had to fight for your life the way either of us have.

I want to be very clear here, you’re not getting a ring general. You’re getting a cold blooded bastard who will stop at nothing to get to the top of this company. No more placating everyone else, fuck that. I’m the guy that beat Dickie Watson when he walked into MY fucking domain. You want to make a name for yourself? Fine. If you expect to make a name for yourself at my expense, you had best be ready to kill me to do it.

It’s high time that you motherfuckers learned what the fuck BATTLEBORN means! So consider this your one and only notice. There are a select few people who are safe from what’s to come, most of them ride under the FYA banner. I watched and I waited for this opportunity to present itself. Unfortunately I’ve been sidetracked, distracted, preoccupied with a personal matter. Make no mistake about it, I will deal with Joe Montuori in Night One of Ascension, I will NOT be crowned the Biggest Loser with that Queens Championship. Nah, it can stay exactly where it belongs.

Fight NYC is pulling out all the stops with his new match concept, ascending the tower to establish your dominance as the top faction in the company. Each team has their own ‘War Chief’ or Team Captain, The Cure has my old buddy Brandon Moore, Dynasty has Paul Montuori, and this new group that claims to be the quote New Status Quo unquote, but they’ve only been here for five minutes. Sure, right now they’re running around with most of the gold– because we let them. They are led by none other than Shawn Warstein. Then the merry old band of miscreants I ride with all chose me –behind my back no less– to be their fearless leader for this event. So, let’s get some shit straight right from the jump, you’re all nothing but pawns waiting for me to remove you from the chessboard.

CHECKMATE
…bitches…

Starting with the devil I know, let’s go with you Brandon Moore. I’m gonna start with you since you and I have this personal vendetta to settle. It’s been a long time coming, you walked away victorious in a tag match at Venom, while I pinned your ass at Toxic Tag. The fact of the matter is this, you and I, we have a date with destiny one on one sometime in the near future. What’s happening right now, it’s a teaser of what’s to come. I liken it to Miss F dangling one of us like a carrot in front of the other. The way I see it, if we’ve got to do the thing in tag matches for the time being, fine. So fucking be it.

You like to run around claiming to be superior to me, you run around telling anyone who will listen to you that you’re better on the microphone. Nobody gives a fuck how good you are on the stick, Brandon. All anybody gives a shit about is how good you are in the ring. You’re good, hell you may even be great, but you ain’t fought me yet brother, not really. Back in that mud sure we came from, you and your boy Paul put me on The shelf. And much like Paul’s big brother, neither one of you can get the job done one on one.

Just like Joe, you need somebody else holding your hand when it comes time to face me. One day you and I are going to step foot in the ring one on one and we’re gonna find out once and for all who the better man truly is. This bullshit you peddle to the masses, claiming that I don’t belong here, it’s all because you’re bitter, jaded and angry at the fact that the old man chose me and not you. You guys may have settled your differences, but I’ve got a truckload of receipts to dole out to you.

Speaking of Paul Montuori. I don’t trust you Paul, you know good and godsdamned well that I’m a threat to you. I know you’re taking me far more seriously here in FIGHT! than you did back in OPW, as you very well should. And much like your boy Brandon, you’ve got a truckload of receipts coming your way. See, I lost a lot of time, a lot of momentum and a helluva lotta traction back in that fucking mud show, thanks to the two of you. And I still have yet to get even with either of you. I take solace in the fact that your time is coming, Night 1, maybe Night 2. Or maybe when you least expect it, I’ll be there choking the life outta you.

Let’s not kid ourselves here Paul, I know that your brother’s gonna be running and gunning for me, if he doesn’t already have his hands full with Sahara. But I promise you, if your brother comes for me, the beating I give him at Night 1 of Ascension will pale in comparison to what I’ll do to him if he gets in my way on Night 2. You know as well as I do that there’s a lot riding on this match, I’m sitting here with four losses consecutively under my belt, if ever there was a time for me to break out, that time is now.

Those stakes are just too godsdamned high, $5000 in blood money for each one of my teammates and I. Or if they’re feeling generous you may be looking at the next #1 Contender for the Empire Championship. And that right there, that nugget of information is exactly why you see me as a threat, Paul. Because you know good and godsdamned well what I’m capable of, and it scares the hell out of you.

And then we got Shawn Warstein, don’t think for one second that I’ve forgotten about you and the New Status Quo. That’s a really cute and catchy little faction name you’ve got there, too bad it’s a pity you’re not the new status quo of anything. But you’re all about to become statistics, nothing more than footnotes in the record books. You and your ragtag little group came into OUR world. Fight NYC may be the new company name, a rebrand if you will, but y’all are still the new kids on the block. While me and mine, we were already here, already dominating, already established. As a courtesy, you might wanna consider the fact that I’m the only person on this roster to dole out a loss to your big belt wearing compatriot, who in my opinion is the best you’ve got.

You, your friends, hell the entire world is about to find out that FYA is thee very top of the food chain in Fight NYC. And that means going through youI put a finger up to indicate Shawn, then I raised a finger as I went down the list, that means walking through Dickie AGAIN, or Betsy, or Casey with a K and her rad ass Tardis, or this new Aussie big man Aiden Reynolds… Which is exactly what the fuck we’re gonna do. Do not make the mistake of underestimating me or my family.

To all the members of Dynasty, NSQ and The Cure, and to all the potential mercenaries who might get a wild hair up their asses. Do yourselves a favor and steer clear of me and mine. Because I have half a mind to break the leg of any motherfucker that stands in our way to reaching the top of the Tower. In the words of my mentor and father in law…

TAKE HEED
…for you have been warned…

MY ALLIANCE
If you do not seek out allies and helpers, then you will be isolated and weak.
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I shot a message to Murph and Kal to meet Allie, Sahara and me at the Empire Room. The first of VooDoo’s successful nightlife businesses, this one a nightclub, bar and lounge for those with deep pockets. The woman is a brilliant business mind. Something that held the Pack together for years, was their mutual and individual successes both in and out of the ring. We had the distinct honor of a founding member of the Pack and the Wolf family patriarch in Kal X Wolf being back in the group he created way back in the day.

There was a private room set aside for family only and that’s where we held this gathering. As we strolled into the club, security surrounded us and cleared a path across the dance floor to the Den’s doors. Kal and Allison were the only card carrying members of this family and both had their keycards out to badge us in. Bowing out gracefully, Kal gave Allison the honor of granting us access to this sacred space. In all the homes and compounds, there were rooms such as this, Damon called his War Rooms. In these rooms, copious amounts of alcohol was consumed while the family would strategize and plan for the next attack.

To be in the Empire Room’s Den for the first time, it felt like walking into a place of power. My body was humming and buzzing, it was an odd sensation. I could only attribute it to being in a room where UnCivilizeD and The Pack orchestrated so many memorable moments over the years. A server came in and set down a couple bottles of bubbly, a bottle of Jack for Kal, and we all plopped our asses into rich, supple, Corinthian leather wrapped desk chairs. Clearing his throat, Kal pointed to the head of the table.

KAL X WOLF
Plant yer fuckin ass over there greasemonkey, yer Team Captain, that’s where the leader fuckin sits.

DANE
Alright, alright. Kill me why don’tcha. Sheesh.

Raising my hands in defeat, I rise from my chosen seat and mosey over to the head of the table, where I sit my ass right back down. Kal raises the bottle of Jack up and tips it to us all before taking a pull. Murphy kicks his legs up on the table, careful not to let his boots touch the top. Sahara and Allison were each enjoying a glass of champagne when I started to speak.

DANE
We have a huge task before us at Ascension. I’m the only one of us that’s gotta go hard two nights in a row. Fortunately, some of the other teams will be worse for the wear as well. Every member of the Dynasty is booked for both nights, Warstein and Watson, while only Brandon and I are the sole members of our teams working double duty. I need you all to be at your very best. I turned and looked at Kal directly, It’s going to be an absolute fucking honor to go to war with you on our team. You’ve been outta the ring for a very long time. You’re a tough son of a bitch, there’s no doubt about it. But I gotta ask, you sure you wanna be a part of this?

KAL X WOLF
You ever fuckin ask me some thin’ like that again you’ll be asking for a fuckin gurney.

DANE
Jokes on you old timer, I already ordered 15 gurneys, and not a single one of them will be for any of us.

That drew a chuckle from everyone. Good. Laughter is good for the nerves.

DANE
Murph, you and I are a force to be reckoned with, especially when you don’t fuck around and play with your food. This Ascension match is very important for all of us. I need you to be willing to treat this like any other night at the bar, someone looks at you funny, break their fucking face. Can you do that for me?

MDM
See, he gets it.

DANE
Yes, I do. Which is why I’m asking you to take this one seriously, ya fuckin Leprechaun. And whatever you do, don’t try to kill your ex.

Murph crooks an eyebrow and plays with his beard while staring daggers at me.

DANE
Lauren, we’ve got a history unlike most in this business, let alone this match. Enemies, friends, lovers. Emotions have been on high for you, me and Allison. Your ‘pep talk’ definitely woke me up. But if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that you have our backs and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the win. Keep in mind that Joe Montuori is coming for both of us, I will do my best to keep him away from you, but I’m gonna have my hands full with Shawn Warstein, Paul Montuori and Brandon Moore to say nothing of the remainder of the combatants in this match.

SAHARA
No. You let Joe focus on me. That was the entire point of doing what I did to Mia. He’s gonna be so preoccupied tryin’ to exact revenge on me, he’s gonna take his eye off the ball. It’s the method behind the madness. Our goal in this thing is to keep you alive and climbin’, Dane. If you’re eliminated, we’re all eliminated.  Joe being distracted with me is exactly what we want. So don’t go gettin’ involved. You know damn well I can take care of myself. Sahara smiles as she raises her glass of bubbly. What can I say, I’m an attraction and a distraction!

DANE
Yea, I’ll have to agree with you there. But you also make some solid points there, since when did you become the logical one in the group?

With a half-hearted smile that vanished as quickly as it appeared, Lauren extended her middle finger on one hand as she took a sip of her bubbly with the other. Then I turned my attention to my wife, as she poured herself another glass of champagne.

DANE
Allison, my Princess, you and I have been on one helluva roller coaster ride of emotions these past six months. I am going to do my absolute best to close that chapter in our lives for good when I beat J-Mont’s ass into mush and leave him with his Queen’s Championship on Night 1. Looking around this room, I wouldn’t choose anyone else to have my back and stand with me in this fight, especially when it comes to you. I don’t feel that you get enough credit for what you’ve done in this business. Especially after I ducked out of aW and you and Ani kept on trucking over there. Your run in that company was nothing short of legendary. There are going to be a lot of folks coming after each of us. I know you don’t need my protection, but I will do my damnedest to keep you safe.

ARP
Don’t worry about me and protecting me. If anything, the stint in aW should prove that I don’t need anyone protecting me. Allison smiled as she took a drink from her glass. Besides, isn’t it the Queen who protects the King? Feels like a chess game being played in the Tower to me, like Tri-D chess even since it’s a multilevel board. We just have to make sure that we make it to the top of the board and there’s not one of us who won’t put their body on the line to get you there. We have to make sure we take out every other piece we come in contact with on the board and kick them off the board and do so in a manner where we don’t have to worry about that piece sneaking up behind us again. She looks at me and smiles. As for Joe and that Chapter, it’s closed already, seeing you beat his ass like it needs to be beaten… Priceless. She shrugs her shoulders a bit as she stands up. Who knows, maybe he’ll get an ass beating from me one day, too?

DANE
That’s a day I want to can’t wait to see up close and personal.

Allison comes over and gives me a hug, before grabbing the second bottle of bubbly and heading back to sit next to Lauren, who already had her empty glass ready for a refill.

DANE
Now, I want to be very clear about this. I do not want your Blood Money if we win this thing. I am perfectly capable of rising through the ranks and earning a shot at the Empire Championship on my own accord. I want you all to earn your Blood Money and use it for yourselves. You don’t owe me anything and you are not obligated in any way to give me your Blood Money if we win this thing.

MDM
Let’s worry bout winnin first, yea?

DANE
Fair point. I just hope you’re all ready for Ascension, because it’s going to be fucking huge.

The rest of the evening, we’re bullshitting about who we think is going to take who out, even going so far as to wager which mercenaries will be coming for us, and who would get taken out of the picture first. To say that my nerves were on overdrive would be an understatement. I need these wins. I need to put this beef with JMont to bed. We need to do well on Night 2. Even if we don’t go all the way, we need to find a way to dominate while we can. Fucking Hell, who comes up with these types of events?