(FADEIN: Joey Melton in a tux, sitting at a piano. Adrian Evans stands next to him blowing into a saxophone. The duo begins to belt out Sinatra’s “It Had To Be You.”)
MELTON: It had to be you.
And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Once again you stole something from me that I’ll never be able to get back. You robbed me of the opportunity to deflate Manson’s ego myself and make him pay dearly for ruining my Wine Vineyards. I desperately wanted a Final with personal appearances by Not Cruise and Not Manson and Not anyone you care about….but you buried the American Alien. Retribution for me awaits, but I can always buy the Manson voodoo doll off the website (http://www.notagodafterall) and stab pins in it on the flight to New York.
Vineyards, an employee gone to Hell….
That was a lifetime ago, or so it seems.
I’m not that same man anymore. I’m not the same man who dreamt of his own bottled jelly in every supermarket, and wine poured at high society events and Skull and Bones bachelor parties.
Not the same man who blazed through the desert with Randalls on horseback, or traveled the heart of America with Cameron Cruise. And I’m not the same man who felt ready to settle down with Lindsay Troy.
But that’s just life, isn’t it Hornet?
We’re not the men we used to be. And thank God for it. There’s just as much Darwin in us as devil, because you don’t last in this sport as long as we have without evolving. The Branding Iron was a nice touch, but everything you do in that ring plays like a memory to me.
Unlike Manson, Cruise, Randalls, or whoever else decides to step in the ring with you today I’ll always have one advantage over the field when it comes to the Greatest American Hero.
I helped create you.
Maybe Manson taught you there will always be someone out there with a bigger ego and Cruise taught you the wrestling world hasn’t gotten any more talented in your absence, and Randalls years ago taught you there will be men bigger and stronger, but I’ve never been overwhelmed by your greatness. When you know how to separate fiction from truth..there’s nothing to be afraid of.
I was there in 1988 as you stood around in the back of an old run down warehouse and crammed for Finals as we all were giving birth. I saw how quickly you picked up on technical aspects to the sport, how sharply your focus turned from your books to your career.
I saw you win a US title that still, barely had reach outside of Greensboro, while being completely exposed in the ring by lesser beings who weren’t winners of the genetic lottery. I witnessed you after the shows, your mask faded, and kids draped over your every move. I saw how you gave them everything you had. You loved, I won’t say being a hero Hornet…but you loved being real. Being present. And those people ate every bit of you up. I knew you had the strength to carry a promotion that I didn’t have. Being a leader resonated with you. And had it not, this tournament wouldn’t have existed and I’d be a hell of a lot less richer than I am today.
Just as I saw you shake the last kid’s hand and toss him a sweat soaked towel, the last autograph signed, I saw you march right into a back room with women who caught your eye during the show. It didn’t take an addiction to blur the lines of reality for me, man. I saw the dichotomy as it started.
You had more charisma than talent, but you worked harder than anyone in this sport has worked I dare say…and it wasn’t long before you were considered one of the technical greats of the sport.
I was there in 1989 when you, perhaps to this day, wrestled your greatest match almost 90 minutes long against Wall. I know how much the boys in the back resented your long title reigns, and how you seemingly got anything you wanted, but when you can move and shake a crowd like that…when you can create a legend in 90 minutes that’s still burning twenty years later…the jealousies of men don’t mean ****.
Not even man in this business could have taken on your career path or has, to be frank, the pair of balls you do.
But as I said, the lines of reality were never blurred for me. I know who you are. I’ve always known. And I know despite your titles, your quest for greatness, I’ve always been the better man.
Who helped you before shows, town to town, hone your craft?
Who’s approval did you seek after every big match?
Who did you call when you thought Merritt was forcing you out, or you’d come up against someone you thought to be a little bit better?
I helped create the legend, Hornet. But while your career was spent at the end of the show, I made magic happen from anywhere, at any point of the night. You were never the tag artist I was, because to be honest, you never trusted a partner completely. Maybe that was the price of leading the company, you never were sure from where the next attack would come from, but just as you’ve made a career out of destroying legacies to forge your own, I’ve made more men than Octomom.
I’ve won your UNIFIED Title, I’ve beaten you for the ULTRATITLE, I’ve done things in this sport not even you have been able to accomplish.
I’m not the man I was years ago, neither of us are.
But, I’ve proven I have one last dance in me.
There won’t be any branding Irons, or Electrified Cages…or biblical artifacts. It’ll just be the two of us, our shadows, and the truth.
Which is you still haven’t proven when it’s just you and I…
(FADEIN: Hornet is simply sitting on his couch, the Manhattan skyline behind him.)
Can I just say how nice it is not to be confronted by a prophet, a crazy man or Zombie Jesus? The end of the various arguments: “you’re too old” or “you’re no good” or “you’re irrelevant now.”
Fact is, the Greensboro boys made the final. Not the psychopathic goat killer, not the King of Meh, not even crazy ol’ Cameron Cruise made it to the end.
Sorry about the whole vineyard thing. Honestly, I just figured that was a stage set that burned down or something. I mean, you didn’t even know who the Skull & Bones were until I mentioned it backstage one night… so how I was supposed to know you wanted to sell them jelly?
At the core, Joey, yeah, I think we are the men we used to be. The same man that fell in love with Lindsay Troy – I saw part of that guy when Teri showed up on the scene. Fiercely protective of his sister while ignore her more (ahem) whorish traits. You always had that blind spot – for a pretty woman, for a midget, for a mental defective like Cruise. As much as you played “ARROGANCE” Joey Melton to the ‘T,’ you always wanted to find a ‘project’ to work on. Maybe something in there about saving someone else so you could save yourself…. Maybe.
And you’re right. I wasn’t a boy scout. I mean, I wasn’t banished from the scouts for all time like you were after that “camping trip” you had… I at least knew the motto and had a couple of badges. You used to laugh at me for signing those kid’s casts while you were walking by, bag in hand, ready to hit the road. “Get the cash up front,” you always yelled as you went by. I always wondered if that was the one lesson your parents passed on to both you and Teri…
But before we go any deeper down Dawson’s Creek, let’s drop the anchor and make sure we’ve clear the air a bit.
You influenced me.
You fought me tooth and nail.
You were an example on the road – good and bad.
But you didn’t “create” me.
Let’s not pull a Manson and try to rewrite history here, Joey. You didn’t even call me “Hornet” for the first two years, let alone know I had another name. After you lost the title to Degadeth there was hardly a night where you hadn’t already hit the road before I even went on, so there wasn’t too much “showing the ropes” going on on your part.
You know I love ya, man, but let’s not take away from men like Ben Flore and Dusty James and “Blonde Devil” Brian Nord who were in the ring with Mark and I, backstage giving us notes and calling us on the road to make sure we were where we needed to be.
There’s no doubt that Merritt and Thomas used you to give Mark and I the ‘rub,’ throwing us in six-man matches with you – the gritty, cocky New York vet with the southern hayseeds. But after that, while I was defending a title for three years, you were busy beating Mickey Benedict into the ground over and over again for the ULTRATITLE or the US Title.
But every once in a while, you decided to come to play ball. When I was stripped of the title while working for the UN in Europe, you marched through 31 other men, including Manson’s beloved Zack Sirus, to win the title. And later, the ULTRATITLE final where we faced off won Match of the Year. The resurgence of Joey Melton was on as you feuded with Tom Adler for the belt I had started to build.
And then reality struck again with the IRONMAN of CHAMPIONS. I stepped in and finished what I started – creating what was called the Unified World Championship. No need to go through that again, right? Except to say from that day it was over a decade before you’d hold the top title… and that was when Thomas gave you the CSWA World Title.
After that, I think that was the match against me where Lindsay was at ringside and you started yelling “rape” at the top of your lungs. Lindsay kept yelling “why are you yelling rape,” and you said I had a crazy look in my eyes and at one point said “Let’s get it on.”
Then, of course, when things couldn’t get any stranger, I put the Scorpion Deathlock on you and Thomas starts yelling “CODE GREEN,” leaving me to wonder if that’s some code for rape. But no, it was apparently code for an overstuffed muppet kid to bungee out of the sky, beat the holy hell out of me and save you and your gifted title.
If this was Dancing With The Stars, Joey, I’d be pulling for you with everybody else. If it was another famous World Junior Junior match against a midget, I’d obviously have your back. Even if it was another legendary EPW Tag Title match with you and Doofus Cruise, I’d be cheering for you to win.
But I respect you too much to just be a fan on this one. I won’t pretend I can counter every move in your arsenal. I won’t go for the low blow, either figuratively or literally. I won’t be in the ring looking to demean or injure or even to prove anything.
For the first time in a long time, I’ll simply be in there for the joy of wrestling.
The Giant Pig’s head was just imported from Main Office two days ago. There were concerns it wouldn’t make it on time and the new Piggly Wiggly on South Independence in Charlotte, North Carolina would open without the trademark swine towering above the shanties around it. This store was to be the crown jewel of the Southside of the Queen City. A quarter bigger than a normal Pigglies, with an eye care center and local lottery office. There was talk, however eccentric, this location would be the test market for a fifty seat theatre.
The other large grocery chains have never tried Community Theater. This little Pig came close to being a guinea. Imagine sitting your kids down to watch an ADD-adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s classics. Ultimately, corporate balked over how much to pay the local talent after there was talk of the ‘players’ unionizing. Maybe Charlotte wasn’t the right place for the roll out after all. Some of the best ideas need to be left to simmer just a little bit longer, but it’s the people who suffer in the interim.
But just as panic set in, the giant head of pork rolled in on the back of an 18-wheeler. The last touch to this latest monument of American excess snuck in at the last second, much like the agreement on the debt ceiling in Washington. As the pig overlord was being erected late Friday afternoon, concerned local farmers wondered if there would be a day when the pigs revolted and sought to punish the bible belt for their senseless BBQ-enraged slaughter. One would hope they were basing their porcine revolution on their knowledge of Orwell, but more likely such thoughts were just byproducts of gastric distress and best forgotten.
To help open the Super Swine, Piggly Wiggly marketing geniuses depending on market research turned to professional wrestling to help open the weekend. Sponsored by the Wrestling Classic, several hundred people flocked to the store and crowded the parking lot with a dual purpose: to meet a few of the wrestlers who shepherded them through the various trials of making it to second base while watching a sleeper hold; and to have the chance to save on Golden Oreos, toaster waffles and beef jerky.
In the back right corner of the parking lot a huge stage is set up with a tent over it. Young and old stand in line for the chance to get autographs from their favorite wrestlers of note. In the midst of the glory, under the watchful eye of the Pig Overlord, two of the greatest this sport has ever seen sit on a bench next to where there are pony rides for the kids.
“Well… here we are at Piggly Wiggly again.”
The words dropped out of Hornet’s mouth as he shook his head in disbelief at Joey Melton. Two of the greatest this sport has ever seen and they’re promoting a half-assed run event at a Piggly Wiggly. Irony anyone?
“I fell in love with it the first time,” said Melton, cheerily. ”Do you know that if you’re a club member you can save 10%? These are my people now, man. The deal seekers. The low, the poor, the unkempt.”
“Joey Melton the bargain hunter. I never I thought I’d live to see the day. You never seemed to mingle with them before.”
“How can you not love people who are here for $1.99 ground chuck as opposed to seeing the stars of sports entertainment?”
A twelve year-old boy in jeans shorts and a green AMP #88 Dale Jr. t-shirt nervously walks up, his right hand shaking as he extends a piece of paper. He has little idea who either man is, but he knows it’s a chance to add to his autograph collection with the likes of Mickey Mouse and Scott Bakula.
“I’m on break, Doogie.” Melton dismisses the little pissant. If only his battles with alcohol and women with daddy issues was this easy.
Hornet shakes his head at Melton, then looks the kid over -- perhaps he sees himself in the young man. It was almost thirty years ago when he met Andy Griffith at a Cracker Barrel and started to tell the star how Matlock left himself wide open in opening arguments before he was briskly led away by his mother.
“You’re all heart, Joey,” the former UNIFIED champ says as he signs the kid’s paper and gives him a big smile.
“The kid didn’t read the sign,” says Joey as he taps the sign proclaiming his legendary status, plus a post-it-note that said “Melton Autographs -- $20.”
The PA system squeals like a virgin Poison Ivy ripping on Teri Melton in the ”Ivy Chronicles”, a new graphic novel reimagining of Ivy’s high school days by former CSWA stagehand Marvin Parsons . The high pitch softens to a rumble as the voice of 107.5’s Morning DJ assaults the parking lot and any within earshot.
“This is Cowboy Bobby Troutman and I’m live from the Piggly Wiggly on South Independence! Grand Opening this weekend and from 12-5 today the big pig has got some of the classic stars from the wrestling circuit! We’re got pork ribs grilling, live music to come, and your chance to meet the greatest wrestling stars of yesterday! Plus, you can get a special Buy One, Get One Free deal on Huggies! But, now back to the hitz of today.”
“You remember the first time we packed a crowd?” Hornet asks his friend as he takes a sip from his bottled water.
“Wasn’t much bigger than this.”
“No it wasn’t,” he laughs. “I can’t believe it was over twenty years ago.”
“I can’t believe some of these women look familiar.” Joey said what had been on his mind since first arriving at the Piggly Wiggly. He knew these women. Oh, they were younger, maybe a little lighter on their feet, or perhaps just being on their feet created the initial confusion.
“How have you not fathered a bastard child by now?” The Melton Love Child Pool amongst the boys in the back was legendary – with interest over the years the thing was approaching lotto status. Dan Ryan was rumored to be a few thousand in for predicting over ten children. “No offense, just sayin’…”
“I believe in small miracles,” Melton sighed as he spoke. He’s waited for the day when the doorbell rang at a hotel or at his estate one day and he’d gaze into the eyes of his spitting image. He breaks out in a cold sweat when listening to that Heart song.
Imagine his surprise, when he saw his own eyes. Please, please understand….I’m in love with another man…
Hornet twisted the bottle cap back on and sized Joey up. He knew what the old man was thinking. Complete honesty. They’ve reached that point in their friendship. Hornet felt it was time to be frank. “Listen, I know we’ve played things very differently over the years. But for my taste, you’ve really overworked the nut angle of the years,” voiced the Greensboro native. “I was scared you got some sort of perverse reaction from working nut spots in our matches.”
“Don’t flatter yourself, it wasn’t just our matches, I liked a lot of men to work them over.”
“That’s, um, wow.”
“It went over well with these people.” Joey raised his hand to include the bulk of customers racing into the store to stuff their face with free faux-Gouda cheese samples.
“Seriously has there been any sort of cumulative effect over the years?”
“Meaning?” Joey shot Hornet a quizzical look.
“I mean, the NFW Season 1 run alone had to cause major distress down there. Either your shooting blanks or at some point in time you got a prosthetic nut put in.”
“This is what my career has come down to,” said Joey, “allegations of a prosthetic nut while opening a regional grocery store. I knew this gig would be an eye opener.”
Touring third world countries wrestling midgets for the World Junior Junior title, well, it hadn’t really opened his eyes completely. Melton was able to convince himself it was ‘art’, somehow turning it into a noble endeavor that was “for the kids.” It was the same argument he once tried with Lindsay Troy when caught with pictures of Scandinavian “Women Gone Wild.”
“Do you regret it?” Hornet asked, his tone changing the mood.
“It functions,” Melton repositioned, “I guess it’s like being known as the funny guy at work once you’re trapped---“
“No, not that. The last twenty years.”
There was so much to regret, but yes, change the subject. It’s no wonder the man is an American hero. “It’s been a hell of a ride. Some of it seems like it just happened yesterday, the rest, doesn’t feel like me anymore if that makes sense.”
“I don’t regret it either.” Both men lying to each other now. Good they’re even. “My body feels like hell, but otherwise we would have never met and I would’ve never gotten the chance to bang your sister.”
Lucy Melton. Miss Hooters. Teri F’ning Melton. The fear of Hornet one day becoming his brother-in-law sobered Melton for years. “That’s classy.”
“Maybe in some alternate universe,” Hornet redirects. Take that Andy Griffith. “Maybe I went on to become a practicing lawyer, settled down and had kids. I guess no matter how things end up you always wonder what life would’ve been like. But if this is it, if you only get one shot, I loved every frame.”
The two have been chased by their own demons, to be sure. Sure, those of the Windham Family garner the
front pages, but to be here, relatively healthy and sane, is tribute to a strange, beautiful journey to be sure. Joey scans the crowd, they won’t be left alone for long.
“I thought Manson was supposed to be here.”
“He’s in the deli department. I think his booth opens up once he gets off his shift.”
“This economy is tough for everyone. I’ve thought about taking on a second job.”
“I used to worry what was next. I’m 47.” Melton chokes on the words, but he’s trying harder to own the of late. Forty-seven. “This is all I’ve known. When this is over what else do I have? There’s a good chance this is my last hurrah.”
“Nobody ever retires in this business, Joey,” corrected Hornet. “We knew that coming in. Even Eli knows it down in his bones.” He’s right. Most go on until they die, or worse, they’re unwanted, unsellable like old toys stuck in a boy’s toychest. There’s always something better to play with.
“Oh, I know. But, this business doesn’t inspire me like it once did. In fact, I’m thinking this will be my last match. “
“It’s home, New York. The Garden is sold out. It feels right. The greatest wrestler this sport has seen is across the ring. I actually can’t think of a better way to end it.”
“I don’t think promotions will be calling once I get my AARP magazine in the mail. A month ago I didn’t have a graceful way out. This worked out better than I could have expected. I want to really give the people a show.”
In truth Hornet had thought the same of late. Go out on your own terms. Walk off. Don’t let the kids stuff you in a chest. One last match with the men who came into the business together and changed the landscape forever.
“I want people to remember Joey Melton by what happens at the Garden. We’ve always brought out the best in each other. I know we’ve got one last great match in us.”
“True, but remember the ol’ saying,” he warned. “Hornet Wins!”
A laugh is shared as a middle aged woman sheepishly approaches Melton. She’s stuffed into jeans she hasn’t worn in years and her baby doll t-shirt looks like it’s been on a ten-year bender.
“You may not remember me but,” she interjects, slightly moving her hips.
A bored teenage girl sidles up next to her mother, one eye on the legends and the other on the text message she’s furiously writing.
“Well, sh*t,” Melton leans back in his chair as he sizes both ladies over. It’s not his child, but proof...”It has been a long time, huh? What was it, Peggy? Mallory?”
(FADEIN: In the Charlotte Piggly Wiggly “theatre”, an audience waits expectantly for a group question and answer session with their favorite wrestling ‘legends.’ Melton and Hornet get ready to take their seats as they’re surrounded by a group of men.)
JOEY MELTON: You! My lord, you look 25.
(Melton extends his hand and embraces a very fit looking Steven Flair.)
STEVEN FLAIR: You taught me about moisturizing.
(He and Hornet hug.)
HORNET: You good, Steven?
SF: Hell no, I shot a forty-five on the back nine today. I can’t live with myself…
VOICE: I know the feeling.
(Hornet turns to see CSWA classic wrestler WALL. The man is still huge by normal standards, but not as big and muscular as he was in his run as CSWA World Champion in 1989.)
HORNET: Peter, how the hell are you?
MELTON: Give the joke a rest, please.
WALL: You look great, dude. How is that possible?
MELTON: He sold his soul to Merritt or have we all forgotten?
(Two more men join the circle – former CSWA United States Champ and Mark Windham nemesis, TERMINATOR, is overweight and gone to seed. Former CSWA Unified Champ LEX VICIOUS is almost unrecognizable.)
LEX VICIOUS: (throws down a beer) What is this? A who’s who of wrestlers dicked over by Paul?
(They all laugh.)
HORNET: Lay off the beers -- you’re the designated driver.
TERMINATOR: Then we’re all pretty well f*cked.
ADRIAN EVANS: What about me? When I drink I get smaller?
STEVEN FLAIR: You’re a functioning alcoholic I see…
(The crowd of early CSWA all-stars continues talking to each other for five minutes before they’re herded to a table by a Piggly Wiggly manager. The fans are standing and sitting in front of the stage, with a lone microphone in front of them.)
RADIO DJ: Folks, don’t forget we’ve got Blue Bunny ice cream on sale all through the weekend and if you haven’t tried the Stouffer’s lasagna on display, you’re not livin’. Boxers or briefs, baby that’s what I’m talking about. Right now we’ve got a very special Q&A, PIggly Wiggly style, with some of wrestling’s classic legends. Marvin, who’s first?
FAN #1: The internet has changed everything, made the business more real. DVDs today talk about a lot of backstage drama and stories. Are there any stories that haven’t been told?
WALL: Most stories haven’t been told, but I don’t think any are PG enough to tell you here. (laughs)
TERMINATOR: We’re gonna need more beer.
FAN #2: It’s great to see you guys together again. My question is for Wall. Your match in 1989 against Hornet is considered by some to be the greatest match ever. Do you feel as if had you won your career might have been different?
WALL: You mean I didn’t?
LV: It’s all just a dream.
WALL: Deny, deny deny. No, my career went on after ANNIVERSARY. They didn’t fire me that night. If anything, as he’s done with so many men, HORNET set me up for great success. We all knew he was different. It was a challenge to try and match him every step of the way. That match, both of our matches gave me so much belief in my abilities as a wrestler. I’ve never been in front of that many people. It was the greatest moment of my career. That it didn’t lead to anything more is a product of many things, none of which was the outcome.
H: That night, I just wanna say this business was the true winner…
JM: Oh shut up! (laughter.)
H: It’s an honor just to be…
FAN #3: Lex you’ve been very open recently about your steroid abuse in the ‘90s. Were you a product of your time, or---
LV: Yeah man Lex wasn’t the only one, but it’s a weak soul to blame the group for his misdeeds. The opportunity was presented, it was around, but I was too naïve to ask the right questions. The drugs made me a superman, but they tore apart my body as well. I was never Joey or Steven. I was never a great tactician in the ring. I was a body. When a car needs to run better you go with high octane gas. But driving that hard can have consequences. They just ripped me part, so yeah man, for some maybe let’s be honest, maybe it was a good decision. For Lex, it cost me money.
FAN #4: Joey the hatred between your sister and Poison Ivy is legendary. Did you stay out of harm’s way, I know Ivy’s said in the past you two were, surprisingly good friends.
JM: What fun would that be? (laughs) I always enjoyed playing one against the other. It was harder to get Teri wound up, but Ivy was ready for a fight. I love both women obviously, but when you’re on the road as much as we were, you find ways to amuse yourself.
H: Do we need to talk about San Diego?
JM: Ivy still doesn’t know that was me, let sleeping dogs lie. (laughs)
FAN #5: Hornet you’ve spoken a lot of Jim Williams lately, it’s obvious those matchups still resonate with you. What other matches might we find Hornet popping into his DVD player?
TERM: Oh good someone finally gets Hornet to admit he constantly watches himself on tape.
SF: I can think of a few I won’t be watching… (laughs)
H: Now if I answer that these guys will kill me.
JM: We might anyway.
H: I love the matches with Eli and Randalls. The other night I saw the US title match against Monte Farriss. I refused to believe that was me. I know he’s tried or been forced to disown this business but GUNS was in many ways Bjorn Borg to me.
WALL: Doesn’t hurt that you hated each other for years.
H: No, it doesn’t. Anytime you can give a retirement speech with your foot planted on someone’s chest, it’s worth multiple viewings.
FAN #6: Are any of you planning a comeback?
TERM: I’m constantly working out. (everyone laughs)
FAN #7: How do you handle the dichotomy in how women were showcased in the CSWA?
JM: This is a hard business for men and probably even harder for women to succeed in. We’re probably not the ones to answer that. I don’t think we had too many problems in the locker room.
H: Teri and Ivy need to answer this. (laughs) I think you saw someone like Ivy change the business to a degree but she never wanted special treatment. Sex sells I think you’d be a fool to deny that, but progress has been made.
SF: Exactly we’ve gone from having hooters explode on a PRIMETIME to watching Lindsay Troy win major titles.
WALL: If the two can just be combined… Melton?
JM: Next question please.
(everyone breaks up.)
FAN #8: This question is for Steven. Mr. Flair, you were a UNIFIED champ and held just about every belt in the CSWA yet many remember you teaming with Melton as “Arrogance”. Anything interesting to say about those days? (smiles)
FLAIR: Touring across the country with Joey, it didn’t take long to see just how cheap he was.
MELTON: Alright now…
FLAIR: I was petrified to eat in the same place twice if he was paying.
VICIOUS: Melton pays?
FLAIR: On rare occasions.
MELTON: Remind me never to do it again for one of you ingrates.
FLAIR: They were great times. We were night and day outside the ring. Joey loved a good time. I loved being sober for big matches and career opportunities.
MELTON: Excuse me?
FLAIR: I knew he was going through something and a good bit of the time when he was present he was great and taught me a lot. But he had his demons and often times the burden fell on me to carry the team.
MELTON: Carry the team? You didn’t even carry your own bags through airports.
ADRIAN EVANS: Come on, dude.
MELTON: You owe me a lot, Flair and you can’t even pick up a phone.
TERMINATOR: (laughing) Still brothers in arms…
(Everyone takes a deep breath. But Melton is clearly agitated)
FAN #9: Hornet, while the length of your own career is remarkable, is it shocking to think about the fact that when you started in ’88 Joey was the one with experience, and here you both are. Was it something in the water? (laughs) Do you see many similarities between your careers?
HORNET: It was definitely something in the water. (laughs) For both of us to be here twenty-three years later is amazing. I can’t say I ever expected it – especially the way Joey lives! True longevity in this business is a rare thing. To be able to share my career with Joey is special. I don’t know if I have five more years in me. For Melton to be on the top of his game at 47, what can you say? So what if he’s competing in different height classes or wrestling on cruise ships… maybe that’s just how this business treats its senior citizens.
MELTON: What the hell does that mean?
(Melton’s constant companion and ‘keeper,’ “Little Voltron” ADRIAN EVANS walks up and put a bottle of water on the table in front of Joey).
ADRIAN EVANS: Relax, Joey.
MELTON: What are you trying to say?
HORNET: Nothing, man. We all do what we have to do to stick around and stay relevant. You found a way to do that with both comedy and skill. You’ve made it work better than anyone.
MELTON: **** off.
(Adrian shakes his head, Flair reaches for Joey’s arm to calm him.)
FLAIR: Don’ t do this, Melton.
(Joey stands up to confront Flair.)
MELTON: Get your hand off me. You wanted to get real. You wanna break kayfabe, all of you? Fine! Steven, lets talk about why you retired out of the blue. Let’s talk about that jacket not being the only thing that’s been in the closet for years.
FLAIR: You ass—
(Melton slaps Flair across the face and pushes him over. Adrian Evans rushes to Joey, furious.)
EVANS: What’s a matter with you?! You’re embarrassing me!
MELTON: I’m embarrassing YOU?!
(Melton grabs Evans by the scuff of the neck and tosses him from the stage into the crowd. People scream and scatter. Hornet leaps to his feet and decks Melton with a right hand, dropping Joey to his back. Some people laugh, unsure as to whether it’s a work.)
HORNET: That’s enough, Joey!
(As Hornet looks down disgustedly at Joey, a fan rushes from the front of the crowd. The fan leaps onto the stage, and in another quick motion leaps into the air and levels Hornet with a forearm. Hornet and the fan begin to tussle on the stage. Hornet gets to his feet, rears back to deck the fan but his arm is held back by Wall. As Hornet spins around, Lex Vicious buries a knee into his left kidney. Hornet drops to the ground, then, shockingly, all three men begin to stomp on him.)
(The fan turns around to face the crowd and reveals he’s TIMMY WINDHAM, wearing a Sweetwater County Sheriff’s department T-shirt, along with jeans and boots. Windham has a fire extinguisher in hand and unleashes on the first row of fans.)
(Steven Flair is back on his feet and doesn’t waste any time joining in, dropping over a fallen Hornet and punching him repeatedly in the face.)
(Joey Melton rises to his feet.)
MELTON: Get his ass up!
(As Wall, Lex Vicious, and the Terminator stand Hornet up and hold him back, Melton wipes off a little blood off his mouth.)
MELTON: Overworked the nut angle, huh? Became a COMEDY character, did I?
(Melton drives his right foot into Hornet’s groin, dropping him.)
MELTON: Timmy! (Melton makes a criss-cross gesture over his throat)
(Timmy pulls out a little piece of rope from his pocket, wraps it around Hornet’s throat, and tosses Hornet’s body off the stage. Timmy goes to his knees, pulling back tightly, essentially hanging Hornet.)
KID ON CELLPHONE: Dude, you’re not going to believe this. That Muppet Kid guy is trying to kill Hornet. This is great! (Hornet starts to spit up a little blood) Oh, sh*t. This may be real.
(Windham pulls Hornet back on stage. Joey delivers a DDT, then calls for Lex Vicious to come over. Lex gets Hornet set up…and delivers a VICIOUSBOMB OFF THE STAGE! Hornet’s body bounces right next to the kid on his phone.)
KID: I think he’s dead. Somebody get the Cops!
(There are screams in the crowd as Wall gets down on all fours, allowing Timmy Windham to jump on and off his back to deliver a SHOOTING STAR PRESS OFF THE STAGE. Some of the crowd has scattered, others are taking cellphone video.)
(Windham gets under Hornet’s legs and vaults him up on his shoulders. Wall poises himself and then leaps off the stage with a clothesline! Melton grabs the microphone and begins to walk the stage.)
MELTON: Years and years, and you know the question folks stopped asking? The question no one asked today? Whatever happened to the CORPORATION? Whatever happened to the best stable in the history of wrestling? What you see here is our “board of governors.” The heart and soul of the Corporation. If you thought we were dormant, If you thought we’d disbanded and tucked our tail between our legs, put in our place years ago by men like Hornet, (laughs) you’re dead wrong.
We’ve been biding our time. You see, while Timmy may have to bear the last name Windham like a cross while he was made by Merritt to spend his adult life on a bungee cord, trotting into arenas like he was one of Henson’s rejects… the man in actuality is a genius with numbers. We’ve stuck together. We’ve pooled our resources over the years and invested quite, quite well. And we’ve waited for the day, you sonofa*****, when we could rain back down on the wrestling world like a dream out of Revelations.
(Flair and Terminator set HORNET up and deliver a SPIKED PILEDRIVER ON THE PAVEMENT!)
The Wrestling Classic Tournament was paid for by yours truly. All of it manipulated, every pain staking detail to get Hornet out of his lair and back into our grasp. This Q&A, I even managed to drag myself back to F’ing Piggly Wiggly just to set your ass up. I almost felt sorry for you. I almost backed out, but we gave you enough rope and you hung yourself Paul. I knew, if given time, you’d throw my career under the bus and remind us all why it’s so damn hard not to loathe you.
You’re here, Hornet, because we wanted you here. You lasted this long because we wanted this day of reckoning.
We’ve invested heavily in several major promotions. Not only will we finish your career in New York City Hornet, you won’t have a place to run to when we’re finished. (Melton forces a kid to ask a question) Why Hornet, why you ask? Excellent question son.
It’s time to end Hornet because he’s everything that’s wrong with the industry. He IS the industry. Do you know what this business does to men? It chews them up and spits them out. It forces you to go 365 days a year. It pushes your body beyond the limit. And do we get paid vacations? Do we get health insurance? Guaranteed contracts? What do you think, kid? No we don’t. This business wants you to climb into a Wheel Of Death match, put your body on the line, then drive to the next show. This business wants you to stand around as a cage explodes, but understand if you need a knee scoped, a major back or neck injury, or help for addictions…you’ll be footing the bill.
(Timmy takes off his belt as the others rip off HORNET’S shirt and Windham beats him savagely over the back with his belt.)
Hornet, you know all too well this business has driven men to drink. We’re a community that dies young and poor. But the shows must go on, don’t they?
But unlike you, the real casualties of this business don’t glorify their addictions to stay current. Yes, it’s true, you are the Greatest American Hero -- and America likes to see their heroes fall. So let’s talk about how you thought every woman in the back was at your disposal, married or otherwise. Let’s talk about steroids and prescription pills. Maybe this is just part of your life cycle in the spotlight. This country pays respects to fallen heroes every day. And now, Hornet, you are the Fallen. The genius behind the marketing at CS Enterpises (spits) was turning somebody like you into an icon that could safely fit into everyone’s home. You’re just a drugged up horse’s ass, Paul, and you have been for twenty-three years.
But it didn’t have to be this way. Very few men have ever had the hand you’ve been dealt. You could have changed the business for the better. But that wasn’t your style. Looking out for your fellow man. Seeing the bigger picture. So, yes…your 150 million dollar contract was ironclad. You were able to get your teeth done and have that back surgery at limited cost. How many vacation homes have you done promos out of recently? And if you had done right by the business…if you had been willing to help, nobody would have begrudged you that. But you never wanted anyone else to have what you had. You were the one who told Merritt my character didn’t fit into the day’s landscape. You got your match at ELVIS LIVES and from the time you got the belt, it was one freak show after the other, each one more disposable than the last. And while I was in the background preaching unity…you just angled for another, bigger piece of pie.
Well you want some more f***ing pie now? (kicks Hornet)
It’s because of you I had to go to that hellhole to chase the ULTRATITLE and try to survive, it’s because of you I had to take on ****ing CAMERON CRUISE and wrestle across Asia against midgets! You turned me into a carnie because nobody else would hire me.
“Joey’s difficult to work with…”
How’d I get that reputation? You’ve tried to run from your shadow since ’88. But one day Hornet, the darkness can’t be escaped.
(Adrian Evans throws his little limp body over HORNET to act as a shield.)
Not everybody in the CORP saw it our way. That bastard Ray S. Cornette was just like so many in the back. They want their piece first and they never look back. What you see here isn’t just what’s left. It’s what has survived. We’re a union of brothers. One for all, all for one. Do you even know how many times in my life that I needed someone to pick me up, and one of these men was there? We spent years on the road envisioning our future, how we’d change this business. Now, Hornet, we have the capital to make it all happen.
Those who want to accept representation and change this business will be welcomed on our side, those who don’t will fall by the wayside.
But it starts in New York when we kill the figurehead of a dying industry. If you’re man enough to walk into Madison Square Garden, if you’re still able to crawl…if you make it to that ring, Hornet, I’ll finish your career in abrupt fashion. And then, you won’t have a pot to piss in. No other organization will take you in. You’ll have to live with the fact that in your last match…you were bettered by Joey Melton and the business you helped create will be blown up into something better, an idea free of assholes like yourself.
We don’t expect it to be easy.
But we’re not afraid to sacrifice bloodshed for change.
(Flair and Vicious deliver a final SPIKED PILEDRIVER as Melton looks on happily. The Union walks away, as HORNET, bloodied and beaten, weakly grabs his neck.)
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