Death Breath’s boot crashed on Owen’s head. It cut him hardway.
“Motherfucker,” he thought, “motherfucker.”
Owen stared up at the lights in the auditorium. He could hear the crowd chanting “You fucked up! You fucked up!” To Owen they sounded muffled, almost as if they were coming from underwater.
The kicks were stiff and real and they hurt from the inside out and back around. Usually, Death Breath was a professional – he never hurt anybody and he never acted like a punk, but tonight he was being vicious. Owen thought maybe he had blown too many spots, or maybe Death Breath was pissed because of an unprotected chair shot to the head. After all, Death Breath preached safety and he practiced integrity in the ring. Owen was the opposite, and after his botched bank robbery, Death Breath had been the first guy in the locker room to publicly call for Owen’s pink slip.
Within minutes of the opening bell, Owen regretted agreeing to let Death Breath gig him.
On the night when Death Breath decided to bury Owen, Owen had been out of the game for six months, and before that he had been in jail for second degree robbery. He had been drunk and loaded on coke the morning he stormed into the First National with a hunting knife. He’d forgotten to wear a mask, so it took the state just two days to find him. Owen felt like an idiot, and worse still he felt betrayed because he knew it was the fans that had turned him in. It was them – the same dumb marks who loved to boo him that had turned rat as soon as the six o’clock news rolled around. Those same chickenshit “tough guys” who had always tried to jump the rails during his promos were now the ones responsible for cutting off his livelihood. To Owen that was unforgivable.
But from a different point-of-view, it was Owen who had drawn first blood. The summer before his incarceration, Owen had thrown Eddie Boyd, aka Sexy T, through a stack of fluorescent light tubes. When Sexy T, the biggest face in the company, got up, he realized that an artery in his arm was severed. Owen remembered him saying “Oh, fuck,” then running back to the dressing room. Owen was later told that Sexy T had been airlifted to a nearby hospital. One of the doctors said that Owen should’ve been charged with attempted murder.
That hard bump put Owen on disciplinary action for a month. Even though it was an accident, the boss used his previous sins in the ring against him and kept him from working the company’s biggest pay-per-view. When Owen was finally allowed back, the boss, Danny Hodge, gave him the business before his return match.
“No hard bumps on the new kid, and whatever you do don’t put on a boat show out there. And for God’s sake make Reeves look good.”
Owen knew what the company was doing: they were setting up to punish him for the rest of his contract by turning him into a jobber for any new talent who looked like title potential. Chris Reeves was the first guy that they wanted him to put over. Owen felt that the push was undeserved, and in the first five minutes of his match, Owen put the kid through two tables. The kid had panicked, but Owen just kept feeding him move-by-move instructions. He ended the match by hitting his finisher on a bed of barbed wire. It went 1-2-3 and Owen left the building.
After Death Breath picked him up for his signature move, Owen tried to wriggle into an awkward position, thus blowing the spot. When Death Breath hit it, Owen came down hard on his shoulder and everything went soft. His arms and legs turned to rubber, while his neck felt like it had an axe wound. He couldn’t move when Death Breath stood over him with a cheese grater rigged with two blades in the center.
“Goddamnit! That’s ten tonight. You’re taking this one deep.”
Owen went under with warm blood in his eyes.