Johnny could hear the crowd as he walked to the stage. More importantly, he could feel them. Over the years, he’d gotten very rich off of being able to read a crowd, even from this far away. He stopped just short of the curtain, adjusting and primping. When you’re going to change the world, it was always good to look your best. After one final check in the mirror, he parted the curtain.
It was the air he liked best. Th feel of ten thousand people shouting at once, as he walked out. Flashes went off like shots, women screaming his name. Once again, Wiccan Warrior was headed to the ring.
It hadn’t always been like this. There had been lots of late nights in dingy gyms and freezing legion halls. All part of the price you paid to get to the top. The pian was there as he walked, he noted. After so many years, it was as normal a part of his day as twice getting up at night to piss. Pain was his only constant friend now. He could feel his joints pop as he parted the ropes, the twinge in his back reminding him why he was here, and what he had to do today.
Johnny had been courted to the big leagues after about five years in the ring. He’d gotten a reputation as a man who could put asses in seats, and show up on time. Both were a big plus in a business caring only about the show, and not how you got there, or what shape you left it in. So he’d gotten on a plane to New York, and waited for his life to change.
Wrestling was huge then, and kayfabe was still in effect. Johnny hid his wife and kids the first two years in the majors. He rose through the ranks, going from jobbing to mid-card. He put in his work, and worked on getting better. He expected his success to be rewarded, like all hard workers do.
Except it wasn’t. He got to a certain point, and just stalled. There were a few world title shots, but the big Pay per view money eluded him,as well as the spotlight. He was smaller than the other guys, and wrestling was meant to play large. He couldn’t juice due to a congenital kidney defect, and he watched his career start to fade.
Johnny snapped back to reality, the crowd gone silent now, waiting for him to speak, to say the words they loved to say back to him. His bosses were hoping his return would spur some merchandise sales, and judging by the WW logos in the audience, he’d done so. Good gods, had they put his face on a foam finger now? He bit back the bile as Rodney, the long time ring announcer handed him a mike.
Johnny thought he was looking sharp today. Lincoln green suit, silver pinstripes, with an embroidered pentagram on back. He wondered what his mother would have thought of this. He’d never gotten to say goodbye, her death coming while he was in Europe, after the creation of Reverend Terrorist.
It was supposed to be another TV taping. Another stop on the grind his life had become. They were running eight shows a week, 300 days a year. He had enough airline miles to fly him,Jenny and Maureen anywhere. If he could only go home for longer than two days. He’d already missed so much of their lives,he felt like a stranger. Tonight he was close to home,though. Madison was only 90 minutes from Milwaukee. He was a native, a Packer Backer before he could walk. And he still knew what a bubbler was. He had three days off after tonight, and he intended to not sleep through all of them.
Then the road manager had pulled him aside. His title shot was being canceled, and so was his three days off. The boss’s son , with his nose candy problem, was too sick to do a run through Canada. Johnny had drawn the short straw. And something in Johnny broke.
It was the shot heard round the world, they said. Johnny had walked right out through the crowd into the main event. He’d taken the guy fighting the world champion, Kareem Akbar, and thrown him into the crowd. Kareem,whose real name was Shelton Barber, tried to get back in, and that’s when Johnny had knocked him out cold. He’d then run up on the world champion and in defiance of all of his bosses, kicked him right in the temple and pinned him. Then he left and went home, belt in hand.
For two weeks, he sat at home with the belt, while the press and the federation camped at his door. He spoke to them only on radio, and when he was done, the wrestling world was changed again.
Reverend Terrorist, as Johnny now called himself,ticked everyone off, and yet sold tickets like crazy. He’d fight when and where he wanted, and would put up the belt at a moments notice. Fans flocked to the events, never quite sure what was going to happen. His bosses publicly hated it, until his merch and video sales went through the roof. Others tried to be like him, but ailed. Johnny was riding high on a plane of success, matched only by few others, with names like Hogan and Flair.
As Johnny started to speak, flashes of what killed Reverend Terrorist and his career came back at once. The planes hitting the two towers, ending his characters name once and for all. His wife and daughter on the plane in Pennsylvania, ending Johnny Carnecki for once and for all as well.
He’d thrown himself into a chemical coma, but Johnny was raised better. He announced a rehab stint, then vanished for two years. Stories surfaced, but none were true. What Johnny had been up to was going to come out tonight.
The videos had started virally. Brief shots of Johnny’s profile, then a silver pentagram. By the time he got back in the ring, Wiccan Warrior was already a star. The newsheets lauded Johnny’s in-ring ability after two years away, and his promos were Ultimate Warrior level. A year later,he was given the belt, cleanly. He filled arenas for the next five years, when tragedy entered Johnny’s life again.
This time, it was his parents who were gone. Sitting in a theater, they were among those gathered for the movies, blown away by a PTSD crazed soldier. Johnny had quit again, and here he was today.
“Today, I look upon you, the greatest fans a man could have. I could never ask for anything more from you. You have all given me so much.” Johnny paused, letting their cheers wash over him.
“And yet, I think I will ask more from you. Today, I ask you to become what you need to be: real people” The audience murmured,confused.
“When My wife and child were wiped out thirteen years ago, you were told I drank myself into a stupor, and left to clean myself up. That was a lie.”
“What I did was go looking for answers. Why my wife and kid had to die, who did this. What I found broke my heart, then my mind.” Johnny took off his shades, and got right into the camera.
“It was all a lie, just OT make money. Rich assholes who traded our patriotism and spirit for oil and war. And we fell for it, hook line and sinker. When we were most vulnerable, they sold us like whores.”
“What can I do, Johnny?” He took on a whining tone. “ They’re too rich, too powerful,and you can’t prove anything, you nut job.” Johnny pulled out a flash drive”Except I can.”
“Thanks to a fan at the Pentagon, I have it all. The lost gas station footage showing the missile hitting the Pentagon, and the radio calls between the pilots who flew people like my family to a small airfield in Canada and shot them.” Video started playing on all the arena screens, causing gasps of horror and outrage.
“I expect to be dead by morning, but I died thirteen years ago. Wiccan Warrior is now dead, but..” Johnny dropped the mike, and jumped the referee, who’d know about what was going to happen to his wife and child, and not said anything. Johnny grabbed his head, and snapped his neck in one quick motion.
“REVEREND TERRORIST LIVES!” Johnny roared, jumping the ropes and into the crowd.
He ran right out of the arena, jumping into a waiting cab. As the cab sped away, Johnny had him turn on the radio. Riots had broken out in several cities. Johnny smiled, taking out the last picture of him, his wife and child. And for the first time in thirteen years, Johnny Carnecki slept.