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WWF: Unchained


Heel Turn
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Throughout my entire time on EWB, there's been one question that people have repeatedly asked me. I'd get it occasionally via AIM, every few weeks via PM, and even in the occasional thread. That question, of course, was if and/or when I would return to WWF: Unchained. Long after I stopped writing the original, I still got the occasional PM from a member, telling me that they liked the backstory, saying that they wanted it to come back, wanting to know what I had planned.

Ask, and ye shall receive, I suppose.

Included below are the original five parts of the backstory for WWF: Unchained, and an update should follow by tomorrow. They've been edited only slighty from how they were originally posted, and reflect a project I've debated endlessly over starting/restarting. With the board restarting, and my interest in participating in the Ring at an all time low, I decided that now would be the ideal time to bring back this diary. To sum up the focus of this diary, it represents the penultimate of fantasy booking for me, and how I'd ideally like to see the WWE, balanced with a backstage story which will attempt to reconcile the situation of a nobody coming into control of the most prominent wrestling company in the world.

A few notes, comments, and disclaimers, before we begin. I'm doing this diary with EWR 2.0 and whatever RaveX update first came out for it. I know it's ancient and archaic, but the later versions of EWR were too complicated and in-depth for me to fully enjoy. Also, the first card (Heat) begins on the first day of December, 2002.

Y'know, there was a lot more that I wanted to say above, but it'll all become self-evident with time. In the meantime, enjoy the diary.

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"Change, and nothing stays the same,

Unchained, yeah, you hit the ground running."

--Van Halen, "Unchained"

Prologue

Part One - The Funeral

It was a somber affair.

But then again, funerals nearly always are. Especially when they're held on a chilly, cloudy morning in November of 2002. This one in particular had attracted a huge turnout. It seemed like people from all over New England had congregated in this small Connecticut town for my grandfather's funeral. I hadn't known him well, unfortunately, but he had always been kind to me on the rare occasions that we had spent time together. The last time I'd seen him in person was when I was 13, shortly before my mother and father had divorced. Having remained in my mother's custody, I'd lost contact with much of my father's side of the family then, despite having stayed in decent contact with my father. Of course, the divorce itself had been years ago...a decade, in fact. Since then, I had graduated college with a degree in communications, and had been accepted into law school. This had made me the black sheep of my family, since nearly everyone in my family, immediate and extended, was involved in the field of medicine. My father was a urologist, my uncles were cardiologists, dermatologists, and neurologists, respectively. Both my mother and grandmother had been nurses, as well as both of my aunts. My grandfather was an obstetrician, a good one, and had delivered the children of many of New England's most famous residents, many of whom stood silently around me. It was ironic, I mused, that a man so devoted to the process of bringing new life in this world should last be seen by me in death.

A frigid November gust of wind snapped me out of my reverie, taking me away from my internal monologue, and turned my attention to the priest's.

"Dearly beloved: we are gathered today to pay our final tribute of respect to he who is our deceased loved one and friend. To you members of the family who mourn your loss, we especially offer our deep and sincere sympathy. May we share with you the comfort afforded by God's word for such a time..." the priest intoned.

I stopped listening. I'd heard it at funerals that I'd attended before, and the words themsevles offended me on some basic level. Yes, the man had passed on, and yes, it was a shame that it happened, but this needless pomp and circumstance seemed almost gaudy. Better to give my grandfather some peace, and let him rest, than to make a spectacle out of it.

I looked around at the many guests, who had come to pay their final respects to my grandfather. I could count a few family members...my uncle Peter, my aunt Mandy, and a few random cousins. My father was not present, neither was my grandmother. She was still grieving too heavily to be around other people, and my father had been taking care of her. For both, the funeral would be too much, too soon.

The rest of the guests, however, consisted of many of the elite in New England society. The small hill which overlooked the Connecticut cemetery was populated by a grave plot with a coffin suspended over it, a single lone oak tree, its leaves already shed, a smattering of other graves, a few members of my family, and some of the most elite power brokers in New England society.

Red Sox owner John Henry stood in the center of the crowd, dressed similarly to me, in a dark overcoat and sunglasses, despite the cloudy day. My grandfather had delivered his first daughter, during a blizzard in 1974. He'd been eternally grateful, and had extended every courtesy to my grandfather upon his purchase of the Red Sox, including offering my grandfather his own luxury box, and lifetime season's tickets to games at Fenway. As far as I knew, my grandfather, in his old age, had made little use of either. He had always been a Patriots fan, anyway.

Standing not far to his left was Jerome Kassirer, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, to which my grandfather had been a frequent contributor. My grandfather had submitted many articles to the journal throughout his long career, and had worked with Kassirer in the 1960s, doing relief work in Angola as part of Doctors Without Borders. Kassirer was thin as a rail, and looked about ready to blow away in the wind. Only his somber wife, clinging to his arm, seemed to be holding him in place.

Towards the back of the crowd stood Nancy Andrews. She was an older, heavyset woman, and had attended Harvard medical school with my grandfather. She had served under then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in the Reagan administration, and was currently the head of Harvard's alumni association. She was a frequent guest lecturer in colleges across the country on the subject of ethics in medicine.

I spotted Walter Sandulsky, the New England real-estate magnate, surrounded by his large family in the middle of the crowd. He was just as fit and hale as he had been when I'd seen him last. I idly contemplated asking him for a job reference, since he'd seemed to like me when we'd last met. Of course, that'd been when I was seven years old, and visiting my grandfather.

I scanned the crowd, as the priest droned on. I'd already paid my respects to my grandfather in private, wandering around my grandparents' house for the two days that I'd been in Connecticut. I'd looked over pictures of us together at family holidays, old snapshots of him at various points in his life. My grandfather, standing on the deck of the battleship he'd served on during WWII. My grandfather, standing in front of his practice the day he'd opened it. My grandfather, kneeling next to my dad as a child. I'd seen my grandfather's life flash before my eyes as I paged through that dusty photo album, yet he was the one who'd died, a stroke so sudden that he was fixing breakfast one moment, and twitching spasmodically on the floor the next.

I sighed to myself, wishing I'd known him beyond a simple phonecall now and again, and a card on his birthday and on holidays. As I reflected, I caught an unfamiliar face in the crowd. It was surreal, for a moment, as it was a face I was more accustomed to seeing on television than I was in any sort of real life setting. I squinted, and lowered my dark glasses to get a better look. The swept back gray hair, the tough eyes, the dimpled chin, the wide build...it was Vince McMahon, chairman of WWE. I caught myself staring for a moment, and composed myself. It really shouldn't be any shock that he was here, I thought. After all, his home in Stamford was less than a half an hour from my grandfather's practice. My grandfather had probably delivered his children. The timeframe would be right.

Still...he didn't seem to have the demeanor of someone who'd come to pay his respects. Not that he was doing anything unusual, but as a communications major, you learn how to read people. You identify nonverbal behavior, and McMahon's nonverbal behavior told me something was amiss. He seemed to be fidgety, as if he didn't want to be there. He kept looking around, glancing at faces, as if he was trying to find someone but wasn't sure who, all while attempting to keep the proper demeanor of someone paying his respects at a funeral. He kept his hands clasped firmly in front of him, and his posture was sufficently mournful, but his eyes darted around as if looking for someone. His head would remain bowed, and he'd focus upon the priest for a few moments, but his eyes would flicker around the crowd. I paused as his eyes flicked to me for a second, and then kept moving.

He's looking for a family member, I told myself. Probably my grandmother. Someone who he can offer condolences to, and then scram. He's probably very busy, after all.

"...abundant mercy. May those who mourn today find comfort and healing balm in Your sustaining grace. We humbly bring these petitions in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Go in peace."

The priest finished the ceremony, and stood back as people approached the coffin, and mingled, talking in hushed voices to one another. I stayed put, curious what the chairman of the largest professional wrestling company in the world would do next. I had always been somewhat of a wrestling fan, and McMahon's presence here intrigued me. As I watched, he seemed to look around, trying to make out a face, before turning and leaving. As he walked down the hill, a dark limousine pulled up, collecting him and speeding off down the cemetery roads. I turned, and approached my family, who were gathered around the casket as it was lowered into the ground. As I watched the remains of my grandfather being lowered into the earth, my mind was filled with images of him as I had known him in life. Finally, I turned. The funeral was over, and it was time for the wake, which was being held in my grandparents' house (now my grandmother's, I supposed). As I strode down the hill towards my rental car, I couldn't help but wonder: why had Vince McMahon been at my grandfather's funeral?

Edited by Heel Turn
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Prologue

Part Two - The Wake

I arrived at the wake ahead of most of the mourners. It was being held at my grandparents' house (grandmother's, I quietly reminded myself), and I pulled into one of the available spots in front of the house. While I told myself that I had arrived early only because I didn't have any great need to spend time at the gravesite, the truth was that I figured that there was a chance McMahon might show up to the wake, in order to find whoever it was he was looking for. Since he had left early, it made sense for me to follow and see if he was around.

However, I was to be sorely disappointed. As I walked towards the house, I glanced around, looking for the limo in which McMahon had pulled away in. No dice. The only cars I could make out were the kind of cars one sees in an upscale Connecticut neighborhood, but there were no limousines to be had.

I strolled around to the side door of the house, and went inside. The house, for all my grandfather's wealth, was relatively small, and was the same house in which they raised my father, and his two brothers. The side door led into a sunroom, which in turn emptied into the living room. A den, kitchen, dining room, and study made up the rest of the first floor of the house. I shrugged my coat off and onto a nearby chair as I passed through the den. The catering service had quite obviously been there already, as tables of food were set up throughout nearly the entire house. I helped myself to a quiche with a toothpick through it, and ate it as I sought out my grandmother and father. I paused by the mirrored glass of the silverware cabinet, and, making sure that no one was around, tossed my toothpick at the face of my reflection.

"Say hello to the bad guy," I murmured under my breath.

Evidently, seeing McMahon at the funeral had brought up some memories of my favorite WWE wrestlers from the past. I contemplated doing the "me-me-me-me-yeah" thumb point, but figured that might be a bit too conspicuous. Besides, other guests were beginning to arrive. I needed to catch my grandmother before she was swamped by well-wishers paying their condolences to her.

I passed through the kitchen, where catering staff were still busily preparing yet even more food. I wondered at the amount of food that would be left over after the wake was over. It would be enough to feed a small African nation, or keep me in snacks for the next few days that I was around.

"The Nation of Domination?" the wrestling part of my brain asked.

"Shut up," I told it. "That stable sucked. Although PG-13 rapping them to the ring was kinda cool."

I continued on past the kitchen into the dining room, which was dominated by a huge polished cherrywood table. The table had been payment to my grandfather from a carpenter who had been unable to pay his bills for his wife's delivery. While the table had barely covered the medical bills that it had been crafted to pay for back in the 60s, the artistry and grain of the wood was such that if it was sold for cash today, the revenue generated could have paid for a whole host of deliveries, and still have money left over. My grandmother kept it in excellent condition, waxing and polishing it everytime someone ate a meal off of it. It would be tragedy if something were to ever happen to it.

"Yeah," wrestling-brain began, "Like if the Dudleyz were to hit a 3-D through it."

"Seriously," I thought back. "Shut up."

As I kept on walking, something caught my eye. While any members of the family were forbidden from putting anything save for placemats and plates on the prized table, a large leather briefcase was sitting on the far end of the table. Whoever had placed it there certainly wasn't a member of the family, and further wasn't familiar with the fact that my grandmother would relentlessly harrass anyone who dared defile the sacred table for the remainder of their natural lives. I had placed a Transformer toy on the table when I was six, and on the rare occasions I'd visited after that, she still kindly instructed me to "keep my little robot men off the table."

Wondering who the offending briefcase could have belonged to, I passed through my grandfather's study, and moved up the stairs to the second floor, to where my grandmother and father were no doubt waiting for the wake to begin in earnest. As I started up the stairs, a figured blocked my path as it walked down the stairs.

The person in question was a man, who was thin, thinner than even my slender frame. He was deeply tanned, and had a thick shock of immaculately combed white hair atop his head. He was clad in an expensive looking navy pinstripe suit, and paused upon seeing me. Tanned Skeletor descending staircase.

"Jack?" tanned Skeletor asked.

"Uh, yeah?" I replied. Who was this guy? How did he know my name?

"Here, head downstairs. We need to talk," Skeletor said.

I moved to the landing in front of the staircase, and moved to the side to allow whoever this guy was to stand next to me. He extended his hand, a polite smile on his face, intelligent gray eyes peering at me from behind gold rimmed spectacles.

"Arthur Epstein," he said, extending a bony hand to me. "I am...was your grandfather's attorney. I'm the executor of his estate now.

"The Excellence of Execution!" wrestling brain piped in.

I took his hand. The bones in his hand felt like what I'd imagined bird bones to feel like. Fragile. His skin was dry and papery, like old parchment. I felt like I was shaking hands with a mummy.

I applied slight pressure to his hand, for fear of injuring him. He seemed to feel no such compunction for me, squeezing my hand like he was trying to wring the life out of it.

"Jack Nedlaw," I replied. "I was Bob's grandson."

"Mm-hmm," he said, sizing me up. "Well, let me get a look at you. I haven't seen you since you were five."

"We've met?"

"Yes, but I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't remember me. You were young. No attention span." He said the last part as if confiding some kind of secret.

"Uh-huh," I said, smiling. Despite the somber mood of the day, this guy seemed likeable enough to the point that he temporarily made me forget about the death in the family. I could see why my grandfather had chosen him to be his executor.

"Well, do you want to do this now, or shall we wait until later?" he asked while glancing at his watch.

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"I've got some things for you. From your grandfather's estate," Epstein clarified.

"Oh." I was momentarily left dumbfounded. My grandfather had left me something? Why? I barely knew him. I'd assumed everything would go to my grandmother, and what didn't would be divided up among my father and his two brothers, the cardiologist and the dermatologist.

"Uh, later, I suppose. The wake's now..." I said. In truth, I couldn't imagine what he could possibly have for me. At most, I expected a few bonds, maybe, and an old heirloom or two. Nothing to get excited over.

"As you wish. Is later today good? Say, five?" he asked, as he withdrew a business card. Despite his age, his fingers still had some nimble grace. He produced the card like a magician might. One second it wasn't there, the next, it was.

I grinned. "Sure," I said, as Epstein handed me his card. His phone number and address were on it, next to a little cartoon caricature of him, like the type you'd get done at the fair. I was liking this guy more and more.

He began walking, and I followed him back into the room as he collected his briefcase and coat, and moved towards the door.

"You know the section of town?" he asked me.

"What? Oh, the address on the card. Yeah, I can find it."

He smiled. "Excellent. See you at five. And my condolences to you. Your grandfather was a fine man."

I nodded. "Thanks," and he exited.

I spent the rest of the wake wandering around making small talk with family members, and giving the same answers to all the usual questions. Yes, I had grown since they'd last saw me. No, I didn't currently have a girlfriend. Yes, I was in law school now. No, I didn't know what kind of law I wanted to practice. Yes, it was a shame about my grandfather.

The wake was only beginning to wrap up when 4:30 rolled around. One thing about my family, they love to mingle. I noticed the time while in the midst of a fascinating discussion with an aunt (an otolaryngologist, who was in the midst of telling me a joke about HMOs: "What's the difference between a terrorist and HMOs?" "What, aunt Nancy?" "You can negotiate with a terrorist." "Oh. Ha. That's good."), and quickly gathered up my coat. I exited after wishing all the nearby family members well, and made my way to my car.

The address on Epstein's card read 180 Newendyke Rd. I found it with little trouble, as it wasn't too far away from a comic book store I used to visit in Connecticut when I was younger. His office was a modest two story building, brick, with a sign in the front: "Robinson, Epstein, and Herzon. Since 1963." I swung around and parked behind the building. I got out, and entered the front door. To my surprise, it was open. I heard Epstein's voice call out to me.

"Upstairs! Second door on the right!"

I climbed the stairs, and turned to my right. A door was open, with light spilling out of it, a contrast to the darkness which had already set in even at this early hour. I walked down and into his office.

Epstien sat behind a wooden desk flanked by bookshelves, and with a less than desireable view of the parking lot behind the building. He was still in the suit I'd seen him in earlier, but the tie was loosened, and the jacket was slung on the chair behind him. A mug of coffee, still steaming, sat in front of him. His desk was covered with papers, and he gestured me to one of the two canvas director's chairs in front of his desk. I sat.

"Evening," he said. "Coffee?"

I shook my head. "No thanks."

"Ever done this before?" he said, motioning to the papers.

Again, I shook my head.

"Okay," he sighed. "Here's how it works. I read out all the things he left you in his will, and you sign a copy of both the will, and of this form stating that yes, you read the will, and no, I'm not cheating you out of anything. Think you can handle that?"

I nodded. "Yeah, sure. Inheritance forms. What, you think they don't teach that in law school anymore?" A smile played along my face.

"Way things are run today, I'd be surprised if you even knew how to brief a case." He was smiling, too.

"Okay," he said. I Robert C. Nedlaw, being of sound mind and body, blah blah blah, do hereby bequeath, blah blah blah..." He scanned the paper.

"Ah, okay. Here we go. John R. Nedlaw. What's the 'R' stand for?"

I winced. "Uh, Ringo, actually. My mom was a huge Beatles fan."

Epstein shook his head, and clucked his tongue. "According to this, your grandfather didn't leave you all that much. You got some stuff, but most of it went to your grandmother, your father, and his uncles."

I nodded. I'd expected as much. "So what did I get?" I asked.

"Well, not much," Epstein said, adjusting his spectacles. "What you got was the holdings of a bunch of out of business companies, to be quite honest. All that's left of most is intellectual property. See, your grandfather believed in investing in businesses around him. He'd buy shares, and hope that they'd get big. In many cases, he bought controlling shares. Almost every one of those companies ended up going out of business at one point or the other, unfortunately. He was able to recoup his losses by selling off the physical assets of the companies, but that was about it. He made the mistake of investing in heavy industry in the 60s and 70s...right before the Japanese realized that they could perform the same tasks at half the price. American companies began dealing with the Japanese consortiums, and, well, that was that. All the steel companies, heavy industry, manufacturing companies, they're gone. Here's what you got, though." He handed me the will.

I scanned it, looking at the list of the companies who now only existed on paper, companies that I owned. Blyskal Steel, Connecticut Manufacturing Concern, American Industrial, Wesley Welding Foudation, Amalgamated Copper, Revere Electrical Inc, Kinsella Mining, New England Convoy, and one other one, which caught my attention...

"Betamax?" I asked, incredulously. "He had shares in Betamax?"

Epstein shrugged, and sighed. "I told him not to. He was so sure that Betamax would be the wave of the future, though. After he lost money in that, that was the last investment he made." He shuffled around some more papers. "Oh, and he left you his Civil War era coin collection. He thought you might like that. I think that might be worth some money, unlike the rest of the stuff."

I nodded. Ah well, I thought, I wasn't hurting for cash anyway. And the coin collection might be nice.

"Thanks, I guess. Anything else?"

Epstein shook his head. "Not unless you want to try to resurrect the Betamax format, no," he smiled. "If you're ready, just sign here, here, and here. And initial here and here," he said, pointing out spots on pieces of paper with a tan, gnarled finger.

I signed, shook his hand, and left. I headed for my hotel, the papers and worthless deeds for the nonexistent companies in tow. I would have stayed at my grandmother's house, but I didn't want to intrude. Besides, the hotel had a pool.

I pulled in, let the valet park my car, and headed for my room. I took the deeds with me. Maybe they'd make good bedtime reading later that night. I caught dinner in the hotel restaurant, and went for a swim. I called my father to make sure that everything was okay, and proceeded to hop into the shower before bed. The entire time at the hotel, though, the presence of Vince McMahon nibbled away at me. Why was he there? What could he have wanted? Why not come to the wake if he was serious about paying his respects? I'd have to ask Epstein about that. I could call him tomorrow, and also ask him some follow up questions I had on the deeds...McMahon...deeds...

I jumped out of the shower, pausing only to wrap a towel around me as I raced towards the deeds that I'd left on my nightstand. I tore through them...Blyskal Steel, American Copper, Kinsella Mining...there it was. Wesley Welding Foundation. I flipped through the multiple pages of the deed, until I found what I was looking for in Article 9, Title 3, Section 11. "In accordance with Connecticut copyright law, this deed heretofore grants said holder the rights to the Wesley Welding Foundation name, Wesley Welding Foundation logo, and Wesley Welding Foundation trademark, said trademark consisting of letters W, W, and F."

I stood, in shock. It all came together. I knew why McMahon had been there. I knew what he was looking for. I knew what he wanted.

I was the new owner of the WWF trademark.

Edited by Heel Turn
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Prologue

Part 3 - The Explanation

It was a good few seconds before my thought processes resumed normal functioning. I must have reread the deed close to a dozen times before it sank in. I was the new owner of the WWF trademark. As my mind resumed rational thought, I wondered...how could this be? Huge court battles had been waged over public use of the initals WWF, and yet, somehow, the true ownership of the initals was in my grandfather's possession the entire while? It was a mistake. It had to be. There's no way that two expensive teams of high priced lawyers could have missed the fact that the actual rights to the WWF trademark was owned by neither party in the trial. It was impossible...although...although, this was an ancient document. I flipped back a few pages to check the dates on the deed.

According to the deed, the Wesley Welding Foundation had been founded by the son of a Scottish immigrant to the U.S. by the name of Graham Wesley. He'd established the company in 1954, and registered the initials three years later, in 1957. In any case, his use of the initials WWF preceded either WWE's or the World Wildlife Fund's use of the letters by years. Decades, in the case of WWE. This gave me pause. It now seemed entirely possible that the legal ownership of the trademark could have been overlooked by both parties. After all, it'd be easy for both to ignore a single piece of paper residing in a Connecticut safe deposit box, one which pertained to a company that hadn't operated since the 60s, close to 40 years previous to any sort of legal action between the two organizations.

I obviously wasn't thinking clearly. Of course they knew about the ownership of the initials. At least, McMahon certainly did. Why else would he have showed up to the funeral? He was probably looking for Epstein, who was busy back at my grandmother's house dealing with my grandfather's will. McMahon was almost certainly trying to get his hands on the deed for the initals before anyone else could. God knows how much money he was willing to offer Epstein for the deed. Epstein. I needed to call him and clear this whole thing up.

I pulled on a pair of shorts, and fished through the pockets of my coat, looking for the business card with Epstein's telephone number on it. I cursed silently as my search ended fruitlessly. I remembered that I'd left it in my car from when I'd gone to visit Epstein earlier. Quickly towelling off, grabbing my keys, and throwing on some clothes, I made my way downstairs from my seventh story hotel room, and out into the parking lot. As I walked, I had the most curious sensation of being watched. I stopped, and patted my pockets down, as if I'd forgotten something in my room, and just remembered. As I did, I paused to casually survey the parking lot. It was a dark Connecticut night, but I'd always had excellent night vision. My opthamologist called it adaptive rhodopsin. Apparently, 1 out of every 50 people had it, and it allowed my eyes to adjust to the dark much more quickly than normal people, and in much less light. In essence, I'd always had night vision like a cat. It came in handy during evening games of blockchase over the summers when I was a kid, but now it served me in another manner.

Across the parking lot, I spotted a silver Ford sedan, its paint job the color of gun metal in the wan light provided by the harvest moon in the sky. I was able to vaguely make out two shapes sitting in the car. All of this seemed secondary to the two main details that I noticed about the car. One, it seemed to be parked so as to have perfect line-of-sight to my hotel window, and two, the two figures in the car seemed to be focused directly on me. It could have been my imagination, of course, but with their perfect view of my window, I found that unlikely. I could have bought that they'd parked there out of coincidence if I didn't feel their eyes burning a hole in me. I could have bought that they just happened to be watching me if they weren't parked in perfect position so as to be able to peer into my window with a pair of decent binoculars. But both together? Forget about it. I took one last good look at the car, and hurried to my own.

I got in, sat down, and locked the doors as I searched for Epstein's card. After some searching, I found it in my day planner in the back seat. I turned on the car in order to get some light while I examined the card, and as I did so, I heard the offending silver Ford Mustang turn on across the lot. Ah-ha, guys. Way to tip your hand. If I wasn't sure that I was the person they were interested in, I was now. I contemplated turning on my lights and flashing them a few times to let them know that I was aware of their presence, but I decided the better of it. This wasn't some detective novel, I told myself. I was in the possession of a document which could mean a major setback for one of two major corporations. We were talking millions of dollars, at least. If that was the case, these probably weren't guys who ought to be trifled with. At least I could be sure that they didn't mean me any harm. At least, not yet. If they had been, they'd have just jumped me the moment I set foot outside of the hotel, cracked me over the head with a bat, and stuffed me into their trunk. No, they seemed content to watch.

Slightly more confident, I went back to examining the business card. I saw Epstein's office phone number, fax, and office address on the card, but nowhere else he could be reached. His caricature on the card grinned mockingly up at me. Great. I needed to talk to him more than I ever needed to talk to anyone in my life, and he didn't want to be bothered at home. I flipped the card a few times in my hand as I thought about what to do. Maybe he was listed, I mused. Information might have his number. If they don't though, then what? As I toyed with the card, I noticed something on the back. Written in a small, cramped Copperplate, which I assumed was Epstein's writing, was a message. "555-8703...call anytime". My eyes narrowed. Why would Epstein write his home phone number on the back of his card to someone that he didn't even know? Could he have known about the documents that he was signing over to me? There were too many questions, and not enough answers. I needed to call him. Now.

I killed the engine, and got out, clutching the card tightly, and making sure to lock the door. I watched the silver Mustang out of the corner of my eye the entire time, ready to run should they decide that I'd be more useful sucking chloroform (do people still use chloroform? I asked myself. Did they ever?) in their trunk than alterting people as to my inheritance. Evidently, though, the two guys in the 'Stang were more content watching than acting. Silently grateful for that, I walked back into the hotel, and hurried back to my room.

As soon as I got there, I locked the door behind me, and contemplated moving the dresser in front of the door, but that struck me as abnormally paranoid. Besides, it's obvious that they were only observing me, for now. Having secured the room, I dove at the phone like a crack fiend after a $20 dollar bill. I needed answers, and Epstein had them. With slightly shaky fingers, I dialed for an outside line, and dialed Epstein's number.

It was around 10 at night, so I figured that a guy Epstein's age would have long since been asleep. He picked up on the second ring.

"Jack," he said.

"Caller ID?" I asked, knowing that that wasn't it.

"No," he said, sounding tired. "I knew you'd call. I wasn't sure that it'd be tonight, but I knew that it'd be soon. Although, I should have known it'd be tonight. You're Bob's grandson. You're as sharp as he was."

"Thanks." I brushed off the compliment. That wasn't why I'd called. "Epstein, look. What the hell is this with the Wesley Welding Foundation? I own the rights to the WWF trademark? Why didn't you tell me? You could have at least mentioned in passing that I was the heir to one of the most sought after trademarks in the world. Hell, you spent more time mentioning that coin collection than you did this." I was getting angry, I realized. I didn't like being jerked around, and thus far, Epstein had done nothing but that.

"Slow down. What do you want the answer to first?" Old people could be so infuriating sometimes.

"I don't care. Just start talking." Answers, for the love of god.

"Okay, here goes. Hope you're sitting somewhere comfortable, 'cause this is going to take awhile. Your grandfather purchased a controlling interest in the Wesley Welding Foundation in 1957, the year they assumed the trademark. This was before the trademark was worth anything more than, well, the company itself, so owning it was no big deal, you understand. However, the World Wildlife Fund was founded in 1961. They came to your grandfather, wanting control of the trademark. The way they saw it, they had more money than some ailing heavy industry outfit, and so they ought to get the name. Your grandfather made it clear that while they might be the bigger organization, he could defeat them on any legal claim that they might lay to the name. Although, he said that he'd let them use it, and wouldn't interfere if they billed themselves as the WWF. After all, they were a global organization, with offices across the world. The way he saw it, there was room for two groups to use the initals, especially since Wesley was so small."

"Yeah," I replied. It made sense. My grandfather had never been confrontational.

Epstein continued. "Wesley went bankrupt in 1971. They were actually one of the first companies to fall prey to cheap overseas labor. Which, isn't surprising, considering that their main contract was doing work on ships for the Navy. But what with the bases in Okinawa and all over Japan, it ended up being much cheaper for the government to contract their labor from them. When Wesley collapsed, the intellectual property still belonged to your grandfather. The World Wildlife Fund probably could have obtained the name at that point, but why would they? They were already well recognized with the WWF name, and could do whatever they wanted. Why bother to spend good money to obtain it when they were able to use it for free? Besides, the legal bills would have crippled your grandfather had he sought an injunction from him using that name. Things continued like this until Vince McMahon Sr. had the idea to merge several northeastern wrestling promotions, and call it the World Wrestling Federation. He actually came to your grandfather in hopes of using that name, but once again, he refused."

"But why? Why would my grandfather refuse all the money that could be made by selling the trademark?" This is the part which had puzzled me the most. He stood to make tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars off of the name. Why not sell it, when it did him no good to keep it?

"You're going to laugh," Epstein said. Somehow, I doubted that'd be the case. He continued.

"Simply put...your grandfather didn't like wrestling. He compared it to the Roman colosseum, the Circus Maximus. He thought it was barbaric and uncivil, and refused to give McMahon Sr. the name. So, McMahon just added another 'W' to the title, and made it the World Wide Wrestling Federation. The WWWF. McMahon Jr, though, he always had to succeed where his father failed. When he was seeking mainstream television deals for the WWWF in the early 80s, he wanted to shorten the name of his product to something snappier, catchier. Also, like I said, he wanted to succeed where his father failed. He again came to your grandfather, seeking permission to use the WWF trademark. Like his father before him, he was denied. But while McMahon Sr. respected your grandfather's wishes, Vince Jr. didn't. He figured that with the World Wildlife Fund already effectively using the initials despite not owning them, he could too. He figured that since they had effective ownership of the name, he'd deal directly with them. And he did, and they agreed to let him use the name in a limited capacity after he paid them a hefty fee. Your grandfather could have stopped him, maybe, but it would have been a tremendous strain, financially. Bob had just retired at the time, and he wanted to live out his golden years in peace. While Vince's use of the WWF trademark bothered him, it didn't bother him to the point where he felt the need to take legal action."

"I see. So what about the latest fight over the trademark?" I asked.

"Well, things went smoothly until WWE put up their website. That infringed upon their agreement with the Fund, and that whole legal battle ensued. Vince even visited your grandfather again during the trial, and offered him a huge sum of money for the name. What with that whole 'Attitude' thing the WWE had going on then, your grandfather hated wrestling more and more. Besides, it's not like he was hurting for money. He was already a wealthy man, and for those reasons, he turned Vince down again. McMahon lost the case, and lost the name. I'm not surprised he's sniffing around after the name at this point. I even stayed away from the funeral in hopes of avoiding him."

"Smart idea, I said. "He was there. But, look, Epstein, what do I do now? I've got this deed saying I own the trademark...do I sell it, tuck it away like my grandfather did, burn it, what? What do I do?"

"That's up to you, son," he said. "Your grandfather told me that you could do with it what you would. I don't think he'd begrudge you selling it to the Fund. I think he'd have sold it to them, had they come calling a second time. But they didn't need to spend the cash to do so, since they were on superior ground to WWE, legally speaking."

"Jesus." This was overwhelming. 40 years of history was playing out with me as the new lead. I'd have been thrilled to exit stage left, and take my curtain call, but that didn't seem to be an option at this point.

"Jack, it's late, and I'm an old man. I need my sleep. You'll call if you need my help, yes?"

"Yeah. Yeah, thanks, Epstein, I really appreciate your help. Look, uhm, I know it's not your place to say...but I need some outside perspective on this. What would you do in my shoes?" I had to ask.

"Me?" He paused, thinking. "Well, way I see it, an opportunity like this comes along only once in a lifetime. You've got the biggest poker chip in this card game. Use it to your advantage. Get what you want out of the situation. If you want money, sell it. If you want moral superiority, keep it. Either way, it's just a piece of paper, Jack, except a bunch of old men want to get their hands on it. If I was you, I'd see what I could leverage with it. In any case, call or stop by the office tomorrow if you have any more questions. I need sleep, and the wife is going to be plenty upset with me for staying up as late as I have. You take care."

"You too, Epstein. Thanks." With that, I hung up the phone.

I sat quietly for awhile, mentally digesting what Epstein had told me. I resisted the urge to peek outside my window and see if my observers were still there, but that would be tipping them off that I knew they were there. I didn't mention them to Epstein, since I didn't want him to worry, but I was beginning to think that I should have. They were almost certainly Vince's cronies, keeping an eye on me for him, since by now he probably had a good idea of who the trademark had been left to.

As I lay in bed that night, I thought over what to do. I was a wrestling fan, yes, but did I really want to give the trademark to someone who'd have his goons eyeballing me in secret? The more I thought about it, the more I figured that the right thing to do would be to give the name to the Fund. They were a charitable organization, and did a lot of good around the world. They'd make best use of the name, and besides, they weren't performing hidden surveillance on me. As I drifted off into sleep, I marvelled at how insane things had manage to get in less than a day's time.

I woke up the next morning at around 9 AM, and immediately got dressed. I figured that the first thing I'd do would be to contact the nearest World Wildlife Fund office, and see about negotiating a deal for the trademark. I didn't want much, maybe enough to cover my outstanding law school loans. A statue erected in my honor wouldn't be bad, either.

I brushed my teeth, gathered my things, and after a quick phone call, located the nearest World Wildlife Fund office in Hartford. It was less than an hour's drive. I figured that with some luck, I could have this all taken care of by dinner time.

I was wrong.

As I left the hotel, I immediately felt strong arms seize me from behind. Two suited thugs, built like linebackers, wordlessly escorted me to the silver Mustang in the parking lot. I managed to keep my wits about me to not protest. While other people were around, yelling my head off would probably get my kneecaps broken down the line. Better to cooperate now, and hope for the best later.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, I told myself. When someone's watching you, you call the police. You don't dismiss it like it's nothing. As I was roughly shoved into the backseat of the car, I only hoped that I'd get out of this with all my bones intact...

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Prologue

Part 4 - The Deal

The engine revved as we sped off, peeling out of the parking lot. I was still in a state of mild shock over having just been abducted by two guys who looked as if their names could be Guido and Big Sal.

"The FBI!" wrestling brain chimed in.

"Now is not the time," I thought back.

I contemplated going for the door handles, and diving out of the car, but considering we were speeding down a hard Connecticut road at 70 miles per hour, I didn't feel as if that'd be in the interests of my continued well being.

The thug on the right looked back at me and read my mind. "We ended up scraping the last guy who tried diving out of the car off the asphalt with a spatula. I wouldn't try it if I were you." He grinned, mirthlessly at me. "If you do decide to try it, though, let us know first so we can adjust the mirrors to watch you," he said, gesturing at the rear view and side mirrors.

I figured that he was right, and that it was in my best interests to stay put for the time being. If Vince's goons wanted the deed that badly, they could have it. I took a moment to examine the two thugs. I figured that if I survived this, I could go to the cops, and maybe get these two arrested. The one in the right front passenger seat, the one who'd just spoken to me, had a thin goatee, and was overweight. He had a pockmarked face, slightly flushed from the effort of throwing me into the car, and cheeks like a chipmunk with mumps. He crammed his oversized bulk into a tight gray nylon suit, one which looked like it'd been tailored for a man half his size. His hair consisted of a close cut on the sides, and gelled curls piled on the top of his head in an elaborate pompadour. In short, he looked ridiculous.

His partner, the thug who was driving, looked a bit more competent. He wore a plain black suit, and had narrow, beady eyes. He was built like a retired boxer, a thin layer of flab over hard muscle. His dark hair was cropped close to his head in an almost military style cut, and his hands on the wheel were rough and callused. I thought that while neither of these guys bore messing with, I'd sooner tangle with Alvin the mobster on the right than I would the guy on the left.

My mental survey of my assailants completed, I spoke my first words since being tossed in the back seat of the car.

"So which one of you is the Lone Ranger, and which one is Tonto?" I asked. Stupid. My mouth had a habit of getting away from me like a spirited horse. I hoped my comment wouldn't get my kneecaps shattered into a few thousand pieces.

Military thug stayed quiet, but chipmunk thug looked nonplussed, a state that I was guessing wasn't entirely uncommon for him. "What'd you say? Long Ranger and Tonto? The fuck's that?"

I hated explaining my jokes. I hated explaining jokes that I hadn't meant to make even more. "Lone Ranger, y'know. Rode a horse named Silver. You two ride around in a silver Mustang. Get it, kemosabe?" I braced myself for the punch.

Instead, understanding dawned on chipmunk thug's face like someone had flipped a switch inside his head. He laughed. "Hey, get it? Lone Ranger and Tonto! We've got us a joker! Whaddaya think about that, Frank? Think he's funny?"

Frank replied, "I'm the Lone Ranger." A ghost of a smile played on his face. That was more unnerving than all of chipmunk mobster's bravado.

Frank's reply seemed to deflate Chipmunk. "Hey, no way, fuck that. I'm not Tonto. If I was some redskin, I'd be living it up running Foxwoods rather'n doing this shit. Maybe score me some Indian pussy, like in Dances With Wolves. Fuckin' Costner." He sat sullenly for a moment, before he turned to me. "Got any other jokes, or can we take care of business?"

"No," I said. "No jokes. Besides, looking at you, I think nature's made plenty of jokes at your expense. No need for me to continue." Wow, I was so going to get my ribs broken for that one.

His eyes narrowed at me. "Oh, that's cute. Real cute. You keep it up. Keep crackin' wise, it's gonna make my job that much sweeter." He clenched his jaw before continuing. "Let's get this over with. You know why you're here, dontcha?"

"I can guess," I said. "The deed."

"Yeah," he replied. "That fuckin' deed. Weston Wedding Frame, or whatever the fuck it was."

"Wesley Welding Foundation," Frank corrected.

"Yeah, whatever, same difference," Chipmunk said. "Either way, you got it, right?"

"Not with me," I lied. I had it folded up in my jacket's inner breast pocket. I was hoping they wouldn't search me. "It's in a safe deposit box. I can give you the address of the bank, if you want to go get it." Most banks had some kind of constant police surveillance. If I could get them in one, I could make a big fuss, and the cops would be in there before either thug knew what was happening.

Chipmunk's eyes widened. He turned to his friend. "Frank, hey, Frank. You hear that? You hear what the wiseass said? We can go get it now! He'll take us to the bank and he'll get the deed for us, and we can just take--"

Frank cut him off. "We stick to the plan."

Chipmunk started again. "Yeah, yeah, I know what the plan was, but fuck the plan! We can get it right now! We don't even need to wait, man, we can just--"

Interrupted again. "The plan."

Chipmunk opened his mouth like he was about to start talking again, but stopped, and closed it. Opened his mouth again, closed it. Again. Open, close. He was starting to look like he was part fish. Finally, he turned to me.

He tried to look smug. "Nah, nah, we don't need the deed now. We can get it later. We just want to give you a message." He stopped, and looked at me, as if he was expecting a reply.

"Yes?" I prompted. "The message?"

"Oh, right, yeah," he replied. "The message. That deed belongs to my employer, not to you. You might have legal ownership of the thing, but it ain't yours. My employer wants it, and you're gonna give it to him." He nodded, as if confirming his own point.

I looked outside, and watched the New England scenery speed by. "You can tell Vince to forget it. I'd considered selling to him instead of the Fund, but after these strongarm tactics, there's no way. The Fund's going to get the deed, and ownership of the trademark. And there's not a damn thing Vince McMahon can do about it." Channeling Vince Russo while being interrogated by thugs. That had to be a first.

Chipmunk began to look confused. Well, more confused than usual. What I'd said had even caught Frank's attention, as he took his eyes off the road, and peered back at me for a moment, before returning his focus to driving.

"The fuck?" Chipmunk asked. "You're gonna sell to the Fund? Uh...Frank?"

Frank said, "Good. Sell to the Fund."

It hit me, then. These guys weren't from Vince. They didn't represent the professional wrestling mogul.

These two thugs were working for the World Wildlife Fund.

Who knew that a bunch of tree huggers and animal lovers would hire a pair of goons for this kind of thing? Talk about your misunderstandings.

"Yeah," I said, feeling uneasy. "What, did you think I was going to sell to McMahon?"

Chipmunk looked uneasy, too. "Uh, no, 'course not. We knew you'd do the smart thing. Right, Frank?"

"The smart thing," Frank agreed.

We rode in silence for about fifteen seconds. "So, uh, can I get out now?" I asked.

Chipmunk looked at Frank. Frank pulled over to the side of the road. Without looking back at me, he said "Out. Sell to the Fund."

"Yeah, sell to the Fund, and everything'll be fine," Chipmunk said. "Just fine. And we know where you live," he added, as an afterthought. It was an empty threat. Even someone as dense as Chipmunk had realized that he'd done more harm than good. His ass was on the line right now, not mine. He and Frank had just committed the mother of all fuck-ups.

"Uh-huh. Thanks for the ride," I said, as I got out of the car. The moment I shut the door, Frank sped off down the road.

I stood there in the dust and morning sunlight, working out the details in my mind. Chipmunk and Frank represented the Fund, who'd hired them in order to strongarm me to sell to them. They had obviously planned on simply scaring me into selling, the violence to come if I refused, or didn't sell. After all, who wouldn't do what they said if it meant getting injured or crippled for life? Also, injuring me immediately wouldn't help to persuade me, as I couldn't negotiate a deal from the hospital. What they hadn't planned on, though, was me deciding to sell to the Fund of my own volition. But why would they think that I had planned to sell to Vince?

I thought back to the funeral. Vince had been there. There had been cars parked all over the place, and no one would have noticed a few extra. Not even a pair as conspicuous as Chipmunk and Frank. They'd must have seen Vince there, and assumed that I was going to sell to him. They'd watched me overnight at the hotel, and decided that it'd be smart to grab me in the morning, before I could go sell to the Vince. The catch was that I'd decided to sell to the Fund, something they didn't consider. And I'd be damned if I was going to sell to the Fund now, after I'd been kidnapped and threatened. I got out my cell phone, and called a cab. I knew the road I was on, and instructed the driver to pick me up, and asked if he could make a drive into Hartford from here. He said he would, and I hung up.

As I stood on the side of the road waiting for the cab, I realized I was shaking. The after effects of the adrenaline in my system from my encounter with the goodfellas were kicking in. I sat down on the side of the road, hugging myself to stop the shakes. Finally, they stopped, almost immediately as the cab arrived. I gave him an address in Hartford, and we sped off.

The drive was blessedly uneventful, and we arrived in Hartford approximately an hour later, after negotiating the remains of Hartford's morning rush hour traffic. He let me off at my destination, and I tipped him $50 bucks in addition to his regular fare. I gave him an extra $50 to wait for me until I got back. I looked up at the building in front of me. Titan Towers. I'd never so much as seen a photograph of them, but it seemed, somehow, that I belonged here. 40 years of history was finally going to get settled.

I walked into the building, through a spacious glass and marble lobby that looked like the lobby of a hundred other office buildings that I'd been in, save for the wrestling pictures and title belts mounted on the wall, and up to a secretary sitting behind a large, curved desk.

She was short, with shoulder length brown hair, a pink bouse, and a headset on. She had delicate looking facial features, and looked like she was only a year or two older than I was. Attractive. She finished up her conversation, and turned to me. "May I help you, sir?"

"Vince McMahon, please," I said. Talk about surreal. Here I was negotiating a private meeting with the guy.

"Do you have an appointment, sir?" The response was almost mechanical. Creepy.

"No, but I--" I began, as she cut me off.

"I'm sorry, sir," she said in a tone that suggested that she was anything but. "But Mr. McMahon only sees people based upon appointments. If you'd like to set one up now, I could schedule you in three weeks from now. I have an opening on December 19th, that's a Tuesday, at 10:45 AM, and I can--" she said. My turn to cut her off.

"Just tell him that Jack Nedlaw is here. If he doesn't recognize the name, say it's Bob Nedlaw's grandson," I said.

"Sir, I can't bother him over every person that walks in here," she said, smiling. The personable approach. Wasn't going to work. "You understand, don't you?"

"Let me ask you..." I paused, waiting for her to fill in her name.

"Marcy," she replied, dutifully.

"Marcy. For your own good, do you like working here?" Her eyes narrowed into slits, and her lips pursed. She wasn't liking what I was saying. Get those shields up, captain. "Because if you do, you'll tell Vince that I'm here. I've got a huge chunk of this company in my inner coat pocket, and Vince wants it, badly. You don't want to be the one to keep him from getting it as soon as is humanly possible. Besides, what's the worst that can happen? He says he doesn't want to see me, and you maybe get a scolding, if that." I let her think for a moment. She made the right call.

She called up to Vince's office. Presumably, she got Vince's secretary. Jesus, how many people did I have to go through to see him? Maybe I'd have to win a single elimination tournament with his secretaries to get to see him. Although if they looked like Marcy, wrestling with them wouldn't be all that bad. I examined the design of the classic Intercontinental championship belt mounted on the wall as I waited for her to get me through.

"Sheila, it's Marcy. I've got a Jack..." she paused. "What was your last name?"

"Nedlaw," I offered.

"Jack Nedlaw to see Vince," she continued into the headset. "No, no appointment, but he made it clear that Vince..." She stopped, having obviously been cut off by Sheila. "Yes, I know he's supposed to have an appoinment, but he said his business was very urgent. Can you mention the name to Mr. McMahon, please?" She paused, and looked at me. "She's paging him."

We both waited for Sheila to reply. Marcy seemed to be trying to avoid eye contact with me at all costs.

"So, you live around here?" I asked her. She gave me a look that could wither plants. "Ever meet Jim Duggan?" I continued. The look again.

Finally, Sheila replied. I couldn't hear her, but Marcy nodded. "Thank you." She looked at me as if she'd just swallowed a gulp of sour milk. "You may head up. Elevator three to the twelfth floor," she said. "Try not to get lost."

"I was a Cub Scout," I said as I walked off. "If I get lost, I can build temporary shelter until help arrives."

I found elevator three, and entered. It was done up in brass and marble, had a mirrored ceiling, and the carpet in it looked nicer than the carpet in my apartment. Swank elevator. Maybe I could negotiate for one of these from Vince. I pressed the button marked "12", and headed up.

The elevator deposited me in front of a pair of large oak doors, which presumably led to Vince's office. Get lost, indeed. I was loathe to leave the elevator. I felt like a king in it.

I entered into what I presumed was Vince's outer office. It looked more like a shrine to professional wrestling than it did an actual office. His secretary wordlessly waved me towards a door a bit past her desk.

"He's expecting you," she said.

I opened the door to his office, and stepped inside. It was smaller than I would have expected, dominated chiefly by a large, modern looking wooden desk covered with papers, a bust of his father on a pedestal in the corner, and a large bookshelf. Vince was seated behind the desk. He stood, but didn't smile.

"Have a seat," he said, pointing at one of the chairs in front of his desk.

"It seems we have some business to conduct," he continued.

I nodded as I took the deed out of my coat pocket and unfolded it on Vince's desk. "Good to finally meet you, Mr. McMahon, although I did see you at my grandfather's funeral. This is it, right?" I asked him.

His eyes locked onto the paper like they were lasers. "Yes...that's the one. And please, it's Vince. Your grandfather was a fine man. He left it to you, Jack? Why not someone else?"

I nodded again. "I don't know, but after being threated by some thugs from the Fund, I've decided to do what he wouldn't. I'm going to sell to you."

He smiled, genuinely and openly as he looked up at me. "That's excellent. Really excellent. I'm pleased you came to this decision. Can I get you a drink, to celebrate?" he asked as he rose from his chair. He went to a side table and poured himself what appeared to be a stiff belt of scotch from a crystal decanter.

"None for me, thanks," I said as I leaned back in the chair. "You realize it's not going to be cheap, don't you?"

He paused in mid-sip. "Well, of course, of course. Naturally. It's quite valuable to many people. What would you like for it? Money? A car? Stock in the company?"

"It depends, Vince. How badly do you want to be the WWF again? Are you tired of being WWE?" I smoothed out the paper on the table.

"Christ, yes. Ever since the re-branding...things have been bad. It's like everything went to hell when we changed the name. Getting the Federation name back will be a huge boost in pubilicity. It has the potential to turn everything around. Everything. No more bad ratings, no more sagging Pay Per View buyrates, no more losing sponsors...it'll be a fresh start." He slumped a bit as he finished the scotch. He looked old, and tired. Running a failing company will do that to you. He moved towards his chair and sat back, visibly relaxing. "So, what, money then? I can cut you a check right now, if you want." He opened up a desk drawer and pulled out a checkbook. "We'll have our lawyers work out everything later, but don't worry, I'll buy right goddam now." He uncapped a pen, and held it poised over a blank check, waitng for me to speak. I spoke.

"$5 million," I said. His knuckles went white. His face went red. His teeth gritted, his eyes widened, and it sounded like he was having trouble breathing. The way I saw it, if the Fund was going to threaten me, I needed enough money to protect myself, as well as to appease them should they decide that I'd reneged on some kind of imaginary deal. Legal defense is costly.

"$5 million," he said quietly. He hurled the pen to the ground and stood up. "$5 million dollars? Are you insane?!? That's an eighth of our current operating budget," he screamed. "You can take that deed and march your ass out of here, because I'm not giving you that much. Forget it. No!" He was ranting, which was good. It was what I wanted. He yelled some more, and when he seemed to be cooling down, I spoke.

"Fine, then. That amount of money is out of the question. I'll make you another offer," I said.

Vince calmed, straightened his suit, and sat back down, glaring at me. "I'm glad you've decided to be reasonable. Christ, I didn't even offer your grandfather that much," he said, sarcastically and angrily. "What is it?"

"Make me the head booker," I said. "I'm in charge of staff, roster, matches, storylines, and everything else. I get total creative control, although I'll still remain answerable to you. I'll even work with your current team of writers, but I'm the one in charge." If I was part of Vince's organization, the Fund couldn't touch me without having WWE responding. And I'd need to be highly placed for that. Besides, there's no way Vince would agree to that. He'd hand over the money, instead. And even if he did agree, I'd still be well-taken care of from a financial perspective. I expected another outburst from Vince, but instead, he began to laugh. Vince leaned back in his chair, and burst into peals of laughter.

When he finally finished, he answered me, still chuckling. "Oh, it figures. It figures that you'd be one of those internet smart marks who thinks that they know how to turn the business around. What are you going to do, turn the business around by putting the belt on Benoit? Or featuring less of Hunter? Be reasonable. You're not going to get five million dollars, and you're not going to be the head booker, either. You're not cut out for this," he said, a laughing smile still on his face. He seemed that he finally knew who he was dealing with, a smart mark in a position of power over him. He was wrong. He didn't know who he was dealing with.

"Then, we don't have a deal," I stated, folding up the deed and placing it back into my pocket. A look of panic stole into Vince's eyes.

"Wait. Wait, look. I'll give you a cool million. That's more than fair. You'll be able to do whatever you wanted. I'll even help you invest it. You won't need to work ever again with that kind of money." He was beginning to sound desperate.

"Five million, or head booker position. Your choice," I said, as I strolled out his door. "Room 712 at the Manchester Omni," I said. "Call anytime with your decision."

"Don't hold your breath," he said, standing up at his desk. "I don't need the trademark back." He tried to sound tough.

I turned towards him as I stood in the doorway. "No, you don't need it," I conceded to him. "But you want it. Badly. And I can tell you're not accustomed to not getting what you want. That's why I know I'll hear from you soon." I exited his office, and the building. I smiled at Marcy on my way out. She looked like she wanted to jump over the desk and claw my eyes out. I got into the idling cab, and told the cabbie to drive me back to my hotel room.

Days passed.

I spent my time puttering around the hotel. No one called, although I occasionally spotted a car outside my window, looking as if it was peering inside. I didn't leave the entire time, since being kidnapped wasn't high on my list of things I wanted to have done to me. My relatives had all left for their respective homes, leaving me to stay in Connecticut. I was missing law school classes, but it didn't matter. I wasn't going back. One way or another, I'd be done with law school and my life as I knew it. It was close to a week after my meeting with Vince that my phone rang.

I answered. "Hello?"

"Jack." I heard Vince's voice.

"Yes," I said. "Have you decided?"

"The booker position," he replied, sounding as if it was causing him great physical pain to say this. "It's yours," he said.

I nodded, even though he couldn't see me. "Good," I said. I was shocked. I was sure he'd pay the money. "Good," I said again, for lack of anything better to say.

"You'll be expected to report to work tomorrow. Early. As our new booker, you'll have to decide the final outcome of the Survivor Series. It's being held in two weeks." He sounded a bit more authoritative now that he was able to saddle me with duties.

"Good," I said for a third time, still in shock. "Uh, I mean, I'll see you at the Towers tomorrow," I replied. "Early," I added. "Oh, I've been having this problem..." I began.

"The Fund," he said. "I know, I heard. I've got many contacts in Hartford and across Connecticut. The thugs will leave you alone. And after we show that we have official ownership of the initals, which will take a couple days of litigation in the English civil courts, they won't have any reason to bother you. Revenge doesn't show a positive balance on charity balance sheets." He sounded pleased with himself. "Welcome to WWE," he said, almost proudly.

"Going to have to break that habit, Vince," I reminded him.

I heard him laugh over the phone. "Yes, yes indeed, I will. Welcome to the WWF, Jack. See you tomorrow. And bring the deed." He hung up after we both said goodbye.

I sat down on the side of my bed, and began to figure out what I'd need to do at my new job tomorrow. I was in over my head, but I'd have to sink or swim. And I was determined to swim.

After all, I was the new head booker of the WWF.

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Interlude

The First Day

The company car dropped me off in front of Titan Towers early that Sunday morning. It looked much the same as it originally had, except that cranes were already removing the "WWE" logo from the top of the towers, and putting the old WWF "scratch" logo back on. If nothing else, Vince was certainly industriuous. I strolled back through the lobby, and up to Marcy's desk. She was already there, only it was a green blouse this time instead of a pink one.

She looked up at me, and gave me the withering look again. "Do you have an appointment this time?" she asked. Evidently, no one had told her about my new position.

I smiled. "I don't need one," I said. "I'm your new boss."

Withering. "Yeah, sure, whatever you say. You still need an appointment, or I call security," she said, as she reached towards a red button on the side of her phone. This was going to be fun.

I picked up my cell phone, and called Vince's private cell number. He picked up. "Yes?" he said.

"It's me," I replied. "Talk to her." I handed my cell phone to Marcy.

I couldn't hear what Vince said, but judging from Marcy's sudden pallor, I guessed that it wasn't pleasant. She gave a few terse responses, and hung up, handed my phone back to me.

"Well?" I asked.

She looked at me as if I'd sprouted a second head. "You...you can head right up. Sir." She said the last part with gritted teeth.

I smiled. "I am full of understanding and forgiveness," I said, spreading my hands, palms up. "Just lose the 'tude, and everything'll be fine."

She rolled her eyes, and went back to taking calls. She muttered something under her breath, but I couldn't make it out. I'm guessing that it wasn't flattering.

I climbed into the palatial elevator, and rode up to the conference room on the 11th floor, as per Vince's instructions.

I strolled in, expecting Vince, and perhaps one or two other bookers and writers. Instead, it seemed like Vince had invited every WWF employee to the meeting. There was a virtual army of writers, bookers, agents, and WWF officals in the room. They were even standing, since there wasn't enough seats around the table. My fight or flight reaction was triggered, and it took a moment for me to hold firm. Talk about shock tactics. I recognized a few faces of ex-wrestlers. Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko, Sgt. Slaughter, Fit Finlay, and a few others. Stephanie and Shane McMahon were both there, too, along with Jim Ross and Paul Heyman. Vince was sitting close to the door.

Vince smiled like a wolf as he watched me enter. "I thought I'd invite the staff to see you in action. Since, you know, you feel like changing the booking for the Survivor Series the day of the show." I was getting the hairy eyeball from everyone in the room. If I was ever going to spontaneously combust, I'd hoped that it would be now. I paused. Didn't happen. If I hadn't called Epstein last night, and had him turn over ownership of the WWF trademark to Vince, and signed the head booker contract Vince had faxed over, I would have considered quitting right then, and taken my chance with the Fund. Mortifying.

I looked around the room as I replied. I needed to play it cool. "That's fine. Good...good to meet everyone. I'm looking forward to working with all of you." Stammering in front of the staff. Great. The crowd murmured a greeting back to me.

I took out a piece of paper outlining my booking plans for the Survivor Series that evening.

"Uh...before I begin," I started, "I'd like to make it clear that whatever changes I make in the booking plans are intended as no disrespect to anyone here. It's merely that they're a part of a master plan that I'm building to, a new vision for this company." I waited for someone to respond. No one did. All those eyes. I cleared my throat, and continued.

"Okay, uhm, I looked over the original plans. And I've made some changes. A lot of changes, actually, but once again, this isn't to spite anyone. It's according to the new plans that I've worked out." I started running down the matches themselves.

"First, we have the Dudleyz & Jeff Hardy vs. 3 Minute Warning match. I'm making the most changes here. I need a face team holding the World Tag Team titles, and so the Dudleyz need to go over for the belts. On Heat, we're going to have Rosie and Jamal take out Jeff Hardy backstage, and in retaliation, the Dudleyz will take out Rico, making it the Dudleyz vs. 3 Minute Warning. The match is also going to be made for the belts. Bischoff is going to strip the current champs of the belts, and put them on the line in this match, stating that they hadn't been defend for the 30 day time limit. Also, we need to start revitalizing the tag division." I looked up, and at Shane. "Shane, I'll be conferring with you on that later. I want your help, in an onscreen position, and off, at getting more and better tag teams in this company." He looked surprised, but didn't reply, other than a nod. "We'll talk later. Any objections?" No one seemed to care about the changes I'd made in the opening match.

"Okay, next, then. In the Cruiserweight title match, I'm putting Noble over. I want a heel holding the belt, and he's the best person for it. Besides, I want Kidman to head to Ohio Valley for a few months, and work on his mic skills. I don't want him having a manager, and he's well below par in that area." Once again, no objections. No one seemed to care about the lesser teams. I went on.

"In the Smackdown tag titles match, you have Los Guerreros going over the teams of Angle & Benoit, and Edge & Mysterio...and that's fine. We'll keep it like that, since I'll have need of them holding the belts down the line." Nods from the crowd. Better than being booed, I guessed. Was it hot in here, or just me?

"The original plans in the Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show match had been to have the Big Show go over, and have Paul Heyman turn on Brock Lesnar, thus turning Lesnar face. I don't like that idea, so I'm putting Brock over the Big Show, and Paul Heyman is going to stay by his side with both of them as heels. They have far more value as heels than they do as faces, and I don't feel Brock was quite yet ready to begin doing promos on his own. Plus, I don't want to kill all of Brock's heat by putting the Big Show over him, especially when he doesn't figure prominently into my plans." I saw Heyman smile at my decision, since I knew he'd wanted it this way. The reaction seemed to be split across the room, and Vince seemed to look thoughtful at the response.

"As for Scott Steiner's debut...it's not going to happen. I know he's been built up, but he can't work, he's old, and isn't the kind of person we want to be promoting. And since he hasn't worked any dates for us, we can release him from his contract without paying him a cent." Vince stopped looking thoughtful, and started looking mad.

"You want to release one of the biggest free agents in our business the morning of the show that he's going to debut on?" he asked. He said it as if I was brain damaged.

"Yes," I replied. "Do you want to have a roid monster like Steiner on the roster, Vince? Think Dr. Zahorian before you respond." He opened his mouth as if to talk, paused, and then responded, more rationally.

"It's a different situation. We're not responsible for what he looks like," he said.

"You're right," I said. "We're not. But it attracts the wrong kind of attention. And that's the last thing you need now that you're changing the name back. Besides, what if he snaps, or gets arrested? How's that going to look? There's too much of a downside to him, and not nearly enough of an upside." He shrugged in response, but didn't offer anything further. I took it as a sign to continue.

"Finally, there's the six-way for the World Heavyweight title," I said. People were watching me, judging me on this one. If I was the smark they thought I was, I'd take the title off of Triple H ASAP. Surprise time. "I don't want Michaels going over. I want Triple H to retain. He's going to be instrumental in the storylines I have planned, and I don't want him looking weak now." I saw a jaw or two drop. I think most people were expecting me to fire Hunter on the spot, but I wasn't ready for the kind of backlash that would generate. Stephanie seemed pleased. Time to wrap this up.

"I know this card has a lot of heels going over, but it sets up a lot of things which I have planned to occur down the line, and in order to keep things consistent and logical..." I looked at the writers as I said that last part. "...things need to occur like this. Questions?"

I fielded a few questions about the way I wanted matches to work, and backstage promos that I wanted to be cut, but beyond that, I was left alone. Vince made a few closing remarks to the effect of wishing everyone well at the PPV that night, and they proceeded to file out. The WWF corporate jet would be taking the bulk of them to the show that evening. A few people, Heyman included, shook my hand as they left. Vince and I stayed behind.

"So," I said. "Cute, with all the people."

Vince shrugged, and smiled. "Call it breaking you in. You're going to need to get used to things working like this, and being on the spot. Plenty of people, including me, are going to be watching you and judging your every move for awhile now. But you'll get to meet with everyone else in a more informal and personal setting when you start accompanying all of us on the road."

I nodded. We stood quietly for a second or two, before I spoke. "If I'm going to get everything together, I need some time off to plan things out, and other things. I'll need an assistant," I said to Vince.

"Time off already, and an assistant on your first day?" he laughed. "Fine, fine. We'll handle the booking for the last week in November after the Series, and you'll begin with the Heat on December 1st. Is that enough time?" he asked.

I nodded again. I felt like a bobble-head. "Yeah. I can get at least the new few months worth of storylines planned out in that time, and I can..." I trailed off, before continuing again. "You know I need to make some firings and hirings, right? You've got a lot of dead weight on the roster, and it needs to go. Also, there's good free agents I want that're out there."

Vince gave me a steely stare. "You can do what you want, but you're not untouchable here. If you make enough waves, or sink this company farther than it's already gone, you can rest assured we will find a way to kick you out of here. Fire and hire who you like, but remember that you're going to get the blame as well as the praise."

It was the response I expected. Another nod. "Fine. And the assistant...?" I asked.

"I know just the person," he replied. "They'll be at your hotel room tomorrow."

"Good," I said. "Best of luck tonight with the PPV," I said.

"Thanks," Vince replied. I shook his hand and left for the day. I had booking to get to.

At my hotel room, I began writing furiously, filling out flow charts, making matches, scratching out ideas, writing storylines. Creating. I wrote all day, only stopping to watch the PPV that night. It went down exactly as I planned. Good.

The next morning, I was still in full booking mode in my room. The WWF had footed the bill for my room as long as I was booking for them, since this was my new home away from home. It had gotten quite messy in the two weeks that I'd been there, and I'd called the maid service to come by today. When there came a knock at the door at noon, I opened the door, assuming it was the maid service.

It wasn't.

"Marcy?" I asked. She stood at the door, in more casual clothing than I'd seen her in at the office. She had a briefcase and several legal pads with her.

"Actually, no," she said. "It's Sophie. That's my real name, and it's what I go by."

I was confused. "But you gave me the name Marcy," I said.

"Yeah," she said, looking at me like I was stupid. Which I felt like, at the moment. "I thought you might try to get me fired when you went to see Vince, so I gave you a fake name in the hopes that Vince wouldn't know who you meant." Clever girl.

"So you're here because...?" I asked. "Vince wants you to drop something off to me?" I ventured a guess. It was the wrong one.

"No," she said, simply. "I'm your new assistant." That Vince, what a character. I could have cheerfully strangled him at that moment. However, I spotted an inconsistency.

"How is a secretary supposed to help me with booking and contracts?" I asked. I had her.

She smiled. I didn't have her. "I was working my way up to the writing staff. The desk job was an entry level position until they had an opening, just so I was on payroll and marginally around the business. Now, I'm your assistant, and your liason with Vince."

"Great," I said, not meaning it at all. "Just great." This was a wonderful start to my booking career.

Over the next week, we worked out of my hotel room, drawing up hire and fire lists of both workers and staff, creating storylines, and booking matches. She didn't seem to like me one bit, although she was professional, efficient, had some good ideas, and spoke Japanese, which helped with some of the talent I planned on hiring. Vince and crew booked a mediocre RAW, Smackdown, and Heat that week, but by the time the week was over, I was ready to go, starting with the 12/2/02 edition of RAW.

It was going to be an interesting ride from here on in.

Edited by Heel Turn
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I am really glad that you finally have decided to bring this back. Though you never had an official card, your fantasy booking of WWE in various Raw Threads and other topics alike showed that you have a real knack for booking. I hope this does work out well. I am sure to keep up with this as the backstory was very good.

The ideas to keep Brock heel and with Heyman as the mouth piece is great. Noble getting set to be Crusierweight Champion again is awesome. And firing Scott Steiner before he even debuts ... awesome. Good job, as there is no need for him.

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I can't really put my finger on it, but there's something about that storyline that draws me.

I had only one problem and that is the hype that was given to Scott Steiner before Survivor Series. I don't think it have gone well with the fans that a superstar that has been hyped for many weeks doesn't debut. Other than that, this looks great.

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Bloody w00t!

That was the greatest backstory (to a wrestling diary) I've ever read. Hopefully the shows will be just as good.

However, like kaplanir said, firing Steiner? Even as head booker, even after selling him the rights to the WWF name, I don't think ANYONE would've agreed to you doing that. I think you should've at least let him debut. Maybe not in the World Title picture, but at least let him put over some of the younger guys before he goes.

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Guest Red Devil

This was one of the greatest backstories i had read when it was first posted and now to see it's continuing is great, hopefully you can produce shows with the quality of the backstory.

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Interlude

RAW in Austin, 12/2/02

I pulled up outside the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, and slumped against the wheel after putting the rental car in park. I shut my eyes for just a second, long enough to arouse the ire of my traveling companion.

"Well, you certainly took long enough," Sophie said, unbuckling her seatbelt.

I didn't open my eyes as I replied. "Yeah, well. It's been a busy week. I lost track of the time. How many more times do you want me to apologize?"

She sniffed. "Just don't let it happen again. Are you coming, or what?" She prodded me with the edge of a manila folder.

I mumbled something unintelligible.

She prodded me again, harder, poking the stiff end of the folder into my ribs. "C'mon, get moving. We're late enough as it is."

I'd flown into Austin from Hartford early that afternoon, and had misjudged the time it would take to get my luggage from the baggage claim, get a rental car, and drive to the hotel where Sophie had been staying. I'd been so busy working with the roster that I'd had to send her down to Austin in my stead to fully flesh out that evening's RAW. As a result of my inexperience, I ended up picking her up more than an hour and a half late from her hotel to take her to the venue. We'd been planning on going over some booking plans in the car to make the best use of my now precious time, although I'd been largely uncommunicative throughout the bulk of our discussion.

The previous week had been the most hectic week of my life. I'd fired 20 WWF workers, hired just as many people to take their place, earmarked even more workers to release in the future, watched dozens of hours of indy promotions and puro, overhauled the entire staff of the WWF, and most importantly of all, had worked with the company's advertising team to hype this evening's RAW beyond belief. A billboard in Times Square, a full page advertisement in every major metropolitan newspaper, radio and television commercials, and constant shilling by the WWF hype machine had hopefully lured in plenty of viewers to watch WWE begin a new era, and become the WWF once again. In a financial statement, it was estimated that the company had spent as much money hyping this RAW in a week as is traditionally spent on two pay-per-vews in a two month span. And all I had to do was make sure my booking justified the massive expenditure.

No pressure, or anything.

And of course, I hadn't bothered to put my personal life in order. I still hadn't officially withdrawn from law school, I hadn't talked to my family since the funeral except for a quick explanation of the massive change in my life, and I hadn't discussed things with Epstein since I'd sold the WWF trademark. In short, I hadn't had time for anything outside of the WWF. I was only vaguely aware of the reports on the news saying that the WWF and the World Wildlife Fund were going back to court, and was only marginally more aware, right now, of the pain in my ribs.

"Wake up! We need to go. Now." Somewhere along the line, she'd switched from jabbing me with a manila folder to the car keys, which she'd yanked out of the ignition. Not wanting to suffer a puncture wound, I lurched out of the car, and took the small suitcase I'd brought with me out of the trunk. Slamming the trunk door shut, I slowly began shambling towards the arena, dragging my suitcase behind me. I'd been so late, I hadn't had time to change into decent clothing before leaving Hartford.

Austin was cold this time of year, nearly as cold as Connecticut, which had surprised me. The sun was low in the sky, with carefully tended cacti and scrub brush surrounding the stone facade of the arena. The entire thing screamed American southwest, but I was too tired to notice. Sophie's voice snapped me out of my reverie.

"Don't drag your bag on the wheels," she said.

I peered at her owlishly, dark circles under my eyes. "What?"

"I said, don't drag your bag on its wheels. You have to carry it," she said, a note of exasperation creeping into her voice.

I looked at my bag and frowned. I look back up at her, and at my suitcase again. I frowned some more.

"It's considered poor ettiquette by wrestlers to drag your suitcase on its wheels. You have to carry it," she said, as she strolled by me.

"That's stupid," I said, hoisting my bag into my arms as I followed after her.

"Many customs are stupid," she retorted. "It doesn't mean you shouldn't follow them. Especially when the consequences mean that a 300 pound man might take a shit in your bag."

I caught up to her as we approached the arena. "What finishing school did say you went to, again? I must have missed the name." A bleary smile crossed my face as I said it.

"Oh, blow me. So, you're awake enough to make wisecracks. Are you awake enough to listen now?"

"Yeah, sure. You have my booking plans, right?" We walked right past the security guards at the side entrance, and into the building through an internal garage. Maybe I'd see a NWO limo pull up if I kept my eyes peeled. "Hey, why didn't they try to stop us?"

"Look at your coat," she said, not looking back at me.

I looked down. While I'd momentarily zonked out in the car, she'd put an adhesive V.I.P. backstage pass on my pea coat. "Oh," I said.

"And yes, I have your booking plans. They've been developed into a full script, and your special booking requests have been taken note of. Everything's set." She stopped, and turned towards me. Her red hair and green eyes stood out in stark contrast to the grey concrete and dull metallic fixtures that surrounded us. We were the only ones there.

"But don't expect me to do this every week, Jack. I'm not your envoy to the creative team. You're going to deal with them next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, and the week after that." She was somewhat displeased. Still, even near-exhaustion couldn't stop my internal smartass from coming out.

"What about the week after that?" I asked.

Her eyes narrowed into slits and her lips pursed. Her grip on her purse tightened.

"Okay, look, I know, and I'm sorry. You doing this alone isn't in your job description, I understand that. It's just this past week...it's been hectic. I promise, next week we'll be full partners in the creative output, okay?" I flashed the most winning smile I could muster under the circumstances, and hoped I sounded sincere. An ex-girlfriend had once told me I was incapable of sounding sincere.

Sophie's visage softened. Not much, but enough that I didn't feel the need to dive for cover. She said, "Fine. As long as you're aware. Besides, it's probably for the best this week. Some people backstage weren't thrilled with the people you releases or the decisions you made. It'll give them time to cool down, and if the show goes according to plan, they should be willing to cut you some slack next week." She turned and started walking down the corridor, past dressing rooms and piles of equipment carted in for the show. We were starting to see the odd member of the road crew as we walked backstage. None of them seemed to recognize me.

She kept talking as she walked. I followed and listened. "It's only a few hours to showtime," she said. "We'll do a quick review of the script, let the talent prepare, and then there's nothing for us to do but sit back and watch."

I nodded, but I don't think she saw me. She pointed me in the direction of a spare dressing room, where I pulled off my vintage Whalers jersey and jeans, and pulled on a more sensible button down shirt and khakis. I only nodded off twice in the process.

I managed to catch up with Sophie, and quickly sat down with a few writers I'd just hired (whose names I hadn't yet committed to memory) to review the script. Evidently, Vince and Stephanie had reviewed the script before I got there, judged it to be satisfactory, and had retired to a luxury box to watch the show. Everything seemed to have been done according to my specifications, so barring a small amount of fine tuning, we were done fairly quickly. I grabbed a quick bite to eat from catering, and took it back to the writer's room to watch RAW. As I was sitting down, I began hearing pyro going off, and the opening strains of RAW's theme playing.

It hit me all at once. I had written what was about to be broadcast to millions of people across the world. The storylines, the matches, the promos...they had been written by me or at my behest. Mine was the hand that had given form to what I was about to watch.

This was my RAW, and it was showtime.

HT's note: Hi. Sorry no RAW quite yet, but my computer's picked up a lovely cocktail of viruses and spyware (from 411Mania, no less), so I've been spending most of the day getting it functional again. In the meantime, here's something to hopefully tide you over. RAW sometime tomorrow.

Edited by Heel Turn
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YES... This is the diary that really got me back into diary writing. Even if it was short lived.

so you're responsible for that horrid mishap in EWB history, HT? ;)

Anyways, when you first started this diary, I loved it. I left comments when you started it, and I will continue to do so.

Ah, the good ol'days..

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Bravo upon your return to The Diary Dome as a full time writer again. I hope beyond hope that this gets off the ground this time. In the span of just a few posts you have successfully brought me deep into the mind of Jack and set up quite a nice backstory. I too have issues with your decision to fire Steiner even before his official debut, but stranger things have happened over the years with the real WWF/WWE. To say that I am looking forward to your RAW is an understatement of epic proportions.

You have the floor, the attention of the audience, and you have a great idea in place. I hope you use all wisely.

TGC

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think all that needs to be said on this diary has been said. It is a great diary with a very original and different backstory. And i loved the way you had the companies downplayed till he figured out why vince had been there. And yay for steiner being fired! Granted it may be a mistake if this was RL after WWF/E hyped the hell outta him debuting but meh with EWR you should be able to do a few non-real things and get away with it.

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  • 2 years later...
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