“How did I let you talk me into this?” MacGyver complained as Jack Dalton led him down yet another twisting street.
“You don’t even know what it is yet, Mac!” Jack replied cheerfully. “Where’s that old sense of adventure?”
“I think I left it behind two or three alleys ago. How much farther?”
And then you’ll get to see the newest venture of Dalton
“Gotta keep up with the times, Mac! I’m landlocked. At least until I can fix up the plane.”
“What happened to it?”
“You really wanna ask?”
MacGyver sighed. “Just where exactly are you taking me, Jack?”
“Open your eyes, amigo! We’re there!” Jack beamed, gesturing to the dull, ramshackle building in front of them. Weeds poked up through cracks in the sidewalk and parking lot, and layers of paint were chipped off the brick walls.
MacGyver stared in confusion. “Jack, this is an old bingo hall. And it shouldn’t even be that---this building needs to be condemned. What are we doing here?”
Jack puffed out his chest in pride. “It might be a bingo hall now, but in a couple hours, it’s going to be the arena for the showdown of a lifetime!”
you talking about?”
Grabbing his best friend by the arm, Jack marched through the unlocked door and down some linoleum-and-concrete hallways that were in no better shape than the building’s exterior.
At last, Jack pushed MacGyver through a short corridor that ended in a doorway sheltered by a thick velvet curtain. “Look inside, Mac!”
Trying not to roll his eyes at Jack, MacGyver stepped into the doorway and peered past the curtain.
In the room beyond, a group of six people was hard at work: unrolling a mat on the concrete floor, unloading equipment from stage boxes, and setting up a very unusual structure.
MacGyver’s eyebrows flew upwards. “Is that a wrestling ring?”
Jack looked as if any minute his pure glee could boil over and cause him to burst. “That’s right, Mac! Jack Dalton Enterprises presents---Coastal Elite Wrestling!”
“How did you ever get involved in something as crazy as this?”
“I won it in a poker game!”
Jack nodded. “It was the darnedest thing, Mac. There I was, trying to bluff my way out of the hole, and all I had left to wager was my own airplane. Then the guy across from me wagered his regional wrestling promotion. And then just like that, as if by magic, I was able to make my royal flush and win the game! And now, this entire business is all mine.”
“But you don’t know anything about professional wrestling! Or any kind of wrestling, Jack! What are you going to do with all this?”
“Are you kidding? I’m going to run it and make a fortune, that’s what I’m going to do with it!”
MacGyver shook his head, incredulous. “Jack, did it ever occur to you that maybe your poker buddy lost his business on purpose?”
“Of course not! CEW is great!”
“CEW. It’s the short version of the name. C’mon, Mac, you’ve gotta see the locker rooms! I wanna introduce you to everybody!”
“Jack, I really don’t know about this.”
“Come on! You’ve at least got to meet Gaijin and Panama Frank!”
Knowing that there was no arguing with Jack, MacGyver sighed and followed.
“The locker rooms are down this hallway,” Jack explained on the way. “Of course, they're really just storage rooms that we're repurposing, but they work. The babyfaces are in one and the heels are in the other. Of course, the ladies get their own.”
MacGyver rolled his eyes. “Of course. That's what all this is about, isn't it, Jack? You want to impress some girl, so you're dragging me along.”
“C'mon, Mac, I can't do that! They're my employees.”
“That's…a surprisingly mature attitude, Jack.”
“I told you, Mac, this is a legitimate business.”
For a second, MacGyver believed him…but then Jack opened the locker room door.
Two men wearing cowboy hats were helping a younger man get into a lion costume, complete with a large maned head, just like a high school mascot. Meanwhile, a masked luchador was practicing heroic poses in front of a mirror beside a bearded Viking who was slathering his face with blue warpaint.
“Hey, don’t worry, amigo. They’re not crazy, I swear. This is just for the show.”
The Viking glanced at MacGyver and Jack in the mirror. “Hey, boss, who’s the mark?”
“Not a mark, my friend!” Jack announced proudly. “This is my best friend MacGyver. He’s here to see the show and help me out with producing. Hey, have you seen Kobayashi around here anywhere?”
The Viking grunted and went back to his facepaint. “Cutting a promo in the basement.”
“Jack, we need to talk,” MacGyver insisted.
Jack closed the locker room door. “Sure thing, Mac! Walk with me!”
MacGyver grabbed Jack’s arm and pulled him back. “Jack, listen to me. You never said anything about me helping you with anything! I knew there had to be some kind of catch, I just knew it. Now, what do you really want?”
“No catch this time, I promise! Look, I had to say that about you being a producer with me because if I didn’t, everybody would have their guard up around you. I’m working with a tight-knit group of people, Mac. They’re like a family, and if you’re not one of them, you’re not acceptable backstage.”
“I’m a mark?”
“Exactly! Now, c’mon! If we hurry, you can catch the end of Kobayashi’s promo.”
Mac rolled his eyes as Jack took off again. “What’s a promo anyway?”
Jack brought MacGyver to a quiet corner where a Japanese man was standing in front of a rolling camera. Kobayashi was a little over five and a half feet tall, with black hair pulled into a long unruly ponytail. He had sharp obsidian eyes and tattoos peeked out from the loose collar of his long-sleeved black shirt.
He stared directly at the camera and folded his muscular arms as he spoke with a slightly-accented voice:
“For years, foreigners who come to wrestle in Japan have been called what they are: gaijin. Foreigners. No gaijin could have ever understood what it means to be a fighter in Japan---the sacrifices and years of hard work. But now, the strongest fighters in my country are spreading across the world, and I've come to show all of you Americans what it really means to fight. Now I am the Gaijin, and even though none of you understand who I am or what I've done---you will give me respect.”
After a short pause, the cameraman straightened up, switched off the camera, and nodded. “That's great, Kobayashi. And your English is really coming along.”
The Japanese wrestler smiled slightly and returned the nod before catching sight of Jack.
Jack grinned and waved. “Hey, Kobayashi! This is my friend MacGyver. Mac, this is Hikaru Kobayashi, one of our best wrestlers.”
“Nice to meet you,” MacGyver said.
“Konban wa,” Kobayashi replied with a polite nod.
“Are you ready for your heel turn tonight?” Jack asked.
Kobayashi nodded slowly. “Yes. I believe I will be a very good heel.” A shadow crossed his face before he said, “Excuse me, please. I should get to the locker room now.”
As he walked away, MacGyver glanced at Jack. “Are you gonna explain to me what any of this means?”
Jack grinned mischievously. “Aw, c’mon, Mac! I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Hey, come over to the Gorilla with me. The show will start in just a little while, and we’ve gotta get moving, amigo!”
The “Gorilla,” apparently, was the same curtained corridor that Jack had brought MacGyver to peek through before. Only now, they could definitely hear the sounds of a growing audience behind the curtain.
“Do you hear that, Mac?” Jack asked, still beaming. “That’s the sound of success. And Kobayashi---excuse me, Gaijin---is going to be the highlight of the night. There won’t be a single quiet fan in the crowd, I guarantee it!”
MacGyver shook his head, unsure of what to think. “If you say so, Jack.”
“Shhh, I’m listening for my cue!”
A few seconds later, Jack swaggered through the curtain without a care in the world. Surprised, Mac discreetly peered through to watch his best friend walk toward the ring. A young woman with a microphone announced, “And now introducing your general manager…Jack Action!”
As MacGyver watched, Jack stepped into the ring and graciously accepted the announcer’s microphone. “Good evening, citizens of Los Angeles! And welcome to Coastal Elite Wrestling! Now, who’s ready for some action?!”
MacGyver grinned, watching Jack’s gleeful reaction as the crowd cheered. Just then, someone brushed past him. The man who ran from behind the curtain and up to the ring was six feet tall with tan skin, dark sunglasses, a Hawaiian shirt, and a straw fedora.
“Cut it out, Action!” the man said into his microphone. “Everyone here can see that your wrestling promotion---if you can even call it that----is a waste of talent and everyone’s time! If they were smart, they’d demand a refund for those cheap tickets they bought and get out of here.”
Jack made a show of rolling his eyes for the crowd. “Well, well, well, if it isn't Panama Frank. Nice to see that your big loss last week didn’t slow you down any. Hey, if you think that being here is so stupid, then why are you sticking around, huh?”
Menacingly, Frank replied, “Because I want a piece of Kiryu.”
Jack took a step
back, seemingly flustered. “You want to challenge
Jack laughed. “Look, amigo, if you pick a fight with Kiryu, you’ll be picking bones, all right---your own, out of his teeth.”
care! I’m no coward! You’re the GM---make the
Jack paused to soak up the immediate cheers and chanting from the audience, then repeated himself: “You really want me to make the match?”
This time, in addition to the crowd reaction, Panama Frank lifted the microphone to his lips and said, “That’s right.”
“All right,” said Jack, finally relenting. “You’ve got your match---a tag team match. You and Hayato Tanaka versus Gaijin and Sakamoto Kiryu.”
“What? But that's not---”
“Tonight, as the main event right here in Los Angeles, California!”
After that, Jack dropped the mic and sauntered out, pausing to shake hands with people in the crowd along the way. Finally, he made his way back behind the curtain and his face split open in a giant grin. “Well, what do you think, kemosabe? How'd your old buddy do?”
Mac smiled as he stepped aside to let a group of female wrestlers pass through the curtain and down to the ring. “You really surprised me, Jack. You're a natural performer.” He paused. “And this was much better than that time you tried to be a magician!”
With a look of mock hurt, Jack replied, “Mac, Mac, Mac. I am still a magician. You want me to pull a quarter out of your ear? How about a half-dollar? Ten pennies?”
“No, thanks. So what do you do around here now that the show's getting started?”
“Well, usually I'd be staying right here to make sure everything runs smoothly, but since you're here---c'mon, amigo! Let's go watch the shizow!”
They went down the hall and slipped through a back door into the audience. Standing in an aisleway amidst aluminum bleachers and folding chairs, MacGyver had a decent view of the ring, and he watched with Jack as two of the bulkiest and most athletic women he'd ever seen began to fight. The two women were polar opposites, with one wearing all black and the other in a glittering luchador outfit. As MacGyver’s eyes scanned the room, he realized that there were at least 200 people in the audience, an immense number for this ramshackle venue, and many of them were holding handmade posterboard signs with wrestlers’ names and catchphrases scrawled across them in permanent marker. Someone had hung large spotlights to the steel rafters above the ring, lighting up the area with bright white light. The scene was almost too much to take in all at once.
“Jack, are you sure about this?” MacGyver asked, suddenly concerned as he watched the wrestlers grapple. “What if someone gets hurt?”
“Trust me, they won't,” Jack replied nonchalantly. “We do have a paramedic here tonight just in case, but nothing ever happens. You'll see.”
One of the women overpowered the other and threw a powerful punch---that missed by at least three inches. The wrestler stumbled backwards anyway, acting like she'd been hit by a missile.
MacGyver shook his head. “I see what you mean.”
Jack smirked. “It's all kayfabe, Mac, that's all it is.”
“Isn't that kind of like lying to people?”
“Nah. Everybody sees what they want to see. They want to believe it's real, even if they know it isn't. Just like being a magician! The marks eat it up.”
MacGyver lifted an eyebrow. “They're not marks, Jack. They're fans.”
“They're marks! Ask them yourself if you don't believe me. C'mon, Mac, you're missing the show!”
The matches continued for at least another hour into the night: high-flying luchadors, technical masterminds, submission hold specialists, street brawlers, and martial arts experts---it seemed like every style of wrestling in the world was being crammed into sixty short minutes.
And honestly, after seeing all of it, MacGyver still couldn't understand why people liked it. He'd much rather have been watching a hockey game. But he could still appreciate the athleticism---not to mention the dedication of everyone else in the room.
“I can see why this is so important to you, Jack,” MacGyver commented as the lights went dark and music played to signal the last match of the night. “I'm sorry for calling you crazy earlier. You might really be able to make this work.”
“Thanks, kemosabe,” Jack replied. “You know, I have a really good feeling about all of this, too. It seems like for once, everything's about to work out for old Jack Dalton.”
Out in the ring, the lights came back up as Panama Frank and the three Japanese wrestlers circled each other like lions. The bell rang as the referee signaled for the match to start. Jack watched on with pride.
Then everything broke loose.
The second the bell rang, Kiryu and Tanaka set on Kobayashi like wild jackals, beating him with fists, knees, and calculated martial arts strikes.
“What do they think they're doing?” Jack said, shocked. “Something's wrong.”
MacGyver quickly looked from Jack's face to the ring and back. “This wasn't supposed to happen?!”
“Not at all! Come on, I gotta go find out what's going on!”
Before MacGyver turned to race with Jack down the hall, he noticed the look of shock on Kobayashi's face---and the referee throwing up his arms in the shape of an X.
“What happened out there?” Jack shouted as Kiryu and Tanaka darted past the curtain and down the hallway, forcing themselves to stop before they ran headlong into Jack and MacGyver. “Why did you do that?!”
The two Japanese men glanced at each other anxiously, almost fearfully, before Kiryu said, “Moshiwake gozaimasen. Yakuza wa watashitachi o kyosei shita. Iku beki desu.”
Then both of the wrestlers pushed past them and rushed out.
Jack turned halfway to watch them run out of the bingo hall, gaping. “I don't believe this. Mac, what's happening?”
“I don't know, but I did understand just one word very clearly.”
“Yeah? What did they say?”
MacGyver frowned. “Yakuza.”
“Yock-za? What does that mean?”
“It means we need to have a talk with your friend Kobayashi. And fast.”
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