A ghostly tale by The Dilemma and Arriaga Pizzoza
Bischoff was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by Ted Turner, Time Warner, the Undertaker, and all WCW loyalists. McMahon signed it: and McMahon’s name was good for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Bischoff was as dead as a door-nail.
McMahon knew he was dead; they had been rivals for I don’t know how many years until McMahon prevailed, and immediately erased Bischoff’s name from all the legal records and history books.
There he sat on his office, the morning of Wrestlemania 31: McMahon! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, did odd things to his hair, enlarged his testicles, stiffened his gait.
On this particular morning, McMahon sat alone in his office in Levi’s Stadium (for McMahon had his workers build him an exact replica of his office in every arena where the company visited), counting stacks of coin and keeping a close eye on the running total of WWE Network subscribers.
“Happy Wrestlemania morning, father-in-law!” cried a cheerful voice.
Triple H entered the office, a broad smile beneath his hawkish nose.
“What right have you to be merry, Paul?” McMahon growled.
“Why, it’s Wrestlemania morn, father-in-law! The happiest day of the entire year! What a day for this business that we both love so.”
“Happy…humbug. There’s no time for happiness when there’s money to be made. There’s money to be taken from these idiots in their seats. That reminds me…how are the sales on Cena’s new T-shirt?”
“Oh, father-in-law,” Triple H laughed. “You’ll never change.”
McMahon rose from his chair.
“You’re goddamn right I’ll never change! And I’ll never die! You’re not fit to run this company and neither is my good-for-nothing daughter that you married.” His face began to turn red.
“I’m the only one who understands this business, and the only one that knows how to profit off these rubes!” McMahon puffed out his chest and slammed his fist on his desk. “You…you…you’re too goddamn nice, Paul. That’s the problem with you. You’ll never amount to anything. You…you…you…” McMahon’s screaming turned into uneasy breathing and he grabbed at his chest. Finally, the old men fell over, hitting his head on the corner of his desk on the way to the ground.
When McMahon awoke, he was alone on the floor of his office.
“Bah,” he said. “Humbug.”
He heard what seemed to be someone trying to open the door to his office, and what sounded like the changing of chains.
“Who goes there?” He cried. “Noble, is that you? Are those the chains for the New Day’s new ring gear that I told you to get? They damn well better be.”
The door slowly opened, and a transparent figure entered.
“Who are you?” McMahon growled. “Are you an extra for Taker’s entrance? Staging is down the corridor to the left.”
“In life, you knew me as Eric Bischoff,” the spirit replied. “I was your rival.”
“Bischoff? Bischoff’s dead.”
“Indeed am I, yet here I stand before you.”
“You’re not real,” McMahon said. You’re some bad creatine I haven’t digested. You’re dead. I know because I killed you myself. I ended the Monday Night Wars when I buried you. You’re dead, Bischoff.”
“I am dead, and yet I am very real. I stand before you wearing these chains because I forged them link by heavy link in life. Just as you are now forging your chains.”
“We are the same, Vince. You and I. You are alive and I am dead, but we are otherwise the same. Driven by greed, by ego, by power and money.”
“You always did have a good nose for this business, Bischoff,” McMahon sniffed.
“Business!” cried Bischoff. “This business. You will find that it means nothing in the great beyond. This business forged these chains. That is no light part of my penance,” pursued the Ghost. “I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Vince.”
“You were always a good rival to me,” said McMahon. “Thank `ee!”
“You will be haunted this day,” resumed the Ghost, “by Three Spirits.”
McMahon clutched at his chest and keeled over again.
He arose to find his door opening yet again, and a lovely young woman entered.
“Are you the Spirit, madam, whose coming was foretold to me?” asked McMahon.
“I am,” she replied.
“Who, and what are you?” McMahon demanded.
“I am the Ghost of Wrestlemanias Past.”
“My God, Spirit,” McMahon exclaimed, “you’re….you’re….you’re beautiful! You’re exquisite!”
“Take my hand,” the Spirit replied. “And walk with me.”
McMahon obeyed, and together they walked directly through the wall of his office and into another arena from a time long, long ago. The bowels of the stadium bustled with activity.
“Where are we, Spirit?” McMahon asked.
“Wrestlemania 3,” she replied. “The Pontiac Superdome. Uh, Silverdome.”
“Ohhh, Spirit, what a day, what a day this was! Hogan slammed Andre, and started me on the path to becoming a billionaire. One of my finest hours.”
“Indeed,” said the Spirit. “But not for reason you think. Come with me.”
Suddenly, they were at ringside. McMahon gasped at the presence of his younger self at the announce table.
“My God, I look so skinny and puny. What a little bitch I was,” said McMahon.
“But look how happy.”
“Yeah, because I knew money was coming, Spirit. And Bobby! And Gorilla! Oh, what a day! Can they see us, Spirit?”
“No, indeed,” she said. Now look up, into the ring.”
There, Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat grappled. They executed an exciting series of moves and reversals.
“Do you remember this match?” inquired the Spirit.
“Not really,” said McMahon. “I was busy getting ready for Hogan and Andre, talking to Hulk through the headset to make sure he was ready. Making sure Andre would do the favor. This was some undercard filler, right? A bone to throw the idiot smarks.”
Savage hit a double axe handle from the top turnbuckle.
“No,” said the Spirit, gazing lovingly at Savage, “this is the reason most people remember this Wrestlemania. This match went down as perhaps the greatest in history. And you were too busy too even enjoy it.”
“But…but…Hogan…Andre…attendance record….Bigger! Better! Badder!”
Steamboat kicked out of a pinfall attempt at 2.
“The greatest display in wrestling history happened right in front of your eyes. And you missed the whole thing because of your obsession with money.”
“I don’t care what you say, Spirit!” McMahon cried. “Hogan and Andre sent these people home happy and made me money. You’re firrrrred.”
“You can’t fire me, Vince. I’m already dead.”
McMahon blinked and they were in a different arena. They were surrounded by people in togas.
“What happened? Where are we?” asked McMahon.
“Wrestlemania 9,” said the Spirit.
“Ah,” said McMahon. “A rare miss.”
“But do you know why?” asked the Spirit.
“Humbug,” said McMahon. “My creative people let me down.”
“No, Vince. You let yourself down. Vince screwed Vince. Your obsession with Hulk Hogan ruined the main event. Your obsession with size gave us Giant Gonzalez. Your racism gave us Tito Santana vs. Papa Shango. And the best wrestlers on your roster were buried on the mid-card. Have you learned your lessons, Vince?”
McMahon scowled. “Of course I have. Look how fucking rich I am, Spirit.”
The spirit sadly shook her lovely head.
McMahon blinked again, and they were hand-in-hand in the New Orleans Superdome.
“Ahh, Spirit,” he said. “I know this place. Wrestlemania 30. A good year. We made money. And Brock got us an article in USA Today when he ended the Undertaker’s streak.”
“But that’s not why people loved this ‘Mania, Vince. They all loved Daniel Bryan.”
“Tiny Daniel? He’s a runt and a cripple.”
“Nonetheless, they love him. And they buy the tickets,” the Spirit said.
“Bah!” said McMahon. “Paul’s idea. Paul’s a rube who lets his irrational heart guide him. The bottom line is all that matters. Batista’s mainstream appeal sold those tickets. And Orton’s looks. And Cena. Always Cena.”
“Come with me backstage, Vince. Listen to this conversation.”
They walked past Gorilla position, where a slightly younger McMahon was sitting with the Undertaker. They entered a dressing room to find Triple H and Stephanie McMahon talking.
“I think the old man might finally get it,” said Triple H. “Putting Tiny Daniel over in the main event? Maybe he understands Wrestlemania after all.”
“No, Paul,” said Stephanie. “He’ll never get it. This company will never run right until the old man is gone. I just heard him saying that Tiny Daniel’s first title defense will be against Kane.”
“Stupid old man,” said Triple H. “I honestly think he might be losing his marbles. A shame. He really was great once.”
“Spirit!” cried McMahon, “Remove me from this place!
“I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “That they are what they are, do not blame me!”
“Remove me!” McMahon exclaimed, “I cannot bear it!”
The lovely ghost kissed McMahon softly on the cheek, and he awoke again on his office floor.
The second ghost arrived promptly. He stood bare-chested with a tilted grin, X’s upon both his hands, and he held a vegan imitation turkey leg in one of them.
“Punk, is that you?” McMahon angrily swiped at the tears forming in his eyes. “My God, I never thought I’d be face-to-face with you, again. I’ve missed you, son.”
“I am the Ghost of Wrestlemania Present,” the Spirit replied.
“And what have you to show me, Spirit?”
“I sell the things you need to be. I’m the smiling face on your TV. Now come this way. Touch my lip-ring.”
McMahon did as he was told.
They materialized in a dressing room where Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were putting on ring gear and taping up various body parts.
“Oh, Spirit! Roman! Roman! That’s the future! That’s monnnneyyyy!” purred McMahon.
“Shut your mouth and listen,” said the ghost.
“Shield forever, brothers,” said Rollins.
The three wrestlers bumped fists. “For life,” Reigns said.
“I just can’t believe what he’s done to us,” said Ambrose.
“Old fool,” said Reigns.
“Who are they talking about, Spirit?” asked McMahon.
The Spirit shook his head. “Listen,” he whispered.
“We couldn’t miss,” said Rollins. “We were on top of the world, with our whole future ahead of us. And it’s all getting fucked up.”
“Look at me,” said Ambrose. “I’m already a fucking joke. I wrestle in jeans, I dance with R-Truth, and I squirt mustard on my enemies. I used to be cool. What the fuck happened?”
“He happened,” said Rollins.
“I’m totally fucked,” said Reigns. “They used to love me, and they fucking hate me now. I’m dreading this match today. And I miss you guys.”
“And I’m stagnating,” said Rollins. “I mean…Randy Orton, for God’s sake? Who even wants to see this match, besides him?”
“Vince fucking McMahon,” said Ambrose. “How do you ruin a thing like the Shield?”
McMahon winced. “Ingrates!” he yelled. “I made them, and I’ll end them if they don’t appreciate everything I’ve done for them. Take me away from here, Spirit!”
The ghost crossed his arms in front of my chest, and they were in a different dressing room. Daniel Bryan sat on a stool with his wife, Brie Bella, massaging his neck.
“It’s Tiny Daniel!” McMahon exclaimed. “What’s he doing? He should be getting ready for that ladder match!”
“I just don’t get it,” Daniel said to Brie. “How do I fall this far in a year?”
Brie began to cry.
“Awww, don’t cry, sweetheart,” said McMahon, though only the Spirit could hear him.
“I gave this company everything,” said Daniel. “I headlined Wrestlemania, and I put up with all the crap they dumped on me. A million matches with Kane. Vince playing Randy Newman’s ‘Short People’ at house shows instead of my entrance music. My dad dying. And I fought through this neck injury, and rehabbed as hard as I could, just to make it back here. And for what? To be entrant #5 in a 7-man match for a belt that’s been ignored for 20 years? What did I do wrong?”
“I honestly don’t know, honey,” said Brie. “I mean…you’re the best guy in this business. And now you’re beneath everyone from a 55-year-old Sting to a green Roman Reigns on the card.”
“Tiny Daniel, you didn’t do anything wrong,” said McMahon. “You just don’t have…it. You don’t have the look. You were born puny and crippled and ugly. That’s not your fault, but that’s how it is, and that will never be money. You’re a good kid, but you’re no Hogan. No Cena. No Roman. But I still like you, kid.”
“He can’t hear you,” said the Spirit. “Maybe if you told him that before today, things would turn out differently.”
“What do you mean? said McMahon.
The Spirit shook his head. “I know your anger, I know your dreams. I’ve been everything you want to be.”
“Answer me, Spirit!” cried McMahon, but the ghost was silent. Then he disappeared, and McMahon was in his office alone once again.
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. McMahon bent down upon a knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.
He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.
“Are you the Ghost of Wrestlemanias Yet to Come?” asked McMahon.
The Spirit answered not, but pointed downward with its hand.
“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, “I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?”
The Spirit remained silent.
McMahon looked around. Where are we?
The Spirit pointed a bony finger at a sign that read, “Wrestlemania 34: Hartford Civic Center.”
“What is the meaning of this?” said McMahon. “We’re selling out giant football stadiums and you’re telling me we’re going to be back in the Hartford Civic Center in just three years? I don’t believe it. This place isn’t even half full. And that’s Cena and Reigns in the ring! That match would be money.”
The ghost cupped his hand to his ear, and McMahon heard two audience members talking.
The first said, “I can’t believe McMahon thought Reigns/Cena VIII was a good ‘Mania main event.”
“I know, man,” said the second. “He’s kind of lost it since the Network went under back in ’16.”
“And the rest of this card? Jesus. Nash/RVD. R-Truth/Rock. Bull Dempsey/Batista.”
“It makes no sense, said the second man. “It’s all gone to hell since we lost Tiny Daniel.”
McMahon turned around and saw for the first time that the two men were Dolph Ziggler and Cesaro, in civilian clothes in the audience.
“And since he fired us for working 5 minutes too long at that Extreme Rules,” said Ziggler.
“Spirit, no!” cried McMahon. “I would never fire them! They’re hard workers!”
The Spirit just shook his head.
“And Tiny Daniel?” asked McMahon. “What became of him? Who is he working with on the card?”
The ghost rolled his yes back into his head, and he and McMahon stood in a graveyard. He gestured toward a tombstone.
“What is the meaning of this, Spirit? Why are we here? Take me away at once!”
The Spirit stood motionless. McMahon followed his point and gazed upon the tombstone. It read, “Daniel Bryan: 1981-2017. A solid midcarder.”
“No, not Tiny Daniel! Why, Spirit, why?”
The ghost made a slashing motion across his throat.
“He can’t be buried,” wailed McMahon. “He can’t be! Who did this? Who buried him? Who do I need to fire?!”
The Spirit turned toward McMahon and slowly lifted his hood.
“It was me, McMahon! It was me all along! I buried Tiny Daniel!”
Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate aye reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a desk leg.
McMahon awoke, back in his office, with the door ajar. He spied El Torito walking by in the hall. He leapt to his feet and ran after him.
“Young bull! Young bull! What day is this?”
“Why, it’s Wrestlemania Day, sir!”
“I haven’t missed it! Hallelujah!”
He handed El Torito a stack of gold coin. “Here, my bull, for you! For your family!”
The young bull stared after him as McMahon ran down the hall, and threw open the door to Daniel Bryan’s dressing room.
“Look, Vince, I’m not in the mood right now…” Bryan began.
“I’m not too late, Tiny Daniel! You’re not buried after all! It’s all going to change. Get the writers. Get the agents. Gather everyone ’round. We’re making some changes, boys,” McMahon shouted. “It’s going to be Tiny Daniel vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship! And the Shield will battle in a triple threat match that will lead to their reunion! Dolph Ziggler, my boy, I have big things planned for you! And Cesaro too! And Bray! Cena…Cena! You have money enough! You’re doing to do a clean job for young Rusev! Oh, what a day! What a Wrestlemania!”
And so, as Tiny Daniel observed, God Bless Us, Every One!