Despite the self-certain finality of his tone that was far from the last time that I heard the heavily accented voice of Scotty McKeever, but the last time I did will be the last time I do - in this lifetime at least (insert your belief system, or lack thereof, here).
So, how did we get to the point that my mentor was severing ties with me across the street from a family-owned diner where “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton would spend hours spending quarters on the coin-push game? Well, let’s continue by looking at some middles.
In the middle of a beautiful day, mid-vaction, while I was mid-sentence - telling my future wife and brother about how it would be amazing to see an alligator out in the middle of a nature reserve in South Carolina - I received a call from my fellow graduate of Scotty McKeever College For Aspiring Grapplestars, Dan Richards.
“Hey!” I answered, in a good mood from the good day and an unexpected call from a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while.
“Oh… Uh… Hey, man.” Dan said in a despondent voice. “I’ve got some bad news”.
“Scotty’s dead.” I thought.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Scotty’s...in the hospital. It doesn’t look like he’s going to make it. I just wanted to let you know.” Explained Dan.
“Ah. Okay. Thanks for letting me know.” I said maybe sounding a little cold.
“Yeah, I guess we always figured we’d get this news sometime.” Said Dan.
“Yeah.” I agreed.
When I got off the phone my future wife asked me if everything was okay.
“Yeah. Scotty’s dying. But yeah. Now, about those alligators…” I said.
Okay, so maybe I was a little bit cold, but I really had been preparing for that phone call for a while and at that point in my life I was still a card carrying member of Club Macho-Prick and wasn’t about to let the news that a man that had fed me, opened his home to me, and taken me under his wing, and on the road, had drank himself to death ruin a perfectly good ‘gator hunt.
At that point in my life, I was about mid-way through a fifteen year battle with depression. As a coping mechanism I had built The Great Ego-wall Of Tryna: tryna keep myself safe from a World that I saw as horde after horde of savage raiders looking to ravage my dreams of just being happy.
At that point in Scotty’s life, he was a middle-aged, full-fledged alcoholic. On those nights when he fed me and gave me a place to stay: he drank a 24 pack case of budweiser. On those days when he took me on the road: he drank a case of Budweiser. On those days when I didn’t see him… Well, you get the point.
I’ll never know the trauma that Scotty had suffered that caused him to self-medicate by drinking so heavily. I’ll never not-know all the trauma that he suffered as a result of self-medicating by drinking so heavily.
Over the years, I watched Scotty dissolve relationships, sink his career, drown his financial security in an ocean of fermented grains.
One that always floated above that ocean was his big heart. Not only was he generous with home - always opening it up to full-sized traveling troupes of wrestlers, with his car - “I’m goin’a hit the road; seats available if you want one.” (he never charged me a single right-facing president for gasoline), with his food - often frying up whole sacks of potatoes alongside whole hen houses of chicken quarters, he was also generous with his knowledge of wrestling and with his praise.
(movie fade time period jump)
“I’m futtin’ proud of you, kid.” Said Scotty in the middle of our feud that was the beginning of my learning to be a competent wrestler.
“I’m futtin’ proud of you, kid.” Said Scotty in the middle of me just starting to finally get my name out there in mid-level independent promotions after years of mid-carding lower-level local events.
“I’m really futtin’ proud of you, kid.” Said Scotty through tearing eyes in the middle of the worst shape I had ever seen him in...at his end, as I was in the middle of finally breaking through to top-level independent events.
“I’m futtin’ done wit’ ya!” Yelled Scotty after having his big heart broken by his quick-learning student that he had been so proud of before.
“Scotty’s going to make it.” Said Dan happily over the phone when I was midway home from my gator-sightingless vacation.
“Scotty’s dead.” Said Dan sadly over the phone as I was mid-defecation, like Scotty when I first called him about training.
“No sh** this time?” I ask Dan, wasting the pun on someone who wasn’t in a position to appreciate it.
“No sh**.” Said Dan, just a few months before I write this.
“Kid, you got the look, the talent, and the heart to make millions in this business. If I could take you on the road with me we’d get booked every-futtin’-where!” Said Scotty, once again showing his habit of genuinely kind-hearted praise, but this time it wasn’t for me. Nah, I was just standing by like chopped carrots while the praise went to the fresh-dug truffle of a young man wrestling under the name Brad Rictor.
“I’ll quit my job if you can get me booked in Mexico.” Said Brad jokingly.
“Oh, I can getcha booked in Mexico.” Said Scotty seriously.
“I’ll really quit my job if you can really get me booked in Mexico.” Said Brad seriously.
“Put in your notice.” Said Scotty.
“Okay.” Said Brad with a shoulder shrug and a beautiful smile.
Brad was a good looking young man and very talented, and had a heart that made it impossible to dislike him, no matter how jealous you were of him. And oh was I f***ing jealous of him.
“I can’t believe Brad quit his cake job as a manager at GNC to go live with Scotty.” Said a fellow young wrestler.
“Yeah, I just don’t understand how Scotty expects to get someone booked in Mexico when he’s never been. I mean, I know Brad’s got a lot of potential, but I’m not sure that Scotty being his booking pimp is going to do it for him.” I replied in a locker room full of wrestlers but empty of Scotty McKeever. Our younger group laughed at my booking pimp line.
“F’real. What tha f*** is Brad thinkin’? Dude’s too gullible” Added another young wrestler.
“Oooh, I’m gonna bookings-pimp my way ta TrippleMani-ya and teach ‘em futtin’ luchadors howta tella story workin’ a futtin’ arm. An’ I ain’t catchin’ no futtin’ dives neither!” Said a young wrestler doing a McKeever impression.
“Yeah, if I futtin’ catch anythin’ it’ll be a case of the clap from one-a-em latin mamacitas!” I added in my own satire of Scotty.
“You, getch’r ass outside! We need ta have a futtin’ conversation!” Said Scotty on the next event I saw him at, after the locker room roasting of his and Brad’s Mexico pact.
I knew he was pissed, but I had no idea why. That’s how a young Jason Kincaid learned that locker room conversations are subject to getting repeated and how you can seriously hurt someone’s feelings through idle bullsh**ing.
“I heard you was talkin’ sh**!” Scotty exclaimed.
“I always talk sh**, Scotty. What’s wrong?” I said.
“Don’ get futtin’ smart wit’ me. I heard about you makin’ fun. I heard about you buryin’ me for wantin’ to help Brad out. Well… You know what? I’m futtin’ done with ya!”
But it wasn’t okay, it sucked. It hurt us both and it sucked. I had let my own jealousy and need for attention triumph over the most basic of Granny-wisdom: if you ain’t got nothing nice to say, hush up. In the process learning something that I’ve had to learn too many times, and still struggle with: sticks and stones may break your bones but words can be used to break your f***ing heart.
I’ve snapped my thumb in half when it got caught in a turnbuckle and my body went on executing a perfect middlerope springboard as if it wasn’t. But that didn’t hurt nearly as bad as being repeatedly called a fa***t in middle and high school. And being bullied didn’t hurt nearly as bad as when I thought I was flirting with a girl that I was in puppylove with by making jokes about her “little titties” when her friend stopped me extra-seriously and said, “Listen you need to shut the f*** up! I could say some sh**, right now, that you’re insecure about that would embarrass the sh** out of you. But I’m not going to, and you shouldn’t treat her that way.” I shut the f*** up, then, and learned to be mindful of how you joke around with people because you don’t know when you might be pushing their self-conscious, or worse self-hating buttons. No kendo stick shot from Sandman, or broken hand from a grown man falling on it with all his weight, or getting hate-crimed, or hating myself for hurting someone's feelings who I had feelings for compared to the pain of being the amatuer psychologist that I was, and stil am, and understanding how much it must have hurt for Scotty to hear that a person he had treated like a son was mocking him publically. I was just another person in the long list of people that had made Scotty hate himself so much that he had to drink away his feelings. Yeah, it wasn’t “okay”, at all.
So, did Scotty and Brad ever make it to Mexico and how did Scotty go from sayin’ “I’m futtin’ done with ya” to “I’m futtin’ proud of ya”?
Next time, on Scotty’s Song