An hour into the ‘show’ in front of his captive audience, and Lyle Tallman, also known as the Red midget has only succeeded in showing the birth of the Mighty Morphin Power Midgets and the horrible attack he suffered at the hands of El Nino. An attack that led Bill Buckley to utter the famous words, “Get a black dot over that midget’s face!”
We’ve had a musical rendition of the hate-hate relationship between Sammy Benson and Red, as the midget goes from in-ring comedy act to commentator. The footage of the “Disney Days” moment where Sammy gets knocked off of Splash Mountain by the midgets leaves the flesh-and-blood Sammy Benson huddling in the corner, weeping.
Red has given us a long Shakesperian-esque monologue on the possible motivations for Merritt’s attack on him that led to his ‘death,’ and the scapegoating of Sammy Benson. Hamlet would be proud… except for the fact that it’s a midget doing Shakespeare.
And now, it’s the “trial scene.” Red interacts with the other “characters,” which consist of footage shown on the screens. We get the chance to watch the 1997 trial of Sammy Benson as the truth comes out, all the while with Red watching on and filling us in.
(The camera pans the courtroom, showing Sammy Benson at the defendants' table, then settles on Merritt walking to the witness stand and being sworn in.)
Prosecutor: Thank you for your time today Mr. Merritt.
Merritt: Certainly, Mr. Evans.
Prosecutor: I've asked you here today just to clarify and underscore a few of the points regarding the day in question, as well as Mr. Benson's motives for killing Mr. Tallman.
Merritt: I understand.
Prosecutor: When you rehired Mr. Tallman as a commentator for the CSWA, is it fair to say that Mr. Benson was...... concerned?
Merritt: I think that would be an understatement.
Prosecutor: Is it fair to say Mr. Benson was furious? That he wanted no part of being on a commentating team with Mr. Tallman?
Merritt: I think that's exactly right.
Prosecutor: Did Mr. Benson have anything to add, any concerns?
Merritt: As a matter of fact, he did. He mentioned that he had kicked Red Lyle off the stage once, and wouldn't hesitate to do it again.
Prosecutor: And how did you respond?
Merritt: I told Sammy that the matter was settled, and that he was to be civil to Lyle. I followed that up on the air a few hours later, and advised him that if he did anything to Lyle, that his job would be forfeit.
Prosecutor: And how did Mr. Benson respond?
Merritt: Sammy wasn't happy about it, but as I recall, he finally agreed and went on about his business.
Prosecutor: Let's move on the day of the actual murder.... can you run down exactly what you were doing that day?
Merritt: Sure. I arrived at the arena around 4pm and held a meeting with most of my staff.
Prosecutor: I'm sorry to interrupt, but was Mr. Benson at this meeting?
Merritt: No, he wasn't. In fact, I questioned Bill, that's Bill Buckley, our head commentator, about it, and he said that he hadn't seen Sammy. I asked him to be on the lookout and advised him that Red would be joining them at the table for the event.
Prosecutor: That was at about four o'clock and the event began at six?
Merritt: That's right.
Prosecutor: Did you see any sign of Mr. Benson before then?
Merritt: I did. In fact, around five-thirty I was advised by one of my staff that Sammy had come in. I went to speak with him, but he was nowhere to be found. I assumed he was at his favorite pasttime, trying to get the concessions people to give him some beer. We had taken to a practice of advising all the concessions areas at an arena that Sammy was not to be given anything harder than water....we even had posters made with his picture to give out.
Prosecutor: So you thought Mr. Benson was out on the concourse but something led you to find out that wasn't the case?
Merritt: That's right. About ten minutes before showtime, Marvin Parsons, our lighting and sound technician, advised me that Sammy had been wandering around backstage, near some of the rigging. I again went looking for him, and he was gone. Bill Buckley advised me through my headset that he still hadn't shown up, and the show was about to start.
Prosecutor: This was about six o'clock?
Merritt: About five till. I stopped looking and started back to what we call the 'hot zone' right by the entryway to the arena proper, where I usually watch the shows. On my way back....that's when it happened. The lights went out backstage to start the show, and the TV wall screen came on....I saw a small figure in the air kicking with another behind apparently strangling him. I ran to get there, but the larger man was already gone. Lyle Tallman was dead.
Prosecutor: Did you see the larger figure at all?
Prosecutor: And when was the next time you saw Mr. Benson?
Merritt: When I escorted the police to him at the commentators' table, where he arrived five minutes after the murder of Lyle.
Prosecutor: That's all I have for this witness, your Honor.
Judge Certes: Your witness for redirect, counselor.
Guards have pulled up a La-Z-Boy, and Red has planted himself in it with popcorn, apparently even the one midget in the one-midget-show wants a good seat for this part.
RED: Here we go…
(Hornet stands at the defendant's table.)
Hornet: A moment to confer with my client, your Honor. (He sits back down and begins whispering with Sammy) I'm not going to do that, Sammy. I don't care! You think I'm going to risk my legal career and my wrestling career just because a friend called in a favor to get me to defend your sorry butt? (They both stop whispering for a moment Hornet sits back in his chair for a few seconds.)
Judge: Are we ready to proceed, counselor?
Hornet: Yes, just a moment, your Honor. (Hornet pours a glass of water and downs it, then stands.) Thank you for coming today Mr. Merritt.
Merritt: Certainly. It's good to see you at the bar again.
Hornet: Mr. Merritt, what was Mr. Tallman wearing that night?
Merritt: I haven't the faintest.
Hornet: You found the man strangled murdered and didn't catch even a glimpse of what he was wearing?
Merritt: I was a bit preoccupied with the fact that he wasn't breathing.
Hornet: Did you attempt CPR or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?
Merritt: No, I was in shock, and the paramedics arrived just a few moments later.
Hornet: Do you like midgets, Mr. Merritt? (Merritt laughs) Is this funny sir?
Merritt: No, it's tragic. Tragic that you're trying to defend a man who is so obviously guilty and asking me if I 'like midgets.'
Hornet: Do you have an answer?
Merritt My answer is...I don't have a d'mn clue. I like some, I don't like others, is that good enough for you? Are these really the questions I was called here to answer? This man is on trial for his life, please tell me his lawyer hasn't pinned his hopes to my view on midgets. Do you have any other questions for me, counselor?
(There is silence.)
Judge: Counselor, do you have anything further for this witness? (More silence)
Merritt: (standing) Thanks, Hornet, I love Nashville.
Hornet: I'm not through with my examination. Sit down.
Merritt: You'll address me with a little respect .former employee or not. And you can call me Commissioner. Is this the kind of zoo you're running, Harold? Where a wrestler turned lawyer can make a mockery of this court?
Judge: And the Commissioner will address this court as Your Honor or Sir, I'm quite certain I've earned it. Do you have anything further, counselor?
Hornet: (Looks back at Sammy ) Yes, as a matter of fact I do. Your Honor, these are the videotapes from the CSWA's Anniversary Celebration, depicting many of the fans who stopped to wish the CSWA well.
Judge: We've been over this, counselor, you're entering evidence of a woman who never existed.
Hornet: Oh, we believe she does, your Honor. We'll get to the tapes in just a minute. Commissioner Merritt, you told Sammy Benson that the Red Midget was not to be touched? Not to be disparaged in anyway?
Merritt: That's correct.
Hornet: And you're sure Mr. Benson was clear on that order?
Hornet: Then how is it that Mr. Benson allegedly killed Mr. Tallman?
Merritt: I can't answer for the actions of a deranged man.
Hornet: Really? Sir, if you gave an order for Mr. Tallman not to be touched....and yet you thought Mr. Benson was deranged...you knew the past history between the two men... the incidents at Disneyworld, the fights at the commentators' tables over the years....then why didn't you take further measures?
Merritt: I didn't think they were necessary. Sammy gave me his word.
Hornet: Really....the same man you had to have flyers put up to avoid having him get drunk at arenas....you took his word? You put two mortal enemies, for lack of a better word, together at a five-foot table next to each other when Mr. Benson had kicked Mr. Tallman off a ten-foot high stage once before? And you didn't think any further measures were NECESSARY?
Merritt: Let me be frank, counselor, Hornet, whatever you're to be called here....I'm the Commissioner of one of the top franchises in all of sports. When I give an order, or even a suggestion, to an employee, I expect it to be followed. They follow orders, or people get fired. Are we clear?
Merritt: ARE WE CLEAR?
Hornet: Crystal. In this case, someone got killed..... because you didn't do your job.
Merritt: Why you snotty little bastard!
Hornet: You didn't do your job because you had another motive....you didn't really want the Red Midget at the commentator's spot, did you? He wasn't a ratings boost of any kind....and yet you flexed your Commissioner muscle to put him in a spot that would cause more conflict than good...in a spot that had almost gotten Tallman seriously injured before...in a spot between Buckley and Benson, isn't that right Mr. Commissioner?
Prosecutor: Objection, your Honor Mr. Merritt isn't on trial here.
Judge: Overruled. I'll allow it for now.
Hornet: Well, Mr. Merritt? You knew that sometimes even commentators' take things into their own hands. You had seen it happen, even condoned it, by firing Lyle Tallman when he was attacked by Mr. Benson months earlier. And yet, all of a sudden you WANTED him back in that situation?
Merritt: Red was a great commentator.
Hornet: That's not what you said in his employee file.... you said, and I quote, "Red isn't worth the money he's getting now that he's not a sideshow 'wrestler.' He just doesn't have what it takes at the table...." I could have the court reporter give you a copy of that file if you need it, Mr. Commissioner.
Merritt: I know what it says, I don't have to have it read back to me like I'm a...
Hornet: If you gave an order that Lyle Tallman was not to be touched....and yet he was then someone either wasn't following orders or they were. Do you LIKE midgets, Mr. Merritt?
Prosecutor: Judge, we've already covered this.
RED: Wait for it…
Hornet: Follow-up, Your Honor.
RED: Wait for it…
Judge: The court will wait for an answer. Answer the question, Mr. Merritt.
Merritt: OF COURSE I DON'T LIKE MIDGETS! Thomas brought them in and they made a mockery of everything I built! Then Tallman got hurt by El Nino, and it was either continue to pay him, or end up paying a huge lawsuit! I paid all his medical bills, I paid for his 'pain and suffering', I paid for his miserable little life!
Hornet: Commissioner Merritt....you ordered Benson not to touch Tallman. Yet you put Tallman directly in the line of fire. You gave Tallman free reign, a man you had fired months earlier. You put a man you despised in a situation where he could be in grave danger....where his sarcastic comments could drive a man to the brink. But that's not it, is it? You ordered Benson not to touch him, and then you ordered someone else to take him out and went it went wrong, when things didn't go exactly as planned, you panicked....you told the police about Benson, you cut them loose, you doctored the video tapes, you hid the fat lady....
Prosecutor: OBJECTION! YOUR HONOR!
Hornet: COMMISSIONER MERRITT...DID YOU ORDER LYLE TALLMAN
Prosecutor: Your Honor!
Judge: That'll be all! Commissioner, you don't have to answer that question!
Merritt: I'll answer the question. You want answers?
Hornet: I think I'm entitled!
Merritt: You want ANSWERS?
Hornet: I WANT THE TRUTH!
Merritt: YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH! Son, professional wrestling is a world that has walls, and someone has to guard those walls. Someone with power and with balls. Who's gonna do it? You? A man who has run roughshod over the sport? You, Sammy Benson? A man who can't keep his nose out of a beer can? I have a greater responsibility then you can fathom. You weep for the Red Midget, and curse me. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Tallman's death, while tragic, probably helped save a sport. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves this sport! You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't want to talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you NEED me on that wall!
We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of a business that I helped create, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you pick up your bankbook and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!
Hornet: Did you order Lyle Tallman killed?
Merritt: I did the job I was...
Hornet: DID YOU ORDER LYLE TALLMAN KILLED?
Merritt: YOU'RE DAMN RIGHT I DID!!!!!!
Hornet: May it please the court, I suggest the jury be dismissed so that we can move to an immediate preliminary hearing....the witness has rights.
Judge: Mr. Evans?
Judge: The members of the jury will retire to an anteroom until further instructions.
Bailiff: All rise!
Merritt: What the hell is this? What's going on? I did my job, I'd do it again. I'm going back to my office.
Judge: You're not going anywhere, Commissioner. Bailiffs, guard the Commissioner! Mr. Evans?
Prosecutor: Mr. Merritt...you have the right to remain silent you have the right to an attorney…
Merritt: I'm being charged with a crime? Is that what this is? I'm being charged with a CRIME?! This is too funny. That's what this is....this is.... (charges at Hornet, and is grabbed by the bailiffs) I'm gonna rip your head off.... you've screwed with the wrong Commissioner!
Prosecutor: Mr. Merritt, do you understand these rights as I have just read them to you?
Merritt: You idiots. You have no idea how to build a wrestling business. All you did was weaken a sport today, Hornet. That's all you did. Sweet dreams, son.
Hornet: Don't call me son. I'm a lawyer and a member of this bar, and you're under arrest, you son of a midget. The witness is excused.
The footage continues to play, although muted, as Red stands up from the recliner, apparently ready to launch into another awful song. The orchestral music winds up…
GETHARD: Is this what you’ve got us trapped in here for, Lyle? So we can suffer like you have?
VP of Security Gregg Gethard has stood up as his table. His job requires that he at least make an attempt at pulling Thomas out of this fire. As he walks towards the stage area, others begin trading signals by eye and hand.
RED: Well if it isn’t CS Stooge #1. Glad you could join us, Gethard.
GETHARD: Either tell us what you want or let us out of here, Lyle. You know you can’t stop all of us.
RED: Weren’t you listening earlier? Anything happens to me and you’ll never get through those doors. As for what I want… I’m getting it right now. And for you to know what it is, you have to wait for the end of the show.
As Gethard gives the order, members of his security team launch into action, going after Red’s guard. Gethard launches himself toward Red, but doesn’t get any closer than Cameron Cruise did, before he’s hit with a taser dart and folds up like a cheap card table, then starts shaking like a wet leaf. The members of his security team fare no better – none of them are able to get a stun gun away from one of the guards.
RED: Well then, that’s the end of intermission. (He motions to a guard near Gethard.) No, just leave him there. That way he’s got a front row view for the rest of the show.
The next “act” begins, featuring the renewal of the feud between Merritt and Red, as the former CSWA co-owner is chasing Red through the bowels of Fish Fund Park.
Red starts to sing...
Thankfully, we have other characters to catch up with...