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TH
06-20-07, 09:10 AM
Here it comes, the dreaded storyline round!

- Your task this round; write an off-camera, storyline based RP. This RP must be written in any style except for cutting a wrestling promo in front of a camera. You may not use any material posted in round 1 or the trash talk thread as a basis for this RP. You may write this RP in any style you'd like. Your only other requirement is that your RP MUST be topical; it has to relate to wrestling, the Tournament of Champions, TEAM, your character as a wrestler or something else that has to do with the task at hand. This requirement will be liberally interpreted, but it will weigh heavily into the judging.

- You have a 1 RP limit, and the deadline is Monday, July 2nd, at 11:59:59 PM, give or take a second.

- All normal rules apply; ie, if you use any other characters that aren't handled by yourself, you need explicit permission to use them. No shooting; keep everything in character. All work must be written by you and it must be an original piece (no recycling!). You'd think these would go without saying, but you'd be surprised.

- You must post a round 1 RP before you can post your round 2 RP.

Alrighty... and remember, round 1 hasn't closed yet. I'm just overlapping in the interest of speed :)

AshleyScott
06-22-07, 08:52 PM
I will not have plagiarized work in my tournament.

BigDaddy
06-24-07, 12:45 PM
Standing in front of a room full of reporters, the new A1E World Heavyweight Champion, BigDog, appears ... comfortable. And why shouldn't he be comfortable? Many of the people lobbing questions at him are career journalists for the sport of professional wrestling. They've been around long enough to have gotten to know him when last he held this same title.

He knows many of them by their first names, and most likely he's bought most of them a beer at one time or another in the past. A few of them have shared a car with him between venues in the hopes of getting more insight into him as a person as well as a champion. Not many of them were successful though.

Simply put, there really isn't much we know about the man, Paul Bennett, outside of the wrestling ring. Inside it, there isn't much to hide. He is, matter of factly, one of the few true faces left in this business. He speaks of doing things the right way, doing things for the fans, and you know that he means it.

But outside of the ring, we barely know him at all. Oh sure, there have been a few glimpses of his home in Chicago that have made it to A1E television. We've even been let inside on the rarest of occasions. However, we have no idea of the actual life that goes on there. We've never been let beyond that wall that he keeps up. His motivations for being the type of wrestler that he is, the type of man that he is, remain his own.

All we know is that we are thankful that there is at least one man left to fight for those of us who cannot fight for ourselves.

After a string of questions regarding his recent title victory over his own tag team partner, Dan Ryan, the talk turns to the upcoming TEAM Tournament of Champions. He answers most with a confidence reborn from his climb back to the top of his own federation. Once the questions are finally complete, he is free to return to his lockerroom.

Heading there, his mind begins to wander to the tournament itself. One thought seems to dominate ... was he ready?

The collection of talent in this tournament was second to none. Every man a champion or former champion in his own right. Every one of them bringing something unique to the table, and yet every one of them also with that inalienable similarity. Each of them had the drive, the desire, the willingness to do whatever it takes to be the very best.

There would be no cake walks in this tournament. No straight set dismissals of an unmatched rival like the early rounds of Wimbledon. No 100-38 demolitions of a #16 seed at the hands of a #1 seed like in the NCAAs.

Any one of these men or women could step into his home federation of A1E and immediately challenge for any belt they so chose. The only comfort he could take in that thought was the idea that he could do the same thing in theirs.

That is where the similarities end, though. The differences, however, seem to be myriad. He has listened to what the others have had to say. Some at least sound familiar. They have issues with other people also entered in the tournament, and they hope to meet each other somewhere along the way. He can at least understand things such as these.

But the others, the things they speak of seem quite unimagineable to him. Are they certifiably insane, or do they merely project such an outlandish personality so as to throw off anyone trying to figure them out? Do they do it just to give themselves an edge, or is it really something deeper than that?

In the end, it doesn't really matter to him. Many of these people, he'll never see again. Trying to understand them would be a waste of his time.

All he needs to do is figure out a way to defeat them in the ring. And that's something he is all-too-familiar with.

Jay_Smash
06-25-07, 10:21 AM
Where he is, the cameras don’t follow. They have learned there lesson in past misunderstandings. They stop ten feet away before entering, afraid to find out what goes on down there today. He tells them it’s safe, but they just choose not to take any chances. Some have there own ideas, whether it be jokes or absolutely serious, they one thing in memory as to what we have seen there before was an abandoned train track and an entire weight room with his very own wrestling ring up on the platform.

They remember broken glass, shattered punching bags, torn seat covers, burnt wood, the sound of water dripping from the rusty ceiling and steaming on top of hot rocks from the summer heat inside such an enclosed space. It was a bit murky while the ceiling lit a dim light down in only a few different areas. This was a place he would practice, watch TV, eat his food, eat his ice cream, talk to his “friends”, talk to himself…. Take his medication.

But today, he is not in the abandoned subway tunnel. Today, Jay Smash is taking his steps down a church corridor and shaking hands with those attending the final service of the day. Today is Sunday, June 24, 2007 and Smash once again leaves down the steps and to his car a saved man. Before entering his vehicle, his eyes are suddenly attracted towards the silent trees across the street where he has many memories of walking through to enter his wrestling domain.

With the car door open, Smash takes his eyes away from the trees, then pulls off his nice jacket, tears off his tie and unbuttons his white dress shirt. He folds each piece of apparel and places them in the back seat. When he is left with no clothes on his upper body, Smash pops the trunk and pulls out his burnt leather coat which hangs down to his ankles. The coat covers the scars and burns easily visible on his bare back and arms. When he shuts the trunk, he begins to takes a couple steps towards the street when the church bells ring.

Smash takes a looks back at the church, then at the trees in the distance. He has his opportunity to re enter the dark and dismal subway in which he has trained for years in solitude, or follow his heart and go where he believes is the right place to go. With the Tournament of Champions nearing closer, his life has changed a great deal, but he can’t help but think torturing himself in that hidden tunnel all by himself would help him train better for a tournament that will take a lot to win. Going back to his old ways just to win a tournament, just to enter a ring and punish opponent after opponent… is it worth the guilt afterwards, or the punishment he gives to his own mind for doing the one thing he told himself he would never do again?

The Tournament of Champions… it’s weighing heavily on his shoulders, though not much is weighing up on his shoulder nowadays, so it’s not keeping him nailed to the floor. He takes another step, it’s just one more step closer to depression, but possibly a major victory that will name him Champion over many others. Another step towards the dark, he can feel it already like he is standing right above the tunnel right now, like it’s directly underneath the street in which he stands. A third step moving closer and still he hears the church bells fading away as he walks further from it’s chimes. And with only a couple more steps to the trees and realizing nothing will stop him from winning this tournament, he is stricken with a verse from the bible which takes over his consciousness. In a low voice, Smash begins to speak up about this moment and how tempting it is. The temptation grows, but there is something there trying to pull him back.

Smash continues to speak the verse is a quick whisper has he takes another step closer and closer. Still, nothing is stopping him from entering his old fortress of despair. Making it across the street his final steps before entering through the trees, he cannot see anyone or anything stopping him. He is lost once again with no return, what will become of Smash once he returns from his wicked domicile? The answer… Smash takes one more step and trips on the curb as he tries to step onto the sidewalk. Smash catches himself before falling and looks back at the curb. Just as he looks back the final chime from the church bells lets off and Smash turns back.

For a moment he looks up, not moving or saying one word. He thinks to himself what trouble in his life made him almost take back everything he has worked so hard for. He has cleaned himself up, and he was so close, absolutely willing to go back to his miserable ways just to win a tournament. No… He has other plans now, and those plans still mean victory… This is his life; a struggle. However, he seems to get by and stay strong, but if not for that curb it his way there is no telling what might have happened. Lucky him, or lucky you? His other plans will decide just how lucky you are when he enters that ring for the Tournament of Champions…

MOTM
06-26-07, 01:24 AM
[JP is kneeling between a few thick trees with a hatchet in his hands. He swings down and scoots pieces of wood to the side, making way for bigger pieces which he is then cutting as well. He is shirtless, wearing a pair of vivid blue jean shorts. He has a black sports watch on his left hand. Which is odd for him, since normally when he is seen, he is wearing a fancy one, perhaps by Rolex or something to that effect. From the distance, there is a voice.]
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: Japes! <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Over here. <O:p></O:p>

[You hear brush moving and cracking, the sound getting louder as JP's foster child Romero approaches. Over JP's left shoulder, he glances at Romero who recently turned sixteen, and then back to his task.] <O:p></O:p>

Jhonen: What's up? <O:p></O:p>

Romero: Just wanted to see how far you've gotten. <O:p></O:p>

Jhonen: Almost done. I'd like not to do this again in the middle of the night when our fire is dying.
<O:p></O:p>
[Unseen by JP, Romero nods his head. Still behind JP, Romero stands there a little bit awkward. JP gathers up the wood he has just cut. Romero moves into help, snatching some of the untouched pieces of wood, catching JP subtlety off-guard but pleasantly appreciated by Romero's seemingly unorthodox gesture. As Romero finishes picking up his stack, he catches JP's expression. He chuckles a split second.]
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: What? <O:p></O:p>

Jhonen: Huh? Nothing. It's just good to see you wanting to help out.
<O:p></O:p>
[Romero stands comfortably, followed by JP doing the same.] <O:p></O:p>

Romero: It ain't like what you think. Yeah, I've got myself in trouble, but it's because it felt like **** at home. I just didn't care. There was nobody around to talk to me. Always yelling or not around. <O:p></O:p>

[JP telling that this was entering a difficult conversation for Romero, he just nods slightly and jerks his head to the left. Romero nods and they both walk back to the open area. A momentary time lapse takes place. Their fire has begun, and we are only an hour away from the sun beginning to set. JP and Romero are both sitting in front of the campfire opposite one another. JP is leaning back on a log with his left leg extended out and his right leg up with his knee pointing to the sky. JP is daydreaming of sorts. Romero picks up on this and decides to try to help.] <O:p></O:p>

Romero: You miss her. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[No expected response that Romero was hoping for.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: Hello? <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Huh? <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[JP seems slightly startled, as he shakes his head and blinks rapidly for a few seconds.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: You miss her. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[JP takes an exasperated deep breath and places his right hand on his chest.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Yeah, I did. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: But not anymore... <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: I miss how she used to be. But this, this new side is something else. I mean, I should have known something was up. I proposed back at Christmas, and she never gave me a definitive answer. That should have been the first sign. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: Well it's not all roses man, you've been through a lot together, but maybe she just wasn't sure if it would last. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: But to go this extreme? I mean, see, I owned SeversCorp, ok? And I sold forty-nine percent of it to an old boss of mine, Hunter Drake, for business reasons. And then, I gave Kendra two percent. And now, she and him are working against me. I no longer have the majority vote. They collectively do. ...Man, I was real stupid. I thought if I gave her my deciding votes, that it would show how much I Love and trust her. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[Romero frowns slightly and shakes his head slowly from side to side twice.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: And it's not like she asked for it though. You gave it to her of your own free will. There was no way to know any of this would happen. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: You're right. But that's what gets me. I became a one-woman man. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[Romero looks at him oddly.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Oh yeah man; I fought myself a lot to get to this point. To be honest, I used to have a different girl under my arm every night of the week, living for EVERY thrill this planet had to offer. Then Kendra came along... <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[You can tell that JP is reminiscing.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Which affirms my old beliefs...that women are trouble. And don't give me that B.S. that I just haven't found the right one. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[Romero smiles and somewhat playfully offended.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: I didn't say anything. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: But you might have. Truth be told, it's really hard to find someone genuine, who isn't after you for your money. And I don't want to think that Kendra's that kind of person, but look at her. She's seized my company and the filtering sister ones. She's got plans to make my life a living hell, and have my brother Sky, tag along for the ride. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[JP takes a deep sigh of discontentment.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: Not to mention you're in that tournament. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Huh? Oh. I don't want to talk about that. I don't want to talk about work right now. This was supposed to be our Father's Day weekend. Instead, Kendra's dumped me-to put it lightly-and Bret came down with a cold. Just not what I had envisioned, you know? <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: Yeah. But we're making the best of it, right? I mean, we're out here. Tomorrow's Father's Day, and we're going hiking and such. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Yeah. It'll be fun, no doubt. I'm not saying I don't enjoy your company, just, there's a few holes at the moment. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: Somehow, things'll work out. I'm sure Bret's fine. He's only about one year old, they get sick. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: ...Yeah... <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: And man, I know you said you don't want to talk about it, but, you haven't cut your first thing for that tournament yet. What's up? <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Just waiting for the right moment I guess. I figure with the rush of idiocy, waiting on JP Severs to say something, would be worth the wait, by comparison alone. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: Haha. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[Romero grabs a stick and stuffs a marshmallow on the end of it and stuffs it into the fire.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Jason Payne aughtta be a good challenge. I don't see him backing down from the fight. So it's going to be good either way. I talk the trash, but without guys like him, there'd be no one to be the measuring stick. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: Anybody else you'd like to be against? <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: ...Um... Hm. I think Jay Smash would be an interesting bout. He's the kind of guy to do the damage and then ask the questions later, if at all. He's a spitfire and I enjoy hearing him go on and on. It's rather comical. So I'd like to see first hand how he is in the ring. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[Romero pulls his marshmallow out of the fire. It is burnt, still on fire. He blows it out and carefully begins nibbling on it.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: I got Hershey's and graham crackers... <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: Naw, I'm good...I'm only having this one. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[Because of the pause, JP becomes a little awkward by it, that he breaks the silence, but does so very timidly.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: And uh...something we spoke briefly on...was that this weekend was meant for more of us...but at the same time, I'm glad we have this chance alone. ...I uh... <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[Romero continues eating his marshmallow unaware of the air a bit thick from JP's perspective.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: I was hoping Kendra would be the mother of my first child, to give Bret someone to play with. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[Romero is caught off-guard.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: Wait-what? Bret's- <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Not my son. Not by blood. They thought he was, and left him in my care. And while I struggled professionally to suddenly be a father, I did it, and I fell in love with him. And when they figured out their mess up, they realized they were up ****'s creek without a paddle, with little hope of finding his real father. His mom-someone I had been intimate with-passed away. I had already signed as his guardian by the time they realized our DNA didn't match. So it was up to me about what I would do next. I chose ultimately to keep him. To give him a proper home... <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[A lot to absorb, Romero seems to be handling it well with a slight nod.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Through no one's fault, I too, didn't have a father. There was no one there in my life that I knew that fit the bill. So I know what it's like to have that void. But to lose your mother as well, is not something I wish to stomach. So I did what I felt I had to do. I crumpled up the paper that says he's *not* my son, and he's *been* my son ever since, <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[JP tucks his bottom lip under his top one, slowly nodding, his eyes wide, awaiting some sort of response from Romero.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: As it were, I didn't have the life that was ideal. When I was born, my mom and dad couldn't afford a second child next to my brother, Sky. So they gave adoption to my Aunt, who I grew up knowing as my Mother. It was not until I had begun becoming a man, did I know the truth. And I've tried to hold it in as long as I can, but, the truth is, my Mom-from growing up-recently passed away, technically my Aunt Catina. While at the same time I wonder if I should be feeling guilty to be building a relationship with my birth one. Normally, I would have said ****-all and gone my own way. But I don't feel I could. It'd be the wrong thing to do...for everyone involved. So I've kept it secret. And I've requested that Sky not make mention of it either. I had Kendra to think about. I have Bret to think about. ...You know, I can't bring myself to cry. Because I know once I did...I feel like I'd never stop. The pressures of the wrestling business, expect so much. In addition, my family expects the same; the best I can be. And the best, is not showing weakness. And I've broken that rule a lot lately. It seems every few months are so, I'm losing Kendra to some capacity. First, she was kidnapped by a guy named Tommy and had me losing matches on purpose, letting him b et against me and win. And after I got her back, Big Willy had her and Bret kidnapped. I had to beat Mad Max in a hellacious Death From Above match, suspended in a cage, like a reverse Ladder match, having to climb down and reach her. I did that. And now, just after all that pain and suffering of losing her is vanquished by holding her in my arms, she willingly walks away from our life that we had been building for the better part of a year now. <O:p></O:p>

[Romero puts the marshmallow stick down and continues listening, without interrupting JP.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: And now, heh...I don't know. Should I roll over? You know? Should I go on pretending I'm fine when I'm not? Kendra meant the world to me. I had finally found who I thought was the one. Now this. ...But hey look, the point. I had a point to this, and I want you to know I'm getting there. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[Romero nods respectfully in a low tone, very submissive, understanding JP's difficult time admitting such things that he is, to a boy such as Romero.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: ...K. <O:p></O:p>

Jhonen: I used to be a very troubled person, doing all the wrong things to all the wrong people. The ones who were only trying to help others. When I got into the wrestling business, I was so horrible. I couldn't get a win to save my life. I was so frustrated...because I was trying so much to live up to what my brother had already been doing in the industry. And I failed. That is, until I saw myself signing a contract with IPW, a starter company that happened to sign Sky as well. From there, I let go. I stopped giving a crap what the fans thought, and I did whatever I wanted. I even wore a mask to hide the shame. I had an outer-body experience that lasted just about two years. I even went to WAR with my own brother, man. Jealousy took me over in the worst way. Finally that company went on hiatus and I explored my other avenues. I had a lot of time off and I bested that time given, by putting my life in order. But the temptation was too much. I came back to the wrestling venue, as a wolf in sheep's clothing. I befriended Sky, because I was paid by an owner to walk in and ruin him and his buds. And instead of turning it down, I took the money and did the deed. I tore Sky from the inside out to many. When that company fell, I was the only Severs in action. I went to XWF, and under Elvis Xtreme, I became the longest reigning World Champion. But at my own cost. I was on top, but utterly alone. So truth of it was, I hadn't done a damn thing worth anything, if you don't have one to share your life with. That's the greatest gift that God has given us. Love. And when I met Kendra, from right then, I felt different. I was becoming someone different. And then, I proposed as I said, and she never said no, but she never said yes either. And while I waited, I kept the best of optimism throughout. But through Bret...I've learned a new Love. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[JP's eyes have softened, becoming a bit deluded by a clear substance.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: Which brings me to you... <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[Romero looks a little confused.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Romero: What? <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: I want you to know, we-Kendra and I-had already planned to ask you this weekend. We'd been planning a long time now it seems for tonight. <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
[JP begins choking back tears and sniffling.] <O:p></O:p>
<O:p></O:p>
Jhonen: We...I...wanted to know if you would join my family...on a regular basis. I want to adopt you man, and forever more call you my son...
<O:p></O:p>
[JP begins crying against his attempt not to. Romero is stunned. His eyes shift as he takes in the situation closely. JP leans forward and begins breathing deeply. Romero muscles to his feet and walks around the fire pit and kneels next to JP. JP looks up to him. Romero embraces JP in a huge hug with warmth and compassion, and love.]

Ravager
06-26-07, 03:11 PM
June 26th, 2007. Ravager has just arrived home after the NAPW show in Calgary. He leaves the Edmonton International Airport and gets into the first cab he can find. He is physically and emotionally exhausted. A man's career ended tonight. At his hands. He knew going in that he'd have to do it. He respected his opponent. But it made no difference. Business is business. A diving headbutt later, Ravager is still champ, Beast is gone, life goes on.

But not really. Ravager gets home, and dumps his bags in his apartment. he checks the fridge, and there's nothing to drink. Nothing strong enough, at least. Normally the NAPW champion doesn't imbibe, but tonight is different. Tonight he had to play executioner for his boss. And he's not happy about it at all.

We cut to Whyte Avenue. Ravager takes a short walk to a local liquor store. A simple transaction. And a short walk home. But he stops. And looks the other direction. Up the street is a building. Nothing special about it. Except for the rooftop. Ravager has spent a lot of time there. It's where he confronted D! for the first time. It's where he goes whenever he needs to confront a crisis in his life. It's where he spread his father's ashes. It's where he goes before the big matches. And with the TEAM Tournament of Champions coming up, what better time to go there?

As he walks, he starts to think about last Year's Tournament of Champions. How right before it he went and visited his father for the last time. It was a bitter meeting. They always were. Nasty words were spoken, punches were thrown. Ravager never went back. He vowed never to let his father get in his head again. He would never mourn him. He would never bury him. He would let the wind take away all the memories of a man who shaped him into a humorless fighting machine. He immersed himself in wrestling. Winning a lot, but losing the matches that meant the most. It took a while to finally get into the mode of being "unstoppable". He had to lighten up a bit. He had to treat every match like it was a main event. But he also had to show respect for each opponent. Because on any night, he could be beaten. That respect carried him a long way. He reaches the building. Looks up at the roof. He doesn't come here much anymore. Too busy? Too many memories? Who knows? But tonight... he's drawn here. He goes in, and walks up the stairs. As he walks he thinks about what to drink to. He'll have a drink to the career of Bruce Richards. He'll drink to those of the fraternity who've passed this year. Maybe even to his success. Both past and future. He'll drink to the TEAM Tournament of Champions, and being a part of the prestigious event once again. He opens the door to the roof...

Somethings changed. Not much. Just some new tar covering the roof. he takes this in for a second. then chuckles when he realizes:

His father got buried after all.

He shakes his head as he takes the bottle out of the bag and opens it.

Fade to black.

Tchu
06-26-07, 06:35 PM
DISCLAIMER




I wrote the following leading up to the unfortunate and tragic events involving Chris Benoit and his family. The story was not based on/written because of/exploiting the situation. It’s from a personal experience of mine from a few years ago. To anyone who might be uneasy with such subjects, I apologize immensely

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Sometimes, real life gets in the way of work. Sometimes, work gets in the way of real life. And on rare occasions, the two clash, affecting each other. Compromises and sacrifices must be made on both sides of the fence.


When Real Life Gets in the Way of Wrestling


5:03PM


He’d beat the sh*t out of Rob.


He’d beat the sh*t out of him.


As Matt approached the stop sign, he did all his decelerating from 60 to 0 in the last couple seconds. Lurching forward, he cursed aloud as he gripped the steering wheel of his 67 Camero so tightly, his knuckles lost every last bit of their color.


Just the mention of Rob’s name was typically enough to cause his lunch to splatter across the nearest flat surface, raising a stench almost as foul as the guy’s existence. But, to know that Rob had actually had the nerve to contact his wife… after what he had done to Mary years ago… it had him in a state of semi-unconscious rage. Matt knew he was headed towards Rob’s place; he recognized the sights and landmarks around him, but the actual act of turning left and right had been done without his even noticing.


With a quick glance in each direction, Matt hit the gas. He didn’t even bother to take the time and lift his leg, instead just rolling his foot on his heel, moving his toes from the brake and crushing them into the accelerator.


He wanted to beat the hell out of Rob. In his mind, Matt pictured himself knocking his old high school buddy all around, slamming his head into the walls of every room.


But he couldn’t do that.


Not because he feared the legal consequences, but because he was tight on time.


He had a flight to catch in less than two hours. He’d be running it close.


If he missed the flight, it was going to screw up his schedule for the ToC. He’d have to take the next flight out… which wasn’t till 12:05AM. It’d mess up his sleep, leave him exhausted for the tournament. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone.


Especially Rob.


* * *


When Wrestling Gets in the Way of Real Life


4:22PM


"Ooooohhhh. So close!" Mary winked and fired a truly evil grin in his direction.


Matt just furled his brow and dropped his putter, not amused at the near-miss that cost him par on the 17<SUP>th</SUP> hole of Adventure Golf.


"I think my ball hit a pebble or something. Why the hell do they have to put a couple of damn shrubs in the middle of gravel pits on every hole?"


"Awww, poor baby." She put on an incredibly exaggerated pouting face and walked in his direction, knocking her hip against his, bumping him out of the way. "Step aside, Tiger, I’ve got a shot to nail."


And, as if some sort of prophet, like Miss Cleo (before the scandal), Mary did just as she said. With one smooth motion, she swung the putter back, then gently eased it forward, tapping in from a couple feet out.


"Nice job, show-off."


"I believe," Mary smiled that gigantic smile again, "that puts me up by two strokes."


"Yeah yeah… I can count." Matt quickly tapped in his remaining shot and the couple picked up and headed for the final hole on the red course, stepping over the majestic, and very much fake, waterfall. "You want to play the other course after this? I know I can beat you on the blue course."


"First of all… no you can’t." She turned back over her shoulder and shook her head to emphasize her words. "Secondly, you’ve got a plane that leaves at 6:50. We don’t have time to play another eighteen holes, drive home, get you packed, and…"


"I know. You’re right. I just… we’re having a good time this afternoon. I feel like a rather colossal jackass for having to cut it short on account of me catching a flight to the ToC."


"Don’t do this, Matthew." She stopped at the start of the 18<SUP>th</SUP> hole and placed her ball on the tattered remains of the rubber starting pad. "This tournament is one of the very last things you’ll do in the world of pro wrestling, and while that makes me very happy, I don’t want you to not enjoy it and not give it all ya got outta guilt."


"Ok." He watched as her put found its mark, ricocheting off the brick side, then following the curve, coming to a rest a foot or so from the hole. "Nicely done."


"Thanks." With a hop in her step, she followed after the ball, stopped to line up the simple shot, and sank it like a pro. The sphere rolled down the long tube and deposited itself wherever those colorful golf balls go to die on the last hole of putt-putt courses. "So, what do you think your chances are?"


"Zero. I was done two strokes. Even if I get a hole in one, I’ll…"


"I meant in the tournament, you dork."


"I could do well. Lot of talented competitors involved. Ya know… hence, Tournament of Champions." Matt stepped into position for his shot. "I suppose with a little bit of luck, I could win the thing."


"That’d be fantastic, sweetie."


"Then again… I’d have to have some luck on my side." With a ‘clack’ his red golf ball rocketed down the green carpet, bounced off of both brick walls, hit a rock in the middle of the course, rolled up a hill, caught some air, and landed four inches in front of the hole, taking a brief hop before just rolling in.


"A hole in one!"


"Hah!"


"I think that means you win a free game for the next time we come!" Mary threw her arms around Matt’s neck and gave him a huge kiss on the cheek, and then the two headed towards the main lodge to return their putters and collect his reward. "Looks like you were a little quick to dismiss having lady luck on your side."


"I guess so." Matt took the putter from Mary and set both back in their empty spots along the wall of clubs in the building. Turning in their scorecard, they gladly accepted the employee’s congratulations and the ticket for a free game. "I think I really can win this thing."


"I hope so, baby." They made their way out towards their car, across the parking lot.


"I mean, I may be winding down my career, but with some good luck running my direction, I…" Matt’s words trailed off in mid-sentence as they came to a stop at their vehicle. Immediately, his shoulders sunk.


"What is it, Matthew?"


Matt reached across the car and plucked a small object from off the windshield. The wiper jolted, then slapped against the car as the paper slipped out from behind it. Without turning, he handed the note to his wife.


"A parking ticket." This time, she lacks the smile.


"Well," Matt shrugs his shoulders, "Quarter finals would be nice."


* * *
When Real Life Gets in the Way of Wrestling


5:17PM


It had been almost five years since Rob and Mary had dated… been engaged, actually.


The three had been high school friends. When Mary and Matt had started dating, Rob had remained close and been about as supportive as anyone they knew.


"Sonofa*****!" Matt tore through the yellow light, not wanting to delay things any more than necessary. He wanted to get in, get out, make sure Rob got the point and be done with it. Rob was a good listener. It’s what had won her over.


When Matt and Mary had parted ways in 2002, Rob was there for Mary. He was someone she could talk to, someone to vent at, someone to hold her, and the two found themselves in a relationship before long. Things had gone well. Well enough that he’d popped the question. Well enough that she’d said yes.


And then, somewhere along the way, it all fell apart. Mary had shown up at Matt’s door one evening, crying. It wasn’t the tears on her cheek, however, that had caught him off guard.


It was the bruise.


Matt flipped on his right blinker and came to a stop in front of a brick house. He looked at the car in the driveway, confirmed it was Rob’s, and noticed through the front window that the television in the house was on. He was home.


"Make this quick, Matt." As he instructed himself, he turned off the engine and stepped out of the car.


What pissed him off the most was that Rob had been their friend for years. It was sometimes still hard to believe that the same guy he’d hung out with and laughed his ass off with every Friday night in high school had actually come home from work late one night and just hit Mary. Hit the girl he’d known for eight years. Hit the girl he called his best friend. One night he’d put a ring on her finger. The other, he’d put a bruise on her face.


And then, five years later, had the nerve to come back around like nothing had happened.


For that, he was going to give Rob the same treatment he’d given Mary.


Matt slammed his fist against the front door.


Practice for the next couple minutes.


There was no response, and so he tried again. Still nothing.


"C’mon, Rob!" He waited for another moment, then grew tired of the patience. Turning the handle, the door slid open and Matt stepped inside.


"Where the hell are you at, Rob?!" No reply came. Only the mumbling voices on the television. "Piece of sh*t."


Matt walked over to the TV, pressed the power button, and the screen went black.



* * *


When Wrestling Gets in the Way of Real Life


4:47PM


"Well, at least I got to taste it. Even if for only a couple minutes. Besides, they can’t take the free game away from me!" The two laughed about the good luck/bad luck as they pushed open the door to their home.


"Hey guys!" Scott Ward sprung off of the couch to greet his brother and sister-in-law. "How was the Putt-putt."


"Won a free game." Matt waved the little red slip of paper, then joined it with a white one. "And got a parking ticket."


"Nice." Scotty shot the thumbs up.


"Where’s Georgie?" Mary grabbed the two pieces of paper from her husband and walked them over to the bar at the edge of the kitchen.


"You’re baby girl is sound asleep for a nice afternoon nap. I told you guys… I’m a great babysitter." He pushed past his brother. "And I’d let you repay me by cooking me a fantastic dinner, but… I need to be running. Promised Laura we’d go to a movie tonight."


"Take it easy, bud. And thanks again. I know it was short notice."


"No problem." Scotty waves as he left the house, slamming the door shut behind him.


"He always does that." Mary shook her head. "C’mon, we gotta get you packed."


"Can I grab a bite to eat first?" Matt had already begun to rummage through the cabinets in the kitchen. He opened a couple at a time, gave them a glance, then let them shut, moving on to the next. "It doesn’t take me that long to pack. I’m a guy. And it’s the Dayton Airport, sweetie. If there’s ten people there, I’ll be surprised. I gotta couple minutes."


"You sure? I just don’t want you to miss your flight. They recommend you be at the airport at least an hour before. And if you miss this one, the next doesn’t depart until after midnight."


"Yeah. I’m sure."


"You sure, you’re sure?"


"Well… not now." He pushed closed the last cabinet. "C’mon, let’s go pack." He grabbed her hand and headed into the bedroom, opening the closet and reaching deep inside to pull out a suitcase. Mary immediately headed over to their chest of drawers and started sorting through T-shirts. As they tag-teamed the act of packing his luggage, the phone began to ring. "Just let it go."


"Yeah." Mary had apparently held the same thought, as she never even made a movement towards the phone in the room. Three rings later, the answering machine kicked in.


"Is my green polo in there?" Matt tore through the clothes hanging in the closet.


Hey Mary. It’s Rob.


The voice bellowing out over the answering machine stopped both in an instant. Matt turned, his face already turning the color his golf ball had been.


I’m sorry about last week. I probably shouldn’t have come by. I hope you can forgive me for whatever its worth.


That was all from Rob. Not from Matt.


"What the hell was that?!" He slammed the closet door shut, shoving it so hard that as it slid along the track and against the molding, it hit and bounced right back, remaining halfway open.


"He stopped by last week while you were gone from PRIME. I told him right away to get lost. That’s all."


"You didn’t tell me?!"


"I knew you would be angry."


"Yeah." Matt turned and was out of the room in and into the living room in what seemed like two steps. He grabbed his keys off the bar and headed for the front door.


"Matthew!" Mary came jogging behind him. "You’re gonna miss your flight."


"It’s a twenty-five minute drive to his place. Twenty-five back. I’ll only be there for about ten seconds. I’ll be fine."


"You don’t have to do this, Matthew."


"I know I don’t."


"What are you even gonna do when you get there?" She dropped his shirt she was holding in his hands. It turned itself into a small parachute and feel gently to the ground.


"I’m gonna do to him, what he did to you." He kissed her, then opened the door, stopped before stepping out and turned to face her. "I’ll be back in an hour… in plenty of time. And I promise, I won’t do anything too stupid."


"Ok."


He kissed her again, then stepped out.


* * *


When Real Life Gets in the Way of Wrestling


5:27


"sh*t! Oh man!"


Frantically, Matt spun around, his eyes hardly able to lock onto anything specific. There was a workbench against the far wall, and he raced in its direction, surveying is surface as he did so.


Some nuts and bolts. A box of screws. A lantern. Four, maybe five wrenches of varying size.


Nothing sharp.


"Something sharp, damn it!"


Matt whipped his head back over his shoulder and looked at Rob.


Dangling there, from the rafters in the garage, it didn’t seem real. His skin was the same color as his blue-grey shirt, making it impossible to distinguish the collar line from skin. His eyes were rolled up in his head, their neutral whites not standing out against his colorless flesh. And from the side of his mouth, his lips parted just slightly, his tongue slunked out… a bit of drool stuck to the edge of his chin in almost comical fashion.


Wasn’t funny, though.


Again, Matt screamed to no one as he stared at his old friend, feet eight inches off the ground, a yellow vinyl strap firmly around his neck.


To be honest, Rob didn’t even look like an actual person. He looked fake, like the waterfall.


"C’mon!!"


Matt wiped a bit of sweat from his eyes, trying to stay as focused as possible while actively losing it. Finally, he spotted something that caught his attention on the far end of the workbench, under thirty feet of garden hose.


A pair of garden shears.


He grabbed the large scissors-like object and jumped to the middle of the garage. Fumbling with his free hand, Matt managed to set up the step stool Rob must have kicked away. Frantically, he began cutting at the strap.


It was a heavy-duty harness, for Christ sakes. The edge of the shears bounced off the fabric again and again, hardly doing a thing, fraying the occasional fiber.


They were dull.


He abandoned the actual act of cutting, and began a sawing motion that slowly started to work its way through the strap. Just as Matt was about to completely severe the harness, it occurred to him that Rob was going to become dead weight. He wasn’t sure how his mind had wrapped around this important fact in its current scrambled state, but it had, and the truth was, if Rob busted his head against the bumper of his car or the concrete floor as he fell, all his work releasing the tension on his neck wasn’t going to matter.


"Work with me, Rob"


Matt did his best to wrap his left arm around Rob’s waist and try to support some of his waist to ease his fall, while wildly hacking at the strap above their heads with the shears in his free hand.


And suddenly, everything got very heavy.


Rob crashed to the cold floor, the support of Matt’s arm slowing him just a bit. As he fell, Matt tried to guide his momentum with his left hand, but it was difficult, and there was a disturbing ‘ting’ as the back of Rob’s head bounced off the front bumper to his pick-up.


"C’mon, Rob!"


Matt hopped down, the step stool kicking out from under his feet. He immediately leaned in close over Rob’s face. His skin was the color of a used steel-wool pad, and the drool from his half-cocked mouth slid down his cheek, some of it landing on the concrete, some catching in his black hair.


There was nothing. He couldn’t feel any breath.


"C’mon, Rob! damn! C’mon!"


Without thinking, his mind pulled back emergency training he’d taken fifteen years before and he tilted Rob’s head, pried apart his lips, moved his tongue back into his mouth, moved his mouth over Rob’s… and gave two breaths.


He wasn’t sure how long he tried to revive his old friend… he stopped counting after one. But after two or three seconds, hours, he heard a disgusting hack… like stones stuck in the back of the throat. But if there was a cough, a hack, a wheeze, there was a breath.


Quickly sitting up, Matt listened to see if another would follow, or if his ears had betrayed him. A moment past, and then another discomforting breath.


Reaching into his pocket, Matt pulled out his cell phone and dialed 9-1-1. He heard his own voice, heard the voice of the dispatcher, told her of the hanging, that Rob was breathing again, gave her the home address. She wanted him to stay on the phone till the ambulance arrived, but his thumb just slid up to the ‘Off’ button and ended the call.


Having just become aware of it, Matt realized his breathing wasn’t sounding much better than Rob’s. He pushed himself against the wall and took a couple minutes to do nothing.


Eventually, his breath returned to something resembling normal. Rob’s picked up as well, though not as quickly or as perfectly. While he listened, he flipped open his cell phone again. He needed to talk to someone. Not the dispatcher. He needed to talk to Mary.


A press of the number 2, and her voice was there to ease his nerves.


"Matthew!"


"Hey, sweetie. I’m at Rob’s"


"Is everything ok?"


"Sorta."


"Did you hit him?"


"No." Matt looked over his shoulder at Rob, reached out for some reason and took Rob’s hand in his own. He squeezed. "I didn’t hit him."


She asked what was going on, what had happened between the two. Was Rob home? Had they just talked?


He didn’t answer, just looked at the old clock hanging on the wall above the workbench.


5:41PM


The cops would want him to stay for questioning. It was a half-hour drive home. He wasn’t packed yet.


"Baby?"


"Yeah?


The sound of sirens a block or ten over floated in through the open window of the garage.


"Can you book me a ticket on the 12:05?"

Irish Fire
06-26-07, 10:01 PM
David Paige sits in his favorite coffee shop in <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Dublin</st1:place></st1:City>, reading a book by Jacques Derrida, and avoiding most of the crowd. He is still recovering from the Deathmatch tournament, some wounds have healed, and the bandages are gone, but his face and exposed arms are still specked with closing gashes. One would think losing the last round of the tournament would bother him, especially seeing as it was his Burn Out Senton which knocked out Dante Greco for the three-count. Why wouldn’t he be furious with Greer for stealing his win, his glory, his spiked bat? The answer was simple, the man who cared about such things was long gone, his narrative revoked. Paige was himself again, the Champion, the hero, the golden boy of the WR.
<o:p> </o:p>
As he sits alone, finishing his glass of tea, he sees a mother and her young child come in. Instantly he recognizes the green t-shirt the child is wearing as one of the official products of The Wrestling Republic. The Shamrock with “WR” written in the center is a dead give away, even to someone not as perceptive as Paige. He smiles a little, and wonders how long it will take the child to recognize him. Since winning the title, he has been quite the hero to the children, and a few overly enthusiastic adults. In fact, he carries a pen around with him just to sign his autograph with, in case the fan asking for it has forgotten theirs. Already his hand slides into the breast pocket of his blazer. He slides his fingers over the smooth plastic of the pen.
<o:p> </o:p>
The child turns, and for the briefest moment their eyes connect with each others. The young fan and the heroic champion. Paige cannot help but feel as if he has just made the kid’s day. Yet, the moment that spark of recognition ignites in the child’s mind, his eyes widen with an expression quite different from excitement. No, Paige recognizes it right away. It’s fear. The child draws closer to his mother’s thigh, wrapping his arms high around her waist, as if to beg her for protection. Sensing the anxiety in her child, the mother turns around, and recognizes the solitary wrestler in the corner. She looks down at her child, unsure as to the reason for his nervousness.
<o:p> </o:p>
“Don’t you want to talk to him?” the mother asks. The child merely shakes his head.
<o:p> </o:p>
“Why not,” the mother replies, “I thought he was your favorite guy?”
<o:p> </o:p>
“He got mean,” the child says timidly, praying that his fallen hero in the corner would not hear him. Yet, David Paige did hear him, though he would not allow himself to show it with his expression. Instead, the champion feigns disinterest, pretends he did not even see the child, and pours more hot water into his cup.
<o:p> </o:p>
“Oh, I see, isn’t that awful?” the mother says, humoring the child’s fear. “So who do you like now?”
<o:p> </o:p>
“Adam Burke,” the child replies.
<o:p> </o:p>
The mother gets her coffee in a paper cup to go, and the child gets a blended fruit smoothie. They both leave, and as they walk down the street, the mother and Paige exchange a brief glance. She smiles, he smiles. As soon as she is gone, he returns to his book and his drink. For a long time he contemplates the exchange he witnesses, which revolved around him without ever actually involving him. The more he thinks about that which he just witnesses, the more depressed it makes him. After another half an hour, his mind is too scattered to even focus on the book. With a final gulp, he finishes his tea, and heads outside, hoping to clear his mind.
<o:p> </o:p>
As Paige enjoys the crisp air of an Irish June, his mind cannot help but replay over every detail of that brief moment, every syllable of their words, every expression on their faces. Halfway down the street he realizes what he had wanted to say all along, the moment he saw that child’s fear.
<o:p> </o:p>
“That wasn’t the real me,” the Paige of his imagined alternative past would have said, the second the child showed that fear. “It was a ruse, a character I used to be, a part I played to better fit the Deathmatch tournament. I am still who I was, I am still your hero. It was all an act.”
<o:p> </o:p>
But the child would not have understood. How could his hero have set another human being on fire? How could his hero have broken light tubes over the body of another man? How could his hero have cut those promos about hurting and breaking other people? That was not what David Paige did. “Irish Fire” David Paige was the golden boy, he was the clean cut hero who never cheated, and always fought against that. The child was most likely too young to remember the original Paige, the violent nihilist, the literal crippler of his opponents. He would not have understood that he was not changing, he was doing tribute to the man he used to be. How could a child understand something as complex as that? Most adult fans do not even comprehend the full scope.
<o:p> </o:p>
Once, a few months ago, Paige went to go see the most recent action import from <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">America</st1:place></st1:country-region> on a lonely Saturday afternoon. While getting his ticket, the usher looked up and instantly recognized the then Sinner Tag Team Champion. A smirk came across his face.
<o:p> </o:p>
“Isn’t this a little below you man?” the usher had asked.
<o:p> </o:p>
“What do you mean?” Paige had replied.
<o:p> </o:p>
“Aren’t you always watching those art films? Reading the big books?”
<o:p> </o:p>
What could Paige have said in response? Only the same thing he would have said to that child just an hour ago. “That isn’t me. It’s who I play on TV.”
<o:p> </o:p>
This has been the greatest conflict in Paige’s life since he became the focus of the attention of so many. How do you explain to someone who is not in the industry the nature of the person that is a Sports Entertainer? Paige has tried; he has tried so many times to explain how it all works behind the curtains, but if a person has never been there, they seem unable to understand the operations.
<o:p> </o:p>
“No, you see, in Sports Entertainment, it is all about performance,” Paige will say, attempting to explain the mechanics to the layman.
<o:p> </o:p>
“So you mean its fake?” the befuddled observer will reply.
<o:p> </o:p>
“No, not at all, it’s all real.” Paige will further explain, “Well, at least the competition is.”
<o:p> </o:p>
“So you guys really hit each other? My friend says you guys don’t really hit each other.”
<o:p> </o:p>
“Your friend is wrong, we really do hit each other, and it is quite painful. However, everything you see outside of the immediate competition acts as a sort of spectacle, a narrative if you will.”
<o:p> </o:p>
It is about this point when Paige will usually lose their attention.
<o:p> </o:p>
“You see, a Sports Entertainer’s personality is just as important as their skill in the ring, charisma is as big a part of the machine as technique. Thus, the most successful performers are those who manage to combine success in the ring with an intriguing personality outside of it.”
<o:p> </o:p>
“So they’re just pretending to be like that?”
<o:p> </o:p>
“Not quite, its more complex than that. No one really just makes up their character, its always an expression of a part of them, a heightened character made out of the more mundane reality. Take myself for instance, I really do like to read big books, I really do like to watch long artsy movies. But I also like beer, and sports, and dumb action films, and the occasional video game. When I go out there in the ring, I heighten that one aspect of my personality, and then purge everything else that doesn’t cohere to the primary element.”
<o:p> </o:p>
“Do all you guys do that?” the person will ask.
<o:p> </o:p>
“Almost all of us, there comes the rare person who is so unique or amazing in their actual personality that they do not need to perform. John Henry comes to mind. But for most of us, yes, we are not the men that you see when the cameras are on. Afterall, we need to invent ourselves to be unique to compete with the truly unique people.”
<o:p> </o:p>
“So what about feuds? Backstage fights? Things like that?” This is of course the next natural step in the chain of questions.
<o:p> </o:p>
“Those are stranger,” Paige will explain. “Feuds are often not conflicts between the actual people, but rather the characters they portray. While in the narrative, the violence and intrigue is quite real, and the betrayal’s you witness are indeed legitimate. However, these actions are always contained within the characters themselves. It is not uncommon for two Sports Entertainers after a back stage brawl to go get a beer together, friends after the spectacle has concluded and they must no longer be their characters. I myself have enjoyed some time away from the cameras with a few rivals. I shall, of course, not reveal their names. I do not want to ruin the mystique.”
<o:p> </o:p>
It is about that this time that the listener becomes entirely incredulous. After all, this is a pretty large story to swallow. Sports Entertainers, wrestlers, staging this epic narrative backstage around their sport, and keeping it entirely secret from everyone but those within the industry itself. How can he blame them for their skepticism? Isn’t it easier to just believe what is seen on the cameras? Why believe this convoluted story, especially when its just the word of a noted over-analytic and sometimes paranoid Irish wrestler? In the end, it always comes down to one question.
<o:p> </o:p>
“So, if all of this is an elaborate show, why are you telling me this? Aren’t you supposed to keep it secret?”
<o:p> </o:p>
Why? Why indeed. Why does David Paige go out there every night, grab the microphone and explain to the fans the secret narrative of Sports Entertainment. Why does he tell them their heroes and villains are just men in self-fashioned masks. Why does he deconstruct the laws of the sport? The laws of the narrative? If he loves Sports Entertainment so much, why is it that he seems to want to kill it by ruining the mystique? His answer is always the same.
<o:p> </o:p>
“Because,” Paige will say, with a rare earnest look in his eye, “when you see me on the street, at the pub, at the theatre, I don’t want you to see the character I play. I want you to see me. I want to be appreciated for who I am really am, not for who people see on the television. When I am out of that ring, I don’t want to be ‘Irish Fire.’ I just want to be David.”
<o:p> </o:p>
They never believe him. They laugh it off. Or they just never listen to begin with. Of course, Paige has since learned to live with it, especially as champion. If you are going to be seen as a character, why not be seen as a hero? Why not be the role model to millions of Irish children, and wrestling fans all over the world? Why not show them its possible to be intelligent and still cool, especially in an industry filled with base and primitive aggression. Just because he is a false idol does not mean that he cannot still do good in the world. Perhaps that is why seeing that child hide in fear has haunted him so much. What if people begin to see him as a monster again? What if, rather than assuming him to be a better man than he really is, they begin to see him as something far, far worse?
<o:p> </o:p>
Paige pauses and looks into the murky green depths of the river, staring at the rusting fixture where the Millennium Clock used to be. He thinks again of that mother, the way she spoke to her child, the smile she gave Paige as she passed by him in the window. She knew. When they made that brief contact, Paige could tell that he was looking at a woman who did not see a character. She saw a performer away from the stage, a normal man enjoying tea and a book on a Tuesday afternoon like any other person in the city. It is moments like that that keep Paige going, moments when, despite all the failures, he knows that someone truly understands what he is trying to do.
<o:p> </o:p>
Paige turns and heads to the gym. He feels like training. Afterall, the Tournament of Champions is coming. It’s time to be a hero again.

nexusone
06-27-07, 10:16 PM
(A mansion in Calgary, Alberta, Canada is the location. It’s the Monday before the NAPW event “Winner Take All”. The place is decked out for a fancy party. People dressed in elegant attire, tuxedos on the men, thousand dollar dresses on the females, are all around, drinking from fancy wine glasses. Standing at the front door is a tall black man, wearing big sunglasses, a fuzzy green fedora hat and a pair of leather chaps. His grill is pure platinum baby! He's standing guard over the elusive red rope that allows entry into this swank party. A gorgeous woman, wearing a low cut black dress, walks up to the rope. She has a very large woman with her.)

DR. TITTYLOVER: Evenin’ hoes! What can the MAD PIMP DO FOR YA?

GORGEOUS LADY: (she leans in forward showing off her cleavage) We're on the list!

DR. TITTYLOVER: Oh yeah, you must be the twins. Fug and Lee! Lemmie check out did here list.

(Moments pass as Dr. Tittylover leaves through his notepad.)

LARGE LADY: Well?

DR. TITTYLOVER: I'm lookin' but it's kinda tough since you ignorant hoes didn't even tell me yo names.

LARGE LADY: (looking pissed) I'm Nora and my companion is Stacey!

DR. TITTYLOVER: Companion eh? (coughs) Lesbians...(coughs) Aight, I see yo names on da list so get ya fat asses inside before I change my damn mind!

(They walk away in a huff, as we see Rex Caliber, REBEL Champ and owner of NAPW, arrive with a quite beautiful red head on his arm. Rex is dressed in a basic black tuxedo. She is in a red dress, very tight, very sexy.)

DR. TITTYLOVER: The guest of honor! This is the biggest birthday bash I’ve ever worked at!

REX: Birthday bash? It ain’t my birth..

DR. TITTYLOVER: (interrupting) You need another ho for later brutha man? Just let me know! God damn if I don’t have this ***** that...

REX: (interrupting) She’ll be just fine!

(She turns her head to look at the crowd, as Rex mimics the “call me” sign to the Mad Pimp! Rex meets up with Ca$h, a fellow member of the infamous Crimes stable in NAPW and REBEL. Ca$h has a green tux on and is all smiles.)

REX: The NEXT NAPW PROVINCIAL CHAMP!

CA$H: Damn right! This is cool as hell having a pre Winner Take All party for the Crimes! But why did you send a letter to my hotel man? You too busy to call, champ?

REX: What you talking about? This is a charity banquet right?

CA$H: What? No man...

REX: Tittylover told me it was my ****ing birthday.

(A waiter walks by with a tray of champagne filled glasses. Rex takes two, Ca$h grabs one. Rex downs both glasses real quick as his date looks at him rather displeased.)

CA$H: That dude has to be on something, and why did you hire him of all people to work the door?

REX: What part of me not hosting this party, do you not get?

CA$H: You’re Rex, you ALWAYS host the biggest parties! That’s why I wanted to roll with you!

REX: This thing isn’t smelling right. Maybe some more drinks will help.

(Back at the door we see Dr. Tittylover having some problems for a guy trying to get in. An orange tuxedo wearing, Tommy Deathrow, from NAPW, has arrived. He has a half empty bottle of vodka in one hand and a cigarette in another.)

DR. TITTYLOVER: You sure you the liquor delivery man?

TOMMY: What you think I just walk around the damn streets with bottles of liquor?

DR. Tittylover: ... I do.

(He pulls a flask from his coat pocket as Dr. Tittylover reluctantly lets him in. Rex walks over to Tommy.)

REX: Tommy man? What are you doing here?

TOMMY: (laughing) You ****ing invited me! You should throw these single swingers events more often. I hate dressing up, but if I can get some prime poontang, **** I’ll dress all pretty!

REX: You drunk already?

TOMMY: I think the question is...When haven't I been drunk?

(Tommy offers a drink from his flask and swigs a little. Rex then looks at Tommy rather disgusted.)

REX: Rum? Vodka? Tequila? And?

TOMMY: Pickle Juice!

(Rex hates pickles... and runs to the nearest trash can to throw up. He walks back over to
Tommy.)

REX: When we used to drink together, I remember specifically telling you that I hated pickles and pickle juice. Why the hell would you offer me that?

TOMMY: That right? I thought you was trying to say you didn’t like a man to stick his pickle...

(That conversation ends when Sebastien Martyr, one half of the NAPW tag champs, dressed in an all black suit, walks up between the two men. Rex then gets between the eye ball to eye ball Tommy and Sebastien. He pushes them apart.)

REX: IF Y’ALL FIGHT, I’LL SUSPEND YOU BOTH!

TOMMY: Vampiro wannabe don’t want any more of his blood spilled on my hands!

MARTYR: (angrily) I just wanted to tell the God of NAPW, Rex Caliber, that I’m happy that he's getting married, he deserves to be tortured and getting married will do it! I’ll be enjoying the open bar, and thinking of ways to severely torture the soon to be unconscious Tommy Deathrow after he passes out drunk!

(Sebastien Martyr walks away as Rex does too. His date can no longer be found. Rex begins to talk to himself, while looking for her. We then see Crime stable-mate Prince Darko, one half of the REBEL Tag Team champions staggering around drunk. He has on a sweet purple suit, but is still wearing his white leather half mask, that covers his mouth. He can still be heard however!)

DARKO: SEXXXY REXXXXY! It’s awesome that your kid graduated from Kindergarten! The guy is gonna be killing the ho’s in first grade!

REX: What the hell?

DARKO: This is your party for your son graduating right? Or is that tomorrow?

REX: He did graduate, but he isn’t in my custody, so why would I throw an adult party for him?

DARKO: Ah, you messing around! I know Rex, and the Rex I know, will throw a party for any damn reason! Have you seen Thomas yet?

REX: I didn’t invite anyone here! Damn this is getting weirder by the minute.

(With those words we cut to back to the front door. The Mad Pimp, Dr. Tittylover is having a heated conversation with yet another guest... “Dynamite” Stone Zellor, the resident Pimp of NAPW! Stone Zellor is a scrawny tall man wearing a blue tuxedo, pimp hat of his own, and big oversized sun glasses.)

DR. TITTYLOVER: They is only one Pimp at this party and it’s me baby!

STONE: I wasn’t invited here, but heard a shindig with the Crimes were having anti pimp rally, and y’know I gotta show the Crimes that they ain’t stopping Dynamite from pimpin’!

DR. TITTYLOVER: You all crossed up man, this here a Birthday Party for Rex!

STONE: Why all this haterade pouring out on me?

DR. TITTYLOVER: Leave you gift at the door, and get to stepping fool!

(Stone attempts to pimp slap Dr. Tittylover only to be stopped with a pimp slap from the Mad Pimp! They clash hands and both back down.)

DR. TITTYLOVER: Aight, that’s a strong Pimp Hand there playa! Come on in...

(Stone walks in and Rex storms over.)

REX: Who sent you here? WHY ARE YOU HERE? because of you two, Lloyd Rees lost the damn PROVINCIAL TITLE! SECURITY!

(The Fixer and his partner the Hatchet, known to old school NAPW fans as the less than successful tag team of the Calgary Connection, approach Stone and pick him up off his feet.)

STONE: (being carried out) The Pimp Nation will not be stopped by you! You’re in for it *****!

(Rex tells them to stop.)

REX: Yo... y’all are working as bouncers?

HATCHET: It’s Calgary and we needed to come see you. We sorta would like to compete in NAPW again.

FIXER: We heard that you was throwing a party for selling the Nexus Sports Bar to Bruce Richards.

(Rex waves them away, and they throw Stone out of the party. Rex takes out his cell phone, and calls Lloyd Rees.)

REX: Yo... You not coming to the party tonight?

(Rex has to push the speaker phone feature on his cell to hear over the noise.)

REES: Rex? I can’t make t’da party me man... still kinda of down ‘bout da lost of me belt.

REX: You were invited though, right?

REES: Of course, but why d’ya send an invite in da mail? Yer big adult movie premiere is big, but a simple phone call would have been cool.

REX: Porn Movie?

REES: Y’know da movie you made under da name “Buck Wild”! Yer drunk ain’t ya?

REX: NO! But some crazy **** is going down. I think Bob Ravager is messing with me! Buck Wild? What (BLEEP) up name is that?

REES: Doncha go worrin’ ‘bout Bob! Either him or Bruce is fired tomorrow AND ya might fight him in TEAM’s Tournament Deal! Anyway, is John there?

REX: Salty? (looking around the room, then his eyes widen) UH, YEAH! I think he just got smacked by Jenny Jersey. I gotta go!

(Rex runs over to John Salty, manager of Rees, and sometimes manager of the Crimes.)

REX: Salty? What happened?

SALTY: Between me and you I t’ink she is playing on the other team!

REX: Why would you say that?

SALTY: I asked her if she had any Newfie in her, she said “no”, so I asked her if she wanted any.

REX: Why?

SALTY: It’s a bachelor party for Static, I figured she was a stripper...

REX: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?! It has to be Ravager. Son of a ***** is playing mind games with me.

(Just then Link Van Haggard from NAPW, Murcielago from REBEL, Matthew Kurtis and Lyndsey Valentine who compete in both, arrive. Rex looks at them with a crazed look. They are all dressed up. Rex walks over to them.)

REX: (looking at Link) Why are you here?

LINK: (looking shocked) You invited me!

REX: NO.. WHAT WAS THE REASON FOR THE PARTY!

LINK: (looking confused) You need me here for the formal meet and greet, to raise money for your mom’s dialysis.

REX: MY MOM DIED LAST ****ING MONTH! (pointing at Matthew and Lyndsey) You two? Why are you here?

MATTHEW: You’re running for Mayor of Edmonton and wanting to drum up support!

REX: No... (looking at Murcielago)

MURCIELAGO: I heard you had testicular cancer and this was a benefit for you.

REX: (throwing his hands in the air) HAS EVERYONE LOST THEIR MINDS!

(Just then Chris Casino walks in, and hugs Dr. Tittylover. They go way back after all. Rex then spots him and walks over to him. On his way, Rex gets stopped by Jenny Jersey, the ring announcer of REBEL.)

REX: What?

JENNY: I’m all for gays and lesbians rights, and I'm honored to be a celebrity supporter. I’m straight though and if John Salty keeps calling me a lesbian, I’m gonna slug him!

REX: You think this is a Gay Rights Rally?

JENNY: Yeah... Duh, I mean I don’t won’t to be called one just because I won’t go out with a guy... he isn’t my type. But it’s cool for others.

REX: I don’t have time for this.

(Chris Casino then sneaks up behind Rex. He taps him the shoulder as Rex turns around.)

REX: Chris Casino!

CHRIS: What up champ? So lets get to business...

REX: Business?

CHRIS: Yeah, we are supposed to be doing some promotional interviews for the DVD Release of Tagstravaganza. This is the release party right?

REX: That’s not why we’re here.

CHRIS: This your coming out party?

REX: I DON’T KNOW WHY I’M HERE!

(Just then the REBEL wrestler Warren, a slacker by every definition, comes up to Rex.)

REX: Man... what do YOU want?

WARREN: I was told this is a video game convention.

(Just then a big television on the wall comes on, and the sound is through out the house. Rex is shown on black and white footage kissing this four hundred pound, grotesque woman. Rex is noticeably drunk. The footage has Rex telling the woman that he loved her, and they hold hands leaving the building they were in. Rex falls outside, and the woman picks him up, sets him in the back of a pick up truck. Rex in person looks sick and looks around at everyone laughing at him. Then the footage shows a message. “To Rex, Love the NAPW Champ!” Rex is turning red with anger, and exits the building rather quickly. )

REX: (talking to himself) No good son of a *****! How the hell did he get my security film from my bar! I CAN’T WAIT TO MEET HIM IN A RING! HE IS GONNA DIE! (trying to calm down) I’ll just deny it, and not mention... but in the back of my head, I’ll be thinking of ways to make his ass pay. Ravager WILL PAY!

(The other half of the Foundation, and one half of REBEL’s tag team champs, Thomas Young walks in. Static, the manager of the Crimes, is behind him. Rex blows by them.)

THOMAS: Rex man sorry I’m late! We miss anything?

(They enter the building and the tape has started over. Everyone is either laughing or mad. )

STATIC: Damn is Rex kissing a man?

(Outside the building we see Bruce Richards stare as Rex gets in a limo and leaves. Simply Beautiful shows up, and they begin chatting. They of course are a team together in A1E’s tag tournament, taking on Chronic Collizion next.)

SB: What’s up man? You here for Rex’s Karaoke Night?

BRUCE: Nah, just here to laugh at Rex.

SB: What you mean?

BRUCE: He is firing either me or Ravager, and after I bought his bar, I had some people view the security tapes. They found any funny Rex things, and they was a bunch. I picked the worse and showed it at a fake party of his peers. I only wished more people could have came. Now everyone thinks Rex was wasting all of their time, and now will hate him even more. The house is owned by a business partner of mine, he owed me a favor. It was perfect!

SB: Damn, I missed the whole thing! What was it?

BRUCE: A four hundred pound fugly woman making out with him.

SB: (hysterically laughing) I’m kicking myself for missing it!

BRUCE: The other funny thing is... the ending message! I made it look like it was from Ravager. I hate that guy just as much, so Rex will try to get even. I win both ways!

SB: That’s why I got you as a partner... smartest man in wrestling! Rex might have him killed though.

BRUCE: Oh well, Business is Business!

(Just then, Rex’s date comes out looking for Rex. Simply Beautiful talk to her.)

SB: What you looking for sweet thang?

REX’S DATE: Rex! He leave?

SB: Yes with a blonde girl. And a brunette. Neither as attractive as you.

REX’S DATE: That bastard. He better never call me again!

SB: I’m free and have a hankerin’ for something to eat. You hungry?

REX’S DATE: (smiling) Sure.

(They leave together, and Bruce is laughing walking to his car. Rex’s limo arrives a minute later. Rex gets out, and is about to enter the building. Dr. Tittylover is still working the door.)

REX: You seen my date?

DR. TITTYLOVER: Just left with this blonde man.

REX: Who?

DR. TITTYLOVER: I don’t know.. All you white people look alike!

(Rex walks away severely pissed, as we fade to black.)

List of guys who volunteered their use is found here.
http://napw-online.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=129

Dr. Tittylover, Bruce Richards, Warren, Jenny Jersey, Calgary Connection all gave permission via instant message!

Edgar
06-27-07, 11:43 PM
It'd been less than a year ago that he had graduated from high school, and here was... back again, outside the Don Haskins Center, same place all his school's graduations took place.

After having congratulated and given his high school sweetheart, a year younger than him, a gift, he decided it was time to leave. He was stopped.

"So, Harley," she smiled, still wearing the goofy graduation cap and gown started towards him again, "when are you applying to go to school?"

Heh.

Same old, same old, Harley thought. Ever since he graduated from high school, that's all anyone he knew had asked him. It didn't matter if he was talking sports with his friends or his future in wrestling with his parents, eventually they'd cut the conversation, and pop the question.

"How many times am I going to have listen you and everyone else, ask me this question?" Harley snarled.

"As many as it takes to convince you to go back to school."

"Yeah," Harley looked back at her. "I guess you'll be asking that question for a looong time."

"Listen, Harley," she just had to continue. "You've seen them on campus. If all those beaners from Juarez can get into college, so can you."

Harley cringed. He wasn't a fan of her racist remarks, but he wasn't going to tell her not to do it, he had very friends, and he wasn't about to lose one of them over it. Not his high school sweetheart anyways. And for what? If no one else overheard the comment, it didn't matter. Right?

"Listen," Harley calmly said. "I know full well I can go to college."

And he could. It wasn't a matter of money stopping him from going, or insecurity, hell, insecurity is a feeling Harley's never felt. No, it was just that... he simply didn't want to go. Why would he? What would he study? Whatever he did end up studying would probably land Harley in an 8-5 job, getting paid just enough to get by. Not when he could wrestle and get paid just enough to get by.

"However," Harley continued, "I just wish you, my parents and everyone the hell else would stop bothering me about it. That's all you people want to talk about!"

"Well," she responded. "What do you want to talk about?"

"Why can't you just ask me about wrestling? Why can't it ever be 'Hey Harley, how're you doin' in wrestling?'. Or 'Hey Harley, how well do you think you'll do in the upcoming Tournament of Champions?'. I'm just sick and tired of everyone asking, telling me, hell, even commanding me... to go to college."

"Harley," a few moments passed before she had anything to say. "You know full well that I don't follow professional wrestling. Tournament of Champions, Harley? I don't even know what it is, nor do I care for it. And to top it off, I don't give a damn about pro wrestling. So no, Harley, I'm not going to chitchat about wrestling with you."

Harley's eyes opened wide in disbelief.

"Oh," Harley smirked. "Is that a fact?"

Sure, Harley wasn't willing to throw away his relationship with her for a racist slur. But for wrestling? For the business that had given him so much over the past couple of months, for the business... that he planned on being for the next twenty years.

"So, hold on a second," Harley started. "You mean to tell me that all these months that I've been asking you about what college you were going to, and what you were majoring in, were for nothing? I can act like I give a damn about your education, and you can't even do the same for me? You can't act like you follow my professional wrestling career? You can't act like you give a damn about my job? Because it is a job, you know. It is a career. It is something... that I love doing, and you can't respect that?"

Harley Douglas wasn't someone you could break easily. He wasn't someone who let his emotions take over him, but tonight, it was different. For the first time in his life, Harley had found something that he was passionate about. Something he could invest himself into. And here she was, Victoria, bad mouthing it.

Harley's eyes teared up. He knew he was about to break off a ten year friendship, and a two year boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, but he felt he had no choice. He took a deep sigh, breaking what seemed an hour long silence.

"It's a shame Victoria," Harley looked down at the ground, he couldn't bare look into his friend's eyes. "Here I came to your graduation, gave you some perfume my parents bought and told me to give to you, and at the end of it all..."

"Harley," Victoria interrupted Harley.

"No, you listen here, I'm tired of listening to you!" Harley barked back, another few minutes passed by of silence. "And to top off your graduation gift, I came to give you plane tickets to Chicago, Illinois! First class tickets, heh... to think I thought you deserved first class. And tickets to the Tournament of Champions. One for the Rosemont Horizon, two for the United Center. You know, just in case I didn't make it to the second night, I figured I could watch it with you."

Harley smiled.

“I thought that maybe, just maybe, you could accept what I wanted to be and we’d be together. I thought maybe in a couple of years when my career really took off that we could share a life together and share our successes together,” Harley said, and for the first time looked into her eyes, before quickly looking down again. “But I guess that was a fool’s dream.”

Harley turned his back on her and walked away. Victoria’s friends quickly consoled her. Probably told her she’d find someone better, probably told her he was the bad guy, probably told her he’d amount to nothing.

Harley didn’t care, he was off to Chicago soon. And ultimately, he thought, whether it was in a couple days, or a couple years, she’d realize what a mistake it was to leave Harley Ace Douglas. He was going to amount to something in the professional wrestling business. In a couple years, he figured, he’d be on top of the world, reigning in some promotion as the top guy, the World Champion.

He was sure of it.

It all started at Supershow IV, with the TEAM Free For All~! Title.

It was to continued, at the Tournament of Champions.

Nova
07-01-07, 05:33 PM
WRPG Headquarters, Chicago, IL, June 14th, 2007

“Powerslam Pete’s really excited about the show. He’s a big fan of yours.”

“Huh?”

Nova comes out of his own little world and notices the young woman peering down at him, white-knuckled hands gripping her clipboard with all the strength of six pots of coffee. “Oh. Yeah, I’m glad he offered to have me on.”

Her attention is diverted as a man seated inside the soundproof studio, presumably Powerslam Pete, waves her on.

“It looks like he’s ready for you,” she says shyly, avoiding eye contact with the Risen Star, which is just as well because he seems content to stare off into space.

Nova climbs out of the comfy ass-groove in his waiting room chair and follows the woman over to the door, where she motions him inside. Immediately the heavy humid air, tainted with the aroma of body odor and take-out, hits him like a overhand chop. The man seated offers Nova his hand. A greasy brown ponytail hangs from the back of his head, and a black t-shirt with “What Happened to PCW?” in plain white lettering barely conceals the girth of his waistline.

Nova shakes his hand and takes the seat that he’s being motioned towards before sliding on his headset. A production assistant outside the window holds up five fingers, then four, then three…two…one…

“HELLO OUT THERE, wrestling fans, and welcome back to WrestleTalk, coming to you LIVE from Dubba-You Arr-Pee-GEE here in Chicago!” booms the voice of Powerslam Pete with a crispness and air of authority that belies his shabby, basement-dwelling appearance, “We have a real treat for you today as I’m being joined by none other than the Risen Star himself, PRIME and NFW’s own…Nova! He’s with us on this, the eve of TEAM’s Tournament of Champions 2007, where his name joins others from the near and far reaches of the wrestling world, all competing to be crowned the Champion of Champions…besides TEAM’s own title-holding Champion of Champions, that is!”

Powerslam Pete jabs a button on his soundboard, and canned laughter is heard followed by that “ziiiiiiiiiiiiip!” noise.

“I’m happy to be here, Pete,” Nova chimes in.

“I know you are, my friend, and we have QUITE the show lined up,” Pete goes on, “but rules are rules, and the rule on WrestleTalk is, we leave those lines open throughout the show at all times so that fans can call in, weigh in, and play in to this fine programming! After all, it’s ALL about the fans here at Dubba-You Arr-Pee-GEE!!”

Pete hits another button on his master board, and raucous cheering and applause echoes in the tiny room and across the airwaves.

“And it looks like we have a caller already!” the radio personality cries out in a combination of delight and surprise, as though his forty-four ounce styrofoam cup of Vault had just been transformed into California’s finest by Jesus Christ himself, “caller, you are ON THE AIR with Powerslam Pete and NO-VUH!!”

“Yeah, hi, I was just calling in with a question…for either of you, really…”

“Well lay it on us, brother, and we will provide you with some AN-SAS!!” Powerslam Pete exclaims, shooting Nova a friendly wink.

“Great…I was wondering why Nova’s even in the Tournament of Champions. I mean, he’s not even Universal Champion in PRIME anymore, and that only leaves him with the Western Conference championship in NFW, which is basically, like, the Championship of Maybe Becoming a Champion, which is pretty weak, honestl-”

“OKAY, well, when I said we had a lot lined up I wasn’t joking, soooo…,” Powerslam Pete interrupts, pressing a button to disconnect the caller and shooting Nova an apologetic wide-eyed look, to which the Risen Star replies non-verbally with a dismissive shrug, “alright, hello sir, you are LIVE on WrestleTalk with Powerslam Pete and NO-VUH!!!”

“Powerslam Pete, this is Lawnchair Boy.”

“LAWNCHAIR BOY!!” Powerslam Pete shouts enthusiastically before slapping a SFX button that bellows a “LAWNCHAIR BOOOOOOY!!” soundbyte in a low bass tone, “what’s happenin’, my man? You got a question for Nova?”

“Shore do, Double-P! What’s all the hype about? Nova enters the tournament and it’s supposed to be the talk a’ the town, but he ain’t no real cham-PEEN, anyhow, ‘least not in TEAM where the best from allllll the diff’rent feds come together to figger out who’s the BEST a’ the BEST! Shoot, I bet he’ll get himself slapped from some a’ those Ay-Won-Ee or En-Ay-Pee-Dubya boys and run cryin’ back to Mama Holzerman’s skir-”

“ALRIGHT, sorry folks but looks like we had some technical difficulties there for a moment,” Powerslam Pete stammers, sweat now visible on his acne-pocked forehead.

The radio personality shoots a look over to Nova, who’s sitting in his chair, twiddling his thumbs awkwardly and looking exactly the way he feels: “Why the hell am I here?”

“And we’re BACK ON!” Pete continues, relentless in his enthusiasm as he attempts to keep together what was supposed to be an exciting, refreshing hype show and has turned into a bloodbath, “HELLO THERE, you’re on the air with Powerslam Pete and NO-VUH, and this is WrestleTalk!!”

“Hey, I don’t know why you cut those other guys off, I thought there was a lot of credence to what they were saying. Nova is talented, yes; I’m not saying he isn’t. But no one’s posting articles about James Irish banking a Champion of Champions shot, or Ravager defending the Challenge Championship against Nova and then AGAIN against Rob Franklin, are they? Are they?”

“I, uh…well, you raise a lot of interesting questions, and here at Dubba-You Arr-Pee-GEE we try to tackle ‘em!” Powerslam Pete cries affirmingly, dodging the question like the grittiest of podium pollsters.

The jock jockey shoots a glance over at Nova, who mouthes “I think I’m gonna go.” Pete waves his arms in protest before turning around to glance at the caller list, which is stacking up rapidly.

When he swings his chair back around to face the microphone, an empty headset greets him across the table, still spinning in an off-kilter elliptical pattern.



One Last Grab at Interfederational Glory, Part II: Everybody Loves a Winner


“Is the show over already?” the assistant from earlier says as she glances down at her watch in surprise, “I take it you…um…enjoyed…your…self?”

Her words quietly trail off as Nova speedwalks past her desk and down the hallway without acknowledgment.

“Pffft,” she mutters to herself, “celebrities…you want a simple signature on a piece of paper or thirty seconds’ worth of conversation, they spit in your eye.”

Nova sighs with relief as he sees the double doors up ahead leading out of the radio station. Time to f*cking BLOW this popsicle stand. What a mistake…

Mere feet before his hands hit the push-open bars, Nova throws out the anchor and comes skidding (not really, though) to a halt. His eyes are glued to a bulletin board hanging on the wall above a small air conditioning unit. At the top of the board, a banner is tacked up reading “WRPG 2007 Local Elementary Drawing Contest!” Below are a handful of drawings tacked up, ranging from nonsensical color patterns that would make a post-modern cubic-zirconianist New York snotball orgasm on the spot, to more practical depictions, like the one with the big blue ribbon hanging off of it that Nova’s eyes are immediately drawn to.

It’s a scenic vista, a green rolling landscape littered with colorful patches of flowers that wind around a lake that, amazingly, actually reflects some of the color of the sunset overhead falling in place forever behind a dark mountain range…truly amazing for some squirt to produce as their own.

The Risen Star’s eyes then wander down a ways to the drawing with a red second-place ribbon tacked next to it. The page depicts a young girl staring out fornlornly, arms hugged across her middle, sitting on a stool in an empty room.

This could be a photograph of the girl herself when she this ‘first loser’ award stapled next to her work, Nova thinks to himself, surprised at his own bitterness.

His hands grace the ribbon’s furled edge, and it triggers a memory long buried in his battered brain, from long, long ago.

He stands underneath the billboard sobbing the woeful, emotional tears that all children are able to cry before the world teaches them to bottle it up. Above him, a banner tacked above the board reads “Jefferson Davis Elementary 1986 Drawing Competition.” In his hands is a piece of paper with a red ribbon taped to it. Every glance he spares it only brings fresh tears.

“Honey, honey,” his mother says softly, comfortingly, “you got second place! That’s amazing! Hundreds of children brought their drawings in, and yours was second-best! Isn’t that amazing?”

It isn’t amazing. It’s agonizing. He looks up at the blue ribbon hanging triumphantly next to the winning drawing. He can’t bear to lay eyes on the drawing itself, its official superiority too painful, but he’s fixated on that ribbon. It might as well be the only thing in the entire world.

He turns to his mother, searching for some mistake that might have been made. “My monster truck has swords for wheels…see the flames coming out the back?”

“They’re beautiful flames, sweetie,” his mother reassures comfortingly.

He points down at the other various features of the monster truck on his piece of paper. It has all the things he loves in it, mixed together lovingly to create some kind of compilation of badassedness that he banked on destroying the competition with. “It has two machine guns on it, firing and using up all the bullets. I even drew all the shells falling! I should’ve made a third one!”

“That would have been too much, dear,” his mother counters, “two was the perfect number. Come on, honey. Dinner’s waiting at home.”

She walks forward and holds out her hand for him to take it. He remains where he is, eyes staring down at the drawing in his hands, this symbol of almost being the best.

“Come on, honey,” his mother repeats, “you can look at the drawing at home.”

Tears stream down his cheeks as his chest begins to heave silently. His jaw sets and his lips curl as he begins to shake, and then he crumples the drawing in an instant, his fists thunking together violently as the page folds in on itself. Turning he throws it against the wall and its bounces off harmlessly. He whirls around to face his mother, who stands in shock, and his eyes burn with anger.

“I don’t want it. I hate it.”

Nova’s fingers trace the edge of the ribbon hanging next to the drawing, lost in himself as he remembers the day he discovered his powerful urge to…not even compete…but win.

Later his mother would sit him down on more than one occasion and explain to him the virtues of graceful acceptance in defeat. It took him several years to successfully suppress the pain, anger, jealousy, and sadness of defeat, and even then, he only ever really had managed to bottle that reaction, not eliminate its occurrence…even to this day.

Now he wonders to himself about it, that double-edged sword of grace. Do people sell themselves short by accepting defeat? Many of the greatest minds in the history of humankind achieved unthinkable accolades through their obsession with perfection. Defeat was an impossibility, and thusly, they succeeded. Many people who have no problem with losing – be it a nationally televised wrestling match, or one on Nintendo 64 – never become champions, never have other people saying their names.

But those same great minds drove themselves to the point of madness attempting to reach that perfection. That drive to succeed forced them to abandon other less tangible forms of success, and made insanity the bedfellow of accomplishment.

Feeling particularly introspective at this moment, Nova needs only to look at himself for an example of the latter. Professionally, 2007 has been a year of unheralded success. He held the top title in one of, if not THE, top wrestling promotion in the world, for longer than anyone had ever held it before, defending it more times than anyone had defended it before, winning more matches that anyone had ever won before. Personally, his daughter is dead. His wife has committed suicide. His fake friends have turned on him, and his real friends want little or nothing to do with him.

His drive to win overwhelms all, trumps all in importance. Losing something as trivial as a Challenge Championship match in an interfederational competition keeps him up for days. Winning a simple tag team match on a weekly PRIME show brings a smile to his face that the sight of his own daughter never inspired.

Nova is a success. He is a winner. But what has he lost?


Wyndham Chicago Hotel, Chicago, IL, June 27th, 2007

On the TV screen in front of the queen-sized bed across which the Risen Star is sprawled, a panel of wrestling authorities sit in a semi-circle a la VH1’s The List or BET’s Ballers.

“Okay, next up on the list of topics we’re desperately attempting to cover before our timeslot is over…TEAM’s Tournament of Champions. Who we pickin’, boys, and why?”

“I can’t claim a winner outright, Dave, but what I can do is call Nova for at least the semi-finals. The guy’s a businessman in that ring. He closes the deal. The first half of 2007 was nothing short of a full-out sprint for him, and from where I’m sitting, the second half isn’t looking to be any different.”

“I’ll second that, Dave, and I’ll go as far as saying ToC finals for Nova. Let’s not beat around the bush. NFW. The ULTRATITLE. Nova’s officially proven that it doesn’t have to PRIME for him to dominate, and now as the brainchild of Craig Miles gears up for its biggest run yet, he’s The Man, the guy leading the charge, and he seems ready to keep the momentum rolling.”

“Tom? Agree, disagree?”

“Dave, I don’t just agree, I’m saying it here and now…Nova to win the Tournament of Champions. Who can stop him right now, besides Lindsay Troy, and she’s not going for a second sweep here!” *Raucous laughter around the room* “But seriously, I don’t think there’s a person out there who can really bet against NFW’s hotsh-”

Click. Nova tosses the remote aside and leans his head back against the pillow.

The last couple of weeks have been a blur. Slave to public opinion that he is, Nova watched his stock fall drastically after dropping the Universal Title and taking another TEAM beating, only to soar back up higher than ever before with his victory at Wrestlebowl 2 in the ULTRATITLE finals against Yori Yakamo Jr. Of course, that had technically taken place on April 15th, but everyone knows that one day in Miles’ madhouse equals three anywhere else.

The incident at the radio station seems like a bad dream now. If words could act, Nova would be in a wheelchair by now from all the slaps on the back he had received since his victory at the close of Season Two. “HE’S BACK!” the headlines read.

But I never left. A few bad nights, and I was demoted back to the ranks of the faceless ham-and-eggers, kicked out of the Player’s Club. Now I bring the Sound and the Fury down on b*tches and it’s like the Redemption Story of the Year.

A few months from now I won’t remember exactly what was said at that radio station, but it’s important that I remember how I felt…alone, just me trying to remember how and why I had made it as far as I had in the first place.

In it for myself, not them.

Proving to myself, not them.

I won’t live or die by their support anymore. They’re fickle, and if I went out in the first round of the ToC they’d claim to have seen it coming a mile away.

They don’t mean sh*t.

Everybody loves a winner.

CuseTroy
07-02-07, 12:45 PM
11:47 p.m....
A gym on Long Island, New York...

"Move your damn feet!"

If he says that one more time, I swear I'm going to kick his ass right on this gym floor. I know I've got to be at my best for the Tournament of Champions, but this guy is driving me absolutely nuts with his bull**** "training system".

Why the hell did I let Matt call in this favor?

Oh. Yeah. He's "the best". He's been in this kind of environment, and he knows the folks in this dance better than I ever can.

Doesn't mean he shouldn't shut the hell up for a minute.

"Troy, I'm exhausted. You've got to let me have something left for Chicago." Bryan Storms was exhausted. He'd been working, seemingly nonstop, since the dates for the ToC had been announced in mid-June. Heck, with he and Matt Johansson washing out of A1E's tag team tournament, he had nothing better to do at the moment.

He just wished Troy wouldn't ride him so damn hard all the time.

Troy Douglas was here as a favor. They'd met when Bryan's career was starting out in Empire Pro, and, even at a time when the future MCW World Champion was so stoned most of the time he couldn't tell a turnbuckle from a belt buckle, he still had some intuitions into the stock market.

Intuitions that made Douglas a hefty sum in just a couple of weeks. Troy had always said he owed Bryan for that tip, and when Matt had suggested bringing the veteran in for some pre-ToC help, Bryan had obliged.

Of course, he hadn't realized that payback, even for a good deed, can be an absolute *****.

"Alright, wind down," Troy said. "I've got to get to JFK anyway. Gotta fly back out to the West Coast to finish up the A1E tour."

"Thanks, Troy, for all the help," Bryan said.

Yeah. Thanks for grinding me so far to the bone I don't know if I've got anything left for the damn tournament. Thanks for putting me through marathon tape sessions that made me feel like Malcolm McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange". Thanks for making every bone in my body feel like its been whacked thoroughly with a steel mallet.

Eh. It could've been worse.

I could've had to spend more time with Matt. Now there's a scary proposition.

Bryan watched Troy exit the gym and collapsed backwards against the turnbuckle. He wiped his sweat-drenched face with a towel, took a sip from a bottle of water, and pulled himself to his feet. As much as he desperately wanted some time to rest, as much as every inch of his body prayed for a relaxation, there simply wasn't time.

Troy had a plane to catch. So did he.

Chicago awaits.

Later that day...
Flight 815 from New York to Chicago...
Somewhere over Ohio...

A lot of people were uncomfortable flying. Bryan wasn't.

Sure, the fact that TEAM had sprung for First Class for the ToC competitors didn't hurt. But, Bryan didn't mind being 35,000 feet above Cleveland in the middle of the night. It gave him a chance to think, to reflect.

Some people meditated on a mat on the floor of their living room.

Bryan Storms always seemed to find his deepest thoughts in the everlasting comfort of seat 2A, his stomach rumbling from the combination of airline pretzels and a half dozen Diet Cokes running through his insides.

Hey, to each his own, so the sages say.

To be honest, Bryan generally tried to sleep and think while flying if for no other reason than to avoid conversation with the prattling moron next to him. In four years of flying across the country, he'd somehow drawn the unluckiest ticket on the entire aircraft every time, always stuck next to someone who felt an undying need to tell Bryan every little bit of their increasingly vapid and unimportant life story.

This time was no different. As soon as he boarded, Bryan was instantly peppered with another nonsensical raver, some Census taker from Maryland or some other such ****, who apparently had no other choice but to recite the details of every completely boring moron he'd ever interviewed. Bryan didn't care about this guy or what he had to say about the nice soybean farmer from some Appalachian county he'd once shared a piece of cherry pie with.

Thank god for eyeshades and earplugs. The two most valuable things in any carry-on bag.

So, as the 747 soared, Bryan snored. With the biggest night of his career just moments away, it was obvious what would dwell in his dreams this night.

Day One...

EPW Black Dawn. The start of a whole new age in wrestling. Sands and Beast for the World Title, the first IC and tag champs decided.

And the unexpected debut of what Bryan thought would be the most revolutionary team in wrestling history. Second Coming.

He and Matt had met through mutual friends just months before, and the chemistry was instant. Their styles meshed--Matt's controlled brawling and Bryan's natural athleticism--and both had a flair for the innovative, unabashed cockiness, and egos roughly the size of downtown Denver.

They hit the scene with a bang, too. They laid out the Crimson Calling seconds after they won the belts. Busted out the Red Tide Rising on a global stage for the first time, too. That, if nothing else they did in EPW, got the crowd to stand up and take notice.

That night, they declared to the entire world, live on pay per view, that they were the new sensation in tag team wrestling. They were going to take EPW by storm and never let it go. They were going to take the spot that had been occupied by so many great names.

The CS Express. Arrogance. The Professionals. Sensationally Perfect. Right next to all of them in the history books was going to be Second Coming, the next in the line of succession of great tag teams.

It just never really panned out that way, did it? Not when stupid decisions got in the way.

The Fall...

He tried cocaine for the first time when he was a junior at Columbia. He was a big shot on campus with a ton of money to burn and way too much free time for a guy who would be heading off to law school in a little more than a year.

He couldn't pinpoint the moment when he first got addicted to the ****, but pretty soon it got to the point that it was taking over his entire life. Even for a kid making a good salary wrestling shows across the U.S., even for a kid with a loaded corporate lawyer for a father and a trust fund that would set most people up for life, Bryan was going stone broke before the age of 23.

Drug habits have a nasty way of doing that to a guy.

People tried to help him, of course. There were interventions, therapy sessions, one time Matt tried to lock him in a room for three days to keep him clean.

Nothing worked. He was in way too deep, and everyone could see it. Finally, it was too much for the company to bear. Dan Ryan voided his contract and sent both he and Matt home.

Matt recovered quickly. He'd seen what the business did to his best friend, and he found another calling.

Bryan nearly lost his grip on reality. He fell into a complete downward spiral, his addiction destroying the life he'd built around him. Then, one day, when his father finally kicked him out of the apartment he'd rented for him in New York, Bryan gave up.

His career was gone before it ever started. His money had dried up, and soon he'd be living on the streets. No one would hire him unless he was clean, and he wasn't sure he'd be able to get back in the ring if he ever could get sober.

But, it was his last option. So, to the desert of Arizona he went. A top-notch rehab facility had just opened out there, and it was far enough away from the rest of his life that he thought he might just have a chance.

It was the only one left.

The Phoenix...

Rehab is never easy. Withdrawl's worse. It took him weeks to come out of the hallucinations. He was in pain all the time, his mind was distorted with visions both real and surreal.

But, he got better. The nightmares went away, for the most part, and he felt himself finally free of the vice that had basically stolen the first half of his twenties from him.

Then, three letters gave him a new sense of purpose in life.

M...C...W.

As soon as he was out of Sedona, he moved to L.A. and started training. Somehow, he got Christian Sands to take a flier on him. A one-year deal with plenty of ways to let MCW out of paying him if he did anything wrong. He had to be a boy scout for the first time in his life.

Willingly, shockingly, he obliged.

He was the poster child for MCW's new generation. He was clean, and his work in the ring was never better. He was skyrocketing up the card, the way he felt he should have when he debuted.

Then, the Wolf came howling at his door. Chris McMillan was one of the best in the world, and he was what stood between Bryan and the MCW Heavyweight Championship.

The Staples Center was on fire for the contest, and the two gladiators put on the kind of show that legends are made from. In the end, what most people in the industry thought was an impossibility ended up happening.

Bryan Storms, the brash young man with a mouth that wrote checks he could never cash, had done it.

Bryan Storms, the recovering addict who washed his career away, had done it.

He was a World Champion, and no matter what happened next, no one could take that away.

Which is why Bryan smiled as he pulled the eyeshades off, just to see the sun rise over Lake Michigan as the plane made it's final approach to O'Hare Airport.

He could see the runway now, stretching out in front of the plane as the captain brought her down onto the black tarmac. He braced himself as the landing gear touched down, feeling the familiar jolt as the plane decelerated rapidly. Finally, the plane came to a stop at the gate, and Bryan heard that familiar call over the speakers.

"Flight 815 has landed. Welcome to Chicago, everyone. Thanks for flying and enjoy your stay."

"Hopefully," he thought. "Hopefully."

He pulled his carry-on bag from the overhead compartment, walked past Boring Q. Jackass the census-taker, and made his way towards the exit.

So much had passed before, but now, there was work to be done.

The Tournament of Champions beckoned.

EpyonMarx
07-02-07, 02:40 PM
He fell into the sofa like the clichéd, proverbial tonne of bricks. Another show done, some more wise-cracks about his opponents, and another load of Marcus LaRoque’s money in the hands of a top-class musical act. Definitely the most expensive band he’d hired using someone else’s money – but, TEAM events are never just about TEAM, or the wrestler. As he himself often said, the wrestlers in these inter-promotional events aren’t just out there to publicise themselves or the tournament – they’re hoping to attract fans to their home fed. Those fans that would normally only watch Empire Pro, or A1E, or NAPW (albeit on youtube.com, he’d say), would get a chance to see the best that New ERA of Wrestling had to offer – and, time and again, that best, was him. Not Jonathan Marx, the reigning World Champion. Not HAL, or Chaos, or MWG, his team-mates from the Chad Dupree cup. Not Larry Tact, who was set to be in the team.

No. The one person that came through, time and again, for New ERA of Wrestling was himself. Stephen Forrester.

Not that you should ever call him such when talking about wrestling. Stephen Forrester is simply his private name – the name for when the cameras aren’t on, and the fans aren’t near. The name that someone who cares about the business wouldn’t be caught dead using. Because, when the cameras are rolling, or fans are asking for his autograph, his name isn’t Stephen Forrester.

It’s Mister Entertainment. The brash, hot-headed, loud-mouthed entertainer of the world. Where one name stops and the other begins is hard to say, even for himself; his screen persona is pretty much himself, “turned up to twelve” (he says, to avoid the clichéd “turn it up to eleven” jibe). He’s always polite to the fans though, one-on-one – the fans are the people who pay the wrestler’s salary, after all. It’s through them that all bar the select few, those with too much money and nothing else to do, get their break – their hard-earned pay-cheques being spent on attending a wrestling show, to forget about life and the reality of their job for a few hours, and see prime physical specimens beating each other senseless.

He never understood why some of the other wrestlers he’d worked with didn’t have time for the fans. Heel or face, when meeting the fans at an autograph signing, or even at the airport, you should still be polite and have a chat with them; keeping the on-screen persona all the while, certainly, but not being a total dick like some of the others were. The ones who were greedy, who were out to protect their place on the card, no matter what. Those whose name recognition was the reason they landed the gig.

Every time he sees someone like that, who comes in and pitches ideas to elevate themselves (undeservedly) rapidly into the World Title scene, he wants to puke. Those that say they’ve busted their ass for years, and somehow that entitles them to a World Title, make him feel physically ill whenever he has to share the room, or worse the ring, with them. They, in his eyes, don’t deserve to even open the show. Yes, they may have fought tooth and claw to get to the position they’re in – but that does not, as he yelled at Juliet once, mean they don’t have to fight their way to the title.

A knock at the door. “Yeah?”

“Sir,” came the voice from a stage-hand outside the door. “Do you need anything?”

“Nah,” he said, reaching forward to the ice-bucket he kept in his dressing room. A nice, cold, French lager – not a beer, because as he’ll tell you, the best beers are kept at room temperature. A lager. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“Crap,” he thought. “I’ve still got that interview later.” He popped the top of the bottle. Another media appearance, selling TEAM and New ERA to the world. He was amazed that, with all the so-called ‘mega-stars’ who had entered, of all the supposed greats, he was the one asked by LaRoque and Chappell to do the majority of the press work. To talk on radio, in magazines and on TV. Granted, he is definitely one of the most photogenic, and he has an ability to talk to camera and microphone which most in the business lack; but, his name isn’t as associated with wrestling as, say, Big Dog, or Dan Ryan, or Lindsay Troy – hell, in some circles, someone like Ravager would be seen as better.

He checked his watch. An hour to rest – one of the longest breaks, besides sleep, that he gets. How should he spend it? He’d done his workouts – weights and cardiovascular. He’d had all his meals for the day – including that exquisite grilled chicken with an egg-fried rice which had mixed veg and bacon in it that he’d had for dinner. He could read a book – but that would probably lead him into planning his next segment.

“Man… I hate vegging out.”


* * *

“Welcome back!” announced the female radio presenter. He didn’t pay attention to who she was, or even what station he was appearing on. The mic flags may have said, but it wasn’t his job to read it. His job was simply to make TEAM appear better than anything else. Of course, this was only the recording, not a live interview, but you have to treat those as live. She droned on a little, and as she did so, he looked around the sterile studio: whitewashed walls, a standard mixing desk, standard mini-disc recorder, standard microphones, standard chairs, a cup of an appalling excuse for a coffee – the same as thousands of stations across the planet. He knew the main studio would be no better.

“So, Mr Entertainment…” time to start answering. “You’re in the Tournament of Champions…”

His mind switched off. It was going to be another one of those interviews. The type that you don’t need to think during. The type when you’re able to look back on your career or your life, or think about what to wear next match. Or making sure you know the quickest way to the nearest bar.

This time? He started thinking back over his time since joining New ERA – back when he had matches with Jenro Electrovolt. Matches against Cameron Cruise and Jason Payne, branching out into TEAM events – where he faced and destroyed Promo, took Frankie Scott to the cleaners, and had a four star match against Brown. Or his matches in the Dupree Cup, where he again entertained the crowds, and managed to build some great heat in the first round.

“That’s interesting,” he kind of heard her say. “So, what’s your focus going into the tournament?”

Another expected answer. The usual thing that he, Mister Entertainment, says.


* * *

Back in the hotel room, he finally gets a chance to check his cellphone. Three text messages – one from LaRoque, thanking him for the Motorhead show. One from his friend, asking to meet up for a beer, and one, from the female presenter whose name he just cannot remember, thanking him for his ‘deep, insightful answers.’

Deep and insightful? Those standard answers?

“Yeah, I’m in it to boost ratin’s, give the other guys a pay day, an’ ENTERTAIN the fans as only one man can.

ME

Mister Entertainment.”

Yes, he is in wrestling to entertain. But, that’s not the only reason.

He’s only human. As much the entertainer as he is, he is just a man.

Yes, a man who helps bring joy to wrestling and music fans. A man who has lost people, who has gained friends, and loved.

A man, whose job is to entertain people, to give them a break from the harsh realities of life. A man whose job is to make people forget their own jobs, their worries and concerns, and take them on an emotional roller-coaster, through highs and lows, before leaving them smiling. A man who makes himself, for that same time, forget the friends he’s lost.

A man, sitting alone in a dark, dingy, squalid hotel room, turning on the battery-powered radio he takes with him from town to town.

“Inside my heart is breaking," sang Freddie Mercury, "my make-up may be flaking…"

“But my smile… still stays on.”

Khalid Jad
07-02-07, 03:30 PM
You failed her.

The accusation stung him, like a branding iron to the chest. But the words, the venomous tone behind them, were something he couldn't escape, could not forget. Perhaps it was because it was true. Perhaps it was because the words seemed to be stuck on some kind of repeating loop mode, where every time he closed his eyes, he heard the condemning statement over and over.

Or perhaps it was because it was his own voice reciting them.

Ever since his ill-fated journey to his birth-land of Iraq, Khalid Jad had been replaying the events that transpired again and again in his head. He wracked his brain, wondering if there was something he could have done differently to affect the outcome, wondering if perhaps making the journey to Basra was a mistake in and of itself.

But each time, he'd concluded that there was nothing he could have done differently. That traveling to Iraq was the right thing to do. That his actions played no part in what had happened. And that it was a waste of time and energy to even ponder the 'what ifs'. Regardless of his decisions, good or bad, his manager, Victor DeMontagne, was still dead. And his sister, Malyia, was still missing. No, there was nothing he could have done differently to change any of that.

So then why did he feel as though everything was his fault?

You failed her.

There was that voice again. He cursed himself, shaking his head furiously, pounding an open palm into the side of his skull, hoping to shake the accusing statement from his brain.

But nothing he did could stop the voices -- his own voice included -- from tormenting him. All he could do is hope that, eventually, his sister would be found, and he would no longer feel the guilt for an event that he'd played no part in.

~ * ~ * ~

Khalid awoke to the persistent beeping of his alarm clock. He'd set it the night before, to wake him at seven o'clock. He had a lot of things to accomplish, so he couldn't afford to stay in bed until noon time.

First thing on the agenda, like every morning, was a brisk jog around the neighborhood. Whether the sun was out, or if it was raining, he stuck to his routine religiously. Apart from the health benefits of keeping in tip-top shape, jogging gave him an opportunity to think.

But maybe that wasn't such a good thing lately. With his sister Malyia's kidnapping fresh on his mind, he would just as soon be distracted by something -- anything -- other than that.

It had been close to two months since she'd first been taken. And in that time, no ransom demands had been made. The emotional part of him dreaded the worst, but the rational part of him argued that there was no point in them abducting her only to have her killed. No, they took her for a reason, and she'd remain relatively unhurt until that reason came to light.

After a quick visit to the bathroom -- nothing like splashing cold water on your face to awaken you -- he put on his blue track pants and matching blue hooded sweatshirt, his running sneakers, and grabbed his apartment keys, and headed for the door.

At close to fifteen minutes after seven in the morning, the streets and sidewalks remained relatively quiet. The business world would soon be operating as usual, but not for another hour or so. So apart from fellow joggers, and the occasional newspaper delivery person, Khalid had the sidewalk to himself.

His thoughts often wandered to his sister's situation, naturally. But as a bi-product of that, was the fact his wrestling manager, Victor DeMontagne, had also been a 'casualty' of that kidnapping. Victor had agreed to help him rescue his sister, traveling to Iraq in an attempt to do just that.

Victor had contacts, resources that Khalid did not. So reluctantly -- Khalid viewed it as a matter for family only initially -- Khalid had accepted his offer for help, and the two men waited for one of Victor's contacts at an outside cafe.

That was when a situation Khalid thought couldn't get any worse, did.

It's still unknown whether it was an act of terrorism, or some sort of secretive plot, but as Victor returned to the cafe from across the street, where he went to retrieve a newspaper, he was gunned down in cold blood, by someone in the backseat of a vehicle traveling at high speeds.

Khalid could only sit and watch in horror as the one link, the one person with any kind of resources to find his sister, was exterminated.

Having no leads to follow, and no plan about where to even start, he came back to the United States, to his apartment in California, a beaten man. Since that day, Khalid felt numb. He felt as though he wasn't actually living his life, but rather he was watching the events of his own life as if it were a television program. It felt surreal.

He rounded a corner, and with his mind focused on the events concerning his sister's kidnapping and his manager's death, he almost bowled over a man jogging in the opposite direction.

"Sorry about that," Khalid said.

"No problem, dude," the man responded. "Just be more careful next time."

Khalid nodded, accepting the advice as the man started off, disappearing around the corner.

He continued on his predetermined jogging route, for some reason his thoughts lingering on the stranger's innocent comment. Within ten minutes, was back home in his apartment. Panting and sweating, he made his way to the shower.

His day had only just begun.

~ * ~ * ~

"...we have to move on," he heard Lucius saying as his mind drifted back to the present. Khalid sat in Lucius Mortimer's office, across from his benefactor. Lucius had scheduled a meeting this afternoon to discuss what they'd do about replacing Victor -- Khalid's manager -- so that Khalid's wrestling career wouldn't be stalled despite the terrible tragedy.

As Khalid listened to Lucius, he noticed a genuine sympathy in the older man's voice as he spoke. He didn't really understand why that would surprised him. After all, Victor had worked closely with Lucius for years. And while they weren't friends, in the general sense, they knew each other well. So it would only be natural that Lucius would be shaken by his passing. Yet it struck Khalid as...unexpected.

"Don't you agree?" Lucius asked.

"Huh? Oh. Of course," Khalid blurted. He'd let his mind wander again, and didn't realize Lucius was waiting for a response from him.

"Good," Lucius said, satisfied. He leaned back in his chair, and intertwined his fingers behind his head. "Do you have any suggestions for who would make a suitable manager for your wrestling career?"

Khalid thought for a moment, then shook his head. "No. The only individuals I'm acquainted with that have a knowledge of this business are you and Victor." He paused, wincing at the mention of their murdered acquaintance. "I can't think of anyone else."

Lucius nodded. "Very well," he said. He seemed to be scrutinizing Khalid, making the youngster feel very anxious. Lucius wasn't a physically intimidating individual. But those eyes...

Lucius leaned forward suddenly, resting his elbows on his desk, and his chin on his cupped hands. "I have someone in mind. But," he paused, once again his eyes roaming Khalid's face, as though he was hoping that what he was about to suggest would be mentioned only as a last resort. "I don't know whether you'd agree to it."

"I trust your judgment," Khalid said, even though he felt unnerved.

Lucius smiled. "Thank you, Khalid. That means a great deal to me." He reached down and opened his desk, and retrieved a small black book. An address book. Flipping through the pages, he found the one he wanted, and slid the book across to Khalid with the page held open. "He might be able to help you. His name is Ryan Fuller."

Ryan Fuller.

Khalid's eyes went wide, and his heart began to pound in his chest. He recognized the name instantly. He'd only heard of the man once, but it hadn't been a very flattering description of him. A woman he'd met when he first arrived in the United States, one who he thought he'd possibly have a future with, but who had since departed his life, knew of this man. She'd been married to him.

Lucius saw his reaction, and frowned in concern. "Khalid? Is something wrong? I didn't realize you two had been introduced already."

"We haven't," Khalid clarified, taking a deep breath. "But I've heard of him."

~ * ~ * ~

Khalid paused, with his hand an inch away from the door to the apartment. His body told him to knock, but his mind kept screaming for him to turn and walk away while he still could. The only reason he hadn't listened to his mind yet was because he realized he was judging this man on someone else's testimony. The testimony of an angry ex-wife, to boot.

As much as he trusted Andrea Watson, and believed that she wouldn't outright lie to him, he realized that she likely wasn't being one hundred percent truthful with him, either. So he had to find out for himself whether this was the disgusting, vile human being that Andrea portrayed him to be, or whether she'd exaggerated due to hurt feelings.

So he'd left Lucius' office agreeing to meet with Ryan Fuller, and discuss whether Fuller would be interested in being his manager. Lucius had argued that Fuller was himself a wrestler -- although currently taking a break from the sport due to 'personal issues' -- and could provide Khalid with a wealth of knowledge.

Taking a deep breath to calm himself, he knocked. A moment later, the door swung open and standing there was a man of similar height and build as Khalid, but with a full beard, and long, unruly hair. He looked as though he hadn't left the apartment in days, months even.

"What do you want?" he said in a gravely voice.

"I'm Khalid Jad," Khalid said. When there was no hint of recognition, he added, "Lucius sent me."

Fuller's eyes went wide. Then in a curious reaction, he peered out into the hallway, looking left, then right, then quickly ushered Khalid inside, shutting the door behind them.

"What does Lucius want with me?" he asked. This time, however, the voice was nervous, and no longer threatening.

Khalid stared at him, confused. "He suggested that you might be able to aid me." When Fuller looked at him puzzled, he said, "I'm a wrestler and I need a manager. Lucius suggested you'd be a good fit."

Fuller frowned, bringing a hand up to scratch his bushy beard. "Me? I haven't been in the business in years. I...I don't think I want to make a return." He looked Khalid up and down. "Especially not as a manager."

Khalid wasn't sure if that was an intended insult. He decided to hold his tongue, and give the man the benefit of the doubt. He was also trying to figure out what he thought of this man. While it was true that Ryan Fuller wasn't the most friendly person around, and he seemed to be one who threw punches first, asked questions second, he didn't seem to be the monster that Andrea said he was.

He knew it was something he needed to clarify for his own sake, but it could wait. Right now he had to convince this man to be his manager.

He decided on a different tactic. "Lucius obviously thinks differently," Khalid said, hoping to use whatever had made this man nervous at the mention of Lucius' name to his advantage. "So maybe you shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the idea."

Perfect, Khalid thought. He'd worded it so that if Fuller still refused, it would be clear that he was rejecting Lucius' idea.

Fuller looked as though he was going to refuse. He even opened his mouth to speak. But then he shut it, and it seemed that all the fight drained out of him. His shoulders sunk, and he just shook his head. Motioning for the sofa, he gestured for Khalid to follow him.

Khalid did follow, but decided to remain standing. Fuller didn't seem to insist, merely looking up at Khalid from his seat.

"You have no idea what you're involved with, do you kid?" Fuller said in a soft tone.

Was that sympathy Khalid heard in his voice?

"What do you mean?" Khalid asked.

"Lucius Mortimer," Fuller said. "He's bad news. And when I say bad news, I mean with a capital 'B'."

"Look, it's obvious you and Lucius have history," Khalid said, impatiently. "But I don't have time right now to worry about what happened between you two. I need a manager, someone who knows and understands this business. Are you going to be it? Or should I leave now?"

Fuller stared up at him, that fire he saw earlier returning for just a split second. But just as quickly it faded.

He sighed, again looking like a defeated man. "I don't have much of a choice, now, do I?"

"Sure you do," Khalid retorted. "If you say no, I leave."

Fuller snorted. "Whatever you say, kid. Whatever you say." He paused, leaning back against the sofa, bringing his hand up to scratch at his beard again. "All right, I'll be your manager. But on one condition."

Khalid arched a brow. "And that is?"

"You tell me why you seem to hate me so much."

CraigM
07-02-07, 04:50 PM
Promises Last An Eternity


“Why do you wrestle?” a voice said, breaking through his train of thought. Craig’s eyes flutter around the room, trying to match the face with the voice. He finally finds it when he sees a woman sitting next to him. Not just any woman though, one that had practically decided to tag along with him ever since the two met a little over a week ago. At the very thought of the question, Craig rolls his eyes and shakes his head at the woman who seemed destined to annoy him for the rest of his life.

“I don’t know, Katie,” he says to her before breaking the gaze upon her and returning to his own thoughts. His red eyes head towards the window hoping to enjoy the silence that was there once before. However, it would seem that Katie has other things on her mind as she breaks through that concentration once again.

“You don’t know? You never wonder why you wrestle?” she asks him obviously refusing to give up on this subject. Once again, Craig’s red eyes dash from the pristine window back to Katie’s beautiful face as she just sits there, hands crossed under her chin, and patiently waiting for an answer to the question she had posed to Craig. He sits there for a moment, feigning interest in her question, before responding to her once again.

“I try not to think about the inane, Katie,” he tells her, this time lacing the tone of his voice with discontent. She glares at home, getting the message, but not much caring about it. It would seem that she has a point, one that Craig can’t find it in himself to care about.

“Look, you get your memories back, and with this fresh sense of outlook on the world you don’t happen to question things? You just let things be because they make sense to you? How does that make any sense in the long run?” she asks him, pushing and prodding him. Craig, seeing that this isn’t going exactly where he would like it, gets up out of his seat inside of the relatively empty restaurant. Thanks to his somewhat celebrity status in the world, he was sometimes able to get certain restaurants to open much like this one in the lobby of the hotel the two were staying at. Craig had grown accustomed to sleeping in hotels, but Katie had not on the other hand.

“Don’t you think I have more pressing things to spend my time on? I mean, my daughter was killed after all, I was shot, and you were sent here to help me find the answers to the questions that God is asking for, and you want to ask me about why I wrestle? How many problems do you think I can solve at a time?” he asks her in an incredulous tone. She looks at him and just shakes her head, obviously not happy with the answer he has given her.

“That’s the entire point! Your daughter was murdered, you were shot by a man that you don’t even know, and you have God personally asking you for answers to the questions he has. Yet, you wrestle. You continue to wrestle in the face of all this and you don’t question it. Not only that, but you’ve continued to work the grueling PRIME schedule while competing in not just one, but two tournaments. One of which you were eliminated from and when they announced a second chance match you were the first one to jump into the boat and wrestle in it. You won and now you have another match to add to your schedule. That doesn’t strike you as odd?” she asks him, finally finishing her rather long speech. He flashes his dull red eyes at her before pulling himself out of the chair having reached a boiling point. He was starting to get heated at her words and needed some fresh air.

As he walks outside though, the very thoughts she had mentioned started to get to him. Honestly, she had a valid point he thinks to himself as he feels the clean air enter his lungs. Once again, much like he always has, he gets lost in his own thoughts and starts to ponder as to why and how he got started in wrestling. As he thinks about it, it hits him like a sack of bricks. It all had started seventeen years ago.

---

April 17th, 1990
Sacramento, California

“Wake up!” a growl erupted into the room. Craig, having been in a deep sleep, finds himself all of a sudden awake as he shoots straight up in his bed. He glances around before realizing that the door to his room is open and standing in the threshold is his mentor and adopted father, Frank Little. If there was one thing about Frank that you would notice thought it was that he was far from little. Just standing in the threshold of the door, the darkness shrouding him, you could tell that his frame was mammoth. Craig wipes the sleep out of his eyes as he looks at him, wondering what in the hell he was doing waking him up at this early of an hour. He was certain that the sun hadn’t even set from the evening before yet, much less about to come up over the horizon.

“Yes, sir?” Craig finally responds, showing the respect that Frank had demanded of him from the moment he walked into his house seven months ago. His parents had disappeared off the face of the planet and he had been taken by the Department of Family and Children. Craig was frankly shocked when he would find himself being adopted by a man well into his fifties and had looked like he fought bears in his spare time. Yet, he didn’t question it as finally he had a roof over his head and someone looking after him. Frank had brought him into his life and treated him like a son, and that was all Craig could ask of him.

“Time to get up. We’ve got some work to do,” Frank told Craig before walking out of his room and giving the young man a chance to clean himself up before coming downstairs for whatever tasks he had in mind for Craig. He slowly rolls out of his bed, his head still swimming from the abrupt removal from sleep that had just occurred. However, as he started to put some pants on he could feel some semblance of life finally protruding through the haze that was in his mind. He then exits the room and rushes downstairs where he finds Frank waiting for him with a smile on his face.

Frank looks into the youngster’s brown eyes and pats him on the head.

“I know you were enjoying your sleep, but for seven months you have asked me what I used to do. For seven months you asked me why I needed to be in the shape I’m currently in and I told you I would let you know all of that in due time. Today is that time. I couldn’t wait any longer to tell you so I had to wake you up, but when you see what I have in store for you, you will understand why,” Frank tells Craig who can only nod. Frank can only smile, partly because he’s happy, but also because he knows the boy has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. Frank then leads the boy through the hallway to a door that Craig walked past every day. From the moment he had entered the house, Frank told him that the room was locked and off limits to Craig. Ever since then, he had wondered what could possibly be behind that door. Craig’s stomach turned into knots at the anticipation of finally seeing what was in there. Frank produced a key out of his pants pocket before unlocking the door. Before opening it though, he looked back at Craig and could see the interest in his eyes. For so long he had been looking for that boy who he could mentor, who he could teach. Finally, he felt like he had found the right one.

As he opened the door, Frank allowed Craig to go in first to get rid of the curiosity. Craig slowly walks into the dark room and notices an interesting smell coming from it. Within mere seconds, Frank turns on the lights and Craig is rather shocked to see a ring in the middle of the room with a variety of punching bags around the room as well as weights and a variety of other contraptions that Craig knew nothing about. Not even in control of himself, Craig starts to walk around the miniature gym captivated by it all. Frank can only watch him, wondering what could possibly be going through his mind at this juncture. However, one thing is certain as he watches the young boy walk around the gym, mesmerized by what he sees. He knows that Craig far from frightened.

“What is all of this?” Craig finally asks after walking around the gym and getting a feel for it all. Frank looks at him for a brief moment, knowing that it was the moment of truth for Craig.

“For thirty years, I was a wrestler. I used to wrestle in Canada, Mexico, Japan, Europe, and up and down the Eastern and Western coasts. It was what I did. It was what I lived for. Now though, I’m old. I can’t wrestle anymore. When I came and adopted you, I had just retired. This is where I trained for all of those years, getting myself mentally and physically prepared for the hell that was waiting for me around the corner. Now though, it just sits here, empty and alone. I look at you and I can see the tenacity in your veins. The anger that boils inside of you because your parents left you and the fact the others around you know it, it eats you up inside. It’s a feeling you can just extinguish so instead it grows worse and worse with each passing day. I want to teach you how to control that anger. It doesn’t mean you have to become a wrestler, but if you want to then I will teach you how to,” he tells him, making sure he explained himself thoroughly enough. Once again, he walks around the gym, taking it all in.

To him, it’s all surreal, but it feels like he’s at home. Honestly, it makes sense to him. It clicks.

“Yeah, teach me,” he tells Frank and Frank can only smile. For so long, he had looked for a person to pass down his wisdom towards and he had found that one person in Craig. Little did he know how great of a competitor or a wrestler Craig would become down the road.

“What are these things for?” Craig asks, pointing at a steel contraption that baffled his mind. Frank smiles at the mere sight of the device sitting in a corner of the room. It was the first of its kind that he bought years ago. Sadly enough, it wouldn’t be the last that he bought.

“That’s to teach you about pain. Want me to show you?” Frank asks him and Craig just nods his head, obviously not wrapping his head around the meaning behind Frank’s words. Minutes later, a scream would be heard coming from Craig’s mouth. It wouldn’t be the last of that kind though.

For Frank, he didn’t know where this would take them. It would be two years though before Craig finally stepped in the confines of the ring for a match. Four hundred people would watch and two lives would be changed forever.

---

Craig feels a hand on his shoulder and he looks over to see that it’s Katie, her luscious brown hair flowing with the slight breeze that had just started moments before. He flashes a smile at her before looking straight ahead once again, reliving the memory second by second, and not wanting to lose a moment of it. However, Katie seems intrigued by this, and wants to know more about why it is that Craig has chosen wrestling as his career, a career that has proven so fatal over the years to several wrestlers.

“Do you ever fear your life is just going to stop at forty? Your body so broken down that you’re barely even able to walk or think for yourself. Having done so much damage to your body that you could be dead at any moment and not even know it? Don’t those thoughts scare you, make you double guess your decision to walk down that aisle, and decide to just hang it up for good?” she asks him, being rather frank about it. The words circle around Craig’s mind, but he quickly dismisses them from his thoughts. He wasn’t like some of the others who had competed in this sport. He hadn’t become dependent on drugs to get him up in the morning or to fix the several ailments his body might be going through. From the first day he stepped inside of that gym, he had been told never to even think about taking HGH or steroids or any other kind of performance enhancers. Craig had lived by those words for seventeen years now and nothing would ever change his mind on that.

“No, I don’t worry about it. I’ve gone down a different path in life then those others have. Does the sport hurt? Yeah, it does. I’m sore most mornings when I get up. Yet, the difference between me and the others is that I don’t go and get painkillers to ease that pain. I was taught at a young age how to deal with that pain. It was one of the first things I was taught. I don’t ever feel the need to load up on steroids because I know that it’s not all about size and strength. It’s about ability. It’s about knowing that ring inside and out, and taking care of your business in there. If you don’t, then you’re just setting yourself up for failure, you’re setting yourself up for using those kinds of drugs. That’s a line I’ve never crossed and I never will. Not in the seventeen years that I’ve been doing this,” he tells her, making sure that every word and sentence that comes from his mouth is crystal clear to Katie.

Katie listens to it all and as Craig’s intensity and passion fills the words she can’t help but look at him. The facial expressions that he has tell her that everything he says is sincere and true. He was different than most people, especially those that entered the ring. She wasn’t verse in the wrestling world, but she had read and heard enough to know that the sport was in danger. There were those in the industry that would do anything to gain an edge, but here was someone who was determined to do things the right way or not at all. It was admirable that this was his thought process, but it also concerned her. He knew nothing else it seemed like. From a young age, she had deduced, all of this had been hammered in his head time and time again. It was like he was trained for this and nothing else.

“So why do you do it?” she asks, hoping to finally get an answer out of him.

“Because I made a promise,” he tells her. Katie simply looks at him, interested, and as his mouth opens he can feel himself being dragged back to the very day he made the aforementioned promise.

---

February 27th, 1992
Sacramento, California

Craig could feel the anticipation in his stomach. For two years he had been training and for two years he had been waiting for this moment. From the moment he began training he had been told that he wouldn’t have to do this if he didn’t want to, but at the very least he would learn how to protect himself. However, Craig would go to sleep at nights and just dream about stepping inside of that ring with people watching him, waiting to see what he was going to do next. He would dream about it and wake up the next morning ready for another day of training. Nine days earlier he had turned fifteen. Most people would not be allowed to wrestle at the age of fifteen, but thanks to Frank’s connections, exceptions were being made. Of course, it would have to be a much smaller event then the one Craig dreamt about as he watched wrestling on television. However, concessions had to be made and he accepted them for what they were. This would give him the chance to perform on a bigger stage than he had been on before and would give him a chance to hone his craft.

The door to his locker room then opens. As Craig turns his head he notices that it’s Frank himself who walks in with a smile on his face. Craig smiles back as he continues to get ready as the butterflies in his stomach continue to flutter gradually. Frank walks over to him and pats him on the back before sitting on the hard wooden bench. He then looks over at Craig and can see the nervousness in his face.

“You’re nervous,” he says to Craig who can’t bear to look at him. Even though he knows that Frank is telling the truth, he’s determined to show him that he’s not as nervous and scared that he thinks he is.

“No, I’m not,” he responds, his voice sounding resolute. Frank lets out a loud laugh that startles Craig slightly.

“It wasn’t a question. It was a statement,” he tells Craig who finally looks at him. He nods his head as he sits down next to him, wondering what the hell he was doing stepping into the ring with men who were easily five years older than him.

“Do you think I’m ready?” he asks Frank who simply looks him in the face and nods his head before responding to him.

“Yeah, I really think you do. I didn’t know it at the time, but you have a talent for that ring. When I brought you into the house, I had an inkling that you would find comfort in that ring, but never did I think you would have a talent for it. I’ve seen people step into that ring thinking that they were going to tame it and then they found out that it wasn’t you that tames the ring; it was the ring that tames you. However, you walked into the ring for the first time and I could see it in your eyes. You were learning the ring, feeling it out and finally when it was time to strike you were ready. It was a shock to me to see that, see someone feel it out, and then conquer it. There are few who can do that. There are few who can walk into the ring and command it the way I’ve seen you do it,” Frank tells him and Craig can only nod his head, fighting back the tears he was feeling. Frank could notice this and just brushed it off to the fact that Craig was always emotional. He wore his heart on his sleeve and eventually that would be the death of him, he was certain of it.

“You’re going to walk down that ramp tonight and the fans are not going to know who you are. They’re not going to know whether to cheer for you or not. They’re going to watch you as you slide into the ring and make your first move. You’re going to make a mistake and they’re going to laugh at you for it. You’re going to want to retaliate. Don’t. That will be your worst mistake. Instead, stay focused. Remain resolute. Show them what you’ve got and what you’ve got is a bucket load of talent. But, I need you to make me a promise,” Frank continues, his last set of words finally causing Craig to look him in the eyes.

“What is it?” Craig asks him and Frank takes no time in telling him.

“Promise me that you’re not going to quit, and I don’t mean you have to wrestle forever. I mean that you won’t quit trying to become the best. This sport will immortalize if you let it, but that’s not what you want. You want to be remembered as the guy who came out every night and busted his ass. You want to be remembered as the guy who did everything in his power to become the best you could possibly be. Don’t do what the others are doing, like taking drugs. Those are shortcuts. You are going to work for whatever it is you get. When you step into that ring, command it. Don’t let someone else up show you. You become the spotlight, the showstopper. You become the very best in the sport and nothing less. Otherwise, it’s not worth doing it. It’s not worth wallowing in mediocrity and having people doubt your abilities. I need you to promise me that you’re going to be the best out there or else don’t even step into that ring tonight,” he finishes, giving Craig a second to absorb it all. However, Craig is a smart one, he knows that and when he opens his mouth he already knows what Craig’s answer will be.

---

“So, I promised him, and I haven’t fulfilled that promise. Not yet,” he tells Katie, completely enveloped into the retelling that Craig was offering her. She nods her head, finally understanding it though not agreeing with it.

“Don’t you think it’s time to stop holding yourself to that promise?” she asks him and he just simply shakes his head.

“No, it’s not. I haven’t fulfilled that yet. It would be a disservice to him if I did because twenty minutes after my match, he had a heart attack and died. I was all alone and the only thing I had left was his words. I owe him this much, after he took me in from the cold, to at least honor his words. If I don’t, then what kind of man am I?” he asks her, knowing that she can’t give him an answer. The two stand there in silence, words escaping them. He was tired, he could feel his body telling him to walk away, and as he did exactly that, he found just a few words to tell Katie, letting him know that he wasn’t giving up on her yet.

“This is what I know. It’s what I know to do and you’re right, I know nothing else. Wrestling has made me who I am. Wrestling in this tournament, it keeps me from following off the edge of insanity. I stand on that cliff every moment of my life and think about jumping, ending it all. Yet, I can’t because if I do, that’s the easy way out and I was raised on never taking the easy way out. You might never understand that, but I completely understand it,” he finishes before walking away. She watches him, entranced by him, and knows why it is who he is. She knows that there is much there to learn about him, but it won’t come in one night or even in this lifetime. The horrors that he knows, the stories he could tell could last several lifetimes and she knows it. The reality of it is though that he doesn’t even know it. The things that he knows are vast and limitless and he doesn’t even know it. It kills her to know that as she turns away from him and looks at the setting sun. The emotions overtake her.

A single tear escapes from her eye, a glimmer of the future that awaits them.

Fin.

DizzaHizza
07-02-07, 08:57 PM
7:00 AM

Kin Hiroshi took a long drag off of his cigarette as he stared down at woman in his bed. Times had changed The Muffin Man, but he knew, somewhere in her drug-induced slumber she was able to dream. Hell, she was able to sleep. For that, Kin hated her more. Like a bleached-blond angel she rested on one of his pillows, and Kin couldn't help but think that she was getting it dirty. Whatever "dirty" could possibly mean to a man so full of heroin, natural adrenaline, nicotine and vodka who regularly frequented strip clubs and down-and-out bars for some cheap ass. Kin knew that pillow had seen more ass than a proctologist, and more needles than Sid and Nancy, but he knew, in the back of his head, that she was tarnishing a champions bed.

Another drag from the cigarette, and Hiroshi let the butt hang loose in his lips, the ash slowly flaking down into his hand. He slowly, and gently, dipped his fingers into the ash, and drew a small crucifix on the hookers forehead. "Damn, she's a heavy sleeper. Maybe I could get one free go at her if she's in a coma," he thought to himself. He knew better, though; her chest rose and fell without force or strain, and there wasn't a drop of vomit to be seen. This one would have been a keeper, in Kin's book, if she hadn't already had more cock in her than Anna Nicole, pre-death, of course.

Kin's ash-stained fingers slowly swept the gently curling hair off of the woman's shoulder, and he tried to lightly shake her awake. Rolling over to the other side of the bed, when you're bare-assed and in someone's home who paid you for sex, probably wasn't the best idea. Kin shrugged as he took the cigarette from his mouth, and ashed it into a bed-side tray. Wrapping a towel around himself he gathered up the prostitutes clothes, opened the bedroom window, and gave the penniless residents of S. Glenn street a new wardrobe to bicker over. All the while, the whore dreamt of a better life, one where she actually made it down in Hollywood as an actress instead of a "B-Team" adult film star with a bum knee, a flat tit, and a lazy eye. She had no clue what kind of "John" she had picked up, all she knew was that the money would be on the nightstand, and the heroin felt really good.

Hiroshi had other things in mind as he unlocked and opened the front door. Chuckling to himself about the crucifix, a sick joke in his mind, as he crossed the penthouse flat back to the bed. With a quick tug that pulled out a half-hand of hair, Hiroshi yanked the sleeping beauty from the bed, and drug her across the floor. It's moments like these that really test the mettle of a prostitute, and with a shrill cry as she was tossed from the apartment, Hiroshi knew that "this one is going to be a pro." Out on your ass is a tough place to be, especially when you're dressed like the day you were born, so Kin made up his mind, and tipped her an extra $50.

A slammed door and a deadbolt later, and he was rid of her. She had served her purpose, and made some money. "She should be thanking me," Kin thought as he took a sip out of a day-old glass of vodka; the ice had long since melted. Of course, he knew she wouldn't bang on the door too long: who would want to attract the neighbor's attention to something like that. Sure enough, another cigarette and a bowl of Cheerios later, and she was out on the street to rummage through what was left of the tube top, mini skirt, and platform heels that she could.

9:00 AM

The shower felt amazing. Probably because it was ice cold, and his body was still running warm from a night of sex, booze, and drugs, and a morning that had been more of the same. Or maybe it was because, for the first time, Kin Hiroshi held a company's major championship around his waist. The NFW World Championship belt sure did look nice next to the CSWA US Championship belt on the fireplace mantle. They'd look even better when he strutted down the TEAM Tournament of Champions aisle with them both around his waist. "Dad would have been proud," his mom had told him over the phone. Kin didn't care. His old man left him right at the peak of his teenage years, and at the beginning of his wrestling career.

KIN: "F**k the old man."

Raising his glass to the title belts, Kin took a long hard pull from the liquor bottle, and dropped it to the floor. Another mess for the maid, and another mess that he didn't have to deal with. He didn't care anymore. He stopped caring when the man who had killed him stopped caring. He stopped caring when, for a second time, they had both lost their drive to win. He stopped caring when he won the NFW World Championship from Felix Red. Revenge is an even harder drug to quit, because it forces you to go "cold turkey", and Kin couldn't turn it off. Felix had stopped fighting Kin's will, and had just given up. His defeat wasn't the glorious redemption into a living being that Kin had thought it would be. Instead, Hiroshi had ended up back at the beginning of the journey: alone, lost, and confused. Only now, Kin had a target around his waist.

The hookers and heroin were only perks of the place he had fallen into. Somethings to keep his mind off what was to come. Things he didn't care to think about: title defenses, best-of-the-best tournaments, Felix Red's zombie corpse returning to haunt him. If it wasn't for "Wildfire" and "Mr. Irresistible", Hiroshi would be just another casualty of the industry: washed up and broken before his time.

Hiroshi let out a sigh before he opened the previous day's newspaper. Surely there had to be some good news.

3:00 PM

Boredom had set in, like it tends to do at these tournaments. A hundred faces enter into them, each one with their own goal-oriented expressions. A hundred faces that the fans loved or hated. A hundred faces that were neither friends nor enemies: just faces. Hiroshi glanced around the room. He recognized half of them. The other half? "Who cares?"[i] he thought. At least, when boredom set in, Kin had his bag of tricks in the hidden pouch of his gym bag. Just the thought of a quick fix made Hiroshi's eye dilate a little, and a light sweat to break. On the way to the bathroom stalls, Kin just kept telling himself, [i]"Junkies can't stop. You can stop whenever you want. You're a champion, and you're better than all of this stuff. It's can't break you like one of these guys could."

But as the needle found it's way back home, Hiroshi already knew that it had beaten him. Broken ribs and punctured lungs be damned, heroin was the real disabler in his life, but still Kin Hiroshi didn't care. He knew it was going to take a body bag to keep him down for good. Hell, they barely had time to say he was dead the last time he came back. Of course, he still wasn't sure if it would be the "horse" or a missed spot that would bury him.

As his pulse quickened, he got lost in his head again, and all the cares he had, or lack thereof, disappeared. It wasn't until he heard his name in the locker room that he knew he needed to sober up, because he had a match to win.

Tournament of Champions? Nah, there were no champions, anymore. Just men possessed by their own demons, struggling to put food on the table, drugs in their veins, or kids through college. This wasn't a tournament for the great. No, this was a tournament for all those damned to wear a belt around their waist, and when Hiroshi finally realized that he had been dead long before Felix Red killed him...

...then, and only then...

...he cared.

BigPimpin
07-02-07, 10:34 PM
Thursday, June 28th 2007 10:25 AM EST
Jones Beach State Park
Wantagh, New York


[Rhythmic.]


[That’s the best word to describe the scene in front of us.]


[The blue-green ocean’s waves crash on the shoreline and recede, the percussion to the symphony of sight and sound. The sun’s rays beat down on the shoreline, freed of their cloudy prison after a night of turbulent thunderstorms. The beach, itself, is relatively clear, save for some debris that the night’s thunderstorms kicked up from the sea and sand. With the threat of worse thunderstorms looming over the New York Metro area, only a few brave souls have come out to the sand and surf. Most of them have come bearing large canvas bags and metal detectors, looking for any sunken treasures that the storm surfaced. However, there is one man who did not come seeking physical treasure.]


[Dressed in a pair of white Reebok cross-training sneakers, a pair of gray mesh shorts, and a white headband, Christian Light’s upper-body is covered in sweat. His sand-covered legs, pumping like pistons in a well-oiled car, push his body forward, kicking up more sand in their wake.]


[He continues to run to the scene’s right, focusing his gaze forward on his forward progress. After hopping over a piece of debris washed ashore due to the recent storm, he bears left, maneuvering around a woman jogger. She’s got an athletic build, wearing a black sports bra, matching black shorts, and a pair of gray New Balance sneakers. As she’s running at a much slower pace that Christian, The Last Nighthawk blows by her without accelerating.]


[However, after a couple of seconds, the woman, who has obviously picked up her pace, catches up to and passes The Last Nighthawk.]


[Christian, surprised by seeing someone passing him, looks to his right to see the woman he had just passed taking the lead on him. Smiling, he accelerates his pace to keep up with and, after a few strides, pass the woman again.]





[Back and forth they go, passing the East and West Bathhouses, in that order. What was once a leisurely jog has now become an all-out competitive sprint down the beach. They pass two softball fields on their right, and suddenly both kick their strides into a higher gear, going all out. Christian, taller by nearly half a foot, takes a small lead at this point, which he manages to maintain past a basketball court and two more softball fields, all on their right. As they pass the second set of softball fields, both break stride, slowing down into a walk before coming to a stop. Christian leans forward, hands on his knees, breathing heavily and letting the sweat drip from his body onto the sand. The woman stands straight, with her hands on her hips and her chest moving up and down as quickly as possible.]


Light[between breaths]: Been...a long...time...


Woman[gasping]: Yeah...


Light[between breaths]: You got...fast.


[Christian looks up at the woman, a half-smile etched on his face. The woman shakes her head in disagreement.]


Woman: You...got...slow.


[Letting his head fall again, Christian can’t help but chuckle despite the fact that he’s trying to catch his breath. Falling backwards onto his rear end, he holds his forehead in his left hand while chuckling, resting his left elbow on his left knee. A couple of seconds later, the woman plops herself down, Indian-style, in front of Christian in the sand. The pair takes about twenty more seconds catching their breath before one of them breaks the silence.]


Light: Haven’t seen you in months around here. How have you been, Rachel?


[The woman, now identified as Rachel, pushes a strand of hair that escaped her ponytail out from in front of her face.]


Rachel: Can’t complain much anymore, Chris. You?


[Christian shrugs.]


Light: Mostly good.


[Another pause. Both runners are still breathing slightly heavy, though both people’s speech does not seem to be affected anymore.]


Light: If you don’t mind me asking, what is it that you do, anyway?


Rachel: I’m...in between gigs right now.


Light: Ah.


[Another pause, this time more awkward in nature.]


Light: Have you ever considered some kind of athletic profession?


Rachel: Like what?


Light: I dunno...professional wrestling, for example?


[Now it’s Rachel’s turn to chuckle.]


Rachel: You’re kidding, right? Isn’t that fake?


Light: Not in the slightest, Rachel.


[She shakes her head, a playful look etched upon her face.]


Rachel: Come on, Chris. A wrestling fan? I know we don’t know each other very well, but I had you pegged for a higher-class person than that.


Light[furrows his brow]: What do you mean by that?


Rachel: Well you’re always traveling for work, you tell me. Going all over the United States and seeing all these cool places while traveling for business.


Light: You seem to like traveling a lot.


Rachel: I love traveling. What I wouldn’t give to travel like you do and see the sights.


[Christian poorly stifles a chuckle.]


Rachel: What?


Light: Nothing, just, ah...a little sand in my throat.


[Rachel glances at him through narrowing eyelids for about two seconds.]


Rachel: O-kay.


Light: Seriously, though, as a wrestling fan, I think you could make it big in the world of professional wrestling. You’ve got the look, you’re obviously athletic, and you thrive on competition. It’s something I think you’d be able to make a good living on.


[Rachel shakes her head.]


Rachel: You mean be part of a world where your worth is proportionate to the size of your breasts and how willing you are to take your clothes off?


[Just for emphasis, Rachel uses her hands to push up her c-cup breasts slightly.]


Light: It’s not like that.


[Rachel shoots Christian a look of disbelief as she lets her breasts fall back to where the sports bra holds them.]


Light: Okay, maybe it is in some places. But if you look hard enough, there’s plenty of women wrestlers that make it based on not just their looks, but their athletic ability and fighting talent.


Rachel: I’ll betcha I’ve never heard of ‘em.


Light: Coming from someone who’s not a wrestling fan, that’s not a convincing argument.


Rachel: I’m not a fan, true, but I’ve dated enough guys that were.


[Christian extends his left leg straight and reaches out. Grabbing his toes, he stretches his left leg out while speaking. Rachel, meanwhile, pushes herself upward out of the Indian style position and stands, but she somehow doesn’t have any sand sticking to her. This goes unnoticed by Christian, who is too wrapped up in the conversation he’s having.]


Light: You ever watched with your boyfriend?


Rachel: Nah. Those nights were always girls’ night out. All the girlfriends hated it, cause it felt like we got orphaned every week for these sweaty men in underwear rolling around and grabbing at one another.


[This causes Light to chuckle a little and shake his head while stretching.]


Rachel: But my guy would always talk about it. He had the most annoying habit of dropping names for me when I had no idea who they were. Like this one time, he was so pissed at something.


[As Rachel speaks, Light switches to his right leg and begins to stretch that out in the same manner.]


Light: What was he angry at?


Rachel: I don’t know what happened, but he’s like all mad and stuff. He kept going on, and on, and on about it until I finally had to tell him to stop. And he snaps at me, like, “Rach, [B]Christian Light just got cheated out of the World Title! What kind of sh(no audio) is that?”


[Again, Christian has to stifle his laughter. He remembers the match she’s referring to...Christian’s first attempt at gaining the World Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship. Well, he remembers it as clearly as someone who was smashed in the head with a metal knee brace can. For now, though, he keeps stretching. Rachel apparently didn’t catch Christian stifling his laughter, since she continues in her speech without a beat.]


Rachel: So I ask him, “Who is Christian Light? And who cares if he didn’t win some title?” He just walked away from me, shaking his head. I swear, I’ll never understand the fascination men have with wrestling.


[Light sits back up, looking at Rachel again.]


Light: For me, it’s all about the excitement. Watching a good match, to me, is like watching a story unfold right before your eyes. Some days it’s like two bulls meeting head-on in the ring, or there’s sometimes where you watch David and Goliath rewrite itself right before your eyes. No two wrestlers are exactly alike, and each meeting portrays the art of wrestling at its finest.


[The look on Rachel’s face suggests that was not the response she anticipated.]


Rachel: Wow. You’ve put, like, real thought into this. How often do you defend your fanboy status?


[Christian cracks a small smile as he pulls up his headband and wipes the sweat from his brow.]


Light: Every day of my life.


[Rachel nods before wiping the sweat from her brow with her left forearm.]


Rachel: It’s too bad you don’t have that kind of focus on something like, say, world hunger or the global warming problem. It’d be solved by now.


[Light pushes his headband back to his forehead and shakes his head, smiling. His cheeks immediately turn a small shade of pink.]


Light: I’m flattered, but no. You have me mistaken for someone far smarter.


[A pause. Christian takes this moment to extend both legs outward in a wide straddle and reach forward, touching the sand in an effort to stretch his leg muscles. Rachel starts rotating her body at her back, stretching out her back muscles.]


Rachel: Besides, I’d never want to be a wrestler.


Light: Why’s that?


Rachel: I wouldn’t want to put my family in that position, having to watch me get beat up every night.


Light: Mom and Dad?


Rachel: My son.


[Once more, Light pauses, not knowing what to say.]


Light: I didn’t know you had a son.


[Rachel can’t help but chuckle at that as she continues to stretch her back muscles.]


Rachel: Where do you think I was for the last ten months?


[Light pulls up from his stretching, a thoughtful look striking his face.]


Light: I dunno. Call me crazy, but a woman disappearing for nine or ten months doesn’t automatically make me think she’s pregnant.


Rachel: Well, I was.


Light: What’s his name?


[Folding his legs Indian style, Light watches Rachel as she puts on a warm, motherly smile of pride.]


Rachel: Oscar Andrew.


Light: Nice name. Your name or the father’s?


[The smile is quickly replaced by an icy scowl.]


Rachel: Oscar doesn’t have a father; he has a sperm donor.


[Light winces, the words almost appearing to attack him as well.]


Light: Sorry.


[She shrugs it off.]


Rachel: Not your fault. You weren’t the guy.


Light: Yeah, I know. But still, that kinda stuff gives all of us a bad name.


Rachel: You can only control what you do, not anyone else.


[Light nods.]


Light: Very true.


[Christian shifts his weight so that he is no longer seated in the sand, but on one knee, attempting to get up.]


Rachel: You okay?


Light: Yeah, just a little stiff. I’ll be all right.


[And as he goes to stand, something...well, weird...happens.]


[For whatever reason, Christian’s right leg buckled under the weight and the strain. There was no pop or snap to indicate that there was severe damage, but he did fall forward towards where Rachel was standing. He reached out his arms, hoping that the athletic jogging partner would be able to catch him and, maybe, brace his fall.]


[His effort was in vain.]


through the form of Rachel, down to the sand below.]


[The landing seemed to surprise the former World Champion, who most likely expected to at least bump his partner in conversation. He got quickly to his hands and knees, shaking as much sand as he can from his face and arms.]


Light: You knew, didn’t you?


[Christian’s voice doesn’t show even the slightest bit of concern or surprise, mostly because this isn’t the first time Christian’s come in contact with a spirit. He’s actually been in constant contact with them since after his first World Title match with Ryan Blasier. When it first happened, Christian did what any normal person would. He went to a neurologist, explained the situation to him, and had a CAT scan done. When Christian didn’t get the answer he was looking for...that he was having some kind of residual effect from too many shots to the head...he went looking for a second opinion. However, his second efforts also proved fruitless, as the next neurologist found exactly the same thing: while there was some damage from repeated shots to the head, there was nothing consistent with any kind of disorder that caused hallucinations. Only after this second diagnosis and a conversation with known occultist Victor Mandrake did Christian start to believe that he really was seeing spirits.]


[And since then, he’s seen his fair share.]


Rachel: Yeah, you could say I’ve been filled in.


[Christian stands up, brushing the sand from his upper-body. Quickly he looks around, trying to find any spectators...spectators who would see only Christian talking to himself. Satisfied that none were in the foreseeable area, he turns his attention back to the spirit of Rachel.]


Light: Why?


Rachel: Because I needed to see the other side of the story.


[Christian is more than a little puzzled, as the look on his face shows.]


Light: Other side?


Rachel: Yeah. When I died, I came over here with this blind, undying hatred of men.


Light: How’d you die?


Rachel: Childbirth.


[Christian nods.]


Rachel: All I could think of when I was in all that pain was how much I hated that scumbag sperm donor for putting me through this and leaving me. When my spirit left my body, I was so angry that I couldn’t see straight, let alone figure out what happens now. Then I found Arthur.


[Arthur, otherwise known as The Rain King, is a spirit traffic director of sorts. Christian, having met Arthur back in late April, nods his understanding. Rachel looks down, obviously uncomfortable about something.]


Rachel: When I saw him, I just went off on this hate-filled shouting fit at him. I took out a lot of my anger and frustration with the way my life ended on him. He took it relatively well, all things considering. When I was done, he told me that I needed to find you, and that only through you would I find peace in the afterlife.


[A pause in the speech occurs here as Rachel traces her foot into a footprint imprinted in the sand.]


Light: So what can I do to help?


Rachel: Believe it or not, I think you have.


[Light raises an eyebrow, clearly puzzled.]


Light: How?


Rachel: Well, I’ve been watching you for a little while now. Ever since you got back from Baltimore back in April. And I spent over two months observing you, just wondering when you were gonna cheat on your girl, go out and get wasted, or some other such nonsense that used to drive me nuts about every man I’ve ever known in my whole life.


[Pause.]


Rachel: But you never did.


[Light nods.]


Rachel: I’ve never seen someone so committed to every aspect of his life. Ever. I’ve watched you recover from losing your title, train yourself for a comeback into the ring, prepare for this tournament thingy coming up, and even broker yourself a deal with that guy from Arizona. You’ve got a lot of love for this business, Chris. But the one thing that surprised me is that, somehow, at the end of the day, despite all the crap that your business puts you through...you always keep the people who matter most first in your heart.


[Christian nods again.]


Rachel: And that’s what I needed to see. See, I haven’t had much luck with men in my life. I always seemed to pick the bad ones, to the point where I didn’t know there was any other kind. And, I guess, in all that blind hatred, I kinda forgot that there were good men out there somewhere.


[Rachel sighs as she smiles. As she sighs, it looks like a weight has been lifted from her shoulders.]


Rachel: I know you’re training hard, Chris. I know this tournament in particular means a lot to you. But win or lose, Chris, you’ve got something that many people out there can neither claim nor take away from you.


Light: That is?


[The body of Rachel seems to grow more and more translucent.]


Rachel: Integrity. Don’t ever let anyone take that from you, Chris. Ever.


[And with that word, she has vanished.]


[Normally, at this point, The Last Nighthawk would walk back to his car over in field six. But after a conversation like that, there’s only one thing Christian can think of doing.]

[Taking off his shoes, he walks forward a couple of steps to the point where there’s a line between wet and dry sand. Putting his bare feet in the wet sand, he falls backwards, plopping his butt down in the dry sand.]


[And he takes some time to absorb what he’s just seen.]


[A spirit fulfilled.]

Starbreaker
07-02-07, 11:53 PM
The sun's rays futilely fought to pierce through the swollen gray clouds that took centerstage. Sitting at a modest sidewalk cafe in New York City, an umbrella opened over the table he is seated at, Larry Tact couldn't help but give a wanton smile at the murky scene above. After all, it was a fitting inner reflection, what with the turmoil that brewed within him. With...

He looked up, seeing a leggy brunette in a black skirt and crimson blouse approach the table. She stopped and hooked the personal umbrella she carried to the arm of a chair opposite Larry's, as he stood and gaves her a peck on the lips. Sitting, she took a moment's pause and collected her hair before letting it go, as it rested just below her shoulders. She placed a handbag off to the side as he retook his seat. Her emerald green eyes caught his olive ones, and she smiled in a way that would reveal to any spectator the connection these two shared, if it wasn't made clear by the kiss. He looked up to the sky, the brooding clouds above, hands rested behind his head.

"Looks like a storm is brewing up there," he remarked.

"Yeah, and down here, too," she replied. He looked at her, an eyebrow slightly raised.

"Is it that obvious?"

She looked at him wryly. "Well, maybe I'm just speaking for myself, but when my lover acts distant and distracted, you generally pick up on it, in more ways than one."

He looked down at the table, placed his hands down on it. He knew he'd been acting out of sorts, recently, but usually he'd been good about keeping it under control. It hadn't been nearly so easy the past couple of weeks.

"It hasn't just been the past few days, or weeks even, either, has it? Something's been bothering you for a while now," she said.

D'oh. So much for keeping his cover up. Not that he really wanted to hide anything from this woman. His love.

"Cindy," he began. He noticed she had taken his hands in hers. He looked at her.

"Before you say anything, I know there are some things you like to take care of yourself. I know we agreed your career is your thing, and I have my own. But that doesn't mean I'm not here for you." She squeezed his hands.

He returned it. "I know, but... it's complicated. There's been so much happening," he looked away again.

"Starting from the beginning helps," she said.

He looked back to her, and nodded. "Yeah, well... the beginning would be, more or less, when I went back to New Era. When I put on that mask, and made myself.... essentially, someone else." He thought back to the spot he cut for TEAM, recently, how it was more true than anyone may have realized. "When I was under that mask, and nobody knew who I was, it gave me this unique opportunity. It was like... if you had a second chance, to start again, fresh. No strings. No expectations. You could change how you were, who you were."

"It made you feel... different?" she asked, tilting her head.

"Yeah, in a way, it did. It made me feel..." He trailed off then, remembering speaking about weakness, and identifying them in yourself, during that TEAM spot. He had meant it. He had undergone something of a transformation since he came back from his leg injury, almost two years ago now. He wore a mask to keep himself from being accused to jumping right back to the top, rather than proving he still had what it took. Instead, he proved it. And he did it in a way he'd never before.

A flash of lightning momentarily illuminated Larry's face. Then the crackle of thunder, and a drizzle fell, pattering the ground. The two of them remained under the umbrella, however, sheltered.

"It was... liberating. I had returned in that way because I felt like, when all was said and done, it would show I didn't need any particular treatment I didn't need my name, or my history. I only needed my abilities, my talent, as a wrestler to get where I wanted to go. I only needed to get in there and do what I've done for seven plus years: succeed at what I aim for. But," he paused.

"What is it?" she asked, looking at him a bit concerned.

"I think, in the end, maybe... maybe, I realized that it wasn't so important to prove anything to anyone else. Instead, I only ended up reaffirming something I had lost sight of in myself." NEW had been a place he had come to call home. He had further made himself known to his peers there, and even outside of it, by winning the World Championship there. Recently, he had come to find himself hatching a match for the WrestleStock joint supershow. And while it had been meaningful for several reasons, to make that match a reality, there was one reason that he hadn't anticipated surfacing. Or, a side of him that surfaced, that is.

"I remembered... that I didn't need anything... from anyone there. In that industry."

It had started off innocently enough. He had placed an invitation to the match in the locker of a wrestler, anticipating it would be received. However, it wasn't, not in the way he had thought. Instead, one Jason Payne stole the invite, and attempted to slink his way into the match.

Initially, it hadn't mattered to him. He figured it was just the competitive spirit of Payne trying to make himself known. He just wanted to get some of the limelight, and he had seen an opportunity. However, something had quickly become clear to Larry.

"I had been fooling myself. I thought there may be some people there, people who rose up in my absence, who I could come to respect. Jonathan Marx... Rocko Daymon... Jason Payne."

But no, he had just been playing into the same stupid game as when he was a rookie. He was being ignorant, blinded to the reality of this industry.

"Seeing things under that mask unfold, and then later on when I was making the Challenge match for Wrestlestock... I remembered... that nobody is worth my respect. Not there, not anywhere in wrestling, save for a rare few. Perhaps even that is a dying truth..."

But even then, he was willing to still give Daymon a chance. That is, until his wife mouthed off about the wrong person; that being Larry, himself. That was when it came roaring back; the side of him he thought had been dormant for good. A part of him that he thought he'd forgotten, and left behind.

Another flash of lightning. A rumble of thunder. "The Tournament of Champions is coming, and it will be another proving ground for all those there. We're all on the same level, and only ability and talent will get us by."

And he knew, when he slammed the barrel of that baseball bat into Daymon's back, that he would not take anymore crap from those who had spit in his face, figuratively or literally. He was done trying to search for some respectable quality in these people. They were all in this sport, and they all knew what you had to give to get to the level where they were playing.

"But for me, I have nothing to prove to any of them, about myself."

Whatever it took.

"All I have to prove...."

And he knew he could do that.

"What I will prove....."

Because he was back.

"Is just how right I am..."

Back in touch with his passion.

"... about them."

Back in touch with the Champion's spirit within him.

And now, with the Tournament of Champions looming, he had began to further embrace that spirit again. He was ready to get nastier than ever... ready to get dirty right along with the rest of them... and ready to claim his place, again....

.... as a Champion.

"But don't lose yourself in it, either," he heard Cindy say. It snapped Larry back out of a daze he was drifting into, within himself. He realized he was tense. He looked at her.

"I.... know."

But in truth, what he felt... was that there was no turning back.

MrWest
07-02-07, 11:54 PM
A bell jingles as Professor Tremendous enters through the front door of a local eatery. He looks around at the busy hustle of the diner crowd before finding his way to his usual, centrally-located booth. He starts to flip absently through the selection on the table's mini-jukebox as he waits for his companions to arrive.

Around him, waitreses take orders. The cooks in the back flip burgers.

Prof flips past "What About Love" and "Dreamboat Annie" by Heart.

A lady with dark, curly hair and wearing god spandex makes the doorbell jingle as she enters through the eatery door.

Some crap by Journey. "My Baby Drives a Buick" by Sawyer Brown. "If I Ruled the World" by Tony Bennett.

The bell over the door rings again as a guy in leather chaps and a cowboy hat enters.

Professor T makes his selection. The dulcet strains of Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science" starts to play as and incredibly tall, amazingly neat, and impeccably dressed titan of a man enters and heads over to the Professor's table. Prof smiles and grabs a couple of menus.

A young couple shares a meal. A troop of Cub Scouts settle into their seats.

Tyrone the Tidy Giant sits down in the booth across from the Professor.

PROF: "Hey."

TYRONE: "Hey."

They look through their menus.

TYRONE: "What looks good tonight?"

PROF: "I dunno."

The peruse their menus some more.

PROF: "Where're the dorks?"

TYRONE: "They just called; they're on their way. The Midget's coming seperately. Had to take the goat to the vet. Switched birth control."

A waitress brings the man in the chaps and Stetson a cup of coffee. He adds sugar.

TYRONE: "You talk to Meltzer again?"

PROF: "It's Ang_Anon. He's going to Face Turn."

The Bell jingles. Prof looks up to see a Man in a Lucha Mask walk through the door followed closely by a man wearing and Olympic Silver Medal and a dude in a "FATSEXY" T-shirt.

Allworld and Tuss the FATSEXY Mark head over to join Professor Tremendous and Tyrone in the TeamTremendous booth. Prof tosses them a menu to share.

TUSS: Cheese fries?

PROF: Best in the State as far as I am concerned.

TYRONE: Look, can we not smother them in ketchup right off this time? Do you have any idea what it takes to get tomato stains out of silk?

The Man in the Lucha Mask looks over from his seat at the counter. He taps his fingers on the linoleum surface.

Outside: A silver Hummer H3 pulls up in front of the building. The midget at the wheel shushes an unhappy sounding goat as he starts to parallel park. He hits the curb and then taps the bumber of the car in front of him before cursing out his caprid passenger and pulling the vehicle out to try again.

A fat waitress brings drinks to the Team T Table.

The young couple giggles to each other as the Man in the Lucha Mask looks over again.

TYRONE: "So how'd the jobs go today?"

ALLWORLD: "All we are doing is absorbing clothelines and getting dropped on our heads over and over again."

TYRONE: "You may not realize it, but you are working your way up the undercard."

PROF: "You're entry level jobbers. Buck up."

TUSS: "Right. We need to focus on getting that curtain jerked"

PROF: "Don't be sarcastic."

TUSS: "Isn't that you you said one time? Try to remember that everyone got started laying on their backs during dark matches."

PROF: "I did?"

ALLWORLD: "Yeah."

PROF: "Well that was a lie. I've always been Tremendous."

TYRONE: "And I made my debut in a World Title Match"

PROF: "So. I am about to win a Tournament of Champions..."

Outside: The midget continues to struggle to park the Hummer.

The Man in the Lucha Mask rises from his counter stool. Prof tracks him as he approaches. Lucha Mask heads into the bathroom. Prof relaxes.

Two urban-looking young men in matching flame-stencilled trunks move towards the main jukebox.

Outside: The midget final gets the Hummer H3 into the parking spot.

The Cheese Fries arrive. Prof smoothers them in ketchup. Tyrone stares heavenward in frustration as Tuss and Allworld dig in.

Outside: The midget rushes across the street towards the restaurant dragging the pissed off looik goat behind him on a leash.

Prof adjusts the volume on the table jukebox.

The doorbell jingles.

Prof looks up and --

RStrawsma
07-03-07, 01:17 AM
Men want few things in life, but even fewer things can fully satisfy them.

It’s long been assumed that they are not unlike animals, thriving off instinct. But even while some few can eat, sleep, and breed at their leisure, they will always sense that inner emptiness that can never be filled. All the money, drugs, and women the world has to offer can never bridge the impasse that divides his spirits… and so he ages ceaselessly, wandering and searching for an answer that fate stubbornly keeps from him. Even in his final moments, he is doomed with the ever-instilled feeling of incompleteness.

Rocko Daymon is a man such as this. Even with living in his Tacoma, Washington dream house and having enough money to buy a good part of Seattle, he is unsatisfied. Even with the prospect of a beautiful, loving family consisting of a wife, a son, and a daughter, he is unsatisfied. Even at thirty years of age with nearly a decade’s worth of professional wrestling experience under his belt, he is unsatisfied. Even after serving under the title “champion” in countless federations and winning over millions of wrestling fans world-wide, he is unsatisfied.

Even if he walked into the TEAM Tournament of Champions and laid waste to all of the competition that stood before him, escalating himself to a point where he would regarded as the absolute CHAMPION of all professional wrestling champions… he would still be unsatisfied.

He knows this all too well…

And he would have it no other way.


Rocko Daymon was exhausted, physically and emotionally.

Stinging, bloodshot eyes shifted their view from the skyline to the seer’s callused fingers as they gave the metal wheel in his Zippo a couple snaps. A flash of butane later, he lit the cigarette clenched in his teeth and took his first drag in the three months since he last “quit”. He musingly wondered to himself which undying habit he “quit” more: smoking or the Business.

They say you never truly quit smoking, he thought to himself. But I’ll be damned if the next time I quit the ring is the last time.

A snap rang through the air as Caitlyn closed her razor phone and came out onto the balcony. She wasn’t smiling, but then, she rarely did these days. “Our flight through Kansas got cancelled,” she said with disdain. “Flood troubles down there, and all. But I’ve got us booked to go through Des Moines.”

Rocko shrugged indifferently to this news. Travel was such a core part of his day-to-day life, it hardly seemed existent anymore.

“Have you seen the other promos for the Tournament of Champions?” she asked, gesturing back into the hotel room.

“Seen the first few, slept through the rest,” he said with a hint of sarcasm. “You know, it’s funny how the one thing I’m criticized for the most is going on and on incessantly… and now it seems as though everybody in the world has to join in on the hour-long interview trend.”

She sighed and gave him a punishing look. “This isn’t something you can just blow off, you know. This isn’t just a chance to earn a meaningless fifteen minutes of fame. This is the Championship of Championships we’re talking about.”

“I’d imagine that’d look good on my resume,” Rocko retorted. “But do you think anybody would give a damn five or ten years from now?” He knew first hand, after nearly a decade with the Business, the decay of respect and esteem over the years. Once, he was the Superior Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion; the end-all-be-all for that time and place. But today, only a handful of people remained who knew what it meant to carry that long-forgotten title.

The expression that passed over Caitlyn Daymon’s face was no more polite than the last. “That’s no excuse to simply ignore the competition…”

“Hey, don’t get me wrong,” said Rocko. “I’m in it to win, of course. But I like to think realistically about my chances. In a tournament with this many competitors, all of whom have earned a right to be here by being the very best of where they come from… I can’t simply sit on camera and promise victory. Especially considering a good three-quarters of them are all unfamiliar faces. Anything can happen in this tournament.

“Which is exactly what I’m counting on.”

Caitlyn said nothing, but looked at her husband quizzically and went back inside the hotel room. Alone again, Rocko took another drag from his cigarette. His wife had changed much since he had first known her, for better and for worse. She had developed quite a bit of a cold shoulder and often posed a counteractive perspective, which tended to keep him on his toes. She was a constant reminder that he, himself, was far from perfect. That knowledge inspired him, as a man and as a wrestler, to never settle for what he currently was as his absolute potential. He would always strive to outreach himself.

In truth, Rocko didn’t much care for the week of lengthy promos he was forced to sit through in some tedious attempt to study and weigh his opponents individually. There was no need to list them off one by one and sequentially pick them off—especially in light of the fact that he’d only be required to fight a handful of them, at most. Besides which, he wasn’t at all surprised to find everybody recycling each other’s words, every man stepping up with a claim of his own individual superiority over the rest… based on absolutely no logic whatsoever.

“Anything can happen,” he repeated to himself aloud, and that was the truth. The tournament would be a wide-spread clusterf*ck of clashing egos, each and every one of them seeing itself as the biggest and baddest cat on the block. But in the wake of their collective self-infatuation, Rocko understood the bigger picture:

This tournament was not going to be about who was the most capable at proving himself right… but rather, who was the most capable of proving his opponents wrong.

A smile crept over his face. He liked the prospect of being a dream-killer as opposed to a run-of-the-mill dreamer. Not simply a devourer of hopes and ambitions, but rather the cold, hard fist of reality in human form. After all, the bulk of his career was defining the term “professional wrestler” to its truest form. In that span of over nine years, while Rocko had only occasional graces within the main event spotlight, one thing he had done on a consistent basis was humble those many who had grown a little too pretentious for their own good.

The opposition seemed to have every intention to decorate themselves with sheets of verbal bullsh*t that layered and obscured the true frail, weak-minded men they were beneath the glitz and glam. They hid behind their petty titles and forgetful championships like rodents cringing from a raging tempest sent by the heavens. But Rocko Daymon had worked and bled for the Business long enough to know that few athletes could ever live up to the image they portrayed.

And in a time and place where “anything can happen”, there was bound to be a whole lot of truth coming to light. The bullsh*t would be stripped aside. The word “champion” would lose all meaning. And at the end of the battle, if all that remained wasn’t man enough to drape an arm over his chest for the three-count, then he would beat the life out of them and be the man in their place.

As his eyes traced the urban skyline, Rocko finished off his first cigarette and lit a second for good measure. In his heart, perhaps he’ll never have any desire to “quite” for good. Whether he walked out the winner or loser of the TEAM Tournament of Champions, he knew that no man would leave an encounter in the ring with him without a new-found understanding of a true champion.


He knows this all too well.

He is perhaps doomed to spend his final moments feeling incomplete.

But he would have it no other way, because it is that feeling of incompleteness that drives him to greatness.

Yori Yakamo jr
07-03-07, 01:23 AM
1997

"Oh no, don't blame Mexico,
that's the feast that the whisky priest may yet have to forego.
Rob me a colour, make the sound duller, but never go away."

Yori rolled down Interstate 70 softly singing along to the Prefab Sprout song playing on his girlfriend's mixtape. The windows were rolled down on Yori's Saturn as the air conditioner had stopped working just outside of Grand Junction. It had been Colleen who introduced Yori to the sonic of wonders of eighties brit pop, and Yori couldn't help but steal glances at her, balled up in an Oakland Athletics sweatshirt, snoozing on the passenger's side seat.

It had been her idea to take a road trip to Chicago for Spring Break. There was a kicking jazz festival just outside the city. Yori really didn't 'get' jazz music, but had always wanted to try deep dish pizza since he came to the U.S. for college.

Plus, there was a pretty good chance he could get laid several times this week.

Yori was fairly satisfied with his sex life with Colleen. As twenty year olds go, he figured he was doing okay for himself.

He was a little weirded out by her collection of sex toys, though.

She was a bit kinky for his tastes. Plus, it only compounded Yori's fears that she was dating the punky Japanese foreign exchange student to piss off her WASPy parents. James and Marsha, who Yori had only met once, though that was enough for him, frankly. It had been faux pas after faux pas over last Thanksgiving weekend, from his croquet play to his use (or lack thereof)of a soup spoon. Yori figured after Colleen's Dad drunkenly called him a good for nothing brat, that it would be over for him and Colleen, who was always quite demure and submissive in front of her father, but later that night she had dragged him into the walk-in pantry and they copulated standing up. He could taste the blackberry brandy on her breath that she had smuggled out of the family liquor cabinet. It was the best sex of Yori's life, even though they had to hide behind one of the shelves, grasping their clothing for dear life to avoid detection by the family help.

Yori was starting to feel a rumble in his stomach. It was starting to get dark and he hadn't eaten since their lunch of tacos at a small Mexican hut on the Nevada border. He had spotted an ad for an all-night diner on a billboard about twenty miles back. Now he spotted its giant neon sign from the interstate, lighting up the Colorado dusk. He pulled off at the exit and into the diner parking lot. The change in speeds lulled Colleen back to the waking world.

"Are we stopping…here?"


Her yawn interrupted her speech. Yori thought it was adorable.

"Yeah, I could use some grub."

"But I could use some sleep."

"Well, I'm sure they won't mind if you sleep in the booth."

Colleen pouted for a moment, but broke into a giggle soon after.


Yori returned from unloading a day’s worth of iced tea and Jolt Cola to find that his girlfriend had been joined in their booth by an incredibly skuzzy looking guy. Yori would have been more perturbed if this was the first time it happened. Colleen was too friendly for her own good, or more likely, thought this guy could score her some pot. Yori indulged his girlfriend’s marijuana habit, though he found it rather unseemly. The only drugs he took was the Ritalin he had taken since he was a child to control his ADD. Though he had to admit he would occasionally take a double dose if he needed to stay up late to finish a paper. Being a biochem major was an intellectual grind, but his family’s hoped rested upon him now, as last year his older brother, Hida, had dropped out of his graduate studies at Oxford and joined a professional cricket club. Their father had been upset, as he wanted their sons to pursue their studies vigorously and not end up a professional wrestler like him. Yori hadn’t even been allowed to go to the shows as a kid, but he still wondered what it might be like someday to be a professional wrestler.

"Oh, this is my boyfriend, Yori."

"Yori, eh? Pleased to meet you…the name’s Randalls, Mike Randalls."

On closer inspection, the man, this Mr. Randalls, appeared to have been raised by wolves or something. At least the smell would suggest as much.

"Mr. Randalls says he can score us some fine pot."

"I can do that."

"I don’t know about this, Colleen. We should be getting back on the road after dinner."

"You’re no fun. This is supposed to be a vacation."

"And no offense Mr. Randalls, but for all we know you could be a rapist…or a murderer…
or some sort of rapist-murderer."

"Yori, that’s rude."

"Now, now young lady, Yori here is just watching out for you."

"That’s sweet of him, but seriously, I can take care of myself. How much for the Northern Lights."

"Now, now, that pink streak in your hair may say rebel to your parents, but until you have cut out an apeman’s liver from his still living, kicking and screaming body, and eaten it for sustenance, I wouldn’t say you could take care of yourself."

Yori was struck by the strongest notion of déj* vu.


"Damn you Randalls, I can take care of myself. I’ve fought apes for years on this blasted post-apocalyptic wasteland, I don’t need some Johnny come lately wolfman, or whatever you are, giving me pointers."

Randalls just smiled as he removed the buckshot from Yori’s thigh. In the background, the sweet smoky smell of roasting ape meat filled the cavernous Dakota highland air.

"Yori, you can’t even use your sonic rifle without damn near blowing your junk off. So don’t tell me you can take care of yourself."



Yori snapped back to reality and realized he was in Randalls’ den…such as it was. Any sportsman worth his salt would be impressed…or perhaps horrified by the array of game Randalls had displayed on his walls. Colleen was sucking down her second bowl out of a rather obscene looking hooka. Yori sighed and resigned himself to a night alone on the crazy man’s polar bear skin rug.

"So you have dreams, Yori?"

"Everyone has dreams, Mr. Randalls, it’s a scientific fact."

"But do you remember your dreams?"

"Sometimes."

"YORI HAS THE BEST DREAMS!"

Yori’s face turned a shade of crimsons reserved for attracting charging bulls.

"I’m sure he does. The subconscious is an amazing thing. It can take you anywhere, anyplace, any time."

"Okay, so I have some weird dreams. Listen, this has been bugging me. Have we met before?"

Randalls laughed a deep baritone laugh that both unnerved and intrigued Yori.

"What’s so funny?"

"Here, take these pills and you’ll find out."

"Umm, no thanks. I don’t take drugs."

"That’s okay, I slipped it in your iced tea."

"*******it Randalls."

Yori hit the polar bear rug with a thump.



Yori found himself dizzily running through a quickly exploding corridor. Damn Apeman
Hitler, damn him to ape hell. The YARDIS was spinning out of control through space and time.

"Smitty what the hell happened."

"It’s ROBOYORI! Apeman Hitler must have hacked into his mainframe. He’s going crazy and destroyed our engines. And what’s worse, Ron Popeil’s Flying Laser Canon Pods and Pasta Makers are hot on our asses."

Suddenly, the Anti-semitic Apeman appeared on the YARDIS’s view screen
"Ho ho, zere he is. Ze famous Doctor Pervert zimself."

"What have you done now, Apeman Hitler."

"Nothing I shouldn’t have done years ago. And zat is blow zat flying zilicone annoyance to high holy hell. Nothing can save you now, Yori. Soon your sexy, devious brain will be splattered all over this zolar zystem. And then ze earth will be mine for the taking."

"Man, Apeman Hitler, you are such a freaking bastard."

"How nice of you to notice. Now you vill DIE!"

Yori had one more trick up his sleeve, though. There was still enough power left on board in the YARDIS to overload the temporal engines and suck the YARDIS into a parallel universe. Well, almost enough power.



Yori drifted back to consciousness. Colleen was still prattling on to a drunk and increasingly disinterested Randalls.

"Sometimes, Yori dreams he travels into the future, a future ruled by apes. Like in that movie with the guy who likes guns. I don’t like guns though. Guns kill people."

"Guns….don’t…kill….people….Randalls…kil ls people?"

"Ah, we’re almost there. Yori…other Yori…I mean. It’s time.



"Hey there Alternate Universe Yori."

"Ah"

Yori saw his own visage staring back at him. Granted one with incredibly cheesy facial hair
and nipple rings.

"Are you my future?"

"Well, not your future specifically, I think. I don’t know. I still haven’t gotten a hold of this
whole temporal paradox thing. Time Travel is confusing."

"Time travel isn’t possible."

"Well, then how did I get here. Moreover, how did I seduce the wives of at least three of
the Knights of the Round Table."

"Umm, it’s all one grand hallucination caused by that crazy coot Randalls slipping me drugs?"

"Yeah, that sounds like him."

"He’s not gonna like, sodomize me, is he?"

"Nah, at least I don’t think so, but listen. I need your help. I need you to find the YORabbit."

"The what?"

"The YOR-abbit. It’s a clever amalgam of Yori and Rabbit. The Thai Hooker marketing team is brilliant."

"I gathered that first part, and am just disturbed by the second part."

"God, you sound just like Hida. So academic."

"Studies are important."

"Sex is important, making dildos is important. Appeasing the giant green rabbit who may
or may not be God is important. TIVOing Iron Chef is…somewhat important.. Studies are not important. Unless you are studying how to get me the freaking YORabbit. If I have to spend one more eon stuck between universes with all the unbaptized babies and famous heathen minds I am going to go crazy. Do you know how you play shuffleboard with Socarates in a complete null. You imagine it. And it sucks."

"Ummm, so these are some pretty good drugs."

"Only the best."

"Listen, the YORabbit exists in all times and all universes, and it is drawn to me like a moth
to a flame or Professor Tremendous to midgets and livestock. It must be nearby. Who do you know that would use a souped up green vibrator capable of opening a hole in the space-time continuum?"

"Well, uh, my girlfriend has a lot of sex toys."

"Huh, maybe you aren’t as lame as that other alternate universe Yori."

"You mean, there’s more of me?"

"Way too many. I am not one to say this. But there may be a bit too much Yori to go
around. In this one particular isolated instance. Normally, there is plenty enough Yori to go around. Or, when it’s naptime, not quite enough Yori to go around. So that’s when I send out the sexbot, at least before he got HAX0R3D~! by Das Monkey Furher."

"I guess…um…I’ll do what I can."

"When in doubt, just HIT THEM WITH THE DILDOS."

"What?"

"Sorry, wrong universe. Carry on."



With a start, Yori was shaken awake. He snapped up, finding himself in the same booth in the same diner.

"Honey, are you all right? I went to the bathroom and when I came back you were asleep in your tuna melt."

"Yeah, I’m fine. I guess I was more tired than I thought."

"Well we can find a motel and I can make sure you don’t catch up on your sleep."

"Sure."

"Well, don’t sound so enthusiastic."

"Sorry," Yori reached into his wallet to scrounge up the cash for the bill. "I had a really odd dream there."

"IT WASN’T A DREAM ALTERNATE UNIVERSE YORI," Yori’s license photo screamed back at him. "DON’T FORGET THE YORABBIT! That is all."

"Are you okay Yorbear?" The pet name had begun to grate on Yori over the last few weeks.

"Yeah, I’m fine. Hey, you didn’t happen to bring…" Yori’s voice fell hushed. "A vibrator with you."

Colleen flashed him a wicked grin. "I may have."

"Can I see it?"

"Like right now, I didn’t figure you for such an exhibitionist. Maybe my little Yorbear has a wild side after all. All right. Close your eyes and put your hands under the table."

"Colleen, don’t make a…"

"Buh buh buh, no buts. Do as I say."

"Fine."

Colleen dropped the odd contraption into his hands. A voice rang out in between Yori’s ears.

"Now, set in to 88 revolutions per minute."

"Are you kidding me?"

"Yes, I am kidding you, but only about this, all the stuff about Apeman Hitler, alternate universes, space faring dildos and laser firing pasta makers is true."

"Fine, fine." Alternate Universe Yori cranked the vibrator up.

"Yori, you can wait till we get it to the motel, yeesh."

"I have to see something."

Slowly, almost imperceptively, the glasses and plates on the table began to shake.
"Don’t forget, you have to send me back exactly one hour before Apeman Hitler is set to deliver his coup de gras. That’s uh…let’s see, 1:15 PM Saturday March 28, 4540."

"What, how the heck do I do that?"

"Doesn’t this model have a digital time readout."

"No."

"Aw crap."


Suddenly, a giant sucking noise.



Regular Yori came to on a beach. White sand stretched for as far as the eye could see. He had landed with quite a thud and made a Yori sized imprint on the shoreline. He looked around and saw a gaggle of green alien women in bikinis gathered around him, looks of concern on their faces. Ah sympathy, the easiest emotion to turn into arousal. Yori smiled.

"Well, close enough for now."