[FADE IN to “The Dragon” sitting on a park bench with a smile on his face]
Karl: Let me guess, you expected me to be ranting, shouting, raving? If you did then you clearly don’t know me. Humble in victory, magnanimous in defeat. Otherwise you end up having a tantrum in the middle of the ring like so many others have.
Oh, and a quick update on Otaku. He’s fine. Got checked out, and he’s had a couple of matches over in Japan. No damage, no harm, no foul.
Now a moment of silence for someone to either be condescending or call me a liar [beat] and on to the next match.
Tony Davis and Aaron Jones in a triple threat match. You’ve got Tony, the definite veteran with 16, 17 years experience, myself with over 9 since my debut, and Aaron Jones. So many people online are giving Aaron no chance, but you know what?
Discount him at your peril. Everyone was a rookie once. Everyone in this business started training sometime. Heck, before my debut I’d been training for three years. Aaron threw himself into the deep end – a stupid idea? Maybe. It’s doing him remarkably well though. Sure he’s not setting the world alight but he’s improving, time after time. All he needs is that one win that will give his confidence a shot in the arm, and you never know – this could be that match.
And what scalps that would be. A combined 23 years experience, toppled. The only person who could win one match and become the second grand slam winner in Empire Pro history, and a man who’s no slouch any time you’re in the ring with him, anywhere.
If anything I’d say the first of those two is the underdog, not Aaron. Sure, my name carries a lot of weight still, but honestly when was the last time I won outside of the tag team division? My accomplishments are mostly in the past, and the past is nothing now. All there is, is the moment. The here, the now.
[He loses the smile]
Karl: Maybe in the months since I last wrestled one on one and relied purely on myself, I’ve gotten too caught up teaching Otaku and trying to teach my opponents. Heck, I’ve spent a lot of time on the road teaching others, maybe I’ve forgotten some things.
Is my heart in it? Yes. Are my skills what they were? I’m as athletic as I ever was. I’m as strong. But my techniques, are they as crisp?
I can’t answer that any more.
I’m not going to moan and complain. I’m not going to put a hand up and proclaim that if I can’t beat Tony and Aaron I’ll be gone, because this is just one match.
I’m not even going to guarantee victory. Everyone knows what’s at stake here. Not a number one contendership. Nothing more than pride.
[His eyes seem to darken of their own accord]
Karl: I guess I should say here’s where I get serious, but you know what? I’m treating this match as any other. So Tony and Aaron, give me everything you have.
I need to see whether I’ve peaked, or if there’s even greater heights I can achieve, and the two of you are just what I need to prove whether this Dragon can soar… or whether the image people have of me is a lie.
<b>All, sorry it’s taken so long for any movement to come from my camp. Harsh deadlines at work and preparing to move at home do not an attentive Garth make.</b>
<i>(We fade in on a really poor-quality video of the match between Aaron Jones and The First at Aggression 71. It’s the very start of the match, and following the opening bell, the video freezes in place the first time Jones and the First are both visible on-screen. The camera then zooms out, showing that the image is being projected on a small TV set up on a rolling stand. After a few seconds, a live-action Jones comes around from behind the camera and stands behind the TV, leaning forward and resting his arms on top of it)</i>
<b>Aaron Jones:</b> Now, for the rest of my life, I can tell the world that I once stepped in the ring with the EPW World Heavyweight Champion.
Even if the title wasn’t actually on the line, and the match didn’t exactly end as I’d have hoped.
I’ll also be able to tell the world I was part of the most recent installment in the neverending “Who’s under the Dis mask?” saga. Though that probably won’t have a very significant place in EPW history once 20 more guys or so have used that mask to get close to the title.
In a way, it’s weirdly gratifying. Getting sneak-attacked is an important part of being a wrestler.
So I’ve been told, anyway. Copycat talked about it a lot – I guess it used to happen to him all the time. Knowing what I know about him now, I don’t have a lot of trouble understanding why.
Call it a rite of passage, maybe. And if you’re going to get sneak-attacked as a rite of passage, all the better if it’s by some guy in a mask, right?
I’m not going to say I enjoyed the sneak attack, of course. I have enough trouble dealing with one opponent; dealing with two is a bit much.
But I’m looking at it the way I looked at the First’s vow to send some sort of message by breaking my arm:
In the end, I’m still here.
Just like I told the First I would be.
That brings us to Aggression 72 and a triple threat match with Tony Davis and Karl “The Dragon” Brown.
A couple of guys who, as Karl said, have more than two decades of experience between them. Me, I’m coming up on one year.
Now, I’ve watched Team V.I.A.G.R.A. during its off-and-on runs through EPW. And I couldn’t have missed Animezing Dragons’ domination of the tag team division here over the last year or so.
I can’t deny being a little interested to see what happens when you put two guys most recently known for their tag team runs into a singles match. And that’s even before you get to the part where I’m in the match as well.
But the most striking thing about this match-up for me is the fact that I appear to have an opponent whose first instinct <i>isn’t</i> to immediately hate anyone he has to face.
Karl, I’m sure you’ve had many such encounters over the course of your experience in this business, but in my limited experience, I’ve not seen a lot of competitors who can go out there and compete without blind hatred or misdirected rage.
Heck, in the King of the Cage tournament, even my own tag team partner kind of hated me.
All this means that I’m kind of new to the professional compliment thing, and I’m not very good at it myself. I don’t know that I could offer any words of reassurance over the loss of the Tag Team Titles that would seem meaningful rather than obligatory.
And it’s not because I don’t empathize; there’s just only so much empathizing I can do, seeing as I don’t know much about what it’s like to lose a symbol of success.
Here’s what I do know.
I had a handful of singles matches, lost them. I entered the King of the Cage tournament, made it to the second round, thanks in large part to the hard work of Malcolm Joseph-Jones, and lost. Faced the world champion, lost.
But I’m still here, and I don’t intend to go anywhere else.
Aggression 72 is the next step. I don’t know where that step will take me, but I’m not going to hesitate before I make it.
We’ve all three of us got something to prove, and we’ll all be looking for a way to prove it.
And if the best way for us to prove it is to just go out there and wrestle, without all the threats and insults and mind games…
Well, I’ll be more than happy to oblige.
<i>(Jones steps away from the TV and comes around behind the camera. The video on the TV screen starts up again and the match continues for another few seconds before we abruptly cut to black)</i>
(FADEIN: EXT. The Odessa Wrestling Dungeon, trademarked training school of EPW's Team VIAGRA. A closed sign is hung on the entrance.)
(SFX: The sounds of a punching bag being worked on.)
(CUTTO: Tony Davis, training alone in the dimly lit gymnasium. He wears a collegiate wrestling singlet along with trademark head gear.)
(MONTAGE: Tony Davis throwing rights and lefts at the punching bag.
Tony Davis doing sit ups.
Tony Davis doing squats.
Tony Davis bouncing off the ropes in succession.
Tony Davis squeezing hand grips.)
(DISSOLVETO: Tony Davis, sitting in the middle of the ring, indian style. A towel is draped over his head. He's sweating profusely.)
TONY DAVIS: I don't remember the last time I was in the ring by myself.
(Davis takes a deep inhale as he fights to his feet.)
TONY DAVIS: I mean, I'm told it was against Cameron Cruise, but that night was such a blur. The end of Team VIAGRA in Empire Pro Wrestling. The dissolution of my career. The end of an era...
(Davis shakes his head.)
TONY DAVIS: But we had a second chance. The King of the Cage. When Jack couldn't get Nov's into the new CSWA, when he couldn't cross over into EPW with Superfly, he came to me. He came back... because he knew I had nothing else.
(Davis reaches up and yanks the towel from his head.)
TONY DAVIS: For ten years I've relied on Jack Harmen for everything in my career. For job opportunities. For championship reigns. For letting me provide for my family.
(Davis smiles at the thought.)
TONY DAVIS: I think I got the better end of that deal.
(Davis blinks rapidly.)
TONY DAVIS: The total amount of cash in deal or no deal briefcases is over 3.418 million dollars.
(Davis shakes his head, lightly pounding the palm of his wrist against his forehead.)
TONY DAVIS: Get it together. It's your last chance. You've got to stay focused. You've got to clear your mind. You've got to win. When you're given a second chance you do everything you can to make it matter. You have to, or what's the point?
(Davis rubs his forehead.)
TONY DAVIS: I dunno what's gonna happen in New Orleans. Karl Brown is a consummate professional athlete who's had Viagra's number on an innumerable amount of occasions. Aaron Jones is a hungry dedicated young upstart ready to make his mark. And what am I? A man who's about to be twice fired now that Team VIAGRA is eliminated from King of the Cage. An unneeded burden to the Empire Pro Wrestling's roster base. A man who can't draw a chicken let alone an arena filled of screaming fans.
TONY DAVIS: I can make the crowd quiet as I faceplant my opponent. I can make them "Oooh!" as I show off brute strength and hold someone up for ten seconds before dropping them on their back. But no one wants to see the Equalizer. No one wants to see my hand raised.
(Davis places the towel back over his head, and turns away from the camera.)
TONY DAVIS: No one chants Tony Davis.
(Davis walks away from the camera. He reaches the exit to the gymnasium, and hits the lights. He opens the door, revealing a crack of light. His silhouette departs the gymnasium. The door creaks itself shut.)
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