(Our scene opens early in the morning within the darkened confines of the Dojo wrestling academy of Seattle. We can hear a key turning in the front door, and a moment later, the school's founder and owner ROCKO DAYMON steps in. The former World Champion of Empire Pro, clad in his wrestling shorts and a Seahawks hoodie, gets the gym and training facility ready for the day by flipping on a few lights and booting up the iPod dock sitting on a shelf in the corner.)
(CUE UP: "Mt. Abraxas" by Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. No embeds... because I can't find any. Spotify, if you must.)
(Daymon takes a moment to look over the room and ensure that nothing looks out of place, before dropping his bag down on one of the chairs set against the wall and taking out his ring gear: boots, pads, and gloves. He removes the hoodie and pops off his sneakers to get himself fully geared up, and once finished, rolls under the bottom rope to enter his ring. He stretches against the ropes a few times, testing their strength and integrity with a dutiful level of focus that is seldom seen in most athletes, and stands for a moment leaning against them, facing out. After a few seconds of contemplation, Rocko lifts up his head, and his sage-like gaze finds the camera.)
It's been a long time since I've tasted victory... but finally, my patience and persistence paid off at Unleashed.
Stephen Shane put up a hell of a fight, as I hoped he would. And through that fight, I came to find that the man is a highly underestimated talent in this federation. There were points in that match where I thought he had me... but even then, I refused to let myself break. I refused to roll over and die. Not after I've been waiting so long for this comeback.
Wherever he is now, or wherever he goes from this encounter, I hope Stephen Shane holds onto a better understanding of his capabilities. I hope he comes back determined, looking for payback... and I'll be right here, ready to let him have it, provided he's got enough to take it.
But until then, I must move on. Unleashed was merely the first step in the Path, and there is scarce little time between now and Wrestleverse to once again make the name ROCKO DAYMON the undisputed pinnacle of Empire Pro Wrestling.
I had hoped to settle some old scores, but with "Triple X" Sean Stevens on hiatus, and Jason "Stalker" Reeves choosing to keep his worthless face in the shadows like the spineless vermin he is, it looks like I'll instead be putting all of my focus on retaking the Mission itself -- retaking the EPW World Heavyweight Title. Perhaps that's for the best... I can't afford distractions at this point.
Make no mistake about it... I didn't come back to waste time making big speeches, or shilling a DVD set, or playing the mystery man shtick, or getting into pissing matches at the mere mention of my name. I returned to Empire Pro to win matches and reclaim my Title. Nothing is less important than burning my way to a second reign as heavyweight champion of the world, separating myself from the pool of one-and-done champions past like Christian Sands, Beast, JA, and even Lindsay Troy.
I refuse to leave my legacy with this company as a mere phase.
So I asked Dan Ryan to just give me the next man in line. He gave me three: Adrian Willard, Eli Flair, and Aaron Jones. Three opponents in a four corners match. A daunting challenge for any wrestler... but also, a daunting feat for whoever finds victory. For me, every step in my path to the title is just another opportunity to prove myself... to prove what I am, and of what may come. But in every corner... someone threatens me.
First, we have Pat's kid, Aaron Jones. He may be on a losing streak... but then, I was on such a streak myself a few years ago. That experience wasn't my proudest moment, but it definitely taught me a lot. And one of the things I learned, is that persistence pays off.
I've had some time to catch up on Aaron's work, and one thing I noticed is that while the odds are almost always against him, you can't deny the determination in his eyes. He has "it"... the constant will to better himself, and take whatever anyone can throw at him, all for the slight hope he might one day break through. I admire a lot about that sort of conviction... but unfortunately for him, that breakthrough won't be coming at my expense. Not while I have something to say about it.
He may be young and unassuming, but I've been in this game for too long to know it's always a bad move to give someone the benefit of the doubt, no matter how non-threatening they may seem. And I've been waiting too long to see all my plans and ambitions falter on an upset.
Next we have Adrian Willard, a man who has put up some tremendous efforts over the last two Pay Per View events, even if he walked away from those matches empty-handed. Champions have a tendency to come and go, though... and Adrian Willard is different. This isn't a man showing up to collect a paycheck; he's here because he fully believes he will immortalize himself within Empire Pro. He has all the makings of one day being a prime name... so long as he can go that extra mile, and win that one match that finally puts him over.
As a Taoist, I'm not exactly a believer in written prophecies. I put my faith in predestination... knowing that every past moment has been a stepping stone leading to this one moment, which is just another stepping stone toward the future. Even so, a man who believes in himself, and believes in his own power, can be dangerous in the right circumstances. On the flip side, though, he also exposes himself to danger... which is what I'm hoping for in the case of Adrian.
Finally, I can honestly say that Eli Flair is the one man I know the least about. Our paths simply never crossed in this sport, and one can only surmise as to how different things would be today if they ever did. Even so, the man carries a reputation that precedes him... and a man with that kind of reputation would naturally be expected to live up to it.
So I have high expectations for Eli, and what he can bring to that ring. Hopefully, he has some high expectations for me as well... because I fully intend to go above and beyond them as soon as that bell rings.
(Pulling himself off of the ropes, Rocko steps back a few paces and takes off the black YOB t-shirt he's wearing to expose his chest, appearing as he would at Aggression 73. The crosses his arms over his chest and sized up the camera, daring to stare directly at the viewer with a gaze of fierce determination.)
Each of our paths have led us to this point... and it seems everyone involved has sufficient reason as to why they should win. So what sets me apart?
Like them, I'm just another man looking to take one step further in my own path, heedless of the needs or desires of others. But under the surface, the truth is there. Aaron Jones is an underdog. Adrian Willard is a fanatic. Eli Flair is a legend.
And I'm all three of those things, rolled into one.
But anybody could win this match, under the right circumstances... and given the chaotic nature of a four corners match, I'm sure each of us will be presented with plentiful opportunities to steal a win. But it won't be my shoulders on the mat. It won't be my hand tapping the canvas.
I've come too far to let myself fail now... and I've got much further to go to let anything slow me down.
(He turns away from the camera as we slowly fade out to black.)
(FADEIN: Poor quality footage. There's static all over the place with a pagan crucifix in the background during its most lucid moments.
After about six seconds of this, Eli Flair's face can be seen pushing through the static, like there's a bunch of white noise over double - exposed film.
Take a second and imagine it, you can see what I mean.)
ELI FLAIR: This is where the work starts.
Walking into Unleashed and dismantling Aaron Jones? That was easy. Every wrestler worth his shit can win one match. Every wrestler with the least ability can shine once.
That's why all the nostalgia tour stuff pisses me off to no end. Does it give us warm fuzzies t'see Joey Melton make it to the semis of the Ultratitle finals last year?
Does anyone fuckin' care at this point?
This is the third time for me, what the cynics could call a nostalgia tour. First of all, fuck the cynics. Second of all, every time I've stepped back through the ropes, no matter how long or short the job was gonna be, I was always there for the long haul.
The FWO in Oh-Nine. The Ultratitle in 'Twelve.
The EPW in Two Thousand Thirteen.
I train for this shit like a marathon runner who expects to go twenty six every day.
Aaron Jones lost at Unleashed because he was going up against a man who will not be outshined. Truth be told, I spent weeks studying everything he did in the ring before I showed up and put him down. Some'a you might laugh at that because it's Aaron Jones, this kid who was never trained for this business, this kid who was never expected to amount t'anything.
I saw something in the kid. There's greatness in there, all he needs is someone t'help'em get it out.
I don't have the patience t'help anyone these days, but McGinnis does. So we'll see.
And we're here at Aggression, where the magic ends and the world begins. The magic was showin' up at Unleashed and soakin' in the reaction from the fans. I could've farted on Jones, poked him in the eye and pinned him and I'd've gotten a standing ovation.
That's the nature'a the business, though. That's the negative'a bein' a name.
The positive starts here: if I'm gonna wrestle at Aggression I'd better be f'real.
And I am.
Aaron Jones, I know what he's about. He's got potential but he's not there yet. Hopefully, in this match, I can give'em a bit'a backup so he can show what he can do before I win.
And I'm going to win.
It's not a reflection on you, Jonesey.
And it's not a reflection on you either, Rocko.
Now, don't be offended, but I vaguely remember you. I've wrestled in essentially every territory that's mattered over the course of the past two decades; I have a sense our paths have crossed before, if not in the ring.
As it stands, what I can say about you with confidence is that you have the potential t'be great. Shit, you took the EPW belt from Triple X some years ago, and as a man who has wrestled Sean Stevens upwards of fifteen times over the years - and that's just what the fans saw on TV - I know that's no easy task.
What I don't know is if you're a man driven by ego or a man driven by desire.
Your desire will push you to do the best you can. Your ego will push you to do so whether you're ready or not.
Hopefully your ego's in check.
No, for me there are no question marks. I'm comin' off a match with Aaron Jones so I know he's a man with unlimited potential but no way at the moment t'realize it. I'm facin' off with Rocko Daymon who's a verifiable hero in this company who's still got a ton'a question marks about how prepared he is for a full time schedule.
To say nothing over how prepared he is for the King of Extreme.
And I'm facin' off with Adrian Willard... a man that my protege Impulse told me he got past by the skin'a his teeth.
Gotta know what you're doin' t'do that.
All I need is what I can do: and that's win.
A legend is something unattainable. A legend is something that people pass on t'other people when they can't deal with reality.
(The shot opens on the iPod dock on the shelf, switching over to a new song... "Hey Doctor" by Witchcraft.)
(We cut over to the ring, location still the Dojo. Once again, we are greeted by the form of ROCKO DAYMON, who looks the same as we left him, save a newly formed layer of sweat to indicate some training has been going on in the interim. We find him with his back against the turnbuckle, arms resting on the top ropes, eyes looking somewhere beyond the mat and the walls of the building.)
The question's been haunting me ever since I came back... and it keeps running over and over in my head.
'"Am I ready for this?"
Or is that just what I'm trying to convince myself, as I walk blindly into another suicide mission?
(He shrugs, pushing himself off of the turnbuckle as he walks out toward the center of the ring, eyes finding the camera.)
I spent a lot of time trying to meditate the matter while I was up in the mountains... and then I realized that to know everything is impossible. All that is really important is that you know yourself.
And I know, that even though I can't prepare for everything that might await me in the ring... I have the ability to adapt, to withstand, and to overcome anything, even when it's unexpected.
I wasn't prepared for Stephen Shane to take me to my limit, as he did at Unleashed... and chances are at Aggression 73, the likes of Eli Flair, and Aaron Jones, and Adrian Willard will throw me something I haven't seen before as well. After all, how can I prepare against opponents I've never faced before?
But it works both ways... and while I can't know what to expect from my opponents once that bell rings, I know at the same time that they can't know what to expect from me. In the weeks to come, they may watch a few tapes, and hear my words, and try to convince themselves that they know just what kind of competitor I am, and how I'll fare in this match... but until the show, nobody can ever know for certain.
I realize there are still many questions surrounding my abilities and my direction... but perhaps those who asking the questions are better left to asking themselves. This isn't a vanity trip for me. I'm not here to outshine anyone... I'm not here to be the biggest and most popular old fart crawling out of retirement.
I'm just here to finish the job I started years ago.
And if they write their own expectations of who I am, or what they think I'm going to bring, then I will break them.
That's exactly how I've built my entire career, by silencing the critics and showing the doubters that I'm always capable of doing more. It's a somewhat redundant process, given there will ALWAYS be criticism levied on me, regardless of what I do or how I go about doing it. But that's fine... critics have their place. They give me reasons to keep pushing myself... and to keep growing, as a competitor.
It's not about reaching the top of the mountain... only the climb.
Or rather, the ASCENT.
(He looks up, to the great, invisible unobtainable that we all live and strive for.)
There is no end to the Mission... no destination at the end of the Path. The journey is all that matters... and the journey will define my legacy.
(Crossing his arms over his chest, he lowers his eyes to the camera again.)
Am I ready?
I know I'm ready enough... to take whatever this sport throws at me. Whatever stands in my way, I will prove myself stronger... and smarter... and I will do whatever it takes, so long as it means proving I'm the most worthy competitor in this company to carry the burden of the EPW World Heavyweight Title.
More than Aaron Jones... more than Adrian Willard... more than Eli Flair... and more than anyone else in this federation who may claim otherwise. All I have to do is keep standing on my own two feet, and proving that nobody can keep me down. All I have to do is keep winning.
And while I know I have the strength... the stamina... and the desire... I also know that in a four corners match, the man who walks out the winner is not always necessarily the worthiest, or the best, or the most gifted. This is a match that favors the opportunist. While I've always prided myself on being able to withstand anything... in this situation, it's rather moot, because I could easily lose everything just by having my back turned at the wrong moment.
Therefore, to win this match, and to bring myself one step closer to the title, I will have to make my own opportunities... and my focus must be paramount. This is all I can prepare for, going into a match with three opponents who are virtually unknown to me. One by one I will wear them down however I can, and prevent myself from being wore down as much as I can, until the moment arises when one man has been pummeled to the point where he's good and ready to be put on his back.
When that moment comes... I'll know exactly what to do.
I will be ready.
(Our shot goes to black as he turns from the camera again.)
[FADE IN....the streets of Chicago and an old style bungalow style home. Adrian Willard opens the front door in a black and red Blackhawks hoodie and sweatpants. He nods at that camera crew and begins to speak as he locks the front door shut.]
“Man....what a disappointing last three events....
Losing the Intercontinental Championship to Boogie Smallz.
Not getting the job done against Rich Mahogany.
Failing to take down Anarky.
And yet here I am facing three other men in a ring.
It seems Dan Ryan loves to throw me a challenge....that's for sure.”
[Adrian smiles wide entertaining the idea as he grabs the hood pulling it over his head]
“How many chances does a guy like me have? Who knows.
But until my eventual release...you know the whole...
'Wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors' schtick.....I'll keep getting in that ring.
And I don't mind it. I don't mind getting in that ring against two highly acclaimed wrestlers and testing my skills.
No one said the climb to the top is a fast one, sometimes the long and rough road conditions you better than anything else.
And the path takes different directions, all of which I plan to explore.”
[Adrian jogs down the stairs of the home and starts a light run down the block]
“One of my opponents, Rocko Daymon, questions if he is ready.
The question Rock is never 'am I ready', we all think we are ready. We all will convince ourselves that we are better than the other guy across the ring. It's in our blood, it makes us who we are.
And we will lie to ourselves....say that we're ready but when it comes to the bell you're as nervous as the rest of them. When you are sitting in that locker room, head in your hands, breath heavy, hoping, scheming, that's real.
I use to think I was ready, I assumed and told myself I was ready. I was the Prophecy, I was the man who will bring forth glory to wrestling.
When really I was none of that.
And I am not ashamed of it either. I want to grow, when the chance for the EPW Championship Title comes I want to feel as though I earned it rather than was entitled to it.
The fact that I will train and I will come back again...and again....until you put me down for good is what will take me to that peak...one day.
That's the real threat to everyone in this match.....
That I AM the difference maker.
I always have been."
[Adrian walks makes a turn down another street camera following steadily behind him now]
"I don't know what the future holds and I never thought I would hear myself say that but I don't. I can try, I can go out to the ring give it my all and take my chances.
I'm no prophet, the future is blind to me.
I'm a wrestler. That's all and it's time to take it right back to basics. There have been to many I 'almost won' moments for me to feel as though I have done the business or even myself a service.
Eli may be a man who doesn't want to be out-shined.
Aaron Jones a man who continues to try relentlessly to succeed.
(FADEIN on a brick wall with a Pagan Crucifix spray painted on it, and the words 'ELI LIVES' underneath.
Slide left and Eli Flair is sitting on a stoop. If you don't know what a stoop is, you've lived a shallow and meaningless life. Head cocked to one side, hair somewhat in face. T-shirt has the sleeves cut off and reads "HAN SHOT FIRST."
Because he did.)
ELI FLAIR: "We're all so polite."
"When did this business grow manners?"
"I guess it's a positive: my state'a mind has always been that you've got my respect until you lose it; whether Rocko, Willard, and Jones feel the same is immaterial to the fact that they're actin' like it."
"'Cept for Aaron Jones, he's been pretty quiet."
"Jonesey, I like you, kid. I wanna help you push y'self t'the next level but if you don't put the effort in t'help yourself... there's only so much McGinnis and I can do, even if she is an evil genius."
"What you need t'do, Jonesey, is ask y'self what you want from this company. Do you wanna just go out there and take your hits and get paid and go home, or do you wanna be someone?"
"'When you figure it out, let me know."
"And let Adrian Willard know, because from the sound of it, Willard's about ready t'throw in the towel himself."
"Don't do it, Willard."
"Don't let the business beat'cha down and discourage ya from movin' forward."
"So y'lost to Anarky. Big deal. His first year in the business, he was a three - time - simultaneous World Champion. Regardless'a what he may or may not've turned into, he's got the skills to compete with the best of 'em; that's not a reflection'a your ability."
"Y'lost to Rich Mahogany."
"T'be fair I don't know the first thing about him and couldn't really care less about 'em, but as I understand it he was undefeated here for a while, former TV Champion, and he pinned Anarky when Nark was holdin' the EPW World Title."
"You can't beat the man with the gold, be it non-title or not, without havin' talent."
"And y'lost to Boogie Smallz."
"But did you really?"
"Yeah, Boogie pinned ya to win the vacant Intercontinental title, but there were three other guys involved in that one. Trust me, I've been in a few'a those myself. One man wins, and everyone else loses. Y'wouldn't've been there if y'didn't have the talent t'win it; the stars simply aligned for the Boogie Man."
"Good luck for him that he beat four other guys, bad luck for you that it was your shoulders. One on one, who knows what'd happen."
"And there's Rocko Daymon."
"Y'know the biggest difference between us, Rocko?"
"The guys that've heard'a me talk about me in hushed tones, like I'm a legend from long ago. Your legend is here, it's alive, and it's gonna be in the ring with us."
"And you have to live up to it."
"You said you were here t'finish what you started three years ago. The flaw with your plan is that you're not the same man you were three years ago."
"Three years older, definitely."
"Three years wiser, presumably."
"Just be careful, Rocko. Your mindset of 'Life's a journey, not a destination' is what old men say when they don't think they can make it to the top."
"You're just having fun, Rocko? You just wanna wrestle? That's what a man says when he either doesn't have direction or doesn't think he can accomplish it."
"That ain't you, is it? You already said you're here t'pick up where y'left off three years ago."
"When you were Champion, yes?"
"Be honest with y'self, Rocko, because if you aren't, you're conflicted."
"And if you're conflicted, they'll be wiping the bloody smear that used to be Rocko Daymon off the mat while I get my hand raised."
"Because I know what I'm doin' here and I ain't conflicted in the slightest."
<i>(We fade in on a wall in the gym we've been seeing a lot of lately. Stuck to it, dead center in front of the camera, is a promotional poster for Unleashed 2013, presumably one of the many that were plastered all over the arena)</i>
<b>Aaron Jones (offscreen):</b> Do you see it? Let me help you out.
<i>(The camera zooms in on the bottom of the poster. Below the match listings, which start halfway down, there's a line near the bottom that reads "ALSO FEATURING," followed by a list of names. The close-up allows us to see that Jones' name has been circled in thick black marker, with arrows pointing to it from every direction. The camera zooms back out after a few seconds, and Jones steps in front of it)</i>
<b>Jones:</b> They thought it would be funny to highlight my participation, even if I couldn't be a significant part of the promotional materials because my opponent was being kept a secret. More of the good-natured stuff I've gotten used to here.
I hope my opponents at Aggression 73 will forgive my silence over these last few days. Fact is, I didn't quite know what to say, until Eli Flair said it for me. Something about us all being so polite.
You have to understand this about me: I'm really not used to getting that from my opponents. Maybe here, in my safe zone...
<i>(He motions around him)</i>
<b>Jones:</b> But on the EPW stage, it's been something else entirely. "Snowball's chance" this, "not a prayer" that.
Mind you, I came into EPW fully expecting to hear that reaction a lot. So the opposite is a little jarring.
How'd you all get to this point, anyway? Years of experience making you weary of the same old smack-talk? Deep, abiding passion for introspection? A little bit of that old value that I was told didn't exist in the wrestling business anymore, humility?
I'm easy enough to explain: Trash talking just doesn't come naturally. In fact, probably the only person I've had harsh words for left EPW before my in-ring career even started, and he claims he's never coming back, so I'm really just wasting my breath about it.
This has been another step in the learning process for me: How do you respond to an opponent who hasn't expressed a profound desire to pull your spleen out through your esophagus?
I thought about how I'm not going to give any less effort just because my opponents are being nice to me. I thought about how it's nice to have an encouraging environment for once.
Both of those things are true. But I think there's a better point I can make.
Rocko Daymon says I have "it." Eli Flair says I have potential. Adrian Williard called me "relentless."
Don't worry; I'm not going to get a big head about it.
But I can't help but notice, for the first time in my admittedly short career, there are actually expectations for me.
For the first time, there's something for me to live up to.
And that leads me to believe that, if I'm going to have a moment, it has to be soon, before those expectations fade away.
At some point, there has to be an opportunity for me to meet those expectations.
So believe me: If that opportunity comes along, you can bet your bottom dollar I'll take it.
Now, I'm not going to get flexible about my definition of "opportunity." I'm not going to dole out a low blow when the referee's not looking. I'm not going to stuff a set of brass knuckles down my shorts before I head through the curtain.
But I am on the lookout for that opportunity, for that moment. Because it's going to be the moment that leads to the first victory I achieve on my own.
It might not be against you, Eli. Or you, Rocko. Or you, Adrian.
But if that moment comes, you'd best be ready for it.
Because you know as well as I do:
I will be.
<i>(Jones looks into the camera for a second before coming around to the side of it again. A second later, we cut to black)</i>
(We open up in the Dojo, at night. "Down Into The Earth" by Orchid is on the iPod dock. ROCKO DAYMON appears before us, seated on a folding chair, silvered robe draped over his shoulders, at rest after a hard day's work. The same probably can't be said about his raging soul, as given by the stone-like expression carved on his face. Behind him, a large banner bearing a silver mountain over a brown background hangs like a battle standard.)
We are only on the onset of things to come.
At Aggression 73, the bell will ring, and the four of us will put out a battle that the recently beleaguered fans of Oklahoma City won't ever forget. But it will only be the first of many battles in my Path to the apex of this Empire.
Every battle is a step forward, and an opportunity to learn and to grow as a competitor. I will need every battle to be prepared for when the time arrives to step up and reclaim the EPW World Title, and for the ambitions that follow that point.
But that's all looking ahead. This battle... against Flair, Willard, and Jones... that's all I'm concerned about right now.
When I look at "Total Elimination" Eli Flair, keeping in mind that this is my first experience with the man, I try to look beyond the years of experience and the lists of titles. I turn a deaf ear to the praises he gets. None of that matters to me. That's only the material part of the man that exists beneath.
What DOES matter is that despite having been everywhere and done everything, he still keeps getting back into the ring and proves why those years keep ticking, and the lists keep growing, and the praises keep getting brought up.
That's the kind of ambition that defines the greats in this sport from the people who sit in retirement and live off of their names. Flair doesn't rest... he doesn't let himself get settled and complacent. He just keeps wrestling.
And wherever the Path leads me, so will I.
And so will Aaron Jones... and so will Adrian Willard. They will overcome their set-backs, because they know the strength of patience, persistence, and practice. And both men could be at the cusp of a great opportunity, if they can move on from this match with a victory.
An opportunity, unfortunately, I may be forced to deny them in pursuit of my own Path.
So who will win?
Four-way dances have a way of being unpredictable. But even so, some would look at it as a way of four men fighting on equal grounds.
In nine out of ten or even twenty matches, I'm sure many would predict Eli Flair going over Aaron Jones. But when you throw two more guys into the mix, more possibilities are added, and the odds are a little less lop-sided.
There's no sure strategy to win, outside of total domination. But something tells me nobody's going to manage that in this match. And I don't base that on any lack of ability; I simply think the four of us are each too stubborn to allow any one of ourselves to be walked over in that manner.
No... what this is going to come down to is one man being in the right place at the right time.
Stumbling your way into that situation is easy. But recognizing it when it's there, and knowing what to do? That's the mark of a truly great professional wrestler.
(He rises to his feet and crosses his arms over his chest, looking bold and determined.)
Despite the questions... I believe that's what I am.
And that's just how I intend to answer those questions once it's time to fight.
(As he turns from the camera, we slowly go to black.)
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