We have a black screen. We hear the announcer's voice, and see the word's appear in white on the screen.
Announcer: They thought they were dead.
Cut to a shot from Round One, where The Celtic Assassins are being nailed with chair shots by Irishred.
Announcer: They thought they would just slink away into the night, never to be seen in MCW again.
Cut to "The Scottish Wrecking Machine" Al Thoes and "The Irish Adonis" Bobby O'Brady staggering to the back after their loss to Irishred and James Irish.
Announcer: But little did anyone count on... justice!
Cut to Jalen Latham making the announcement during Round One:
Jalen: I’ve decided to give a team that lost tonight a second chance. ... What I need to know from you, is which team YOU would like to see face Blitz in the second round. Log on to MCW.com and send me your votes. I will read each one personally and announce the team when I make the official card announcement in TWO DAYS!
Announcer: And little did anyone count on ...
Cut to Al Thoes and Bobby O'Brady. The new NAPW Tag Team Champions. And the fans pick to get the second chance in round two!
O'Brady: We're back, boyos. We've got title gold. We've got the fans on our side. And we've got another chance to win this whole bloody thing!
Thoes: Irishred, don't think we've forgotten about you. Down the road, you will pay for trying to scramble our brains last week. But Blitz, right now, you're presenting one big roadblock on our oath to success.
O'Brady: We've worked our arses of for six months to get our hands on the NAPW tag title belts. But we'll be buggered if we stop there! We're going to crush every team in our path to win this tag team invitational!
Thoes: Warning: The triumph of the Celtic Assassins will be gained through gory violence, and scenes that may be too intense for younger viewers. Discretion is advised!
O'Brady: See ya soon Blitz!
Cut to the black screen with the words: COMING SOON TO AN ARENA NEAR YOU!
“It’s strange,” the translation of the thoughts of German behemoth, Max, would read. “Latham gives us a match against a team that was voted back in, pitied because of how they lost – and they say nothing.” He started another set on the pec-deck.
Those self-same thoughts were shared by his tag team partner, Jecht, and his manager, Leonard Johnson. Leonard had spent many days after the Celtic Assassins made their ‘speech,’ just trying to figure out something to say. Something to work with. They claim to be Celtic? No. Too easy. The Celts hadn’t existed as an independent race in almost two millennia. They may have Celtic ancestry – but, seeing as how the Celtic empire once spread across most of modern-day Europe, so did many millions of people, if not a couple of billion. Maybe their claim of being assassins? No. They’re not subtle enough to be any good in that profession.
That they’re tag team champions at this moment in time? That fact could not be denied, and only be denigrating NAPW could Empire Pro Wrestling’s longest serving manager turn it into a positive. That they represent NAPW, rather than a better federation? It seemed like half the NAPW roster had entered this tournament, so even that was hardly something to use – he’d have to insult an entire roster, which, although accurate, seemed somehow to be as shallow as the words of the Celtic Assassins.
How about their focus on IrishRed? Again, a blank. They could quite easily counter that by either claiming they weren’t going to focus on him, or else they could be imaginative and say they were going to picture IrishRed and try and get revenge on him through Max and Jecht. Even their assertion that they were going to crush every team in the tournament they met would prove a futile way to go, as they clearly had less intelligence than half of a brain-dead amoeba, so they’d miss the point entirely.
No. They said absolutely nothing. Leonard’s brow furrowed as he leaned back, sighing, in his office chair. From his stereo came Show of Hands Roots, a folk number that seemed as incapable of offering help as the Celtic Assassins are at making statements.
Seed, bud, flower, fruit
They’re never going to grow without their roots
Branch, stem, shoot
They need roots.
And that was the problem – the, if I may use a poor pun, root of his problem. The Celtic Assassins had so few roots. Their words had no roots. If one were to expect a flowering of information from them, Leonard thought, then they were to be disappointed, for the seeds of their knowledge had landed on the stone.
How could an informative promotional segment be made out of the nothing provided? Leonard had long ago grown tired of giving and giving and giving in the hope that his opponents might make something decent of the words – only Lindsay Troy and Nathan Fear had so far. Maybe professional wrestlers should all, with few exceptions such as Mrs Windham, be given managers to do the talking for them, people who know the importance of giving the public at least something half decent to promote a match with.
What could he use?
He turned in his chair, rising from it and walking over to the window. In the distance, across the cold barren skyline of the city, some grey clouds slumped across the sky, dragging themselves in a never-ending progression. Even the clouds, Leonard thought to himself, could find nothing to motivate them. Whereas in spring or summer he might expect to see them flitting back and forth on the winds of chance, now, they were dull. They were grey. They oozed forth, covering the world below in a sickly hue.
The entire world, from his vantage point, was sick. There would be nothing outside his window to inspire him to saying something.
“Mr Johnson, Mister Latham’s office called,” Laura said over the intercom. “They want to know if you’ll be appearing on TV this week.”
He sighed as he pressed the button to give a response. “Tell mister Latham that next round I’d like some more intelligent opponents. People who give a damn about this industry and the fans that they claim are so behind them, because quite frankly, I’m tired of having to dreg up from nothing something that’ll inspire the fans to watch. I’ve been in this industry closing in on thirty years. I’ve sat by and watched in Empire Pro Wrestling as week in and week out, so-called greats have said nothing more than ‘Look how great I am and how easily I will win,’ and now it’s happening here. In the company that he and I spent months working on, and will spend much more time working on in future. Let his office know I will tape a promotional segment, but that next round, I want opponents who are going to say something meaningful, rather than grunting their way through tape. I don’t care if these two are the current NAPW Tag Team Champions, and I know full well they’re going to say they do their talking in the ring - these two exemplify why so many companies go bankrupt so quickly, because it is only so many times people will pay to see people beating each other up for no viable reason other than on that night they’re opponents.”
He knew he should probably have stopped there, if for no other reason than it wasn’t fair to take out his frustrations on Laura. He’d ranted at her about the state of the business several times in recent months - but Laura was thick-skinned despite her age.
“The Celtic Assassins put together a tape to thank the fans for giving them a sympathy vote. Yes, I disagree with Latham’s decision to not restart the match, and I disagree with the official who did not award a disqualification victory - and I had words with both to that effect. But if Latham thinks for one second that I am amused by the tripe they sent in, he has another thing coming.
“They say people thought they were done in the tournament - and go with a tired cliché like ‘They didn’t count on justice?’ How is that supposed to inspire people to watch the upcoming match? ‘Watch us because we got charity’? ‘Watch us because we’re big and mean and scary’? At least Nakita Dahaka said something that might get people interested in her as a wrestler. She gave people a reason to want to tune in and see if she could do as she said she would, punish Blitz in such a way that they’d never forget it. Yes, she failed, but people cared. That’s what wrestling should be about, people should give a damn, and I do not see how anyone could give a damn about the Celtic Assassins when they say absolutely nothing!
“People have often said that Blitz as wrestlers stand there and do nothing in promotional spots - and I agree. I want them to do more. But if you’re not used to Max, then his accent gets in the way. With Paulo he’s so quiet unless he’s angry that he’d say as little as Joey Melton does. That’s why I was teamed with them in GWW, to get them over with the fans, and I still do it to this day. If the Celtic Assassins want people to give a damn, then get someone, I dunno, Stephen Forester to be their mouth-piece. That segment he did in the Chad Dupree final was certainly more entertaining and gave the fans more reason to care about his match than this week’s near-mutes, and he even managed to keep in Celtic overtones.”
He calmed himself. He was working flatout on a number of projects, not least of which was managing the most dominant tag team in recent memory, so maybe that was the cause of his rant. Composing himself and straightening his tie, he took a deep breath before continuing.
“So, yes, I will tape a promotional segment. But tell Latham that when the match is over and the Celtic Assassins have been shown that true dominance doesn’t just come from saying you’re the best, that I need to have a sit-down chat with him about the calibre of the teams he’s allowed into this event. This was supposed to be a showcase of the best in the business, but so far all he’s doing is highlighting how far these other teams have to go to even be considered passable, either in the ring, or at drawing a crowd.”
“Of course, mister Johnson.” Her tone was the same happy, cheery one she always had, bless. “Max is here to see you as well, shall I let him in?”
OoC: Sorry I didn't get something up sooner.
The Celtic Assassins sit awaiting their flight out of Edmonton. "The Irish Adonis" Bobby O'Brady and "The Scottish Wrecking Machine" Al Thoes have their NAPW tag titles with them, but they seem a bit down.
O'Brady: So it seems we failed to impress our opponents for the next round.
Thoes: Granted, have any of our opponents ever been impressed with us? I mean, how bad a strategy would it be to give your opponent some credit?
O'Brady: We should have expected this. We didn't win in round one. It was a cheap loss, but a loss nonetheless. But thanks to an impartial official, and the support of the fans, we're back in. Someone was bound to be upset.
Thoes: Don't you think Blitz would have spouted the same crap about either of the other teams if they had been voted in?
O'Brady: We have a lot more pressure now. We have to prove we deserve to be back in this tournament. We have to prove that we are the best tag team NAPW has to offer. And there's only one way to do that.
Thoes: And that's to beat James Irish and Irishred!
O'Brady: Well, we do have Blitz...
Thoes: Ah yes. They seem to have already planned their victory speech. Hey boyos, you want to know why we sent you that little video last week? Cause we were busy defending these!
Holds up the NAPW tag title belt.
Thoes: It's a practice common among champions, to defend the titles they've won. We're sorry if we didn't sit down and detail every little thing we planned to do in our match. We're sorry we didn't focus our full attention on you boys. We were still just a wee bit annoyed after the events of last week. What with being hit with chairs and all.
O'Brady: And no, when we get you boys in the ring, we won't be imagining Irishred's face over yours. We don't need that kind of inspiration. We got enough when you ran us down. We got even more when you ran down NAPW. We have more than enough inspiration to lay a beating on you jackasses. Add to that the prestige of winning this tournament. Add to that the chance to get revenge on the team that stole a victory from us last week. Hell, the fans should never have had to be put in a position to choose. Rules are rules, and we should have won. But that's in the past. Max. Jecht. You have our full attention now.
Thoes: Be ready for the Celtic Crushing of a lifetime!
O'Brady: Cause this time, there'll be no doubts, no need for a vote. No controversy. Just a win for the NAPW Tag Team Champions.
"The Scottish Wrecking Machine" Al Thoes as he stares at a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
Thoes: Now, this is the time where I should be thankful for everything good that's happened to me this year. My success in NAPW. Being picked as one of the elite to join the MCW tag tournament. Hell, just the simple fact that we managed to come back from every setback that plagued us this year. But no. I'm not feeling it right now. I mean, I look at this tree. Someone went through a lot of work to decorate it. And come Christmas morning, I'm sure there'll be a lot of presents under it, that will make someone very happy. But for me? For the Celtic Assassins? Christmas is going to have to wait a few days.
"The Irish Adonis" Bobby O'Brady makes his entrance.
O'Brady: You see, most of NAPW is off on a Christmas break. But not the tag teams. Half of them are here, ready to fight for the honor of our federation. ... And for a little bit of personal glory.
Thoes: As Tag Team champions, we shouldn't have that much to prove. But we have doubters who think our win was a fluke. We have pundits who think we were lucky to retain our belts. And we have Blitz, who go on about how we don't deserve to be here. Well, it's too late to change things now. You have us in the second round. It doesn't matter how we got here. All that matters is what happens in the ring.
O'Brady: All that matters is we have weeks of frustration to get through. All that matters is we got the eyes of the wrestling world on us, waiting for us to make a mistake, to prove them right, that we are a flash in the pan. All that matters is we got everything to lose in this match.
Thoes: I love this season. I look forward to Christmas every year. But this year? I've had nothing but stress. All because of this belt (holds up the NAPW tag title belt) and the pressure that comes from being champion. But you know what? I wouldn't trade it for the world. Because all the pressure has made us into a desperate team. A hunted team. And a better team. In the last six months, we lost two matches, and in one it took repeated chair shots to take us down.
O'Brady: Blitz. You making the same mistake as everyone else. You're looking down on us. You're not giving us the credit we have earned. And in the end, that's what's going to be your downfall.
Thoes: Something tells me that the holiday's won't be too happy for you boys this year. But you'll have all of 2007 to reflect on your mistakes. And we'll have all of 2007 to keep proving that we are the tag team to beat in the wrestling world.
O'Brady: Sorry to play Grinch boys, but we're going to steal your Christmas joy, with the Celtic Crushing of a lifetime!
The camera pans back to the tree as we fade to black.
[FADE IN. A concert is going on on-stage – for fans of the battle metal genre, you might know the band as Turisas. You might know the song that’s currently playing as “Battle Metal” from the 2004 album of the same name. On a screen behind the band, several shots, each matching the tone of the lyrics, flashes up]
The name uttered with fear
No smile, no tears
They’ll crush your skull with a blow
And file them in a row
The heart of Turisas was forged by four winds
In a smithy high up in the sky
On an anvil of honour, with a hammer of blood
The four winds pounded
As the battle rages, the dearest to you you hold in your hands
And stick in their lungs!
[The camera pans quickly round the audience during the short instrumental section, showing a ravenous, blood-thirsty throng of men and women headbanging, some waving plastic battle-axes, others with plastic swords, whilst some are wearing fake Viking helmets. One or two have even decided to follow their heroes on stage in wearing thick, heavy furs]
An iron gaze of a hawk
Out of sight they stalk
Their arrows cut the air as they fly
Death from the sky
Thunder in their eyes
A riding demise
Storming over the men on the field
Breaking their shields
Take this sign into your heart and be brave
Let it lead you to your glory or your grave
[As another musical interlude passes, a quieter one, we see the audience still enjoying themselves, clapping and shouting in unison in the way people do at pubs, when a fiddler or flutist is playing. As the power of the guitars kicks back in, we see the lead singer take a position high above the drum riser, looking out across the assembled masses]
Hear me! My warriors!
Soldiers from all the edges of the world
Let us join our forces
To an army, united!
Four winds will guide us
The Heart of Turisas will lead our way
Our drums echo: Forward march
Our horns cry for victory
Boldest of them all
They've answered the call
Their arms were strenghtened by the work of their swords
They'll march till they fall
The heart of Turisas was forged by four winds
In a smithy high up in the skies
On an anvil honour, with a hammer of blood
The Four Winds pounded
[CUTTO: The backstage area. Their, near the stage, stands Max, dressed in a denim jacket and clean jeans. He’s loudly applauding the band, enjoying the show, as the camera pans round the narrow corridor, and moves towards the dressing room. There, sat on a sofa, sits Leonard Johnson, dressed smartly, but casually. Over by the complementary bar, we see Jecht, the larger of Blitz, pouring himself a pint. As the camera pans round, we see Jecht lean against the bar, as we come to focus on the manager, who has a smile on his face that many fans will notice – a smile that means he’s figured something out, something that guarantees him victory]
LJ: I was concerned when Max came into my office and said we should fly over here and see this concert tonight. He knows full well that heavy metal is not my thing. But, listening to the band, it became clear just why, besides wanting a day off from training for the first time in months, he wanted to come. He wanted to hear an original version of the nothingness the Celtic Assassins have been saying.
Of course, when I landed here this morning, I had no idea that they’d sent in another tape. Laura was good enough to have it emailed over as an MPEG, though, so I have seen it. And I must say, I didn’t give them enough credit before. I truly thought they just said nothing, that they were lacking in intelligence. I should have known already that they’re idiots, and that they can’t even make up a decent excuse.
Let me start out this segment though, whilst I remember, to apologise for not taping something sooner. I had been waiting on them to say something, and I was busy with paperwork, organising matters for Blitz, for Major Championship Wrestling, and for some smaller, independent leagues I’ve been contacted to assist. All in all, my time has been rather full. I know, that is a poor excuse. But, considering the excuse given by a team that can’t even square up their nick-names with their team-name, then I feel I’m vindicated.
First, to explain and clarify by ‘squaring up.’ I know I should have noticed such a matter earlier, but there are two things wrong with that, and the name Celtic Assassins.
Jecht:[from out of shot And this isn’t the only thing he has to say, or the most important.
LJ: Thank you. Now, doesn’t it strike anyone as odd that Adonis, a Greek tag, is being used in connection with a completely different Empire of old? An Empire that once reached the gates of Rome itself, before returning to their own lands. More importantly, do they not notice that one of their nicknames is in fact, Gallic? If you go to an Irishman and say that he was Celtic, he’d break your jaw - Ireland is in fact more Gallic than Celtic. Why not go the whole hog and make it totally unbelievable, by calling oneself French, or German? Whilst there are similarities between Celt and Gallic culture, the two historically are very different.
It was a wonder I didn’t see that before, and for that I can only blame myself. It was such a simplistic thing to note for anyone who spent time studying in Britain, that it must have just slipped my mind temporarily.
And now that the minor and trivial matter is out of the way, let me move on to the more important matter of what they said in their latest attempt at making points that fans care about.
I must say, I’m not surprised that they didn’t notice I was a strong supporter of theirs after their match in the first round. I went and spoke with both Latham and the official who had not awarded them to disqualification victory. I spoke most vehemently that the decision be reversed, or if it could not, that they should be allowed a chance to compete for a place in the second round, to replace the two teams that decided they had better things to do than compete. I’m a business man, and I know that it’s bad for business if you don’t promote a complete round. My answer, admittedly, was to have them in a play-off match before the second round, but Latham, being more interactively minded than I, thought it best for the fans not to have Blitz completely walk over whoever won a match, and decided to let the fans vote for whom they wished to see with the unenviable task of facing the former World Tag Team Champions. I must give the two gentlemen credit, for proving that their lack of intelligence knows no bounds. Though, maybe they were simply too upset about being beaten to notice that, as soon as they came back through the curtain, I was already in conversation with the official to determine how he could damage the reputation of the entire tournament with such a moronic call.
What doesn’t surprise me, either, is that they used such a weak excuse for not putting together a segment of some merit and worth to promote this very match, Blitz against the Celtic Assassins. I mean, really – I’ve been in this industry far too long for the excuse, “We were busy defending our titles,” to mean anything. I’ve been in this industry for almost approaching thirty years. In that time, do you know how many champions I have managed, across the former territories, and latterly in the independent circuit? Do you think, being the manager of a team that held the World Tag Team Championship belts for over a year, that I would not anticipate the sudden shift in schedule you two gentlemen will have suffered? Promotional appearances in public, taking the titles out to independent leagues, facing the very best that those promotions have to offer, on top of facing the best of your home league?
Let me tell you a story, of one man I managed. He was not as successful as Blitz, who have between them over one hundred different title belts from the independent circuit, but he was, nonetheless, successful. This was when independent leagues were emerging after the break-up of the territories, with the best singles wrestlers moving to either Jim Crockett, or the World Wrestling Federation. There was one wrestler, known as Ox, who I managed at the time – a very large, very powerful man. He wrestled across the globe, calling seven promotions home at one point – one in Ireland, one in Canada, three in the United States, one in Japan, and the other which was based out of Mexico, and promoting in the US. Do you want to hazard a guess at how many titles he held at one point?
Do you know how many times the cards were sent out that he didn’t have a five minute promotional segment out within twenty four hours in the two years he held those titles?
Five minutes each card for each promotion. Five top titles. And not once did he see fit to repeat himself. Not once did he phone it in by sending in a one minute tape like the two of you did. Not once in two years did he miss a flight, a match, an interview or a public appearance.
He poured his heart and soul into promoting his matches, even though the fans jeered him. He did it because he loved the business. He cared enough to want people to come see his matches – he was proud to be champion. He was so proud that he didn’t go to either the WWF or Jim Crockett, even though he could have done. He could have made it huge on the main stage, but he wanted to lose the titles he had worked so hard to win and promote, rather than vacating them. He wanted to give back to the business, by making sure that whoever beat him deserved the title, by beating him when he was at his best.
No-one did. He retired injured after tearing his cruciate knee ligament, before the days when surgery for the condition was tried. He went out a hero to the fans, because he always showed up and made sure the fans knew he cared enough to get them through the door. Promoters loved booking him, because they knew he would work to promote each and every encounter.
The same as I do now with Blitz. In the years we’ve been together, we’ve never missed a taping. We’ve never not sent in a promotional segment that wouldn’t get fans interested. We have never relied on video-packages and a forty second appearance. Because that is not what interests the fans. That is not time enough to hook the fans, to convince them why they should bother switching the channel to our match.
Especially when your claim for victory rests on nothing more than caveman-esque grunting. How many times have I heard “We’re going to crush everyone,” do you think? How many teams have promised to be unbeatable for Blitz? How many times do you think I’ve heard the exact same segment as you two have now produced twice?
It grows tiresome. Not least because it misses the key facts.
Fact – Max and Jecht have been teaming longer than the two of you, and have more experience as a team in professional wrestling.
Fact – there are very, very few men their size with the agility they have, so it is highly dubious you will have encountered the sheer POWER and SPEED they possess.
Fact – Blitz held the World Tag Team Titles for in excess of a year, defeating some of the best teams currently in the industry to win and retain their titles that long.
Fact – Blitz toured those titles, putting them on the line against any team that thought they could take them – and not once, until I was forced into wrestling, did they even come close to losing. Including taking on six men who were part of a tournament for a major singles title in one match.
Fact – the very fact you two even think that you are going to get the chance to face IrishRed and James Irish again in this tournament shows a key rookie mistake – that you’re underestimating Max and Jecht.
Fact – Max and Jecht are the team with all the advantages in this contest. They have the experience advantage, the advantage of being the PERFECT combination of power and speed in the industry today. They have the advantage of never underestimating their opponents, knowing exactly how to win a match – by beating down the opposing team until they can’t take any more. They have tag team moves that will leave the fans awe-struck – and leave you unconscious long enough for the three count. Do you think a somersault neckbreaker from a three hundred plus pound man when you’re on the shoulders of someone who is six foot eleven inches tall is easy to kick out of? Do you honestly think you’re tough enough to do that?
But then, you seem to think the NAPW titles mean you’re talented. I agree that you are talented with regards finding new levels of simplicity to sink to, and let’s not forget your amazing ability to still say nothing in two minutes and thirty seconds of talking – but talented in the wrestling ring?
Winning a title and holding onto it are two very different things, as you shall see.
[Jecht walks into shot, his pint in his hand, as the camera pans up to show him more clearly]
Jecht: If you don’t believe that, then you’re fools. There’s a lot of training involved in just winning a title – now multiply that by a factor of ten. That’s what you two now face in NAPW, and good luck to you in that. But having seen NAPW matches, there is nothing there that will compare to facing Max and I. Tell us all you want about how you’ve faced bigger and better, and then tell me after I’ve hit you with an Asai Moonsault how that felt, because you would not be getting back up, either of you.
[Suddenly, a phone rings – Leonard’s mobile]
LJ: Please, excuse me. Hello Laura… another tape from the Celtic Assassins? No, no, don’t worry about sending it on. We’re catching a flight at five local time, I should be back in my office around lunchtime, I can watch it then. Yes, actually, I’m recording at the moment. No need to apologise. Thank you for calling, I’ll see you tomorrow morning.
[He hangs up, as Jecht goes back to the bar]
LJ: So you’ve been busy as we’ve been enjoying music to rest? I can’t wait to see what kind of meaningless drivel you’ve spouted in my absence.
Jecht:[from out of shot] You know they’ll take this trip to say we’re not concentrating on them.
LJ: Are you concentrating on them?
Jecht: You know me better than that, Leonard. Come the match, there are no more focused teams than myself and Max. We’ll focus entirely on them from the instant we leave the venue tonight. We’ll be watching their matches again on the flight back. We’ll see how they operate, and figure out the best training method to beat them. Because time is precious now – a few days to go. That doesn’t mean we can’t train. They haven’t got a chance.
LJ: Well, don’t get overconfident.
[Just then, Max comes in, as we hear the song “One More” start up from the band]
Max: Sehr gut.
LJ: Ah, of course! I just remembered where I’d heard that line.
LJ: The heart of Turisas was formed by four winds in a smithy high up in the sky.
Max: I thought dass war obvious – it is the same our opponents claim that their victory will be attained through gory violence und scenes not suitable for all viewers.
LJ: It seems you’re far from the only Turisas fan.
Max: Ich weiss. This is their last song, shall we get ready to go?
LJ: Of course. After you’ve been to the gym, I want you both to come to my office. It seems the Celtic Assassins have been busy in our absence, so we should watch their final promotional segment.
Jecht: I would call them the Celtic Asses but they’ve probably been called that too much already.
LJ: Even though they prove it time and again. This taping is over.
[At that, the sound is cut, and we FADE OUT as the three men talk amongst themselves]
It had been an enjoyable experience, leaving the country for a day to see a concert, but Leonard always preferred to be back in his office when something major was going on. And something major was going on – the Major Championship Wrestling Tag Team Invitational tournament, the single greatest collection of tag teams in the industry. The best teams all vying for supremacy. He was sitting at his desk, going over the important correspondence that had arrived both yesterday and today. Whenever he left the office, he usually found that he had several items to deal with almost immediately upon his return – though that number had been reduced markedly once he fired Sarah and hired Laura. The latter seemed to know which were truly important, and remembered which leagues he did not wish to deal with for whatever reason. Some independent leagues were very insistent and would call regularly asking Leonard to allow them to book Blitz in a tag team match, but those were the ones he generally discounted – for as much as he’d like to book Blitz in three matches a day, that was not in the best interests of his clients. So, some of the more anxious were discarded out of hand. Other, national and international promotions with major TV deals, were also on the ignore pile, for various reasons. One was for the lack of co-ordination and professionalism the leadership had shown when he took Blitz there on a short tour. Then there was the one in Japan, who changed the booking to be Blitz against the five best teams he had on his books in a gauntlet match. It wasn’t the match that annoyed Leonard, it was the fact he had only been informed of the change when the ring announcer said that it had been changed. Leonard knew precisely why it had been changed, to (unsuccessfully as it turned out) try and wrest the titles from the waists of Max and Jecht, but nevertheless, business was business, and Leonard was a man who you did not break deals with. There was also a letter for him from a company in the United Kingdom – Irish Whip Wrestling, who he had done some work for as an announcer first to see if he should take Blitz to them on their next European tour. The calibre of the competition, sadly, had not been up to scratch.
“How can you tell without even having them wrestle?” the head promoter had asked.
“Because I’ve been in the industry longer than a lot of your roster has been alive,” he’d replied, “and you learn how to tell in that time.”
But there was one package he had yet to open. The latest one from Latham. He knew what it would contain – a video from the Celtic Assassins making the same claims they had twice already, about how nobody respected them despite their ‘accomplishments’, how they were going to win, and ending by talking about a Celtic Crushing even though one was Gallic – and some paperwork to go through concerning possible future ideas for the company. The paperwork could wait until after lunch, and the video he’d promised to show Max and Paulo when they got upstairs from the gym.
“Coffee, Mister Johnson?” asked Laura, poking her head round the door.
“Thank you, yes.”
As she poured him a cup, he looked out of the window. Time, he thought, was moving so quickly. It seemed like only yesterday he had been starting out, thankful for having a job in the business – and now, here he was, with his reach spreading far and wide throughout the wrestling industry, including some places many would be surprised.
“Mister Johnson,” Laura started, “I know it may be asking a lot, but I was wondering, if you don’t mind of course, if I could get a ticket for the next MCW event? I’d like to see how everything goes down, this is looking like an interesting match.”
“Of course,” he was a little surprised. She wasn’t that big a wrestling fan, as far as he knew. Rather she seemed rather bored by the promoters she had to deal with. “Anywhere in particular, or would you rather I gave you a backstage pass?”
“Whichever you think would be better,” she smiled.
“No, Mister Johnson.”
“Then I’ll have Latham send over one extra backstage pass from the front office.”
“Thank you.” And with that, she returned to her work, in her own little office. Idly, Leonard continued to read over the papers, the letters, and the other correspondence from the day before.
Meanwhile, downstairs in the gym, the two wrestlers collectively known as Blitz were busy training. Jecht was doing leg-presses of over four hundred pounds up a slope (a low weight by his standards, so as not to injure himself before the match), whilst Max was using a nearby treadmill, at a steep incline and fast pace - probably between eight and ten miles an hour.
“What do you think of the tournament so far?” Jecht asked, grunting as he slowly raised and lowered more than his bodyweight. It was a method of training that he’d used for a long time – making any weight harder by slowing down the reps, he at once built his strength, and avoided the risk of tearing a muscle.
Max, meanwhile, was not quite so careful with his CV work as Jecht with his strength. Even though the match was only a few short days away, he still insisted on doing his work on the treadmill at his usual pace. “Nicht so gut, Freund.” He often spoke simple phrases still in German, even though he was perfectly fluent in English. He had studied in the United Kingdom when he went to university, but even by then he was more competent in English than he’d needed to be; but still he liked using his native tongue, and there were some phrases, like the aforesaid “Not so good, friend,” that he automatically used the German rather than English for. “I had hoped for better opponents, of the calibre of the Highland Park Social Club we face in Empire Pro, or the Crimson Calling.”
“Rather than the bastardised HSPC that got sent here you mean?”
“Still,” Jecht grunted again, bracing his back against the board, “at least it gives us a chance to wrestle some different teams that have major exposure, on a big stage.”
“Dass ist richtig, ja.”
“But I know what you mean. It’ll be good when we get to the real competition, maybe the semi-finals will have a decent match for us.”
“Do not become overconfident, Freund.” He always seemed to address his tag team partner as ‘friend’ when they were alone. “Remember our overconfidence at last years Wrestleverse.”
“Yeah, yeah. You were the one who submitted, remember?”
“Naturlich. How could I forget?” Max stopped the machine, continuing a little as a warm down at a much slower pace. “But I think we should soon go see Herr Johnson.”
“Probably. Five more reps. I’ll see you in the changing room.”
“Mister Johnson,” Laura’s voice came over the intercom. “They’re here to see you.”
“Let them in.” There were only two people Laura used the collective for. As the door opened, Leonard cut the packaging, before pulling the latest Celtic Assassins tape from it’s case, and passing it to Max to put in the VCR.
[FADE IN. Leonard Johnson is standing in front of a Major Championship Wrestling logo, flanked on either side by Max and Jecht, better known as Blitz. The two wrestlers are ready to wrestle, dressed for combat, as Leonard is in a traditional suit and tie]
LJ: So, it’s come down to this. The Celtic Assassins finally say a couple of things that might be worthwhile in the context of an NAPW title defence. I must applaud you for finally, after almost three minutes of speaking, getting something almost intelligible out. Sadly, though, this is not an NAPW event. Your titles are not the prize – a place in the next round of the Major Championship Wrestling Tag Team Invitational is. And whilst your titles might mean something in NAPW, they mean nothing here, so you may as well stop showing them off. Belts don’t impress in events like this – it would be like going to TEAM’s Tournament of Champions and saying you were going to win because you held the second tier title of whatever promotion you were in.
Every team in this tournament deserves to be here. Each team that was invited went through a very rigorous selection process, with very thorough checks before they were allowed to compete. Sadly, three teams did nothing, and we should have perhaps made further checks into those, but you can’t quite predict everything. But, waving those pieces of tin-covered leather isn’t going to impress a team which has more belts than you do, a team which only in recent months lost the World Tag Team Championships after holding them for over a year.
So put them away, boys, because the men of the tag team world are not impressed.
But of course, you wouldn’t know much about being champions, being new to the honour as you are. So, I suppose I should let slide your assumption that you should have nothing left to prove – but I can’t. I can’t let someone go through a title reign thinking such a moronic thing, so I shall correct you. It’s my way of giving back to the industry, besides by operating a training school.
You see… how can I put this? Professional wrestling in many ways resembles martial arts. When you reach the level of black belt, some would say you have nothing left to learn – but that is when your training actually begins. All the stages before hand were nothing but preparation. The same is true in this industry – it’s when you win a title that you suddenly find you have things to prove. Suddenly, you can’t hide in the background, just picking up wins and paycheques and hoping nobody notices your mistakes. You’re on show, every team in your promotion wants to beat you, and you’ve got so many new things to guard against. You have to guard against being sloppy. You have to guard against thinking “This is it.” As you’ve said, you’ve got people thinking you were lucky to win and lucky to retain – that’s the tip of the proverbial iceberg. You’ve got to do the promotional tours, which can sap your strength. You’ve then got to tour the titles themselves on the houseshow and independent circuits. You’ve got so many other things going on that some find they can’t cut it, and after a few defences, a couple of months, they lose the titles, only to sink deeper and deeper than they ever were before.
You have to prove not only that you deserve to hold the titles, but, when you lose, you have to do what Blitz are themselves doing.
Fight to get them back.
It doesn’t get easier. Being the champions, the best in your promotion, makes things that much harder. That’s why I’m proud of Max and Jecht for how they’ve applied themselves since losing the titles. I know it’s only a matter of time before they crush the competition in Empire Pro Wrestling again and destroy the Highland Park Social Club’s aspirations.
Max: Und by dass, we mean Chip Friendly, Richard Farnswirth, und Slambo.
LJ: But enough about Empire Pro. This is MCW, where a collection of the best teams in the industry have gathered to, if I may borrow a metaphor, cross from one peak to the next, until one stands on top of the highest mountain, known as the professional wrestling industry.
And you boys – you’ve shown already you’re not good enough. I don’t mean by your controversial loss – I must admit I thought you were the better team that night. No. I mean by your rookie mistakes. I mean by your rookie assumptions – I have not come out and sung your praises, so therefore I must think you don’t deserve to be here. Have you cared to check MCW information? Have you cared to sit down as yet and listen to what I’ve been saying? I’ve said time and again that I disagreed as a business man with both Latham and the official, that the match should have been restarted to see who deserved the win, if nothing else.
But what should I have expected from you? You’ve been so wrapped up saying how you were robbed of victory because the official didn’t apply the rules, that you’ve made the conscious decision to paint everyone else as the mean, nasty enemy, and yourselves as the tragic victims that everyone is looking down on.
Trust me. If it were possible for me to underestimate you two, then I might be tempted to. But you’re here, which means you obviously have some skill. You hold the NAPW titles, which means of all the teams from NAPW in this tournament, you’re currently the best.
Jecht: But where you get the idea that you’ve earned credit and respect, I’d love to know, because you’ve earned NOTHING!
LJ: Precisely. Yes, you hold titles. Like I said, in situations like the one we find ourselves in, in a tournament of the supposed best, titles mean nothing. Other than win those belts, what exactly have you done? Had a lengthy title reign? Crushed opponents on every continent? Toured the globe, carrying enough championship gold to crash the market price of the metal?
Why should I, Max, Jecht, or anyone else respect you and give you credit when you’ve done nothing that other teams in this event haven’t done themselves?
And the way you talk about the pressures of being a champion… oh how tragic for you. It’s been stressful!
Max: No-one, Herr Thoes,
LJ: Being champion is stressful. And looking at you, listening to you two talk – it’s breaking you. The way you go on and on about it, it’s as if you’re still looking for validation! How can the result of this match be anything other than a win for Max and Jecht if you two need to validate yourselves by saying how the stress and struggle of being champion has made you a desperate team? That you’ve lost double the number of matches Max and Jecht have in the past six months?
Here is a bulletin for you – despite wrestling matches five days most weeks, Max and Jecht have, as I’ve made clear before, lost once in over a year. And that was when Slambo pinned me.
Jecht: Are we supposed to be impressed, punks?
LJ: Tell us if we are, because whilst two losses in six months may sound impressive in NAPW, and whilst your opponents needing to smash you with steel chairs may make you sound tougher to your regular opponents, to us, it proves just how far beneath Blitz’s level you really are. Ask yourself – which sounds more impressive? Losing twice in six months through chair-shots, or losing once since early two thousand and five by having a man my age wrestle his first match against people who’re trained professionals?
Think about it for a moment, and you’ll see why we’re unimpressed with you. Truth be told, since Blitz first got national exposure in two thousand and three, in MCW I might add, they’ve only lost to three teams. In the years they’ve been teaming, that number doesn’t go much higher.
So, is your record supposed to impress us? Sadly, you’re as mistaken about that as you are by holding up your championship belts as if to say “We’re great, we have gold.”
But are Max and Jecht looking down on you? No. They see you for what you are. Minnows in the ocean that is tag team wrestling, who are more used to their small pond of tadpoles. Something you have to remember, boys, is that the wrestling world is far, far larger than you think it is – it stretches to every continent, to almost every nation on the planet. Which is why I take these two men on tour – to give them exposure around the globe. The eyes of hundreds of thousands at least have seen these two gentlemen wrestle in person – saying nothing of the millions of people who have seen them on TV.
So, who are the eyes of wrestling really on? Who have the eyes of wrestling been watching over the years – you two, or us?
Jecht: You can sit there and play with your Christmas trees all you want, talk about being the Grinch – but you know NOTHING about what you’re up against. This isn’t a Cinderella story where you get to meet your Prince at the end, this is real life, where your fairy tale is going to be SHATTERED as easily as your bones.
LJ: You’re right though. This match, there will be no controversy. There will be no need for Latham’s bleeding heart to come through and give the fans a chance to vote for one team to progress. This time there will be a decisive victory in your match, but it won’t be for you.
How do I know that?
Because you have neither the experience, nor the strength, to win. As a team you don’t have what it takes to beat Blitz. You’re too wrapped up in your little insignificant pond, with visions of grandeur that you know deep down you have no chance of attaining.
You think the NAPW titles mean something. You think your six month record means something. You think talking about how you’ve overcome the struggles of being champions thus far means something. You talk and say nothing - in just shy of five minutes of talking, you have said virtually nothing.
“Look at us, we’re tough.”
“Look at us, we got screwed.”
“Look at us, you’re underestimating us.”
“Look at us, we’re from NAPW.”
Jecht: If you want us to respect you, then do something to earn it, because right now, your ‘accomplishments’ aren’t worth getting out of bed for.
LJ: You may be big boys in your little corner of the world, but amongst the giants of this profession? You’re rookies. You whine and complain by mentioning the problems you’ve faced as champions, when REAL champions just get on with it – they deal with it, keep their mouths shut, and continue to prove their dominance as if nothing has changed.
You’ve got nothing to lose except your own delusions, because believe me, you are deluded. Deluded for thinking people care about your titles in this tournament. Deluded for thinking that it’s possible for someone of my experience to underestimate you. You’re deluded for thinking that your fairytale is going to have a happy ending.
Christmas is a time of miracles and wonder, of gifts to all men. There won’t be any miracle for you two children, but we’ll leave you a gift.
The shattered remains of your delusions, and a lesson in what it’s like to face a REAL tag team. A tag team with experience. A tag team that compliments each other. A tag team that is the PERFECT combination of power and speed. A team that deserves its moniker, the destructive force of Lightning, the dominance of Blitzkrieg, of Lightning War.
A tag team that has earned a reputation for being the best.
Max: We’ll try not to hurt you too much.
LJ: I should hope not – eating Christmas dinner through a straw is not something I would imagine is all that pleasant.
Jecht: You think the frustrations of two thousand and six were bad enough? Enjoy the frustrations of two thousand and seven.
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