(In an Amtrak train. Leyenda de Ocho, unmasked, sits near the back of the last train car. Several members of the general public sit in other seats throughout the car, some awake, some asleep. Early evening, as the train is leaving Chicago on its way to Seattle. Ocho has a Surge-themed pamphlet in one hand and a Game Boy Color in the other. Tetris is on the Game Boy screen, paused, as Ocho reads over the pamphlet.)
Ocho: Surge. This is the biggest event the IWF has ever had, and I'm going to be a part of it. It's just like Ultratitle - if I'm going to make an impression, I'd prefer it to be in the biggest event.
Never been to Seattle, though. I wonder what it's like.
(Ocho glances at the PPV card, match-by-match.)
Ocho: The title match: Vizier ta Seti. He's the guy right now. He's really tearing it up.
Perfection...what a jackass.
Derrick Allen, Scott Douglas...that has the potential to be great. I'm going to have to sneak a peak while that's going on.
Eddie Whisky...hm. Why's he picking a fight with a woman? Seems...I don't know. Wrong. I hope Mary-Lynn pulls out of this.
Kerry Kuroyama, now there's a name. He's someone I could learn from. Erik Mateo...how many people in IWF are drunk 24/7? Yikes.
That triple threat match will be something to watch...Niles, Patton, Spooky Doom...I hope I get to work with some of those guys one day.
Another inter-gender match? That just rubs me the wrong way...I hope I get the chance to introduce The Minstrel's face to my knee.
(Ocho finally gets to his match on the card and pauses for a moment. This is the first time he's seen his name in an official IWF marketing piece.)
Ocho: The Debut Match...Steve 'Axion' Jackson. Chicago, IL...just like me. That's pretty poetic.
There's a code amongst people who come from Chicago...people from Chicago know what hard work is. We know sacrifice, we know pain.
(Ocho un-pauses Tetris and begins to play, starting on level 7.)
Ocho: How do I approach a guy like Steve? He's from where I'm from...that means he knows how to fight. He's new to the IWF, just like me...if he has the same ties to his Chicago roots as I do, he'll want to make a big impression and take on the world.
(Ocho stops for a moment.)
Maybe I'm reading too much into this. I hope he's up to the challenge.
(Ocho plays through several levels of Tetris as the evening turns into night. He pauses after level 12. After a few hours, he closes his eyes...before long, he is asleep. The train hurdles forward on its 48-hour journey, making periodic stops on its way to Seattle. Ocho clutches his travel bag, which contains a few pairs of clothes as well as at least 40 different sets of wrestling masks and tights. The IWF pamphlet sits in his left hand, wrinkled.)
It's a cool, rainy afternoon in downtown Seattle, Washington. Go figure. The work day has commenced, and only the dedicated alcoholics remain at the few tenured, dilapidated watering holes that have somehow survived the urban Starbucks crusade. A former fisherman turned ticket broker and a depressive paralegal sit at one of the handful of these establishments, their soaked jackets draped over their barstools and footprints long since evaporated. The bartender, disinterested after years of the repeating the same routine ad nauseum, stares at the television despite the program being a Steve Wilkos repeat.
This enthralling atmosphere is disturbed by a young man walking through the front door of the establishment, briefly letting in the damp air from the outside. Steve "Axion" Jackson tugs off his hood and wipes off the shoulders of his worn leather jacket. The bartender nods in welcome, offering up the least energy expendable pleasantry. Axion makes his way to the bar and tosses down his large black duffel bag, taking a seat closer to the door. The bartender makes his way over, casually wiping down the counter in the process.
BARTENDER: What'cha havin'?
AXION: Champagne of bottled beers would work.
The bartender lets out a small smirk, chuckling at the reference. Axion, pleased that the bartender understood his pretentious attempt at humor, takes off his jacket, hoodie, and earbuds, resting them on the barstool next to him. His arms are covered in tattoos, his hair umkempt and greasy. Scars and bruises are visible on his neck and forearms, truncating the smoothness of his body art like a scratch on the canvas of an old painting. He's out of place here, despite the hardness he and the old tavern share. The broker and paralegal are still looking his way, unsure of whether to engage in conversation with someone they not only haven't seen before, but someone that looks like he may just got out of prison. As the bartender brings Axion his bottle of High Life, the inebriated broker breaks the silence.
TICKET BROKER: Not from around here, man?
Axion takes a sip of his beer as he pulls his phone out his pocket, answering without eye contact.
AXION: Nah, I'm just hanging out at an old bar I've never been to on a rainy work day. Figured it was a good time to check it out.
The broker realizes the silliness of his question, but is somewhat taken aback by Axion's rudeness.
TICKET BROKER: Hey, come on... just never seen you around here before! Not usually the place new people show up at this time of day... Lookin' for tickets to a Mariners game? Could get em cheap today... not many people are gonna be interested in watchin' losing baseball while sittin' out in this weather.
Axion takes another drink of his beer and sets it down, this time addressing the broker directly.
AXION: No, thanks. What I am lookin' for is Key Arena. Is that pretty close?
TICKET BROKER: Yeah, man! It's about two blocks from here! If you just go south here for two blocks and turn left, you'll be there quick. What's goin' on there tonight? Some sort of concert? Tattoo convention?
This isn't the first time people have guessed about where Axion is going. It's always something that involves attendance, something the involves spending money or watching othersdo their work. It's frustrating, always being lumped into a category that scrapes by just to use their earnings for pleasure cruises that amount to nothing. Axion reaches over to his draped coat and pulls out a flyer, flipping it over to the broker, who's seated about four stools down. The broker picks it up off the bar top and reads it aloud.
TICKET BROKER: International Wrestling Federation's Surge Supershow! Ah so you're goin' to one of those professional "wrastlin'" shows, huh? My nephew likes that stuff... never really cared for it myself. You know they occasionally do real big "wrastlin'" shows over at Safeco Field? Made a good amount of money on it on...
AXION: Is there a story to everything you talk about? Or do you just like hearing your own voice?
TICKET BROKER: ... Buddy, look... I'm just trying to have a conversation... if you wanna be left alone that's coo...
AXION: Something tells me you have to be told to leave people alone more than you realize...
The broker opens his mouth to speak... but the reality of Axion's comments dawn on him. He does chat a lot... especially when he's been sailing with Captain Morgan. The brokers shoulders sag, and Axion relents.
AXION: Sorry... It's a pretty damn long trip from Chicago and I'm tired. Do me a favor, and maybe it'll help you out a little. If this place picks up later, and this mist is still swirling around downtown, tell people that there's some entertainment that they might enjoy down the street. Before long, IWF is gonna be movin' around, and shows will get a little pricier when they're back in Seattle. I'll put in a good word for you and maybe they'll get you some tickets to sell.
The broker looks up, always keen for a little more business.
TICKET BROKER: Moving around? Well I guess if ya think they might be sellin' more... Ya got an in with them or something?
Axion finishes his High Life and reaches into his wallet to pull out enough to cover the beer and a small tip. By this point, the bartender and paralegal are listening in on the conversation as well, and Axion stands up, putting on his hoodie first, then covering it with his jacket.He faces away from the solemn trio, pulling his hood back up and tucking his earbuds into the top portion his shirt that peaks above his hoodie. A large patch on the back of his jacket is visible; a skull with two axes crossed below it, and the words "AXION" and "JACKSON" in Old English text above and below the graphic respectively. The broker looks back down at the flyer, his eyes eventually finding the lowest match on the bill; "DEBUT MATCH: LEYENDA DE OCHO VS. STEVE "AXION" JACKSON." He looks back up and watches Axion pick his duffel bag back up and head for the door.
TICKET BROKER: So you're in this thing, huh??..
Axion turns back before opening the door, raising his had to his head and giving a casual salute.
AXION: Maybe see you at a show sometime.
Axion exits the bar, the cold air entering briefly once more, and he quickly makes his way past the front windows and in the general direction of Key Arena. The bar gets silent again, the bartender focusing back on his television, the paralegal asking for another drink, and the ticket broker reading over the flyer another time.
(At the front door of a cheap Seattle hotel on a drizzly afternoon, two days before Surge. Leyenda de Ocho is wearing black running shoes, basketball shorts and a pastel pink hoodie, which he collectively refers to as his "Little Mac" running gear. Headphones dangle from his ears as he listens to a Final Fantasy compilation soundtrack. He remains unmasked. Ocho has only one rule when it comes to mask selection: wait until the match is the only thing on his mind. In this moment, he is filled with a nervous energy.
Ocho is out for a jog in the streets of this brand new city. After about half an hour, he spots a building downtown that instantly catches his eye - the Seattle Waterfront Arcade. Ocho decides to take a breather from his workout and steps inside.
He looks around. Dozens of young kids running around screaming at the top of their lungs, holding armfuls of game tickets. He gives a tired chuckle.)
Ocho: "I miss the days when arcades had the classic games." (He looks around the room.) "Buzzy Buzzy Bee? Ribbit Racin'? Time Crisis??" (He shakes his head.) "No thank you."
(Ocho turns around and leaves, resuming his jog. Passing 2nd Street, he sees a sign on a wall:
IWF PRESENTS LIVE FROM KEY ARENA!
Seti vs. Perfection for the Emerald City Championship!
Allen vs. Douglas * Whisky vs. Mayweather * Kuroyama vs. Mateo
Niles vs. Patton vs. Spooky Doom
Minstrel vs. Go Go Spectacular * Ocho vs. Jackson
GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!!
The second time he's seen his name in an IWF marketing piece. Ocho's energy rises. He stops jogging and starts a full-on run through the streets. He attempts to focus his thoughts.)
Ocho: "This is such an important moment. This is the first time an IWF crowd is going to see what I can do, and I want to impress the hell out of them. I NEED to impress the hell out of them.
They've got other cruiserweights and high flyers already. If I want to separate myself from the crowd, I need to do it at Surge.
I wonder what Steve is thinking about?"
(Ocho continues his run, passing another venue that catches his eye - a bar called Shorty's. He catches a quick glimpse of a flyer outside that says "Retro Game Night". He continues to run for about half a block before smiling to himself, turning around, and making his way to the bar. He sees a wall of old pinball machines and classic arcade games. Passing the bar and a small crowd that was thankfully more mature than the one he found at the Waterfront, he sits down at Ms. PacMan. He reaches for his wallet and pulls out four quarters [which he always seems to carry] and puts them in the machine. A female server even shorter than Ocho with dark hair and a sweet smile approaches. Her name badge reads "Kim".)
Kim: "Hi! My name is Kim, and I'll be your server today. Can I get you anything?"
Ocho: "Water for now, maybe a real drink later." (Ocho's brow was pretty damp at this point; it was difficult to say whether this was from the light rain or the run.)
Kim: "You got it." (She retrieves a glass of icewater and sets it down on a small table next to Ocho as he plays through the first few levels of Ms. PacMan.
A short distance away, a man is sitting at the bar, a weather-beaten jacket draped over his barstool. He is looking over an IWF flyer as he sips a Miller High Life. He is talking very loudly to the bartender, or the people near him at the bar, or anyone really within earshot; he seemed to want to be heard more than anything else. From the fragments Ocho heard when he entered the bar, he seemed to be a former fisherman turned ticket broker.)
Ticket Broker: "I'm tellin' you, this IWF guy from the other bar? Mean lookin' son of a *****. Kind of got this rough-around-the-edges thing goin'. But I gotta tell you...the man is compelling." (He takes another sip of his beer.) "I'd buy a ticket to see him, and I'm not even into "wrasslin' shows" these days."
(The rest of the bar is only paying half-attention to him as he asks for another High Life and eyes the rest of the card. Ocho pauses Ms. PacMan, trying to keep his best poker face, and walks over to the bar, sitting next to the ticket broker.)
Ocho: "Hey buddy, I couldn't help but overhear that you were talking about the IWF."
Ticket Broker: "Yeah! I met one of the guys who's going to be on this show - have you seen this yet?"
(The broker thrusts the flyer almost violently in Ocho's face. Ocho gives a small laugh - it's the same flyer he was looking over on the train to Seattle.)
Ocho: "That's pretty awesome, man. Which one did you meet?"
Ticket Broker: "The guy in the Debut Match there at the bottom - Steve 'Axion' Jackson."
(Ocho could feel his face flush slightly as his opponent's name was spoken aloud.)
Ocho: "Jackson, huh? That's cool...you say he looks mean?"
Ticket Broker: "Yeah, but he's actually not that bad of a guy. He was probably just a little nervous about his match against Lerender...hold on, let me see that again." (The broker looks hard again at the flyer, his eyes briefly opening wide then refocusing as he battles his beer-vision.) "Ley-end-a de Ocho. He's going to be debuting too."
Ocho: "Sounds like a big night for both those guys, huh?"
Ticket Broker: "Oh for sure." (He takes another swig of High life.) "I just want to see somethin' awesome, you know? I don't care who wins. Steve, Leyenda - all these guys all the way up the list. I think if I saw somethin'...I dunno. Unforgettable. I might be a fan again, you know?"
(Ocho smiles widely as a lightbulb click in his brain.)
(Ocho leaves the bar quickly, Ms. PacMan machine still paused, as he hears the broker ask something that vaguely sounded like "Where are you goin', man?"; did Ocho see Kim the Server with a sad look in her eye when he left?
Ocho is on a dead sprint for his hotel, though he feels like he has the energy to run a marathon. As he makes his way into his beat up room, he quickly finds a small notepad and a pen. Picking up the pen, he writes a short note:
Let's tear down the ****ing roof.
Ocho grabs his black mask-filled duffle bag and heads out the door, note in hand, as he begins to make his way to Key Arena.)
The rain continues to fall with a numbing consistency as Axion reaches Key Arena. There's a placidity to this kind of gloominess that's hard to put a finger on. The cold air, drenched terrain, and muddled darkness that pervades even at the brightest time of day… it stands testament to how everyone is brought down to a lower emotional playing field that they all have to overcome. "Maybe that's why I like it here," Axion thinks to himself. It's the realization that rich or poor, old or young, everyone is struggling to do the same thing in this town; survive and rise above.
The soft, rain speckled light of the early afternoon pours through the large windows of the arena atrium as Axion walks through the door, again brushing off the excess droplets that have taken residence on his leather jacket. He wipes off his boots and notices a janitor buffing the floors. He gets her attention and succinctly asks for the easiest way to the locker room, and she quickly points him in the right direction with a strange nervousness. He's never really been sure why he has this effect on most people. Sure, he's got a rather rough exterior and his temper is not that… well, tempered. The odd tension that he seems to instigate amuses him most of the time, but at times like this, he wishes that instead of eliciting a modicum of fear and misunderstanding that more people would show a genuine level of appreciative respect.
He eventually makes it to the locker room, and sees a flyer posted on the door.
IWF SURGE LOCKERS
NEW EMPLOYEE CHECK-IN
Axion enters, thinking to himself "… well, that can wait." He brings new meaning to the phrase "marching to the beat of your own drum." If it's not convenient for him at the time, it's not convenient for anyone. He's rather early for the event preparation, evidenced by locker room being empty and still unblemished. He locates the locker designated for him, grabbing a towel and taking the opportunity to finally dry himself off after throwing off his duffel bag. He takes a seat on the stool provided for his stall, and notices another piece of paper sitting inside the locker. Directive flyers are great and everything, but this is getting ridiculous. He grabs it, and immediately notices it to be a written note, folded up by hand, definitely not from the higher ups. Definitely not something normal, especially considering how the place seems to be empty. He unwraps it and sees a simple message…
Let's tear down the ****ing roof.
He smiles, and reads over the message again. He crumples up the note, and ambivalently tosses it at the nearest trash can, not even coming close to draining the "shot".
AXION: Sending over the olive branch already, huh?
He's heard of this Ocho guy before. He trained in a different part of Chicago, at a lucha libre school, quite a bit different from the run down gym with the 30 year old ropes that Axion became all too familiar with. The whole video game gimmick; not amusing. When he was a kid in the foster house, it was impossible to get a chance to play the Nintendo. The older kids would always horde it, and the moment you got a chance, the foster parents would send you on some obsolete chore that you'd have to do immediately. Sure, there's something unique about drawing morality from video games. But when you've been beaten as a kid, thrown to the curb by your parents, forced into situations so tenuous you choose to immortalize the difference between the choice of death or life on your body, anything less than experiential morality seems pretty stupid.
AXION: Well… if it's the roof you want torn down, Ocho, I hope your ready for an axe to breach the door.
(In the back of the Key Arena locker room. Leyenda de Ocho sits in front of his locker, alone, sifting through his overstuffed black duffel bag containing dozens and dozens of different masks and tights.
After a few moments, he stops searching and puts on a HUGE smile. He’s found it.
The gear that mirrors his epiphany at Shorty’s. Gear that reflects his debut match mission – be unforgettable; bring fun to his new company, the IWF; put on an epic show that the fans will never forget.
He pulls out a yellow mask with black dots over the eyes and a black wedge over the face and matching yellow tights, with black boots and black knee pads.
The PacMan gear.
He puts the mask over his face and changes into the rest of his match gear. Heading to the arena to scout out the scene, he utters three words.)
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